Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Book Review: Stuck Together by Mary Connealy

Stuck Together by Mary Connealy
Bethany House Publishers, 3rd June, 2014

Bestselling Author Mary Connealy Delivers Laughs, Romance, and Western Adventure

Tina Cahill, newly arrived from the East, is determined to get the saloon in Broken Wheel, Texas, closed for good. To that end, she pickets outside the place every afternoon. Unfortunately, so far no one has paid any attention.

Vince Yates earned the nickname "Invincible Vince" because of his reputation for letting absolutely nothing stop him. Not his tyrant of a father. Nor the injuries he suffered in the Civil War. Nor the fact that he is Broken Wheel's only attorney and sheriff yet has no law degree.

But Vince is about to face his biggest challenge yet: his past has just caught up with him. His father, mother, and the sister he didn't know he had show up in Broken Wheel without warning. His father is still a schemer. His mother is suffering signs of dementia. And his surprise sister immediately falls for one of Vince's best friends. Vince has a lot of people to take care of, and Tina doesn't approve of how he's handling any of them. But with almost all the other men in town married off, Vince finds himself stuck with feisty Tina over and over again. Of course, Tina is the prettiest woman he's ever seen, so if he could just get her to give up her causes, he might go ahead and propose. But he's got one more surprise coming his way: Tina's picketing at the saloon has revealed a dark secret that could put everyone Vince loves in danger.


Mary's books always turn up just when I'm needing something light and funny after having read something brain heavy - it's always the right medicine. I loved what I saw from Vince and Tina in the previous book in the series Fired Up and in Stuck Together their chemistry jumped off the page.

Essentially both Vince and Tina use other people's perceptions of them to hide who they really are. They like people to view them a certain way, so that no one sees the hurts they carry deep down. Unfortunately Vince's estranged father, mentally ill mother and the sister he didn't know existed turn up in Broken Wheel and throw his life into a tail spin. Throw in his and Tina's constant bickering and we've got one confused hero.

Tina feels rejected her whole life and when Vince appears to reject her, her brother decides he's in love - the rejection hurts all the more. So she clings to her causes and being a woman who can look after herself. She learns that like Vince, she's been hiding too, longing for love and acceptance. Both characters find it in God and each other by the end of the book.

For me Stuck Together wasn't quite as funny as the previous two books in the series, but still offered a lovely and amusing diversion. I did feel that Tina's insecurities around her brother could have been alleviated if he'd only explained to her why he didn't stop by and see her when she was growing up - that didn't happen, so Tina was left in the dark there.

Overall, I enjoyed this book. It made me smile and chuckle here and there.

Looking forward to another one Mary!

Thank you to NetGalley for a copy of this novel for review.  I was in no way obliged to give a positive review.


Jess' favourite genre is contemporary women's fiction and contemporary romance fiction. She also enjoys historical fiction with a focus on romance. She loves books set in country towns or farms with a cowboy featured in either historical or contemporary settings.

She is currently writing her first novel, a contemporary women's fiction/romance set in a small country town.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Book Review: Undetected by Dee Henderson

Undetected by Dee Henderson
Bethany House Publishers, April 29th, 2014

When asked what he does for a living . . .
Commander Mark Bishop is deliberately low-key: "I'm in the Navy." But commanding the ballistic missile submarine USS Nevada, keeping her crew trained and alert during ninety-day submerged patrols, and being prepared to launch weapons on valid presidential orders, carries a burden of command like few other jobs in the military. Mark Bishop is a man who accepts that responsibility, and handles it well. And at a time when tensions are escalating around the Pacific Rim, the Navy is glad to have him.

Mark wants someone to come home to after sea patrols. The woman he has in mind is young, with a lovely smile, and very smart. She's a civilian, yet she understands the U.S. Navy culture. And he has a strong sense that life with her would never be boring. But she may be too deep in her work to see the potential in a relationship with him.

Gina Gray would love to be married. She has always envisioned her life that way. A breakup she didn't see coming, though, has her focusing all her attention on what she does best--ocean science research. She's on the cusp of a major breakthrough, and she needs Mark Bishop's perspective and help. Because what she told the Navy she's figured out is only the beginning. If she's right, submarine warfare is about to enter a new and dangerous chapter.


