Saturday, July 25, 2015

Review: Love on the Mend by Karen Witemeyer

Book Cover and Synopsis:
After serving as a doctor during the War Between the States, Jacob Sadler wants nothing more than to establish a quiet country practice in rural Texas. But he knows he'll never find peace until he buries the pain of his past. To that end, he accepts a job in Cold Spring, Texas--the town he's avoided for seventeen years--and discovers his past is definitely still alive and kicking.

When a new doctor arrives in town and saves her brother's leg, Mollie Tate quickly puts him on a hero's pedestal. But then the new doc insults her "Uncle" Curtis. Years ago, Curtis Sadler rescued Mollie when no one else cared. How could he possibly be the villain the new doctor believes him to be?

Jacob doesn't know what to make of the young woman who assists him like a seasoned nurse one minute only to take a strip out of his hide the next. Yet the sparks that fly between them make him feel more alive than he has in a long time. As respect for his young nurse turns into something deeper, can he set aside the pain from his past to embrace this new love, or are some sins too big to be forgiven?

My source for book: Local Library
My Thoughts:
Love on the Mend wastes no time getting started with a dramatic first chapter that quickly sucked me in despite not being familiar with the characters. That's exactly the way all novellas should be! I liked how Jacob was so knowledgeable about the newest medical ideas and bravely stood up for what he knew was the best treatment, despite less informed people trying to push their opinions. I also liked how Mollie was so adept at being a nurse even though she had no previous experience of any kind. She struck me as maybe just a bit too perky, but overall I enjoyed both her and Jacob's characters. The point of view rotates back and forth between the two of them.

Unfortunately the story does have that rushed feeling that is so common to novellas, where certain aspects of the plot seem to move rather fast due to the page limitations. (This is most noticeable in the various relationships between the characters; it's not terrible, it's just the typical novella speed.) There actually is a good amount of story and detail regarding the plot, conflicts, and back-story, so I could fairly easily see the story being expanded into a full length novel...and I actually think it would be a bit stronger in that format.

While this is a sequel of sorts to "Full Steam Ahead" (it features one character from that novel), it can definitely be read as a standalone story. I do like the author's full novels better, but this novella is still worth a look if you're a fan of the author, as I am. Karen continues to be one of my favorite historical fiction authors as she always invents such entertainingly unique situations and plot lines. No, this isn't quite like one of her full length novels, but it's certainly a nice way to fill some time if you find yourself in-between novels.

My Rating: 4 stars

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Review: A Worthy Pursuit by Karen Witemeyer

Book Cover and Synopsis:
Stone Hammond is the best tracker in Texas. He never comes home empty-handed. So when a wealthy railroad investor hires him to find his abducted granddaughter, Stone eagerly accepts.

Charlotte Atherton, former headmistress of Sullivan’s Academy for Exceptional Youths, will do anything to keep her charges safe, especially the little girl entrusted to her care after her mother’s death. Charlotte promised Lily’s mother she’d keep the girl away from her unscrupulous grandfather, and nothing will stop Charlotte from fulfilling that pledge. Not even the handsome bounty hunter with surprisingly honest eyes who comes looking for them.

When the teacher he’s after produces documentation that shows she’s the little girl’s legal guardian, Stone must reevaluate everything he’s been led to believe. Is Miss Atherton villain or victim? She acts more like a loving mother than an abductress, and the children in her care clearly adore her. Should Stone break his perfect record?

Then a new danger threatens, and Charlotte is forced to trust the man sent to destroy her. Stone becomes determined to protect what he once sought to tear apart. Besides, he’s ready to start a new pursuit: winning Charlotte’s heart.

My source for book: Review Copy
My Thoughts:
Like all of Karen's stories, A Worthy Pursuit has an extremely creative (but not un-realistic) storyline. The first chapter starts out strong, but after that for some reason it took me a while to really get "sucked in" to the plot. However once that point came, I did enjoy the story quite a bit.

The relationship and trust development between Charlotte and Stone moved a bit faster than I expected, but the circumstances demanded it and in light of that it was ultimately handled well. I sort of marveled at the trust Charlotte gave when she knew so little about Stone (I would certainly be more hesitant!), but at the same time I admired it because she really had a good head on her shoulders and the situation made for a very good story.

The kids with their extraordinary talents are a unique addition to the story, but it's Lily and her dime novel obsession that really sticks out in my mind. I liked the idea that the novels she liked so much were actually exaggerated stories of Stone and his comrades. This was a fun and very creative idea that worked extremely well within the story. Lily's star struck attitude towards "Dead Eye Dan" was amusing, and his reaction to the whole situation was amusing as well.

While I don't think A Worthy Pursuit is my favorite story from the author, overall I did mostly enjoy it. Aside from a slightly slow start--which in all fairness was probably just me--it's an entertaining story that has a lot to offer with romance, drama, and even some danger! This is one that most fans of historical fiction will likely enjoy.

My Rating: 4 stars

Thanks to the publisher (Bethany House) for providing me with a review copy via NetGalley.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Review: Beyond the Ashes by Karen Barnett

Book Cover and Synopsis:
Where better to rebuild and face one’s fears than in 1906 San Francisco, a city rising from the ashes? Ruby Marshall, a young widow, is certain she’ll discover new purpose assisting her brother Robert with his cancer research, but she doesn’t anticipate finding new love. Dr. Gerald Larkspur dreams of filling his empty home with family, but he’d always hoped it would be a wife and children. In the aftermath of the great earthquake, the rooms are overflowing with extended family and friends left homeless by the disaster. When Robert’s widowed sister arrives, the close quarters seem close indeed. Ruby and Gerald’s fledgling romance is put at risk when Gerald develops symptoms of the very disease they’re striving to cure. Together they must ask—is it worth a second chance at love when time might be short?

My source for book: Review Copy
My Thoughts:
I had high hopes for this novel as I really enjoyed the first in the series, but unfortunately the storyline of this sequel never managed to suck me in or grab my attention. It seemed a bit too crowded with all the closely related characters...while I did like their crowded living arrangements, I had a fair amount of trouble keeping everyone's names and family relationships straight.

Ruby's character was fine and I had no qualms with her being the story's heroine, but the leading man, Gerald, unfortunately really annoyed me. He did have faith in God, but his attitude consistently struck me as being quite pessimistic. While this attitude can obviously be realistic, I found that it didn't endear him to me at all. I was also rather irritated that he let his possible health issue go without care for so long.

One of the positives that sticks out in my mind from this story is the character of Patrick, who is a rather eccentric pastor. He's also a possible suitor for Ruby, and I honestly liked him so much better than Gerald. Patrick really has a unique personality considering his profession, and I really enjoyed his part of the story even though he's only a minor character. I hope in the future Patrick might get a book of his own. I would definitely be interested in that!

Overall, I have to say I was glad when I finally reached the end of Beyond the Ashes so I could move on to other things. It's strange because I really really liked the first book in the series, but even the fact that some of the original characters made occasional appearances wasn't enough to save this one for me. I had trouble connecting with the story, and the characters also struggled to hold my attention. I debated between 2 and 3 stars, but I ultimately decided on 3 because there were a few parts I did like, such as Ruby learning to drive despite her extreme fear of cars. (Although this seemed slightly odd as she seemed to overcome her fear a bit too easily given her history.) I'm hoping this book is just a bump in the road and that the next book will once again raise the bar. I'm not ready to give up on the author (or series) yet, so I'm curious to see what the next book will bring.

My Rating: 3 stars

Thanks to the publisher (Abingdon) for providing me with a review copy via NetGalley.