Review: On Magnolia Lane (Blue Ridge Romance #3) by Denise Hunter

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From the bestselling author of The Convenient Groom (now a beloved Hallmark Original movie) comes the final book in Hunter’s Blue Ridge Romance series.

Pastor Jack McReady has secretly carried a torch for Daisy for two long years. She’s a member of his congregation, after all, and she’ll never see him as more than a trusted counselor. Jack’s best friend Noah has taken every opportunity to encourage his lovesick friend, but when Noah catches wind that Daisy has joined an online dating site, he takes matters into his own hands and orchestrates a meet-cute of the most unconventional kind.

Owner of the local flower shop, Daisy Pendleton is content with her small-town life, but she’d sure like someone to share it with. After several disastrous first dates, she’s about to give up—and then she finds a seemingly wonderful man online. Daisy gets to know TJ through a series of messages but finds herself spending more time with Pastor Jack outside of the church at the same time. What she doesn’t know is that her online prospect and Jack are one and the same.

Just as Daisy’s love life starts to look promising, a mysterious woman appears in town. Daisy is faced with a revelation about her family that turns her world upside down, and she looks to both TJ and Jack for help.

Jack must find a way to reveal himself as her online suitor without breaking her heart and losing her trust. As Daisy faces Jack’s betrayal, she’ll have to learn to extend grace to herself, her family, and the man she’s grown to love.

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

On Magnolia Lane will be available November 6, 2018.

I’ve enjoyed the other books in the Blue Ridge Romance series and On Magnolia Lane just might be my favorite of the series.

I found both the lead characters, Daisy and Jack, to be likable. Sometimes I struggle with the likability factor of this author’s female leads, but I really liked Daisy here. She was kind and I felt like all of her reactions to some of the bad things she found out about were reasonable. I really liked Jack, too, though the whole dating site deceit storyline did keep me from really loving him.

Speaking of the dating site, that part of the plot really reminded me of another one of Hunter’s books. In the interest of full disclosure, I only read a couple of chapters of that book before I decided it wasn’t for me. I have to admit that while it didn’t ruin the book for me or anything, I really didn’t like it any better here. In a different book, I probably would’ve been ok with the male lead being a little dishonest about being the online suitor. I got that he wanted her to get to know him without the Pastor title she associated with him. BUT, I feel like as a Pastor he should’ve handled it better. I have a really hard time excusing his deceit in light of his occupation.

Which brings us to the message of forgiveness. Even though we have a tendency to place certain people on pedestals, everyone is just human and fallible. It’s only by grace that we are forgiven. This is a really easy truth to accept until you’re faced with being betrayed by someone you care about. In addition to Jack’s deceit, Daisy finds out things about her parents that was hard to get past. I found myself in a similar situation over the past year so I found this very relatable and it’s probably the biggest reason this is my favorite book of the series. It made me realize I still have a little ways to go when it comes to forgiveness, too.

Overall, I enjoyed On Magnolia Lane. It was a quick, easy read that I flew right through. I liked the characters and the message of forgiveness and grace. I believe this is the last book in the Blue Ridge Romance series and I thought it ended well. I recommend it to fans of Contemporary Christian Fiction.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

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Review: Dead Drift (Chesapeake Valor #4) by Dani Pettrey

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Synopsis from GoodReads:

Private Investigator Kate Maxwell never stopped loving Luke Gallagher after he disappeared. Now he’s back, and together they must unravel a twisting thread of secrets, lies, and betrayal while on the brink of a biological disaster that will shake America to its core. Will they and their love survive, or will Luke and Kate become the terrorist’s next target?

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

I’ve really enjoyed Dani Pettrey’s Chesapeake Valor series and I thought Dead Drift was a great conclusion.

While I initially didn’t really love the terrorism plot line that first appeared in book two of the series, I thought it worked really well here. It really takes center stage and I was invested it. The secondary mystery circled back to an on-going investigation from the first book and the killer of Griffin’s little sister was finally revealed. I thought the mixture of the urgency and the emotional were balanced much better here than in the previous book, which was probably my least favorite of the series.

I really liked Luke. I was excited for him to finally take a central role and he didn’t disappoint. I would’ve loved to hear a little more of his time away, but I thought the reasons for his disappearance and silence for seven years was well explained, as well as how he felt about it. I liked Kate more than I thought I would, but she’s definitely not my favorite female lead of the series. I loved seeing the whole gang all together. They are a very likable group and I will miss reading about them.

I only have two real complaints. I didn’t like that we didn’t get very much time with Parker and Avery at all. All the other characters got a good amount of page time, but I didn’t feel like they were very present which disappointed me because they’re my favorite couple of the series. I also didn’t like that there’s a really big moment in the conclusion of the terrorism plot line that was just mentioned after the fact instead of being able to experience it with the characters. I thought Pettrey did a really good job with the all the action scenes up to that point and would have liked to have seen that important moment.

