Book Recommendation: Sway by Amy Matayo

Sway

Book Description:

Falling in love is a beautiful thing. Unless you fall for the wrong person.

Finally settled after a tragedy-laden life, 24-year-old Caleb has found security in his faith, his friends, and his career. It’s the life he’s always wanted—simple, predictable, and safe. Enter Kate Hawkins, the attractive 21-year-old stranger he rescues from a bar fight who has an odd affinity for the color pink and a unique sense of humor.

It doesn’t take long to realize their connection is intense, but after only a handful of dates, a shocking revelation surfaces. Lines are drawn, sides are taken, and loyalties are decided as their newfound relationship is brought to a sudden halt.

But unlike most couples who split, avoiding each other is impossible. As daily interactions become unbearable, one realization becomes clear: they’ve both fallen hard for the absolute wrong person, which leaves both scrambling for a way to make it right.

Narelle’s thoughts:

I enjoyed Sway, and I read it very quickly once I was a few chapters into the story. My Aussie friends recommended the book to me, and I’m glad they did because I may not have read the whole book without their recommendation. When I’m browsing books, I usually read part or all of the sample. My thoughts on the opening pages determine if I’ll keep reading. Sway is written in first person and opens in a seedy bar in Oklahoma City. Initially I felt like I was reading a new adult romance story about a group of young people with questionable morals who were looking to hook up. That’s not my usual choice of reading material, and I would have missed out on a great story had I tossed it aside and not continued reading.

Caleb is a fascinating character who has overcome enormous obstacles to reach a place where he’s content with his life and has a purpose. The first person viewpoint means we are inside his head, and we receive a largely unfiltered male point of view that is mild in language compared to many general market romances, but more overt and descriptive than the typical Christian romance. Conservative readers who prefer very sweet romances may not be comfortable with this aspect of the story.

Kate is a naive and sheltered twenty-one year old who is dragged out to a bar by her friends to celebrate her twenty-first birthday. I thought this aspect of the story was odd until I remembered the legal age for drinking and going to bars is twenty-one (it’s eighteen in Australia). Kate’s so-called friends abandon her in pursuit of one night stands, and Kate finds trouble very fast.

Caleb’s reasons for being in the bar are made clear later in the story. He’s attracted to Kate from the moment she walks into the bar, and he can’t keep his eyes off her. Before long he recognises that Kate’s in trouble, and he rescues her. This is the start of their relationship, although all is not as it seems.  One third of the way into the story we learn more about Kate and Caleb’s very different backgrounds, and the secrets that are revealed blow apart their preconceived ideas about each other and their developing romantic relationship.

The plotting and character development in the story is brilliant. We see both Kate and Caleb challenged by the events in the story and forced to face their greatest fears. Can their new love survive what looks like insurmountable obstacles in their path? This is the story question that stayed with me until the very end, and I found the ending both delightful and satisfying.

I was also challenged to think more about the big issue raised in the story. We haven’t seen as much controversy around this issue in Australia, and it was insightful to gain a broader understanding of American culture in this specific context. I recommend Sway to readers who enjoy realistic and edgy Christian romances that deal with contemporary issues.

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Book Recommendation: Forget Paris by Autumn Macarthur

Forget Paris

Book Description:

American graduate student Zoe Gallagher doesn’t believe in romance.

She’s in Paris on Valentine’s Day doing research to prove that romance is an illusion and love based on it doesn’t last. When she meets New Yorker Gabe Ross, there to fulfil his mother’s dying wish by placing a lovelock on a bridge crossing the River Seine, even she finds it hard to resist the most romantic city in the world on the most romantic day of the year.

An impulsive challenge to try a psychological experiment feels like more, much more, for both of them.

Zoe tells herself their one wonderful day together proves nothing, only gives more evidence her theory is right. But on her return to London, she discovers she needs Gabe’s help to learn the biggest lesson of all, that love does last.

Especially God’s love…

Narelle’s thoughts:

I was intrigued by the story premise and I enjoyed reading Forget Paris. Zoe is different to the typical romance heroine. Not only is she cynical about romance, she’s doing post graduate psychological research to prove her theory. Zoe is not afraid to share her opinion of romance, and it’s kind of like the author has cast one of the real life female critics of the romance genre as the heroine in her own story.

Zoe meets Gabe in Paris on Valentine’s Day and she asks him to join her in completing her research test. Her theory is they’ll spend the day together and develop romantic feelings due to forced proximity. But, those feelings won’t be real. Instead, they’ll be based on an illusion of romantic love.

Complete strangers when they have a chance meeting on a Parisian bridge, Gabe is fascinated by Zoe and her interesting ideas about romance. His loving parents recently passed and he’s alone in Paris to fulfil his mother’s long held dream. Meeting Zoe is a pleasant distraction from his grief. They spend Valentine’s Day together, working on the assumption they’ll never meet again.

