Review: Summer by the Tides by Denise Hunter

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

From the bestselling author of The Convenient Groom (now a beloved Hallmark Original movie) comes a heartfelt story of family secrets, forgiveness, and unexpected romance.

Following a painful betrayal, Maddy Monroe’s love life is a wreck, and her restaurant career is in shambles. When her grandmother goes missing, she and her estranged sisters converge at the family beach house in Sea Haven, North Carolina. Being with uptight Nora and free-spirited Emma at the place where their family broke apart is a struggle, and undercurrents of jealousy and resentment threaten to pull the sisters under. In the midst of the storm, sparks begin to fly between Maddy and Gram’s maddening neighbor, Connor Murphy.

As the sisters pack up the family belongings, memories of idyllic, slow-paced summers are resurrected. But long-buried secrets also come to light as Maddy discovers that all was not as it appeared that last summer in Sea Haven–nor today in the seemingly perfect lives of her sisters.

As family tensions rise and Connor causes tumult in Maddy’s heart, the sisters must find a way to accept each other for the women they’ve become before the bitterness of the past destroys their hope for a future.

I received a copy of this title via NetGalley. It does not impact my review.

Summer by the Tides will be available May 21, 2019.  

Summer by the Tides is one of my new favorite Denise Hunter novels. A perfect blend of family, faith, and romance, it was everything I hope for when picking up one of Hunter’s books.

Maddy loses her job and her boyfriend all at the same time so there is nothing holding her back from going to look in on her grandmother when she gets a call from her concerned neighbor. The concerned neighbor also called Maddy’s two estranged sisters, Nora and Emma. Nora and Emma had a falling out twenty years prior and are both still holding grudges. It makes things really uncomfortable when they all show up at their grandmother’s and then decide to stay there to help fix the place up. All the characters were pretty likable, though sometimes frustrating. The secrets that are discovered during their stay were not anything surprising – except there was an extra twist on one that I wasn’t expecting.

I really liked the concerned neighbor, Connor. He was such a sweet and stand-up guy. I loved his relationship with his sisters. I really shipped his growing relationship with Maddy, too. He was exactly the kind of guy that Maddy needed and he was extremely patient with her skittishness. Things did get just a little too cheesy at times when it came to the romance, but I’ll take sappy over graphic any day.

Overall, I really enjoyed Summer by the Tides. It was a cute, quick read that I flew right through. I liked the message of faith and trusting in God and felt it was incorporated really well into the characters’ lives and didn’t come off as preachy. I liked seeing Maddy and her sisters work through their issues and discover family secrets. I liked that reconciliation was shown as a process and small steps and not just a magical fix where everything is all of a sudden fine. I definitely recommend this one to Denise Hunter fans.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

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A Bride for Keeps by Melissa Jagears – 3 stars (out of 5)

A Bride for Keeps

I received a copy of this title from NetGalley

Synopsis (from Good Reads)

Although Everett Cline can hardly keep up with the demands of his homestead, he won’t humiliate himself by looking for a helpmate ever again–not after being jilted by three mail-order brides. When a well-meaning neighbor goes behind his back to bring yet another mail-order bride to town, he has good reason to doubt it will work, especially after getting a glimpse at the woman in question. She’s the prettiest woman he’s ever seen, and it’s just not possible she’s there to marry a simple homesteader like him.

Julia Lockwood has never been anything more than a pretty pawn for her father or a business acquisition for her former fiancé. Having finally worked up the courage to leave her life in Massachusetts, she’s determined to find a place where people will value her for more than her looks. Having run out of all other options, Julia resorts to a mail-order marriage in far-away Kansas.

Everett is skeptical a cultured woman like Julia could be happy in a life on the plains, while Julia, deeply wounded by a past relationship, is skittish at the idea of marriage at all. When, despite their hesitations, they agree to a marriage in name only, neither one is prepared for the feelings that soon arise to complicate their arrangement. Can two people accustomed to keeping their distance let the barricades around their hearts down long enough to fall in love?

Thoughts:

-The first couple chapters in A Bride for Keeps felt like a story I’ve read several times before. The plot seemed obvious and clichéd. But the more I got into the story, I saw that it wasn’t quite the same. Was the ending still predictable? Sure. But, the journey to get there was not quite what I was expecting.

