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by Susan May Warren
This action packed Christian romance centers around triplets Dodge, Colt, and Ranger. Each of these men served their country in a different branch of the military; they continue to find themselves involved in rescue operations. Sundown is the third book in the Sky King Ranch series and it focuses on Colt, a daredevil since childhood. There are also women in the book who play an important role in each man’s story. For Colt, it is the beautiful, intelligent Dr. Taylor (Tae) Price whose research is sought after by the Russian mafia to provide a bioweapon for terrorism.
The characters go through a lot physically, mentally, and spiritually as they face off with deadly terrorists, the hauntings of their own backgrounds, and relationship struggles. All of their issues eventually lead them back to the role of God in their lives.
I like Sundown and recommend it; but because each book introduces a different brother, there are a lot of characters and backstories to catch up with if you start with this third book. Author Susan May Warren does a good job of inserting information from previous books, but the initial chapters were a struggle for me. My advice is to read all three books in sequence: Sunrise, Sunburst, and Sundown.
My other issue is that Tae’s research deals with recreating a lost strain of smallpox that could destroy the world and then devising a vaccine for it. The whole process was rushed through so that this untested vaccine could be “approved” by the FDA. As has been shown in recent years, the untested vaccine could be as deadly or more so than the disease. Without the history of the last few years, I could have more easily accepted the premises as fiction and just enjoyed the story.
I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
Category: Romance, Christian, Fiction, Suspense
Notes: As this is #3 in the character rich Sky King Ranch series, I suggest you not read this as a standalone.
Publication: November 1, 2022—Revell (Baker Publishing)
“You’ve always belonged here. But until you forgive yourself, you’re going to keep running, going to keep believing that you’re trouble. Until you let God tell you how much he loves you, how much he has done for you, you’ll believe you’re not worth saving.”
“In the Bible, God is repeatedly with his people when they’re fighting evil. I think there is such a thing as a righteous battle, and when we are on the side of saving lives…well, God is about life and truth, so I think that puts us on his side.”
“I used to think that way. That if God didn’t answer me, or not in the way I wanted, that he didn’t care or even like me. But that’s not true. I’ve started to see God at work all over my life. Now and in the past. He wasn’t ignoring me. I just didn’t see his work until I wanted to.”
All Creatures Great and Small–more than an animal story
All Creatures Great and Small
by James Herriot
Veterinarian James Herriot set the bar high for veterinarian memoirs when he penned All Creatures Great and Small. Humorous, touching, joyful, personal, this book had me smiling and laughing through the tales of this newly qualified vet who begins his career in the Yorkshire Dales where he falls in love with the land, his patients, and their hard-working owners.
Much of the book’s humor is self-deprecating as Herriot describes unfortunate circumstances in which he is enmeshed. Some come from his visits to various farms, often for middle of the night emergencies. A great deal of amusement arises from Siegfried Farnon, Herriot’s likable, dashingly charming, energetic, and volatile boss and from Siegfried’s younger brother Tristan. Although the brothers love each other, they are frequently at odds due to Tristan’s carefree attitudes.
Although I read this book over thirty years ago, my recent reread was a pure delight. The characters are down to earth and detailed so well the reader can easily picture them. There are customs and manners in the Dales that are foreign to twenty-first century denizens. Herriot is quick to contrast the tools, techniques and medicines available to him as a young vet in 1937 with those used later in his career. All of this is quite interesting, but Herriot’s storytelling abilities are what draw the reader in and keep him returning chapter after chapter. I was so sad when I came to the last page. The fun was over! I read this book with my book club, but I think I may “need” to do a reread of the other books in the series as well.
Notes: 1. The series is based on Herriot’s experiences and those of other vets. The characters’ names have been created for the series. Some of the nonfiction may be embellished.
2. It is hard to pull out a passage and say “See how funny this is” because so much of the humor relies on the context and the characters, but it is very funny.
3. There are at least two television series and a movie based on these characters.
4. I would be remiss if I did not note that the word d__n is sprinkled throughout the book. I did not remember this from my earlier reading. In this case I felt the usage fit the story and the characters. It is not used in a mean spirited way and did not detract from the book for me.
Publication: 1972—St. Martin’s Press
“Animals are unpredictable things so our whole life is unpredictable. It’s a long tale of little triumphs and disasters and you’ve got to really like it to stick it…One thing, you never get bored.”
