Unbreakable by Nancy Mehl

Hope Kauffman is very happy with her life in the peaceful Mennonite town of Kingdom. She finds great joy in her quilting and running her quilting shop. Her faith is as much a part of her life as eating and sleeping. She never has had any desire to leave or question her Mennonite beliefs.
All her tranquility and way of life is suddenly threatened when someone starts running residents off the highway when they are returning home from town. Hope becomes one of these victims. Jonathan Wiese, new to their community, comes to her rescue. Feelings stir within her for this handsome “knight in shining armor”, but she is confused because is promised to marry Ebbie Miller in 2 months. Jonathan is everything Ebbie isn’t, dashingly handsome, exciting. She begins to question if she truly loves Ebbie enough to spend her life with him. Jonathan is quick to make his feelings known for her.
The attacks cause a division in the town’s people. Ebbie stands by their beliefs of turning the other cheek and no violence. Jonathan aligns with others to believe they should arm themselves to protect their loved ones. As the attacks move into the town Hope gets caught in between the two, unsure which way is right.
The story really brought to light Luke 6:29, “And unto him that smiteth thee on the one cheek offer also the other; and him that taketh away thy cloke forbid not to take thy coat also.” A verse I am very familiar with and have tried to live by. Ms. Mehl caused me to search even deeper in my beliefs. I certainly practice turning the other cheek when someone is rude, unkind, or unfair, but would I be able to follow the scripture if a loved one were in danger? Would God expect me to? These are just a few questions I was confronted with. I did come to an answer, but not without examining the meaning of this scripture in a way I never had before.
The story also brought to light standing alone for my faith, no matter what other Christians might think, choose, or in the face of persecution. There are lots of surprises throughout the book. Some I thought I had figured out and I was wrong, so I guess you could say I had double surprises! I not only appreciated the excellent writing, but also how the theme of Luke 6:29 was woven throughout the story. A book you want to read!
I received this book free from Bethany House Publishers. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Her Good Name By Ruth Axtell

Her Good Name is more than just a superbly entertaining novel; it holds spiritual truths that are important to remember. Social boundaries were heavily drawn even in the late 1800’s when this story takes place. The wealthy worked hard to keep their group elite and unspotted by those of lesser means. This is the situation Espy Estrada and Warren Brentwood found themselves in.
Espy was a beautiful and intelligent daughter of an American mother and Portuguese fisherman. She had her 11 siblings lived in poverty. After an accident her father had developed a serious drinking problem to the point he was rarely at home. It fell to Espy and her older sister to support the family. Her dreams for an education had been cut short.
Warren on the other hand came from a wealthy family that had given him the best education possible. They had his life planned out to take over the family business and marry the girl (of course an aristocrat) of their choice. He had been taught since he was young that this was his destiny. Although he felt obligated to comply with his parent’s wishes, he was made of a different cloth than his family. He was kind and compassionate and saw value in people no matter what their station.
Espy had liked him since they attended grammar school together many years ago. He had just returned to their hometown from college and she finds ways to run into him on a daily basis. Warren is shocked at the beautiful young woman she has become and the strange affect being near her brings.
They are suddenly thrown together when their pastor asks Warren to start a youth group to bring young people back into the church and proposes Espy be his assistant. They become very excited about bringing both the wealthy and the working class together not only to learn God’s Word but also to help the poor in the community. Alas, trying to combine the two social groups is like mixing oil and water. In spite of the difficulties, Espy’s enthusiasm, energy, and positive attitude are encouraging and impressive to Warren. His family is very upset at him having any type of interaction with her. He becomes torn between his growing feelings for her and his family’s expectations.
Espy feels she is moving up in the world when Mrs. Stockton, the wife of a respected local high school professor hires her on as housekeeper. Espy knows Mr. Stockton has a large library and hopes to be able to read some of his books. Unfortunately the professor has other motives and his wife catches him making inappropriate advances on Espy. Rather than tell the truth they spread lies about her and she becomes shunned by the entire town including Warren. She can stand it no more and moves to a nearby town where she lives with a missionary and his wife. God begins to work in both their lives in amazing ways.
The author beautifully illustrates truths in God’s Word warning us not to judge others by how things appear. I loved Espy’s strength in facing such condemnation and as she grew spiritually, allowing God to defend her good name. I admired Warren’s strength in choosing to please God no matter who he might displease, even those closest to him. Two scriptures that this story brought to mind were:
No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and their righteousness is of me, saith the LORD.
Isaiah 54:17
And of course, A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favour rather than silver and gold. Proverbs 22:1
I was also very impressed that although this was a romance novel, it was written very clean and purely. An excellent book!
“I received a copy of this book from Moody Publishers for the purpose of this review.”

