Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Written on the Wind by Elizabeth Camden


Written on the Wind (The Blackstone Legacy #2)
By Elizabeth Camden 
Published by Bethany House 
Publication Date: May 3, 2022 

 Natalia Blackstone is a rarity in Gilded Age America. As a trusted analyst for her father's bank, she is helping finance the legendary Trans-Siberian Railway. From her office in New York City, Natalia relies on a charming Russian aristocrat to oversee the construction of the railroad on the other side of the world. 
But while overseeing the work, Count Dimitri Sokolov witnesses the deadly result of the Russian Monarchy's will to see the railway built. To silence him, the state has stripped Dimitri of his title, his lands, and his freedom . . . but Dimitri has a key asset the czar knows nothing about: his deep and abiding friendship with Natalia Blackstone. 
From the steppes of Russia to the corridors of power in Washington, Natalia and Dimitri will fight against all odds to save the railroad and share the truth of what happened, but how can their newfound love survive the ordeal? 

What an interesting book! I love the political and historical setting for this book, with the details about Russia, the building of the Trans-Siberian Railway, the social and political machinations in both Russia and the U.S., and more. I really liked Natalia; she was a great leading lady, both strong and kind. I alternated between thinking Dimitri was charming and being irritated by him. There were times where he totally made me laugh, but others where he bugged me a little because it seemed that Natalia was always doing things for him, but he didn't seem to reciprocate much. And when she faced a major disappointment, despite having worked so hard to help him, his internal dialogue indicated he was upset, but his actions didn't so much. I felt like she did so much for him and his mission and didn't get much return from him throughout a lot of the book, and that bothered me-- but I know other readers have really loved him and am sure many more will as well. There were lots of interesting side characters to like or loathe (I so cannot wait for Liam's story!), and I look forward to reading the third book in the series. 
As a fun point of interest, Dimitri makes a stop in my hometown--Springville, Utah--on his journey. I loved his observation that it was misnamed and wanted to be able to tell him it's actually named for the freshwater springs in the vicinity, not for spring-like weather! 
I read an ARC provided by the author/publisher. All opinions are my own.

Sunday, April 17, 2022

Turn to Me by Becky Wade


Turn to Me 
 By Becky Wade 
 Published by Bethany House 
Publication Date: May 3, 2022 

Guilt has defined Luke Dempsey's life, but it was self-destructiveness that landed him in prison. When his friend and fellow inmate lay dying shortly before Luke's release, the older man revealed he left a string of clues for his daughter, Finley, that will lead her to the treasure he's hidden. Worried that she won't be the only one pursuing the treasure, he gains Luke's promise to protect her until the end of her search. 

Spunky and idealistic, Finley Sutherland is the owner of an animal rescue center and a defender of lost causes. She accepts Luke's help on the treasure hunt while secretly planning to help him in return--by coaxing him to embrace the forgiveness he's long denied himself. As they draw closer to the final clue, their reasons for resisting each other begin to crumble, and Luke realizes his promise will push him to the limit in more ways than one. He'll do his best to shield Finley from unseen threats, but who's going to shield him from losing his heart? 

I've been looking forward to reading Luke's story. I have to admit that I had a soft spot for a reformed bad boy--or even better, a reforming bad boy who is finding out who he's going to be, what sort of man he really wants to be. The message of being able to be forgiven and move forward is one I just love. So, I was thrilled to read Luke's story, and I loved him as the hero of this book. I didn't quite click with Finley as female lead, though. I can't put my finger on why, but I just wasn't drawn in by her. I liked the side story of Ben and Akira--they were super cute--but I was put off by other side characters (specifically, Finley's other employees, who were so annoying!). I also wasn't totally drawn in by the treasure hunt. It just didn't enjoy this one as much the earlier books in the series, but I think plenty of other readers will totally adore it. 

I read an ARC provided by the publisher via #NetGalley. All opinions are my own.

Friday, April 1, 2022

All That It Takes by Nicole Deese

All That It Takes 
By Nicole Deese 
 Published by Bethany House 

When the ever-cautious Val Locklier finally agrees to a cross-country move with her nine-year-old son to take a job with her best friend, Molly, everything she had planned for the future unravels within the first week. After pushing aside her anxieties about renting an apartment from Molly's twin brother, whom she barely knows, she accepts an invitation for an elite filmmaker's mentorship. Caught between her insecurities and new possibilities, she feels completely unprepared for the challenges ahead. 
Pastor Miles McKenzie returns home from abroad to discover that not only does he have an intriguing new tenant living upstairs, he's been banished to a ministry on life support. Disillusioned and restless, he pursues a relationship with Val without stopping to consider the timing or asking God to direct his steps. 
 As Val struggles to stop hiding behind the camera and Miles wrestles with shattered expectations, they'll find that authentic love and sacrifice must go hand in hand. 

I loved everything about this book! The main characters, Val and Miles, are fabulous; they just feel REAL, with depth and real struggles and real strengths and weaknesses. They were so relatable as they had to deal with disappointments and fears and figuring out their paths in life. The plot also really pulled me in right from the get-go and there weren't any moments that dragged. The messages in this book--including seeing how God leads us through disappointments or change sin plans to end up exactly where we want to be, how our talents can help us find our personal ministries, and the need for connections and help from others in our lives. were powerful but not heavy-handed. This book is just so well-written, with humorous moments to balance out the serious topics--and the ending was just perfect! 
5 stars.

I read an ARC provided by the publisher via NetGalley. All opinions are my own.