Saturday, July 30, 2016

Review: Address to Die For

Address to Die For
By Mary Feliz
Maggie McDonald Series, #1
Kensington, 2016


For professional organizer Maggie McDonald, moving her family into a new home should be the perfect organizational challenge. But murder was definitely not on the to-do list . . .

Maggie McDonald has a penchant for order that isn’t confined to her clients’ closets, kitchens, and sock drawers. As she lays out her plan to transfer her family to the hundred-year-old house her husband, Max, has inherited in the hills above Silicon Valley, she has every expectation for their new life to fall neatly into place. But as the family bounces up the driveway of their new home, she’s shocked to discover the house’s dilapidated condition.

When her husband finds the caretaker face-down in their new basement, it’s the detectives who end up moving in. What a mess! While the investigation unravels and the family camps out in a barn, a killer remains at large—exactly the sort of loose end Maggie can’t help but clean up . . .

My thoughts

Address to Die For by Mary Feliz is one of the most enjoyable cozy mysteries I’ve read recently. It has that special “something” that pulled me in from the very first page, something that simply clicked with me. The first book of a series can sometimes be a little slow in places as characters are being introduced, but that was never the case here. Address to Die For is an intelligent story with interesting characters, gentle humor, and well-developed plot. I loved that the lead character is a happily-married wife and mother of two sons, ages 14 and 12.

The small-town setting of Orchard View in the hills above Silicon Valley is vividly conveyed, and it is populated with some delightfully quirky characters. Moving into this community is Maggie McDonald, a professional organizer who just happens to have a good nose for clues that are out of place. I was fascinated by the house Maggie’s husband inherited – a 100-year-old California Craftsman worth more than 15 million dollars – and loved how it seemed like a major character.

From Maggie and her family, to a strong supporting cast, character depth is one of the story’s strengths – especially police consultant Stephen and real estate agent Tess. It was fun getting to know the various characters as Maggie developed relationships with them.  I anticipate some great reading as these characters are fleshed out through the series. Max’s job took him out of the country during most of this story, so I hope we see more of him in the next book.

Mary is good at creating visual images that stay with you, one of which I’d like to share. When “grapevine communications” spread the news of sudden death, everyone waited “in chattering groups like clusters of carnivorous crows aching for more details and pecking at the information they had. It was disturbing. Disturbingly human.”

And so very appropriate are the well-placed organizing tips that begin each chapter. As one who constantly struggles with organization, I especially appreciated these words of wisdom: “Sometimes, life gets in the way, and there are other things far more important to attend to than being organized.”

The mystery itself is well thought out, not easy to deduce, and I enjoyed the step-by-step gathering of clues. For Christian fiction readers, although this is a general market book, I’m impressed by how clean it was. There may have been one or two instances of mild profanity, but I really don’t remember any. I’m certainly eager to continue with this series.

Highly recommended to fans of clean cozy mysteries.

Book #2, Scheduled to Death, will be released January 17, 2017. The third book in the series will be released July 17, 2017.

Address to Die For can be purchased at Amazon.


Mary Feliz has lived in five states and two countries, but calls Silicon Valley home. Traveling to other areas of the United States, she’s frequently reminded that what seems normal in the high-tech heartland can seem decidedly odd to the rest of the country. A big fan of irony, serendipity, diversity, and quirky intelligence tempered with gentle humor, Mary strives to bring these elements into her writing, although her characters tend to take these elements to a whole new level.

She’s a member of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, and National Association of Professional Organizers. Mary is a Smith College graduate with a degree in Sociology. She lives in Northern California with her husband, near the homes of their two adult offspring.

Thank you to Great Escapes Tours for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Review: The Courtship Basket

The Courtship Basket
By Amy Clipston
Amish Heirloom, #2
Zondervan, 2016


Years ago, a picnic basket brought two hearts together. For Rachel and Mike, history may be about to repeat itself.

Rachel Fisher is devastated when the young man she’s loved for years leaves her to date her best friend. Her heart is broken, and she has all but given up on love. Determined to keep her mind off the pain, she starts teaching at an Amish school for children with learning disabilities.

Since his father became ill, Mike Lantz has been overwhelmed with the responsibility of providing for his family and caring for his six-year-old brother, John. When John joins Rachel’s class and she learns that his mother is deceased and his father sick, she desperately wants to help the family, even with something as simple as a meal.

