An Amish Christmas Kitchen by Leslie Gould, Jan Drexler and Kate Lloyd

About the book: As the weather grows cold and the nights grow long, the cheer and warmth of the Christmas season is one thing all readers can find comfort in. This collection from bestselling Amish fiction novelists Leslie Gould, Jan Drexler, and Kate Lloyd finds the beating heart at the center of the holiday and offers three novellas that celebrate family, faith, and especially the sights and smells of a bustling holiday kitchen.

Leslie Gould tells the story of how, in the wake of a heartbreaking loss, a young Amish woman finds unexpected comfort and hope in a yearly baking tradition surrounding the local Lancaster Christmas market. Jan Drexler offers a sweet tale of a shy Amish woman who decides to use her gift for sweets to woo a local Amish boy with her beloved Christmas cookies. And Kate Lloyd offers a heartwarming tale of a woman’s unexpected discovery about the truth of her past, and the warm and welcoming Amish family table she finds herself invited to on Christmas.

Publication Date: September 3, 2019

Publisher: Bethany House Publishers

Genre: Amish fiction

My thoughts: I’m always saying I’m not a huge fan of novellas and that remains true today. However, I enjoyed reading these three stories by popular Amish fiction authors. These holiday-themed stories were well-written and complete stories. The stories never felt rushed or lacking in any way.

This would be a great collection to add to the shelves of Amish fiction readers. It would also be a great way to introduce someone to the genre.

I received a complimentary copy from the publisher and was not required to write a review. All opinions are mine.

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Under Moonlit Skies by Cynthia Roemer

About the book: Her life was planned out ~ until he rode in ~ Illinois prairie ~ 1859

After four long years away, Esther Stanton returns to the prairie to care for her sister Charlotte’s family following the birth of her second child. The month-long stay seems much too short as Esther becomes acquainted with her brother-in-law’s new ranch hand, Stewart Brant. When obligations compel her to return to Cincinnati and to the man her overbearing mother intends her to wed, she loses hope of ever knowing true happiness.

Still reeling from a hurtful relationship, Stew is reluctant to open his heart to Esther. But when he faces a life-threatening injury with Esther tending him, their bond deepens. Heartbroken when she leaves, he sets out after her and inadvertently stumbles across an illegal slave-trade operation, the knowledge of which puts him, as well as Esther and her family, in jeopardy.

Publication Date: September 10, 2019

Publisher: Mantle Rock Publishing

Genre: Historical Fiction

Series: Prairie Sky #3

My thoughts: Sometimes reading a book isn’t about the ending but the journey to the end. What a journey this story was! From the prairie of Illinois to the bustling streets of Cincinnati this story grabbed my reader’s heart and didn’t let go!

First of all, I love the characters the author has created. Even though they are fictional I have come to care about them from the very first book in the series. The chemistry between Esther and Stew was palpable at times and made the book so fun to read. It was also great to see Charlotte and her growing family. Can’t say I was a fan of Lawrence Del Ray but this just goes to show how talented the author is in creating characters that readers can dislike as well as ones they can love.

The story was interesting and there were twists and turns that I didn’t expect. While it seemed very likely from the beginning that Esther and Stew would find their happily ever after it was all these twists and turns that made the story so good and kept my interest. The pace of the story is excellent and the author has a way of writing that made me feel part of the story. Her writing reminds me so much of that of Janette Oke

I highly recommend this book. While it can be read as a standalone I would read the series in order to get to know the characters better. This is a book for fans of historical fiction, especially American historical fiction. This book is not to be missed and is definitely one for the keeper shelf!

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the author and was not required to write a review. All opinions are mine.

About the author: Cynthia Roemer is an award-winning inspirational writer with a heart for scattering seeds of hope into the lives of readers. Raised in the cornfields of rural Illinois, Cynthia enjoys spinning tales set in the backdrop of the 1800s prairie. She writes from her family farm in central Illinois where she resides with her husband and their two college-aged sons.

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Love at First Bark by Dana Mentink

About the book:

There’s Just Something About Jackson

When Marcy Deveraux’s romance series catapults to the top of the New York Times bestseller list, no one is more surprised than Marcy herself. After all, she barely passed high school, flunked the driving test four times, and fell into a pool at her sister’s wedding.

