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Sunday, January 19, 2014

Dare to Love Again by Julie Lessman – A Book Review

     When I read a book I usually form an impression of characters, and the opinions typically hold true until possibly a surprise is revealed near the book’s end.  That was not the case in Dare to Love Again.  Having read the first book in The Heart of San Francisco series, I had met the lead character in this book, Allison McClare, and remembered her as a compassionate, high spirited young lady of great faith.  In this, the second book of the series, Allison is multi-faceted.  One moment she is emotionally wounded and defensive, provoking sympathy from the reader; the next she is a spoiled, temper tantruming brat that the reader would like to take by the shoulders and shake!  There are times when she is a bright young educator, totally devoted to her job and her students, a young women yearning for independence and self-reliance.  Yet she is also capable of being manipulative, self-serving, and at times even cruel (although she eventually becomes remorseful and apologetic).  Her male counterpart possesses equally diverse character traits: handsome, harsh, humorous, easily perturbed, petulant, aggressive, honest, shady, compassionate, loving, angry, … I stayed engaged with the story in order to find out these two characters’ true character.
     One thing that I love about Julie Lessman’s books is the degree of research that goes into their historical accuracy.  Lessman is a master of weaving in interesting historical information that helps place her readers in the story’s setting. Allison’s excitement over the sites as she takes her first cable car ride causes her to take on the role of tour guide for the handsome policeman recently arrived in the city, allowing us a lens for viewing 1903 San Francisco. The horrors of life on the Barbary Coast are made evident as Allison, her mother, and her cousin work to improve the lives of the young girls who make their homes there.  By contrast Lessman paints a clear vision of the much different life among the residents of Nob Hill, the home of San Francisco’s elite.  Even the fine points of the dress and hairstyles of the day have been carefully researched and described.  The demands of morality during this time in the city’s history are clearly viewed in the lives of the McClare family, some who find them more easily met than others. The depths of debauchery, not so much different from today, are also evident in the circumstances found on the Barbary Coast, from which some in the McClare family may be profiting.  
     Trust is one of the major themes in this series of books.  The McClare women seem to be destined to having their hearts broken before finding true romance.  In the midst of these trials and heartaches, they learn the importance of trusting in God’s love, mercy and sovereignty.  They also learn the importance of trusting their hearts to men who also trust God.  I was reminded of the blessing of a husband who embraces the role of spiritual head of the household, a blessing I enjoy daily. 
      Julie Lessman is known for her ability to create sexual tension between characters while maintaining a storyline that does not compromise and using vocabulary that does not embarrass.  She has demonstrated that ability in Dare to Love Again.  While reading this book I also learned of a non-fiction book that Lessman has written in which she shares her secrests, and hopes to teach others as well.  Those reading this review who are interested in writing as well may want to check out [Romance-ology 101] Writing Romantic Tension for the Inspirational and Sweet Markets
In my review of Love at Any Cost I had expressed an interest in the continuing story of Caitlynn (Allison’s widowed mother) and Logan.  I was not disappointed in the way Lessman continued to develop their love story.  One of the nice things about this series is that the love story of each book’s main character is a stand-alone read with closure at the book’s end, but the story of Cait and Logan is a continuing thread throughout the series. 

     Thank you to Revell, the publisher, for sending me a copy of Dare to Love Again  for my honest opinion of the book. 

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

No Way Out by Susan Sleeman - A Book Review

No Way Out by Susan Sleeman – A Book Review

     “We can’t control things around us.  Not a single one of us can.  God is in charge.”  Who could not benefit from this reminder from Dani Justice?  Most of us have struggled with guilt about things that happened that were in actuality out of our control.  Susan Sleeman tells a tale filled with suspense and surprises that not only entertains, but also illustrates the damage we can do to ourselves and our relationships when we allow pseudo guilt, the guilt we feel even when we were not responsible or when sin was not involved in an undesired outcome or tragedy.  (For more on this you may want to read Total Forgiveness by R.T. Kendall.)  Readers are reminded of the perfect peace that is available to us through trusting in the Lord and accepting His sovereignty. 
     I will confess to being a bit of a book snob.  When I first received No Way Out as part of a prize package from a Christian fiction scavenger hunt, it was not among my first reads of the thirty books that arrived in the mail.  Why?  The size and the shape, what if I took it to the doctor’s office waiting room?  Why, someone might mistakenly think I was reading a Harlequin romance!  Such reasoning will never again stop me from enjoying a truly Love Inspired story.  Thanks to the scavenger hunt I am now a Susan Sleeman fan, and look forward to reading more of her books.  I am very grateful that I just won a second of Susan’s books, Thread of Suspicion, and can’t wait to continue the saga of the Justice Agency. 

     What elements of Susan’s writing made this book such an enjoyable read aside from the valuable message?  Susan had a way of placing me in a setting, engaging all of my senses, without lengthy descriptions that cause my attention to waver.  My emotions were engaged with the characters of the story: fear, hope, disappointment, new love, doubt, relief.  The story was a roller coaster of emotions with frequent bends and curves caused by unexpected plot twists.  Surprises were still to come even in the final chapter.  The story had a mix of easily anticipated events to make prior knowledge of the genre provide a comfortable read and of unanticipated events to maintain a high level of engagement with the story.  A nice read indeed.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

No One to Trust by Lynette Eason – A Book Review

No One to Trust by Lynette Eason – A Book Review

     This was the first book I have read by author Lynette Eason, but I will definitely be reading more. Why, at one particularly tense moment in the story something happened that actually made me jump!  I appreciate being drawn into a story so completely, and I appreciate that jarring type of surprise.  There were several plot twists that I had not seen coming, events that kept me reading on into the night. 

     In No One to Trust, book one of The Hidden Identity series, protagonist Summer Abernathy is thrust into the world of organized crime, specifically that of a mafia family led by a true psychopath.  Repeatedly betrayed by those who should have her best interest at heart, Summer learns to rely on the One who will never betray.  David Hackett struggles with doing the right thing while doing what is necessary to keep himself and his wife alive.  His new found faith is fanned into full flame by the winds of adversity.  While maintaining focus on the internal and external conflicts in the lives of Summer and David, Eason is able to flesh out the moral conflicts in the lives of her secondary characters as well, and is able to do so without interrupting the smooth flow of the story or sounding preachy.  The central themes of No One to Trust appear to be drawn from James 1:2 – 4, persevering through trials to develop spiritual maturity, and Colossians 3:13, forgiving as the Lord forgave you.  Eason successfully weaves valuable Kingdom insights into a suspenseful, action packed story filled with intrigue. 

     This review would not be complete without mention of the antagonist, Alessandro Raimondi, a portrait of pure evil.  This character was not your typical mafia don as portrayed in the movies.  It was easier to identify him with a psychopath become serial killer, possibly due to his obsession with snakes and the way he used them to inflict terror.  Eason’s clearest mental images are drawn around this character, and are the things of which nightmares are made. 

     The book contained a sneak peak at the first chapter of the second book in the Hidden Identity series, Nowhere to Turn.  It would appear Eason’s readers are in for another spine tingling treat, fraught with the pains of broken promises and broken relationships.  It does not reveal, however, whether Eason will take advantage of the opportunity provided in the closing chapter of the first book to bring Summer, David and others forward into other books in the series.  A reader may only hope. 

     I have more of Eason’s works waiting for me on my shelves and on my Kindle among the books I’ve collected anticipating more time to read during my retirement. I look forward to immersing myself in her attention grabbing, fast-paced tales of suspense. 

Thank you to Revell, the publisher, for sending me a copy of No One to Trust for my honest opinion of the book.