Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Texas Ranger Dad

Debra Clopton
Inspirational Romance
Steeple Hill Books - 2009

When is the romance novel community of writers and publishers—not to mention editors—going to offer us intriguing titles? I’m tired of Cute-Location Brides, Something-or-Other Christmas, Beloved Anything, Any Kind of Viking, and Fill-in-the Blank Promises. One more Texas Anything, and I’m going to throw up (that’s not true, I’m drawn to Texas anything). And look at those covers. They say you can tell a book by its cover. Amen to that. Whatever happened to ugly people. How about a romance entitled The Overweight Bride with Buck Teeth? (She found romance while being drilled by a Texas Dentist).

Oh, the cliché of it.

And so, here we are, squaring off against Texas Ranger Dad. Change the character names, setting, and the number of kids and I’ve read this one at least three other times with a bunch of variations on common sub themes.

And would you believe a town named Mule Hollow? Debra Clopton has made Mule Hollow a real place.

Do you think it’s small and quaint?

All that said (and predictably), Texas Ranger Dad is a contemporary romance that will quench any reader’s needs for believable characterization, a workman-like plot, and a satisfying outcome. (Some romance novel clichés do serve us well. Who wants to spend too much time in this modern fill-in-the-blank world?) And, as with pretty much all of the “Love Inspired” books, the inspiration flows as an integral part of the plot, not as a sharp-edged pause for effect.

The characters in this book have their own problems. Rose Vincent lied to her son, Max, about his father. She never dreamed that he would show up in the same town they had escaped to. How was she going to tell Max? Zane Cantrell, Maxes father, came to Mule Hollow looking for Rose. He felt he had not treated her right when he disappeared when she was in the witness protection program. They had gotten too close and he thought he might be placing her in danger. He had no idea she was pregnant. Rose was bitter over the whole situation.

Max longed for a father. Zane was glad to meet his son and that turned out well. For Rose, it took a lot longer to give up her bitterness and to give Zane a chance. Rose needed to forgive Zane, but she really didn’t want to. He was patient.

Debra Clopton is a multi-awarded writer and after reading several of her books, I know why. She knows her craft and her characters are believable and enjoyable. This is a Love Inspired Inspirational Romance and it’s not preachy but real. This is a writer that out of the 2500+ romances I’ve read stands out as one of the best.

The Widow's Secret

Sara Mitchell
Inspirational Historical Romance
Steeple Hill Books – 2009

Christian romance novels used to be part naïveté, part wooden characters, and lots of hokum, all well seasoned with Preachy Parts and King James prayers. No longer. The “Love Inspired” imprint is changing all that.

Thank God!

Sara Mitchell brings to “The Widow’s Secret” brisk storytelling, suspense, believable situations, and yes, you guessed it, a tall, dark, and well-built hero and a woman who just doesn’t need men.
Her secret?

That’s for you to find out, Dear Reader, but the evidence planted in her purse will take her on the wildest ride the 1890s could serve up, centered on a national underworld plot, dark family mysteries, and counterfeit currency.

However, Mitchell’s story, while fiction, is far from counterfeit with fascinating characters and page-turning high adventure.

Jocelyn Tremayne and Micah MacKenzie have a very slow moving romance. She has no desire to be attached to a man. Her prior experience has caused her to not trust men. Micah has also had prior heart-breaking experience when his first wife died in child-birth and lost the baby too. It still hurt and he feared trying again. Therefore, neither of them wanted to rush into anything. We process pain in several ways. Losing trust is a common response and one we don’t let go of easily.

Jocelyn had lost her faith in God because of her first marriage and the experience she’d had. Micah’s faith was in tact, yet he had more questions since losing his wife and baby.
I had some shaky moments during the suspense of tracking down the underworld characters and building a case against them. Of course, I admit that it doesn’t take much to scare me. I made it, but stayed awake to get through that part.

I’m glad I pushed through the suspense. I wouldn’t have wanted to miss this very moving book. It was well worth the nerves!

Sara Mitchell has been a highly acclaimed author for quite some time. She lives in Virginia with her husband, a retired Air Force officer. They have two grown daughters. Sara has traveled extensively and that has given her books solid settings. I look forward to more books from Sara Mitchell!

