Book Recommendation – The Baggage Handler by David Rawlings

Book Description:

When three people take the wrong suitcase from baggage claim, their lives change forever.

A hothead businessman coming to the city for a showdown meeting to save his job.

A mother of three hoping to survive the days at her sister’s house before her niece’s wedding.

And a young artist pursuing his father’s dream so he can keep his own alive.

When David, Gillian, and Michael each take the wrong suitcase from baggage claim, the airline directs them to retrieve their bags at a mysterious facility in a deserted part of the city. There they meet the enigmatic Baggage Handler, who shows them there is more in their baggage than what they have packed, and carrying it with them is slowing them down in ways they can’t imagine. And they must deal with it before they can leave.

In this modern-day parable about the burdens that weigh us down, David Rawlings issues an inspiring invitation to lighten the load.

Narelle’s Thoughts:

I enjoyed reading The Baggage Handler and read it quickly, within twenty-four hours, because I couldn’t put the book down. We’re introduced to three characters who are struggling with major issues that are negatively impacting their lives.

I travel regularly for work, and I usually travel light with carry on luggage to avoid being delayed at the baggage carousels. I could relate to the characters at the start of the story, and the time pressures they were experiencing during their journey.

The story was fun and easy to read. I loved the powerful allegory message underpinning the story. The Baggage Handler is a character you’ll want to meet. I recommend this book to readers who are open to being challenged on how to deal with the emotional baggage in their life.

Book Recommendation – After the Rain by Brandy Bruce

Book Description:

Debra Hart is moving on. Maybe. Hopefully. One day.

As a radio show host, Debra spends her mornings as Miss Lonely Heart on air, empathizing with all the broken hearts in the Denver metro area. She spends her evenings watching old musicals and trying not to think about the guy who broke up with her and subsequently fell in love with one of her best friends. Alone in a new city, Debra questions where she belongs and who she is now.

When she stumbles into the indie music scene, Debra meets singer Ben Price. Rock star appeal, with a day job as a worship pastor, Ben is everything Debra wants to avoid. But he’s determined to be her friend, and it so happens she could really use one. Because try as she might, nothing seems to erase the anger and betrayal she feels.

It’s time for a new dream. But how does she start over when she doesn’t even know what she wants anymore?

Narelle’s Thoughts:

After the Rain is Brandy Bruce’s highly anticipated sequel to The Last Summer. A brilliant standalone novel that will tug on your heart strings and inspire you to cheer for Debra.

I do recommend reading The Last Summer first. The opening scene in After the Rain will hit you harder with more emotional impact if you’ve experienced what happened to Debra Hart in The Last Summer. From the opening line in After the Rain, you’ll immediately empathise with Debra and her situation.

After the Rain is Debra’s story, written in first person point of view. Life is unfair and Debra has learned this universal truth the hard way. She has left Texas behind and moved to Denver to start a new life. She was devastated by her recent breakup with her boyfriend, Luke. He dumped Debra and started dating Sara, her now ex-best friend. Luke and Sara’s betrayal cut deep, and Debra has a new wariness around people. She fears being hurt and rejected.

The difficult breakup precipitated a faith crisis in Debra’s life. She’s determined to protect her bruised and lonely heart from a God who she believes has abandoned her. Debra has walked away from God and the church. Her previous love for music and singing worship songs is dead. She’s not hearing the music anymore.

Debra is lonely and she misses hanging out with her perfect circle of close friends in Houston. She resents being the one who had to leave. Luke and Sara have won, and she’s left on her own to pick up the pieces.

Debra co-hosts a morning radio show in Denver, and her bitterness over the breakup leads her to create the radio persona ‘Miss Lonely Heart’. Debra takes calls from listeners with her co-host, Andy, and she dishes out relationship advice.

Paige is Debra’s one and only friend in Denver. At the start of the story, Paige convinces Debra to go out with her and her friends to see a local band.

Ben Price is the lead singer of the band and the worship pastor at Paige’s church. He was born to be a rock star. Debra is captivated by Ben’s performance on stage and she’s drawn to him, despite all of her emotional baggage. His incredible voice reaches out to Debra, touching that vulnerable place deep inside.

