For today’s review, I’m highlighting Karen Witemeyer’s Head in the Clouds for a very exciting reason: it’s currently only $1.99 on Kindle!
I could really relate to Adelaide Proctor because she’s a clumsy, daydreaming bookworm. She’s also a romantic, and her naive fantasies about love find her alone and humiliated in a new town. Desperately needing a job, she takes a governess position on a sheep ranch. There she meets Gideon Westcott, a handsome Brit who became a father to five year old Isabella literally overnight. Adelaide’s biggest challenge will be breaking through Isabella’s silence: the child hasn’t spoken since her mother’s death on the ship to America.
Gideon’s relationship with his adoptive daughter is one of my favorite things in this book. How he came to be her father is a heart-tugging story that will make you fall in love with this gallant sheep rancher right along with Adelaide.
Adelaide herself is a breath of fresh air in Gideon’s and Isabella’s tragic lives. The humorous situations due to Adelaide’s daydreaming and her bubbly personality reminded me of Maria in The Sound of Music and had me laughing out loud. However, Gideon is far from stoic and serious. He’s worried about his daughter, yes, but he’s a charmer and a bit of flirt. He and Adelaide are attracted to each other from the start, which is a refreshing change from most romance novels.
One warning to readers, however. There is an attempted rape scene in this book. Frankly, I felt it was handled poorly. It was used as a plot device to set certain things in motion. Afterwards, the victim brushes it off (though it’s pretty violent, with her thrown onto the ground and her clothes ripped), and it’s never mentioned again. The woman has no long term effects from this experience, and that really bothered me. In all fairness to the author, I think that media has long treated attempted rape in this manner, and it isn’t the first time I’ve seen it. Of course, that’s another post entirely. Overall, I just felt that the scene took away from the tone of the rest of the book.
Despite the scene I mentioned above, I still highly recommend this book. You’ll get completely invested in the characters, and the drama surrounding Isabella’s unconventional adoption will have you on the edge of your seat. You’ll also swoon from the get go as Adelaide and Gideon fall in love.
I have been eagerly anticipating Becky Wade’s newest book, Stay with Me, for a while now. I just finished it and enjoyed it so much that I immediately read the prequel novella Take a Chance on Me. Which is why I didn’t review the book right away - I was getting lost in the story of Sam’s best friend Eli!
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Sam is the male lead character in Stay with Me, and I absolutely adore him! I usually would roll my eyes at a character that runs an organic farm and a keto/paleo farm-to-table restaurant, but Sam was such a dynamic, complex character, he felt believable instead of a trendy stereotype. He is a man with a past, riddled with guilt and regrets, who keeps people at arm’s length. Yet he also tends to be a rescuer, a fixer (aren’t a lot a men?), and so he can’t help attempting to rescue Genevieve, the female lead. Even though he tries really hard not to.
Oh, and did I mention he’s a hunky Australian?
Genevieve, on the surface, seems like the last person who could identify with Sam’s walls and secrets, yet she too wears a facade. She’s a popular, extremely successful Christian author and speaker. Her Bible studies for women have made her an example for others to follow, but she harbors a devastating secret: she’s an opioid addict. (This is revealed right away, so I’m not spoiling anything!)
As Wade often does, a mystery from the past is woven into the tale as well. I couldn’t figure it out until Genevieve did, or at least, I didn’t want to believe my suspicions. Let’s just say secrets are a family sin.
With the subjects of opioid addiction, social media personas, and Christian celebrity culture with a keto/paleo farm-to-table restaurant to boot, this book could have easily been a trendy morality tale. I’ve read those and can’t stand them. Wade, however, crafts layered, believable characters into a story that transcends all those things and gets right down to human nature. The theme of sin thriving in secret is universal, meaning we can all relate to these characters and their struggles while rooting for Sam and Genevieve to fall in love. This is my favorite quote from the book:
“Relationships were painful and messy and beautiful and important. The mess came with the beauty. The pain came with the importance.
