Tuesday, May 27, 2014

ONE MORE LAST CHANCE by Cathleen Armstrong

One More Last Chance
One More Last Chance is about relationships, family, and small hometown life. It speaks to something that matters to most of us. Sarah Cooley’s deepest need is to find herself again. Striving to leave a relationship with a controlling boyfriend she returns home to her greatest comfort--Life that never changes or does it. Her grandmother is there and she moves just two houses down from her. But Elizabeth's declining health reminds her how fragile life can be. A stop at her favorite home town restaurant, the Dip ‘n’ Dine reveals new management. The new owner, Chris Reed, can't seem to take his eyes off her; but Sarah isn't interested. She wants nothing to do with men in general much less someone who wants to change the menu. Chris, has not had a place to call home, he's been responsible for his sister especially since she became a single Mom. Now, he becomes the single Dad when, his sister, Katelyn drops off her child, Olivia with Chris and leaves town. Now he gets his change in more ways than one.
Author, Cathleen Armstrong , does a good job of slowly building the relationships in her novel. You find yourself cheering with the accomplishments, cringing with the losses and scares, booing for the bad guy, wanting to slap some sense in the heroine, and rooting for the strong, faithful, yet imperfect hero; and most of all, wanting to stay awhile in Last Chance and taste some of the best cuisine in the southwest at the Dip ‘n’ Dine.

This is a slow sweet read, relaxing and entertaining, and worth your time.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

A PLACE IN HIS HEART by Rebecca Demarino

A Place in His Heart
Very aptly named, "A Place in His Heart" touches places in all of us especially the desire to be loved. Ms. DeMarino, with her debut novel, strikes a resounding cord. For historical depth, APIHH reveals the author's hard work and painstaking research through the passages that make one feel as if they are on the streets of an English Hamlet smelling home baked bread and wearing lavender laced clothes.
Her descriptions of crossing "the Pond" on a vessel similar to what the puritans traveled in are vivid with remarkable details of what these early American travelers might have deemed valuable enough to take with them and of the living conditions they had to endure.

As for her characters, both Barney and Mary are flawed but likeable people. Mary marries Barney knowing he grieves the loss of his first wife still and needs a mother for his sons.  Barney, vows to cherish her and protect her; however, he hasn't been as forth coming. Knowing he and his brothers plan to embark for the New World as soon as they can to escape religious persecution, he fails to share this very important piece of information until his brother lets it slip at the wedding celebration.
One can't help but have admiration for Mary and Barney as they travel to the New World leaving family and all they've known. Surviving the ocean voyage and missing their original destination by miles, Mary must endure several more moves before they find a final place to call home. Each time, she faces her disappointment determined to support Barney, love him, and trust that one day he will love her back. Failure to provide more children haunts both of them and Barney keeps even deeper hurts and sorrow from Mary not allowing her the place in his heart that she deserves.
Barney, always an honorable man, works hard to provide, care for, and protect his family. A devout man, he sets an example for his family of how to worship God through actions. His faith guides them to trust that God will see them through many hardships. Be sure to read the Author's Note at the end of her book for some insight into her personal heritage that she weaved into her story.

What makes A Place in His Heart such a wonderful read, is the very thing that gives it its title. Mary so desires to have a place in her husband's heart that you find yourself striving with her to gain that prize. The story flows and keeps you wanting to turn the page because Ms. Demarino simply makes you feel you are living along with her characters the founding of America.

 I can't wait for the next installment, Rebecca--Hear, Hear!

Sunday, May 18, 2014

UNTIL I FOUND YOU by Victoria Bylin

Until I Found You

Do you believe in divine appointments? It seems the moment Nick Sheridan roars to the top of a California mountain in the middle of a rain storm and rescues Kate Darby that he made one.

He scrambles to Kate's rescue, risking his life as the car is ready to tumble further down the steep mountain side. Kate having found herself in this predicament from swerving to avoid a Condor on the road, must put her faith in a complete stranger. She has no time to decide. She must jump and trust.

Nick Sheridan fresh from a life altering experience of his own has made a vow to himself and to God that he won't date for a year. Now he meets Kate Darby and his promise is sorely strained.

Kate has come to care take for her beloved grandmother who has suffered a stroke. And, coincidentally Nick works for "The Clarion" the paper her grandparents founded. Kate has taken a leave of absence from her job to keep "The Clarion" going for her grandmother.

Over time, Nick and Kate acknowledge their mutual attraction and a relationship begins to grow. Nick is honest with Kate from the beginning telling her of his Vow. He explains that he is a new believer and why. She struggles against wanting to have faith. She believes that only she can determine her own way and destiny. Meanwhile, her grandmother, journals about her marriage with her deceased husband and her faith. She uses her experience with the Condors to share with Kate very important life lessons.

