My Stubborn Heart

Blurb: Kate Donovan is burned out on work, worn down by her dating relationships, and in need of an adventure. When her grandmother asks her to accompany her to Redbud, Pennsylvania, to restore the grand old house she grew up in, Kate jumps at the chance.

Upon her arrival in Redbud, Kate meets Matt Jarreau, the man hired to renovate the house. Kate can’t help being attracted to him, drawn by both his good looks and something else she can’t quite put her finger on. He’s clearly wounded–hiding from people, from God, and from his past. Yet Kate sets her stubborn heart on bringing him out of the dark and back into the light… whether he likes it or not.

When the stilted, uncomfortable interactions between Kate and Matt slowly shift into something more, is God finally answering the longing of her heart? Or will Kate be required to give up more than she ever dreamed?

I liked My Stubborn Heart by Becky Wade more than I did the other book I’ve read by her. The entire story was more fleshed out, especially with the gaggle of side-characters. I loved the grandmother and her group of friends – their humor, their spunk – even the little romance between two of them. I liked Kate a lot – her job as a social worker reminded me of my husband’s work so she had my instant empathy. And Matt was an interesting character with understandable wounds. When I first read the book, I had recently been introduced to hockey (Go Rapid City Rush! 😉 ) and so I found the hockey aspect interesting, too.

Things were a little hot and heavy in the romance department. Not as severe as in my previous review but most of their dates consisted of going to Matt’s house and, again, I just felt like they didn’t have many qualms about putting themselves in temptation’s way. There was a married woman who thought Matt was “hot” and went out of her way to mention it every. single. scene. It didn’t bother me the first time but I didn’t need to be reminded constantly. There was also a fixation on name brands to describe what everyone wore. It worked but I feel it will date the book quickly and it also just annoyed me as I couldn’t care less what brand something is. I’d rather know someone was wearing a polo than Abercrombie.

I have seen a few reviews upset that the grandmother and her senior friends had a weekly poker game. The gambling was all in fun and extremely low-key so it didn’t bother me at all. The only cursing I noticed was by Matt in the beginning when he had fallen away from his faith, was extremely frustrated by something (like hitting his thumb with a hammer) and “cursed under his breath”. He was also the only one who did any drinking, which I don’t think is wrong anyway,  although he did do it to purposely get drunk and numb his pains (again, though, he was fallen away and struggling with his faith at the time).

Which brings me to the only real issue I had with the book. The things above were small enough for me to ignore, especially as they were more personal taste than anything. But the faith aspect… See, Kate prays a lot in the book. Like a lot a lot. She prays for a husband, she prays for Matt’s healing – which was awesome and written very naturally since she’s a Christian with a strong faith. But then she hears God’s voice. Which – okay – sometimes God does speak to us that way. Though I’m more one to also cling to scripture and the leanings of the Spirit – a combination of factors to be sure I am in God’s will. But she hears His voice and because she’s so full of faith (as she has been pretty much the entire book) she cries and then obeys. And then she immediately proceeds to have a pouty-whiny fit over it. In the space of two pages she goes from a strong picture of unwavering faith to instant, “Are you happy God? You got Your way, I did what You asked and now I’m going to sulk about it.” Which could have worked and been a strong growing moment for her – but it was too fast and then she got over it too instantly and the reasons for the entire obedience/sulk situation never made any sense to me anyway. (Spoilery explanation – highlight to read: So God’s purpose for Matt is to play hockey but for no sensible reason he won’t so God tells Kate to dump him, and she goes home to have a fit that God handed her the perfect man and then took him away, while Matt goes back to hockey and then Matt shows up to beg her to take him back and God tells Kate, “Yes” now that Matt is back in hockey? Huh?) The entire situation just felt manufactured to me to rush the ending.

What kind of angsty situations in books have felt manufactured to you?

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

By Darkness Hid

Last summer I participated in a book club and I’m finally making myself review the books we read. They were all fantastic and I’ve been looking forward to sharing them! Book #1 was… *drumroll*

Blurb: Darkness divides the land.

Half of Er’Rets is locked beneath an impenetrable shroud. On the side that still sees the sun, two young people struggle to understand the mind-communication abilities thrust upon them.

It’s called bloodvoicing. Some say it’s a gift. One of the newly “gifted” wish it had never come.

Achan had been a stray all his life. When an enigmatic knight offers to train Achan for the Kingsguard, he readily accepts. But his new skills with the sword do not prepare him for the battle raging between the voices in his head.

Vrell Sparrow is not who she seems. She masquerades as a boy to avoid capture by the powerful forces that seek to exploit her. But Vrell feels called to help a young squire who recently discovered his bloodvoicing gift, even if doing so requires her to work with those who could destroy her.