I had learned enough of Dales ways to keep quiet at meals; when I first came to the district I had thought it incumbent on me to provide light conversation in return for their hospitality but the questioning glances they exchanged with each other silenced me effectively.
…now that I was away from the noise and stuffiness of the buildings, the silence and the emptiness enveloped me like a soothing blanket. I leaned my head against the back of the seat and looked out at the checkered greens of the little fields along the flanks of the hills; thrusting upwards between their walls till they gave way to the jutting rocks and the harsh brown of the heather which flooded the wild country above.
People who think farming is a pleasant, easy life should have been there to see the hunched figure disappear into the blackness and the driving rain. No car, no telephone, a night with the heifer, eight miles biking in the rain and a back-breaking day ahead of him. Whenever I thought of the existence of the small farmer it made my own occasional bursts of activity seem small stuff indeed.
Riverbend Gap–looking for love
by Denise Hunter
I didn’t think a romance could be an actual page-turner for me, but Riverbend Gap surely was. Although there are a few dangerous, dramatic scenes, that was not the cause of my reluctance to put the book down. It was the characters!
All of the main characters are seeking love, stability, and trust. Katie, who spent most of her life in the foster care system, moves to Riverbend Gap in search of her biological mother. After the death of her brother, she needs a new start. She needs the love of a family. When Cooper, a deputy, finds her in a precariously balanced car on a cliff after a near-miss with a deer, they make an emotional connection. Unbeknownst to Cooper, Katie is dating his brother Gavin. The brothers have tried to live above the reputation of their alcoholic father all their lives, but it is not easy in a small town. Gavin has other personal issues that are devastating. No one wants to see him hurt even more. Clearly, there is romantic conflict as Katie and Cooper try to stamp out the sparks in their relationship while Gavin is initially oblivious to their attraction.
The Robinson family was blended when Cooper and Gavin’s mom remarried giving the brothers a sister Avery. Avery is a doctor who is also Katie’s boss in Avery’s medical clinic where Katie works as a nurse. The Robinsons are fiercely loyal to each other and well-respected in the community. Problems pile on as Cooper runs for sheriff, and the rumor mill in Riverbend Gap operates at full speed. The community is challenged when part of the Appalachian Trail is closed for repairs. Many businesses in the area depend on thru-hikers who stop to rest up, enjoy a good meal, and restock their packs.
The plot is well played out. I really wanted good things for Cooper, Gavin, and Katie, but it was like watching a train wreck and being unable to predict anything except a collision. Afterwards, how will they pick up the pieces? Will the Robinson family survive betrayal? Will Katie experience rejection once more by her mother? Can Cooper’s campaign for sheriff be salvaged at the ninth hour? The answers are all delightfully found in Riverbend Gap.
I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
Notes: 1. Discussion questions are included.
2. This is #1 in the Riverbend Romance Series, a trilogy.
3. My next review will be on #2, and (sneak peak) I really liked it too!
4. Clean romance.
Publication: October 19, 2021—Thomas Nelson Fiction
He stared into blue eyes that were as convincing as any he’d seen. But he also had an alcoholic dad, and he knew they were capable of lying to themselves—not to mention others—quite convincingly.
He sank deeper into the sofa cushions, wishing he could disappear into the crack with the Doritos crumbs.
Feeling like something a cat coughed up, she locked the door and turned off the light. Her chest was heavy with the crushing weight of Gavin’s pain. The hollow ache of guilt.
Let It Snow–love, snow, and family
Let It Snow
by Sue Moorcroft
Come along for a peek at a British view of Christmas and snow with side trips to Switzerland where Lily and the Middletones, a motley crew of adults and teens, really experience snow with accumulated depth. They embark on a trip that displays the musical talents of the informal singing group as well as Lily’s work as an exhibition artist at a Swiss Christmas Market in Sue Moorcroft’s Let It Snow.
There are lots of complex relationships to watch develop. The back story is critical as Lily and Zinnia are sisters with two “mums,” Patsie and Roma, a situation that caused them grief from classmates as children and later from other adults. Zinnia’s biological father was an anonymous sperm donor, but Lily discovers as an adult that her conception was the result of a heterosexual affair between her mother and a much older man. Her desire to meet her other family upsets both her mothers and her sister, and she is fearful of how her brothers will respond to meeting her. Lily’s family situation gets tied into the pub she works at part time and her business endeavors in Switzerland. Lily has a romantic entanglement with Isaac, the temporary manager of the pub. Their relationship gets complicated when Isaac’s ex re-enters the picture.
