28 September 2012

Review: Prescott Pioneers 4-in-1 by Karen Baney

Prescott Pioneers is a collection from debut author Karen Baney. At USD 9.99 for four full-length novels, it represents good value for money. The books are also available separately, at USD 5.99 each for the Kindle editions (although the first is free). This is one series where the subsequent books each build on the earlier stories, so it is best read in order.

A Dream Unfolding

Dr. Drew Anderson and his wife, Hannah, decide to leave their home in Ohio and travel west after Drew’s brother, Thomas, robs the local bank and all the townsfolk turn against them. William Colter is a twenty-nine year old cattle rancher from Texas, who travels west after his father dies and his older brother, Reuben, kicks him off the family ranch. Luckily Will inherited half the stock, so he takes his share of the cattle and cash, and moves west to buy his own ranch. All have to learn to trust God as they travel and build new lives in 1860's Prescott, Arizona.

My main issue with A Dream Unfolding is that it took too long to develop any relationship between the two sub-plots. It’s a historical romance, so you can see what’s got to happen, but the plotting seemed rather disjointed and the relationship between Drew and Hannah wasn’t really believable. It took half the book for Will to even meet his future wife, then the whole falling in love happened very quickly (too quickly), but then there was another slow-down before the obligatory Happy Ever After. Enjoyable enough, but not outstanding.

A Heart Renewed

Seventeen-year-old Julia Colter is forced to leave her home in the dead of night after she is raped by her older brother, Reuben, as punishment for not marrying the rancher he has selected for her (yes, this story is not for the faint-hearted, and no, it is not an easy read). Julia travels to Arizona with her neighbour, Adam Larson, posing as his sister. Adam has been offered a job in Arizona, working as a horse trainer for Julia’s older brother, Will.

This story centres around Julia’s emotional and spiritual healing from Reuben’s attack, and her growing relationship with Adam. She has feelings for him, but doesn’t believe he could ever love her. Julia also has difficulty getting close to Will, because he looks just like Reuben, which reminds her of the abuse she suffered. Despite the difficult situation, this was a solid story of growing trust and forgiveness.

What I didn’t like about A Heart Renewed was the amount of time that was taken up with the sub-plot about Thomas Anderson (Drew’s brother). This wasn’t at all relevant to the Julia/Adam plot, but just felt like it was setting up the next book in the series, which it was. While it was interesting enough (and, in fairness, was consistent with the ‘heart renewed’ theme), the story of Thomas detracted too much from the main plot.

A Life Restored

Caroline Larson want an adventure, so decides to join her brother, Adam, and best friend, Julia Colter, in their new lives in Prescott, Arizona. She arrives safely despite an eventful journey, but finds her plan to live with Julia is foiled: Julia is about to marry Adam, and they will live together on the Colter ranch, where Adam works. Caroline doesn’t let this get her down for long. She gets a job working in the general store and spends her free time with Thomas Anderson, an express rider, despite the general disapproval of the Colter family.

An error of judgement leaves Caroline in an unfortunate predicament, desperately needing Thomas to return from his week-long express journey. But Thomas, in his eagerness to return, makes a foolish attempt to ride through a blizzard, with predictable consequences that separate the couple.

A Life Restored was enjoyable for the most part, but there was one irritating glitch. In  A Heart Renewed , Julia was afraid of Will because he reminded her so much of Reuben. Yet when Reuben appears, neither Will nor Ben (their long-serving farmhand) recognises him. This didn't ring true, and it also signposted the ‘big reveal’ in A Hope Revealed (maybe we readers weren’t supposed to pick up the Reuben connection, but I thought it was a pretty poorly-disguised secret).

A Hope Revealed

Since her husband disappeared two years ago, Mary Colter has supported herself and her two children as a laundress, and tried to escape marriage to men who will no doubt treat her as badly as her husband did. When she receives a small inheritance, she uses it to travel to Prescott, to the home of her brother-in-law, in the hope that he will take her in and she will finally be able to escape Reuben’s influence. But Mary finds, to her horror, that she might have brought more danger to Prescott.

Overall, this was probably my least favourite story of the four, because several of the characters behaved out of character. I found it inconsistent that Julia managed to forgive Reuben (in the second book), yet she was absolutely hateful towards Reuben’s wife, Mary, when she appeared in . This suggests to me that she had not really forgiven Reuben either (not that I blame her – it was the inconsistent behaviour that annoyed me). Eddie hates his father and wishes he were dead, yet when he gets his wish, he declares that he hates Warren for killing Reuben. I know Eddie’s only supposed to be a child, but that still seems out of character. I also found Will rather annoying in the final book, particularly in regard to Reuben.


