Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Big Sky Family by Charlotte Carter

Back of the Book: Single mom Ellie James has returned to Montana for a fresh start and a new job at a local school. She sure could use the support of hometown rancher Arnie O'Brien, especially when she faces the opportunity to step up as director. But this cowboy still holds a grudge from when Ellie left him behind eight years ago. Can Arnie trust God's plan and take a second chance on the girl who got away? He and Ellie will have to put aside the past to face the future together.

I knew I wasn't reading a typical romance when I discovered, almost from the first page, that the hero is a paraplegic, and will always be one. 

Whoa. And he is hero material? 
In an inspirational romance, absolutely. Yes. 

That's what I love about inspirational romance: the authors shine a light on real people in real-life situations. The love that grows, or is rekindled, in the case of a reunion romance such as this one, is based not so much on sexual chemistry (although that is always present, but underplayed). Instead, agape love is forged between them. 

Anyone who's been married for any amount of time realizes agape is the only kind of love that will endure the trials and tribulations a couple will assuredly encounter, probably many, many times, in their lives together. Faith in God and the enduring power of love is what inspirational romance is all about.

About the book ... It's about a lot of things, but nothing so much as Arnie learning to forgive Ellie for leaving him after his injury. It's also about Arnie learning to see himself as a man worthy of being loved, even if he cannot walk, and to accept Ellie's love for him

For Ellie, who had never really stopped loving Arnie (though he pushed her away after his injury), it's about being tested in her leadership abilities and discovering she's up to what's hoped for her. Given the chance to take on a job with quite a lot of responsibility, she is aided in her decision by Arnie's complete faith in her abilities. But not just faith, he's also willing to roll up his sleeves and help her be the accomplished businesswoman she is destined to be ... besides being Arnie's wife.

Monday, August 20, 2012

A Home for Hannah by Patricia Davids

by Patricia Davids

Publication date: Aug 1, 2012
Inspirational Romance

Back of the Book:
Yearning to find a meaningful life in the outside world, nurse Miriam Kaufman strayed far from her Amish community. She also needed distance from Nick Bradley, the cop who had caused her so much pain. Back in Hope Springs to care for her ailing mother, Miriam needs Nick, now sheriff, to find the mother of Hannah, the baby abandoned on her porch. Nick is as wary of Miriam's intentions as she is of facing their past. Can two wounded hearts overcome their history to do what's best for little Hannah?

I cannot resist a BABY ON THE DOORSTEP hook. Who would be so desperate as to leave their baby on someone's doorstep, and why? 

The mystery is solved, of course, in any novel with this hook. But in a romance, it happens even as a man and a woman are trying desperately NOT to fall in love. 

I'll admit it. I'm new to Steeple Hill's Love Inspired line. Over the past 11 years, I was a children's librarian. The bulk of my reading was devoted to Young Adult, Middle Grade and Picture Books. But I love Inspirational Romance, and I intend to "catch up" on my reading ... and reviewing. 

I'd never read a Patricia Davids book, although she has written somewhere around 20 books so far. As well as the Baby on the Doorstep, the Amish theme intrigued me. This book is part of her Brides of Amish Country Series. Reading it, I learned more than I expected to about the Amish and their beliefs, but the facts were always deftly inserted and only where necessary. 

I discovered also that Ms. Davids's writing style matches the Plainness of the Amish, most notably their Plain Speaking. Unlike other romance writers whose style tends toward lush and lyrical, Ms. Davids does not. Her book reads more like a documentary, with a plot that was utterly believable, which didn't bother me in the least. I have always preferred verisimilitude to fantasy in the romance genre. Besides, there were mysteries to be solved, and the sooner the better. The plot needed to clip along speedily. There was only one place, really, at the end, where I wished Ms. Davids had slowed her pace slightly. I wish she had prolonged the hero and heroine's reuniting after the breakup, so I could savor it all the more. It happened too quickly to bring tears to my eyes. 

But there was another place where she succeeded, which took me entirely by surprise. Tell me if you don't think the following passage is utterly beautiful: 

Nick was singing softly in a beautiful baritone voice that sent chills up her spine. It was the old spiritual, "Michael Row the Boat Ashore." Miriam stood listening for several stanzas, captured by the beauty of his voice and the healing words of the song. Death was not an end, merely a river to be crossed.  
Mark and her father were waiting for her on a shore she couldn't see yet, but someday she would. If only she could be sure she could gain their forgiveness. 
How could she if she handn't forgiven Nick? She pushed the screen door open and walked out onto the porch.   

Well, maybe you need to read the book to feel the full context. I enjoyed A Home for Hannah, and I will definitely be reading more books by Patricia Davids. 

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Unlikely Wife by Debra Ullrick: Inspy Historical Romance Review

Back of the Book

The arrival of Michael Bowen's bride, married sight unseen by proxy, sends the rancher reeling. With her trousers, cowboy hat and rifle, she looks like a female outlaw—not the genteel lady he corresponded with for months. He's been hoodwinked into marriage with the wrong woman! 
Selina Farleigh Bowen loved Michael's letters, even if she couldn't read them herself. A friend read them to her, and wrote her replies—but apparently that "friend" left things out, like Michael's dream of a wife who was nothing like her. Selina won't change who she is, not even for the man she loves. Yet time might show Michael the true value of his unlikely wife.

The cover intrigued me first with this book. I’d never seen a woman in trousers on a cover. I read the back and learned she carried a rifle and couldn’t read. That seemed different. A young woman who disguises herself as a man is a fun and oft-used trope in romance, but I’d never run across a heroine not in disguise, and made no bones about dressing as she did.

Nor did Selina have plans to start wearing dresses to please Michael. Stronger yet, she had no plans to ever do anything because Michael told her to. The illiterate, hard-edged woman not be controlled by a man. Was she ornery, or what?

I didn’t relate well to Selina at first. I found I couldn’t “be” her as I read the story. If I met her in real life, she probably wouldn’t be in my circle of friends, although the women in the story had no trouble welcoming her into the family fold. 

Selina had some softer edges as well, some highly likable qualities, I discovered as I read. She worked hard, was good friend, and had a way with animals. I began to see all the things to love about Selina, and Michael saw them soon afterwards. 

I liked Michael all along, and felt really bad for him in the beginning, knowing that the soft-spoken, cultured woman he thought he had married did not exist, and would never exist, in Selina. 

I felt bad for Selina, who felt she was someone no man could ever love. She was a good person, and willing to make small changes to be more loveable, but she really couldn’t change her stripes. She couldn't be someone entirely different from who she was, nor should Michael have expected it of her. Any marriage where one person expects their mate to become someone entirely different is just plain wrong. 

In the end, Michael had to change the most. He had to grow to appreciate and love Selina as she was.

Debra Ullrick did a wonderful job of illuminating her theme of accepting and valuing people for who they are.
With this particular setup, she showed readers that sometimes God has decidedly different plans for our lives than we have for ourselves. Sometimes God’s plans take a good amount of getting used to. But if we are willing to open our hearts to His ultimate wisdom, we can grow to appreciate the difference between our idealized life and our actual one. And maybe, just maybe, the gifts of the real life are greater than anything we might have imagined. 

I read an interview with Debra Ullrick where the interviewer asked her about her favorite romance authors. There are, of course, many authors that Debra likes, but she was able to single out a handful for their poetic prose. I’d also include Debra in that category. She is a poet and writes beautifully.

But what set this book apart from other romances for me was her heroine. Selina was so spirited, and so unusual, that she practically leapt off the page.      
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