-I found most of the characters likable. Dex and Rachel, the meddling neighbors, and their children were all entertaining and, at times, insightful. I really liked Everett, who had been jilted by several potential brides before Julia. He was sweet and faithful and insecure. I felt like Julia and Dex were a little harder on him than he deserved at times. Julia asked that their marriage basically be a business arrangement and when he tried to protect himself from being hurt she resented him for it. While I’m not saying he behaved perfectly by any means, I don’t think he was really the bad guy in their relationship.

-And then there’s Julia. I went so back and forth on liking her. I understand her hesitancy around Everett – and men in general. I understand the need she felt to prove she was a good worker around the farm. But for most of the book she took no responsibility in her failing marriage. I also got really annoyed with how often she went on and on about how beautiful she was and how she wanted to be more than just a pretty face.

-Overall, I enjoyed A Bride for Keeps. It was a good mix of romance and faith and it took a clichéd idea and made it something different and interesting. I would recommend this book to those who enjoy Christian Fiction and Romance.

Trapped by Irene Hannon – 2 stars (out of 5)

Trapped (Private Justice, #2)

I received a copy of this title for review from NetGalley.

Synopsis from Good Reads:

When librarian Laura Griffin’s sixteen-year-old sister disappears on a frigid February day, leaving only a brief note behind, Laura resolves to do whatever it takes to track down the runaway teen. That includes recruiting ATF agent turned PI James “Dev” Devlin to help. But the deeper he digs, the more he begins to suspect that something sinister is at work in the girl’s disappearance. And the closer he gets to uncovering the truth, the clearer it becomes that the situation isn’t just dangerous–it’s deadly.

Chilling and at times terrifying, “Trapped” is the latest thrilling read from Irene Hannon, the queen of romantic suspense. Hannon outdoes herself with this fast-paced tale of fear, deception, and just the right dose of romance.

I’ve read a couple books by Irene Hannon and found them to be a good blend of suspense, romance, and faith. I was expecting to enjoy Trapped just as much, but found it a little underwhelming.

Let’s start with the suspense angle. There wasn’t much. I felt like the whole book was pretty predictable. There was one thing that surprised me and it wasn’t that much of a surprise. The pace was slow and there really wasn’t a whole lot going on for most of the book. However, the last few chapters ratcheted up the action and made it enjoyable.

The romance was a little lacking for me, as well. It followed the “insta-love” formula that seems to be so popular, but I rarely appreciate. The main characters, Laura and Dev, are likable, but pretty boring. There was nothing that interesting about them that would justify the instant attraction and affection other than both being attractive.

I would’ve liked to see the secondary characters developed a little more. Darcy, the teenage runaway/kidnap victim, wasn’t much more than a cliché. Dev’s PI partners, Cal and Connor, were both likable, but rarely seen. Since this is the second book in the Private Justice series, I gathered the first book was about Cal, so readers should’ve been already acquainted with him. The next book in the series I would assume will be about Connor, so he’ll be more fully developed in that book. My biggest complaint about this type of series – where each book is focused on a different character – is that it seems like an excuse to only develop one set of characters at a time. And then when you like those characters, they’re pushed to the background in the next book and almost forgotten. This complaint is one for the genre, though, and not just this particular book.

One character that I really found interesting, however, was Mark. I felt like he was the most developed of the book and some of the best moments of the story were with him. Even though he’s the villain of the story, he was a sympathetic character that I really felt sorry for.

The faith of the characters in the story sets it apart from your normal romantic suspense. Hannon does a pretty good job of letting Laura’s faith define her character and it never seems like it’s a reach when she prays or talks about God. However, it seems to be a much less central theme in the story than the other books I’ve read by Hannon and I would’ve liked to see more of Darcy and Dev’s spiritual growth.

Overall, this book was just ok for me. It moved much too slow for me to be suspenseful and it felt like it was way too long. Fans of Hannon may still find it enjoyable, but I would direct readers unfamiliar with her work to pick up Fatal Judgment or Against All Odds.

Saturday Spotlight: The Unexpected Gift by Berna King

The Unexpected Gift

Today I would like to shine the spotlight on The Unexpected Gift by first time author Berna King. I had an opportunity to go to a book signing today at Dayspring Christian Bookstore and got my Mom’s copy signed, as well as picking up a copy for myself (because really, what’s better than signed books!). I haven’t read this yet, but I’ve heard from several people – who’s opinion I trust – that it’s a great read!