The first three books had quite a number of typos and grammatical errors, although most were obvious (e.g. 'in tact' rather than 'intact') and didn't confuse or detract from the story. What was more annoying was the amount of unnecessary back story, particularly in the later books. Pages and pages are spent repeating the personal histories of characters we have already been introduced to. This is especially tedious when all the books of a series have been combined in one volume, as is the case here. The fourth book had noticeably fewer errors and includes a thanks to the editors – it’s just a pity they didn’t get hired until this point.

Conflict is the essence of good fiction, and this series has conflict in large doses. Unfortunately, the doses are just too large, and become larger than life to the point of melodrama, especially in the final book. The stories were much darker than most Christian fiction, and I really didn't enjoy that aspect, as I felt it unnecessary. If I wanted to read about greed and the depravity of human nature, I’d be reading non-fiction.

I also found the rape scenes unnecessarily detailed (yes, scenes, not just scene). There were plenty of hints of ‘marital intimacy’ throughout this collection, but they were just hints of activity occurring behind closed doors, as is normal for Christian fiction. So why detail the rape scenes? Yes, I know this is fiction. Yes, I know there are rape and abuse scenes in the Bible. Yes, I know bad things happen to good people. But am I the only person who finds it distasteful that the only time there is graphic sex in a Christian novel is when it’s a rape scene?

On the positive side, the series is impeccably researched, and the author has managed to include a lot of historical detail without it seeming like an 'information dump'. All the stories have a strong Christian message of hope and forgiveness, and manage to portray this without descending into preachiness.

Thanks to Bookrooster for providing a free ebook for review. You can find out more about Karen Baney at her website.

26 September 2012

Review: Evan Burl and the Falling by Justin Blaney

Evan Burl, age fifteen, is the oldest of a group of orphans who live and work in the isolated castle of Dǣmanhur under the brutal supervision of Uncle Mązol and his goons, Ballard and Yesler. The orphans are always hungry, are punished severely for breaking the rules, and are forced to work from sunup to sundown. A mysterious message in the Book predicts that Evan will become an evil sapient when he turns sixteen, and that he cannot be turned from his destiny.

Each chapter of Evan Burl and the Falling begins with a header specifying how long until the mysterious 'Falling'. This is important to note, as the story moves back and forward in time. I think this was meant to be a literary device to enhance suspense. Personally, I found it irritating. One flashback is one thing, but this felt more like telling a story in two timelines at once.

One of the skills in writing a novel in a sci fi, fantasy or speculative genre is to ensure that the reader is provided with the information they need to understand the plot at the right time. Sometimes Evan Burl managed this; sometimes it did not. And the fantasy world has to present a consistent illusion of reality to the reader. Including items like French doors broke this illusion, because they are part of our world, and Evan is not.

The other thing I found annoying was the spelling. Many of the names had little curlicues (e.g. Peąrl, sąpience, which I hope display properly on your screen). On the Kindle, the strange letters are merely annoying. But reading the epub version of the book on my Kobo was impossible, because the file conversion process had changed all the strange letters to boxes, rendering it almost unreadable.

It takes a while for the story to really gain its stride--at first, it seems as though it is trying too hard, with the melodramatic evil uncle, the punishments and the affected spelling of character's names. But once it settle in and gains pace, it improves… only to finish with a ‘to be continued’ cliffhanger ending, with no resolution to any of the questions raised. What are the orphans manufacturing? What is the ‘falling’? Where did the orphans come from? Is Evan really evil?

Evan Burl and the Falling could be the start of something good. But it finished too soon and left too many unanswered questions for my liking. I personally prefer each book in a series to have a partial resolution that gives more clues about the final climax, which completes the overall story arc.

Thanks to Inklis Marketing for providing a free ebook for review.

24 September 2012

Review: Through Rushing Water by Catherine Richmond

When twenty-eight year old Sophia Makinoff doesn’t receive the marriage proposal she expected, she volunteers as a teacher for the Board of Foreign Missions, expecting to be sent to China. Instead, she is assigned to the Ponca Agency in the Dakota Territory, where she finds extremely primitive conditions and her fellow workers: James Lawrence, the agent, Henry Granville, the minister, Nettie, Henry’s mother, and Willoughby Dunn, the Agency carpenter.

