Book Review -Written in the Stars & Written in the Dust Duology

SUMMARY 

No one is happy about beauty queen Brooke Landgon’s return to Hope Canyon, Arkansas, least of all Brooke herself. Not her old friend Holly Christian, nor Holly’s friend Hunter Pierce, and definitely not Brooke’s first love Gatlin Moore. But after her marriage fails and her grandmother dies leaving Brooke her house, return she does. Brooke has a lot of fences to mend in Hope Canyon, but she would rather hole up at her grandmother’s house and ignore everyone. But that’s almost impossible in a town this small.

Holly is dealing with her own wish to hide after her fiance dies without telling anyone he had broken up with her. She just can’t tell the truth about the town’s golden boy without hurting everyone. So she strikes an odd bargain with her estranged childhood friend. She will give Brooke a place to stay and help Brooke while she fixes up her grandmother’s house if Brooke will act as a buffer for all the well-wishing citizens of Hope Canyon.

But these two ladies are as different as chalk and cheese. Not to mention, there are two men harboring some long-simmering feeling towards these two opposites. Hunter has always been in love with Holly, but was the third wheel in a lopsided friendship with Holly and her fiance Chad. While Gatlin is still boiling mad at Brooke’s abandonment of him years ago.

It’s amazing what the return of a prodigal can stir up in one small town. Change is on the horizon for four people who have forgotten how tight the past can tie people together.

MY THOUGHTS

I don’t know if I ever would have read this duology without the recommendation of Fiction Aficionado. Even then I was on the fence. But I’m so glad I did.

One of the things I love best about these books is how well it captures small town life in the mid-South. Though I’m not from Arkansas but Texas, I’ve experienced this lifestyle which isn’t often featured in books. Driving dusty backroads, meeting up unintentionally at the local hangout, the slow drawl and easy manners as well as the speed at which news both bad and good gets around. These books certainly make all these experiences feel real without resorting to cliche.

I also appreciated how unpredictable the main characters were. Though each of them fit some of the stereotypes associated with them, still I never could quite guess what any of them might do or say. I love being surprised that way. Though this duology finishes with a happy ending, the journey getting there is always fresh and startling.

The first book (Written in the Stars) focuses more on the rebuilding of Brooke and Holly’s friendship. Never an odder pair will you meet. Sometimes I wondered if they even liked each other. But their bargain ensured that each supported the other whether they wanted to or not. Neither one was afraid to challenge the other. Nor did either one of them put on their best behavior for the other. Brooke and Holly are a good picture of iron sharpening iron. Sometimes the friction is hard and unpleasant, but the end result is both are better off. I enjoyed the addition of Brooke’s grandmother’s diary and how it inspired the girls to set off on a road trip to accomplish the same bucket list her grandmother did.

Hunter and Gatlin get more “face” time in book two (Written in the Dust). Both are the picture of southern gentleman, although Gatlin’s reactions to Brooke wouldn’t prove it. These are self-sacrificing men who don’t demand attention, but just do what needs to be done without being asked. Of the two, I was more curious about Gatlin. His anger sparked in every interaction with Brooke and I wanted to know why. In fact, it kind of made me mad at him until partway through book two, when their shared history is finally revealed. And then I was shocked at how quickly that anger turned to passion in his pursuit of Brooke.

I’ve heard about Christina Coryell’s books for years, but this is my first experience with them. However after reading Written in the Stars and Written in the Dust, it certainly won’t be my last.

Have you read any of Christina Coryell’s books? What other books would you recommend with mid-South settings?

Book Review -Where Hope Begins

SUMMARY

“Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come.” -Anne Lamott

Where Hope Begins is the story of grace in the midst of brokenness, pointing us to the miracles that await when we look beyond our own expectations.

Still reeling from a family tragedy years before, Savanna Barrington is just barely holding it together. When her husband leaves her for another woman, she runs away to the solace of her family’s home in the Berkshires to lick her wounds.  Though angry, she must hold it together while she acts as the mediator for her children and her family with the husband who betrayed her.  But Savanna feels as barren as the winter snow outside her front door.

Then she meets her next door neighbors, the elderly but spunky Clarice, her reclusive nephew Brock and his daughter Maysie.  These three invade her solitude and provide her with solace in their own ways. Maysie with her childlike faith and laughter, Clarice with her mature faith and offer to tend a dead garden and Brock with his appreciation and attraction to Savanna.