Ms. Bylin does a beautiful job describing the natural temptations for Nick, his thought processes, and choices to deal with them honorably. Kate can't help but be drawn to a strong but sweet hero as Nick. But without spiritual eyes, she cannot comprehend his life choices. She chooses to believe in what she can see and feel and in her own strength to make her way. She desires to be the one in control of her life.

To complicate matters, Kate's job obligations call her back to a relationship with a client who sees Kate to be someone she can mold into her likeness and dependence on power, money, beauty and selfishness.

Nick puts up with a lot from Kate once they determine to go to the next level of their relationship. I can't believe how much she asks of him and he keeps giving and giving. Kate has Nick on a pedestal; and of course, he, being human falls off.

Finally, Kate must make a choice between her life and future as she sees it or the man she loves but doesn't understand. Will she let him walk out of her life or will she push through her greatest fears to obtain the prize?

Ms. Bylin tells her story with feeling and descriptive nuances that seem like the real life situations and feelings we've all had--making one want to say I know how the characters feel, I've been there.

Well done, Ms. Bylin!

MEANT TO BE MINE by Becky Wade

Meant to be Mine
Celia holds a crush on Ty from high school but Ty has a habit of getting Celia’s hopes up and then quashing them. She finds herself irresistibly drawn to him again. This time he convinces her to a Las Vegas wedding and she naively trusts her heart and soul. The next morning, Ty wakes up with regrets, wanting to continue his pursuit of his long-time hometown girlfriend and his rodeo career. Extremely hurt and disappointed, Celia walks out and home to carry on but instead, finds herself with child.
Her choice to raise her child alone makes sense until Ty returns 5 and half years later. Ty finally realizes how bad he hurt Celia and only wants to look her up apologize and clear his conscience; however, he is surprised to discover he has a daughter.

Ty finds himself confused and angry with Celia and yet understanding that much of the blame for Celia’s failure to inform him of his apparent fatherhood falls squarely at his feet. He calls a truce and insists on paternal visits once it is confirmed by blood tests he is indeed the father.
Celia and Ty’s child is a darling and precocious little girl stealing their hearts as well as ours. In the meantime, Ty and Celia both find that neither has sought a divorce all these years.  Ty begins to forge a relationship with his daughter and in the process finds more about Celia he likes.

A career ending injury for Ty forces the issue for them all. They must decide how best to move forward and what kind of relationship they will have. Can they forgive and learn to trust? Can love conquer all? Ty finds it difficult to shift life direction, becomes addicted to pain killers, and remains conflicted as to which woman he wants. Once he finally decides that he wants the mother of his child to remain his wife, he has a lot of ground to make up.  Celia, in the meantime, craves independence and insists on making her own way. She finds herself drawn to Ty once more but can she trust him? Addie, their little girl, remains caught in the middle,  and just wants a daddy.
We all crave a love “meant to be mine”...this one is well worth the read!

STEALING JAKE by Pam Tillman

Stealing Jake
A turn of the Century historical novel, Stealing Jake, weaves a wonderful story told from both the protagonists’ points of view. Immediately we realize the conundrum facing the heroine as she must choose to rescue a street urchin from the gentleman he has just pickpocketed; and she must do this using her once erstwhile skills. Even more troubling, the gentleman is a Sheriff’s Deputy.
Livvy O’Brien has come to Chestnut, Illinois hoping to start clean and fresh. In her former life, she had been a street orphan stealing to survive. Rescued by the compassionate Mrs. Brooks for whom she now works maintaining an orphanage, and having become a new Christian, she struggles to trust anyone especially the law—and with good reason.

Jake Russell eventually discovers that Livvy helped the children by returning his pickpocketed item without him being able to prove it had disappeared in the first place. He also harbors disdain for the very children she sympathizes with and strives to protect. They both have trust issues. Livvy also fears childbirth because, as a child, she watched her sister and new born infant die under her care.
Both Jake and Livvy have lost significant people in their lives due to tragedy. Jake, not only lost Father and brothers in a mining accident; but he was trapped with their dead bodies for days and now suffers from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder—unable and unwilling to find himself trapped in a dark hole again. He needs his deputy job to support the rest of his family and has a loan hanging over his head that could cost the family farm.

There are many wonderful facets to Stealing Jake including children caring for children, those children being used and abused, good lawmen versus bad lawmen. Neither Livvy nor Jake is totally wrong in how they see the issues confronting them. Areas are grayer than black and white. Each needs to listen to the other’s heart and begin to understand their fears in order to help each other.
Characters, like old Gus and Luke, along with a multitude of plot twists make for a fascinating read.