Friday, March 23, 2012

Sixty Acres and a Bride - Regina Jennings

"Sixty Acres and a Bride" is the debut novel of Regina Jennings, an author for Bethany House.
The first half of the book is about Rosa, a widowed Mexican senora that heads to Texas with her American mother-in-law.  Having been disowned by her own family for religious reasons, staying in Mexico was not an option.  When she gets to Texas, her mother-in-law's ranch has four years of back taxes due within three months.  They undertake the nearly impossible feat of raising that money in one summer.  When that plan fails, Rosa is encouraged to go ask her husband's attractive cousin for help in the middle of the night.  She succeeds, but she's confused when he proposes the very next day.  This marks the end of what I call the "Ruth plot" and the beginning of the second half of the book.  I absolutely LOVE that the author did not end the book here!  The second part of the book is the story of a couple who finds themselves married with every intention of  living as roommates rather than husband and wife.  The journey of their relationship is so fun.
I was impressed that the story did not end where I thought it would.  In fact, almost half of the book was still left.  It almost felt like I had gotten two books in one!Regina Jennings can write, and Chapter 14 is proof of that.  (One more chapter like fourteen couldn't hurt anything!)
Odd, but I noticed there was no thank you section.  I am probably the only person in the world that actually reads those things, but I find it fascinating to see who the editor was and the team that helped pull the book together.  You know, just in case I ever find myself in a position to need an agent.  Or an editor.  I went to Regina Jennings' website where she shares her journey to getting published.  This is pure gold for those who aspire toward writing!  I very much enjoyed her website and will come back often.
Now for the hard part.  My only criticism is that the first half of the book bore a bit too much resemblance to the story of Ruth in the Bible, which initially had me pegging it as clique.  I easily saw the parallelisms, and with the story of Ruth in the back of my mind, it almost distracted me from relaxing and enjoying the tale.  However, halfway through the book I revised my opinion entirely! The book moved quickly from one moment to the next, never pausing too long in one place.
Well done, Regina!  I'm looking forward to seeing what you bring us next time.
This book was a complimentary copy from the publisher in exchange for an unbiased review.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Surrender the Night - MaryLu Tyndall

If you have ever heard me talking about the "pirate books," then.... well, this is the author!  This author holds nothing back.  She lets her imagination run wild, and we get to experience the thrill ride with her.  The first series I read by MaryLu Tyndall (also printed as M.L. Tyndall) was "The Legacy of the King's Pirates."  These books are meant to be read with your undivided attention and stand alone as some of the best in the Christian fiction genre.  Her next series was the "Charles Towne Belles," which continued along the pirate theme.  Are these the only books in the Christian market tapping into the great subject of pirating?  It is so rich and so full of possibilities!  I wish there were more out there set in the days of pirating!  A link to learn more about MaryLu Tyndall and how she does pirating -- I mean authoring -- is
If you loved the pirate books, you'll love her new series, "Surrender to Destiny," just as much.  It doesn't have any pirating in it (although there are a few references to privateering), but setting it right at the cusp of the American Revolution is still a daring move for an author.  Historical books like this take an incredible amount of research, and they are much more difficult to write than contemporary fiction for this reason alone.
The second book in her third series "Surrender to Destiny" is "Surrender the Night" which focuses on Rose as the main character.  A minor character from the previous book "Surrender the Heart" is brought back as the male protagonist, and I was really excited to see him here.  The crux of the story is that America is at war with the British, and Alexander Reed has found himself wounded severely at Rose's farm.  She nurses him back to health, and as an impromptu decision hires him as their new man of work.  When Alexander's true identity is discovered as a British naval officer, Rose's entire family may be hanged as traitors.  The only way to avoid this is if Rose agrees to marry the man who holds this information.  
This book is fabulous, and I would recommend the entire series as I would for the two series previously.  
Now for the criticisms (they are slight!).  First, when glancing back at the first book in the series, Rose's character seems flighty, dreamy, and says "I can't wait to get married."  This is at complete odds with her character in Book 2.  However, I commend the author for not feeling compelled to stick with her earlier impression of Rose's character so that the plot  of Book 2 could be much deeper.  
The second criticism is the art on the cover of the book.  The model on the cover looks like a Hollywood diva dressed in period clothing.  Her over-processed blonde hair doesn't look natural, nor does her acrylic nails.  Every single one of MaryLu Tyndall's books are riveting, and they deserve the very best cover art.  I think the covers may be holding them back.  While I am on the topic of cover art, I recommend a complete restyling and re-release of the Legacy series.  That series is phenomenal, and with a new cover design could sell like new today.  Hint to the author/publisher -- you can look inside the cover of another book that has a hot selling design and see who the design company is.  Often, the design company is completely independent of the publisher and open for hire.
Bottom line -- pick up one of these series... you'll be hooked, matey.