Smoke Screen by Terri BlackstockStarring: recently divorced Brenna, who's in an ugly custody battle with her wealthy ex and has turned to alcohol to cope; her high school sweetheart, injured fire jumper Nate, who's come home to recover.
What it's about: Nate's dad went to prison for murdering Brenna's pastor father 14 years ago. Now, Nate's dad has been pardoned, shocking Brenna's family. As Nate tries to help Brenna keep her kids, he also reluctantly works with his dad, who wants to prove he's innocent.
For fans of: twisty romantic suspense stories, realistically flawed characters, and novels with themes of grace and redemption.
The Painted Castle by Kristy CambronThe setting: East Suffolk's Parham Hill Estate in 1842, 1942, and now.
The women: artist Elizabeth, who marries the owner of the manor as part of a plot to avenge her father's death; widowed Amelia, who uses the large home to house displaced children and American pilots during World War II; and art historian Kiera, who's asked to authenticate an old portrait discovered at the rundown estate by an intriguing stranger.
Why you might like it: Like the earlier books in the Lost Castle trilogy, this sweeping final entry revolves around three women in three distinct time periods, each connected to the same castle.
Synapse by Steven JamesWhat it is: a taut, thought-provoking science fiction thriller set 30 years from now that examines salvation and what it means to be human.
What it's about: Already distraught by the death of her newborn, Cincinnati pastor Kestrel Hathaway witnesses Purist terrorists attacking her brother's company, which creates the incredibly life-like cognizant robots called Artificials.
What happens next: Pulled into a world of conspiracies and lies, Kestrel teams with Jordan, the Artificial gifted to her by her brother, and counterterrorism agent Nick Vernon to prevent another attack.
A Distance Too Grand by Regina Scott1871 Arizona Territory: After her photographer father's death, strong-willed Meg Pero escapes her staid aunt's home in the east to take his place as part of a U.S. Army survey of the Grand Canyon.
What happens: Meg finds the crew is led by the man she once loved, Captain Ben Coleridge, and that he has a secondary motive for the journey -- locating his own father, who went missing months ago.
Why you might like it: This evocative 1st entry in the American Wonders Collection has a charming second-chance romance, a bit of suspense, and offers a glimpse at photographic technology of the time.
Books You May Have Missed
Becoming Mrs. Lewis by Patti CallahanWhat happens: Joy Davidman, an atheist, writer, and housewife with two small children and an unfaithful alcoholic husband in 1940s New York, reaches rock bottom and prays. Wanting to know more about God, she writes to Christian apologist C.S. Lewis, beginning years of correspondence that eventually leads to love and marriage.
For fans of: C.S. Lewis; touching, thoughtful historical fiction.
Awards buzz: Written from Joy's point of view, this lyrical novel won two 2019 Christy Awards, for Historical Romance and Book of the Year.
A Bound Heart by Laura FrantzIsle of Kerrera, Scotland, 1752: Though they grew up together and both are Christian, Scottish laird Magnus MacLeish and beekeeper and herbalist Lark MacDougall live very different lives as adults.
What happens: A tragedy sees both pushed away from their homeland and making a long sea voyage as indentured servants, heading to Colonial Virginia and the West Indies.
For fans of: Jocelyn Green, Jody Hedlund, Julie Klassen, and evocative, slowly building romances.
The Persian Gamble by Joel C. RosenbergWhat it's about: Former U.S. Secret Service agent Marcus Ryker forms a precarious alliance with a Russian double agent -- who happens to be the son-in-law of Russia's president -- to halt a world-threatening nuclear war involving enemy nations Russia, North Korea, and Iran.
Series alert: This 2nd in the Marcus Ryker trilogy after The Kremlin Conspiracy will be followed by The Jerusalem Assassin in March.
Who it's for: those who enjoy fast-paced political thrillers with an evangelical Christian worldview.
A Silken Thread by Kim Vogel SawyerFeaturing: Laurel, a naive 18-year-old who longs for her own family but is committed to helping her aging mother; Langdon, a spoiled playboy; Willie, a night watchman with an ill father, who falls for Laurel; Quincy, a groundskeeper, the son of a former slave, and Willie's friend.
What happens: Laurel works at a silk loom at the 1895 Atlanta Cotton States and International Exposition where she meets the others and is courted by Langdon, who's using her to secure his inheritance.
Why you might like it: This moving novel thoughtfully addresses racism and social class disparities.
A Reluctant Belle by Beth White1870 Mississippi: Five years after the Civil War, strong-willed Joelle Daughtry manages her family's plantation-turned-hotel and runs a school for the children of freed slaves. But with the KKK becoming more active, prejudice and danger abound. When a progressive political candidate is murdered, Joelle helps his son, who's her childhood friend, look for answers, and finds herself in the middle of a love triangle.
Series alert: This thought-provoking, richly detailed 2nd in the Daughtry House series features complex topics and characters and touches of humor. Newcomers can start here or pick up the 1st book, A Rebel Heart; the 3rd entry, A Reckless Love, comes out in June.
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