But running away only offers a temporary reprieve. Savannah must eventually face the problems which led not only to the breakdown of her marriage but also to the breakdown of her family. Continue reading “Book Review -Where Hope Begins”

Book Review -The Heart Between Us

SUMMARY

Megan Jacobs always wished for a different heart. Her entire childhood was spent in and out of hospitals, sitting on the sidelines while her twin sister Crystal played all the sports, got all the guys, and had all the fun. But even a heart transplant three years ago wasn’t enough to propel Megan’s life forward. She’s still working as a library aide in her small Minnesota hometown and living with her parents, dreaming of the adventure she plans to take “once she’s well enough.” Meanwhile, her sister is a successful architect with a handsome husband and the perfect life—or so Megan thinks.

When her heart donor’s parents give Megan their teenage daughter’s journal—complete with an unfulfilled bucket list—Megan connects with the girl she meets between the pages and is inspired to venture out and check off each item. Caleb—a friend from her years in and out of the hospital—reenters her life and pushes her to find the courage to take the leap and begin her journey. She’s thrown for a loop when Crystal offers to join her for reasons of her own, but she welcomes the company and the opportunity to mend their tenuous relationship.

As Megan and Crystal check items off the bucket list, Megan fights the fears that have been instilled in her after a lifetime of illness. She must choose between safety and adventure and learn to embrace the heart she’s been given so that she can finally share it with the people she loves most. Continue reading “Book Review -The Heart Between Us”

Book Review -The Love Letter

SUMMARY

Chloe Daschle is the child of Hollywood royalty, but that hasn’t helped her in her quest to shed her image as the onscreen death queen. Chloe longs to break her typecasting and land a role in which she lives. When she reads a screenplay based on a love letter between real life Revolutionary era inhabitants Esther Longfellow and Hamilton Lightfoot, she is convinced she has finally found that part.

Jesse Gates is a mathematical genius, turned actor, turned screenwriter. Running from past tragedy, his big break arrives in the form of his first screenplay about his ancestor Hamilton Lightfoot. An even bigger break arrives when he meets Chloe and they are both cast in the film based on his screenplay. But Chloe is still wrestling with her past shame and an inferiority complex. And Jesse is still unable to forgive his own part in the death of someone he once loved.

In another century, Esther and Hamilton dwell amidst war in South Carolina. Esther has always loved Hamilton, but her father is an agent of the British crown. And Hamilton’s family support the Patriot cause. Just as Hamilton is ready to admit his love and claim Esther, personal tragedy drives them even further apart and Hamilton joins the fight against the British. Even still in the midst of conflict, he pens a letter declaring his love for Esther.

Centuries apart four people yearn for love, but wrestle with external circumstances and internal battles which keep them apart. Continue reading “Book Review -The Love Letter”

Book Review: The Truth Between Us

SUMMARY

Nine years to win her. Three years to love her. And one decision that destroyed it all.

April Duncan was raised with three clear truths: the family name is absolute, ambition and success rule over every emotion, and love always comes with strings attached. Image was everything in her carefully crafted world… until the mirror cracked.

Sean Taylor was April’s best friend, the one man who taught her it was okay to let her guard down and to rely on someone. She trusted him. She loved him. Which made his deception the darkest kind of cruelty.

Now, nearly a year later, she’s ready to leave her failed engagement in the past and get back her life and her estranged family, even if it means dating a man solely for his connections. She’ll never again choose love over loyalty.

Sean has spent his entire life breaking barriers, facing challenges, and never giving up. Until one impossible choice destroyed his future and left him no option but to flee from the woman who annihilated his heart.

Now he’s back in Bentwood and determined to make her hear the truth and rebuild the trust he shattered. But April has become a mere shell of the woman who claimed his heart long ago.

