Happy Tuesday, folks!
Today’s topic, courtesy of The Broke & The Bookish, is reserved for those hidden or underrated gems among the books we read in 2016. And guess what? I’m not changing or tweaking the topic this week! LOL. I am, however, defining “underrated” as not having enough ratings – with the assumption that this means not as many people have discovered the book. Most of these are books I read in the last half of 2016 … and I even mostly kept it to 10 (just one over)! Aren’t you proud? 😉
In 1928, Chicago rocks to the rhythm of the Jazz Age, and Prohibition is in full swing. Small-town girl Marjorie Corrigan, visiting the city for the first time, has sworn that coffee’s the strongest drink that will pass her lips. But her quiet, orderly life turns topsy-turvy when she spots her high school sweetheart–presumed killed in the Great War–alive and well in a train station. Suddenly everything is up for grabs.
Witty, entertaining, and romantic, You’re the Cream in My Coffee is a charming peek into the Jazz Age and Prohibition, wrapped in a great story with delightful characters. Jennifer Lamont Leo’s writing voice captures your attention right from the start, and the pace of the story never slows or drags. I was fully invested in the outcome, in the characters, and in the message of grace and restoration. I’m adding this author to my watch list and hoping for more from her in the near future! – MY REVIEW
Heidi Elliott is busy, busy, busy.
Now that she and Jake are parents of a kindergartner, Heidi has a to-do list a mile long. Like deep clean the kitchen cabinets. Volunteer in Nora’s classroom. Create sparkly USA ninja warrior Halloween costumes for two. Repaint several pieces of household furniture. Meddle in her best friends’ relationships. Grieve her most recent failed pregnancy. Find her misplaced hope.
Better Together is emotional – from the good, the sad, and the ugly cry to snorts of laughter, you experience a wide range of reactions as you walk with Heidi and Jake and Nora through these pages. It’s also realistic and authentic as it shows the ups and downs of a marriage affected by infertility, the Murphy’s Law aspect of a home study presided over by a precocious kindergartner, and the consequences of isolating oneself from those who love you the most. Better Together is an entertaining story … and perhaps a cautionary tale of kindergarten lol. But it’s also a touching reflection on life and love and healing. A definite must-read! – MY REVIEW
When the chef of Sunset Paradise Retirement Village ends up dead, life for sisters Fern and Zula Hopkins is whipped into a froth. Their zany attempts to track down the killer land them in hot water with Detective Jared Flynn. Should he be concerned about their safety or the criminal’s? But there are deadly ingredients none of them expect. Drugs. Extortion. International cartels. And worst of all…broken hearts–especially when the Hopkins sisters’ niece KC arrives on the scene. Before the snooping pair gain any headway with the case, it becomes crystal clear that the sisters share a mysterious secret that takes life from the frying pan and into the line of fire.
Out of the Frying Pan by Michelle Griep and Kelly Klepfer is a bit like “Murder She Wrote” meets “The Golden Girls” (though, thankfully without all the innuendo of the latter) with its own unique flair. Fun, quirky, endearing characters give this novel lots of heart, and the mystery & suspense elements to the story prove this writing duo is a new force in the cozy mystery scene! A sweet romance rounds out the mix and leaves you wanting more from these authors and these characters. – MY REVIEW
Nina Warrenton is ready for the next step in her life plan—marriage, but no one has proposed. Taking matters into her hand, she places an ad in the newspaper hoping to entice a willing stranger. But when she begins to fall for the small-town chef, she realizes how much she wants him to love her and not her money. Dwight Williams needs fast cash to save the family restaurant. When he sees Nina’s monetary offer for a husband, he goes for it. He’s determined to save the legacy his dad left him, but can he let it go to prove his love for her?
Buying Love is a great start to a new series! The supporting characters set the stage nicely for future books, and I’m looking forward to more from Maple Run and Toni Shiloh. Dwight and Nina’s romance is sweet and even though it’s somewhat of a slow burn buildup it’s got plenty of sizzle and spark! This would be a wonderful choice for book clubs with many possible discussion threads throughout. The theme of adoption and belonging in Buying Love really touched me. Such a beautiful picture of God’s love for us, and our relationship with Him. – MY REVIEW
The sea is Deirdre MacKenzie’s home…But when the War of 1812 erupts, the ship is captured by a British privateer, leaving her father, the captain, dead and her crew family taken as prisoners. Though her fate as a noncombatant is uncertain, she knows she must find a way to free them. Kieran Ashford has caused his family one too many scandals. On his way to exile in America, he is waylaid by the declaration of war and a chance to turn privateer and make his own fortune. But he regrets his actions as soon as the rich prize is secured. Now his best chance at redeeming himself in the eyes of his family is to offer Deirdre the protection of his name in marriage.
Laurie Alice Eakes is one of my favorite authors for colonial-era/Regency fiction, and My Enemy, My Heart reminds me exactly why she holds that spot. She immerses you easily in the world of her novel – you’ll smell the sea air, hear the creak of the boat timbers, and breathe that delightful first breath of fresh “land air” along with the characters. You will also experience nearly every emotion as you read this book – from grief to fear to anger to pride and, yes, to joy… and everything that goes along with falling in love. Beautifully written, this is a must-read for fans of this time period – and fans of historical fiction in general! – MY REVIEW
All Faith Harp wants is a quiet life–to take care of her troubled brother, Sam, earn enough money to stop the poverty wolves snapping at her heels, and to keep her past buried as deep as possible. And after years of upheaval, she might have just about managed it. But, for Faith, things never seem to stay simple for long. When secretly planning the wedding she really wants, Faith stumbles across a church choir that challenges far more than her ability to hold a tune. She ends up joining the choir, led by the fierce choir-mistress Hester, who is determined to do whatever it takes to turn the group of ragtag women into something spectacular. She also meets Dylan, the church’s vicar, who is different than any man she has ever met before . . .
