Framed for a murder he didn’t commit, firefighter Beckett Duke gave up on everything—including his marriage to spirited Laney Holland. That is, until Laney’s life is threatened. Knowing the real killer is still at large, Beckett now has one purpose: protecting the woman he loves…and their unborn child. But sometimes an innocent man’s second chance comes with a deadly price.
From Harlequin Love Inspired Suspense: Courage. Danger. Faith.
‘After his train wreck of a life, he wasn’t sure anything he did would be valued by God. God watched over other people, not Beckett.’
Dana Mentink begins a brand new series with this one set in Death Valley. Beckett Duke is framed for a murder and turns from his wife and unborn child in order to protect them. But when he is released from jail, both his and Laney’s lives are threatened. Can they survive long enough to flush out a killer?
I love inspirational romantic suspense and Mentink always does it well. Populated with good characters and a good plot, with a surprise twist, this one is sure to please suspense fans.
My thanks to the publisher and author for a copy of this book. I received no compensation and the opinion in this review is my own.
Publisher: Love Inspired Publication Date: March 1, 2021 Genre: Inspirational RomanticSuspense
When psychologist Shelby Warren suddenly becomes a sniper’s target, navy SEAL Paul Avery springs into action to protect her. He needs her evaluation to get back to his team…and rescuing her might finally give him the redemption he’s been searching for. But when danger follows them to his family’s Texas ranch, keeping Shelby safe could be his most difficult assignment yet.
I think my favorite genre is inspirational suspense and I love it when I can settle down into a good book full of it. That’s what happened here with Virginia Vaughan’s book. She adds to her Cowboy Lawmen series with a fast-paced, danger filled story sure to please suspense fans. Recommended. My thanks to the author and publisher for a copy of this book. I was not compensated and the review here is my own opinion.
Publisher: Love Inspired Publication Date: March 1, 2021 Genre: Inspirational Romantic Suspense
Eden Page reluctantly agrees to babysit Ryder Fanning’s five-year-old identical twin daughters—but only for the summer. After that, she’s taking charge of her own life, even if it means leaving behind her family ranch that Ryder now owns. But this cowboy, who’s determined never to marry again, could give her everything she wants…including the family and childhood home she loves.
From Harlequin Love Inspired: Uplifting stories of faith, forgiveness and hope.
Book 1: Her Cowboy Till Christmas
Book 2: The Cowboy’s Secret
Book 3: The Cowboy’s Christmas Blessings
Book 4: Hers for the Summer
My Rating: 4 Stars!
‘She was in no shape to fall for Ryder Fanning.’
Jill Kemerer brings her wonderful Wyoming Sweethearts series to a close with Eden Page’s story. The Eden who has been in each book doing what she does best: loving on and taking care of everyone.
Ryder Fanning has come to Rendezvous to live and has bought her parents’ ranch. Eden wanted to live there forever. And Ryder, who is divorced from a famous actress, has asked her to babysit his five year old twin girls. She absolutely doesn’t want to have anything to do with Ryder, much less see him daily. But Eden loves kids. Eden has only ever wanted to get married and have children. But no one wants her that way.
I have very much looked forward to Eden’s story and Kemerer doesn’t disappoint. Eden is such a precious person and has such a huge heart. Yet her heart is breaking because her dream seems as if it will never come true. But God has a plan for each of us. Well done!
Thanks to the author and publisher for a copy of this book. I received no compensation and the opinion here is my own.
Step into True Colors — a series of Historical Stories of Romance and True American Crime
Marvel at true but forgotten history when patients check into Linda Hazzard’s Washington state spa in 1912 and soon become victim of her twisted greed.
Heiress Stella Burke is plagued by insincere suitors and nonstop headaches. Exhausting all other medical aides for her migraines, Stella reads Fasting for the Cure of Disease by Linda Hazzard and determines to go to the spa the author runs. Stella’s chauffer and long-time friend, Henry Clayton, is reluctant to leave her at the spa. Something doesn’t feel right to him, still Stella submits herself into Linda Hazzard’s care. Stella soon learns the spa has a dark side and Linda a mean streak. But when Stella has had enough, all ways to leave are suddenly blocked. Will Stella become a walking skeleton like many of the other patients or succumb to a worse fate?
