Christian Fiction Reviews | September 15, 2013

Fall is a season of change, and the Christian fiction titles reviewed this month focus on changes in their characters’ lives. The Jewish characters of Lynn Austin’s Return to Me come back from exile in pagan Babylon to rebuild the fallen city of Jerusalem. Lori Copeland and Virginia Smith send a headstrong young lady to a Western logging camp in A Bride for Noah. An anonymous guardian changes another young lady’s life in Jessica Dotta’s Born of Persuasion. Arson affects the Amish characters of Linda Byler’s Davey’s Daughter. But the most powerful change of all occurs in Rebecca St. James and Nancy Rue’s The Merciful Scar, as a young woman faces her personal demons to hear the voice of God and save her life.

Hedlund, Jody. Rebellious Heart. Bethany House. Sept. 2013. 384p. ISBN 9780764210488. pap. $14.99; ebk. ISBN 9781441262769. CF

Susanna Smith, the daughter of a wealthy minister, has never known physical hardship, but she desperately wants an education beyond merely learning to read and cipher. Unfortunately, women are denied a higher education in 1763 Massachusetts, but Susanna continues to broaden her self-taught knowledge and isn’t afraid to question the status quo. Poor lawyer Ben Ross struggled to attain his education at Harvard, and he understands Susanna’s frustration, but class distinctions and her need to marry well leave them in the friend category. When Susanna reaches out to hide a runaway indentured servant, Ben’s frustration with the British authorities leads him to help her and puts both of them in the crosshairs of the local redcoat militia. VERDICT Hedlund won the Inspirational Readers Choice Award from the Romance Writers of America’s Faith, Hope and Love Chapter in 2011 for The Preacher’s Bride. In her second novel, she vividly captures authentic historical details as she explores the radical changes looming in light of the approaching American Revolution. In a note, Hedlund explains how she used John and Abigail Adams as her role models for her characters.

Peterson, Tracie. The Miner’s Lady. Bethany House. (Land of Shining Water, Bk. 3). Sept. 2013. 352p. ISBN 9780764211461. $19.99; pap. ISBN 9780764206214. $14.99; ebk. ISBN 9781441262691. CF

Romeo and Juliet were tame compared with the fireworks surrounding the families of Dante Calarco and Chantel Panetta. Their respective younger siblings, Orlando and Isabella, are in love, and Isabella asks Chantel to distract Dante so she can spend time with Orlando, a distraction that leads to a second case of star-crossed lovers in the family. Meanwhile, their fathers are determined to carry on the feud they brought with them from Italy to Minnesota, until an accident at the mine where they work changes Papa Panetta’s mind and he feels God is leading him to make peace. Unfortunately, the elder Calarco is determined to see the Panettas dead—and his son with them if he leaves the family. VERDICT Peterson delivers another solid historical romance, and fans will be eager to read the next installment in her frontier series (The Ice Cutter’s Daughter; The Quarryman’s Bride).

Tagg, Melissa. Made to Last. Bethany House. Sept. 2013. 368p. ISBN 9780764211324. pap. $13.99; ebk. ISBN 9781441262806. CF

Miranda Woodruff, the reality TV star of From the Ground Up, faces a dilemma. She landed her job as the host of one of television’s most popular home-building shows based on a lie: her husband taught her everything she knew. Unfortunately, she’s not married, but her fan base thinks she is, and with her ratings slipping, her husband might be the answer to saving the show. The Hollywood solution: hire an actor to play her husband. Enter reporter Matthew Knox, who needs to salvage his career. He’s been assigned to write a blog following Miranda, her show, and her husband. But there’s something weird going on. Miranda and her husband aren’t quite in sync, an ex-fiancé has shown up, and, strangest of all, Matthew thinks he might be the right person for Miranda. If only she weren’t married. VERDICT This debut romantic comedy with hidden layers will appeal to fans of Sandra D. Bricker, Trish Perry, and Rachel Hauck.

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The following titles are reviewed in this month's print issue.
Visit Book Verdict for the full reviews.

Austin, Lynn. Return to Me. Bethany House. (Restoration Chronicles, Bk. 1). Oct. 2013. 464p. ISBN 9780764211508. $19.99; pap. ISBN 9780764208980. $14.99; ebk. ISBN 9781441262707. CF

Bauer, Kathleen. Before the Dawn. (Home to Heather Creek, Bk. 1). 288p. ISBN 9780824934248

Bauer, Kathleen. Sweet September. (Home to Heather Creek, Bk. 2). 256p. ISBN 9780824934253. ea. vol: Guideposts. Sept. 2013. pap. $13.99. CF

Byler, Linda. Davey’s Daughter. Good Bks. (Lancaster Burning, Bk. 2). Oct. 2013. 344p. ISBN 9781561488025. pap. $13.99. CF

Copeland, Lori & Virginia Smith. A Bride for Noah. Harvest House. (Seattle Brides, Bk. 1). Oct. 2013. 320p. ISBN 9780736953474. pap. $13.99. CF

Dotta, Jessica. Born of Persuasion. Tyndale. (Price of Privilege, Bk. 1). Sept. 2013. 448p. ISBN 9781414375557. pap. $13.99; ebk. ISBN 9781414388441. CF

Lawhead, Stephen R. The Shadow Lamp. Thomas Nelson. (Bright Empires, Bk. 4). Sept. 2013. 400p. ISBN 9781595548078. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9781401689551. CF

Pettrey, Dani. Stranded. Bethany House. (Alaskan Courage, Bk. 3). Sept. 2013. 352p. ISBN 9780764209840. pap. $14.99; ebk. ISBN 9781441262738. CF

Sawyer, Kim Vogel. What Once Was Lost. WaterBrook: Random. Sept. 2013. 352p. ISBN 9780307731258. pap. $14.99; ebk. ISBN 9780307731265. CF

redstar St. James, Rebecca & Nancy Rue. The Merciful Scar. Thomas Nelson. Sept. 2013. 368p. ISBN 9781401689223. pap. $15.99; ebk. ISBN 9781401689230. CF

Wax, Trevin. Clear Winter Nights. Multnomah. Sept. 2013. 176p. ISBN 9781601424945. pap. $13.99; ebk. ISBN 9781601424952. CF

Wiehl, Lis with Pete Nelson. Fatal Tide. Thomas Nelson. (East Salem, Bk. 3). Sept. 2013. 336p. ISBN 9781595549464. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9781595549488. CF

Melanie C. Duncan is Branch Librarian at Shurling Library, Macon, GA. She reviews ebook originals and fantasy for Library Journal and wrote the magazine’s Christian fiction column years ago. She is a member of the Georgia Peach Awards committee for 2014–2015,, and can be found on Twitter, @MelanieCDuncan