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Monday, September 28, 2015

A BROTHER'S BOND by Lee Tobin McClain

Sybil Bates McCormack reviews the newest release by Lee Tobin McClain, A Brother's Bond.

The Short Version:

Stranded with the suspect…

After rescuing a beautiful stranger from a seemingly random rock slide, a snowstorm leaves disabled veteran Adam Calloway no choice but to put her up at his remote mountain getaway. But when he realizes who Karen Smith is and why she’s here, all he knows for sure is that he has to get rid of her… and fast. Because Karen wants to find out what really happened to her younger brother, killed in these mountains nine years ago. And if she solves the cold case, she’ll destroy Adam’s fragile sister whom he’s vowed to protect with his life.

As Adam and Karen wait out the storm together, they care for Adam’s sister and her child and face mysterious threats from the outside world. Why does Karen keep getting warning texts on her phone? Who would toss a brick through Adam’s picture window? And what kind of maniac would try to set fire to a house with four people inside, one of them a vulnerable child?

Working together to keep everyone safe, Adam and Karen come to admire each other’s strengths, and the two loners begin to fall in love. But Karen is getting closer to the truth that could put Adam’s sister behind bars and leave her son without a mother. The threats keep escalating. And Adam starts to wonder if he can fulfill the vow to serve and protect that he made as a teenager at the Covenant School . . . and whether he really understands anything at all about what happened all those years ago…

My Take:

First, a confession: I rarely read self-published fiction of any genre. That’s true despite the fact that I’ve downloaded dozens of non-traditionally published novels to my Kindle that have simply gone unread. I occasionally make exceptions to that “rule”—for lack of a better word—to read books by friends who’ve waded into untested waters. I also enjoy exploring self-published works by well-known “hybrid” (i.e., traditionally-published and self-published) authors who’ve decided to take a foray into new territory.

I know what you’re thinking. That’s just silly. Biased. More than a little narrow-minded.

Well, beginning now, I’m committed to being more open on that score. I largely owe that decision to Lee Tobin McClain, the author of “A Brother’s Bond.” 

Why the change? The long and short of it is that Ms. McClain knows what she’s doing. She places Karen Smith, the heroine of this intriguing, novella-length work in immediate, gut-wrenching danger. And, Adam Calloway, the handsome, complex hero of the book wastes no time in coming to the feisty lady’s rescue. Ms. McClain doesn’t disappoint in the romance or suspense departments either: Low-level sparks fly between the couple in short order—just as they should. 

But talk about insane complications…

If Shakespeare was correct when stating that “[t]he course of true love never did run smooth,” then Karen and Adam were made for each other. Both main characters start off the work hiding crucial secrets (though I must say that Adam’s—in particular—proves a whopper). By the time Ms. McClain begins to reveal the aggressive external forces with which the couple must contend, the author has also laid a solid foundation of conflict surrounding the nature of the couple’s internal wounds and insecurities.

I particularly enjoyed the second half of “A Brother’s Bond.” In my opinion, the pace of the novella picked up rapidly about 60% of the way through. I probably read that section in a third of the time it took to read the earlier sections of the book. I attribute that to the fact that I tend to savor the discovery of new characters, their environments, and the backstory that makes them who they are. Once I know who to root for, I race toward the “bad guy” reveal. Ms. McClain is to be commended on that score as well. She kept the bad guy’s motive “close to the cuff” throughout the tale—a tactic that made it difficult to guess his/her identity.

“A Brother’s Bond” makes for an entertaining, rewarding read. That said, I’ll offer a quick word of caution to potential readers… If—like me—you mainly peruse and prefer inspirational fiction published by conservative (i.e., CBA-sanctioned) houses, you may be surprised by the author’s handling of certain content. I encourage you to read other reviews about this book and others in the “Sacred Bond Guardian” series if you require more information.

Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below.  We’d love to hear from you. Blessings until next time …
About the Reviewer:

A licensed Georgia attorney since 1998, Sybil Bates McCormack now writes state and Federal contract proposals during the day while lurching haltingly toward becoming an inspirational romantic suspense author at night. She's also the crazed wife of a bi-vocational pastor and mom to two bright, talented kids. They don't call her BizzySyb for nothing! 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 add her to your circles on Google+.

Monday, September 21, 2015

THE CURIOSITY KEEPER by Sarah E. Ladd

Brittany McEuen reviews The Curiosity Keeper by Sarah E. Ladd.

The Short Version from Goodreads.com

Camille Iverness can take care of herself. She’s done so since the day her mother abandoned the family and left Camille to run their shabby curiosity shop on Blinkett Street. But when a violent betrayal leaves her injured with no place to hide, Camille has no choice but to accept help from the mysterious stranger who came to her aid.

Jonathan Gilchrist never wanted to inherit Kettering Hall. As a second son, he was content working as a village apothecary. But when his brother’s death made him heir just as his father’s foolish decisions put the estate at risk, only the sale of a priceless possession—a ruby called the Bevoy—can save the family from ruin. But the gem has disappeared. And all trails lead to Iverness Curiosity Shop—and the beautiful shop girl who may or may not be the answer to his questions.

Curious circumstance throws them together, and an intricate dance of need and suspicion leads the couple from the seedy backwaters of London to the elite neighborhoods of the wealthy to the lush, green Surrey countryside—all in the pursuit of a blood-red gem that collectors will sacrifice anything to possess.

