Grace and the Preacher by Kim Vogel Sawyer

Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me. Blogging for Books provided me with a complimentary copy of this book for an honest review.
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Grace and the Preacher by Kim Vogel Sawyer

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

(Click the title to find the book description/blurb.)

Grace had begun losing hope of ever getting married. But when she’s handed the task of corresponding with the new, young, unmarried minister who’ll soon be coming to town, Grace’s hopes rise. Meanwhile, Theophil is running to escape the vengeance of his outlaw cousins, and he might find safety and acceptance in Grace’s town—if he can manage to con all the townsfolk in Grace and the Preacher, a novel by author Kim Vogel Sawyer.

Overall, Theo’s point of view was my favorite. His inward debates, rationalizations, and realizations make up some of the most interesting parts. And I particularly liked one older character’s message to Grace, about how one shouldn’t try to force the wrong plans to work just because one feels desperate.

Though I wouldn’t exactly say the story drags, it does essentially amble or “take the long way around” in places. I felt like some portions could have been clipped without ruining the story. I didn’t make much of an emotional connection with the characters, and the central romance fell pretty flat to me. While I do appreciate sweetness in romances, this one gave me something of an “adolescent crush” impression. The hero being tongue-tied, anxious, and childlike, he and the heroine peeking at each other, smiling, then ducking their heads.

Still, this novel is much of what I thought it would be when I picked it up: a warm, positive story with main characters who’ve all got some discoveries to make. Many fans of easy reads of love and faith should enjoy this tale.

Pemberton Manor: The Moon Mother by Becky Doughty

Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.
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Pemberton Manor: The Moon Mother: A Serial Novel by Becky Doughty

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

(Click the title to find the book description/blurb.)

Lucy Farnsworth is in rather dire straits, but she’s determined to protect and provide for herself, her young daughter, and her unborn baby. However, when a fellow resident of Pemberton Manor reports a disturbing incident at Lucy’s apartment, it could put her desperate situation on blast in Pemberton Manor: The Moon Mother by author Becky Doughty.

And here I am, a reader who doesn’t “do” serial novels until she has all the episodes, going along on this Pemberton Manor journey strictly because she trusts this author. The prequel, The Goodbye Girl, certainly whet my appetite for this first episode, and I wasn’t disappointed.

There’s something endearing about this manor, this apartment building full of misfits, even though I haven’t met all the misfits yet. Even in Lucy’s weakness, her courage is evident. And, seriously, the way she conducts herself in the midst of the mess she’s in had me calling her Wonder Woman—as I’m sure motherhood has a way of revealing the Wonder in many a Woman.

I’ve found such a richness and realness in much of this author’s writing, and this installment of Pemberton Manor is no exception. It’s with all virtue of patience (and anticipation!) that I’m looking forward to the next episode.

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Here’s my review of the Pemberton Manor prequel, The Goodbye Girl.

Ashes and Lace by BJ Hoff

Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.
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Ashes and Lace by B.J. Hoff

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

(Click the title to find the book description/blurb.)

“Wear it to America,” Jane had said of the ring. “Wear it…and remember me and the Claddagh… Remember Ireland. For Ireland is not only where you come from, Terese Sheridan—Ireland is what you are.”

An unlikely group of people are essentially tied together from across the ocean in the mid-1800s. Prejudice, poverty, and seemingly impossible dreams are only some of the challenges they face in an Irish-American saga that continues in Ashes and Lace, a novel by author BJ Hoff.

This second half of the Song of Erin series is fittingly dramatic with characters that make themselves memorable. The story that began in Cloth of Heaven comes into more of its richness here. But I’ll confess that, as was the case in the first novel, much of the reading here felt like a setup for something else, to me. It took me quite a while to reconcile myself to it: “This isn’t a setup leading to a story. This is the story.” There’s a certain redundancy in a lot of it, as the author has a way of saying much at times while barely saying anything new. Still, she’ll say it in such a stirring way that you can’t be too bothered by it.

However, I did eventually become a little bothered by the overuse of italics. And my main concern was with a plot theme that I’ve never much cared for in ChristFic romance: “I’m so in love but can’t marry him/her because he/she isn’t a Christian.” It muddies the characters’ emotions and motives so that I never fully trust them. And while characters may need to get down to the nitty-gritty of their inner darkness to show their need for God, casting them in such a compellingly negative light doesn’t make them prime romantic characters to me. It makes me feel like they need more time to grow and figure out who they are before they turn their focus toward marrying somebody else.

Still, I did enjoy the fitting drama and richness of this moving saga. And given that this author did also write the absolutely magnificent American Anthem, I’ve every intention of reading more from her in the future.

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Here’s my review of the first Song of Erin novel, Cloth of Heaven.

The Illusionist’s Apprentice by Kristy Cambron

historical-books-2 nadine keels

Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me. BookLook Bloggers provided me with a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher for an honest review.
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Four Silver Stars

The Illusionist's ApprenticeThe Illusionist’s Apprentice by Kristy Cambron

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

(Click the title to find the book description/blurb.)

Master illusionist Harry Houdini has passed, and people think his former apprentice, Wren Lockhart, must hold the key to Houdini’s well-kept secrets. However, Wren is harboring her own secrets concerning her past. When a public illusion by a rival performer goes horribly wrong, Wren gets caught up in a mystery that will threaten all that she hides, and her very life, in The Illusionist’s Apprentice, a novel by author Kristy Cambron.

The setting of the Jazz Age and the last legs of vaudeville, the intrigue, the tenseness of romance, and the waiting depths of emotion all pulled me to keep turning the pages, though not too fast. I wouldn’t necessarily call this story slow, but the pace is certainly measured and heavy. The read is quite somber, morbidly dark in places. And the mystery involves one kind of occurrence I sigh at in books: when a villain eventually just spills all the beans, explaining their grand scheme to their victims or opponents in a detailed speech or two, before it’s all over.

Still, I’m glad I was patient with this story. It’s ultimately redemptive, with some moving and beautiful aspects that I’ve come to expect from this author of one of my all-time favorite novels, The Butterfly and the Violin. I’m sure many other fans of historical fiction, especially ChristFic readers, will enjoy this intricately-woven tale.