This True Colors series is absolutely fascinating. I’ve always been interested in true crime stories and this is right up my alley! I have a book based on the story featured in The Purple Nightgown. That book is Starvation Heights and it’s very comprehensive. I love how Lawrence brings the story to life here. I look forward to the next in this series.
*My thanks to Barbour Publishing for a copy of this book via Net Galley. I was not compensated and the opinion in this review is my own.
This historic home holds the keys to their destiny . . .and their hearts
Abandoned at birth, her family roots a mystery, historical museum curator Sloane Kelley has dedicated her life to making sure others know theirs. When a donor drops off a dusty old satchel, she doesn’t expect much from the common artifact . . .until she finds real treasure inside: a nineteenth-century diary.Now she’s on the hunt to find out more.
Garrett Anderson just wanted to clean out his grandmother’s historic but tumbledown farmhouse before selling it to fund her medical care. With her advancing Alzheimer’s, he can’t afford to be sentimental about the family home. But his carefully ordered plan runs up against two formidable obstacles: Sloane, who’s fallen in love with both the diaries and the house, and his own heart, which is irresistibly drawn to Sloane.
A century and a half earlier, motherless Annabelle Collins embarks with her aunt and uncle on the adventure of a lifetime: settling the prairies of Sedgwick County, Kansas. The diaries she left behind paint a portrait of life, loss, and love–and a God who faithfully carries her through it all. Paging through the diaries together takes Sloane and Garrett on a journey they never could have planned, which will change them in ways they never imagined.
This warm, beautifully written split-time novel will resonate with readers looking for stories that reveal the beauty of God’s plan for our lives, and how our actions ripple for generations.
An Interview with Amanda Wen,
Author of Roots of Wood and Stone
For readers who can’t decide if they would like to pick up something historical or contemporary for their next read, debut author Amanda Wen offers them the best of both worlds in her new release. Roots of Wood and Stone (Kregel Publications) is a warm, delightfully written split-time novel that will resonate with readers looking for stories that reveal the beauty of God’s plan for our lives, and how our actions ripple for generations.
Q: What drew you to the split-time genre? What unique challenges does writing in two time periods present? I’ve always loved reading both historical and contemporary books, and I’ve long been a fan of TV shows that hop from era to era. From the ‘80s sci-fi show Quantum Leap and the 2000s crime drama Cold Case to the new hit This Is Us, series like these illustrate in dramatic fashion just how deeply the past impacts the present. Split-time novels do the same thing: characters’ past decisions have ripple effects, both good and bad, for generations to come.
In addition, one of my favorite things about split time is watching the contemporary characters dig into the past. My mother is a genealogist who’s been tracing our family history since before I was born, and her passion for uncovering our family’s stories has been an important backdrop my entire life. Her research has given me an appreciation for those who came before and a desire to pass along this appreciation to my own kids. Given all this, I think the split-time genre is a natural fit for me!
However, split time doesn’t come without its challenges. Instead of writing one story, I’m writing two, and they have to weave together in an organic way. If you can lift one story line out of the book without hurting the other one, then it’s not integrated well enough. With two stories come two heroes, two heroines, and two plotlines, all of which must be correctly paced and equally interesting to the reader. But challenges aside,
Q: How does the historical story connect with the contemporary story?
Roots of Wood and Stone revolves around an 1890s farmhouse that is the home of contemporary hero Garrett Anderson’s grandmother, Rosie Spencer. In cleaning out the house, he finds an old satchel which he brings to the local historical museum in hopes that they might have some use for it. The curator, Sloane Kelley, is initially unimpressed with the satchel . . . until she opens it and finds a nineteenth-century diary inside. That diary, written by past heroine Annabelle Collins, links the past time line with the present. As Sloane digs into the diary, she wants to find out more, so she ends up going to the farmhouse to help Garrett and his sister, Lauren, declutter.