That was life. And God was calling him to live it.”
I just finished Karen Witemeyer’s newest release: At Love’s Command. It is book one in her new Hanger’s Horsemen series.
This book opens with a very intense scene. Matthew Hanger is a member of the US Cavalry assigned to confiscate weapons from the Nez Perce tribe at Wounded Knee. Yes - that wounded knee. Even though you know the tragedy soon to unfold, Witemeyer writes it in such a way that you feel you’ve never heard the story before. And in some ways, I don’t think I ever really did until I read this book. After reading the way she described the massacre at Wounded Knee, I went and looked it up myself. I found legitimate sources - The Encyclopedia Britannica and a scholarly book published by a historian who did her dissertation on Wounded Knee. (I’m a nerd like that.) What I discovered is that Witemeyer gave a pretty historically accurate portrayal of the massacre. However, Matt is knocked unconscious and that fact, combined with Witemeyer’s delicate handling of the material, means it isn’t graphic or disturbing. It is, however, still tragic and incredibly sad. This is important because the event is Matthew Hanger’s motivation for the rest of the novel.
Several years later, we find Matt as the leader of what has come to be known as the Hanger’s Horsemen. It’s four men: Matt, Luke (whom everyone calls Preach), Jonas, and Mark. Preach and Jonas were with Matt at Wounded Knee. They formed the Horsemen to try and atone for their sins at Wounded Knee. (Even though we find out that the three of them testified against the US army before congress and refused their medals of honor). Jonas is a black man who was a member of the Buffalo Soldiers, a black cavalry of the US Army sent as “peacekeepers” to the Native Americans. I learned that some of them were, in fact, at Wounded Knee! I don’t know much about the Buffalo Soldiers, but I want to. Therefore, I hope Jonas is the main focus of a future book. There was also something in the novel about his father’s watch and how important it was to him, so I feel that was a set up for a future story maybe
But back to Matt and the Horsemen . . . Hanger’s Horsemen are hired by those who are facing injustice. In other words, they come to the aid of the weak being oppressed by the strong. They fight by a code, one of them being that they will not kill. They will only shoot in defense, and even then only non-fatal wounds. During one job, Mark, their young new recruit, gets shot and severely injured. Matt rushes him to the nearest doctor: Joe Burkett. Turns out, though that it’s Dr. Josephine Burkett - a woman.
Matt and Josephine have each vowed to use their lives in service of others, realizing that it most likely means never marrying. But almost as soon as they meet, their hearts begin to long for more. They manage to keep their walls up, knowing they will part ways as soon as Mark is on the mend. However, Josephine ends up needing the services of the Horsemen, and that forces her and Matthew to wrestle with their feelings for one another.
Naturally, I don’t want to give anything else away! The rest of the novel is as action packed as you would expect a western to be. The romance is also well done, with two well rounded, complex characters. Matt believes himself to be unworthy of any woman’s love, least of all Josephine’s, because of the things he has seen and done. The theme of atonement is a big one in the story as Matt wrestles with the realization all Christians face: we can never fully atone for our sins on our own. And Josephine must face her prejudices towards men whom she judges for “living by the sword.”
I love that for the first time a Witemeyer novel features the male lead on the cover. And not just because it’s a swoon-worthy picture! Matthew Hanger is the true main character of this story, and he might just be my favorite hero that Witemeyer has created. Strong, yet tender; masculine yet supportive of Josephine’s ambitions; a man of few words, yet full of conviction. What woman wouldn’t fall for this guy? However, he isn’t perfect. He wrestles with demons from his past (what we would now call PTSD), and confesses that hatred motivated him to join the army in the first place. It’s overall a beautiful story of a man’s redemption. Not because of a woman’s love but because of God’s love.
I am a former English teacher turned homeschool mom of three who writes Christian romance novels on the side. You know, in my huge amount of spare time.