Wednesday, August 29, 2012

What I Read Wednesday: Short-Straw Bride by Karen Witemeyer

Short-Straw BrideFrom the Cover:
No one steps on Archer land. Not if they value their life. But when Meredith Hayes overhears a plot to burn the Archer brothers off their ranch, a long-standing debt compels her to take the risk.

Years of constant vigilance harden a man. Yet when Travis Archer comes across a female trespasser with the same vivid blue eyes as the courageous young girl he once aided, he can't bring himself to send her away. And when an act of sacrifice leaves her injured and her reputation in shreds, gratitude and guilt prompt him to attempt to rescue her once again.

Despite the fact that Travis is no longer the gallant youth Meredith once dreamed about, she vows to stand by his side. But will love ever be hers? Or will Travis always see her as merely a short-straw bride?

Andrea's Take:
I read Karen Witemeyer's third novel To Win Her Heart after a trusted friend said it was one of the best she had ever read. And I concurred. So when Ms. Witemeyer put out a call for influencers for her fourth book (which I was chomping at the bit to read anyway), I leaped at the chance to own a free copy of Short-Straw Bride, knowing I would love it.  And whad'ya know, I was right!

Karen Witemeyer has created a cast of characters who both tug at and warm your heart. That cast is lead by Travis Archer and Meredith Hayes. Both are orphaned and have good reasons to withhold trust from others. Their brief but memorable history from years ago, combined with the urgency of the threat they both face, compels them to trust one another.

As they learn greater trust, they build on that trust and teach each other to open up in ways they never would have on their own.  Both are Christians from the beginning, but their budding relationship leads them to greater trust in God as well. In the exciting climax of the story, Travis and Meredith face the greatest test yet to their trust in each other and in God.  Both falter a little at the obstacle in their path, but they never really take their eyes off the goal.

Witemeyer is a master at what I call squeaky-clean sizzle. The romantic tension between characters is palpable and sometimes leaves the reader with goosebumps, all the while remaining conservatively PG. As a former devourer of secular (read here: steamy) romances, I find this talent extremely valuable.

Characters to Watch:
Travis's brothers - All of them! Jim was especially endearing to me. He reminds me of a clueless-about-women, man's man Mary Coneally hero. This is a good thing! Though Ms. Witemeyer hasn't published a series or sequel to date, I'm sure her readers would welcome a story (or two) devoted to Crockett and Neill's romances. I know I would!

Cassie - Meredith's cousin and best friend is courageous and fiercely loyal. Clueless cowboy Jim Archer gets a clue real quick when she comes on the scene.

Moses and Myra - Two old and dear friends of Meredith's. They are integral in the growth of Travis's trust of both God and his neighbors. They are the kind of friends who fully warrant that trust.

On my second read through of Short-Straw Bride, the villain fell a little flat for me. Since I don't read romance for it's lifelike villains but rather for that squeaky-clean sizzle, that doesn't affect my enjoyment of the story one bit.

I give it Five Brilliant Stars.

A huge thank you to Karen Witemeyer and her publisher Bethany House for the complementary copy of Short-Straw Bride.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Sunday Songs: Hand in Hand With Jesus

My husband and I recently sustained a terrible shock following the sudden, violent suicide of a dear friend and mentor who once served God with rarely equaled fervor. I felt shaken and wounded, asking God, How can such a thing him of all people? And if it happened to him, once so strong and sure, could it happen to me?

God placed this song in my mind. It stayed with me for days, a constant reminder of His unfailing love. The gentle melody belies the awesome power of that Hand to protect me from an enemy who will stop at nothing to defeat me, and whom I am powerless to resist on my own.

I looked at a few performances before stumbling upon this one by the Cathedral Quartet.

This is a departure from my usual selections of Contemporary Christian songs. I hope you'll enjoy the harmony of this performance. Mostly listen to the words (I particularly like the last two lines of the chorus).

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

What I Read Wednesday: Longing for Home by Katherine Springer

Longing for Home (Love Inspired Series)From the Cover:
It seems like the perfect solution: hotel mogul Alex Porter will manage his sister's small-town bed-and-breakfast while she honeymoons. But he gets more than he bargained fore when he finds himself clashing with feisty cafe owner Kate Nichols. Suddenly he's organinzing church outings and playing surrogate dad to the foster children Date takes in. Alex is used to taking charge--but not like this! If he isn't careful, this big-city executive just might lose his heart to Mirror Lake's favorite hometown girl.

Andrea's Take:
Longing for Home is the fourth book in Kathryn Springer's Mirror Lake series. Alex and Kate clashed--I mean met--for the first time at the end of A Place to Call Home, the first book in the series. Right away, I thought they should get their own story.

I love when an author takes a character I can't stand, shows me what makes him tick, and makes me love him. Alex Porter is one such character. To this point in the series, he is the rich city boy who thinks he knows better than everyone about everything and has no use for the small town where his sister has chosen to settle. Not exactly a likable guy.

Kate Nichols is the rare small town girl who never wanted to be anything else. Her town, her diner, and her church are her life, and she's happy with things as they are. Alex's dismissive attitude regarding all those things infuriates her. The resulting fireworks are certainly a sight to behold.

In Longing for Home, we see behind Alex's icy facade to the big brother who only wants to protect himself and his sister from the hurts of life. When those protective instincts rise up and encompass Kate and the two children she's fostering, she can't help opening up to him as well.

Just when you think they've got it made, a final speed bump slows them down and makes them think it over  one last time. Their road to Happily Ever After is by no means smooth, but in the end it's definitely worth the trip.

This book is my favorite in the series so far. I give it 5 brightly shining stars.

Longing for Home is a January 2012 Love Inspired release, and may be unavailable in print. It is available in digital format. Click here to purchase it at Barnes and Noble.