Bradley's New Natchez-Set Series, Duffy's Thriller Debut, High-Octane Action & Romance from Martin, Vogt, Wilson | Christian Fiction Reviews

Bradley's first book in a new series delivers all the twists readers expect in a thriller, rounded out with strong family relationships and a bit of romance; Martin deftly unwinds Shepherd’s backstory in between high-octane chase scenes; for readers who enjoy flawed yet likable characters in the style of John Grisham and Nicholas Sparks

redstarBradley, Patricia. Standoff. Revell. (Natchez Trace Park Rangers, Bk. 1). May 2020. 400p. ISBN 9780800735739. pap. $15.99. CF

All Brooke Danvers has ever wanted to do was be a ranger. Not just a tour-leading, interpretive ranger, like she has been, but a law enforcement ranger like her father, John. Just before Brooke can be officially sworn in as an enforcement ranger, her father is killed on the job. The police may have written it off as a suicide, but Brooke knew her dad would never kill himself. She’s on a mission to find out what really happened, no matter where that leads. The mystery brings her back into the life of former flame, Luke Fereday. Luke is back in the town of Natchez, supposedly to check in on his ailing grandmother, but something about his story just doesn’t add up. The truth is, Luke is an undercover agent, working on busting a drug ring that Brooke is closer to than she ever realized. Bradley’s (“Memphis Cold Case”) first book in a new series delivers all the twists, double-crosses, and ­action readers expect in a thriller but rounds it out with strong family relationships and a bit of romance. While there is violence and death in the story (it does involve an international drug ring after all), it’s not explicit. Though there are references to God, His plan, and prayer, overall this title reads more like a thriller than an inspirational or Christian fiction work.
VERDICT Recommended for libraries where readers want action, mysteries, and suspense without gore.—Heather Webb, Worthington Lib., OH

Duffy, Kimberly. A Mosaic of Wings. Bethany House. May 2020. 368p. ISBN 9780764236259. $29.99; ISBN 9780764235634. pap. $15.99. CF
DEBUT  Nora dreams of becoming an entomologist and publishing the journal originally owned by her father once she graduates from Cornell University in 1885. However, her stepfather, who believes that the only suitable roles for a woman are wife and mother, is in financial trouble and is pressuring her to marry a man she does not love in order to pay his debts. After her stepfather burns her insect collection, she decides to spend the summer in India with a research team in the hope that she can win a scholarship to Cornell’s master’s program. Her chief competitor, Owen, is also on the team. When she rescues an Indian girl from a life of prostitution, she finds herself in conflict with societal and cultural norms. Simultaneously she finds her career and scholarship chances in jeopardy. VERDICT Duffy is an author to watch. She presents a unique look at society’s expectations for women in two different cultures in the late 19th century. Only by losing all she has held dear can Nora gain a love and passion she cannot live without. This historical romance is recommended for readers of Tracie Peterson and Jody Hedlund.—Margaret Bentley, Shiawassee Dist. Lib., Owosso, MI

redstarMartin, Charles. The Water Keeper. Thomas Nelson. May 2020. 352p.  ISBN 9780785230915. $26.99. CF
Martin (The Mountain Between Us; Long Way Gone) excels at writing characters who exist in the margins of life. Murphy Shepherd lives alone, doing maintenance work for a church that no one attends and trying to heal from scars gained rescuing others who dwell in the margins. His specialty is finding trafficked young girls and leading them from brokenness to freedom, but Shepherd thinks he has given everything he has and it may be time to retire. His hermetic healing process is interrupted when he rescues a woman named Summer in Florida’s Intercoastal Waterway and gets drawn into a hunt after a gang of international human traffickers. The strength of the story is in the friends he picks up along the way: a dying ex-con, an intelligent Labrador, and a hardened young girl with as many secrets as Shepherd himself.
VERDICT Martin deftly unwinds Shepherd’s backstory in between high-octane chase scenes. Readers who enjoy flawed yet likable characters created by authors such as John Grisham and Nicholas Sparks will want to start reading Martin’s fiction.—Christine Barth, Scott Cty. Lib. Syst., IA

Vogt, Beth K. The Best We’ve Been. Tyndale House. (Thatcher Sisters, Bk. 3). May 2020. 464p. ISBN 9781496427335. $25.99; pap. ISBN 9781496427342. $15.99. CF
Johanna Thatcher’s life is all about control; after all, she knows how painful it can be to let her guard down. When she discovers she is pregnant, the ability to maintain control takes on a whole new meaning. Though she isn’t close to her ­sisters, a fragile friendship begins when her secret is revealed. Complexities surrounding her family, her job, and her decision to let the baby’s father play a role all collide when she learns that the baby’s life and hers might be in danger. As all three sisters struggle with their faith, God weaves their lives together, healing old wounds and opening up doors in their relationships with one another and those they love. When Johanna is forced to remain in the hospital for her last few weeks of the pregnancy, she learns to surrender control and finally let others inside the wall she had so carefully constructed. VERDICT Vogt rounds out the “Thatcher Sisters” trilogy with this last installment. All three siblings realize the strength in family and faith as the story unfolds. Best read in order; readers who enjoy authors Karen Kingsbury and Lori Wick will love the Thatcher sisters.—Jane Blue, ­Northumberland P.L., Heathsville, VA

Wilson, Abigail. Masquerade at Middlecrest Abbey. Thomas Nelson. May 2020. 336p. ISBN 9780785233077. pap. $15.99. CF
When Elizabeth’s carriage is robbed, she finds herself agreeing to a marriage of convenience to Lord ­Torrington in order to protect both her reputation and her son. Complicating their relationship are secrets they both wish to keep: Lord Torrington is spying for the British government, and ­Elizabeth’s young son, who was born out of wedlock, is actually his nephew. Lord Torrington also has two teenage daughters; the eldest is planning a wedding for later in the week when her fiancé, Giles, is killed in what appears to be an accident. As Elizabeth and her new husband investigate Giles’s death, which seems to be a murder related to Lord Torrington’s spying activities, more secrets are revealed. At the same time, Elizabeth and Lord Torrington learn to trust each other. Subplots involving Elizabeth’s relationships to the family and servants further enhance the story.
VERDICT This latest from Wilson (Midnight on the River Grey) has all the elements of a classic Regency romance, but the mystery adds another layer, enriching the plot. As well, there should be plenty of crossover appeal, since the Christian influences are very subtle. Recommended for fans of Tasha Alexander and Lauren Willig.—­Margaret Bentley, Shiawassee Dist. Lib., Owosso, MI


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