The Tutor’s Daughter by Julie Klassen

I loved, loved, loved this book! That’s one of the things I really like about historical fiction, you always learn something new! I knew very little about English boarding schools run by families in their home during the 1800’s. The author’s wonderful detail of day to day life and what education was like during that time was fascinating.
Emma Smallwood helped her father run one such boarding school, Smallwood Academy, for young boys during this time. The death of her mother sent her father in to depression. As he lost all interest in teaching and acquiring new students, Emma became very concerned about how not only how they would support themselves but that they could also possibly lose everything. She remembered the Weston family who had five years earlier enrolled their two sons, Henry and Phillip in her father’s school. Using her father’s name, she contacts Mr. Giles Weston concerning the opportunity to teach his younger sons Rowan and Julian. Mr. Weston sends a requesting the come to his estate, Ebbington Manor, and teach they boys. She wasn’t expecting to leave their home and was even more surprised when her father is excited by the prospect and accepts the offer!
Henry and Philip Weston, their former students have grown in to handsome men. Emma is stuck in the past by still viewing them as they were when they boarded with them as young boys and she a young girl. Henry was a prankster and always tormenting her. Phillip had shown kindness and that gave her a soft spot for him. Upon arrival Emma finds the manor intimidating and isolated as sits high on a cliff overlooking the windy coast. Not long after they settle in, things that can only be described as supernatural and very disturbing begin to occur. Some speak of the Manor being haunted, something Emma definitely does not believe in, but how can these things be explained? At first she thinks Henry is up to his old tricks. When she realizes he isn’t she wonders, how then can these things be explained? Emma shows great courage in seeking answers and makes startling discoveries of family secrets, even to the point of pointing herself in danger. To complicate matters and much against her will she finds herself drawn to one of older sons.
Emma is also comes face to face with her rejection of God since her mother’s death. Many of her experiences and the straightforward faith of all people, Henry Weston, help her realize she cannot live her life apart from the Lord.
Ms. Klassen’s writing was so very descriptive that it was as if I was walking through the halls and grounds of the Manor with Emma. The anticipation at times in almost unbearable! Nothing is as it seems and the surprises are totally unexpected. That is why I kept reading and reading when I should have gone to bed!
Fiction, history, romance, mystery, and suspense, what more could you ask from a book. This one has it all. You will definitely want to read The Tutor’s Daughter!
I received this book free from Bethany House Publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

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Her Restless Heart By Barbara Cameron

