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.

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.

Drums of Change by Janette Oke

historical-books 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.
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Four Silver Stars

drums-of-change-2Drums of Change by Janette Oke

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Running Fawn has always loved and taken pride in the ways of her Blackfoot tribe. But survival is becoming difficult as the buffalo disappear, and white men have shown up on the prairie, bringing guns, diseases, and their foreign religion. Running Fawn will have to decide where she fits in a world she barely recognizes anymore in Drums of Change, a novel by author Janette Oke.

I first read this book by one of my all-time favorite authors, oh, twenty years ago or so. Rereading it was a walk down memory lane with a changed pair of eyes.

The Native American peoples’ plight is presented with a gentle hand by the author, but the tension, the irony, the pain, the resignation in all of it hit me in a different way this time around. The mix of skepticism, hope, and anger at the offer of (more) treaties. A nomadic people reluctant to face the prospect of no more buffalo to follow, but perhaps more reluctant over the prospect of moving to a Reserve. A young, imminent chief, Silver Fox, who respects his heritage but wants his people to make it in a world that, for better or for worse, won’t be the same.

Perhaps with the exception of Running Fawn, I didn’t get too strong a sense of the characters. This was particularly true with Reverend Forbes, since much of his “airtime” takes place through letters or in the background somewhere instead of through front-and-center action or dialogue. The “I wish I could marry him/her, but he/she isn’t a Christian” plot theme has never really worked to me, in a novel. And, yes, it amused me to run into the same error I remembered running into twenty years ago, where Running Fawn’s name is once mistakenly used to refer to Silver Fox.

Still, I enjoyed revisiting this novel from one of my favorite series, the Women of the West. I’ve already read most of the series’ novels two or three times and absolutely plan to reread some more.