Mystery and Romance in the Old West: A Winning Combination

Trouble in Store by Carol CoxFired from her most recent governess position, Melanie Ross must embrace her last resort: the Arizona mercantile she inherited from her cousin. But Caleb Nelson is positive he inherited the mercantile, and he’s not about to let some obstinate woman with newfangled ideas mess up all he’s worked for. He’s determined to get Melanie married off as soon as possible, and luckily there are plenty of single men in town quite interested in taking her off his hands.

The problem is, Caleb soon realizes he doesn’t want her to marry up with any of them. He’s drawn to Melanie more every day, and he has to admit some of her ideas for the store unexpectedly offer positive results.

But someone doesn’t want the store to succeed, and what used to be just threatening words has escalated into deliberate destruction and lurkers in the night. When a body shows up on the mercantile steps–and the man obviously didn’t die from natural causes–things really get dangerous. Can Melanie and Caleb’s business–and romance–survive the trouble that’s about to come their way?

Trouble in Store caught and held my attention from the get-go. The story isn’t new, young-woman-in-straightened-circumstance-in-the-old-west has been done many before, but Cox’s flair for story-telling captured my attention and pulled me through to the last page. The blossoming romance between Melanie and Caleb intertwined with the slow burning mystery kept me guessing for much of the book, flipping back pages to see if I could catch the bad guy before all was revealed. There’s also no mistaking that these characters are people of faith—though their flaws are many they seek the Lord and grow in character and faith as the pages turn. The story felt genuine and the mystery intriguing. A great way to pass a summer day!

“Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.
Available at your favourite bookseller from Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group”.

Swept Away by Mary Connealy: A Review

Swept Away by Mary ConnealyThis isn’t the first novel I’ve read by Mary Connealy, but I’m pretty sure it will be my  last. Not that Swept Away is full of terrible smut or crooked theology, on the contrary, it’s a sweet amicable read. The story pulled me in almost immediately—Connealy is a fair writer with an excellent grip on weaving a wild western tale. Her sense of humour is first-rate and at times she’ll make you laugh out loud!

From the first I was rooting for Ruthy, our heroine orphaned since childhood and about to be forced into marrying a no-account scum bag, and for hero Luke, on a mission to reclaim the ranch stolen from his family.

Yet here’s the problem, though it’s published by Bethany House and supposed to be a faith-based novel, there isn’t actually all that much about God in it.  Yes, it avoids the pitfalls of books written for the public market. It’s a clean cute fun read, only with little more than a passing mention of God.  And if that’s all you’re looking for in a Christian book then pick this up, you’ll love it.  I’m looking for something more. I want my hero and heroine’s faith (or lack thereof) to be a vital and ringing portion of the story and for Connealy, it just ain’t gonna happen.

“Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc. Available at your favourite bookseller from Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group”.

About the story: When a cowboy focused on revenge encounters a woman determined to distract him, there’s going to be trouble in Texas! Swept away when her wagon train attempts a difficult river crossing, Ruthy MacNeil isn’t terribly upset at being separated from the family who raised her. All they’ve ever done is work her to the bone. Alive but disoriented, she’s rescued by Luke Stone…so unfortunately, there are more chances to die in her immediate future. Luke is on a mission to reclaim the ranch stolen from his family. But the men currently on the property won’t let it go without a fight. Luke plans to meet up with friends who will help him take back the land, and since he can’t just leave Ruthy in the middle of nowhere, she’s going to have to go with him. But the more time Luke spends around the hardworking young woman, the more he finds himself thinking of things besides revenge. Will Ruthy convince him to give up his destructive path and be swept away by love?

Dee Henderson’s Full Disclosure: A Review

I love romantic suspense in general and Dee Henderson in particular, but I won’t be keeping this book on my shelf. The plot is complicated and convoluted and often plods along at a very dull pace.

I’m all for keeping the trash out of romance, yet I still want to feel engaged with the characters’ relationships.  What little energy that occasionally zings between Paul and Ann is snuffed out by much of their love unfolding via webcam. We get a lot of “Ann character references” from Paul’s friends and family, but she’s more annoying than intriguing. Most of the mystery hinges on Ann’s secrets—all of which seem anticlimactic in the reveal.

If you’re a fan of Henderson you’ll have a bit of a head start wading through the superfluity of characters—some of whom you’ve met in previous books. Yet, for the life of me, I can’t figure out why the author felt the need to introduce yet another co-worker, sibling or relative. And while I despise books that only tell part of the story in a thinly veiled attempt to make me buy the next installment—this book left me thinking Henderson attempted more than could be accomplished in one book. Sorry, this book’s not the classic Henderson I’ve come to expect. I recommend rereading some of her older stories—give this one a pass.

Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.
Available at your favourite bookseller from Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group.