Monday, March 23, 2009

The Marshall Takes A Bride

Renee Ryan
Inspirational Historical Romance
Steeple Hill Books – Feb 2009

Marshall Trey Scott fell in love with Katherine Taylor but she came with some baggage; a whole orphanage filled with, you guessed it, Orphans. In order to keep her orphan mayhem in check, Katherine had become a straight-laced disciplinarian, leading Marshall Scott to wonder which Katherine was he really getting, the lovely sweet Katherine or the straight-laced disciplinarian. Maybe it would be safer wrestling the bad guys than coming home to dinner.

Katherine Taylor’s mother was a prostitute. Katherine was also abused and sexually assaulted. She has a general fear of men and certainly doesn’t trust them. She has made herself as “socially acceptable” as possible. She still fears that others see her past when they look at her. This has caused her to fear marriage. She thinks she loves Marshall Scott but then he’s a man. She doesn’t trust him and now she doesn’t trust herself. Obviously, trust issues take a major role.

Marshall Scott is not without his issues. Scott’s pregnant wife was murdered by Ike Hayes. Ike Hayes is still at large and Trey follows up on every lead to find and capture him. Katherine would like Trey to let it go but, he won’t. He is confined by this hate and doesn’t see how it eats away at him. He knows God teaches forgiveness, but he just can’t get there.

Both Katherine and Trey have fairly common hang-ups. They get in ones way and cause much pain. In my practice as a psychotherapist I’ve found them difficult to eradicate. The main difficulty is giving up those irrational beliefs. They’re extremely hard to see by the person who is experiencing them. Once pointed out, however, they can begin to challenge those irrational beliefs by reexamining them and making a new decision.

This is Renee Ryan’s first book for Steeple Hills Love Inspired Historical. She does an admiral job and we look forward to many more!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Wanted! The Texan

Bobbi Smith
Historical Romance
Leisure Books – 2009

You’re sweet 17 and plenty sharp. That’s good. But, your father just died. That’s bad. But, you inherited your dad’s ranch. That’s good. But, only 70% of it. That’s bad. The other 30% is owned by a gorgeous, tall, dark and handsome Texan. That’s good. But, he used to make his living as a gun fighter. That’s bad.

This kicks off Bobbi Smith’s new novel Wanted! The Texan. True to any good romance novel the sharp 17 year old Philadelphia girl wins the gun fighter’s heart. There was an ongoing dilemma around Josh Grady, the gun fighter, and his expectation that Emmie Ryan, the 17 year old, wouldn’t know anything about running a ranch. He was pleased to know that she had spent summers at the ranch helping her father. He was also pleased to find out that she wasn’t a pampered, spoiled girl. Emmie was pleased to see that Josh was a good foreman and was fair to her.

They weren’t without problems! There were rustlers and others who made it hard to keep the peace. One thing that probably helped was their daily fight to survive in a part of the west that still had problems with Indians and outlaws. They found that dealing with the problems together was much more pleasurable than dealing with them apart.

Bobbi Smith’s books are always a treat! This is no exception! Savor the writing , the characters, and this fast moving story!

Grace Notes - My Opinion

From the time I started school, the instructions were, “When you write a paper give references for your facts. Don’t give your opinion!”. Then came the time to write my dissertation and the instructions changed. Now the rule was to give references for your facts and don’t forget to give your own opinion. What? I didn’t know how to do that. It’s a very uncomfortable thing to do. It’s still an uncomfortable thing to do. But, I keep trying to do it better. Hang in there with me and we’ll make it!

A Cowboy's Heart

Brenda Minton
Inspirational Romance
Steeple Hill Books – Feb 2009

Brenda Minton titled her new book A Cowboy’s Heart. Coming in its love-inspired, larger print edition (with two sets of boots on the front porch), you know who is going to be living happily ever-after. The boots, two dazzling occupants; end of story. What if Minton had named the book a Cowboy’s Liver and replaced the boots with a scotch on the rocks and a daiquiri. I don’t want to know what that might do to the audience of Christian readers. How about A Cowboy’s Navel? Would that suggest that he’s a Navy man? How about A Cowboy’s Elbow? But that would take us back to drinking. Maybe you can’t really tell a book by its cover. But in this case, by merely relying on the name, Brenda Minton, you know you’re in for a treat in spite of the fact that no brawny, good looking cowboy or dazzling damsel in distress graces the cover.