I liked the blurb when I read it and with some reservations from having read Unspoken, I plunged into Undetected. I read it in two days and that's usually a good thing. I kept waiting for it to get really good, waiting and waiting until I found myself at the last page and I was still waiting.

It appears with her latest three books: Full Disclosure, Unspoken and finally Undetected a real pattern has emerged. Ms. Henderson likes her women to be unrealistically accomplished, usually wealthy and so complicated that the it would take about fifty years to decode them. All three women in the books seem to be emotionally unavailable, to the point of exasperating. I get it, they've all had hard lives (especially Charlotte from Unspoken) in some way or another and this makes them put up walls, walls so thick that they usually aren't knocked down much by the end of the book.

The men in these books are perfect - they are patient, calm, forthright without entering pushy boundaries (although Mark Bishop gives it his best shot in the badgering department regarding his romance with Gina), they are logical and methodical in how they approach love that the spark from the romance never gets a chance even start. 

This is the case with Undetected. As I was reading the book, the addition of an extra character to make things interesting was great. I was really wondering how Ms. Henderson was going to sort out the mess (a good storyline mess) she'd created.  Once it was resolved, I kept waiting for the next problem to come along and challenge this couple. It didn't happen sadly. So instead of watching a potentially great couple weather the storms of military life with a genius spouse thrown into the mix, we get lots of science information and lots and lots of information on the ins and outs of submarine maneuvers and life on such a vessel. I know the author does her research and it shows - a little too much. Information overload was happening for most of this book. I'm an average reader and my brain was tired from all the science and technical information - not all of it added to the story either.

I wanted more development from Mark Bishop, I wanted him to show a range of emotions that are realistic of a man - he doesn't appear to have a temper, get irritated, get frustrated or even be vague like some men I know. He's just focused on the task ahead and finding the best way to make the outcome happen. I found him at times to be a little patronizing of Gina (he doesn't mean it, but he can't see that he is at times) and I wanted to hit him a few times for his almost badgering the poor girl into a romance with him.

I liked Gina and understood her better than the other heroines in Dee's two previous books. Gina is easily lead and I get why. She's a genius, she is so far ahead of those in her own field that she likes to fit in and is socially on the back foot. She doesn't know how to be different but she wants to at the same time. She's been different her whole life and she worries that she'll never find her place outside the science world. I think if she had more time with Mark before the badgering started, I could have believed in this relationship more. Give Gina the time to really settle onto the decision and getting to watch her fall in love would have been magic. I didn't see her fall in love, not really as much of the book is from Mark's POV, but she somehow did.

I wanted more from this book as I saw more than it offered. It had the potential to be really, really good, instead it was average and this made me sad. Will I keep reading Ms. Henderson's books? Yes, because I'm an eternal optimist and very loyal.


Thank you to NetGalley for a copy of this novel for review.  I was in no way obliged to give a positive review.



Jess' favourite genre is contemporary women's fiction and contemporary romance fiction. She also enjoys historical fiction with a focus on romance. She loves books set in country towns or farms with a cowboy featured in either historical or contemporary settings.

She is currently writing her first novel, a contemporary women's fiction/romance set in a small country town.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Thursday Thoughts: Freedom to Explore

I recently went on a spiritual retreat. I went to a small country town just outside of the city I live in. I spent two days and one night at a convent and had a surprising and meaningful experience.

I live in a city of about 250,000 people and I grew up in a small town of 10,000 people. Normally the size of my city doesn't bother me, but the other day it did. I recall exclaiming to my husband:

"There is no where to go where there is no one!"

So after discussing it with him and God, I decided to go on a spiritual retreat, just me and God. I didn't know much about what I wanted from it, just alone time with God. I did however know that I didn't want an ocean. I'm from the country (although I'm not a farm girl by any means) and I wanted space, land not water in front of me. God answered my prayers!
View from balcony  near my room

It was a very relaxing two days and I discovered something God has been trying to tell me for a while: He is here - in everything I'm doing. I want my heart to reflect His heart and when I realise he is here with me enjoying life with me, then my heart is reflecting His heart.

