Christian

“Submerged” by Dani Pettrey

 

Book Cover - Submerged

Dani Pettrey’s debut Christian novel, “Submerged,” is set in the world of Alaskan dive rescue, a frequently dangerous profession. The book opens with what may be an engineered plane crash into the sea, off the coast of Tariuk Island. Cole McKenna’s team attempts a harrowing rescue, with a tragic outcome.

 

When one of the deaths turns out to be the aunt of a former girlfriend, Bailey Craig, life gets complicated. Aunt Agnes owned a popular Russian-American store in Yancey, where McKenna and his family have a dive shop. Bailey reluctantly returns to Yancey to sell her beloved aunt’s business, knowing that her own dicey past will be painful to relive once she sets foot there. She vows to take care of the estate and leave as soon as possible. But, her position as a Professor of Russian Studies uniquely qualifies her to help with a murder investigation that may be tied to sunken treasure and so much more.

 

As romantic suspense dictates, Cole and Bailey are drawn to each other again, afraid to trust, but now ten years older and wiser. Their interaction is aching and intense; yet as they are forced to work together to solve the mystery of the ‘why’ of the plane crash, we hope that Bailey comes to understand what true forgiveness means.

 

There is a noisy, active family support system for Cole that Bailey envies and never had – dumped on her aunt’s doorstep, unwanted by her mother. The dialogue flies back and forth as people drift through rooms at gatherings, interrupting each other, teasing each other – as it would be for any large family and their close friends who depend on each other and know each other so well. Pettrey captures that verbal chaos beautifully.

 

The book is a tight read with plenty of dialogue to advance the story and the action scenes. My ebook version seemed to be missing a few scattered transitional sentences that would have clarified when some scenes were ending, but those small omissions did not keep me from enjoying this multi-layered story of a Christian family caught up in some challenging circumstances. Cole’s faith is more developed than Bailey’s and Pettrey manages to convey that without getting preachy.

 

“Submerged” won the 2013 Holt Medallion for Best First Book and the Colorado Romance Writers 2013 Award of Excellence in the Inspirational Category.

 

Readers who enjoy Dee Henderson’s books involving the O’Malley family might also enjoy Dani Pettrey’s ‘Alaskan Courage’ series. “Submerged” was followed by “Shattered,”  “Stranded,” and “Silenced.”  “Sabotaged” will be released in 2015. The personable McKennas are featured in each of the books.

 

For more information about Dani Pettrey and her work, please visit www.danipettrey.com.

 

 

“Violet Dawn” by Brandilyn Collins

 

Book Cover - Violet Dawn

Don’t read the first chapter of “Violet Dawn” if you plan on stepping into your hot-tub in the middle of the night. You might not ever get into it again unless there are floodlights blazing on the deck.

 

Imagine:  a touch, a brush aside of something annoying and ALL OF A SUDDEN YOU REALIZE YOU’RE IN A HOT TUB WITH…” Shriek!!!!! – The scene Collins has written would be a delicious opening for a movie.  (Play ‘Psycho’ music here)

 

Collins’ loyal following has put her on the bestseller list with several faith-based series. “Violet Dawn” is the first in her Kanner Lake group, featuring a small town reminiscent of TVs Cabot Cove – where everyone knows everyone else’s business, but whose residents also stand ready to help when life takes a downturn. The Kanner Lake population seems unfriendly at first, but then we get to know the quirky regulars at the Java Joint and realize that our initial impressions have been filtered through Paige Williams’ eyes, a young woman with a complex past. Paige’s background drives her distinctly odd behavior at the beginning of the book, and Collins keeps the readers’ interest as that past is revealed, a bit at a time, against the backdrop of a missing persons search and then, murder investigation.

 

Although new in town, Paige has the support of both her boss and the owner of the Java Joint when the murder investigation points to her. A fame-seeking reporter finds her humanity and plays a pivotal role in “Violet Dawn.” An honest Chief of Police keeps digging until the truth is revealed. Each of the characters has a story of his/her own to tell and it seems clear that they will be more fully developed as the series continues.

 

The main villain, Black Mamba, slithered through his scenes in a satisfyingly sinister way. The character was a bit over the top at times in comparison with the rest of Kanner Lake people, but he works as a stark contrast between decent townspeople and the creeps who would do us harm.

 

By the way, if I ever buy a hot tub, it’s going to have a transparent cover!

 

Titles from the Kanner Lake series: “Coral Moon,” “Crimson Eve,” and “Amber Moon.”

Collins’ work is sometimes grouped with Christian fiction; other times with cozies.

 

For more about Collins and “Seatbelt Suspense,” visit www.brandilyncollins.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Unlikely Praise” by Carla Rossi

 

Book Cover - Unlikely Praise

 

“Unlikely Praise” features Candi Canaberry, a terrific musician who leads the Praise & Worship team in a small, but growing, evangelical Texas church. She is a Worship Leader with lots of rules, a teacher at the local college, always dresses in skirts or suits, wears high heels even though they hurt, and she likes to be in control of every aspect of her life.

 

Pastor Charles is like a father figure to Candi and wishes to prepare for the growth that will occur when the church building expansion is complete. The Pastor knows that Candi will need help with her mounting duties and that she would never ask for it, so he invites someone new to the congregation to help out. One problem. The Pastor neglects to tell Candi and she feels her leadership role in the church is being threatened.

 

Candi wants to follow God’s plan for the church as well as for her life, except that the ‘new guy’ is former rock star, Samuel Blackledge, who arrives complete with long hair, tattoos, holey jeans, and musical expertise grounded in years on the road.

