Grace and the Preacher, by Kim Vogel Sawyer

book cover GracePublisher’s Overview:

At the age of twenty-three, postmistress Grace Cristler has all but given up hope of finding a husband among the narrowing group of eligible men in her town of Fairland, Kansas. But when her uncle decides to retire from the pulpit, Grace is responsible for corresponding with the new preacher set to take his place. She can’t deny the affection growing in her heart for Reverend Rufus Dille—a man she deeply admires but has only met through his letters.

Theophil Garrison is on the run from his past. Ten years ago his outlaw cousins convinced him to take part in a train robbery, but Theo fled the scene, leaving his cousins to face imprisonment. Now they’ve finished their sentences, but the plan for vengeance has just begun. Branded a coward and running for his life, Theo has a chance encounter that could provide him with the escape he needs.

But the young man’s desperate con might come at an enormous price for the tenderhearted Grace—and the entire town. Will Grace’s undeserved affection and God’s mercy make something beautiful from the ashes of Theo’s past?

First Thoughts:

An outlaw masquerading as a preacher could be the ultimate con. I already feel bad for Grace, but I’ve a feeling grace will play a large part in the story.

My Take:

I’ve got mixed feelings about Grace and the Preacher. I liked the premise, but somehow I didn’t enjoy it. I felt the plot was unrealistic in some parts and too simplistic in others. I couldn’t connect to the main characters either.

Theo Garrison’s original plan to avoid his past was to return to his roots in Iowa, even though I felt anyone who knew him would surely guess where he’d gone. He never intended to take the preacher’s identity but it seemed like a solution to his problem when people made an assumption and I think he could’ve tried harder to correct them.  Grace Cristler, meanwhile, became obsessed with marrying a man she’d never met. At least, that was my opinion. Her fixation was too much for me and I disliked her early on in the book, even though I knew she was going to be the victim of deception. In contrast, I liked Grace’s friend, Bess Kirby, who owned the boarding house in Fairland. And I enjoyed both the physical and spiritual journey that Theo’s cousin, Earl, undertook. But it wasn’t until the end that I felt even slightly sympathetic toward Grace and Theo.

The best part of this novel is probably the spiritual theme. We learn that God has plans for us, no matter what we might think we want. This came across particularly in Bess’s story as she tried to work out her future. Then there’s the concept of grace that both Earl and Theo managed to grasp due to their interactions with strangers, but it took longer for the woman named Grace who finally had to be shown it by someone not raised in a church or God-fearing home. How sad to not even ‘get’ the meaning of your name.

Thank you to Waterbrook for my complimentary uncorrected proof of Grace and the Preacher, which I received in exchange for my honest review.

Have you read Grace and the Preacher? Do you plan to read it? Let me know your thoughts.

Excerpt

Publisher: Waterbrook  (an imprint of Penguin Random House)

Publication Date: 21 March 2017

Page Count: 352

Read more on:   Kim Vogel Sawyer’s Website   Waterbrook’s Website

Purchase on:   Amazon   Barnes & Noble   Books-a-million   Christianbook.com

The Illusionist’s Apprentice, by Kristy Cambron

book coverPublisher’s Overview:

Wren Lockhart, apprentice to master illusionist Harry Houdini, uses life on a vaudeville stage to escape the pain of her past. She continues her career of illusion after her mentor’s death, intent on burying her true identity.

But when a rival performer’s act goes tragically wrong, the newly formed FBI calls on Wren to speak the truth—and reveal her real name to the world. She transfers her skills for misdirection from the stage to the back halls of vaudeville, as she finds herself the unlikely partner in the FBI’s investigation. All the while Houdini’s words echo in her mind: Whatever occurs, the crowd must believe it’s what you meant to happen. She knows that if anyone digs too deep, secrets long kept hidden may find their way to the surface—and shatter her carefully controlled world.

 

First Thoughts:

As a member of Fiction Guild, I received a copy of The Illusionist’s Apprentice for review. Not that I minded, because I have enjoyed Kristy Cambron’s previous books.

My Take:

The Illusionist’s Apprentice starts with a bizarre scene at a cemetery outside Boston. What happens there sets in motion an FBI investigation in which Wren Lockhart becomes a person of interest. Further mysteries develop when the reader is introduced to Wren’s family through flashback chapters. While the murder investigation is what brings Wren into the life of Agent Elliot Matthews, he is equally determined to break down her walls and discover the truth of her past. This is a romance novel as well as one of tragedy and suspense.