With her parents’ old picnic basket, Rachel begins sending food to the Lantz family. As the weeks go by, John’s grades start to improve, and the attraction grows between Rachel and Mike. They can’t deny that their friendship is growing toward something more, but both of them are hesitant to risk a more serious relationship.

The last thing Rachel wants is another heartbreak, and Mike is worried about providing for his loved ones. Will the two be able to reconcile their past hurts with new hope for the future?

My thoughts

I thoroughly enjoyed The Courtship Basket, just as I have all that I’ve read by Amy Clipston so far. Like Amy’s other stories, The Courtship Basket has a realness to it, rather than “candy coating” the Amish lifestyle. Characters not only aren’t perfect, but they struggle with the same life issues that we all face, and I always gain wisdom from watching how they deal with these situations.

I like how, without rehashing a lot from the previous book in the Amish Heirloom series, Amy gives just enough background that this second book can easily stand alone. The main characters, Rachel Fisher and Mike Lantz, are good, kind, and caring people – so easy to relate to and take into your heart. Both want to be in a loving relationship eventually, but are hesitant to enter into a relationship at the current time. The story opens at Veronica’s wedding, where Rachel discovers that she has been doubly betrayed by both her boyfriend of four years and a best friend. Due to his father’s serious illness, Mike finds himself providing for his younger brother while taking care of his father at the same time.

One thing I admire so much about the Amish is the way they pitch in to take care of each other without complaint, and I loved the “courtship basket” idea. On the surface, it was a way for Rachel to use her cooking skills to provide warm meals for Mike’s family, meeting a huge need. But deeper down, it became a mediator or go-between in their relationship. This was a message I could take to heart.

There’s also an extremely personal element to this story for Amy, because Mike’s father suffers from kidney disease, something that is very close to Amy’s heart. That emotion came across beautifully in her writing, and I hope you’ll take time to watch the video below as Amy shares from her heart. Also, Mike’s young brother, John, struggles with learning disabilities, something very close to my heart. It was so easy for me to identify with John and I enjoyed seeing how the Amish gave special attention to these children. Rachel’s desire to help John and their growing friendship was especially touching.

At one point in the story, as Mike wrestles with his feelings for Rachel, Sam offers this advice: “If it’s meant to be, then God will guide your path to her.” Words of wisdom for Mike and for us also, as we often find it hard to give God control in every situation.

The Courtship Basket is a sweet story with moments that make you reflect on life, and I enjoyed it very much. I also look forward to Emily’s story in The Cherished Quilt, due to be released in November 2016.


Amy Clipston is the award-winning and bestselling author of the Kauffman Amish Bakery series. Her novels have hit multiple bestseller lists including CBD, CBA, and ECPA. Amy holds a degree in communication from Virginia Wesleyan College and works full-time for the City of Charlotte, NC. Amy lives in North Carolina with her husband, two sons, and three spoiled rotten cats.

Thank you to Amy Clipston and Zondervan for providing an ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Review: The Cantaloupe Thief

The Cantaloupe Thief
By Deb Richardson-Moore
A Branigan Powers Mystery, #1
Lion Hudson, 2016


The decade-old death of matriarch Alberta Grambling Resnick is the only unsolved murder in Grambling, Georgia. With the passage of time, townspeople assumed the deed had been committed by a transient with no real motive or ties to the community. Newspaper reporter Branigan Powers wants to explore that theory by investigating among the town’s homeless population. Even she thinks it’s a long shot – until homeless people start dying.

As the action careens from northeast Georgia to the Carolina coast, from posh homes to hidden encampments, Branigan is racked by fear that she has awakened a murderer. Desperate, she seeks help from Malachi Ezekiel Martin, a homeless veteran who glides unseen through the town. But can she trust him?

The Cantaloupe Thief is a murder mystery but not like one you’ve read before. It asks what happens when people are invisible. What impact does that have on the rest of us?

My thoughts

With The Cantaloupe Thief, debut author Deb Richardson-Moore has penned a fantastic mystery novel – compelling, entertaining, and memorable in every way. Deb’s writing is top notch, not a single word wasted. The mystery itself is well plotted with the gradual peeling back of layers – and an ending that left me in shock. Two other strengths are the rich character depth and an unusual focus on the homeless. This is one of my all-time favorite mysteries, making Deb Richardson-Moore a “must read” for me.

The Cantaloupe Thief is published by Lion Hudson, a British publisher that I count on for excellent stories, many of which are set in Great Britain. While The Cantaloupe Thief takes place in the southeast US, it has the same feel as other Christian fiction by this publisher – a little more liberal than American standards, but nothing that I found offensive.