Marcy is keen to continue her literary success, but she cannot think of a single idea for her next book. Hounded by her agent, family, and friends, she decides to sequester herself in a rustic cabin in the mountains. There, she finds herself face-to-snout with a surprise visitor—a rascally black dog who must have escaped from his owner at a nearby campground.

Enter hunky cowboy Jackson Parker, who runs the stables for the campground and helps Marcy survive the antics of the ill-behaved, zany dog. There’s something tender and gentle about this man, who could easily grace the cover of any romance novel. Soon Jackson has Marcy rethinking her own beliefs about what heroes are really made of…and what God intends for her life.

It’s cowboys, canines, and capers galore in this charming novella for animal lovers.

Publication Date: April 25, 2017

Publisher: Harvest House Publishers

Genre: Contemporary Romance

My review:  

If you are a fan of Dana Mentink’s Love Unleashed series you will love this novella. It has all of the elements of the full-length novels. Humor, romance, and a mischievous dog will make this a fun read and one that will have you smiling from ear to ear.

If you are looking for a quick read to make you smile and feel good this one is perfect!

About the author:   

Dana Mentink enjoys writing in many different capacities. She currently writes for Harlequin’s Love Inspired Suspense, Harlequin Heartwarming and Harvest House Publishers.

Dana is the recipient of a Romantic Times Reviewer’s Choice Award, two ACFW Carol Awards as well as a Holt Medallion.

The Dog Who Was There by Ron Marasco

About the book:  

No one expected Barley to have an encounter with the Messiah. He was homeless, hungry, and struggling to survive in first century Jerusalem. Most surprisingly, he was a dog. But through Barley’s eyes, the story of a teacher from Galilee comes alive in a way we’ve never experienced before.

Barley’s story begins in the home of a compassionate woodcarver and his wife who find Barley as an abandoned, nearly-drowned pup. Tales of a special teacher from Galilee are reaching their tiny village, but when life suddenly changes again for Barley, he carries the lessons of forgiveness and love out of the woodcarver’s home and through the dangerous roads of Roman occupied Judea.

On the outskirts of Jerusalem, Barley meets a homeless man and petty criminal named Samid. Together, Barley and his unlikely new master experience fresh struggles and new revelations. Soon Barley is swept up into the current of history, culminating in an unforgettable encounter with the truest master of all as he bears witness to the greatest story ever told.

Publication Date: January 31, 2017,

Publisher: Thomas Nelson

Genre: Biblical fiction

My review:

 I love dogs. I love books about dogs. With that being said I this isn’t a book I would have picked up to read on my own. A book about Jesus told from a dog’s perspective just didn’t sound like a book I would enjoy. How wrong I was!

I have to be completely honest though and say that at times I wanted to quit reading the book. The story wasn’t bad or anything it was just that Barley’s story was sad. From his earliest memories as a puppy to the life he lived as a stray, Barley often times had a rough life. There were happy times for Barley though and those moments kept me reading.

As to the part of the story that included Jesus, who is referred to as the Teacher or The Kind Man, well, I found that part of the story interesting, too. I found the way that the author told this story from Barley’s perspective was unique and entertaining. The author made the dog almost human in his ability to understand what was going on.

There was a nice surprise to the end of the book that made reading all of the sad parts worthwhile. I was pleased with the way the story ended and the fact that it brought a smile to my face. I would recommend this book to people looking for a different kind of read. I found it interesting and a quick read.

I received a free copy of this book from the Fiction Guild and was not required to write a positive review. All opinions are mine.

About the author:  

Ron Marasco is a professor in the College of Communication and Fine Arts at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. His first book, Notes to an Actor, was named by the American Library Association an “Outstanding Book of 2008.” For the past five years he has taught a very popular course on the subject of grief using film, theatre, literature and oral history as a way to study this often intimidating subject. He has acted extensively on TV―in everything from Lost to West Wing to Entourage -and appeared opposite screen legend Kirk Douglas in the movie Illusion, for which he also wrote the screenplay. He has a BA from Fordham at Lincoln Center and an MA and Ph. D. from UCLA. Brian Shuff is a writer from Mesa, Arizona, who now lives in Los Angeles where he is at work completing a book of short stories. His mother died when he was eight years old, giving him a life-long interest in the subject of grief. Along with Ron Marasco he has written a screenplay based on Louise Hay’s groundbreaking book, You Can Heal Your Life that will premiere in 2011. He and Marasco are also working on a dramatic adaptation of John McNulty’s book This Place on Third Avenue.

