Love Unexpected by Jody Hedlund

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Love Unexpected is the first full-length novel in Jody Hedlund’s Beacons of Hope series, and it starts off with a bang. Pirates pillage the steamer Emma and her brother are traveling aboard. They are forced to abandon ship and swim in the frigid water of Lake Huron off the coast of Michigan until the light keeper is able to rescue them. But then they find themselves in a remote area with no money to pay for passage.

Having been poor and transient most of her life, all Emma has ever wanted is a home to call her own. Through divine providence (according to Holy Bill), Emma finds herself faced with the opportunity to have a home and a family if she will marry a complete stranger.

I appreciate a good romance, and Patrick and Emma’s story was sweet and realistic. Both characters struggle with insecurity and past mistakes, but they learn to find their strength in and forgiveness from God. They also struggle with expectations–one having absurdly low expectations from the other based on a previous relationship–and fear of the unknown. If they could get everything out in the open, healing could begin, but they must experience a lot of pain before realizing that the truth will set them free.

Love Unexpected can be read alone, but I would encourage you to read Hedlund’s novella Out of the Storm first because it introduces the series and relates a wonderful love story. There are references to the characters from the novella in this book, but the characters in Love Unexpected are unrelated to those from Out of the Storm.

I received this book for free from Bethany House in exchange for an honest review.

The Uncommon Marriage Adventure by Tony & Lauren Dungy

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The Uncommon Marriage Adventure: A Daily Journey to Draw You Closer to God and Each Other is an insightful devotional for couples. The book is designed to be read daily for 16 weeks with discussion between husband and wife. Tony and Lauren Dungy developed their “Core Principles for an Uncommon Marriage” in their book Uncommon Marriage. They expound upon those principles in this devotional book. There are eight core principles, and they spend two weeks on each one, offering advice, biblical perspective, specific practices, and “adventure applications”. Every seventh devotional offers the couple a chance to reflect more deeply on one of the previous day’s practices. More discussion questions and ideas for activities as well as focussed prayer prompts provide the couple with everything they need to grow closer to God and each other.

Each daily reading is just two to three pages, which makes this very practical for busy couples. The devotionals are all based on scripture and biblical advice. The Dungys do not hold up their marriage as the only example to follow. Instead, they point to scripture and true stories of other individuals and couples who lived out the practice being discussed.

I received this book for free from Tyndale House Publishers in exchange for an honest review.
Tyndale Blog Network

Out of the Storm by Jody Hedlund

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I received an email from Bethany House with a link for the free e-book, Out of the Storm: A Novella by Jody Hedlund, but it is also available on Amazon for free here. I read this short book in one morning and loved it. I am thrilled that I already have Love Unexpected, the first full book in Hedlund’s Beacons of Hope series, and I can’t wait to start reading it.

Out of the Storm is set in an isolated area on the shores of Lake Huron in Michigan in 1854. Isabelle Thornton lives in a small cottage with her father who is the lighthouse keeper. A deadly shipwreck spares one man’s life, and Isabelle learns to enjoy her life.

I read some reviews of this book online, and some reviewers thought there was too much passion for Christian fiction. Having read many other romance novels, I was only slightly surprised by the few moments of passion in Out of the Storm and not because I felt kissing was out of place in a Christian book but only because it seemed a little forward for the time period. I enjoy a good romance and love chemistry between the main characters. It makes the story more believable because real people face temptations and give in sometimes.

365 Moments of Peace for a Woman’s Heart

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This beautiful devotional book offers short devotions filled with hope, love, and the peace of God. Each dated devotional includes two scripture verses, a few paragraphs written to women, and a short prayer for peace, patience, comfort, etc. The scripture verses are taken from several different translations, prompting the reader to compare the scripture in the devotional to her favorite translation.

Each day’s reading can be completed in less than five minutes, but it can provide a springboard for further study of the scripture verses in another translation, a study of the passage from which the scripture came, or extended prayer time for the topic discussed. The short readings are light and reassuring–more like a book of God’s promises. The imitation leather-bound book would make an excellent gift for a friend or family member.

I received this book for free from Bethany House in exchange for an honest review.

Buttermilk Sky by Jan Watson

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Buttermilk Sky by Jan Watson is a delightful story set in the early twentieth century in Kentucky. Small-town girl Mazy Pelfrey struggles through secretarial school in the big city while also struggling to fit in with a group of fellow students and roommates.

Mazy left home to learn a skill that she doesn’t really care to learn, but she is trying to meet her sister’s expectations. While there, she meets a young man that will make her question her feelings and herself. Mazy is a naive, innocent, hopeful young lady who trusts God and learns to rely on Him more as the story progresses.

Chanis Clay is a man on a mission. He knows who he loves and wants to make a home fit for her to live in. As sheriff of a small county, he seems to get himself in a pickle frequently, which can be quite humorous for the reader. Chanis is steadfast and loyal but begins to question his future after an upsetting run-in with some Feds.

Chanis’ story unfolds mostly separately from Mazy’s until their stories collide amidst fireworks. Chanis accepts God’s will for his life even though it wasn’t what he had so carefully planned. Mazy finally realizes what she wants in life and pursues it.

Buttermilk Sky is not a mystery or suspense novel, but it contains a little of both. This historical romance has a few surprises and plays out beautifully. I enjoyed meeting all the characters and look forward to reading future books in this series. Apparently, I missed Jan Watson’s previous books about Mazy’s family, Skip Rock Shallows and Tattler’s Branch. I plan to read those after I get caught up on the stack of books on my nightstand.

I received this book for free from Tyndale House in exchange for an honest review.
Tyndale Blog Network

Tried & True by Mary Connealy

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Tried & True is the first book in Connealy’s new Wild at Heart series, and it is set in Idaho Territory during the summer of 1866. Kylie Wilde is a young, single woman who is trying to homestead after serving in the Civil War (pretending to be a young man). Her father has practically made men out of his three daughters, and the older two embrace manly ways as necessary and beneficial to life on the frontier, but Kylie refuses to learn how to do men’s work. She wants tea parties and frilly dresses, but she let her father bully her into homesteading 160 acres.

Aaron Masterson is the local land agent and figures out Kylie is a woman who is claiming a military service exemption, which is only available to men because women weren’t allowed to serve in the war. Kylie wants that exemption in order to shorten her required time to live on the frontier from five years to three. She can’t imagine living so far from civilization any longer than that.

Complicating things further, there is someone who wants Kylie’s land, and they aren’t asking nicely. While trying to protect Kylie, Aaron comes to terms with his unresolved anger and hatred toward those who killed his family. The dramatic ending expresses the love and forgiveness that we are only able to offer through Christ.

Tried & True is an engaging beginning to the Wild at Heart series. I enjoyed the humor, romance, and suspense while learning more about life on the frontier and how the Civil War affected individual lives in that era. I am looking forward to reading the future books in this series.

I received this book for free from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for an honest review.

Giveaway Winner

Congratulations to Lindsey F. who won my first blog giveaway! You can read my review of Willie’s Redneck Time Machine here. My son has been reading this book every day and discovering new adventures each time.
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Thank you to those who participated in this giveaway, and thank you to Tyndale House Publishers for the complimentary books.