Fiction review: Belinda Blake and the Snake in the Grass

Belinda Blake and the Snake in the Grass, by Heather Day Gilbert captivated me first because I have read this author’s books before, and second because of its brilliant, whimsical cover. I couldn’t resist; I had to read it.

The opening scene has Belinda Blake, a cute little blond, meeting gorgeous Stone Carrington the 5th, her landlord’s son. She has a ball python wrapped around her neck, taking the snake for a walk, as its doting owner requested.

Exotic pet sitter, Belinda, is soon into mystery and intrigue after she finds a dead woman wearing Louboutin stilletos in her flowerbed.

Add to the dead woman a shedding python and the aqua-eyed, tennis playing rich boy next door, and you have all the ingredients for a great read.

Believe me, it doesn’t disappoint. More mysteries, possible culprits—Mrs. Gilbert had me suspecting almost everyone—and it’s a fun book for rainy afternoons.

The content is clean with nothing besides innocent friendship kisses. Some of the characters drink to excess (not viewed in a favorable light).

I enjoyed it and can hardly wait to read the sequel, which might be even better.

Stay tuned.

Fiction review: Secrets and Charades

Secrets and Charades by Cindy Ervin Huff caught my eye because it’s about a mail order bride. It’s a marriage of convenience for cowboy bachelor, Jake Markum—only Evangeline Olson didn’t answer the advertisement or write the letters. Her niece did. It was all a lie.

Jake, a widower, felt he needed a wife, because his brother and sister-in-law died and left him with a twelve-year-old niece to raise. He couldn’t offer his niece class and refinement, as a woman could, so he advertised for a wife.

Jake picks Evangeline up in a neighboring town so they can get married and he can get to know her before the busybodies in his own town get a chance. At the time, he has no idea Evangeline will be beautiful, talented–and a medical doctor. He is pleasantly surprised with her beauty but hesitant about her profession.

The story entertains with several characters who aren’t who they profess to be, growing friendships in many directions, ranch turf wars, and more.

There’s nothing outstanding or profound about this book, but it’s highly entertaining and fun, and there are several good character developments. The plot, though it keeps you going, is a little bit cliché. I believe any mail order bride book will be, so this isn’t a huge criticism. I personally appreciated the author’s acceptance of different ethnic groups. There are quite a few lessons about fairness in this book.

I enjoyed Secrets and Charades, and I think you will, too.

Fiction review: Refuge at Pine Lake

Refuge at Pine Lake, by Rose Chandler Johnson is the first book in her Pine Haven series.

From the beginning, I was drawn in to the main characters, Robin Lancaster, and Matt McLaughlin, both of whom end up for different reasons at the same holiday house on the lake.

The house belongs to Robin’s family, and it’s where she feels peace and calm. One of her motivations for going this summer is just that. She wants to use the time to write and paint—and see her hunky boyfriend, Caleb Jackson, her high school heartthrob.

Matt is a widowed professor and veteran, who needs some time to heal and rest from his traumas. A friend books him into the house on the lake.

Thrown together, they alternately avoid each other. Dealing with their past—and Caleb—keeps this book moving along. I confess I lost sleep in order to finish it in two nights.

This is a lovely book, entertaining, well written, and sweet. Mrs. Johnson goes from strength to stronger in Refuge at Pine Lake. I loved her phrases such as: lapis blue eyes, bruised face turn a multitude of plum-purple hues, mind-controlled by electronic devices, and the color of the sky before a storm.

Mrs. Johnson’s loves for good cooking, Georgia, and people come through loud and clear. I loved the relationship between Matt and an elderly neighbor, the dogs, and many other elements in this book.

This book is clean with no bad language. There is a lot of kissing but no details and nothing further than kisses. Also, dress is casual (shorts, etc.) as one would expect in a lake house setting. No revealing clothing besides shorts and one mention of bathing suits. Refuge at Pine Lake is decidedly Christian in tone and lead characters. This book is suitable for you and your older teen daughters.

I give this five stars and my hearty recommendation.

Fiction review: The Forgotten Life of Evelyn Lewis

The Forgotten Life of Evelyn Lewis is a debut novel by Jane Rubietta, but you’d never guess it. Little by little, the fascinating plot reveals repressed memories.

Evelyn “Evie” Lewis is a successful interior designer, much sought-after by New York City’s real estate owners. But, her world is rocked with two events: a client goes bankrupt, which means Evie may not be able to pay her own company’s bills, and she inherits her mother’s homeplace in Tennessee. The problem was, the property she planned to fix up and sell came with a clause: she had to live there for three months. Three months … and her company was on the verge of bankruptcy.

Her old motto, “Get in, get out” had always helped her cope. Why was she having nightmares and flashbacks now? What had happened in her childhood? Why did her parents leave her?

Evie has to stay or she doesn’t get the property. Much to her surprise, she begins to be enveloped in the neighborliness of the townspeople—or is it love? She feels part of the community and even family for the first time in her life.

Follow her as she gets to know them and as she begins to care. A little bit at a time, Evie finds her past. Some is earthshakingly tragic, and some of it is beautiful.

There’s a lot I could say about this novel. I loved it! The writing is masterful. It pulled me in before the second page. There’s a little bit of everything in the plot: humor, pathos, romance, and lots of genuine love. I enjoyed the details about rehabilitating the old house and how the author revealed Evie’s story a little at a time while also surprising with complications and twists.

I looked for Ms. Rubietta’s author page, and found out she has written and co-written several non-fiction and devotional books, but this is her first novel.

I loved The Forgotten Life of Evelyn Lewis, and I think you will, too.

Clean, Christian, some pre-marital kisses, but no sensual content at all. The plot includes “evangelistic dating,” which, of course, I don’t recommend. Though you may want to chat with your daughters beforehand, I think your teen girls would enjoy this as much as you will.