Ben has secrets of his own. We experience Debra’s intense emotional highs and lows as Ben challenges her to take risks and tear down the fortress around her heart.

A fun and compelling romance develops between Debra and Ben in the gorgeous Colorado mountain setting. Their relationship inspires both of them to question their priorities and chase their dreams. We journey with Debra on her roller coaster ride to overcoming her fears and opening her heart to faith and love and new adventures.

I loved reading After the Rain. I read it quickly because I had to keep turning the page to see what would happen next. I highly recommend After the Rain to readers who are looking for a fun and engaging romance with deep emotional layers that will challenge them to consider the big questions in life.

Many thanks to Brandy Bruce for providing an advanced reader copy.

After the Rain releases on February 4, 2019, and is available at Amazon Kindle.

Book Recommendation – Can’t Live Without You by Ginger Solomon

Book Description:

Clarissa Harding’s fiancé’s betrayal doesn’t hurt as much as learning her best friend, Sawyer Chasin, knew his brother’s secret and didn’t tell her. The marriage would have been fake, but her feelings for Sawyer aren’t.

Narelle’s Thoughts:

I enjoyed reading Can’t Live Without You. The story has a plot twist that puts a different spin on the usual marriage of convenience romance trope where two families arrange a marriage for business reasons and financial gain.

Clarissa is saved from a fake marriage to the older brother of her best friend, Sawyer, for all the wrong reasons. She may have been spared the misery of marrying a man she doesn’t love and, at times, has struggled to like, but the new set of circumstances lead to big secrets being revealed.

Clarissa is devastated to discover that the people she’d trusted had deceived her. During the story she makes a few radical life changes as she struggles to overcome a truckload of past hurts.

Sawyer never wanted to see Clarissa marry his brother. Family loyalty drove his decision making, and those decisions create a wedge between himself and Clarissa. A wedge that seems impossible to overcome.

The story has a strong forgiveness theme, and both Clarissa and Sawyer are forced to deal with their own character flaws and past mistakes. Clarissa’s mentor in the story has a strong faith, and she encourages Clarissa to seek healing and let go of past hurts.

Can’t Live Without You is part of A Christmas to Remember box set – available for a limited time at Amazon Kindle for 99c.

Book Recommendation – Hope for Christmas by Elizabeth Maddrey

Book Description:

He wasn’t sure what he was looking for. She wasn’t looking for anything.

Cyan Hewitt drifts onto his estranged grandparents’ New Mexico ranch in time for Thanksgiving… and stays. As a cyber security consultant, he can telecommute, so why not from here, where his restless soul is soothed and his heart is awakened by the attractive ranch housekeeper?

Maria Sanchez works at Rancho de Esperanza to provide a stable life for her son. She’s content—mostly—in her roles as housekeeper, part-time student, and mom, but when her precocious seven-year-old is diagnosed with diabetes, her world shatters. There’s no time for distractions from the long-term visitor who’s stirring a longing in her for more.

Cyan may think her faith and courage are inspiring, but Maria feels vulnerable. Relying on others has only ever resulted in broken dreams. Christmas might be a season of hope, but does she dare risk everything for love?

Hope Ranch is a place where second chances and God’s love are waiting for everyone.

Narelle’s Thoughts:

Hope for Christmas (Hope Ranch Book 1) is set on a ranch in New Mexico. Maria is a single mom who works as a housekeeper on a ranch owned by Cyan’s grandparents. Her faith is strong and her life circumstances provide many challenges in the story.

The story opens with Cyan at a beach on Whidbey Island, WA, with no real direction in his life and no idea of where he’d be driving later in the day. I have visited Whidbey Island, and totally understood why Cyan chose to park himself there and housesit a beach house.

Cyan talks with his sister, Azure, who encourages him to visit their long lost grandparents in New Mexico for Thanksgiving. At the beginning of the story Cyan has an open heart regarding Christianity. He’s curious, has questions, and is seeking answers. The story has a strong spiritual thread and powerful gospel message without being preachy. I enjoyed this aspect of the story.