Despite first impressions of Sophia as an educated lady and social climber, we gradually get to know her as the daughter of a Russian Army officer who escaped from Russia with nothing, and has lived in surroundings both palatial and extremely basic. She draws on her many experiences befriend the Ponco people, and works hard to help them as outside forces threaten the Ponco way of life.

Neither James nor Henry have positive feelings towards the local people, and the Army officers who occasionally visit are even less polite. Nettie is such a likeable and matter of fact character that it is hard to believe she is the mother of Henry, a self-righteous 'ninny' (as Sophia describes him). Will, a strong Christian even though not serving specifically as a missionary, has befriended the local people and teaches Sophia a lot about their culture.

Overall, Through Rushing Water is an excellent novel. The characters are real, with real hopes, fears and dreams. They are placed in difficult circumstances, and lean on their Christian faith to get through. They make mistakes as they learn and change. And there is a lovely romance element.

Through Rushing Water is broadly based on true events, and has been meticulously researched. There is a note at the end of the book in which the author explains which characters what aspects of the plot are based on fact, and this is enlightening. To modern readers, parts of the story (and aspects of the character’s personalities) seem racist and repugnant: not only were the Ponco not American citizens, they were not even considered human in the eyes of the law. I really enjoy historical fiction where I feel I have actually learnt something of history.

Thanks to Thomas Nelson and BookSneeze® for providing a free ebook for review. You can find out more about Catherine Richmond and the research behind this book on her website.

21 September 2012

Review: Wildflowers from Winter by Katie Ganshert

Bethany Quinn is twenty-eight years old, living her dream life as an architect in Chicago, about to move in with her handsome lawyer boyfriend. She gets a telephone call from her estranged mother, saying that her childhood best friend, Robin, is facing the imminent death of her husband in their home town of Peaks, Iowa, population 1,539. Bethany hasn’t seen Robin since she Peaks ten years ago, so is reluctant to visit now.

But when her mother calls again, to say that her beloved grandfather has had a heart attack, Bethany feels compelled to make a short visit, where she meets Evan, who works on her grandfather’s farm and is brother to Micah, Robin’s dying husband. As the story unfolds, we gradually discover Bethany's history: how she met Robin, how her father died, and why she is so set against God and religion.

Wildflowers from Winter has a compelling opening line, as Bethany describes her attempt to drown herself at twelve years old. This is the first of several scenes written from the younger Bethany’s point of view, but the bulk of the story is told in the more conventional third person viewpoint. Both are effective, and the author has done a good job of creating characters we can empathise with and understand as they struggle to reconcile tragedy with a loving God.

There were a couple of negatives. The romance side of the plot was a bit understated (although that’s obviously personal preference), as is the faith aspect (ditto). But overall, I’d encourage readers to look beyond the cover, because Wildflowers from Winter is a touching story of love, loss, and the importance of discovering God for ourselves, not relying on the words and actions of others.

This is the debut novel from author Katie Ganshert, and a sequel, Wishing on Willows, is in progress. The first chapter was included at the end of Wildflowers from Winter, and it looks to be just as good.

Thanks to WaterBrook and BloggingforBooks for providing a free ebook for review. You can find out more about Katie Ganshert at her website .

19 September 2012

Review: The Reunion by Dan Walsh

Aaron Miller, a Vietnam veteran who is estranged from his family, lives and works in Bentley’s Trailer Park & Campground. Billy Ames is a Vietnam veteran who sits in his trailer and contemplates suicide. Karen Miller is a single woman who struggles to connect with men, perhaps because her father left their family after returning from Vietnam.

Dave Russo is a journalist whose father died in Vietnam. He is currently researching a book about the war, his own way of honouring the veterans who had the misfortune to fight in a war that America didn’t win. As part of his research, he contacts millionaire John Lansing, who tells him an amazing story about how he and two friends were rescued by a man who later won the Congressional Medal of Honor for his bravery. John commissions Dave to find their rescuer – Aaron Miller.

The first few chapters were from the viewpoints of Aaron and Billy, and were a little slow and, frankly, a bit depressing. But then we got a chapter from Karen Miller, the daughter Aaron hasn't seen for twenty years. And (despite the fact that the scene is a bad blind date) the tone is quite different, more upbeat. I always admire writers that can make you feel the differences between the characters by the way they adjust their style, and shows how well-written The Reunion is. I did have a few issues with the writing – there seemed to be times when the viewpoint wasn’t clear, but on the whole, it was very good.