Winning her back is more than just seizing a victory, because if he fails… the girl he’s loved for a lifetime will disappear forever. Continue reading “Book Review: The Truth Between Us”

Book Review -Running Barefoot

SUMMARY

When Josie Jensen, an awkward 13-year-old musical prodigy crashes headlong into new-comer Samuel Yazzie, an 18-year-old Navajo boy full of anger and confusion, an unlikely friendship blooms. Josie teaches Samuel about words, music and friendship, and along the way finds a kindred spirit. Upon graduation, Samuel abandons the sleepy, small town in search of a future and a life, leaving his young friend behind. Many years go by and Samuel returns, finding Josie in need of the very things she offered him years before. Their roles reversed, Samuel teaches Josie about life, love, and letting go. Deeply romantic and poignant, Running Barefoot is the story of a small town girl and a Native American boy, the ties that bind them to their homes and families, and the love that gives them wings. Continue reading “Book Review -Running Barefoot”

Book Review -The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck

SUMMARY

After her seemingly perfect life falls apart, Sarah Hollenbeck reinvents herself as a successful author of steamy romance novels.  At the height of her fame, Sarah becomes a Christian. Determined to leave her old life behind completely, she experiences culture shock as she throws herself into a new lifestyle.

But her old identity isn’t so easy to leave behind. Her fans and her publisher are clamoring for a new release. Meanwhile, Sarah’s past is one she tries to keep quiet at her new church, especially when she begins dating her pastor. Sarah is sincere in her desire for a complete personal transformation. But navigating the expectations, demands and privacy concerns of her new life presents a challenge. Continue reading “Book Review -The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck”

Book Review -The Masterpiece

An artist with a traumatic past that leaves him lost and unable to connect with others.  A woman who has experienced tragedy but refuses to give up. These two broken souls are on a collision course not only with each other, but with redemption in Francine River’s The Masterpiece.

The Masterpiece Summary

As a successful commercial artist Roman Velasco has it all, fame, money, women and freedom. But no one knows the man behind the name and that is just the way Roman wants it.

Grace Moore is struggling to put her life back together after a shattered marriage and a one night stand that made her a single mother. She desperately wants to gain her independence from the family who has helped her in order to adopt the son she decides to keep.

Roman’s need of a personal assistant brings Grace into his life. Grace is initially put off by his rude and overbearing behavior, but needs the job to badly to quit. Though both intend to keep their relationship strictly professional, as they work together, their initial impressions of each other slowly change. Both Roman and Grace find they have more in common than the originally believed. But even as their friendship grows, their pasts continue to haunt them. And Roman’s artistic alter ego is taking risks which jeopardize not only his freedom, but his life. Will Roman and Grace ever be free of the things which haunt them or will past traumas and tragedies hinder their futures forever?

For my full review, please follow me over to The Silver Petticoat Review.

Book Review -The Girl Who Chased the Moon

The girl who chased the moon SUMMARY

After her mother’s death, Emily Benedict moves south to Mullaby, North Carolina to live with the grandfather she never knew she had. But soon upon her arrival she notices some oddities about the town, not the least of which is her literal giant of a grandfather. Perhaps the worst, is the way many in the town respond to her. Their responses seem tied to her mother’s history in Mullaby. They leave Emily with more questions than answers about her mother’s past.

While Emily has just arrived, her adult neighbor Julia, is counting down the days until she can leave. She returned to Mullaby upon her father’s death.  Emily has been managing his famous barbecue restaurant until she can earn enough to pay off the mortgage and sell the business. Julia’s dream is to open her own bakery, but she tells no one the reason why. Her last six months can’t pass quickly enough, especially when a man with whom she shares a tragic history starts pursuing her. Continue reading “Book Review -The Girl Who Chased the Moon”

Book Review -The Rose Garden

SUMMARY

Eva Ward is mourning the death of her only remaining family. She decides to return with her sister’s ashes to the only place where they both felt at home. So she heads to Trelowarth, the ancient home of family friends on the Cornish coast.

Eva processes her grief by helping her old playmates modernize their family business. But soon she starts noticing shifts in her vision and hears voices which don’t exist. Worried that she might be losing her mind, she finds herself transported in time to the year 1715.

There she meets Daniel Butler, his brother Jack and their friend Fergal. These men are knee deep in danger.  Not only are they well-respected smugglers but they are also involved in a potential Jacobite rebellion.

As Eva travels back and forth in time she must wrestle with the challenges of disappearing and reappearing at whim. But the bigger challenge she faces is protecting her orphaned heart and deciding where she belongs.

Continue reading “Book Review -The Rose Garden”