Sunday, October 25, 2015

With Every Breathe by Elizabeth Camden....Thought-provoking.

With Every Breathe is set prior to the turn of the century.  Dr. Trevor McDonough (a.k.a. Kendall) is tirelessly working to find a cure for tuberculosis. This was a disease that affected the lungs and had become a major cause of death in America.
He seeks the help of statistician Kate Livingston. Surprised that the 'awful' Trevor McDonough would seek her out, she agrees to work with him despite her reservations.  Trevor and Kate have a history together. Both attended the same school and were academic rivals. Years prior, Trevor beat her in a scholarship for Harvard and Kate has resented him since then.
Can Trevor and Kate survive this disease, look past old secrets and danger to find a life together?

Although I liked Trevor and Kate's banter, I felt that they were both somewhat childish in their dealings with one another. Below is one of many 'childish' examples.

"Kate's eyes narrowed as she looked around the ward, then back at him. "You're paying for all of this? Out of your own pocket?"
"Yes." After all, some good ought to come of the fortune that had been dumped on his lap. 
Kate's mouth thinned, and she looked ready to snap. "I thought you said you were poor, that you needed the money." (Camden, 61). 

At first, Trevor's sullen and serious personality was a turn off and then once the author began peeling back the layers, you realize why he is the way he is. After I understood this, I grew to like him a little more. In order for him to do his job, he has to remain objective. Getting too attached to patients would be too draining emotionally. Because Trevor is so focused on finding a cure for tuberculosis he tends to sometimes forget social graces.

By contrast, Kate is the opposite of Trevor. While both Kate and Trevor are hard workers, Kate tends to wear her heart on her sleeve more when dealing with patients at the hospital. The patients weren't just numbers to her. She genuinely cared about them. One of my favorite moments in the book is when she starts reading books aloud to the patients.  I really liked how passionate Kate was about issues and things that she believed in. 

One of the issues with the book that I had was Kate's fear of death.  Losing her younger brothers to illness and her husband to an accident left her fearing death and the unknown. Yes, there's a certain fear I believe that people have, but in Kate's case it almost crippled her in her relations with others, particularly, her family and Trevor. I do like that the author resolves this issue though and Kate sees her fear of death as not trusting in God.

Despite the fact that I didn't like that the two main characters 'childish" dealings with one anther, this did not detract me from wanting to read more books by Ms. Camden and I applaud her for taking on a serious topic of disease.  I could tell that Ms Camden had done her research for this book and her writing is engaging and keeps you wanting to read more.  

A Most Inconvenient Marriage by Regina Jennings....Most Intriguing!

I confess I'm a sap for 'marriage of convenience' stories. The idea of two people entering into marriage for the sake of convenience is intriguing. Regina Jennings managers to throw in a few twists in A Most Inconvenient Marriage. 

Set Post- Civil War, a 'Yankee' nurse Abigail Stuart agrees to marry her 'favorite' patient Captain Jeremiah Calhoun on his deathbed promising to look after his farm in the Ozarks along with his mother and sister. As his widow, she would be given the rights to his horse farm. A 'marriage of convenience' will serve them both as Abigail has nowhere to go and Jeremiah needs someone to look after his property.

Upon arriving at the Calhoun farm, her reception is met with mixed reviews.  Jeremiah's mother 'Ma' Calhoun is thrilled to have her and insists Abigail call her 'Ma'. By contrast, Jeremiah's ill sister Rachel is less-than-thrilled and has a temperamental disposition.

After a few months of posing as Captain Calhoun's widow, Jeremiah shows up at his family's farm; very much alive and demanding to know Abigail's reasons for being on his property. Abigail is perplexed when the handsome soldier before her claims to be Jeremiah Calhoun...he doesn't resemble the soldier she married on his deathbed.

Can Abigail convince Jeremiah she doesn't have ulterior motives for helping out at his farm?
Can Jeremiah convince Abigail to stay before it's too late?

Having only read a novella by Regina Jennings; An Unforeseen Match (Found in A Match Made in Texas collection. Side-note: I highly recommend this collection of 4 novellas. I thought it was so creative the way the first 3 stories are set up by a 'matchmaker' and in the 4th and the final story the reader gets to meet the mysterious matchmaker!) it wet my appetite to read more books by Ms. Jennings. A Most Inconvenient Marriage  held my attention and kept me up late reading for several nights WAY past my bedtime!

Abigail was such a refreshing heroine. There was no guile in her character. She's not afraid of hard work and she's willing to work hard whether it is on the farm or helping patients. Abigail is compassionate, but firm with her patients. She speaks her mind and I found this extremely energizing.