Maria’s gorgeous son, Calvin, has a health issue that’s handled with care and sensitivity. I loved seeing Cyan and Calvin together, and the developing romance between Maria and Cyan is both charming and realistic. I understood why Maria was reluctant to put herself out there and take a risk on love. This is a story I’d recommend to readers who are exploring faith issues.

If you’ve read Elizabeth’s Peacock Hill series, you’ll know Cyan’s sister, Azure, from A Heart Realigned. I enjoyed reading Hope for Christmas, and I’m looking forward to reading more books in the Hope Ranch series.

Hope for Christmas is part of A Christmas to Remember box set – available for 99c for a limited time at Amazon.

Book Recommendation – The Cowboy’s Christmas Reunion by Valerie Comer

Book Description:

Cowboy Santa: helping his ex-fiancée have a merry little Christmas…

When Kade Delgado joins his buddies in a Cowboy Santa program to shower Christmas blessings on old folks and single moms, he doesn’t expect his former fiancée to return to Saddle Springs, in need and with a child in tow. Does God really expect him to treat Cheri the same as the others on his new Christmas list?

Cheri Mackenzie has never forgiven herself for the pain she caused Kade by fleeing a week before their wedding, but undoing the past is impossible. Circumstances force her back to her aging grandparents’ Montana ranch, where Kade, now a widower with a toddler, is making himself cheerfully indispensable. When she receives kindness instead of the hostility she surely deserves, she can’t help but pray for a Christmas reunion with the cowboy she’s never stopped loving.Is there any hope for a second chance at love?

Narelle’s Thoughts:

The Cowboy’s Christmas Reunion is set in small town Montana. I’ve enjoyed Valerie’s rural romance series and I’m excited to see her writing a cowboy series.

Cheri made a poor decision six and a half years ago that led to a string of unintended and disastrous consequences. She has always regretted running away from Kade and disappearing from Saddle Springs a week before their wedding day.

Kade has never gotten over how Cheri, the woman he’d loved, had left him. Years later Kade is working on the family ranch with his brothers, and he’s now a widower with an adorable two-year-old son, Jericho.

Cheri is hiding secrets and her primary goal is to keep her sweet six-year-old daughter, Harmony, safe. Cheri’s return to Saddle Springs has Kade doing the math and coming up with an answer that’s not palatable. Cheri is only staying in Saddle Springs for a short time to help out her elderly grandparents who live on their rundown family ranch.

A snowstorm unexpectedly throws Kade and Cheri together, and starts them on an emotional roller coaster journey to forgiveness and healing and restored love. This story has many layers and will pull at your heartstrings. I loved how the kids, Harmony and Jericho, bonded with each other.

During the story we meet James and Lauren who will feature in the next book in the series, The Cowboy’s Mixed-Up Matchmaker (Montana Ranches Christian Romance, Book 2).

If you’ve read Valerie’s Arcadia Valley books, you’ll know Cheri. She’s Alaina’s best friend and worked as Alaina’s assistant at Grace Greenhouse Children’s Center.

The Cowboy’s Christmas Reunion is an emotion-charged reunion romance story with a strong faith and forgiveness theme.

Book Recommendation – Until I Met You by Kimberly Rose Johnson

Book Description: 

After a difficult breakup, Brandi Prescott is taking a hiatus from men and focusing on her career, the Lord, and getting to know herself. Everything is going according to plan until one fateful, rainy morning in Seattle when a passing car drenches her and everything changes.

Narelle’s Thoughts:

Until I Met You is a sweet story set in Seattle, one of my favorite US cities. The story opens with a cute first meet between Ian and Brandi. Ian’s a nice guy who feels really bad when he drives through a large puddle and accidentally soaks Brandi. He offers to buy Brandi a replacement latte at a nearby cafe, and the spark of attraction is ignited.

Circumstances bring Ian and Brandi together and challenge Brandi’s commitment to the Lord to take a break from dating. I liked Brandi and admired her for keeping her ‘no dating’ commitment, despite being drawn to Ian in a more-than-friends way.

During the story we’re introduced to Ray and Katie, friends of Ian and Brandi who have their own romance story in The Reluctant Groom (Brides of Seattle, Book 1).