The story is set in the mid-size northeast Georgia town of Grambling, described in such vivid detail that it felt like a major character. As a resident of Georgia, I loved the incorporation of familiar places like Lake Hartwell and Edisto, SC. But as picturesque as Grambling might be, there was another side to it – that of the city’s homeless population, who play a big part in the story. I loved the realism of this theme and the fact that Deb conveyed their stories and thoughts in ways that made me think. Deb actually pastors the homeless at a church in South Carolina, and her caring passion is evident on every page as she gives a face and voice to the homeless.


The worst thing about being homeless
is being looked right through.

In investigating the cold-case murder of the wealthy Alberta Grambling Resnick ten years earlier, Branigan seeks the help of Malachi Ezekiel Martin, a homeless war veteran who is also a possible suspect. The story focuses on the concept that homeless people get overlooked, and hence see things that are concealed from the rest of the population. Malachi had “lived in Grambling’s shadows long enough to know about its underside; to know how the rich and poor, the sophisticated and the raw, the proper and the dangerous, merged after dark.” Also adding much interest to the story is that Branigan’s twin brother is a homeless addict.

I’m intrigued by Malachi and also enjoyed Branigan’s friend Liam, who runs a shelter for the homeless. Branigan, Malachi and Liam are a complex trio and I’m very eager to see these characters developed further. The Cantaloupe Thief begins a promising new series. “Best of the best” for me.

Highly recommended.

Purchase at Amazon


        Deb Richardson-Moore is the author of a 2012 memoir, The Weight of Mercy, and a novel, The Cantaloupe Thief, to be released in June 2016. Both are published by Lion Hudson of Oxford, England.
        Deb also serves as pastor of the non-denominational Triune Mercy Center in Greenville, South Carolina, where she works to make homeless parishioners feel respected, loved – and deserving of a pastor who dresses up for them, even in high heels. She is a Greenville native and a graduate of Wake Forest University (Winston-Salem, NC) and Erskine Theological Seminary (Due West, SC).
        She worked for 27 years as a writer for The Greenville News, covering art, theater, general features and religion. After obtaining her Master of Divinity degree in 2005 and being ordained by First Baptist Church of Greenville, she accepted the position as pastor of Triune. Triune is a church that brings homeless, working poor, middle-class and wealthy parishioners into community.
        Deb is married to Vince Moore, who is director of media relations for Furman University. They have three grown children – Dustin, Taylor, and Madison.

Thank you to Lion Hudson for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Review: Like a River from Its Course

Like a River from Its Course
By Kelli Stuart
Kregel, 2016


An epic novel exposing the ugliness of war and the beauty of hope.

The city of Kiev was bombed in Hitler's blitzkrieg across the Soviet Union, but the constant siege was only the beginning for her citizens. In this sweeping historical saga, Kelli Stuart takes the reader on a captivating journey into the little-known history of Ukraine's tragedies through the eyes of four compelling characters who experience the same story from different perspectives.

Maria Ivanovna is only fourteen when the bombing begins and not much older when she is forced into work at a German labor camp. She must fight to survive and to make her way back to her beloved Ukraine.

Ivan Kyrilovich is falsely mistaken for a Jew and lined up with 34,000 other men, women, and children who are to be shot at the edge of Babi Yar, the "killing ditch." He survives, but not without devastating consequences.

Luda is sixteen when German soldiers rape her. Now pregnant with the child of the enemy, she is abandoned by her father, alone, and in pain. She must learn to trust family and friends again and find her own strength in order to discover the redemption that awaits.

Frederick Hermann is sure in his knowledge that the Führer's plans for domination are right and just. He is driven to succeed by a desire to please a demanding father and by his own blind faith in the ideals of Nazism.

Based on true stories gathered from fifteen years of research and interviews with Ukrainian World War II survivors, Like a River from Its Course is a story of love, war, heartache, forgiveness, and redemption.

My thoughts

When it comes to Like a River from Its Course, there’s no way any words of mine can do it justice, so I’ll let Kelli Stuart and her characters do some of the talking. But if I had to express my thoughts in only one sentence, it would be this:  If ever a book cried out to be read, it’s this one.