While Achan learns to use his new ability, Vrell struggles to shut hers down. All the voices strive to learn Achan and Vrell’s true identities—and a different kind of voice is calling them both. 

Toward a destination that is by darkness hid. 

The Blood of Kings series by Jill Williamson has a reputation in the Christian fantasy community and I see why. By Darkness Hid (Book #1) has meat enough for YA/Adult readers but gentle enough for MG levels. And it’s got everything loved about a good, classic fantasy adventure plus subtle Christian undertones woven throughout. I really liked it and I finished the book wanting to launch right into the next one.

The book has two alternating points of view and I liked them both equally. I also liked that both main characters are truly good people. While they both have some growing to do, it was nice to read about decent people right from the start. And I really loved the way the backstory and unique world elements were slowly revealed in bits & pieces.

 The opening scene with a fight in a barn was a bit drawn-out for my taste (there were a handful of scenes that I felt that way) but I’m betting those scenes are especially popular with the younger readers – wanting to imagine themselves training with a sword, etc. They were the kind of scenes I would have reveled in as a teen but hurried through as an adult reader.

The book ends with the first story-arc complete but the story itself definitely not done (think like the books in the Lord of the Rings series – ending with closure but the adventure still ongoing). I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the series asap. All in all, a highly recommended read – and this first volume is free on Amazon, too!

Do you like epic fantasy?

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

A Love Like Ours

Well, I’m about to swear off most contemporary inspirational romances – very few do it for me anymore, with the exception of Mary Connealy and Karen Witemeyer. But I’ve read several that I’d like to share about since I did read them and they were still well-written, even if not quite my cup of tea.

Ours Blurb: Former Marine Jake Porter has far deeper scars than the one that marks his face. He struggles with symptoms of PTSD, lives a solitary life, and avoids relationships.

When Lyndie James, Jake’s childhood best friend, lands back in Holley, Texas, Jake cautiously hires her to exercise his Thoroughbreds. Lyndie is tender-hearted, fiercely determined, and afraid of nothing, just like she was as a child. Jake pairs her with Silver Leaf, a horse full of promise but lacking in results, hoping she can solve the mystery of the stallion’s reluctance to run.

Though Jake and Lyndie have grown into very different adults, the bond that existed during their childhood still ties them together. Against Jake’s will, Lyndie’s sparkling, optimistic personality begins to tear down the walls he’s built around his heart. A glimmer of the hope he’d thought he’d lost returns, but fears and regrets still plague him. Will Jake ever be able to love Lyndie like she deserves, or is his heart too shattered to mend?

A Love Like Ours is the 3rd book in Becky Wade’s Porter Family Series. I have not read the first two in this series but they aren’t necessary to the story. Not unless you are worried about being spoiled as to whom two of the other Porters end up with, anyway. Coming from a military family, I was especially intrigued by the hero of this novel struggling with PTSD. I felt like the author handled it fairly well but there were bits that I just didn’t feel were addressed with the depth needed. Especially Jake’s not wanting Lyndie to jockey due to his worry. The book makes sure to mention it was something he needs to work on with God – someday. But the “someday” part I found irritating. I wanted Jake to grow and I didn’t feel like we really got to see it. I realize PTSD isn’t something that is fixed overnight but when the story ends I like to feel the character is at least heading in the right direction. I felt like the book ended with sticking a pin in his main character development – all those pages to end with “we’ll get back to that eventually but for now we’re going to drop it.”

Also, for readers who like their inspirational romance squeaky-clean, these are not the books for you. This is the second book by Becky Wade I have read and they both pushed the bounds for me even though I appreciate a more realistic romance. There’s some heavy making out, alone, in one of their homes – and I just felt neither of them were being very responsible at all when it comes to physical temptation. I distinctly remember the heroine thinking something along the lines of “wanting to take him to her bed” and it made my eyebrows go ^^!! Now if she wasn’t a faithful Christian, I wouldn’t expect higher standards from her. And I don’t think I’d have a problem with that line if it was followed up by the character in a, “Wow, I’m messing up, toying with danger, and need to take some serious steps to correct this!” kind of way. But it wasn’t.

There was also a scene that was meant to be comedic that I felt was rather mocking and unkind. A heroine and her friend attend a Christian-Singles square dance with all the stereotypes including someone covered in tattoos/piercings and a guy who came to the dance but won’t actually dance because he wants to hold his wife’s hand for the first time on their wedding night. (Yes, someone covered in tatts and piercings might not be the right person for the heroine and her friend. Yes, the same goes for Mr No-Hand-Holding. But such people are every bit as much Christ’s children and worthy of love and I didn’t think such caricatures being written strictly as the “wackadoodles of the dance” was very funny.)

Overall, though, it was a well-written book. It just had little things, from my personal taste, that added up to detract from my enjoyment.

Would any of these things have bothered you?

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free through Goodreads First Reads. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.