Powner's Powerful Debut, the Last of Laureano's "MacDonald Family," Gray's Inspirational Romance | Christian Fiction Reviews Spotlight

Packed with poignancy and meaning, Powner’s debut novel delivers life lessons that cross generations; Gray has crafted a sweet story for those who typically read Christian fiction; Laureano's worthy crossover title that concludes this modern romantic trilogy could also stand alone as a winsome story of community and second chances

Gray, Tammy L. Love and a Little White Lie. Bethany House. (State of Grace). Aug. 2020. 368p. ISBN 9780764235894. pap. $15.99. CF
Jan Sanders was brought up to believe that religion was a fairy tale. When her heart gets broken, she heads to her aunt Doreen and uncle Jim’s to recover, despite her aunt’s involvement in the church. Doreen helps get Jan a temporary job as an assistant at the church, which leads Jan to feel like an impostor, since she doesn’t believe in God. However, the people she meets there are so kind and genuine that she finds herself fitting in with the staff, especially musician Cameron. In her heart Jan knows she’ll never belong if her lack of faith gets out. But Dillon Kyle, a contractor at her aunt’s ranch, sees right through her, despite having his own secrets he isn’t ready to share. Jan comes to discover that God does exist and that He is active in her life. Once Jan opens her heart to God, a family rift starts to mend, and she finds love and a place she belongs. Gray (“Hope” series; “Winsor” series) has crafted a sweet story, but it will not have crossover appeal for those who don’t typically read Christian fiction. VERDICT Purchase for collections where modern inspirational romance does well.—Heather Webb, Worthington Libs., OH

Laureano, Carla. Under Scottish Stars. Tyndale House. (MacDonald Family Trilogy, Bk. 3). Jul. 2020. 384p. ISBN 9781496426291. pap. $14.99. CF
In the long-awaited final volume in the “MacDonald Family Trilogy,” Serena Stewart moves back to Skye with her two young children after her oldest is suspended from her prestigious school. The slow pace of life in the Scottish Isles brings to light the cracks in her carefully constructed personal and professional facades, which she plastered over after the death of her husband. As she returns home and tries to take over the running of the family hotel, she butts heads with the handsome and stubborn manager, Malcolm Blake, who was also thrust into single parenthood unexpectedly. Readers will enjoy cameos of favorite people from previous books, along with some new flawed and hopeful characters. VERDICT Laureano (The Saturday Night Supper Club) pens a worthy crossover title concluding this modern romantic trilogy that could also stand alone as a winsome story of community and second chances. Fans of light, contemporary, Christian romance along the lines of Jenny Colgan or Bethany Turner will want to add Laureano to their lists.—Christine Barth, Scott Cty. Lib. Syst., IA

redstarPowner, Katie. The Sowing Season. Bethany House. Oct. 2020. 368p. ISBN 9780764237829. $29.99; pap. ISBN 9780764237591. $15.99. CF
DEBUT   Gerrit Laninga has never known anything but dawn-’til-dusk labor on the family dairy farm and is at loose ends in retirement. His wife and children barely speak to him, his body is giving out, and old grudges seem to have new vigor, so he begins watching late-night cooking shows to fill the emptiness. Rae Walters is a type A overachiever teenager, destined for a big-time law firm and reluctant to deviate from “The Plan.” When her fear of failing driver’s ed becomes overwhelming, she hides in a dilapidated barn near her house. As the driven teenager and the crusty old man take the first tentative steps toward friendship, nothing seems to be going the way either of them planned. Their volunteer work for underprivileged youth helps both to understand how blessings often come to those who give of themselves. VERDICT Packed with poignancy and meaning, Powner’s debut novel delivers life lessons that cross generations and will linger long after the last page is turned. If Powner has more stories like this, she will be the next big star in Christian fiction.—Christine Barth, Scott Cty. Lib. Syst., IA

Wright, Jaime Jo. The Haunting at Bonaventure Circus. Bethany House. Sept. 2020. 400p. ISBN 9780764233890. pap. $15.99. CF
Pippa Ripley was abandoned by her circus performer parents as an infant and adopted by circus royalty, the owner of Bonaventure Circus himself. As the 1920s brings more freedom for some women in rural Wisconsin, Pippa is still under her father’s thumb even as she is drawn to the traveling life. The seedy underbelly of circus life soon places her in grave danger. In a modern-day story line, which is more appealing than the historical, Chandler Faulk has purchased an old depot and is hoping to make a name for herself in historical renovations even as she raises her son alone and battles an autoimmune disease. Suspicious events and the discovery of a 40-year-old corpse begin to convince her the old circus building is haunted, even though believing in ghosts goes against her faith. VERDICT The intricate setup Wright (The House on Foster Hill) delivers requires patience and suspension of disbelief, but the ending is worth it. Fans of complex Christian fiction in the vein of Kristy Cambron and Michèle Phoenix will enjoy this title.—Christine Barth, Scott Cty. Lib. Syst., IA

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