Fiction review: Sand Creek Serenade

Sand Creek Serenade, by Jennifer Uhlarik, is highly recommended, and I can certainly understand why. The writing and storyline flow beautifully, and the story is refreshingly different. It’s historical fiction set in 1864, just before, during, and after the Sand Creek Massacre. The story follows the unlikely romance between Dr. Sadie Hoppner and the Cheyenne warrior, Five Kills.

I loved Sadie immediately. She’s feisty, smart, caring, and independent, but she relies on the Lord for guidance. Her brother is an important part of her life—though he’s sometimes far from helpful. Romantic intentions from Gabriel only make the story sweeter.

The massacre itself is horrible, a blot on America’s history. I have a difficult time understanding this level of cruelty and disregard for human life. I believe the author feels this way, as well. She shows both sides of the story and handles this horrible subject with care and realism. Although she describes the horrors, she weaves the massacre into the story in such a way as to keep the story moving through this trauma.

The romance between Sadie and Five Kills develops slowly and is told in a sweet way. I don’t usually read romances at all, but this one seemed just about right to me.

For your information, there are several passionate kisses between Sadie and Five Kills before they marry. (Sorry for the spoiler.) Especially at the end of the book it’s rather frank about the physical attraction between them. The scenes from the massacre are horrible. In addition, there are a few descriptions of torture. I believe this book is for mature women only.

Sand Creek Serenade includes an appearance of the Lord Jesus as Healer and as an answer to prayer. He is presented as Savior. I read some of the reviews where this appearance of the Lord is criticized, and I value others’ opinions. However, I personally didn’t have any problem with this. This book is fiction. I also didn’t see anything theologically wrong with the way this was presented. Jesus does heal. Jesus could appear—should He choose—to anyone, anywhere. He might reveal Himself supernaturally from time to time, though we shouldn’t expect it.

I enjoyed Sand Creek Serenade, and I think you will, too. Five stars.

Fiction Review: Agnes Hopper Shakes Up Sweetbriar

Agnes Hopper Shakes Up Sweetbriar is the first book I’ve read by Carol Guthrie Heilman, but it won’t be the last. It’s quirky and fun, but there’s heart to it, too.

Agnes Hopper is a widow, who, after several years of living on the farm after her husband’s death, is consigned by her daughter to a retirement home. The first day is enough to tell Agnes something is desperately wrong—and it isn’t only the residents. Agnes resolves that day to leave that place as soon as possible.

The residence home’s rulebook must be never-ending, since Agnes, after only a couple of weeks, has racked up quite a rap sheet of offenses.

Agnes’s high school best friend and roommate, Pearl, doesn’t even remember her. But Pearl has enough presence of mind to hoard Nyquil so she can sleep at night.

Some of the residents are hilarious, while others are very fragile mentally and physically.

Agnes makes friends and tries to help. When a woman named Alice is on her deathbed, some of the problems begin to come to light.

You will love Agnes. She is a gutsy lady who “consults” with her late husband much as she did when he was alive. She pursues right and truth and allies with some unlikely characters to find out what is going on in Sweetbriar’s residence home. She even gets into trouble with the law.

Author Carol Guthrie Heilman paints delightful characters that are fresh and fun. The writing is very good, and I enjoyed the developments. This is Christian fiction, and it refers to the Lord, prayer, and church. Beyond that, the Christian factor stays in the background. The book is clean, fun, and poignant.

I would sincerely have enjoyed it more if I weren’t getting to the age that I understand too well how Agnes feels.

There are some references to bodily functions. (It is a home for the elderly, after all.) Also, one person appears naked—not described, and she is unwell. There’s some alcohol and drug abuse, and one character is a single mother. I personally would recommend it for adult readers only, though the book is clean. The subject matter and setting don’t seem appropriate for teens.

I look forward to reading more Agnes Hopper books. Delightful.

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.