Caught at the intersection of blessings and curses, greed and deceit, two determined souls must unite to protect what they hold dear. But when a passion that shines far brighter than any gem is ignited, each will have to decide how much they are willing to risk for their future, love, and happiness.

My review:

I enjoy taking a break from my busy life and diving into a time period very unlike my own. This is one of the things about regency era fiction that I find so enjoyable. The story and situations are a bit slower paced, and the behavior expectations for both men and especially toward women are very high. Throw in some mystery or suspense and I’m a happy reader.

That is the case in The Curiosity Keeper by Sarah E. Ladd. I really enjoyed this trip back in time. The book is filled with interesting characters, from the main characters Jonathan Gilchrist and Camille Iverness, to the many side characters that who made me cringe, doubt, or a combination of both.

The romance is subtle as is the suspense. The danger to Camille Iverness is clear and shows up early in the story. It is interesting that a couple of the key players behind the mystery of the missing gem become known to the reader immediately, yet the author kept me guessing about a few of the others. I did have a pretty good idea as to who was behind it all, but watching Jonathan and Camille discover all of the players and the reasons behind the mystery of the missing ruby was highly entertaining.

If you are a fan of regency, I’d recommend The Curiosity Keeper. And if you are a fan of suspense, the curious happenings in this story will enhance your enjoyment of this tale from a time gone by.

About reviewer, Brittany McEuen:

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 14, 2015

EHVAH AFTER by Rose Dee


Here's the Amazon Description:

Ehvah Rowe’s life is in freefall. Her teen queen status is long forgotten, and with a childhood of tragic loss, no family save a diabolical aunt, and no career prospects, her L.A. celebrity world holds no future. It will take a murder, an escape to the Australian tropics, and the friendship of an Aussie bodyguard, for her to discover healing, faith, and a way forward.

David Blake knows how to be a soldier. His army training equipped him to fight and protect. But when it comes to helping a fear-filled celebrity navigate the same post-traumatic stress symptoms he has suffered, David discovers the challenge in forsaking his own strength for God’s plan.

Rose Dee weaves a story of mystery, drama and romance, in her trademark tropical North Queensland Australian style.

My Review:

I will admit to being a biased reviewer in this instance: Rose and I have developed a personal and professional friendship since I read and reviewed (positively!) her first novel, Back to Resolution. I’m now her freelance editor, and worked with her on Ehvah After (so all mistakes are mine. Well, editing mistakes. Character mistakes … that’s called a plot).

And Ehvah After is full of characters who’ve made bad decisions or who are being affected by the bad decisions of others. Ehvah is a burned-out teen queen whose life takes a turn for the worse when she witnesses a murder and is shipped off to northern Queensland for her own safety. Here she meets David, a Christian, who both reintroduces her to the faith of her childhood and protects her from the people who believe she holds the key to … something.

There’s plenty of mystery and suspense along with some romance and all set against the beautiful backdrop of Queensland and more than a dash of humour from the locals (human and non-human). It’s an excellent read for those looking for romantic suspense in an exotic location. Well, I’m from New Zealand, so I consider it almost local, but I know it’s foreign and exotic to most of you!

About the Reviewer, Iola Goulton: 

I am a freelance editor specializing in Christian fiction, and you can find out more about my services at my website, or follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or Tsu .

I love reading, and read and review around 150 Christian books each year on my blog. I'm a Top 25 Reviewer at Christian Book, in the Top 1% of reviewers at Goodreads, and have an Amazon US Reviewer Rank that floats around 2500 (and I'm in the Top 50 at Amazon Australia).

Monday, September 7, 2015

VENDETTA by Lisa Harris


Marji Laine reviews Vendetta by Lisa Harris.


The Short Version:

No one needs to push Nikki Boyd to excel on the Tennessee Missing Person Task Force. The case of her own missing sister, still unsolved after ten years, is the driving force in her work. When a Polaroid photo of a missing girl shows up at a crime scene, Nikki quickly recognizes similarities to the past. The closer she gets to the abductor, the more she feels that this case is getting personal, and that she is not the hunter at all--but actually the one being hunted.

My Take:


The intensity of this story begins when I dangled along with Nikki at the end of a repelling rope against the solid face of a cliff. I love it when authors force me to face my own fears. And that level of suspense doesn't let down through this entire book.

Nikki is following a terrifying person. A kidnapper. A killer. And so twisted that everything is a game. And the Missing Person Task Force is the invited opponent, it would seem. Every unexpected turn has been so carefully laid out by the antagonist, my fear levels rose with every chapter. 

Lisa Harris has certainly become a new favorite! This book had everything I love: high risks, hints of romance, and personal stakes. A perfect combination!

I'm delighted that Revell sent me a copy for my honest review.

About the Senior Reviewer:


Suspense Sister, Marji Laine, loves books and writing. Her own Grime Fighter novella series, about a crime scene cleaner, involves mystery, romance, and a touch of suspense.

Living in a Dallas suburb with her hubby of almost 30 years and her twins - the youngest of four - she spends her days homeschooling and transporting her teenagers to various functions, especially volleyball games. She also directs the children's music, helps with the youth choir, and sings in the adult choir at her church, and coordinates the high school credit classes along with the website of a large home school co-op.

Join her at MarjiLaine.com or at her Faith Driven Fiction blog where she's focusing on a devotional challenge for the month of September.