I enjoyed watching the intermingling of lives and surprising conflicts that prove to make the story even more interesting. Moorcroft is a master of enticement with setting and mood. I really wanted to be at that Swiss Christmas Market with expensive cuckoo clocks and chocolates. I had visions of hot chocolate, bratwurst, and fondue (but not all at the same time) transferring to my tastebuds. When Lily stood up for herself, I was proud. When she was in physical or emotional pain, I felt for her. Lots of good outcomes make for a happy conclusion, but this tale is close enough to life that not everyone experiences a fairytale ending.
An added bonus to this story is the inclusion of some excitable kids—it is Christmas, after all. An equally enthusiastic Dalmatian named Doggo accompanies his humans to Switzerland and is quite accommodating to whatever adventures come his way.
I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Avon Books (U.K.) for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Category: General Fiction (Adult), Women’s Fiction
Publication: September 26, 2019—Avon Books (U.K.)
Feelings don’t always take account of right or logic or justice. They come from inside and sometimes they’re all that matter.
As they reached the car park, fresh flakes of snow began, stinging skin like love bites from the Snow Queen.
‘Pretty,’ Lily breathed, eyes reflecting the thousand lights suspended like stars in the night sky above rows of stalls like little red chalets with snow on the roofs. Each stall glittered with stars and lanterns so the entire market seemed luminous.
You’ll Get Through This: Hope and Help for Your Turbulent Times
You’ll Get Through This: Hope and Help for Your Turbulent Times
by Max Lucado
I have always been fascinated by the Biblical story of Joseph, from the coat of many colors to saving Egypt and his people from famine. The story includes pride and arrogance, bad parenting, attempted fratricide, slavery, temptations, false accusations, jail, forgotten promises, a rise to power, revenge, and forgiveness. Joseph’s life was a roller coaster ride. There had to be a lot of times when Joseph could have questioned God, “Why me?”
Max Lucado uses Joseph’s story to speak to those who are hurting, who find themselves in a pit of despair. In You’ll Get Through This, Lucado offers the hope found in the Bible that what was intended for evil can be used by God for good. Lucado is the ultimate storyteller, and he brings in stories of people he knows and those he has met to demonstrate his points. With chapters like “Stupid Won’t Fix Stupid” and “Is God Good When Life Isn’t?”, Lucado’s book is Biblical, practical, and inspirational. I read it at the pace of a chapter a day with more than a few sneak peeks ahead, and I plan on rereading it. There is so much help and understanding rooted in its pages for both men and women who are facing life’s challenges.
Category: Christian, Nonfiction, Self-Help
Notes: To aid readers who want to use You’ll Get Through This for book or Bible study, there are added “Questions for Reflection” at the end of the book to accompany each chapter.
Publication: September 10, 2013—Thomas Nelson
You’ll get through this.
It won’t be painless.
It won’t be quick.
But God will use this mess for good.
Don’t be foolish or naive.
But don’t despair either.
With God’s help, you’ll get through this.
Gratitude gets us through the hard stuff. To reflect on your blessings is to rehearse God’s accomplishments. To rehearse God’s accomplishments is to discover his heart. To discover his heart is to discover not just good gifts but the Good Giver. Gratitude always leaves us looking at God and away from dread. It does to anxiety what the morning sun does to valley mist. It burns it up.
God is plotting for our good. In all the setbacks and slip-ups, he is ordaining the best for our future. Every event of our days is designed to draw us toward our God and our destiny.
Murder at the Marina–family secrets
Murder at the Marina
Kelly Jackson grew up on a Wyoming ranch enjoying barrel racing, but moved to Redwood Cove in Northern California where she manages the Redwood Cove B&B and is an honorary member of the Silver Sentinels, a group of senior citizens who solve crime to help their community. In this cozy mystery they are called on to help two of their own, the Russian brothers Rudy and Ivan, who have a cloud of murder over their heads.
This book is replete with Russian culture and some history as the area hosts the Russian Heritage Festival. We also learn of the aristocratic family background of the brothers. The most fun and exciting part of the story is the inclusion of a remarkable Cossack riding team. I felt like I was right there watching their amazing feats. There are many possible suspects, and danger lurks in surprising places. I could read the book again just for the fun and entertainment of the last third, which would be meaningless without the development that occurs in the first part of the book. If you enjoy watching an investigation unfold, read Janet Finsilver’s Murder at the Marina where there are many pathways to the truth and clues for the sleuths to chart as they track down the murderers.