Until I Met You is a fun and lighthearted novella that’s part of A Christmas to Remember box set – available for 99c for a limited time at Amazon.

Book Recommendation – All Made Up by Kara Isaac

Book Description:

Everyone thinks Katriona McLeod is living the dream. Her professional career as a make up artist sees her traveling the world working with the stars and she’s got no shortage of men wanting her affection. Only problem is she’s never gotten over Caleb Murphy, the one guy she’s ever loved. When she accepts a job on the latest looking-for-love reality TV show, Falling for the Farmer, she discovers to her horror that Caleb is the leading man and she’s cast as one of his harem. But she hides a secret that means that even if she wanted a second chance with the guy who broke her heart she could never have it.

Caleb Murphy couldn’t care less about C-Class celebrity fame or reality TV and he certainly doesn’t believe it could lead him to love. The one thing he does care about is fulfilling his mother’s last wish. Kat’s presence on the show seems to offer up a solution that will make both the network and his mother happy. It might have been almost ten years since they split but he knows he can trust her with his plan. Just as long as he doesn’t fall in love all over again with the woman who will never stay.

Narelle’s Thoughts:

I initially had mixed feelings about reading All Made Up. On the one hand I love Kara Isaac’s writing. I trust her, after reading her first three books, to deliver a great story.

On the other hand I’m really not a fan of reality tv shows. I wasn’t sure if I’d like reading a contemporary Christian romance based around a Bachelor-style reality tv show.

Kat is an internationally renowned make up artist who has won an Oscar for her work in film. She’s in a tight financial situation and agrees to work behind the scenes of an Australian reality tv show that’s set in a Sydney mansion. Kat is stunned to discover the handsome farmer bachelor is Caleb, her first love who broke her heart when he abruptly ended their relationship.

Caleb is a farmer from Toowoomba in Queensland. His mother secretly sent in an audition tape because she wanted to see her son happy and married and settled on the family farm.

When Caleb is chosen at the last minute to be the bachelor, he feels compelled to do it to please his mother who is struggling with major health issues.

The producers quickly regret choosing Caleb because he’s terrible on camera and a potential financial disaster for the show. Caleb is awkward and uncomfortable around the large number of physically beautiful and scantily clad young women who are living in the mansion and competing for his attention and affection.

When Cat is directed by her boss to fill in as a contestant on the show, she grits her teeth and does her best to survive the circus that ensues. The whole set up is both humorous and sleazy, and I totally understood why Caleb hated his time at the mansion.

The first fifteen percent of the book was, at times, a bit icky to read. If I wasn’t a fan of the author, and if I didn’t trust her to deliver a great story, I probably would have tossed the book during those early chapters. The thought of reading an entire book set in the mansion was not appealing.

I’m glad I persevered with the story and kept reading. By the twenty percent mark the story had really picked up and was motoring along. There’s a big twist in the story that takes the tv show in a different direction and forces Cat and Caleb to confront their past.

In typical Kara Isaac style, the big secret reveal toward the end of the book is heartbreaking. Cat and Caleb reassess their faith and values and beliefs as they make tough decisions.

Fans of The Bachelor will love this romance story that provides a rare happy ending for a reality tv couple. Readers who you couldn’t pay to watch a reality tv dating show may struggle with the early chapters, but I encourage them to keep reading and journey with Cat and Caleb on their fun and humorous roller coaster ride to true love.

Book Recommendation – Snowy Summer by Patricia Weerakoon

Book Description:

Annie Samarasinghe has it all together.

Beautiful and brilliant, she has a medical career in Sydney and a fiancé in Sri Lanka.

But on the week of her wedding to childhood-sweetheart Sunil, Annie uncovers the shattering truth behind the façade of his business.

Forced to hide out in the Snowy Mountains, Annie changes her name and her story. When she meets the brusque and arrogant Roy Broughton-Knight, she discovers she’s not the only one hiding secrets. But the more she gets to know Roy, the closer Sunil comes to finding her.

