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Monday, September 29, 2014

BLIND TRUST by Sandra Orchard

 Sybil Bates McCormack reviews:
Sandra Orchard’s Blind Trust tracks the fledgling romance between herbal medicine researcher Kate Adams and handsome, former FBI agent Tom Parker. For some strange reason, Kate just can’t seem to keep herself out of harm’s way or off of newly-minted Detective Parker’s diverting suspect list. Lucky girl.

As the novel opens, Kate’s been accused of passing counterfeit bills at the local supermarket. And you guessed it: “Hunkster” Tom’s dispatched to investigate. Will the perceptive detective believe Kate innocent of knowingly passing $30.00 counterfeit Canadian when she claims to have purchased the groceries at the request of an elderly neighbor?

You bet.

But the rollercoaster literary ride Orchard’s designed to barrel toward a “twisty,” “turny,” terrific climax has only just begun. Along the way, you’ll meet a quirky cast of characters that includes a slickster-type mayor, an elderly German herbalist, a down-on-his-luck divorcĂ© and a smattering of ominous mystery men.

Who should Kate trust? It’s anybody’s guess.

Okay. So, I cheated.

I broke the cardinal rule against jumping into a three-book series in the middle—a mistake I won’t make again—especially not with gifted author Sandra Orchard at the helm.

Don’t get me wrong. Ms. Orchard did an incredible job of weaving just enough backstory into “Blind Trust” to acquaint obstinate readers like yours truly—who failed to read the first book first—with what had transpired previously.

I only meant to imply that I can’t wait to read everything in Ms. Orchard’s growing backlist of inspy tomes.

The second novel in the author’s inspirational romantic suspense series entitled “Port Aster Secrets,” “Blind Trust” not only captured my attention but held me in breathless anticipation until the bittersweet—trust me when I say that’s the right word—end.

There’s plenty of payoff to be had as “Blind Trust” reaches its inevitable—and yet way unexpected—end.


But take my advice. Read DeadlyDevotion, the first in Orchard’s sensational Port Aster series, first. I definitely plan to do so before the year is out!

Sybil Bates McCormack, a licensed Georgia attorney since 1998, practiced personal injury and then employment law until May 2014. Now the stay-at-home mom of a rambunctious school-aged son and a multi-talented teenaged daughter, she writes healthcare proposals for a living during the day, lurches haltingly toward fulfilling her dream of writing Christian romantic suspense novels at night, and shares in the inevitable joys and upheavals of launching a start-up church ministry alongside her bi-vocational pastor husband. As if that weren’t enough, she stretches herself way too thin on social media. Don’t believe it? You can visit Sybil at her blog, Christian Romance/Pulsating Suspense, follow her on Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter, friend her on GoodReads, connect with her on LinkedIn, and circle her on Google+. Believe it now?

Monday, September 22, 2014

MURDER AT THE MIKADO by Julianna Deering

Brittany McEuen reviews:
Drew Farthering and his fiancĂ©e, Madeline Parker, are approaching the final weeks before their upcoming wedding. The last thing either Drew or Madeline expects is a surprise visit from Drew’s old flame, Fleur.

A former actress, Fleur is prone to dramatic outbursts. However, Fleur is the number one suspect in a murder investigation involving a member of her old theater troupe and desperately needs Drew’s help.

When Drew reveals the detaiIs of his former relationship with Fleur, will the romance between he and Madeline be strong enough to survive?

Having read the first two books in the Drew Farthering Mystery series, I was thrilled to return to early 1930’s England and catch up with the lives of these interesting characters. Once again, I enjoyed the sophisticated and witty banter that occurs between Drew, Madeline, and Nick Dennison, Drew’s longtime friend.

In Murder at the Mikado, both Drew and Madeline have to face some facts about themselves, their relationship with each other, and past events that have shaped the way they both view relationships. Using Madeline’s insecurities about herself, the author did an excellent job of highlighting the importance of trusting in God and taking one step at a time, letting Him lead the way.

As with the other books in the series, more than one poor soul will fall victim to murder before Drew and his friends are able to track down the culprit.

Although not exactly what I would term a cozy mystery, this series of books has a feel all its own. Murder at the Mikado is not a fast-paced suspense. It is a look back at a more genteel time, through the eyes of members of high society, and I truly enjoyed the trip!

I am a busy homeschooling mom to four children, ranging from kindergarten to high school. I’m happily married to my high school sweetheart and am an avid reader and book reviewer.  I feature book reviews, giveaways, and occasional author interviews on my blog, Britt Reads Fiction. You can also connect with me on Pinterest and Goodreads.

Monday, September 15, 2014

DANGER AT THE BORDER by Terri Reed

Iola Goulton reviews.

Marine biologist Dr Tessa Cleary has been called to the North Cascades National Forest in Washington state to investigate reports of dying fish in Glen Lake. The lake borders Canada, so she is partnered with Agent Jeff Steele, from the US Customs and Border Protection service, for whom she feels an immediate attraction. But they find more than they are bargaining for ... will they live to tell the tale?