King’s Shadow by Angela Elwell Hunt

About the book: Two women occupy a place in Herod’s court. The first, Salome, is the king’s only sister, a resentful woman who has been told she is from an inferior race, a people God will never accept or approve. 

The second woman, Zara, is a lowly handmaid who serves Salome, but where Salome spies conspiracies and treachery, Zara sees hurting people in need of understanding and compassion. 

Powerful and powerless, Idumean and Jew, selfish and selfless–both women struggle to reach their goals and survive in Herod the Great’s tumultuous court, where no one is trustworthy and no one is safe.

Publication Date: August 6, 2019

Publisher: Bethany House Publishers

Genre: Biblical fiction, Historical Fiction

Series: The Silent Years #4

My thoughts: I didn’t realize when I agreed to review this book that it was the final book in the series. I don’t think I missed out on too much though as this story seemed to stand on its own. While I did find it an interesting read I did have a couple of issues with it.

My first issue was the names of the characters. So many were so similar to each other that I had a difficult time keeping the characters straight in my mind while reading. I found myself rereading paragraphs just to try to figure out what was going on and who was who. After a while, I gave up on this and decided I’d just figure it out as I went.

My other issue with this book was all of the detail provided. It seemed like the story got bogged down in the details and it caused the pace of the book to be off. I found myself putting the book down often because of all the descriptions and detail. While I do like the detail in stories I read too much can be just as bad as not enough. That was the case in this book.

As far as the characters my favorite was Zara. It was interesting to read about how she became the handmaid and what was required of her in her service to Salome. Salome was somewhat likable but I never really felt a connection to her. Herod was almost impossible for me to like as well as all of his children.

All in all, this wasn’t a bad story and fans of biblical fiction will most likely enjoy it. I’m not sure I would pick up the rest of the books in this series. It just wasn’t really my cup of tea.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher and was not required to write a review. All opinions are mine.

About the author: Christy-Award winner Angela Hunt writes for readers who expect the unexpected in novels. With over five million copies of her books sold worldwide, she is the best-selling author of more than 140 works ranging from picture books (The Tale of Three Trees) to non-fiction books, to novels.

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Kappy King and the Pie Kaper

About the book

When an “accident” puts beloved bishop’s wife Alma Miller in a coma, many in Blue Sky are quick to blame struggling widow Frannie Lehman. Both women are the best bakers around, but for years Alma’s boysenberry pies have been more award-winning–and profitable–than Frannie’s. And with Alma out of this fall’s county festival, Frannie’s pie finally wins first prize. But when Alma dies and Frannie’s children fall victim to gossip and bullying, Kappy is determined to uncover the real truth.

Soon Kappy and her outcast friend Edie have their hands full of odd clues. What do Alma’s strange last words mean? Why would someone break into her house just to steal a quilt? Who is the mysterious new piemaker in town–and why is she still in Blue Sky after losing the festival competition? When long-buried family secrets and contested legacies start getting into the mix, Kappy and Edie must work fast before another victim gets a deadly pie in the face …

Publication Date:  December 18, 2018

Publisher:  Zebra

Genre:  Amish Fiction, Cozy Mystery

Series:  An Amish Mystery #3

My thoughts:  

The third installment in what I like to call the adventures of Kappy and Edie (and Jimmy) is just as much of a fun read as the first two. This time Kappy and Edie are on the case when the Bishop’s wife is attacked in her home. A message written in the flour provides the only clue for our dynamic duo. But they are (unofficially) on the case so the residents of Blue Sky, Pennsylvania can rest easy.

This book was such an entertaining and fun read. I adore the two main characters, three if you count Jimmy, and enjoy their banter back and forth. Banter made even more entertaining by the use of words from a word of the day calendar. (This book’s not only a fun read but an educational one!) Add in Jimmy’s quirks and the flirtation between Edie and Detective Jack Jones and I’m not sure how the author keeps the characters under control. But she does and it all comes together for a quick read.