The Unexpected Gift tells the story of two families whose lives are shattered by two tragic events occurring within a few months of each other. Despite his shaken faith, Dr. Scott Benson, local veterinarian, strives to guide his daughter Rachel in her adjustment to blindness and short-term memory loss resulting from an auto accident that kills her mother. Shannon Martin, who now volunteers at a local therapeutic riding center, struggles with learning to trust again after the suicidal death of her fiancé, Todd Trent. When Shannon, who is blind herself, begins tutoring young Rachel in braille, romance between Scott and Shannon blossoms.

Meanwhile, a web of suspicion and turmoil comes to light involving Jill Trent, the oldest of the Trent siblings. Jill’s children do not know their biological father, so Mark Trent, their uncle, helps the now nearly grown children as they struggle to live a different kind of life despite their mother’s choices.

The fledgling romance between Scott and Shannon and the Trent family’s battle with Jill’s drug addiction collide in a series of shocking events that reveal deception, blackmail, and murder. Who is behind the crimes? Will the romance between Scott and Shannon last? Can the Trent family finally experience reconciliation? Find out how each character learns to rely on God for direction.

Berna King is a rehabilitation counselor, assisting people with visual impairments to return to the workforce. Visually impaired herself, she grew up in rural northeast Ohio, riding horses and meeting life’s challenges head-on. A graduate of Western Michigan University, she holds a Master of Arts in rehabilitation counseling. Assisted by her Seeing Eye dog, Berna currently lives and works in Canton, Ohio.

You can get a copy of The Unexpected Gift in either hard copy or e-book at Barnes and Noble or Amazon. You can check out Berna’s Good Reads page here.

The Tutor’s Daugher by Julie Klassen – 3 stars (out of 5)

 

The Tutor's Daughter

The Tutor’s Daughter is Julie Klassen’s latest Christian Historical Romance. I’ve read and mostly enjoyed most of her books, though my favorite has always been The Apothecary’s Daughter (no, they’re not all titled after someone’s daughter).  The Tutor’s Daughter follows Emma Smallwood as she travels with her father away from their fledgling school to become private tutors to prominent family, the Westons. Two of the Weston sons, Henry and Phillip, previously attended the Smallwood’s school and Emma had very different relationship with them. Henry was antagonistic towards Emma and liked to play pranks on her. Phillip was sweet and friendly. And you will never guess who she ends up with.

The Smallwoods are greeted coolly by Lady Weston, Henry and Phillip’s stepmother, whose sons, twins Julian and Rowen, are supposed to be tutored. Sir Giles Weston is affable, but generally absent. Also residing with the Smallwoods is Lady Weston’s ward, Lizzie, who strikes up a friendship with Emma, but is hesitant to talk about her past.

Emma is tormented through increasingly threatening pranks and a good deal of the story is dedicated to trying to discover who is behind them. Other central themes include discovering the secret of the North Wing, which is figured out about half way through (I found this plot development reminiscent of Jane Eyre);  Emma’s growing friendship with and affection for Henry; and Henry’s desire to help rescue shipwrecked sailors, which there is apparently a lot of in their coastal town.

Thoughts:

I felt like there was too much going on and it was all happening very slowly. The pranks on Emma were mostly nothing more than an annoyance, until the final one that actually is life threatening. The discovery in the North wing was not very surprising and there was too much build up for it.

The romance between Emma and Henry, like all of Klassen’s romances, was sweet and probably the most enjoyable part of the book. It felt organic, developing over time and not “at first sight”. The only bad thing I’ll say about it is the cliché of falling for the man you initially can’t stand. But this is no surprise to readers of Romance novels or viewers of Chick Flicks.

When it comes to the Christian part of “Christian Fiction”, I feel Klassen handles it well. She is never preachy, which can put off non-believing readers, but she lets the characters’ lives provide the witness. The discussions Henry has with Emma about God seem like natural segues and are never forced.

Overall, The Tutor’s Daughter was a quick and pleasant read.  It was not one of my favorite Julie Klassen novels, but one I would recommend to those interested in the genre. I would also recommend The Apothecary’s Daughter and The Girl in the Gatehouse.