What’s most amazing is that through extensive research, debut author Kelli Stuart has drawn from personal stories of survival to write this moving work of fiction, based on historical events that weren’t that familiar to me – the Nazi occupation of the Ukraine. The story is told from the first-person perspective of four main characters – and rather than me trying to describe them, I encourage you to read about them in the book’s overview above if you haven’t already. Here are some expressions of their thoughts . . .

  • Frederick:  “Ending one life to preserve another is not killing. It is saving.”
  • Ivan:  “Sometimes horrors are too great to be put into words.”
  • Luda:  “When you grow up without love, accepting it becomes almost burdensome.”
  • Masha:  “I’m scarred and emotionally beaten. The girl who left was swept away in the flood of war, but I think that girl is still somewhere inside. If only I could get back to find her.”

Like a River from Its Course is riveting, dark, raw, yet hopeful and redeeming. It reflects the essence of humanity, from total depravity to selfless, tender kindness. It’s not a light read, nor is it an easy one – but it is compelling, relevant for today, and hard to put down. Truly unforgettable.

I’m amazed at the literary quality of Kelli’s writing, for it sparkles in its beauty. She has a gift for pulling you right into the story, compelling you to experience the people, setting, and all the horrors of war in a way that is palpable. I marked several quotes that really spoke to me; here are just a few . . .

“If love gives flight to the soul, hate kills it completely.”
- Ivan

“You would be surprised, my friend, at the power in believing
in something outside of yourself. When you acknowledge that
the pain of this world is unbearable, you’re able to finally surrender
to the One who alone is worthy of carrying the weight.”
- Father Konstantin

“To believe is to trust, and when you trust, your life has meaning and purpose outside of the mere endurance of hardship.”
- Father Konstantin

And finally, one that is true yesterday, today, and tomorrow . . .

“God cannot be suppressed under the evil of man.”
- Father Konstantin

On a personal note, because I have a hard time with books set during the Holocaust, I initially passed on reviewing this book. But thanks to Christen at Litfuse Publicity, I decided to risk it and am so glad I did. For me, Like a River from Its Course is a story not to be missed.

Highly recommended.

Purchase a copy:


Kelli Stuart is the coauthor of Dare 2B Wise and has written for several brands including Disney, American Girl, and Short Fiction Break. She has served as editor-in-chief for the St. Louis Bloggers Guild and as a board member for the St. Louis Women in Media. In addition to her writing, Kelli has spent twenty years studying Ukranian culture. Kelli lives in Florida.

Thank you to Litfuse Publicity and Kregel for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Litfuse landing page:

Friday, July 15, 2016

Review: Something's Knot Kosher

Something’s Knot Kosher
By Mary Marks
A Quilting Mystery, #4
Kensington, 2016


Funerals can be patchy affairs for Martha Rose and her close-knit circle of friends--especially in the case of a missing body . . .

When Birdie Watson's husband Russell is killed during a bank robbery, Martha just wants to support her grieving friend. But en route to the burial plot in Oregon, Martha makes a harrowing discovery about the casket's contents--instead of Russell, she finds an unidentified man. Now Martha and her quilting klatch can't rest in peace until they unspool the truth behind the macabre mix up . . .

My thoughts

Something’s Knot Kosher, #4 in Mary Mark’s quilting series, is an enjoyable cozy mystery. Character development takes place through the series, but enough background is given that each story stands alone. Rather than feeling lost by starting with the fourth book, I’m just eager to read the previous books. I don’t expect books published in the general market to meet the same standards as the Christian fiction I review, but I was pleased that there was no profanity or explicit scenes. I didn’t particularly care for the alternative lifestyle element, although it was handled tastefully.

This series is about the adventures of Martha Rose - a sassy, sarcastic woman of a certain age - and her two quilting friends Lucy and Birdie, who have quilted together every Tuesday for sixteen years. I adore older characters and these ladies are charming, caring, and downright funny at times. And when you add Martha’s cat and a retired police German Shepherd owned by her former love interest to that quirky mix, anything can happen! I’d like to know more about Martha, especially her Jewish heritage – for while she follows Jewish dietary restrictions, nothing is revealed as to her faith.

The mystery plot surrounding the death of Birdie’s husband, Russell, is well developed and I enjoyed the logical, step-by-step searching for clues, especially the road trip from Encino, California to McMinnville, Oregon.