Subsequent diaries found in the house shine a light on Annabelle’s life as an early settler to Sedgwick County: the love she finds, the losses she suffers, and the God who is faithful to carry her through it all. In addition, these diaries draw Sloane and Garrett together in ways neither could imagine and form the crux of the conflict that arises between the two. Exploring the past has a direct impact on the present for both Sloane and Garrett.
Q: Roots of Wood and Stone was inspired by your own family history. Can you tell us a little bit about your family’s story and what parts made their way into your book? The seed of inspiration for Roots of Wood and Stone is an 1890s farmhouse not far from where I grew up (and where I now live) which belonged to my great-great-grandfather, Francis Thomas Little. He immigrated to the United States from Ireland as a child and became one of the earliest settlers of Maize, Kansas. Grandpa Little, as he’s known in my family, wrote a memoir, A Kansas Farmer, which was an invaluable resource during my research process.
Francis Little married Mattie Stevens, daughter of another early settler, William Fletcher Stevens, who lost his first wife and infant son shortly after arriving in Sedgwick County in 1870. (In fact, my great-great-great-grandfather would go on to bury a second wife and eight of his fourteen children.) I wondered how someone would cope with such a tragic loss and emerge with his faith intact, and it’s this first early loss that forms the crux of the spiritual journey for my past hero, Jack Brennan.
My past heroine, Annabelle Collins, is very loosely based on a paternal ancestor, Antoinette Patrick Peterson, who as a young child was left with an aunt and uncle after the death of her mother. She moved to Kansas with her aunt and uncle, who raised her to adulthood, and I grew curious about the impact of such a decision on a child. The rest of Antoinette’s life was no less interesting and colorful, but I decided to save it for a future book.
Q: Sloane was abandoned at birth, so she never had a connection to her biological family or their history. How did she compensate for that in her professional life?
Abandoned at birth and adopted by strangers, Sloane differs from her adoptive parents in every way—appearance, personality, talents, and interests. She struggles with knowing they love her, and they don’t fully understand her. She feels like plan B: someone her birth parents didn’t want, who her adoptive parents settled for after not being able to conceive biologically. This feeling haunts her formative years.
As an adult, Sloane discovers historical research, the filling in of gaps in her own knowledge and the sharing of information she uncovers with others. Though incomplete, the satisfaction she receives from helping people connect with and appreciate the history of the Wichita area is enough to propel her forward in her career as a museum curator. “I guess that’s why I’m so passionate about history,” she tells Garrett in one scene. “If I can’t know my own, at least I can help everyone else know theirs.”
Q: Tell us about Garrett. Where does his sense of responsibility come from?
A type-A overachiever since childhood, Garrett Anderson has been thrust into a difficult situation with the weight of the world on his shoulders. In recent years, he’s lost his mother to cancer, his father to a hasty remarriage and subsequent new life in Florida, and his grandfather to a sudden heart attack. As a result, the burden of care for his Alzheimer’s-afflicted grandmother, Rosie, has fallen to him and his sister, Lauren. The siblings are close but very different in personality, and they have not been able to reach an agreement as to what’s best for their grandmother.
In caring for Rosie, Garrett has also learned what can happen when people fail to plan. Due to a family whose approach to life has always been “ready-fire-aim,” as he describes it, he now realizes his grandmother is in dire financial straits. This impacts him personally and professionally, since, as a certified financial planner, his career revolves around helping other people avoid the sort of situation his grandmother has found herself in. He believes that all of life’s problems can be avoided, or at the very least mitigated, if one just comes up with—and follows through on—the perfect plan.
Q: How about the historical characters—do they carry the missing pieces of their family with them as well? Like Sloane, Annabelle Collins was raised by people other than her birth parents, although unlike Sloane, Annabelle had a relationship with her birth family. A child of eight when her mother died of a sudden illness, Annabelle is left with a father and two older brothers, all of whom feel called to fight for the Union in the Civil War. Before they enlist, Annabelle’s father leaves her with his sister, Katherine, and her husband, Stephen, who’ve always longed for a child of their own. As Annabelle grows up under her aunt and uncle’s roof, she feels loved, cared for, and wanted, but she also suffers the wounds of her father’s abandonment, particularly when she learns that he has remarried and started a new family: one that has no room for her.