I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Lyrical Underground (Kensington Press) for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Notes: #5 in the Kelly Jackson Mystery Series, but worked well for me as a standalone
Publication: April 2, 2019—Lyrical Underground (Kensington Press)
The smells and sounds of the sea mixed together—an orchestra of sensation. Ocean mist covered my face and my skin tingled from its cool touch.
“You all give generously of your time and your caring. It’s your nature. Accepting a gift is a form of giving.”
The Rancher’s Homecoming–inspiration on a Montana ranch
The Rancher’s Homecoming
by Anna J. Stewart
What a great final book in the Return of the Blackwell Brothers series! Anna J. Stewart has the job of continuing the story and finalizing this series in her book The Rancher’s Homecoming. Stewart does a fantastic job with both tasks.
Chance Blackwell considers himself the black sheep of the Blackwell family because he never enjoyed riding horses (blasphemy on a ranch!), he loves music, and he eloped with the foreman’s daughter, hoping never to return. Life is full of surprises, however, and Chance’s wife, Maura, passes away from cancer leaving him with a hole in his heart and an adorable preschooler, and without an inspiration for his songs. His grandfather, Big E, continues to manipulate behind the scenes, and Chance is forced to return to Falcon Creek to cast the deciding vote on the sale of the ranch.
The story moves quickly ahead while the reader gets glimpses into the past to see reasons for various characters’ actions. The relationship between Chance and Katie, his wife’s sister, who is also the acting foreman of the ranch, becomes complicated. The always likable sister-in-laws band together to try to make things better on several fronts. Will Big E ever explain himself? Has he changed? What influence does he have over Katie? Can the Blackwell brothers trust her? Should Chance vote to sell, hurting Ethan and Ty, or vote to retain the property, hurting Ben and Jon? Life is complicated, and so is the plot of The Rancher’s Homecoming.
This book is another in the series that lives up to its “heartwarming” moniker. Interesting characters, beautiful Montana setting, and a nice balance between introspection and action combine to make this a great read. If you haven’t read this series yet, I strongly recommend you put it on your TBR list for 2019!
I would like to extend my thanks to the author, Anna J. Stewart, for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Notes: #5 in Return of the Blackwell Brothers but will work as a standalone because of brief explanations of characters and past events as the book progresses
Publication: December 1, 2018—Harlequin Publishing
There was nothing for him here. Nothing except bitter memories of a place where he never belonged and a family he’d never fit into. Forget being a square peg in a round hole. For Chance, he’d always felt like a banjo in an orchestra.
The melody found itself, as it always did, skipping and hopping its way through his mind like stones across a still lake.
The late-summer air brushed over them, warm and welcoming, as the river rushed beyond them and meandered through Blackwell land as easily as a bee to its hive.
“Don’t ever let anyone tell you libraries aren’t important. It’s where our dreams wait to be discovered.”
The Rancher’s Fake Fiancée–lying never pays
The Rancher’s Fake Fiancée
by Amy Vastine
If you have read the other books in this series, by now you know that Big E’s plan to get his grandsons to return to the Blackwell Ranch in Falcon Creek, Montana, has a chance of working. You also realize that Tyler Blackwell, one of the younger twins in the family and an advertising executive in Portland, Oregon, will be the focus of this book. What you won’t be prepared for is the bold lie he tells to try to avoid returning to the ranch. You have to smile when a character thinks “What could possibly go wrong?”
The Rancher’s Fake Fiancée by Amy Vastine is a sweet romance with a lot of relationship ups and downs along the way. All of the Blackwell brothers were affected by the death of their parents when they were young, and Tyler is no exception. He has to work through the feelings and perceptions of his ten year old self that remained with him as he matured. His fake fiancée, Hadley, is a likable character and fits in so well with the Blackwell brothers and their wives and fiancées. Unfortunately, Tyler drags Hadley into a sham relationship for his purposes, and she agrees in order to achieve a promotion that she lost due to nepotism. Of course, the truth is bound to come out, but watching it emerge is fascinating. The author uses the events in the plot to develop the characters and give the reader a chance to relate to them and their struggles. The Rancher’s Fake Fiancée lives up to expectations as a Harlequin Heartwarming romance—clean, fun, and positive. I truly didn’t want to put this book down.