Something else God pointed out to me: He wants me to have the freedom to explore with Jesus. Explore with Him, take him along on whatever adventures unfold around me.

One of my most joyous experiences was taking my camera around and taking photos, experimenting with the cameras features! I had so much fun doing that. I'm no photographer, but I was filled with joy just exploring this huge place and snapping shots.

Here are some of my experiment photos :

A place to sit and think

A eerie take on the courtyard

Pink roses

Walkway captured

As I said I'm no photographer, but what joy it was to just have fun with the experience!



Jess' favourite genre is contemporary women's fiction and contemporary romance fiction. She also enjoys historical fiction with a focus on romance. She loves books set in country towns or farms with a cowboy featured in either historical or contemporary settings.

She is currently writing her first novel, a contemporary women's fiction/romance set in a small country town.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Book Review: Gathering Shadows by Nancy Mehl

Gathering Shadows by Nancy Mehl
Bethany House Publishers, May 6, 2014

Wynter Evans is a promising young reporter for a television station in St. Louis, but even a bright future doesn't take away her pain over the disappearance of her brother nine years ago. So when she stumbles across a photograph of a boy with an eerie resemblance to him, she can't pass up the chance to track him down. With research for work as her cover, she sets out with one of the station's photogs for the place where the picture was taken: the town of Sanctuary.

Almost as soon as she arrives, she meets the town's handsome young mayor, Rueben King, and together they begin to uncover long held secrets that could tear the small town apart and change everything Wynter thought she knew about her life. As the truth of her family's past hides in the shadows, it's clear someone will stop at nothing to keep the answers she's searching for hidden forever--even if the cost is Wynter's very life.

I wasn't sure what to expect from this book when I started reading it. I had never read Nancy Mehl before but the premise intrigued me. This was a good book and kept me turning the pages ever so quickly. The mystery surrounding Wynter's missing brother was captivating. The secrets apparently held in the small town of Sanctuary had me asking lots of questions. The mystery deepened almost every other chapter as the book trotted along at it's quick pace. I didn't know who the criminal was until the end, but I was speculating widly throughout the book.

These are all great things for a suspense novel to have. I didn't really connect with the characters though. Wynter was so focused on the missing brother case that she seemed to miss much of what was going on around her - including clues to the case. Rueben, the cool headed, calm farmer/mayor of Sanctuary never seemed to work on his farm or do anything but follow Wynter around. These two didn't have a deep connection, or if they did, it needed more time to develop. I would have liked to see them spend more time together once this case was over because this case was huge for Wynter's life - everything about it was so confronting for Wynter that any real person going through the same thing wouldn't have the head or heart space to even contemplate a romance for several months.

Overall a good mystery book that needed more work on the characters. I would like to read more from this author in the future.

Thank you to NetGalley for a copy of this novel for review.  I was in no way obliged to give a positive review.



Jess' favourite genre is contemporary women's fiction and contemporary romance fiction. She also enjoys historical fiction with a focus on romance. She loves books set in country towns or farms with a cowboy featured in either historical or contemporary settings.

She is currently writing her first novel, a contemporary women's fiction/romance set in a small country town.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Book Review: Meant to Be Mine by Becky Wade

Meant to Be Mine by Becky Wade
Bethany House Publishers, April 29, 2014

Ty Porter has always been irresistible to Celia Park. All through high school--irresistible. When their paths cross again after college--still irresistible. This time, though, Ty seems to feel exactly the same way about Celia. Their whirlwind romance deposits them at a street-corner Las Vegas wedding chapel.

The next morning they wake to a marriage certificate and a dose of cold reality. Celia's ready to be Ty's wife, but Ty's not ready to be her husband. He's a professional bull rider, he lives on the road, and he's long planned to settle down with the hometown girl he's known since childhood.

Five and a half years pass. Celia's buried her dreams so that she can afford to raise her daughter. Ty's achieved all of his goals. Or thought he had, until he looks again into the eyes of the woman he couldn't forget and into the face of the child he never knew he had.

