Friday, September 20, 2013

Proceed with Caution by Betsy Brannon Green

Proceed with Caution by Betsy Brannon Green
"Brooke Clayton is in trouble. Deep in the shadowy woods outside Nashville, the young activist stumbled on something she was never meant to see something she can never reveal if she values her life. Now, as an unknown enemy closes in, she must take drastic measures to disappear. Brooke s only hope for survival is to accept help from her uncle, Major Christopher Dane, and his team of highly trained operatives. Dane entrusts his niece s safety to one of his most reliable men, Hunter, aka Owl. Brooke and Owl go into hiding, posing as a married couple volunteering at a Civil War reenactment site. As Brooke comes to trust her protector, their connection deepens and their cover relationship begins to feel all too real. But when danger encroaches on their make believe world and explosive truths are revealed, Hunter and Brooke risk everything to expose the discovery she tried so hard to escape and as peril looms ever closer, it s too late to proceed with caution.” (Summary from DB)

Alright, so I wanted to switch things up a bit and Covenant has added me to a list of book blog reviewers and so I snatched this one right up, hoping it wouldn’t be a romance. Alas, I am not to escape, not at all! This one is firmly in the romantic suspense category. I still enjoyed it. I believe the book is a spin-off of other characters in her Hazardous Duty series, which I never read. On occasion, this felt awkward as if I were left on the outside of a few inside jokes among a close group of friends. I also had a hard time getting through the first chapter that felt more clichĂ© and kind of info dumpy because I wasn’t really invested in the characters you were obviously already supposed to care about. Still, the plot and character relationships are understandable and I got invested in the story pretty quickly after that.

My favorite part of the book is when a pair of the characters have to go undercover at a civil war reenactment experience resort. This of course is when the romance line went full swing, and really it was so much fun, and sort of hilarious. I wish I could have spent the entire rest of the book at the fun resort, but alas there were bad guys to elude and dangerous missions to undertake. So, despite the rough start I ended up enjoying this book and the varied, entangled plots that ensue.

Visit Betsy Brannon Green's website

Monday, September 16, 2013

Blackmoore by Julianna Donaldson

Blackmoore by Julianna Donaldson

“At eighteen, Kate Worthington knows she should be getting serious about marriage, but her restless heart won’t let her settle down. To escape her mother’s meddlesome influence, she dreams of traveling with her spinster aunt to exotic India. But when the opportunity arises, Kate finds herself making a bargain with her mother: she will be allowed to go only if she spends a season at the family’s wealthy estate, Blackmoore, where she must secure and reject three marriage proposals. Enlisting the help of her dearest childhood friend, Henry Delafield, Kate sets out to collect her proposals so she can be on her way. But Henry s decision to help threatens to destroy both of their dreams in ways they could never imagine. Set in Northern England in 1820, Blackmoore is a regency romance that tells the story of a young woman struggling to learn how to listen to her heart. With hints of Jane Austen and the Bronte sisters, Blackmoore is a page-turning tale of romance, intrigue, and devotion. (summary from Amazon)

Set in the wild moors of Scotland in an old gothic manor with secret passages and the remains of ruined abbeys in the countryside. Blackmoore has an atmospheric setting that makes its heroine Kate thrilled with the prospect of adventure. She has dreamed of going to Blackmoore forever, but quickly finds that the experience of Blackmoore is much more painful than her childhood fantasies about the place. Her childhood relationships are more complex and fraught with tension then they once were. Desperate, Kate enlists the help of her dearest friend Henry to escape her mother’s clutches and her family’s tarnished reputation.

Donaldson has produced another standalone regency romance novel for Deseret Book’s proper romance line. I really enjoyed Blackmoore and felt like this novel was much more polished than Donaldson’s debut. The plot has more originality and the characters rely less on regency tropes, as I felt was the case in her first book, and stand on their own. In addition, I love how eloquently and beautifully Donaldson can convey her character’s emotions, a skill that has only grown since Edenbrook. I’m excited to see what this author has planned next.

If you're interested in trying out Donaldson's work this is the perfect time to jump in as Edenbrooke: A Proper Romance is currently on sale as a kindle ebook for $1.99 this month. Blackmoore is currently on sale for $7.99 in ebook format.

Visit Donaldson's website

Sunday, September 8, 2013

The Not Even Once Club by Wendy Watson Nelson

The Not Even Once Club by Wendy Watson Nelson
The Not Even Once Club is a story about a boy, Tyler, who has moved to a new neighborhood. His primary class has a secret club house and is close-knit group that likes to play together. Tyler has to pass a test to be able to join the club—the test is turn down drinking an alcoholic drink on a pretend restaurant  menu. Tyler then signs a club contract that says he will always keep the word of wisdom, dress modestly, avoid pornography, and other bad habits. The boy is super happy about his new friends and super excited about his commitment to avoid doing any of these things Not Even Once!
On the one hand I think this is a pretty decent story. I think the idea of a secret club based on keeping the commandments is a fun idea for kids. Finding friends that have the same standards as you is a rewarding experience. The book also provides a safe way for parents and kids to have discussions about church standards and the choices we make. There is a discussion guide in the back for parents and kids to follow on topics like modesty and pornography, obedience, and repentance.
I did kind of have a problem with the fact that the primary teacher was the founder of the club and that she supplied the club house with snacks, candy, puzzles, games and crafts as long as the kids kept the promise of the contract. I didn’t like the message that the primary teacher would provide treats and other external rewards conditional on the children’s behavior. Because keeping the commandments shouldn’t be motivated by getting candy or games, keeping the commandments should be motivated by how living the gospel brings peace and happiness internally. Also, why should this primary teacher get to be judge if these kids deserve snacks or not? Is she going to keep track of everything they do? Also, what primary teacher can afford to do that? Seriously? 
I think this book does have a lot of potential to be a good catalyst for gospel discussions and conversations in families, but I’m not a fan of the teacher’s influence. I’d like the book much more if the kids had decorated and supplied the club on their own initiative out of a desire to do what the primary teacher taught them about. They could have all brought something special to share— an activity, snack or game that reflected their commitment to make choices different from the world and to create a safe haven for themselves and their friends.
I hope that my quibbling with story details doesn’t cause people to discount completely the potential for this story concept to be a positive influence. I don’t want to convey that idea at all. I think that with the guidance of parents this story concept is flexible enough to adapt to different situations and circumstances, and that it could be a tool to strengthen families. 
Find more information about the book here.