I’m not American (so don’t have quite the same cultural background as these characters) and I don’t really do ‘war stuff’ but I thought The Reunion was an excellent way to honour those who sacrificed so much for a foreign country half a world away. The ending, in particular, tugs at the heartstrings, and I really liked the way everything came together (and the nice romantic sub-plot). Worth reading.

Thanks to Revell and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review.

17 September 2012

Review: A Plain and Simple Heart by Lori Copeland and Virginia Smith

Rebecca Switzer has a crush on Englischer Jesse Montgomery, but knows that her father will never permit another daughter to marry a non-Amish man. At seventeen, Rebecca hasn’t seen the cattle drover for four years, yet she still harbours a fantasy that he will return to Apple Grove, Kansas, join the Amish and marry her. She finds out the Jesse is living in Lawrence, Texas, so enlists the help of her sister and brother-in-law to travel alone to Lawrence, announce her love to Jesse and bring him back to Apple Grove.

This first impression of Rebecca is not good. She is wilful and naïve, not a good combination at any age but particularly not for a teenager who fancies herself in love with a virtual stranger than she hasn’t seen or heard from in years, especially one with a reputation for drinking and women. Her justification for this very un-Amish behaviour is that as she is on rumspringa, not yet baptised into the church, and therefore should be permitted an adventure before adopting a lifetime of obedience to the Ordnung.

Unfortunately for Rebecca, when she arrives in Lawrence, she finds herself arrested with the women of the local temperance movement, and jailed for ninety days under the supervision of town Sheriff Colin Maddox. We then get introduced to Amos Beiler, a widow with three children who is interested in marrying Rebecca, who, at thirteen years her senior, is closer in age to his daughter than to him. I think that's a bit creepy. It is creepy in real life (Michael Douglas, Rod Stewart, Paul McCartney) and it's creepy in fiction.

The story was well-written and I really liked Colin and the other Lawrence townsfolk. I just found it difficult to like Rebecca, and it’s really hard to like a book when, as a reader, you don’t like or can’t related to the main character. Overall, I found the temperance subplot much more interesting than the main romance plot, which was a more than a little unbelievable, both in terms of timing and a lack of romantic tension.

I read A Plain and Simple Heart because I wondered if an Amish romance would be better for being set in a time where the technological differences between the Amish and the Englisch were not so obvious. It wasn't. The writing was good, but it had the same vapid heroine as many of the contemporary equivalents. Maybe she reminds me of myself at that age; maybe she is a sign of what I hope my own daughter won't become; maybe she just makes me think of Bella from Twilight. Either way, I just couldn't relate to Rebecca.

This book is the second in The Amish of Apple Grove series, but can easily be read as a stand-alone. The Heart's Frontier dealt with the romance between Emma (Rebecca’s sister) and Luke. They seem to be nice characters, from what little we saw of them in A Plain and Simple Heart, so that may be worth reading. But unless you are a fan of teenage romance or Amish fiction, I wouldn’t recommend A Plain and Simple Heart.

Thanks to Harvest House and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review. You can read more about Lori Copeland and Virginia Smith on their websites. 

14 September 2012

Review: The 13: Fall by Robbie Cheuvront and Erik Reed

Prologue: It is July 4, 2025, the Chinese are amassing an army in Mexico, and every major West Coast city from San Diego to Seattle has been devastated by a nuclear strike. The action then moves back in time by two weeks, to President Calvin Grant. Grant receives a message from a man calling himself The Prophet, claiming to speak on behalf of The Lord Most High. The message claims that God is going to punish the world for its evil, starting in fourteen days.

CIA agent Jonathan Keene is teamed with FBI agent Megan Taylor and ex-special forces man Bozwell Hamilton to find and stop The Prophet. Keene’s immediate reaction is that The Prophet is a terrorist, but Hamilton and Grant are strong Christians, and they aren’t so sure… Well, we already know from the prologue that they don’t succeed. What they do find is a bigger plot that could destroy America, and they don’t know where The Prophet fits in.

For the most part, The 13: Fall is a sound thriller with a good level of suspense and an interesting cast of characters who are introduced appropriately. But there are occasional literary mishaps, like unnecessary background descriptions, an overuse of exclamation marks, and scenes that felt as if it came straight from an old action movie (specifically The Fugitive and Matrix). And despite the fact that it is set in 2025, there don't appear to have been any major leaps in technology (well, all the police have smartphones, but this technology already exists). I suppose this is only thirteen years in the future, but the last thirteen years have brought in-home broadband, Facebook, Twitter, Netflix and Youtube, all of which have changed the way we communicate. On this basis, if it was so important that everyone heard The Prophet's message, why did he send it in a private email? Why not on Youtube or the 2025 equivalent?