How much will Ty sacrifice to win back Celia's trust and prove to her that their spontaneous marriage can still become the love of a lifetime?


So I became a Becky Wade fan after reading first Undeniably Yours and then My Stubborn Heart. I loved both books, so I have been looking forward to reading her latest one. In this book we meet Ty Porter, the brother of  Bo Porter from Undeniably Yours. Ty's leading lady is Celia Park, a girl who's had a thing for him since high school. When they reconnect after college resulting in a Vegas marriage, Ty realizing he's done something really dumb, leaves a heartbroken Celia.

Celia, as the heroine has a real personality, she's quick witted, sarcastic, loyal (almost to a fault), she loves fiercely and is determined to make a life for herself and her little girl. She loves baking, colour and nicks knacks around the house. She has held a torch for Ty since high school and when he thought she finally got the guy he trampled all over her heart. So she took her manged heart and made a life for herself and her little girl, put up walls and made sure she kept her promise of never seeing Ty again. Until Ty walked back into her life, after realizing he had much to apologize for. Begrudgingly she lets him into her daughter's life and slowly into her own still attracted heart.

When Ty works out that Celia still hates him, he can understand. When he works out that he has a daughter, he gets really mad. He then spends most of his time getting to know his little girl and trying to ignore his still there attraction to Celia. Ty is a charming and yes, I'll say it - a sexy hero. He uses his charm, wit and good looks to his best advantage. In short he knows Celia returns the attraction he feels, so he pushes her buttons and he does a great job of it. The banter between these two characters is great to see. They have chemistry, but Ty is still (at least at the start of the novel) trying to win back Tawny, his high school sweetheart and the girl everyone in Holley, Texas thinks Ty will end up with.

Why is it the women the guys in books often want to settle down with first, don't seem to have much personality? They seem bland, pretty, but bland. This is what Tawny is. Intimidatingly pretty to Celia, but there appears to be not hint of a real personality underneath the good looks. Celia may not be the poster girl kind of knockout that Tawny is, but her own good looks and ripper of a personality more than make up for her insecurities around Tawny.

There will be readers out there who won't like this book. It's Christian fiction and Ty and Celia find themselves growing more dependent and closer to God, but there is stuff in here that will put some readers off. The beginning features alcohol and lust (nothing described) and it gets sorted after the first chapter. There is a lot of kissing in this book and some scenes involving medication abuse. For those who have read Becky Wade before, her pushing the Christian boundaries is something she does well. I for one love it and I can't wait to read more from her!

Well done Becky!

Thank you to NetGalley for a copy of this novel for review.  I was in no way obliged to give a positive review.



Jess' favourite genre is contemporary women's fiction and contemporary romance fiction. She also enjoys historical fiction with a focus on romance. She loves books set in country towns or farms with a cowboy featured in either historical or contemporary settings.

She is currently writing her first novel, a contemporary women's fiction/romance set in a small country town.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Book Review: A Distant Melody by Sarah Sundin

A Distant Melody by Sarah Sundin
Revell, 01 March 2010


A Distant Melody was Sarah's debut novel, and the first in the Wings of Glory trilogy about three brothers. 

I wasn't sure what I felt like reading the other day as I scanned my bookshelf.  But then I saw I hadn't yet read this book, I decided now was the time. And I was totally hooked within the first two chapters.

In this first book we meet Walt Novak, the youngest brother, as he finishes his flight training and is posted to England.  But before leaving for his posting, he spends a week in his home town of Antioch where he meets Allie and life is never the same again.

Allie is trapped by her parents' plans and under pressure due to societal expectations.  Her week spent in Antioch for a friend's wedding is an unexpected breath of fresh air and returning home a dismal prospect.

Allie and Walt are ordinary people, but Sarah has brought them to life and made them extremely likeable and endearing.  It's so easy to identify with their insecurities and get emotionally involved with their plights.  And with a war back drop and the inevitable tragedies that follow, I was in tears on more than on occasion.

Both characters are forced into difficult situations and have to make gusty decisions.  This adds to the authenticity of the story.  There is a delightfully real, but happy, ending for the characters.

