Now and Then and Always

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A rambling run-down bed and breakfast, some deeply broken people, a decades old mystery…when put together with God in the center, it makes for a powerfully moving story.

I’ve missed Maple Valley…the charming, quirky town and its amazingly loving and welcoming residents. Reading Now and Then and Always, set on the outskirts of Maple Valley, just felt like coming home – oh I wish this was a real place! As always when we visit Maple Valley, we get to meet some new characters, but we also get to “run into” some old favorites. It’s such an added joy to catch up with these “friends.”

The newest Maple Valley residents, Marshall, Mara and Lenora are flawed and broken people. In this story, we witness God meeting each of these characters right where they are. And although this is a fictional story, it mimics how God uses us, flawed and broken people, to do His work…to care for, to offer acceptance, to love one another. The deeply broken characters in this book serve as examples to us of people in our own lives who need to be offered that care, acceptance and love. God uses Melissa Tagg’s writing to teach us how to be His hands and feet. Her writing has a unique blend of humor and depth that grabs hold of our hearts and ministers to us as we read.

This story deals with addiction, grief, hurtful family relationships, abandonment, abuse and scars. It deals with choices, perspectives hope and healing. It deals with all of this while sharing a beautiful story that draws you in and causes you to feel as if you are a part of it. Therefore, even though I have finished this story, I do not want to leave Maple Valley and these people yet. My real life is full of people who are dealing with these same things…the good and the bad. This story encourages me to be present in their lives and be the kind of friend and relative that I loved meeting and visiting with in this book.

If I’ve not made it clear enough in my review thus far, I love this book. It touched my heart and I am already anticipating another visit to Maple Valley.

Although set in a beloved fictional town full of stories already told, Now and Then and Always can be read as a stand-alone novel. If however you enjoy the added depth of reading stories in order, to enhance the overall enjoyment of the book, like I do, then I would recommend going back to the beginning of Maple Valley and starting with the prequel novella to the Walker Family Series, Three Little Words.

*Thanks to the publisher and the author for the complimentary copy to review. A good review was neither encouraged nor requested. All thoughts expressed are my own.

Sweet On You

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Becky Wade has outdone herself with the final installment of the Bradford Sisters Romance series.  After reading and adoring the first two books (and the novellas) in this series, I could not wait to get my copy of Sweet On You and read Britt and Zander’s story.  I absolutely adored the previous books, and already loved Britt and Zander from those stories, so I knew this one would be amazing.  It was better than I could even have hoped for.

Sweet On You is a friends to more story and it’s the first time Becky Wade has used this premise.  I hope she uses it much, much more because she wrote this one masterfully!  Although, obviously, not all male/female friendships are destined for more, Britt and Zander’s definitely is – the only two who can’t see it are Britt and Zander.  Truly, Zander is an absolute dream.  How Britt can be so oblivious, I’ll never know.  Zander, on the other hand, just can’t see a relationship with Britt going from wish to reality.  I am so thankful that Becky Wade is not blind to their plight and sets her pen to helping them realize (and bring to fruition) their love for one another.

Becky Wade’s characters are consistently well developed, real and relatable.  Britt and Zander are already beloved to those of us who’ve read the rest of this series and the feeling only grows as we read Sweet On You.  I love that we are treated to glimpses of them when they were younger through notes and journal entries shared at the end of each chapter.

The Bradford Sisters Romance series is set in the fictional town of Merryweather, Washington.  Merryweather is a place that you look forward to revisiting in each book and a place you really wish you could visit in person.  Both Britt and Zander grew up in this wonderful town.  Britt has realized her dream of becoming a chocolatier in her very own “Sweet Art” Chocolate shop and Zander has been traveling the world with the advance from his highly successful, best-selling novel.  Sweet On You begins with Zander having just returned to Merryweather and I so enjoyed his appreciation of this special place – as well as one special someone – in the opening scene.