Jack Brennan, meanwhile, is reeling from the tragic loss of his wife and infant son, along with his wife’s sister and her husband, who made the journey to Sedgwick County with Jack. In fact, the only other survivor of the journey is Jack’s young nephew, Oliver, who he’s taken in as his own. Jack’s love for his nephew is one of the first things Annabelle notices, and it’s a key part of their blossoming relationship.
Q: What role does faith play in the lives of your characters?
All my characters are people of faith, but all of them have run up against some struggles. For Sloane, the wound of her childhood abandonment is the lens through which she sees everything. Feeling unwanted and unloved by her birth parents extends to her relationship with God. Is she plan B to him too? Garrett, meanwhile, has grown up in the church and has a fairly strong faith, but he hasn’t truly grasped the concept of trusting God rather than leaning on his own understanding (Proverbs 3:5–6). A highly intelligent and motivated individual, Garrett believes that life will be infinitely easier if he just comes up with and follows through on the perfect plan. But when his perfect plan runs up against obstacles he can’t overcome, he struggles to let go and allow God to enact the ultimate plan.
Trust is also a theme for Annabelle Collins, the heroine of the past time line. She suffers some losses both early and later in her life, and she struggles with the holes those losses leave in her heart. Can she learn to trust God to provide not necessarily everything she wants but everything she needs? Meanwhile, past hero Jack reels from loss as well, and he struggles to understand why—if he’s being obedient to God’s call on his life, as he thought he was—his life involves so much suffering. Throughout the book, Jack learns that just because life is difficult doesn’t mean he’s on the wrong path. Sometimes, one needs to stay the course.
Q: What did God teach you through the writing of Roots of Wood and Stone? What do you hope your readers take away from the book?
Roots of Wood and Stone was my first attempt at split time, and I depended on God for the wisdom to know how to weave the two time lines and stories together. It was an intimidating undertaking, and one possible only through him. Also, trusting God has always been a challenge for me. Like Garrett, I’m a type-A uber planner, one who needs a plan A, plan B, and plan C to feel fully on top of things. While writing this book, I quickly discovered that I could control very little. My characters had their own ideas of how the plot should progress, and the story was frequently better if I let go and trusted them.
The publishing journey was no different. Through the very lengthy (and also agonizing) submission process, I had to trust every day that the God who gave me the idea for the story and enabled me to put it on paper would do with it what he chose in the timing that was very best, not only for me but for all who will read the book.
As for those readers, I hope they come away with a renewed and restored faith. Though I would never in a million years have chosen to release my debut novel during a global pandemic, I think the message of the book—that God will take all your loose ends and broken pieces and weave them into something more beautiful than you can imagine—is especially timely for such a difficult period in our world. Many of us have been forced to alter the vast majority of our plans this past year, including plans for things—church, work, school, family get-togethers—that we never thought we’d have to alter. But God is still in control. This pandemic has not changed, nor will it change, his good and perfect plan.
Q: Which character in Roots of Wood and Stone was easiest for you to write and why? Which character presented the biggest challenge? The most challenging character was probably Sloane. An introvert by nature, and one who’s been dealt some serious wounds, she doesn’t trust easily. In fact, that included me when I was first getting to know her. I’m a seat-of-the-pants writer, so the only way I get to know characters is by writing them, which doesn’t work well when a character isn’t quite ready to talk. We spun our wheels for a bit, but I finally decided to put a little of my own love for music into the book and gave Sloane a musical hobby. That, it seemed, gave us enough common ground for her to feel comfortable opening up to me.
By contrast, Jack Brennan was the easiest character for me to write. Inspired by (but not based on) Jack Pearson from This Is Us, Jack sprang into my head fully formed and quickly stole all his scenes in the best possible way. He wears his heart on his sleeve and was thus very easy for me to get to know and love.
Q: How did you start writing? How do you balance writing with being a mom and a professional musician?