From adorable front cover to the very last word this book will keep your interest. And with those three little dots that end the story, I’m hoping there are more crimes for Kappy and Edie to solve (and me to read about!) Don’t worry if you haven’t read the other two books in the series. This book can be read as a standalone. A definite must-read for cozy mystery fans!

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher and was not requird to write a review. All opinions are mine.

About the author

I’m a wife, mother, and bona fide Southern belle. Published author, expert corn bread maker, and Squirrel Princess.

I live in Tulsa, though I was born in Mississippi. I moved to the Sooner State when I was seventeen and met my soul mate and best friend not long after. I’ve retained a little of my Mississippi accent though most people think I’m from Texas. (?) Rob and I have been married for over twenty years and have a son–a mom proclaimed prodigy, of course!

I love homemade tacos, nail polish, and romance novels–not necessarily in that order. I’m a big fan of country music, a staunch proponent of saving the Oxford comma, and I’m shamefully obsessed with all things Harry Potter.

I believe that God is love. I guess that’s why I adore romances.

I have always been intrigued with the Amish culture, their gentle ways and slower-paced lifestyle. (And I love, love, love the fact that they stay married for their lifetime.) But until recently I never thought to blend this interest with my penchant for romance. Okay, okay, I’m a bit old-fashioned and even enjoy the gender roles that are present in this culture. I love to cook and take care of my family. Yes, that’s me June Cleaver with a laptop.

I dislike people trying to convince me to read the Twlight series (I’ll get to it or I won’t, either way I’m good with it), gratuitous violence, and strawberry ice cream. (I know I’m alone on this last one, and again, I’m good with it.)

Favorite movies–(besides HP) French Kiss, Maid of Honor, A Lot Like Love, Just Married, and Sweet Home Alabama. Oh, and Miss Congeniality, Sabrina (both versions) and a 1940’s movie called Dear Ruth. If you haven’t seen it, you should! A-dorable. Anything with Doris Day and most all of Marilyn’s and Audrey’s.

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Sit, Stay, Love by Dana Mentink

About the book:  

Take one abrasive professional athlete, a quirky out-of-work schoolteacher, and an overweight geriatric dog, and you’re ready for a lesson in love…Tippy style.

Pro baseball pitcher Cal Crawford is not a dog guy. When he inherits his deceased mother’s elderly dog, Tippy, he’s quick to call on a pet-sitting service.

Gina isn’t thrilled to be a dog sitter when her aspirations lie in the classroom. Furthermore, she can’t abide the unfriendly Cal, a man with all the charm of a wet towel. But with no other prospects and a deep love for all things canine, she takes the job caring for Tippy.

As Gina travels through Cal’s world with Tippy in tow, she begins to see Cal in a different light. Gina longs to show Cal the God-given blessings in his life that have nothing to do with baseball or fame. When her longing blooms into attraction, Gina does her best to suppress it. But Cal is falling in love with her too…

Discover the charming story of Tippy, the dog who brought a family together.

Publicatoin Date: April 1st 2016

Publisher: Harvest House Publishers

Genre: Romance, Contemporary fiction

Series: Love Unleashed #1

My review:  

A star baseball player. A down on her luck woman. A cantankerous and somewhat out of control dog. What a combination these three were to read about! Sit, Stay, Love is a sweet story of patience, love, and second chances.

I really enjoyed this sweet romance from Dana Mentink. Her writing pulled me into the story from the very beginning and kept me interested until the end. She created down-to-earth characters and a dog that had me smiling and laughing at her antics.

The story progresses at a natural and steady pace. Baseball being my favorite sport to watch I loved the “inside look” at spring training and how baseball players must feel with all the pressure to perform to the standards of fans and coaches. This really lent an authenticity to the story. I also liked the way the author wrote about more serious subjects without making the book too heavy of a read.

If you are looking for a sweet romance that isn’t too light or too heavy, Sit, Stay, Love is the perfect read. In fact, I highly recommend you purchase this book then Sit, Stay, Read!

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest opinion.

About the author:  

Dana Mentink enjoys writing in many different capacities. She currently writes for Harlequin’s Love Inspired Suspense, Harlequin Heartwarming and Harvest House Publishers.

Dana is the recipient of a Romantic Times Reviewer’s Choice Award and an ACFW Carol Award as well as a Holt Medallion Merit Award winner.

Dana loves feedback from her readers. Contact her via her website at www.danamentink.com