There are also times when Americans make us foreigners laugh. At one point, The 13: Fall comments that the price of oil is rising ‘astronomically’, and the price of gas (petrol) is expected to soon reach $10 per gallon. Wow. That’s my irony font, in case you couldn’t tell. Petrol already costs $7.00/gallon here in New Zealand, and a quick online search found it’s currently $8.40/gallon in London and Sydney. If petrol only went up by $1.60/gallon in the next thirteen years, I think they’d all be thrilled. (All prices in US dollars. And, yes, I know that petrol is currently only around $4.00/gallon in the US. But only because I looked it up.)

Despite the faults, this was an enjoyable book. It was fast-paced, with an interesting plot and a group of characters that I, as a reader, wanted to succeed. The 13: Fall is more overtly Christian than a lot of contemporary Christian fiction, but it is a sound thriller, and it will be interesting to read future books in the series.

Thanks to Barbour and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review.

12 September 2012

Review: The Reason by William Sirls

Brooke Thomas is cleaning her small church with her son, Alex, when the lights go out in an electrical storm, and the huge wooden cross outside the building is destroyed by lightening. She lives with the Lindy family: Pastor Jim, the blind pastor, his wife Shirley, and Charlie, their seven-foot, 355-pound son who hadn’t spoken a single word in his life.

Carla Miller is Brooke’s best friend, and has her own problems. A mysterious stranger appears in a bar, shows Carla an apple, tells her she has to learn to forgive, then leaves. Macey Lewis, paediatric oncologist at the local hospital, meets Brooke and Alex when they are having some medical tests. She offers to help rebuild the cross, and enlists the help of colleagues Dr Zach Norman, nurse Kaitlyn Harby and Kenneth, a carpenter who is working on the new wing of the hospital and who has been a man of God 'forever'.

The first couple of chapters introduced all the main characters, which had the potential to get a little confusing, but the different characters were soon linked together, and from then on, The Reason was a gripping contemporary story, a combination between medical and speculative fiction, centered around Brooke and Alex, but impacting all the characters in different ways as it explores an age-old question: why do bad things happen to good people?

While The Reason is most definitely a Christian novel, the characters aren't perfect. They visit bars, smoke, drink, get drunk and make wrong decisions as they deal with their present problems and confront their pasts. Their faith is challenged by circumstances, and by the carpenter who seems to know everything each of them has ever done. This is William Sirls’ first novel, and it is an outstanding debut with realistic characters facing difficult situations and learning to only believe. Highly recommended.

Thanks to Thomas Nelson and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review. You can read more about William Sirls on his website (very interesting!).

10 September 2012

Review: Shadow on the Quilt by Stephanie Grace Whitson

Juliana Sutton has just found out that Sterling, her husband of ten years, has been seeing another woman, and they have a child together. Worse, he manages to get himself killed in a fire in the local brothel before she can confront him. Juliana hides her newfound knowledge in order to protect Sterling’s reputation in the eyes of his two aunts, who share her house.

With her grief at Sterling’s death overtaken by her anger at his betrayal, Juliana defies bereavement customs and maintains her role in local society. Her widowhood brings her into contact with Cass Gregory, the foreman of her husband’s construction company, currently engaged in building her new home. Juliana is initially suspicious of Cass as she recognises as being at the brothel on the night of the fire with one of the ‘ladies. She eventually comes to trust him and finds solace in organising the completion of the building.

The Shadow on the Quilt is an interesting story with several strands to the plot, including the quilt that the aunts are sewing, the new house, the Gregory family, and the mother of Sterling’s child. It is also the story of recovery in a time where there were strict expectations regarding the behaviour of those who were grieving, and the difficulty of conforming to those expectations – especially for someone who is more angry than grieving. The difference between heart and head observance (and attitude) was particularly well illustrated by the respective meetings with the two Christian ministers, one of whom displays a lot more Christian conduct than the other…

This is the second in a series, but each book is a stand-alone Christian historical romance, with the series based on a common theme of quilts. I really enjoyed it – it had likeable characters, a well-thought-out plot, and the Christian aspect was well-integrated without being preachy. And there was a nice romance, with plenty of tension but moving at an appropriate pace. Recommended.

Thanks to Barbour Publishing and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review.You can read more about Stephanie Grace Whitson on her website.

