I know inspies aren’t for everyone, but if you’re so inclined, I promise these recent releases have actual smooching with little or no sermonizing.
It Happened at the Fair by Deeanne Gist
I fell in love with Gist’s writing with Maid to Match, and she’s never disappointed me. The titular fair is the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago — the heroine is a teacher for the deaf, the hero is an inventor demonstrating his fire sprinkler system, they have a most memorable meet-cute, and it just gets better from there. Gist is a master of historical world-building, and she effortlessly weaves together complex character and plot threads to create yet another entry on my DIK list. Grade: A
A Noble Groom by Jody Hedlund
Let’s take a moment to gaze upon that lovely cover, shall we?
So about the actual book: Set in 1880s Michigan, this is the story of a young German nobleman fleeing execution (he was framed, of course) and a newly-widowed immigrant struggling to save her farm from the clutches of an evil lumber baron. Hedlund has a great voice and storytelling skills, but the setting was so similar to a RITA nominee from last year (The Measure of Katie Calloway) that I found it a bit predictable. Grade: B
A Royal Marraige by Rachelle McCalla
I hope this is the first of a series, because I loved the ninth-century setting. The historical world-building was spot-on, with just enough detail and only a few minor anachronistic word choices. I was also really impressed with the presentation of Charlemagne’s daughter Gisela as a strong, smart leader. But the insta-love romance was blah — no emotional conflicts, just external political intrigues. Neither the hero nor the heroine had any flaws to overcome; they were both perfectly perfect from start to finish. Scale back on the military maneuvers and focus on the relationship-building, and this would have been an A grade. Grade: B
The Tutor’s Daughter by Julie Klassen
Klassen’s The Silent Governess was my gateway book for inspirational romance, and all her earlier books are on my keeper shelf. But I was disappointed with her last effort (The Maid of Fairbourne Hall), and this one didn’t measure up either. It’s an enjoyable read, but the gothic elements never quite gel enough to create the atmosphere this story needs. Her next book is titled The Dancing Master, so I suppose I’ll be compelled to read it for that reason alone. Grade: C+
No Safe Harbor by Elizabeth Ludwig
It’s a great set-up – a young Irish woman travels to New York to find her long-lost brother – that fizzles out early on. The heroine is little more than a prop, and she makes a few decisions that come very close to TSTL territory. What bothered me even more were the Very Convenient Coincidences to sustain a suspense plot that was both lackluster and overly complicated. However…I am intrigued by the upcoming second book in the series featuring a compelling secondary character, so apparently I wasn’t completely put off by this new-to-me author. Grade: C-