Willow Michaels is ready to run her own life. She raises bucking bulls and has a hearing disability. She’s so sure she can do it, she refuses anyone’s help. She wants to succeed, but she doesn’t want to be always alone. This is a tough place to be. But Brenda Minton in her inimitable style will take care of everything and make it turn out right. This is a good book to relax with and enjoy!

Second Chance Bride

Jane Myers Perrine
Inspirational Historical Romance
Steeple Hill Books – Jan 2009

Central Texas, 1885

What do you do when you’re masquerading as a school teacher and don’t know how to read? Worse yet, you used to be a prostitute and you’re afraid your past is going to catch up with you. That’s the beginning of the problems with which Annie MacAllister has to deal in Jane Myers Perrine’s new novel, Second Chance Bride.

This is a fast moving book with a lot going on. Annie has taken quite a chance to cover up her lack of education and yet she needs to in order to cover up her background as a prostitute. She’s never liked being a prostitute, but her life situation left her no other way to support herself. Psychologically, she hasn’t felt good about herself for a long time. Now, she sees a way to have a new, respectable life. But, it won’t be easy. To her credit, she’s smart and catches on fast.

Sit back and enjoy this book. It will leave you feeling like a winner.

Grace Note - Real People

I like stories about real people dealing with real problems with happy endings! I’ve found that books by Steeple Hill Books meet that criteria. While having a Christian flavor, they aren’t preachy or judgmental. Most often they deal with people who have lost their faith. If you haven’t read one of these books, give them a try. You’ll be glad you did!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Path To Her Heart

Linda Ford
Inspirational Historical Romance
Steeple Hill Books – Jan – 2009

Favor, South Dakota 1934

Can a woman who is a nurse and a man who hates the medical profession find happiness together?

Emma was a nurse. She loved being a nurse but longed to be a wife, and mom. Yet, for some reason, she felt she could never marry. She acted like she didn’t deserve happiness.

I had to wonder why she might have felt that way. Low self esteem is one possibility. A bad experience with a man is another. Obviously, she wasn’t too sure of herself. However, she was very sure that she was an excellent nurse. That was her strength.

Boothe had come to help his aunt with the boarding house. He was a widower with a six year old son, Jessie. Jessie had a deep cut on his arm that needed cleaning and stitches. Emma mentioned that and Boothe became immediately angry. He let it be known in no uncertain terms that he would never let anyone in the medical profession touch his son. It turns out that his wife died from an overdose of quinine. Both a doctor and a nurse were involved in that error.

Boothe’s brother and sister-in-law wanted to adopt Jessie. Boothe was afraid of losing his son. He was still grieving the death of his wife and the possibility of losing his son was more than he could bear. He had lost his faith in medicine, but he needed to care for his son. That was quite a conflict. He felt pressured from all directions and in the process he had lost his faith in God.

I don’t think that Boothe would have reacted the way he did if he hadn’t been faced with so many problems at one time. Plus the problems got worse before they got better. That forced him to make decisions that he would have preferred to ignore. His grief, the depression, the threat of having his son taken away, and the other disasters that kept coming were debilitating to say the least. I had to empathize with him!

We learn from this well-written book how Emma and Boothe deal with their problems. Aren’t we glad that romance novels always have happy endings? You’ll enjoy the journey through this book.

A Family For Luke

Carolyne Aarsen
Inspirational Romance
Steeple Hill Books – Jan – 2009

When I was on page 62 I questioned if I’d make it to the end. I like books that get into the story faster. I still didn’t feel familiar with the characters. On page 100 my feeling was “It’s working too hard to get where it’s going”. On page 150 it started to move at a more rapid pace.

I liked the characters, once I knew them. The problems were real but they managed to avoid them. Janie didn’t trust men. Her experience with marriage was painful and she painted all men with the same brush. She also refused to ask for help no matter how much she needed it. She was overly suspicious.

Luke wanted a family but he found no cooperation. He thought it would be wise to give up but, he didn’t want to. So, he hung in there and was glad that he did.

This author writes good books! I was disappointed with this one.

What do you think?