I adored this book. I had trouble putting it down and probably wouldn’t have done so if not for life getting in the way! I became involved with even the characters and my heart sunk when an unexpected twist involved one of them. I thought it was interesting that Wren made a distinction between illusion and magic, and there’s a strong theme of light overcoming darkness. Everything in the narrative built to a breathtaking climax followed by a beautiful denouement. Although Wren and Elliot are fictional characters, I love how Cambron wove in the real and the imagined. Harry Houdini would often debunk spiritualism and attempts to contact the dead, and that part of his career is the focus of this novel.

The Illusionist’s Apprentice was published in March but, if you’re looking for a good summer read I heartily recommend picking it up. I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I did.

Thank you to Thomas Nelson, BookLook Bloggers, and Fiction Guild for my complimentary copy of The Illusionist’s Apprentice, which I received in exchange for my honest review.

Have you read The Illusionist’s Apprentice? Do you plan to read it? Let me know your thoughts.

Excerpt

Publisher: Thomas Nelson (a division of HarperCollins Christian)

Publication Date: 07 March 2017

Page Count: 368

Read more on:   Kristy Cambron’s Website   Thomas Nelson’s Website

Purchase on:   Amazon   Barnes & Noble   Books-a-million   Christianbook.com

Too Deep for Words, by Andrea Boeshaar

book coverPublisher’s Overview:

Carrie Ann Collier has been a newlywed for nineteen blissful days–as blissful as life can be in the midst of war, that is. Soon that war will take a toll she never expected. When her new husband, Peyton, goes missing during battle, she refuses to believe he is dead and must find a way to move forward with everyday life in the face of fear.

As Carrie struggles with how to welcome her estranged sister, Margaret, back into her life, another new arrival appears on her doorstep–her husband’s best friend, and rebel officer, Eli. Wounded and bitter, Eli is nonetheless committed to keeping his promise to Peyton: take care of the Collier women, no matter what. But to Carrie, he’s a painful reminder of her lost love.

Then unexpected news makes Carrie wonder if miracles do happen. If Carrie infiltrates the enemy once again, she might find out what really happened to the love of her life. Will Eli be able to keep his promise to keep her safe? Can they forgive each other if promises are broken?

First Thoughts:

This is a continuation of the story begun in A Thousand Shall Fall. From the premise, however, I’m wondering if the romantic hearts of readers will be happy or broken by the end.

My Take:

Andrea Boeshaar takes readers back to the latter half of the Civil War in the second title of her Shenandoah Valley Saga. I have a mixed view of middle books as I’ve felt some of them have merely been filler. I’m happy to say this is not the case with Too Deep for Words. The story of the Bell and Collier families continues with a look at life on the southern home front. What was it like to have your city continually change hands, as happened to Winchester, Virginia? What could you do when a man in uniform informed you that your home was being requisitioned as a field hospital? What if you were quiet supporters of the Union?

While Carrie and Peyton are still the major characters in the series, much of this book focuses on Margaret, Carrie’s sister, and Eli, Peyton’s friend. I wasn’t a fan of Margaret at first, but she grew on me as she attempted to find her place in her new environment. Meanwhile, although it looked like Eli was trying to do the right thing, I was never entirely sure of his motives. Was he to be believed or not? I do know, though, that I couldn’t stand his domineering mother!

Too Deep for Words is not a book you can read on its own. It starts just a matter of days after the events of A Thousand Shall Fall, and often refers to events in that book. And it finishes on a maddening cliffhanger! Like me, once you’ve finished reading, you’ll be eager for the next book in the series. According to Andrea Boeshaar’s website, it has a title but it won’t be out until next year!

Thank you to Kregel for my complimentary copy of Too Deep for Words, which I received in exchange for my honest review.

Have you read Too Deep for Words? Do you plan to read it? Let me know your thoughts.

Excerpt

Publisher: Kregel Publications

Publication Date: 27 April 2017

Page Count: 320

Read more on:   Andrea Boeshaar’s Website   Kregel’s Website

Purchase on:   Amazon   Barnes & Noble   Books-a-million   Christianbook.com