Against the stunning backdrops of Sri Lanka and the Snowy Mountains, Annie and Roy learn to face the betrayals in their pasts and fight their fears. But how will they embrace the possibilities of a future?

Narelle’s Thoughts:

I enjoyed reading Snowy Summer, and I loved the cross-cultural aspects of the story. The story opens in the sleepy Snowy Mountains town of Jindabyne, Australia, where Annie meets Roy at a masquerade party.

Annie is attracted to Roy, despite being betrothed in an arranged marriage to Sunil. Sunil is her childhood best friend in Sri Lanka who she hasn’t seen for many years. We journey with Annie back to her home country, and experience her angst when her dream of a life married to Sunil in Sri Lanka is shattered.

Annie’s world is turned upside down and her life is in danger. She escapes Sri Lanka and returns to Australia to start over as Dr. Sheva, the new doctor at a small Jindabyne medical centre.

Roy is a carefree playboy from Sydney, Australia, who was born with a silver spoon in his mouth. He’s now hiding from the world on his family’s alpaca farm near Jindabyne, and he has a few secrets of his own. The women in his life have let him down. He’s slow to trust and wary of love.

Roy meets Sheva at the medical centre, and she reminds him of Annie. He can’t forget Annie and their chance encounter at the masquerade party. He’s attracted to Sheva, but he’s respectful of her cultural background and her faith that underpins her desire to wait for marriage. Sheva’s close friendship with the park ranger, Dan, ignites Roy’s jealousy and curiosity about Sheva’s past.

Snowy Summer is an action-packed contemporary Christian romantic adventure story with medical themes. It’s a more edgy read than the typical Christian romance, and possibly too edgy for more conservative readers.

Annie has trained as a surgeon, and she thinks about the human body in a more clinical way than the average person. Anatomical terminology that’s not usually mentioned in Christian romances is included the story.

The author is a retired Sexologist. She portrays the attraction between Sheva and Roy, and their thoughts about each other, in a realistic rather than euphemistic manner. There are situations in the story that definitely push the Christian romance genre boundaries.

I recommend Snowy Summer to romance readers who appreciate cultural diversity and are looking for a contemporary Christian romance that deals with real life issues. The blend of Aussie and Sri Lankan culture, and the stunning settings, was a highlight for me. I enjoyed visiting familiar places in Australia and learning more about Sri Lanka.

Book Recommendation – That’s Amore: That’s Love by Marion Ueckermann

Book Description:

Begin your journey to Tuscany this summer with Book 1 of A Tuscan Legacy! Each novella is a complete and satisfying romance, filled with faith, family, forgiveness and love.

When Rafaele and Jayne meet again two years after dancing the night away together in Tuscany, is it a matter of fate or of faith?

After deciding to take a six-month sabbatical, Italian lawyer Rafaele Rossi moves from Florence back to Villa Rossi in the middle of Tuscany, resigned to managing the family farm for his aging nonna after his father’s passing. Convinced a family get-together is what Nonna needs to lift her spirits, he plans an eightieth birthday party for her, making sure his siblings and cousins attend.

The Keswick jewelry store where Jayne Austin has worked for seven years closes its doors. Jayne takes her generous severance pay and heads off to Italy–Tuscany to be precise. Choosing to leave her fate in God’s hands, she prays she’ll miraculously bump into the handsome best man she’d danced the night away with at a friend’s Tuscan wedding two years ago. She hasn’t been able to forget those smoldering brown eyes and that rich Italian accent.

Jayne’s prayers are answered swiftly and in the most unexpected way. Before she knows what’s happening, she’s a guest not only at Isabella Rossi’s birthday party, but at Villa Rossi too.

When Rafaele receives what appears to be a valuable painting from an unknown benefactor, he’s reminded that he doesn’t want to lose Jayne again. After what he’s done to drive her from the villa, though, what kind of a commitment will it take for her to stay?

This nine-book Christian romance series from seven of your favorite authors releases weekly from April 2018. Look out for Book 2 in the series, Luna Rosa.

Narelle’s Thoughts:

Firstly, let me say how much I enjoyed writing Sienna’s story (Solo Tu: Only You, Book 7) for A Tuscan Legacy.