Baltimore Album Quilt
Something’s Knot Kosher is sure to delight quilters (beautiful cover art, by the way) – and while I don’t sew, I do love quilts. Quilting features prominently and I enjoyed all the tidbits of information scattered throughout. I had never heard of the Baltimore Album quilt that Birdie used to cover Russell’s body and had to look into it further. It was also interesting to learn that quilters often bought fabric based on their emotional reaction to it … “Either the colors or the print touched something inside that evoked a pleasant memory or feeling.”

I read somewhere that Mary Marks is a grandma who likes to quilt and tell funny stories – and her humor and knowledge shine through beautifully. I would like to read more from this series.

Purchase links:
Amazon -
B&N -


Born and raised in Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area, Mary Marks earned a B.A. in Anthropology from UCLA and an M.A. in Public Administration from the American Jewish University in Los Angeles. In 2004 she enrolled in the UCLA Extension Writers Program. Her first novel, Forget Me Knot, was a finalist in a national writing competition in 2011. She is currently a reviewer of cozy mysteries for The New York Journal of Books at

Website │ Facebook 

Thank you to Great Escapes Book Tours for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Review: Between Us Girls

Between Us Girls
By Trish Donohue
New Growth Press, 2016


You feel more than mommy guilt.

You feel a deep and growing conviction that you must do something to disciple your daughter. But what? How can a busy mom make sure that her daughter learns about the most important things in life: what Jesus did for her on the cross and how to be faithful to him in this broken world?

Author Trish Donohue has been there, and that's why she wrote Between Us Girls: Walks and Talks for Moms and Daughters. These twenty-six gospel-driven talks are a fun and easy guide for mothers who want to disciple their daughters but don't know where to start. In each short chapter, moms and daughters read God's Word, ask one another questions about their thoughts and experiences, get honest about their struggles with sin, brainstorm ways to live out their faith, and build genuine fellowship into their relationship.

Between Us Girls is more than a devotional; it's a conversation guide, and the twenty-six "chats" are just the beginning. Ultimately, Donohue's book teaches mothers and daughters a new way to communicate and starts them on a wonderful, lifelong journey of getting to know one another better and learning to love their Savior more.

Between Us Girls was written by a busy mom for busy moms, so no prep time is needed! Just schedule some time with your daughter, grab this book, head to your destination of choice, and cherish every moment you share with your girl.

My thoughts

I’ve always been a fan of fiction, but in the process of branching out a little, I’ve discovered some great non-fiction books that have the potential to be life changing, and Between Us Girls is one of those. First and foremost, it’s a book for mothers and daughters to share openly and work through together – but it can also be used by any woman who has a young girl in her life. Maybe you have a family member or friend who would benefit from this conversational study, and I can even see it being effective in a girls’ small group setting. There’s lots of situations where it could have an impact.

Between Us Girls consists of 26 guided conversations/studies that can be used according to preference in whatever timeframe fits your schedule. Upon completion, you just use your own imagination and go on from there … the sky’s the limit. Topics include concepts such as foundation, words, friendships, prayers, weaknesses, gratitude. Each devotional consists of the following four sections:

  • The Garden – describes God’s vision for us
  • The Weeds – how sin messes everything up
  • The Hill – represents the gospel: the good news of Jesus’ death and resurrection
  • The Field – take the truths learned and go to work

I think every Christian mom wants to share her faith in raising her daughter to love the Lord, yet it’s not always easy for some reason. Between Us Girls provides that framework in an easy-to-understand and enjoyable setting. Some questions are just plain fun, and no preparation or knowledge is necessary. And I think one of the most compelling features is that this study isn’t one sided; mom has to be open and honest also. It’s a fact that as two people in relationship grow closer to God, they also grow closer to each other, and that’s an added blessing of this study.

On a personal note, the greatest compliment I can give is to say that I wish Between Us Girls had been available when my daughter was growing up. She loves the Lord and currently serves Him on the mission field, yet I often feel all that came purely by God’s grace. She would have loved this conversational study as a young girl and it would have greatly enriched our relationship.

I encourage you to use Between Us Girls personally or bless someone in your life with it. Highly recommended.

Purchase a copy:


Tricia Donohue is a wife and mom who writes from her kitchen table in West Chester, PA. A desire to disciple her girls paired with a love for writing inspired this book.

She and her husband, Jim, have two sons and two daughters. They attend Covenant Fellowship Church in Glen Mills, PA, where Jim serves as a pastor.

Thank you to Litfuse Publicity for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Litfuse landing page:

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Review: A Reason to Stay

A Reason to Stay
By Kellie Coates Gilbert
Texas Gold, #3
Revell, 2015


Sometimes the thing that keeps us from making the wrong choice is the one thing we can't control . . .