I wasn’t sure about combining excerpts from a novel with a Bible study. I have to admit I was even a somewhat leery it might be a little bit sacrilegious. After reading this book I can honestly say it is a quality Bible study. It is the best of both worlds combining a study of God’s word and a Christian novel. I have read the questions at the end of many Christian fiction books and while they are great for group discussions, they are do not compare with this study. For years I have found spiritual lessons in many Christian novels I have read. I even sat up a file in Word where I type in the sentences or paragraphs that spoke to me and then added what spiritual truth I learned. This goes even deeper!
Before receiving this Bible study, I had not read the book the excerpts come from. I can truthfully say it did not affect my experience or hinder me in the study. I do believe if I had read the book, it would have further enhanced the story.
While I enjoy Bible studies of all types, this one was, well what can I say, fun. The beginning of the book shares a summary of the story, character sketches of the people, and a glossary of Amish words used, and their meanings. The book is divided in to a 6 week study, with 5 days of lessons for each week. Each week begins with a Scripture or Scriptures for that week. This not only prepares your for the heart for the lesson, but also could be used to memorize. Next is a paragraph named, “Setting the Stage” which tells you what the main idea of the lesson for the week will be. Then there is the excerpt from a chapter in the book, usually about 2 or 3 pages long. At the beginning of the daily lesson there is a verse to read. I personally like to read the entire chapter the verse is in. Following that is the “Reflect and Respond” section. This introduces concepts and ideas about the lesson. Thought provoking questions and lots of scripture references follow. I find that VERY important in a good study of the Word. The lesson ends with a prayer and a suggestion to apply what you have learned to your life.
The lessons were just the right length and very interesting. I also appreciated in the margins of some pages there were key ideas printed. As an added bonus at the end of the book the author shares Amish recipes! A delightful and enlightening study that would be great for individuals or groups.
I believe this is book is paving the way for a new type of Bible study, where the pleasure of reading Christian fiction can also be a part of spiritual growth.
I received this book free from Abingdon Press. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Unrivaled by Siri Mitchell

Lucy Kendall, a beautiful, privileged young woman, returns from a whirlwind year in Europe with her aunt and uncle. She feels the trip has changed her life, but nothing like what transpires when she returns to her home in St. Louis, Missouri. She finds during her absence her father has suffered a heart attack and is bedfast, all her peers have married except one, and her mother wants to sell their candy business, City Confectionery.
During her trip she gathered the most luscious candies she could find, planning to use them to create the best candy recipe ever to save her father’s struggling business. She begs her mother to give her a chance. Her mother gives her one month to work nothing short of a miracle. The catch is she must fulfill her obligations in society as debutante which is further complicated by being elected as Queen of Love and Beauty.
Charlie’s Clarke’s life was the exact opposite of Lucy’s, abandoned by his father at a very young age, living in poverty and becoming involved in crime to support his mother and siblings. He is sent to live with his very wealthy father whom he has not seen in 15 years. His father just happens to be the owner of Standard Manufacturing, the nemesis and competitor that is driving Lucy’s family out of business. Story also has it that Mr. Clarke conned Lucy’s dad out of his original recipe for Royal Taffy, the number one selling candy of the time! With bitterness toward his father, and the social shock suddenly being thrown into high society, Charlie is struggling this is own issues.
As if making all the public appearances and working on her candy recipe isn’t enough, things get even more complicated for Lucy when she meets Charlie (not knowing who he is) and finds herself falling in love with him. Charlie’s feelings match hers. That is until Lucy finds out whom he really is!
Lucy goes into full blown attack mode to save their company. Charlie not wanting to comply but desiring his father’s praise, does everything he can to stop her every effort. The ensuing battle is hilarious, with each one trying to outmaneuver the other. All along, they are fighting the strong attraction for one another and growing more frustrated by the moment.
While this book is a wonderfully entertaining, filled with romance and a lots of humor; it offers much more. Historically I was able to see a blossoming, and rapidly changing era. Ms. Mitchell allowed me to see the early 20th century through the eyes of both the wealthy and the poor. It held a surprising reminder of the great gulf that lay between the two social groups during that time. The conditions in the factories and the child labor was appalling enough without realzing how some business owners had no compassion or concern for their workers, especially the children.
As the story unfolds I saw Lucy and Charlie mature and grow as young adults; each one being forced to harshly examine their self. They faced their character flaws and faults, but most importantly desired to change. Lucy was a beautiful example of how we can become so focused on our desires we can sacrifice our values and end up making impulsive and sinful choices all in the name of ‘winning”. Charlie reveals that our past does not define who we are in the present, and we must not only seek God’s forgiveness but also forgive ourselves.
You will laugh, cry and even feel angry at the escapades of Lucy and Charlie. The book is 391 pages but you will find it difficult to put it down, and when you come to the end, you will be wishing for more! A very good book.
I received this book free from Bethany House Publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.