 

Hmmm…did someone say ‘oil and water’?

 

In addition to the obvious style clash, both musically and personally, they both have secrets. The Pastor knows the secrets, but lets them deal with telling each other – with occasional nudging.

 

In a clever nod to the role of technology in the modern church, Rossi begins the chapters with emails from the Pastor, communicating to Candi and Sam his grand plans for everything from music competitions to youth ministries. The two musicians are not completely comfortable with the ever-growing ‘to-do’ lists, but each has trust in God to show the way.

 

“Unlikely Praise” is a faith-based book, with some serious, very current, occasionally funny, topics at its core. Rossi’s novel peeks at behind the scenes church dynamics, with a Pastor that has to balance disparate gifted members of the congregation, a Worship Leader who works hard to bring out the best in her quirky talented band, and a handsome newcomer/outsider thrown into the mix.

 

There are no murders, but “Unlikely Praise” is a book about second chances and forgiveness for serious past mistakes, with a little romance and mystery thrown in. Some of those mistakes? Out-of-wedlock children, embezzlement, jail time, and drugs. Rossi’s Pastor Charles Littleton challenges Candi and Sam to act out their faith, not just give it lip service.

 

Please visit www.carlarossi.com for more information about Rossi and her other books.

 

 

“Proof” by Jordyn Redwood

Book Cover - Proof Lilly Reeves is an ER doctor who chooses to live alone. She stays in shape, attends martial arts classes, owns a gun, and has three locks on her front door. She is a caring doctor, good at her job, and well liked by her colleagues. She has a close friend and a nice guy who wants to date her. None of that prevents her from being attacked and raped in her own home. And she may be the fifth victim of a serial rapist.  

She accidently discovers the identity of her attacker at work, but when she makes her accusations, DNA testing proves her wrong and she in turn, is accused of being unstable. Even her friends begin to doubt her sanity. At first, Reeves thinks she has it all together, that she will be fine as soon as the rapist is behind bars. But, that is far from reality.  

There are multiple twists and turns as the rapist proves to be more cold-blooded than anybody could have imagined. Reeves speeds ever downward, trapped in her despair and acts of self-destruction. Her friends, along with the policeman assigned to the case, do their best to help, but Reeves doesn’t want to be helped, especially when the worst news possible is revealed. This is a faith-based book, with a Christian perspective as how best to handle the many issues that arise, but to Redwood’s credit, the true-to-life discussions have non-believer Dr. Reeves standing firm, several times.  

“Proof” is a debut novel, but compares favorably with more established medical thrillers. ER procedures as well as difficult deliveries are meticulously written, yet easy to read. The medical oddity that identifies the killer is well-researched and thoroughly fascinating. The lead characters are fully developed and realistically supportive. “Proof” does not shy away from the subject, but it does not actually contain a violent re-enactment of the rape. Rather, it is an absorbing study in how a woman and the people who surround her, deal with the challenging aftermath of that rape. This is an honest, Christian look at a serious problem.  

The Twitterverse is a terrific place to discover new authors. I ‘met’ Jordyn Redwood because of her blog, “Redwood’s Medical Edge.” Jordyn is an ER nurse who created the blog in order to help authors write correctly about medical details in their work. On Fridays, many writers/reviewers on Twitter share a heads-up about good research sources; Redwood’s column is an excellent place to find great information about life in an ER. In addition to doing her own columns, she has guest bloggers who address certain areas of interest related to the medical field, as varied as Civil War medicine and neonatal emergencies. Great blog.  

“Proof” is the first in the ‘Bloodline Trilogy,’ and was nominated for the Carol Award. The second book in the series, “Poison,” was released on February 1, 2013.  

For more information, please visit www.jordynredwood.com    

 

 

“The Preacher’s Bride” by Jody Hedlund

Book Cover - The Preacher's Bride

 

The power of Twitter can be remarkable. I ‘met’ Jody Hedlund a year ago while following a respected agent, Rachelle Gardner. Rachelle mentioned that “The Preacher’s Bride” was about to be released and I went to Jody’s blog, read it, then bought her book.

 

“The Preacher’s Bride” is an award winning, debut novel set in the time of Cromwell. I hadn’t read historical romance in a long time, and it was a pleasant surprise to return to that crowded arena with such a great, faith-based story. Elizabeth Whitbread defies the misguided leaders in her church in order to help a recently widowed man and his young children. John Crostin is determined to spread the Word of God throughout the countryside, but needs help with his household in order to do so. The two meet and despite many obstacles, help each other and unexpectedly fall in love.

 

The fight for religious freedom was a dangerous one in those days and being on the wrong side in politics sometimes landed you in jail (or worse) because of your religious beliefs. Hedlund based her novel on an actual couple, Elizabeth and John Bunyan, remembered in history because of “Pilgrim’s Progress.” John wrote this important piece of literature while sitting in jail for many years. It dealt with holding on to faith in the midst of incredible hardship, a tenet repeated in “The Preacher’s Bride.”

 

This book was a departure from what I usually review, but the memorable writing made “The Preacher’s Bride” a standout from the rest of its genre. It won the Colorado Romance Writers Award as well as the Inspirational Reader’s Choice Award. I looked forward to reading Hedlund’s second book, “The Doctor’s Lady,” (it took First Place in The Golden Quill awards) and I was not disappointed. “Unending Devotion” came out this year and “A Noble Groom” is scheduled for 2013.

 

For more about Jody Hedlund and her books, visit http://jodyhedlund.com/