The Name I Call Myself is a book of great heart, of much courage, of subtle faith, and of true love. It is one that will linger with you after you’ve reached the end, and you’ll find yourself thinking about these characters beyond your tenure with the book itself. It took me a couple of chapters to really get into the story, but I’m so very glad I pressed on. Any woman who has ever felt alone in the world, confused by her situation, or overwhelmed by life needs to read this book! – MY REVIEW
Isabel “Izze” Vez, bridal consultant extraordinaire, has been helping brides find The Dress for years. When James Miles Clayton walks into her life, he represents everything Izze can’t handle: change. But if there’s anything Izze handles worse than change, it’s trust. She may have a few issues—fine, she knows she does. But will they keep getting in the way of any chance of her own Happily Ever After? She wants to trust God to give her those dreams of love and lace, but that’s going to require some…minor alterations.
Cute, endearing, witty, and romantic – V. Joy Palmer’s debut novel is a perfect fit! Love, Lace, and Minor Alterations keeps a grin on your face but may bring a few tears to your eyes before all is said and done. Tucked away in the middle of this delightful romantic comedy is a message of hope and restoration, a reminder that trusting God requires more than just lip service (words or kisses! lol) but whenever He asks us to trust Him He’s waiting to catch our leap of faith with His open arms. – MY REVIEW
With her third London season drawing to a close, the shy Eliza Malcolm seems unlikely to find any husband, let alone a titled one. But when the hunting-crazed Duke of Brockenhurst invites the Malcolms to visit Harrowhaven, Eliza’s father jumps at the chance to gain a wealthy son-in-law. Estranged from his brother the duke, Henry Rowland only planned to visit Harrowhaven for the afternoon, but after meeting his brother’s intended, his designs are overthrown. As misfortune strikes Harrowhaven, Jacob Pevensey is called in to investigate.
The Duke’s Last Hunt by Rosanne E. Lortz reminded me in many ways of a Georgette Heyer novel, with its subtle wit and its tone that is cozy and light but also serious when appropriate. The characters in The Duke’s Last Hunt are well-developed and intriguing, and I spent most of the book trying to figure out exactly who was hiding what secrets and how it impacted everything else. Henry and Eliza are an unlikely match, at least at first glance, and although their blossoming romance is mostly relegated to kisses on the hand and words spoken in low affectionate tones there is something infinitely swoonworthy about it all the same. – MY REVIEW
Escaping home to Oxford, Mississippi, seemed like a good idea. Until it wasn’t. A year after a tragic accident in Los Angeles flipped her world upside down, advertising guru Sarah Beth LeClair is still hiding away in her charming hometown of Oxford, Mississippi. And she may well be stuck there forever. Suffering from panic attacks, she prays for healing. Instead, her answer comes in the form of an arrogant football coach and an ugly puppy.
Janet Ferguson creates a setting so vivid that you will feel the Mississippi humidity draping over you as you read, and even the staunchest Yankee may develop a bit of a southern drawl by the time you’ve finished Leaving Oxford. The romance between Jess and Sarah Beth is one of those delicious slow-burn kind that has you craving that first kiss almost as much as they do! Cute humor, sweet friendships, and a meaningful message elevate Leaving Oxford beyond a simple romance… – MY REVIEW
Jessica Ross’ scars run much deeper than the wounds of a world at war. Determined to escape the ghosts of her past and the German influence on her nightmares, she returns home to the sleepy Appalachian town of Hot Springs, NC, only to find the renowned Mountain Park Hotel has been converted into a ‘prison’ for displaced Germans and, much to Jessica’s dismay, her grandparents have befriended one of them. August Reinhold has not only found kinship with Jessica’s grandparents, but as they share their granddaughter’s letters from the Front, he discovers a surprising bond drawing him toward the independent and beautiful woman. Displaced by a war and a painful history, he find Hot Springs and the intriguing, Jessica Ross, a tempting place to start over.
The symbolism in The Thorn Healer is exquisite, the romance equally so, and the words that convey both elements will linger in your heart for years. Pepper Basham’s gift of storytelling comes home to the Blue Ridge Mountains in her third Penned in Time book. Intriguing history shares the page with a swoonworthy romance and soul-deep touches of grace. In August Reinhold, you will find a hero of heroes and a tender picture of our Savior’s relentless pursuit of our hearts. I’ve read all three of the Penned in Time books, and I’ve loved them all, but this one is my absolute favorite!- MY REVIEW
Three lives. Three hundred years. One ship that ties them together. // Spain, 1689 // The same evil that stole her mother’s life stalks Isabella Castellano. Afraid for her safety, Isabella disguises herself as a cabin boy and hires on to one of His Majesty’s treasure fleet vessels. // Florida, Present Day // Summer Arnet will go anywhere to capture the perfect shot that will get her marine photography noticed by the prestigious nature magazine, Our World—even diving in waters haunted by great white sharks. When a treasure hunter with a ladies’-man reputation approaches her about a sunken ship at one of her dive locations, it may be the chance she’s been looking for to launch her career…if his charming smile doesn’t derail her first.
Finders Keepers is the perfect book to kick off your summer reading! The descriptions are beautifully crafted, and both story threads will have you dreaming of sandy beaches and ocean breezes. Sarah Monzon’s characters are layered and real, and they feel like people I would want as friends in real life. Humor dots every chapter, and grace coats each word. Breathtaking scenery and breath-stealing romance will have you wishing for SCUBA gear even if you’re reading this safely on dry land – simply because you need another source of oxygen. – MY REVIEW
What about you? What are some hidden gems you discovered in 2016?