Monday, November 28, 2016

Smoke and Mirrors

This is a collection of eight brand new never before released contemporary romantic novellas from today's bestselling Christian authors. As is often the case with a variety of authors, the quality of the novellas differ. I give a synopsis of each and add my review. Overall, this is a good collection of novellas with mystery, suspense, and romance. I recommend it to those who would like to be introduced to some new authors while enjoying some good stories.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

   We meet J. T., an ex-FBI agent in The Long View. His pride got him fired from the government agency and placed distance between him and Destiny, the girl he loved and daughter of his FBI mentor. Years later, his mentor asks him to go undercover to investigate a possible terrorist. He's taken aback when he finds out Destiny owns a shop in the same mall as the suspected terrorist.
   There is quite a bit packed in this novella. It is overtly Christian. There are good discussions about the differences between Christianity and Islam. We find out there are sects of Islam, some peaceful while others cultivate terrorists.
   There is some good suspense in the latter part of the plot, as well as a slight bit of romance.
   Connie Almony was trained as a mental health counselor, helping her develop motivated characters. Her husband loves mischief, giving her ideas for bantering dialog. She has written several novels. You can find out more at www.ConnieAlmony.com.

   In Taken, we read about being a surrogate mother. The people who arranged for a surrogate demand testing. When they find out the child will be defective, they demand the surrogate mother have an abortion. But she is a Christian. What price is she willing to pay to do the right thing?
   In addition to this thought provoking aspect to the novella, there is a good bit of romance and suspense.
   Sally Bradley has had fiction as her passion since childhood. She writes books that entertain and point people to Christ. You can find out more at www.sallybradley.com.

   In On the Ropes, a woman witnesses a Russian mafia execution. Even though she is put in witness protection, she is found before the trial begins.
   She had been dating Victor, the son of the mafia boss, and had introduced him to church. But after seeing the execution, she had fled to the police. When Victor finds her in hiding months later, she is terrified.
   There is lots of suspense in this novel – right to the very end. Hacking into facial recognition software was part of it. It was enlightening to read about the mafia and their control of prostitution, etc. There is a good gospel message included too.
   Hallee Bridgeman is a bestselling Christian author with more than half a million sales. She lives in central Kentucky with her husband and their children. You can find out more at www.halleebridgeman.com/ and www.halleethehomemaker.com/.

   In Out of Circulation, Katie is a quiet librarian. First gunman invade the library then her house is searched. Then there are attacks on her life. Her dad was an FBI agent and was on a bank heist case when money went missing. Do they think she has the money? Her mother hires a body guard but can he be trusted?
   Heather Day Gilbert was born and raised in the West Virginia mountains. She is a graduate of Bob Jones University and is married to her college sweetheart. She and her husband are raising their children in the same house she grew up in. She is the author of several novels. Find out more at http://heatherdaygilbert.com.

   In Dangerous Alternative, Levi Boulter is thrust into an FBI investigation of an assassination plot aimed at the First Lady. In movie production, he works undercover for the FBI, taking photos and passing them along. An explosion on a movie lot places his life in danger. He is determined to protect the woman he loves too.
   There is an interesting foundation to the plot. The reason someone wants to assassinate the First Lady is that she in promoting alternative medicine, a possible reform that would cost drug companies billions in profits.
   There is quite a bit of action in this novella but it has a very complex plot, perhaps too complex for this length work. This novel also contained many references to eastern practices and was a little too graphic in the romance area for me.
   Kelli Hughett is a native of Colorado and enjoys the rural life outside of Windsor with her husband and their three kids. She homeschools and is the co-founder of Oil in My Lamp ministries. You can find out more at www.kellihughett.blogspot.com.

   We travel to rural Alaska in Identity Theft. Lacy is in a rural community as a result of the witness protection program. It has been four years since she witnessed a murder and testified. Even though she is being courted by a fine man, she still thinks of the love of her life, the man she was with all those years ago. She was told he was dead but then she thinks she sees him. Could he still be alive and what was he doing in Alaska?
   This novella is a good character study. Lacy has a dilemma? Doe she trust the man from years ago or trust the man who loves her now, even though he doesn't know who she really is? There is lots of ruminating by her. That slows the action a bit but there is plenty of action elsewhere. And mosquitoes. I'd think Terry was exaggerating the mosquitoes but I've been to Alaska and, yes, there are lots of mosquitoes!
   Alana Terry is a pastor's wife, homeshooling mom, and and award winning Christian suspense author. She and her family live in rural Alaska.

     In Obsession, two pregnant women are found murdered, slashed with a knife. Amanda's adoptive mother is at the scene of the second murder, as is Amanda. Her mother, suffering from Alzheimer's, is implicated in the murder. Amanda, a police detective, is bent on protecting the woman who raised her. She is also caring for her pregnant with twins niece, a thirteen year old. Her FBI agent husband is by her side.
     I found this novella to be the hardest one to read in this collection. The plot is good, even if it is very complicated with lots of past events we're not privy to. It is the author's writing style I found hard to grasp. There are incomplete sentences. Phrases as sentences. Pronouns with confusing antecedents. Dialog without identifying the speakers.
     I also felt like I had missed a previous novella. How did the teen get pregnant? It seems she might have been kidnapped but there is only hints to it, to Amanda's husband's accident, maybe Amanda's abduction, and much more. The novella has good potential but needs work.
     Rachel Trautmiller writes novels filled with murder, mayhem, and romance. She and her husband have one toddler. You can find out more at www.racheltrautmiller.com.

     Scent of Danger is a good story for the final one in this collection. Maya, a small town police woman, is trying to find her missing twin, January. She attends a charity event at the senator's mansion, impersonating her sister. She meets Connor, handsome son of the senator and friend of Maya's twin. The two work together to find out what has happened to January. But they run into danger again and again as people are willing to kill to keep secrets hidden.
     This novella has a great mix of suspense and romance. Connor was once a policeman so he works well with Maya when danger invades. The scenes are done well and the characters are developed as the plot progresses. I liked this novella.
     Alexa Verde is a teacher and translator turned author of Christian romantic suspense. She has over 200 short stories, poems, and articles published in the five languages she speaks. After traveling the world, she now calls Texas home. You can find out more at www.alexaverde.com.

Olivia Kimbrell Press, around 1300 pages.

I received a complimentary digital copy of this anthology through The Book Club Network. My comments are an independent and honest review. 
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