As always, Big E is brought into the story in the epilogue where we get a glimpse of more of his hopefully well-intentioned machinations. If only he had shown this level of concern and understanding when the boys were growing up!
I would like to extend my thanks to the author, Amy Vastine, for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Notes: #4 in the Return of the Blackwell Brothers series, but it works well as a standalone because the author is efficient in bringing readers up to date. Warning: if you do read this as a standalone, you will find yourself wanting to read the other books in this five book series!
Publication: November 1, 2018—Harlequin Heartwarming
Being nice to people encouraged them to be nice back. It was something her father had taught her since she was little…It didn’t matter how important someone’s job was, everyone was treated with the same respect.
There was no way he could tell the truth. This was why lying was such a bad idea. It never ended with one lie. They always multiplied until no one could remember what the truth was anymore.
He wasn’t supposed to think about her because he didn’t have to see her every day, but her void was as strong as her presence.
The Rancher’s Redemption–doing the right thing
The Rancher’s Redemption
by Melinda Curtis
When Ben Blackwell returns from New York City to Falcon Creek to help save his brothers and the Blackwell Ranch, he plans on a quick win in a water rights issue that was supposedly resolved fire years before. He didn’t plan on battling his old friend, Rachel, now a lawyer and single mom, as she tries to gain back her family’s water rights before the Double T Ranch folds. He never planned on confronting himself and the ethics of his past.
The Ranchers’ Redemption has well developed characters in Rachel and Ben. The plot moves quickly from one event to the next. As Rachel and Ben wrestle with their own goals and with an unwilling attraction to each other, they grow and change. There is more than a little humor throughout the book. The author, Melinda Curtis, has a way with language, writing word pictures that encourage smiles, an appreciation of the modern west, and an understanding of the challenges of being a single mother with too many responsibilities. Curtis very effectively uses a technique of inserting italicized phrases and sentences to indicate what Rachel and Ben are thinking or what Big E, Ben’s grandfather, might have said to him as he was growing up or even in the current situation. Big E had a major influence on Ben, but as Ben spends time on the ranch as an adult, the influences of his deceased parents come more to the front for him. He has some ethical decisions to make about the ranch, his family, and his life. Can this big-city lawyer, hardened by losing his parents and being jilted at the altar, make decisions with his heart?
Once I started reading The Rancher’s Redemption, I didn’t want to put it down. I was amazed at the clever turns of phrase found in the first fifty pages. There are lots of flashbacks to Ben and Rachel’s childhood that were revealing as they provided insights into the driving forces for these characters’ motivations. Interesting characters, both minor and major, good writing, humor, fast moving plot with a dual focus on ranching and the law, moral dilemmas, and messy friendships—this book is a complete package. We even get to meet Zoe, Big E’s current wife. I would have liked to know more of her story to understand her motivations, but it would have been too much to ask within the confines of this book. The author made a good choice in bringing in that storyline but not developing it extensively as that would have been a distraction to the main plot.
As in the previous two books is this series, The Rancher’s Redemption ends with an epilogue that follows Big E in his mysterious and unconventional journey to make things right in his family. Once more, the brief epilogue holds a surprise and leads the reader to ponder what might happen next, eagerly anticipating the fourth book in the Return of the Blackwell Brothers.
I would like to extend my thanks to the author, Melinda Curtis, for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Notes: #3 in the Return of the Blackwell Brothers. It could work as a standalone as the author throws in a lot of tidbits of information that would help a reader get up to speed on the series’ background or jog their memory on details.
Publication: October 1, 2018—Harlequin Heartwarming
She marched across the ravaged carrots and torn-up grass, scrunching her eyes against the threat of tears, because ranchers didn’t cry. Not over ruined wool and silk.
Hearing Ben’s voice, the bull turned and charged the trees. He wasn’t the brightest steak-on-a-hoof. He slammed into the wrong tree.
Judge Edwards waved him to silence with more irritation than a traffic cop outside the final night of the annual rodeo in Bozeman.
The Rockies towered in the distance. There was nothing dishonest about those mountains. They were hard but they were fair, treating everyone equally. His parents had been honest and fair. But somewhere along the line, Big E had bumped Ben’s sense of right and wrong out of the black and white and into the land of the gray.