I loved this book.  This is my third Sarah Sundin book and I have to say, she's now officially one of my favourite authors.  And she has totally sold me on WWII fiction!

If you haven't already tried Sarah's books, give this one a go - particularly since right now, it's FREE for Kindle. Please check price before downloading!


Helen's favourite genre is historical fiction with a strong romantic element.  She also enjoys contemporary romance, chick-lit and YA.  She's not caught up in the spell of fantasy fiction, despite The Faraway Tree series being a strong influence in her childhood.

Helen is currently working on her first book, a Christian young adult novel set between two opposite but equally fascinating places in Australia.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

American Adventure Part II

So begins Part II of our American adventure!

Lincoln Memorial:
Mr Lincoln
Lots of stuff happened in our second week in the USA. We visited the Lincoln Memorial and although it looks warm it was actually 0C - we were so cold. It was so cool to see the Reflection Pool and my first thought was Forest Gump and Jenny running into the pool calling Forest's name! We ran around there for a bit, then did some quick shopping in the afternoon.








Mount Vernon:
One of the most special days for us was when we visited Mount Vernon, the home of George Washington. It snowed and we got to walk around this beautiful property in gently falling snow. It made everything look so pretty and magical. After two hours we were all tired and freezing, so we trooped home to make cupcakes and Josh and Michaele made a fire for us in the fireplace and we had smores - which are yummy by the way!!
Standing in the snow outside George Washington's home.

The White House:
Outside the White House
Our much awaited White House tour started at 8am...so we had to hustle early in the morning to make it into DC and find a park before 8am. Well that didn't actually happen.

One of my fondest and funniest memories is Michaele pulling the car over; Eleyna and I jumping out and being told to run straight ahead, the White House is there, whilst she finds a park. So Eleyna and I are hustling towards the White House, we find it and I have no idea where the visitor center is. So after asking a few people, we bolted in the right direction, found Josh (Michaele's husband) and waited only a min or two until Michaele appeared, together we missed our 8am appointment but jumped in the queue. One hour of queuing in 0C temperatures, we finally made it inside the famed house.

So 45mins of touring the White House with a 3.5 year old  resulted in me basically chasing her around, telling her to stop swinging on the ropes that were keeping visitors out of certain rooms. It was fun though and I'm really glad we both got to. I loved seeing the rooms you get to see on TV or the movies and the history of the building is so amazing. What an experience for my girl and her mummy!

Williamsburg/Yorktown:

Carrie and I
So Friday the 28th March Michaele and I travelled with the three littlies to Williamsburg, a 2.5 hour drive from Alexandria. We made it in time for dinner at Chick-Fil-A (very yummy) and headed to our hotel. It was raining lightly when we got there. We were scheduled on Saturday to spend the day with Carrie Fancett Pagels at Yorktown where she lives. What a day it was. Yorktown was another highlight for me.

We met Carrie who was dressed in PINK - so we couldn't miss her! And with her knee roller, accompanied by more light rain she showed us around the Victory Center. She's such a fountain of knowledge, telling us all this information relating to the area and the center itself. What fun it was to learn from her. I loved seeing the replica Revolutionary village, especially the houses. Since I read a lot of historical fiction, seeing the inside of a typical house of that era made many of historical books I've read come to life.

Inside typical house of the era
Carrie then guided us into Yorktown town center and I fell in love with it. The pictures below don't really show just how pretty it is, but it just captured my imagination. We then went to lunch at this gorgeous restaurant by the York River and the food was amazing! I loved the clam chowder (I've always wanted to try it) and just sitting and talking with Carrie was such a delight. The three little girls behaved themselves so well. If I can return one day, I would love to do Yorktown again in more depth and really explore the place and do it in warmer weather!


Yorktown town center
Yorktown town center
Thanks again Carrie for giving us such a fun and special day!

I have decided to do a Part III devoted to food and the last few days in USA.

Stayed tuned!


Jess' favourite genre is contemporary women's fiction and contemporary romance fiction. She also enjoys historical fiction with a focus on romance. She loves books set in country towns or farms with a cowboy featured in either historical or contemporary settings.

She is currently writing her first novel, a contemporary women's fiction/romance set in a small country town.

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