Overall, I really enjoyed Dead Drift. I thought the mysteries were intriguing and I really liked getting Luke’s POV. As always, I thought Pettrey did a good job with the Christian elements of the story. It’s never preachy, but just an organic part of the characters’ lives. I’m really going to miss these characters and look forward to the author’s next series.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

Review: Honeysuckle Dreams (Blue Ridge Romance #2) by Denise Hunter

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

After Brady Collins’ ex-wife dies, he receives devastating news—his nine-month-old son Sam isn’t his son at all. And Sam’s wealthy maternal grandparents want custody of the child. Brady knows he’s in for the fight of his life. But regardless of what any blood test says, Sam is his son, and Brady will go to any lengths to keep him.

Brady’s attorney tips him off that one major life change would virtually assure him of winning guardianship of baby Sam at the final hearing: an impending marriage. And his friend Hope is willing to step in as the loving and devoted fiancé.

Local radio celebrity Hope Daniels has been driven by a solitary goal her entire life, and after a happy accident she’s finally offered her dream job. But if the truth comes out about her arrangement with Brady, she may miss the chance of a lifetime and stand in the way of a dear friend’s dreams.

As Brady and Hope make sacrifices to help each other in their times of need, they risk uncovering a truth neither of them expects to find.

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

Honeysuckle Dreams will be available 5/1/18. 

What I Enjoyed

-For most of the book I really liked both Brady and Hope. I thought they made a good team and I enjoyed their blossoming romance. I liked how they interacted with Sam and their friends.

-This is more of a Marriage-of-Convenience story than the Fake Relationship I thought it was, but I still liked that aspect of it. It’s one of my favorite tropes and I thought it was well done. I liked that they went into the marriage with the intent of having a real relationship, but that they didn’t rush it.

-I thought the storyline regarding Sam’s custody case was well done, if perhaps a little easy. I thought it had great potential for drama, but it was kept in check and I liked that.

What Didn’t Work for Me

-As I mentioned above, there wasn’t a lot of drama for most of the book, but I felt like it saved it all for the end. Once the custody case was wrapped up I felt like all of a sudden Hope went kind of crazy. While there were a few things said about Hope’s past and fears throughout the book, it felt like it escalated out of nowhere and it really brought down my enjoyment. It felt tacked on and I just didn’t think it was necessary. My biggest complaint with books by this author is that I often find the female lead unlikable and I thought that wasn’t happening in this book, but by the end Hope was really frustrating me.

Overall

Overall, I enjoyed Honeysuckle Dreams, though the added drama at the end did bring it down a bit for me. I liked the characters for the most part and the Marriage-of-Convenience theme. I look forward to continuing the series.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3.5 Stars

 

Review: Blind Spot (Chesapeake Valor #3) by Dani Pettrey

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

FBI agent Declan Grey is in the chase of his life–but isn’t sure exactly what he’s chasing after. Threatened by a terrorist that “the wrath is coming,” Grey fears something horrible is about to be unleashed on American soil. When his investigation leads him to a closed immigrant community, he turns to Tanner Shaw to help him. She’s sought justice for refugees and the hurting around the world, and if there’s anyone who can help him, it’s Tanner.

Tanner Shaw has joined the FBI as a crisis counselor . . . meaning she now has more opportunity to butt heads with Declan. But that tension also includes a spark she can’t deny, and she’s pretty sure Declan feels the same. But before anything can develop between them, they discover evidence of a terror cell–and soon are in a race against the clock to stop the coming “wrath” that could cost thousands their lives.

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

Blind Spot will be available October 3, 2017.

I’m a fan of Dani Pettrey and have really enjoyed the Chesapeake Valor series. I’m disappointed to say that this installment, while still a good read, did not live up to my expectations.

It took me a really long time to get into the story. In the previous book, Still Life, there is a subplot with Declan and a potential terrorist attack that I didn’t really like. That subplot becomes the main focus of this book, along with Declan and his romantic interest Tanner, so I think I started off the book a little biased. It took me until over half way through to really start enjoying it. There were a few well done suspenseful moments thrown in, but it wasn’t until the latter half of the book that I really felt the urgency.

It also took me a little while to get on board the Declan and Tanner ship. I did like Declan pretty early on, but I thought Tanner could be a little condescending. There’s also a reveal about Tanner’s big secret, shameful past that greatly annoyed me. There was absolutely nothing for her to be ashamed of and I thought it was kind of disrespectful to the real life people in that position. Tanner did eventually grow on me, though, and I was happy when her relationship with Declan finally progressed. I also liked how their faith was effortlessly written into the story. I didn’t think there was any “big lesson” they had to learn, but their Christian faith was evident in who they were and I liked that.