Danger at the Border is from Harlequin’s Love Inspired Suspense line, which means it’s shorter than most novels and has a definite Christian element (you’d think all fiction from Christian publishers would have a definite Christian element, but they don’t). This is my main problem with LIS books: they are short, which makes them a quick and fast-paced read. Yes, others might see that as an advantage, but I find if I’m enjoying a book I don’t want it to end, so good LIS books end all too soon—and this was definitely a good one.

I’m always a fan of intelligent heroines. Not perfect women, but women with brains who aren’t afraid to use them. Tessa Cleary certainly fits the bill here. She’s bright, doesn’t frighten easily, and isn’t afraid to speak her mind. And, of course, the heroine then needs a hero who deserves her, and Jeff Steele fits the bill. Handsome and muscular (of course), but also hard-working, intelligent and brave, and with a strong sense of right and wrong (and the inner strength that comes from his Christian faith).

The plot was fast-paced and tight, with plenty of twists and peril, and everything works out in the end (it’s a Love Inspired Suspense. It has to work out in the end). I don’t want to tell you too much more, because that would spoil it, but I’m always pleased to read a book where things don’t always go as I think, yet it still makes sense. All in all, Danger at the Border is an enjoyable read, with a perfect mix of romance and suspense.

Thanks to Harlequin/Love Inspired Suspense and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review. You can find out more about Terri Reed at her website.

Reviewer Biography: Iola Goulton

I am a married mother-of-two, living in the sunny Bay of Plenty, New Zealand. I play the tenor horn in the local Brass Band, do scrapbooking and cardmaking as hobbies.

I blog at www.christianreads.blogspot.com and http://australasianchristianwriters.blogspot.co.nz/, and I work as a self-employed fiction editor (www.christianediting.co.nz) and HR consultant (www.bayreward.co.nz). You can also find me on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/ChristianReads) Twitter (@IolaGoulton) or Pinterest (http://pinterest.com/iolasreads).

Monday, September 8, 2014

A CRY FROM THE DUST by Carrie Stuart Parks

Marji Laine reviews.
I just spent an enjoyable three days stealing every excess moment to absorb Carrie Stuart Parks's debut novel. This story would make an EXCELLENT movie!

Gwen Marcey has had it all:, success, failure, disease, dismal humiliation, and now murder and destruction following her. Her best friend, Beth, always says, "Everything happens for a reason," but how can there be any benefit in Gwen's sanity being questioned, her co-worker murdered, her work decimated? Not to mention the other dysfunctional elements of her life like her family and need for secure, paid employment.

Gwen's job as a forensic artist places her at the site of an 140-year-old tragic massacre hugging the edges of Mormon history. Something she's doing—something she's recreating—is stirring up a hatred strong enough to kill. The ritualistic murders of a young college student and an aging security guard baffle her. Then terror sets in when she realizes she's been targeted. Is she going to be the next victim, or is something more sinister in the works?

I loved this book. It just soared to the top of my all-time-best list! I'd like to say my favorite element is the main character. Usually, that's true, and Gwen was no exception. She's rather a hybrid of a FREE-SPIRIT, do-your-own thing type of gal and a focused, answer-loving LIBRARIAN. A pretty, quirky lady, near or at middle age with a fetish for caffeine, a huge dog, and a quick wit. She was hysterical even in the midst of the most intense moments. At one point she thinks, "They shouldn't mess with a divorced, menopausal, bald woman in a bad mood." Ha. Had me in full-belly laugh more than once! She's smart, skilled, and has a masterful memory. A Holmes with a heart, so to speak.

And I also enjoyed the flavor of the dual perspectives. The main character sections were in first person, but other points of view were in third person. I've heard of books utilizing this new technique, but this is my first experience with it. I really liked it. The character shifts never threw me and I was able to identify Gwen's sections every time. The e-book version did have a few spacing issues between scenes. Not a big deal, and I thoroughly enjoyed the details evidenced by the scenes which some of the minor characters shared.

But my favorite element was the plot in this novel. Non-stop suspense, increasing tension, mammoth stakes, disastrous repercussions. Just as I felt the relief of a completed issue, I'd near the end of the scene and get a new revelation. A shocker that would make me lower the book for a second and give a "Wow." This happened over and over throughout the story. In addition, for the first time in a long time, I was completely surprised by the ultimate revelation. Here, I thought I had the resolution well in hand. I had expectations of who and what and a twist. Only to find I was completely wrong. I mean totally!

But I delighted in the error! The story was that much sweeter since I hadn't anticipated the ending! If you're a fan of suspense, don't miss this book!

And did I mention that Frank Peretti, one of the pioneers of Christian suspense, worked with Carrie Stuart Parks as she developed A Cry from the Dust? What's more, I had a great chat with her when she first sold this book to Thomas Nelson. Here's the link for that interview.

I'm looking forward to the next Gwen Marcey suspense!

Senior Reviewer: Marji Laine

Marji Laine is a collaborator in three novellas with short stories published in both books and magazines. A homeschooling mom or four, two of which are graduates, she is married to a wonderful business analyst who keeps her grounded in reality. Her blog, Faith Driven Fiction, posts reader and writer focused articles as well as analysis of popular movies with a Biblical World view. Find her at Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Goodreads, or Google+.