I’ve been writing stories since I could hold a pencil, but it wasn’t until 2008 that the writing bug bit me and refused to let go. This sounds cheesy, but a story idea came to me in a dream one night, and I couldn’t get it out of my head. I wanted to know what happened next, so I did the only thing I could think to do: write the story so I could read it and find out!
Over the next few years—interspersed with the births of my three kids—I dabbled in story writing in a couple different genres. In 2014, after my youngest was a year old, I got serious about writing for publication and shared my work with my best friend, who is a multi-published author in the general market. She took me under her wing and corrected all my newbie writing errors, but she also encouraged me and inspired me to write better and better stories.
As for how I balance writing with my other life as a professional cellist (playing a lot of freelance gigs, including weddings and the occasional orchestra concert) and pianist (as a choral accompanist for a local middle school and high school), I’ve learned the fine art of prioritizing. During busy music seasons, my writing usually gets put on the back burner. Similarly, when I’m deep in drafting mode or on deadline with revisions, I don’t take on quite so much on the music side. And sometimes I make an intentional choice to take a week or two off from all professional pursuits and focus on my family.
Both music and writing feed my soul—as well as feed each other—and they’re both wired so deeply into my DNA that I can’t not do them, so I pray for a lot of wisdom in how to manage my schedule and trust that God will give me the time I need to do what he’s called me to do.
Q: What’s next from you? Can readers hope for more stories from Sedgwick County?
I am working on a sequel to Roots of Wood and Stone that features with two secondary characters from that book: Garrett’s sister, Lauren, and his grandmother, Rosie. After a tailspin in her late teens, Lauren’s life is finally on track. Her food blog is successful, her photography studio bustling, and her battle with bulimia seems to be under control. But an unexpected wrinkle appears in the form of Carter Douglas, the summer fling whose rejection launched her downward spiral. When old feelings reappear with new strength, can Lauren risk her heart to love a man who already broke it once?
TV meteorologist Carter Douglas has a job he never thought he’d take in a city where he never planned to live . . . and comes face-to-face with a woman he never thought he’d see again. He’s determined to make the most of this second chance with Lauren, but when circumstances force the same decision he made as a teenager, will he have the courage to make a different choice?
When Lauren’s elderly grandmother calls out a name from the depths of dementia, the name of a man her family has never heard of, Lauren and her family seek the truth. Who was this man? Who was he to her grandmother? Their journey takes them to the 1950s, when a gently blossoming love attempts to withstand a storm of racial prejudice and separation. As stories are told and secrets revealed, Lauren and Carter embark on a journey of forgiveness and second chances that will change their lives forever.
I stopped talking with God altogether. Either he didn’t exist, or his purpose was to gut me like a fish. Whichever it was, I was through.’
Reading is one of the absolute joys of my life and when I read a book that just ticks all the boxes and moves me greatly, that brings even greater joy. This is such a book.
Amanda Wen has written a stunning debut novel, a time slip that will have you falling in love with all the characters. From the 1800s Annabelle and Jack to current day Sloane and Garrett, not to mention wonderful secondary characters. Wen has that rare gift of being able to create a character that is very nearly a living, breathing person to her readers. I love it so much when I can connect with characters. Wen drops you right down in that story with them! Her book shows that even present generations can learn from the actions of the past. What I loved, well, one thing I loved, because I loved it all, was how strong the spiritual theme here was. And that theme is: trust God with your plans for your life. First. Don’t try to do it yourself. He has the best plans.
Extremely well written and resonating with God’s grace and love, populated with amazing characters, this one is most definitely for the keeper shelf. It’s on my top reads list for 2021! Highly recommended.
My thanks to Kregel Publications for an early copy of this book via Net Galley. I received no compensation and the opinion in this review is entirely my own.
Jigsaw puzzles seem to be the rage lately. Do you remember doing them as kids? Placing each piece in its specific spot was fun . . . until you either couldn’t figure out how one fit—or heaven forbid—you lost a piece. Then everything changed. It wasn’t fun anymore. More like frustrating. This got me thinking about life and how much our lives are like a jigsaw puzzle. When things are going along nicely, the pieces fit perfectly. The picture is becoming clear. We can see it and it’s just within our grasp. And then—WHAM!