As an investigative reporter and the host of her own TV talk show, Faith Marin works to expose the truth for her viewers. But in her personal life, she's anchored her world with firm boundaries in order to hide a family history she'd like to forget. By contrast, her husband Geary's life is an open book. An easygoing pro bass fisherman, Geary is the ultimate family man--and his overbearing relatives don't know the meaning of boundaries.

Faith and Geary haven't been married long when their differences start to derail their tender relationship. Surely love shouldn't be this hard. While Faith considers whether divorce is the only answer to their issues, tragedy strikes. With her life in the balance, she finds that the one she has been shutting out may be the very one she cannot bear to lose.

Kellie Coates Gilbert takes you on an emotional roller coaster as she weaves together unexpected trial, self-discovery, and forgiveness in this profoundly honest portrait of the tensions that can break a marriage--and the ultimate healing power of love.

My thoughts

Sometimes broken things got fixed.

A Reason to Stay is a very moving story – poignant, compelling, heartwarming, and even humorous at times. It’s the story of a marriage, with past and present cleverly entangled throughout. The romance is tender, characters are richly drawn, and tough issues are faced realistically. It touched me in lots of ways and left me with much to think about after the last page was turned.

Kellie Coates Gilbert instantly became one of my favorite writers after reading her first book, Mother of Pearl, which has a similar emotionally engaging plot. I’ve read four books (#5 has just been released), and as for a favorite? It would probably be whichever one I’m reading at the time, they’re all that good.

Crawfish Boil
Before Christian fiction became my primary focus, women’s fiction in the secular marketplace was my favorite genre, and I have devoured many excellent books over the years. While there is much that I enjoy in the CBA, the limited amount of quality women’s fiction has been disappointing. So let me quickly say that I applaud the writing of Kellie Coates Gilbert, for it holds its own with anything I’ve read elsewhere.

Faith Marin had a glamorous job and celebrity status, all of which had come at a price. A character’s likeability often determines the extent to which readers enjoy a book, and let me just say that Faith is a flawed – broken – character that has a lot of spiritual growth and maturing to go through from the time we first meet her. As the layers are peeled back to reveal glimpses into her background, my understanding of her behavior increased and I easily connected with and felt for her. Geary had his own flaws, but he modeled the patience, love and commitment that are so desirable in a mate, and I adored him.

A lot of stories reflect the values of forgiveness and second chances – yet somehow Kellie Coates Gilbert is able to take these themes to a whole new level, one that completely engages the emotions and envelops you with a sense of God’s hand in the midst of difficult situations. A Reason to Stay reflects a reality where Christians don’t always marry Christians, physical attraction is a big motivator, and couples aren’t completely supportive, open and honest with each other. The enchanting honeymoon ends and the reality of differing goals, values, belief systems, and expectations sets in. Vocation was just one area of conflict, as Faith thought Geary failed to understand the commitment level required by her job, and she “wasn’t all that enamored with the idea their financial security rested in large measure on whether or not the bass were biting on crankbait or woolly buggers, or that the season, time of day, and weather could determine the size of his paycheck.” As in real life, it takes a crisis to open their eyes to what’s really important.

I also loved how family played such an important part in this story, and was reminded that marriage is not just the joining of two individuals, but of two families. Faith’s experience with Geary’s family and their traditions was so funny … a “redneck” family with strong faith values that loved unconditionally, yet boundaries were nonexistent and practically everything was meant to be shared.

A Reason to Stay is a touching and memorable story, and while the ending is very satisfying and uplifting, I hated to see it end. “Best of the best” for me.

Highly recommended.

A Reason to Stay is #3 in the Texas Gold series, but it stands alone. Please click on the titles below to see my review of Kellie’s previous books.

Mother of Pearl
A Woman of Fortune (Texas Gold #1)
Where Rivers Part (Texas Gold #2)


Kellie Coates Gilbert is a former legal investigator and trial paralegal and the author of A Woman of Fortune and Where Rivers Part. Gilbert crafts her emotionally charged stories about women in life-changing circumstances in Dallas, Texas, where she lives with her husband.

Thank you to Revell Publishing for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Review: The Ringmaster's Wife

The Ringmaster’s Wife
By Kristy Cambron
Thomas Nelson, 2016


An ounce of courage. A split-second leap of faith. Together, they propel two young women to chase a new life---one that's reimagined from what they might have become.

