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Mist of Midnight and Coffee CupTitle: Mist of Midnight

Author: Sandra Byrd

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Cover rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Series: The Daughters of Hampshire

Challenge #2 in the Bethany House Reading Challenge: Read a book that begins a series.

Rebecca Ravenshaw has returned home to England from India only to find her very identity has been stolen. Someone masquerading as herself not only tried to steal her estate and inheritance–the impostor also lies buried in her family’s grave plot after meeting a sudden and suspicious demise.

Who was she? Will Rebecca be able to prove that she is the true mistress of her own estate? And what about the dashing but mysterious Captain Whitfield living in her home now? Can he be trusted, or are his intentions even darker than the rumors would imply?

Where to start with all that I loved about this book! I guess by saying that Sandra Byrd never disappoints to deliver something that’s fresh in the market and is a much-needed reprieve from predictable plot lines. She expertly chooses eras, settings, and characters that are both relevant enough to find interesting but also different enough to keep your attention.

I’ve read books before about a missionary returning to England from India, but this is the first time where I actually believed the character might have truly lived there. It was clear the author researched both England and India and made it an integral part of Rebecca’s life, which was fascinating. She was not your typical main character and I loved that.

Not long ago I spoke of how I was growing tired of romances, but this book is an example of one done right in my opinion. Several different relationships were paid attention to throughout the book, and parts reminded me of Downton Abbey because of the conversations between characters, which was so very fun!

It held my attention from the moment I started reading, and I couldn’t even begin to solve the mystery. There were several things to mull on throughout the book, and although it was dark and suspenseful enough to keep you turning pages, it ended very surprisingly in a light and inspirational way.

I am very much looking forward to the rest of the books in this series.

(I received this book for free in exchange for my honest review.)

Let’s Talk Book: What’s an interesting series you’ve read lately or have started to read?

Bonus shot. Just had to include this because I thought it was hilarious. My niece came over while I was taking pictures of the book and made bunny fingers behind it. She made me laugh treating the book as though it were a person, but then again, I think I was making her laugh taking pictures of a book... ;)

Bonus shot. Just had to include this because I thought it was hilarious. My niece came over while I was taking pictures of the book and made bunny fingers behind it. She made me laugh treating the book as though it were a person, but then again, I think I was making her laugh taking pictures of a book… 😉

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the-colonels-ladyTitle: The Colonel’s Lady

Author: Laura Frantz

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Cover Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

You voted, and we had a winner! The last time we met, I asked you all which of the 16 challenges in the Bethany House book challenge I should tackle first, and you all chose for me to read “A book with a great cover.”

Considering I’ve had Laura Frantz’s book The Colonel’s Lady on my Kindle for what seems like forever now, it seemed like a good choice. And talk about a book with a beautiful cover! The blue of that gown, the natural light coming in, the silver locket she’s holding… I just loved it!

Unfortunately though, the book didn’t hold up as well as the cover did. There were aspects I appreciated and it was an all-around solid read, but it just felt like something I’d read many times before. But I’ll stop and warn you all that this may be more of a rant than a review, because I’m personally starting to tire of the romance genre, and that probably played a significant part in why I couldn’t really connect with this book.

There were redeeming factors, don’t get me wrong. A child of a prostitute shown mercy. A traitorous brother. An amazing act of God of Biblical proportions. But these things were just touched upon so that the main thing was still the romance. I guess I’m just starting to wonder, especially in the Christian genre… shouldn’t our relationship with God be the main thing? You still need a storyline, I get that. But can’t He be the focus with romance on the side, instead of romance the focus, with God on the side?

I guess that’s just where I’m at. Feeling like the Christian market is kind of missing it. And from a writer’s perspective, I get it. I know why, and it’s a hard line to walk. I could easily be accused of the same thing myself one day.

But… I just miss seeing Jesus in the books I read. And with the popularity of books like Fifty Shades of Gray right now, we need to be stepping it up. And I don’t mean in steamy scenes that try to tempt the general market over to our side, but by being the light and salt of the earth and leading others to the only kind of love that’s unfailing and true. That eternally saves.

It doesn’t mean we become prudes. It doesn’t mean we completely ignore the physical attraction side of romance. But does 2/3 of the storyline have to be purely based off of the character’s physical responses to one another and both pretending they don’t like each other until the very end of the book with nothing more but maybe a prayer or two thrown in?

To me, a good book–especially in the Christian market–should draw me closer to God or deepen my relationship with Him in some way. But lately the opposite has happened instead. I realize that could be my own fault, but it’s happened in too many books and stages of life now for me not to wonder if there isn’t some level of improvement that could be made in the genre itself.

We’ve forgotten our first love, and it’s about time we got back.

Let’s Talk Book: I’m really curious to know– what do you all think? Do you find reading romances hinder or help your relationship with God? Could romance writers improve on this a little bit? Are we missing the bigger picture, or doing the best we have in years?

Bethany House recently posted this really fun Reading Challenge that I am going to try this year. I’ll make sure and blog about each one as I cross them off the list, but everything’s better with friends, right? So I am calling out all of you subscribers, all of you blog stalkers, and definitely all my fellow book lovers to join with me in 2015! 🙂 If you decide to do it, let me know through commenting or #BHReadingChallenge, and maybe we can do some of the same categories together!

But to kick things off, I’m asking all of you: which of these 16 challenges should I tackle first?! Vote by leaving a comment with your pick, and I’ll… well, naturally, I’ll go with the one that has the most votes. To be fair and all. 😉

Happy New Year of Reading, everyone!

2015 Reading Challenge