Marion Ueckermann and Autumn Macarthur have created a rich and compelling story world for the series. The family mystery is introduced in That’s Amore (Book 1) and threaded through the nine books in the series. The resolution to the family mystery is revealed in Book 9 – La Risposta: The Answer.

That’s Amore is a short novel length book that features Rafaele and Jayne’s romance, and introduces the series mystery plot that unfolds in the shorter novellas.

The Italian book titles are named after songs. Rafaele and Jayne dance together to the song That’s Amore: That’s Love in their story. The song is important to Rafaele and Jayne because they danced to That’s Amore when they first met at a wedding two years earlier.

For the other novellas in the series, the song titles may not play a role in the actual story.

All nine books include a fully developed contemporary Christian romance. The series spans three continents and has a strong international flavour.

Cultural differences are explored in the stories. More conservative readers may be concerned to see Rafaele and Nonna drinking vino (wine) at dinner as part of their normal life in That’s Amore.

Villa Rossi is a typical Tuscan Estate that includes a vineyard. Drinking a glass of vino at dinner in Tuscany is a normal part of their culture – in the same way that abstaining from alcohol is normal for some Christians in other cultures. It would have been culturally inaccurate to not include vino in That’s Amore.

Rafaele’s siblings and cousins drink sparkling water instead of vino at Nonna’s 80th Birthday Party.

I loved reading That’s Amore and seeing my girl, Sienna, with her family in Tuscany for Nonna’s 80th Birthday Party.

Rafaele Rossi is a lawyer who returns to Villa Rossi to help his Nonna. His father passed away three months earlier and, as the eldest son, it’s his family duty to take care of the family estate. A family duty he’d avoided due to his complicated relationship with his late father.

Jayne Austin remembers the one night she spent dancing with Rafaele at a friend’s Tuscan wedding two years earlier. The English jewellery store where she works closes down, and Jayne decides to go on vacation in Tuscany. She prays that God will lead her back to Rafaele.

Rafaele and Jayne’s romance is fun and fast – they fall in love quickly! The challenges of life and the different worlds they live in throw many obstacles in their path. A beautiful summer romance in a gorgeous location – highly recommended. Start your journey to Tuscany with That’s Amore.

Read a FREE sample of That’s Amore on Amazon Kindle – Read for FREE in Kindle Unlimited

Book Recommendation ~ A Love Song For Kayla by Kimberly Rose Johnson

Book Description:

When two strangers cross paths their lives are forever altered.

Kayla Russell has all but given up on finding love until a new guy to town walks into her flower shop. There is something mysterious about him that intrigues her, but when she finds out the truth everything changes.

Derek Parker wants to leave his old life behind, but it proves to be harder than he’d anticipated when his past finds him. Now the woman he has come to care for feels deceived.

Will his secrets come between them and destroy what could have been something wonderful?

Previously published under the title A Valentine for Kayla.

Narelle’s Thoughts:

I enjoyed reading this book back in 2015 when it was first published. I recently re-read a few Valentine’s contemporary Christian romances and picked up this book again.

Kayla Russell made the decision many years earlier that she wasn’t going to settle and marry a man who didn’t meet most, if not all, of the items on her potential husband criteria list. She’s single and the co-owner of a flower store and it’s Valentine’s Day – her least favourite holiday.

Derek Parker is a musician who’s hiding away from the paparazzi in the small town where his mother lives. He is caring for his mother who’s recovering from a stroke, and he wants to simplify his life. His fame and successful music career has made him financially wealthy but it hasn’t brought him happiness.

Kayla meets Derek and she starts falling for him, despite her trust issues and without realising Derek’s true identity. Derek holds back on sharing his former life with Kayla, and he regrets his decision when his past catches up with him and complicates his life.

Their growing relationship is tested as secrets are revealed and difficult circumstances place obstacles in their path. A fun and satisfying romance develops as Kayla and Derek are challenged by their faith and learn that God’s plan for their lives may differ to their own.

I recommend A Love Song for Kayla to readers who enjoy fun and thought provoking contemporary romances with a cute Valentine’s theme.