7 September 2012

Review: Shattered Silence by Margaret Daley

Liliana Rodriguez is a detective on the Durango Police force. Her partner has recently retired due to injury, so when a murder victim is discovered, Liliana is paired with Cody Jackson, the new Texas Ranger in town.

Cody has moved to town with his son, Kyle. Cody’s ex-wife, Kyle’s mother, has recently died, so Cody has taken custody of his son rather than leaving him with his step-father, because the step-father is a white supremacist who is currently under investigation, and it appears that Kyle has picked up some of his step-father’s unfortunate beliefs, and this is causing trouble at his new school.

Soon another murder victim is found… then two more. Four victims in three days, with no obvious relationship between them. Yet there must be something connecting the victims. Outside work Cody and Liliana each have their own problems, Cody with his son, and Liliana with her sister, who is married to an abusive man but can’t be persuaded to leave him.

Shattered Silence covers a lot of ground – murder, racism, domestic violence, school bullying (along with a dose of faith and some romance). It does it all well, but it’s almost as if there are too many subplots that end up taking focus off the main murder plot. A good book, certainly, but not a great book.

This is the second book in the Men of the Texas Rangers series, following Saving Hope, but is a stand-alone title. Thanks to Abingdon and NetGalley for providing a free book for review. You can read more about Margaret Daley on her website.

5 September 2012

Review: Material Witness by Vanetta Chapman

Mrs Knepp, the ornery owner of the one of the two quilt shops in Shipshewana, Indiana, is found dead outside Callie Harper's quilt shop, and the only witnesses are a dog and a disabled seven-year-old boy. Callie soon hears from the murderer, when he drugs her dog, tears up her apartment and threatens to harm the boy if she doesn't turn over the money. It is an obvious case of mistaken identity because she doesn't have 'the money', but can the police find the murderer before he makes good on his threats?

Meanwhile, Callie and her Amish friends, Deborah, Melinda, and Esther, have received a strange commission in the will of old Mrs Hochstetler: to restore and sell three antique quilts. The quilts are not in traditional Amish patterns, and they seem to present their own mystery to solve.

Material Witness was good, but not as good as the other two books in the series. Although I liked the way the plot lines all came together at the end, the last couple of chapters almost felt a little rushed, as if something had been cut out to make way for the required epilogue that ties up all the loose ends. I think I would rather have had more detail around the puzzle surrounding the quilts, and have left the relationship a little more vague. But the thing I really liked about this series was still present: a positive presentation of mature Amish women, as I am over the teenage Amish romances that have flooded the market in recent years.

I understand that Material Witnessis the final of Vanetta Chapman’s Shipshewana Mysteries, following Falling to Pieces and A Perfect Square (both previously reviewed on this blog). While I have enjoyed this series, I am pleased for the residents of Shipshe (pop. 600), who might have wanted their small town to retain its name as a well-known shopping destination, not a potential murder capital! However, (fictional) murder in small Amish towns is obviously a trend that is catching on, as I have another book in my review pile from another author that is also set in Shipshewana, so this won’t be the last time I visit (in a literary sense). And I hope that the author will consider writing a similar series in another location, because I do enjoy these mystery novels.

Thanks to Zondervan and NetGalley for providing a free book for review. You can read more about Vanetta Chapman on her website.

3 September 2012

Review: Sandwich, With a Side of Romance by Krista Phillips

Madison Buckner has moved to Sandwich, Illinois, to start a new life and to try and get custody of Kyle, her eleven-year-old brother. She is fired from her job as a hairdresser on her first day, and talks her way into a new job as administrative assistant to Reuben Callahan, owner of The Sandwich Emporium and two other restaurants.

Maddie is a new Christian, trying to live by God’s standards and put her difficult past behind her. She is helped by Allie, who she meets by coincidence in a McDonalds bathroom, and who just happens to be Reuben’s sister. Allie is a good friend and great example of practical Christianity for Maddie, interfering in all the right places.

This is a fast, enjoyable read, with a freethinking and likable heroine and a slightly-uptight hero who is almost engaged to his on-off girlfriend of almost ten years, and is now trying to fight his attraction to his new assistant. If there was one thing that was not quite up to standard, it was the character of Livy – she filled too many ‘other woman’ clichés. But this was more than compensated for by the positives, particularly the way Maddie comes to terms with her past during the course of the novel.

Overall, Sandwich, With a Side of Romance is a perfect beach or holiday read, with a healthy combination of fun and serious.

Thanks to Abingdon and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review. You can read more about Krista Phillips on her blog.