Jeremiah is similarly matched to Abigail in the fact that he also works hard on the farm when he returns from the war. Despite his injured leg he still works hard and pushes himself to his limits. I thought that both Jeremiah and Abigail's willingness to work hard was a commendable trait. I also really liked that Jeremiah was fiercely protective of his family and his farm.

Jeremiah and Abigail's relationship slowly developed. I liked this because it seemed more realistic. After a bit of a bumpy start they become friends and then the friendship turned into deeper feelings for both of them. I found Jeremiah and Abigail's repartee made me anxious to get to the next scene with these two characters to see what kind of verbal sparring there would be. Just one of many examples listed below.

'He cleared his throat. "You should've warned me."
"Well, I'm warning you now. We can't stay here."
"You have one of two choices. You can spend the night with those men who are right now sitting in the overlooks and passes, waiting for us to try to sneak past, or you can stay safe here with me."
"Safe with you?" She scowled at him. "I'm not so sure."
"I'm not the one strutting around town telling everyone we're married." (Jennings, 203)

I thought it was interesting that Ms. Jennings dealt a little with how people reacted to outsiders like Abigail. People in the community knew she was a 'Yankee.' She didn't have to say anything. Clearly, there was still bitterness and animosity towards other particularly outsiders like Abigail. The Civil War didn't magically change that...the lingering affects lasted long afterward.

Both Jeremiah and Abigail were believers and their relationship with Christ seems genuine. Both characters pray silently to Him several times throughout the story and also recalling scripture in times of trouble or at various points in the novel. I appreciate that God wasn't added as an afterthought.

Not sure I 'felt' any particular way after finishing this book. I simply enjoyed it as a story and good 'escapism' fiction.

I look froward to reading more of Ms. Jennings' books. She's a gifted writer and the Christian fiction genre is blessed to have her talent.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Tried and True by Mary Connealy....Delivers!

I've been a fan of Mary Connealy's since I first read Petticoat Ranch by her several years ago. I knew after reading that book that she was going to top my favorite author list and her books were going to be on my ever growing 'must-read' pile.
As an author Mary Connealy's name is synonymous with humor and cowboys.
Anytime I delve into a book by Ms. Connealy, I know that I'm in for an adventure, with lots of laugh-out-loud humor, feisty, sassy, heroines, and  tough-as-nails, one-man-woman cowboys and heart-melting kisses. Tried and True (Book #1 in her Wild at Heart series) delivered!

Kylie Wilde, the youngest of the Wilde girls is the most 'civilized' of her sisters. She enjoys wearing dresses and growing her hair long. By contrast, Kylie's sisters have short haircuts and wear men's clothes. The Wilde women have all fought in the Civil War and claiming the special exemption they got serving as 'boys'.
Aaron Masterson, the local land agent, is intrigued by the beautiful Kylie. But when he discovers her secret; that she's a woman and she's using the special exemption she got while fighting in the war as a 'boy'...he's torn as to what he should do. He's an honest man and not about to defraud the U.S. government, but he can't help, but he drawn to Kylie.
When someone tries to scare Kylie off her homestead, Aaron feels the need to protect her.
Can he convince her to marry him and settle on the frontier with him and give up her dreams of civilization where she drinks tea and buys fancy, store-bought bonnets?

I loved Aaron and Kylie's chemistry and verbal sparring. For example, there's a part in the book where Aaron is trying to convince Kylie to go to one of her siblings homesteads for protection while he goes off and fights her battle for her This of course, did not set well with Kylie.

"You can leave me a Shannon's, but I'll just follow you. When you ride off, look behind. I'll be right there. I'm not letting you fight my battles."
"You"- Aaron jabbed his finger right in her face- "are not going!"
"Oh, yes I am!"
"If you say one more word about it, I'm going to arrest you for pure stupidity and haul you straight to the jailhouse." (Connealy, 98).

I also really liked the dynamic relationship between the sisters: Bailey, Shannon, and Kylie. Each sister had her own strengths and when they combined all of their strengths and talents they were able to accomplish a lot. They built nice cabins for one another and helped each other in the homesteading process. And even though they don't always get along they are always there for each other.

The ending although satisfactory left me wanting read the other two books in the series.

Ms. Connealy's books always make me want to lasso my own 'tired and true' cowboy!

Thank you Ms.Connealy for yet another fun and adventurous read. I  really love your books. I always know that it's going to be fun and slightly 'Wilde' ride.  Please, please write more.