In this story, just like the others in this series, Becky Wade has added a thread of mystery.  The purpose for Zander’s return to Merryweather is that his uncle, who raised him has died.  Upon arrival he learns that the circumstances surrounding his uncle’s death are suspicious.  He vows to get to the bottom of this mystery, and this leads him and Britt on a journey to find answers.  Although not a “suspense” book…there were a few times that I was almost on the edge of my seat waiting to learn what happens next.  I’m very much enjoying the mystery aspect Becky Wade is adding into her stories.

One of my favorite things about Becky Wade’s writing is that she shares the faith walk of her characters.  Just like in real life, we are all in different places in our relationship with God.  Her characters reflect that.  Britt is very independent and in Sweet On You she learns that it’s okay to need God and those He has put in her life.  Zander learns to truly trust God with what is most important to him.  I love seeing characters grow in their faith, because it causes me to grow in my faith too.

Sweet On You is the perfect conclusion to the Bradford Sisters Romance series.  Becky Wade did a fantastic job of weaving everything together and leaving her readers feeling on top of the world, while at the same time, feeling a bit sad that we’re at the end of this series and saying goodbye to the people of Merryweather.  Thankfully, we can visit anytime we want by just picking up one of the books in this series to re-read.

If you’ve read my previous reviews, you know that I am a stickler for reading my books in order…because I feel it’s a richer experience.  This is true of the Bradford Sisters Romance series too, but Sweet On You can be read as a stand-alone novel.  So, whether you choose to read in order or jump right in…head on down to your local bookstore (or online to your favorite bookseller) and get your copy now!!  You’ll be glad you did!

Karen Witemeyer’s best book yet! FANTASTIC!!

More Than Meets the Eye

Karen Witemeyer’s books are an absolute delight to read.  I have thoroughly enjoyed every one of them.  Her characters are authentic; her plot lines well thought out and presented.  Her settings are described in ways that transport you into the story yourself.  Her writing engages your emotions – all of them – and leaves you constantly wanting more.

More Than Meets the Eye is the perfect title for the first book in this new Patchwork Family series.  In the pages, beyond the beautiful cover, you will find a treasure of a story.  I love this patchwork family and the stories each member represent.  The characters are vividly real.  Each one bringing their own set of struggles and peculiarities.  The personalities found in More Than Meets the Eye are so diverse that you are sure to relate to at least one aspect of one of their characters.  In the stories of this patchwork family, there is something for everyone.

The emotions portrayed in More Than Meets the Eye run the gamut, from heartache, grief and anger to love, joy and laughter.  I started and ended this book in tears and rode the roller coaster of emotions in between right along with the characters.

Many themes can be found in the pages of More Than Meets the Eye; orphans, family, sacrifice, physical traits, physical limitations and more. This story deals with the heart of man and forgiveness – both God’s and man’s.  It demonstrates sin in the lives of the characters, a variety of motivations for that sin and God’s amazing offer of redemption from sin.  I found the overall theme to be unconditional love – how we can give it to one another and, most importantly, how God offers it to us.

I love reading Christian fiction because it always draws me nearer to God by teaching me new things, reminding me of things I already know and demonstrating how to live for God.  God has used every one of Karen Witemeyer’s books to teach me something.  There are too many of these teachable moments in More Than Meets the Eye for me to mention them all here, but I will share one of my favorites.

“‘Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.’

The words of Jesus echoed in his mind, a pointed reminder that it was Logan’s job to live for God, and God’s job to take care of the rest.”

 

I am already eagerly anticipating the next Patchwork Family novel.

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I cannot ever recall having a favorite Becky Wade book.  Of course, if you’ve read my previous reviews on her books you’ll know that I just adore them all!  Falling for You, however, the second full-length Bradford Sisters Romance, changed that.  I absolutely fell in love with Willow and Corbin and their story.

This book tells the story of two exceedingly successful people who share a hurtful past together and who also have very painful pasts apart from one another.  The combined pain has caused trust issues and placed them both in a very vulnerable place where they learn to truly trust God with everything.

Becky Wade’s characters walk right off the page and into your heart.  They are genuine, believable, flawed and scarred…as we all are.  Although I cannot relate to their wealthy lifestyles or their glamorous jobs, I can relate to some of the struggles and concerns that Willow and Corbin have.  Their struggles are real and don’t come with easy answers.