Something happens. We can’t make the next piece fit or we’ve lost one. Our path changes. And not the way we want it to. We question God. “What are You doing? This is not what I wanted.”
In Abducted in Alaska, Canadian border patrol officer Hannah Morgan receives bad news that rocks her world, crushing her well-thought out plans for her life. How could this be happening? She questions God and what He’s doing. She goes through a roller-coaster set of emotions and has to work through the journey of trusting in God’s sovereignty. Her bump in her journey doesn’t fit into her perfect jigsaw puzzle. The picture is now distorted and she can’t see the end result.
We’ve all been there, right? So what do we do when that happens? Do we shove the entire puzzle on the floor and start over? No. We pick through each piece one at a time and trust we’ll find the right one. Hannah has to do this too and in the end becomes stronger.
God knows the big picture. He sees all the pieces of our lives—from the beginning to the end. Every happy moment and every blip in the road. Do we throw Him to the curb and stomp our feet thinking we can do things on our own?
No. We fall to our knees and TRUST. He’s sovereign and knows all. From the beginning to the end. He has bigger and better plans than anything we could ever dream possible.
We just need to trust Him with every piece of the jigsaw puzzle.
Jeremiah 29:11 (VOICE) For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Eternal, “plans for peace, not evil, to give you a future and hope—never forget that.”
Question for giveaway: Do you find it hard to trust God with every piece of your life? How do you cope when one doesn’t fit into your jigsaw puzzle?
Answer the question above in the comments below and one person will win an e-book copy of Abducted in Alaska!
Comment on the question and you’re automatically entered into the contest. Prize is open internationally. Here’s how it works. The number of entries are input into a Random Sequence Generator (i.e. 1 through 20). After I click the Generate button, whoever’s number corresponds with the number the random generator gives me wins! Note: If the winner is Canadian, they will be required to answer a skill-testing question before being awarded the prize.
Darlene L. Turner’s love of suspense began when she read her first Nancy Drew book. She’s turned that passion into her writing and believes readers will be captured by her plots, inspired by her strong characters, and moved by her inspirational message.
Darlene won the Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery/Suspense twice and an ACFW Genesis award. She’s represented by Tamela Hancock Murray of the Steve Laube Agency. Her debut book, Border Breach, released in April, 2020 with Love Inspired Suspense. She has two books releasing in 2021: Abducted in Alaska (March) and Lethal Cover-Up (August).
Darlene met her husband Jeff at the turtle races in Ontario, Canada. She loves flavored coffee and plaid shirts. You can connect with Darlene at www.darlenelturner.com where there’s suspense beyond borders.
Saving a boy who has escaped his captors puts Canadian border patrol officer Hannah Morgan right into the path of a ruthless child-smuggling ring. Now with help from police constable Layke Jackson, she must keep the child safe. But can they rescue the other abducted children and bring down the gang…all while protecting a little boy and keeping themselves alive?
If she couldn’t trust the people closest to her, how could she trust a God who was far away?
Jodie Bailey again brings her readers a wonderfully fast-paced suspense novel. When Macey Price is out running, she returns to her yard to see lights in the windows. Lights she did not leave on. Two men are searching her house and want to kill her! Macey is at a complete loss as to why. After all, she is a physical therapist with nothing anyone could want.
Trey Blackburn, Macey’s neighbor, comes to her rescue that night. An army operative on a mission, this event messes up his mission to make friends with Macey and keep an eye on her for being a traitor to the government. But Trey has serious doubts about this. Is he letting his growing attraction to Macey get in the way of his better judgment? As the threats and attempts on her life ramp up, Trey is determined to get to the bottom of this. IF Macey can live long enough.
Bailey pours on the excitement from the get-go and it never lets up. Constant suspense and a thrilling ride to the very end. I was all in! Recommended.
My thanks to the publisher and author for a copy of this book. I received no compensation and the opinion in this review is my own.
Publisher: Love Inspired Publication Date: February 1, 2021 Genre: Inspirational Suspense