Zoe is a complex and, at times, prickly character who has trust issues. Gabe reappears in her life and she struggles to process her developing feelings for him. I liked Gabe and I thought he was very sweet and patient with Zoe. In one scene her twin sister, Tiff (the heroine in Book 3, A Model Bride), gives Zoe a lecture, and I’m cheering for Tiff, hoping Zoe will finally listen to her twin rather than hiding behind her fears and assuming she knows best.

Zoe and Gabe grow in their love and faith during the story. Zoe’s big spiritual ‘aha moment’ brings the story together, which leads to satisfying and romantic ending. I finished the story believing that Zoe and Gabe’s love was for real and that their relationship would last the distance and survive the challenges of life. I loved the urban setting in Paris and London, and the colourful backdrop it provides for the story.

Forget Paris is Book 4 in Autumn Macarthur’s Love in Store series and can be read as a standalone title. I recommend this book to readers who enjoy fun and contemporary Christian romances with an European flavour.

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ACFW New Releases: August 2015

ACFW New Releases: August 2015.

More in-depth descriptions of these books can be found on the ACFW Fiction Finder website.

Contemporary Romance:

Be My Valentino by Sandra D. Bricker — Now that the whole truth has come out about her husband’s double life-including the fact that she and Jack were never legally married-Jessie is standing on her own for the first time in her life. As she struggles to put Adornments, her rental store for designer labels, on the map in Tinsel Town, her relationship with private investigator Danny Callahan gains momentum. Can Jessie afford to put her faith-and heart-into another relationship when she’s so obviously handicapped in the good judgment department? (Contemporary Romance from Abingdon Press)

One More Wish by Robin Jones Gunn — As Christy blows out the 26 candles on her birthday cake, she closes her eyes and makes a wish. Could this be the year that she and Todd finally have a baby? As her closest friends announce they are expecting, Christy’s heart carries an ache for a child of her own. On their way home from Sierra’s wedding, Todd opens up the discussion of adoption and soon a simple invitation turns into a life-changing season. Christy’s patience and understanding are stretched beyond her limits, and she finds herself holding not just one baby in her arms, but two. Everything Christy and Todd thought about family and hospitality shifts as the two of them dare to make one more wish and believe that God’s timing is flawless. (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)

Island Dreams by Kimberly Rose Johnson — When a land developer comes to Wildflower Island Chase fights to keep the island the way it is. But there is a problem, he’s falling for the developer and if he stops her, he may never see her again. (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)

An Unexpected Family by Jill Kemerer — After five years apart, Tom Sheffield is shocked to find his ex-wife, Stephanie, on his doorstep. The news that they share a child he’s never met sends him reeling. Four-year-old Macy has his eyes, his mouth and, from their first encounter, his heart. Things with her mother are much more complicated. He doesn’t understand what went wrong between them or why she kept their daughter a secret. And he’s afraid of falling in love all over again. Yet he feels a glimmer of hope that somehow he can convince Macy and Stephanie to stay in Lake Endwell-and with him-for keeps. (Contemporary Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Historical Romance:

Stealing Jake by Pam Hillman — She used to be known as Light-fingered Livy. But that was before she put her past behind her and moved to the growing town of Chestnut, Illinois, where she’s helping to run an orphanage. Now she’ll do almost anything to protect the street kids like herself. Sheriff’s deputy Jake Russell had no idea what he was in for when he ran into Livy–literally–while chasing down a pickpocket. With a rash of robberies and a growing number of street kids in town–as well as a loan on the family farm that needs to be paid off–Jake doesn’t have time to pursue a girl. Still, he can’t seem to get Livy out of his mind. He wants to get to know her better . . . but Livy isn’t willing to trust any man, especially not a lawman. (Historical Romance from Tyndale House)

Through Waters Deep by Sarah Sundin — In 1941, as America teeters on the brink of World War II, Mary Stirling works at the Boston Navy Yard and renews an old friendship with naval officer Ens. Jim Avery. Jim’s destroyer escorts British convoys across the North Atlantic, but problems on his ship point to a saboteur at the shipyard. As Mary works to find the culprit and Jim battles U-boats, could their friendship blossom into something more? Or could the dangers they face keep them apart? (Historical Romance from Revell – A Division of Baker Publishing Group)

12 Brides of Summer, Novella Collection #3 by Margaret Brownley, Miralee Ferrell, and Pam Hillman — Love Is Buzzing in the Good Old Summertime! Spend the sunny days of summer relaxing with an ice cold glass of lemonade and revel in the dreams of twelve brides who are a bit surprised by how the men of their dreams come into their lives. Journey to the Old West, stay on the prairie, and visit quaint small towns. . .without leaving the comfort of your own front porch with the third release in this collection. (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)