In turn-of-the-century America, a young girl dreams of a world that stretches beyond the confines of a quiet life on the family farm. With little more than her wit and a cigar box of treasures to call her own, Mable steps away from all she knows, seeking the limitless marvels of the Chicago World's Fair. There, a chance encounter triggers her destiny---a life with a famed showman by the name of John Ringling.

A quarter of a century later, Lady Rosamund Easling of Yorkshire, England, boards a ship to America as a last adventure before her life is planned out for her. There, the twenties are roaring, and the rich and famous gather at opulent, Gatsby-esque parties in the grandest ballrooms the country has to offer. The Jazz Age has arrived, and with it, the golden era of the American circus, whose queen is none other than the enigmatic Mable Ringling.

When Rosamund's path crosses with Mable's and the Ringlings' glittering world, she makes the life-altering decision to leave behind a comfortable future of estates and propriety, instead choosing the nomadic life of a trick rider in the Ringling Brothers' circus.

A novel that is at once captivating, deeply poignant, and swirling with exquisite historical details of a bygone world, The Ringmaster's Wife will escort readers into the center ring, with its bright lights, exotic animals, and a dazzling performance that can only be described as the greatest show on earth!

My thoughts

“Having a dream is easy. It’s being brave enough to walk the
journey every day that sets you apart from the crowd.”
- Mable Ringling

The Ringmaster’s Wife presents a new side to Kristy Cambron’s writing, and I have to say that I like this style very much. Knowing that I loved Kristy’s writing, I was eager to visit a setting that differed from Europe’s concentration camps, as outstanding as her previous World War II novels were. Filled with exquisite historical detail, The Ringmaster’s Wife draws back the curtains of a charming bygone era of which dreams are made, and I enjoyed every word.

Set primarily during the years 1926-1929, this is the story of Mable Ringling, wife to John, and the fictional characters of Colin and Rose, circus manager and bareback horse rider respectively. There’s a nostalgic flavor to The Ringmaster’s Wife, and Kristy has the ability to pull readers right into her scenes – where all the sights, sounds, and emotions can literally be felt. I had no idea how expansive the Ringling Brothers’ Circus was and loved the scene where Colin described all that would be built on an empty Sarasota Bay lot – rail lines that come right up to the grounds, indoor and outdoor menagerie house with elephants, apes, big cats ... dormitories, hospital, and massive training complex for the performance horses.

Cà d'Zan
Rose and Colin have to go on my list of all-time favorite leading characters. Lady Rosamunde Easling, brought up in England’s traditional world where a female’s wishes weren’t regarded, had a rare talent – one that was raw and innocent as well. Recruited by Colin, her world “wouldn’t be drawing rooms and dinner parties anymore. She’d be toughing it out with hundreds of other performers on a packed circus train, laboring from sunup to sundown, working her fingers raw in a new town nearly every day.” Both Colin and Rose knew what it was like to wish, more than anything, that they could change their lives, something that many readers can identify with. The tender romance between them is so very moving.

Kristy did a great job in taking what little is known of Mable Ringling and fleshing out a fascinating story as Mable’s life intersects with Colin, and then Rose years later. The first half of the book moves a little slowly, but I enjoyed all the foundational background and descriptive passages. The writing is solid, as expected, and there were some emotionally gripping scenes that I read more than once.

Spiritual themes continually run beneath the surface, themes that speak to all of us … courage to follow our God-given dreams … that we are so much more than any failure or physical limitation. And then there’s Mable’s legacy that lived on through Rose, the determination to look through life with the lens of love and kindness.

I want to end with this thought from Rose that reflects the essence of this enchanting story . . .

Courage wasn’t in the initial faith leap to chase a
dream; rather, the magic was in the day-to-day living
and breathing and choosing to be courageous
when common sense told one otherwise.

Highly recommended.

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Kristy Cambron fancies life as a vintage-inspired storyteller. Her second novel, A Sparrow in Terezin, was named Library Journal Reviews' "Pick of the Month (Christian Fiction)" for February 2015.

Cambron is an art/design manager at storytelling ministry. She holds a degree in art history from Indiana University and has nearly 15 years of experience in instructional design and communications for a Fortune-100 company. She lives in Indiana with her husband and three football-loving sons, where she can probably be bribed with a coconut mocha latte and a good Christian fiction read.

Thank you to Kristy Cambron and Litfuse Publicity for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

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