I very much enjoyed the new mystery element in Falling for You.  It was a fantastic addition to Becky Wade’s writing.  The mystery itself and the way it worked into the story were well done and left me wanting more.

The love of Christ is consistently and eloquently shared in each of Becky Wade’s books.  In this book I especially love the raw conversations between Corbin, a new believer, and his unbelieving dad.  Whether a new believer or a mature believer, we can feel ill equipped and scared to share our faith.  These conversations are approached in this book in a way that encourage believers to share and trust God with the outcome.

It’s always such a joy to see how God works in and through Becky Wade’s books.  I always come away having learned something about God and what He wants of me.  The end of this book drew me right into conversation with my Savior.  When that is your response after reading a fictional book, you know you’ve found a new favorite.

I highly recommend Falling for You.  And if you haven’t read the previous books in this series, I recommend that you begin with the prequel novella, Then Came You.

Blind Spot – Chesapeake Valor #3

Oh my goodness!!  Dani Pettrey has done it again.  The third book in her Chesapeake Valor series, Blind Spot, is fantastic!  I don’t know how she does it, but each new book is better than the last – and since … Continue reading

True to You by Becky Wade

Becky Wade pens contemporary Christian romance books that touch the hearts of her readers.  I have loved every single one of her stories.  I learn along with her characters to trust God more in a variety of areas of life … Continue reading

To Have and to Hold

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To Have and to Hold

By Betsy St. Amant, Katie Ganshert and Becky Wade

To Have and to Hold was a joy to read.  Three sweet stories of finding love while planning (or spying on) a wedding.  The heroines were easy to identify with.  The men were swoon worthy (even the “other” guys in each story).  And I enjoyed the anticipation of how each author would bring about the happily-ever-after.  Speaking of authors, I read this book because I absolutely LOVE everything Becky Wade writes!  Besty St. Amant and Katie Ganshert were new to me though.  I love finding new authors and I think novellas are a great way to “meet” them.

Betsy St. Amant’s story, Love Takes the Cake was first up.  With a bakery and a friend’s wedding as a backdrop, how could you not be enchanted?  Charlotte tugged at my heart with her sweet countenance and great love for her daughter.  I love Will’s loyalty to his friend and how God uses a scary situation to help him realize the truth.  This story was a pleasure to read.   I’m looking forward to reading more by this author in the future.

Next up was The Perfect Arrangement by Katie Ganshert.  I must admit, I was a bit disappointed, after reading the first paragraph, to realize this story was written in first person narrative.  I generally struggle to engage in first person stories, so I tend to avoid them.  This is a short story, written by a writer friend of Becky Wade AND it has a flower shop in a small town as the setting, I decided I NEEDED to read it.  I am SO glad that I did.  It was a delightful story that gripped me from the get-go.  I was expecting to have to push my way through, but surprisingly found myself pulled along instead.  I couldn’t read it fast enough.  Amelia’s fun and quirky personality was so much fun to read and the email exchanges that launched the events of the story were perfect.  I was pleasantly surprised to get to the end and realize through most of the story I’d forgotten that I was reading first person narrative AND I didn’t want it to end!  Well done Katie Ganshert!  I loved it!!

Finally, the last story in this collection, Love in the Details by Becky Wade.  I knew I would love this story before I ever started reading it because, as I said above, I LOVE everything Becky Wade writes.  Josh and Holly’s story grips you by the heart from the very opening lines.  I love the way this story shows that God is in control always, in the good times and in the hard times.  I love that this story is real-to-life, following God isn’t easy.  He is there to walk with us through the difficult things, and we can have a peace that we are following His guidance, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it won’t still be heartbreaking and painful, even in years to come.  I loved to see how this story was brought full circle.  I loved Josh’s devoition and Holly’s generous spirit.  Spring can’t get here soon enough for me!  I’m ready to read the new Becky Wade novel now!!

To sum it up, this is a great collection to purchase.  Whether you know and love all three authors or are going to be meeting them for the first time, you won’t be disappointed.  The stories are beautifully written and leave you wanting more.  Although I read this book via e-reader, it will definitely be one I’ll purchase in hard copy for my bookshelf!