Romantic Suspense:

Smokescreen by Jodie Bailey — When her life is on the line, Ashley Colson is rescued by the last person she ever expected to see again. Military officer Ethan Kincaid might have disappointed her once in the past, but now he’s the only person who can keep her safe. They’re under the gun to decode top secret files that can save the life of a friend who is in enemy hands. But the killers will pull out all the stops to get their hands on the files…and Ashley. With time running out, can they put aside their past and find the answers that could give them a future? (Romantic Suspense from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Mystery/Suspense/Thriller:

Midnight on the Mississippi by Mary Ellis — As a newly minted PI and a New Orleans stockbroker encounter sophisticated shell games, blackmail and death threats, danger swirls around them like the mysterious black water of the bayou. (Mystery/Crime from Harvest House Publishers)

The Bones will Speak by Carrie Stuart Parks — A killer with a penchant for torture has taken notice of forensics expert Gwen Marcey . . . and her daughter. (Suspense/Thriller from HarperCollins Christian Publishing [Thomas Nelson and Zondervan])

Speculative Fiction:

Take and Give by Amanda G. Stevens — To escape the oppressive Constabulary and gain freedom in a newly formed country, four people must embark on a road trip fraught with danger and distrust. (Speculative Fiction from David C. Cook)

Young Adult:

A Perilous Assignment by JC Morrows — The Order of the Moonstone is not just another shadowy underground resistance operation. They have a much more sinister purpose. Kayden is about to find out just how sinister. Go back to the very beginning with us… see how Kayden was chosen for her most important and most dangerous assignment yet. (Young Adult, Independently Published)

Book Recommendation: Secretly Yours (Riverbend Romance Book 1) by Valerie Comer

Secretly Yours

Book Description:

A Christian Romance Novella for Valentine’s Day

Chef Lindsey Solberg agrees to cater the church’s Valentine’s Day fundraising banquet as a favor to her teen sister, but she’s shocked to discover the bad boy from her high school days is now Riverbend’s youth pastor. Seriously? How could he have changed that much? Nick Harrison has prayed for years for an opportunity to make amends. Now Lindsey’s back in Riverbend and won’t give him the time of day. What’s a guy to do except leave a trail of gifts from a secret admirer?

Lindsey’s heart takes a beating when she realizes the boy who was never good enough is now a far better man than she deserves.

Narelle’s Thoughts:

I enjoyed reading Secretly Yours, set in the small fictional town of Riverbend in British Columbia, Canada. Lindsey Solberg hasn’t had an easy life. She returns to Riverbend to help her stepfather care for her stepsister, Madison, following the tragic loss of their mother. Pastor Nick is the reformed bad boy who messed with Lindsey’s heart when they were in high school. Lindsey struggles to believe that he’s a changed man, and she is reluctant to trust him. She’s not looking for romance, and her mother’s relationship history has turned her off the whole concept of marriage.

Lindsey agrees to be the chef for the church youth group’s Valentine fundraising dinner, and she’s drawn into an easygoing friendship with Nick.  I have a soft spot for reformed bad boy heroes, and Nick didn’t disappoint me. Nick regrets his actions in high school and comes up with his secret admirer plan to win Lindsey’s heart. His faith is strong and he gently encourages Lindsey to explore her own lukewarm faith.

Secretly Yours is the first book in Valerie Comer’s Riverbend Romance novella series, followed by Pinky Promise. A sweet Valentine’s Day read, I recommend Secretly Yours to readers who enjoy fun and lighthearted contemporary Christian romance novellas.

Click here to read my book recommendation for Sweet Serenade (Riverbend Romance Book 3)


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PETE McCALL ~ Perfect Hero of His Perfect Catch

Foreign Affaire

His Perfect Catch

Sydney girl Mia Radcliffe borrows her cousin’s beach house in Sapphire Bay, Australia, to escape the scandal surrounding her ex-fiancé. Her new neighbor is her secret crush from years ago… and she’s still captivated by the handsome builder who was a youth group leader at her church.

Living next door to Mia wasn’t part of Pete McCall’s plan when he started renovating his beach house. The blonde beauty inspires thoughts of settling down, despite her high maintenance ways and big-city dreams.

Love kindles during their time together and Mia’s heart is set on returning to Sydney with Pete. When new opportunities arise, Pete and Mia must decide if their love is for keeps.

Today we’re chatting to the hero of His Perfect Catch. Welcome. Please tell us your name and a little bit about yourself?Where were you born? Where have you spent your life?

Hi. My name is Pete…

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