We also get Griffin’s POV with the second major storyline, the murder of a friend/mentor of the group. I have to say that I was incredibly bored with this storyline. With the terrorism plot, this one just didn’t really seem to matter. I thought that the answers came way too easily, too. And as with the previous book, I don’t understand how all these people are able to share details of official investigations. And how does Griffin have any jurisdiction to pursue someone out of the country? I also thought it was odd that Tanner, who is a crisis counselor, gets to be Declan’s partner once they’re done with her connection to a potential witness. I feel like you have to overlook a lot when it comes to the crime solving in this series.

We get one other person’s POV and it was the one I most enjoyed. We finally get some answers (though vague) on the missing Luke. I had some issues with the way different members of the group reacted to his reappearance, but I guess I can kind of see where they’re coming from. I just hope they get over it quickly in the next book.

Overall, I thought Blind Spot was Pettrey’s most ambitious book yet. I can appreciate the effort to elevate the central mystery to a national threat and not just something that affects someone in the group of friends, but it just fell a little short for me. I had a hard time getting into the story and while I did like Declan and Tanner eventually, I did not enjoy them as much as I did the central couples of the previous books. I did really like the appearance of Luke, though, and am really looking forward to seeing more of him in the next book.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3 Stars

Review: Cold Shot (Chesapeake Valor #1) by Dani Pettrey

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

In college, Griffin McCray and his four best friends had their lives planned out. Griffin and Luke Gallagher would join the Baltimore PD. Declan Gray would head to the FBI and Parker Mitchell would go on to graduate school as a crime scene analyst. But then Luke vanished before graduation and their world–and friendships–crumbled.

Now Griffin is a park ranger at Gettysburg, having left life as a SWAT-team sniper when a case went bad. The job is mostly quiet–until the day he captures two relic hunters uncovering skeletal remains near Little Round Top. Griffin just wants the case to go away, but charming forensic anthropologist Finley Scott determines that the body is modern–a young social justice lawyer missing since spring–and all evidence points to the work of an expert sniper. When FBI agent Declan Gray takes over the case, past and present collide. Griffin soon realizes he’ll need to confront some of the darkest days of his life if he–and those he cares about–are going to escape a downward spiral of murder that crosses continents.

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

Cold Shot will be available February 2, 2016.

I enjoyed Pettrey’s Alaskan Courage series so when I saw she was starting a new series I definitely wanted to check it out. I’m very happy to report that I liked the start of this Chesapeake Valor series even more!

I have to say that one of the reasons I liked it so much is that it reminded me a little bit of the tv show Bones, which I loved during it’s early years. Griffin is a former sniper (like Booth) and Finley is a forensic anthropologist (like Temperence, aka “Bones”). When Griffin comes across remains in Gettysburg he calls upon Finley’s expertise when he suspects the body has been more recently killed than he expected. To assist in the investigation they bring in Griffin’s childhood friends Declan, an FBI agent, and Parker, a crime scene investigator (though Parker is no longer really a friend), Parker’s assistant Avery, and later their other old friend, Kate.

I liked the characters in the story a lot. Though the story mostly focused on Griffin and Finley, we get several different perspectives and they were all pretty distinct. I liked learning some of the backstory between Griffin, Parker, Declan, and Kate and look forward to getting even more in the coming books.

I also liked the romance in the book. I thought Griffin and Finley were well matched and they complemented each other well. They both had to overcome some of their own demons before they were ready for a relationship, and they both played a role in each other’s life to help them come to terms with the past and with God. I also liked the developing relationship between Parker and Avery. The one thing I didn’t like about the romance was that there was just a little too much of the “He/She’s so beautiful/kind/strong/special, but I’m not ready/don’t deserve him/her” inner-monologues going on for my taste. That’s not to say the romance wasn’t sweet, because it was, it’s just a problem I have with a lot of romances.

I thought the suspense was done pretty well, as there were several life-endangering situations and the plot moved along fairly quickly. The main mystery was just ok for me, though. There was a twist that kind of came out of left field and while it did work, it slightly annoyed me. It always makes me feel like I’ve wasted time trying to figure things out when the answer doesn’t even become a possibility until late in the game.

I really liked the way that Pettrey wove in issues of faith with the story. There’s an overall message of forgiveness and trusting in God’s presence that was very well done. Prayers and discussions on the subject were organic with the characters and it never felt like you were being “preached” to, so I think that even those who aren’t Christians would still enjoy the story.

Overall, I really enjoyed Cold Shot. I really liked the well-developed characters, the thoughtful way their faith played into the story, and the suspense. While I enjoyed Pettrey’s previous series, I think her writing has greatly improved with each new book and I think this one is her best yet. I look forward to spending more time with these characters when the series continues.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

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