Monday, May 28, 2018

Life, Faith and Getting it Right: The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck

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Sarah Hollenbeck a.k.a. Raine de Bourgh has made a name for herself writing secular, sizzling, romance novels. When she's saved through the witnessing of her friend Piper, she struggles to reconcile her past with her future in Christ.

The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck is Ms. Bethany Turner's debut novel and I hope will not be her last! Recently, I had the pleasure of meeting Ms. Turner. She was hilarious, sincere, down-to- earth, and straightaway put me at ease.

The author doesn't shy away from candidly exploring the trials of the Christian Life that we experience in today's society.

How Ms. Turner presented the character of Sarah was unique. She doesn't overly describe what she looks like and in this case I think it was smart because the reader can form their own idea of how they imagine her appearance.

Sarah is genuine in her newfound faith if not somewhat hilariously misguided at times.

If Sarah Hollenbeck stepped from the pages of this book I have a feeling we would have been friends in real life.

From the second she meets Ben Delany I was instantly caught up in their whirlwind romance. I appreciated that both Sarah and Ben strove to honor God in their relationship.

I'd love if the author wrote more books about Ben and Sarah. Not quite ready to say goodbye to these characters yet. Also, can the best friend Piper please get her own happy ending?!

 The cultural references cleverly woven into scenes to add humor or make a point was hands down my favorite part of the book. I also enjoyed the witty chapter titles. It piques your curiosity and makes you want to read further.

Congrats Ms. Turner on a delightful, charming, and funny debut novel.

Christ's Strength Made Perfect in Our Weakness

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Together Forever Orphan Train Book 2

Jody Hedlund continues her moving Orphan Train series in Together Forever. 
 Middle sister Marianne Neumann, nineteen is our main character in this story. She is now a placing agent for the Children's Aid Society.  With this position Marianne is hopeful that it will help her find her younger sister Sophie.

Embarking on her first placement mission to Illinois, Marianne didn't realize how this journey would change her in ways she couldn't have foreseen. She along with fellow agent Andrew 'Drew' Brady are responsible for placing thirty-one children ranging from three years to sixteen. Drew is the more experienced agent and Marianne quickly sees he "[Has] bottomless kindness and a tender, sweet way of interacting...the children adored him." (Hedlund, 61).

Having been introduced to Marianne's character in the first book of the series (With You Always), I was a little hesitant as to how I'd react to her.  However, the author had a good balance of explaining her previous actions, showing genuine remorse and a want to change. She portrayed her (Marianne)  as an extremely likable and sympathetic character.

Together Forever was an emotionally gripping story where Drew and Marianne come to realize Christ's strength is made perfect in their weakness.

 A gifted author, Ms Hedlund  does extensive historical research making the reader feel that they've been transported to the time period the story is set in.

Recently, I had the honor of meeting Ms. Hedlund.  What a thrill for me! Having been a fan of her work for years it was truly a delight to come face to face.  She was everything I imagined her to be and more.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Playing the Part is Particularly Amusing

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Flawless New York stage actress Miss Lucetta Plum's star is on the rise.  However, when a fan's interest turns threatening, she's convinced by Mrs. Abigail Hart, a widowed friend and meddling matchmaker, to travel to her very eligible grandson's estate.

The estate?  A 'haunted 'castle known as Ravenwood.
The eligible grandson? The peculiar Mr. Bram Haverstein.

Initially, Lucetta isn't sure what to make of Bram. She finds him more than a little odd with his menagerie of quirky animals and reformed household staff, and she's annoyed at his obvious infatuation with her.

Starstruck Bram soon discovers that the 'real' Miss Plum is nothing like the damsels in distress she plays so convincingly on stage. Rather "...difficult  may be part of [her] charm. It's far more delightful than bossy." (Turano, 124).

Both Bram and Lucetta have secrets they are keeping. Will they be able to reveal them to one another before it's too late?

 The author perpetuates the perfect balance of banter between the leads while adding just the right amount of romantic attraction.

While Playing the Part is the 3rd book in Ms. Turano's A Class of Their Own series it can be read as a stand alone.

Warning: Reading this book in public is not advised as the reader will likely break out in bursts of laughter periodically.  I guarantee it!

Hidden Affections Falls Short

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Annabelle Tyler is en route to Philadelphia to start a new life after her husband's betrayal and divorce.  Re-marriage to  handsome, eligible bachelor and notorious womanizer, Harrison Graymoor is not part of her plan.

When their stagecoach is attacked, the bandits handcuff Annabelle and Harrison together. To protect themselves against the elements they spend the night in the coach unchaperoned...

Propriety mandates he marry her to salvage her reputation. Harrison assures her they can have the marriage annulled.

For two people who are vehemently opposed to marriage, precarious situations and the people in their lives seem intent on  keeping them together.

Hidden Affections is the first book I've read by author Delia Parr. There were aspects I liked about this book and others I struggled with.
Annabelle was sweet and unpretentious. Genuine in her love for God and in her walk with Him. At times, I found her almost too perfect. This made her hard to relate too as a character.

Harrison was a man who was deeply wounded by past losses of his family.  He'd closed his heart off to love thinking if he never married he wouldn't get hurt. His character evolves and he sees his view is misguided.

Normally, plots that involve 'marriages of convenience' intrigue me, but I felt like Hidden Affections came up short.  My primary issue with this book is that both characters were so set on getting a divorce. In the beginning this story had promise, but for me the ending was not what I was expecting.

The great thing about books and booklovers is each work and each individual's preferences vary...(while I didn't) you may love the book!