Tag Archives: Bethany House

Audiobook Review: Full Steam Ahead by Karen Witemeyer

Title: Full Steam Ahead
Author: Karen Witemeyer
Narrator: Carine Montbertrand
Audio Publisher: Recorded Books
Print Publisher: Bethany House
Series: Full Steam Ahead, Book 1
Genre: Historical Romance
Published: 2014

Book Description (from the Baker Publishing Group’s Website):

When love simmers between a reclusive scientist and a wealthy debutante, will they abandon ship or is it full steam ahead?

Nicole Renard returns home to Galveston, Texas, to find her father deathly ill. Though she loves him, Nicole’s father has always focused on what she’s not. Not male. Not married. Not able to run Renard Shipping.

Vowing to find a suitable husband to give her father the heir he desires before it’s too late, Nicole sets out with the Renard family’s greatest treasure as her dowry: the highly coveted Lafitte Dagger. But her father’s rivals come after the dagger, forcing a change in Nicole’s plans.

After a boiler explosion aboard the Louisiana nearly took his life, Darius Thornton has been a man obsessed. He will do anything to stop even one more steamship disaster. Even if it means letting a female secretary into his secluded world.

Nicole is determined not to let her odd employer scare her off with his explosive experiments, yet when respect and mutual attraction grow between them, a new fear arises. How can she acquire an heir for her father when her heart belongs to another? And when her father’s rivals discover her hiding place, will she have to choose between that love and her family’s legacy?

My review:

Karen Witemeyer’s latest novel, Full Steam Ahead, takes her signature blend of witty romance, faith, and history from the ranches of earlier books into the world of the steamboat.  Specifically, to an 1800’s Texas plantation where a reclusive scientist performs explosive experiments designed to improve the safety of steam engines, and thereby prevent future casualties.

I find the history of technology and scientific advances to be pretty fascinating, so I thoroughly enjoyed that aspect of this story.  It certainly didn’t hurt that the author incorporated those details in a vivid, and at times explosive way that complements the story well.  And yes, I do mean “explosive” literally.  😉

Nicole and Darius make great romantic leads.  They’re both intelligent and highly motivated characters with interesting backgrounds that just happen to make them perfect for each other… even if they don’t see it at first.  But their chemistry… wow.  I loved watching their romance develop, and particularly the way they impact each other’s faith journeys.

But that’s not all.  Witemeyer also provides some thoroughly charming and entertaining secondary characters.  Not to mention a pair of villains out to steal a treasured family heirloom who season the story with just the right dash of suspense, leading up to an exciting conclusion with a bit of an unexpected but surprisingly satisfying twist.  Definitely worth the read.

Specific to the audio edition:

I must confess that when I read a couple of reviews by listeners who described the narrator’s voice as “old sounding” I was a bit concerned about whether this would be an audiobook I could recommend.  It is, after all, a book about young people.  Would the voices work?  I re-read the book’s description, listened to the audio sample, and decided to take a chance on reviewing it.  I’m happy to say I was not disappointed.

Carine Montbertrand’s performance perfectly captures the wry humor of the novel, and gives life to the characters’ voices and emotions.  Her use of lovely French accents comes in handy for the voices of some of the secondary characters, as well as names of French origin.  Both male and female voices sound authentic and entirely appropriate for their ages.

At times, I did detect a slight gravelly quality to the narrator’s voice, primarily at moments when her voice dipped into the lower registers during passages of narrative description, but I found this didn’t bother me at all, and even seemed to disappear into the background as I grew accustomed to her reading style and got lost in the story.

Overall, I found the listening experience to be a very pleasant one, and I am happy to recommend it.  Thank you to Recorded Books for providing me with a copy of this audiobook for review purposes.

Book Review: Beyond All Dreams by Elizabeth Camden

Title: Beyond All Dreams
Author: Elizabeth Camden
Publisher: Bethany House
Genre(s): Historical Romance, Christian Fiction
Published: January 2015

About the Book (from the Publisher):

Anna O’Brien leads a predictable and quiet life as a map librarian at the illustrious Library of Congress until she stumbles across the baffling mystery of a ship disappeared at sea. Thwarted in her attempts to uncover information, her determination outweighs her shyness and she turns to a dashing congressman for help.

Luke Callahan was one of the nation’s most powerful congressmen before his promising career was shadowed in scandal. Eager to share in a new cause and intrigued by a winsome librarian, he joins forces with Anna to solve the mystery of the lost ship. Opposites in every way, Anna and Luke are unexpectedly drawn to each other despite the strict rules forbidding Anna from any romantic entanglements with members of Congress.

From the gilded halls of the Capitol where powerful men shape the future of the nation, to the scholarly archives of the nation’s finest library, Anna and Luke are soon embroiled in secrets much bigger and more perilous than they ever imagined. Is bringing the truth to light worth risking all they’ve ever dreamed for their futures?

My Thoughts:

For a while now, I’ve been wanting to try a book by Elizabeth Camden.  After all the wonderful things I’ve heard about her previous books, not to mention the awards they’ve won (Christy Award, RITA, etc), I was already excited to see she had a new title coming out.  But when I saw that this one features a librarian as heroine, I knew I had to read it.  After all, I’m a librarian too, and who doesn’t like reading books about characters you share something in common with?

Beyond All Dreams turned out to be right up my alley.  I enjoy a nice sigh-worthy romance as much as the next gal, and this one definitely fits the bill.  But there was more to this one.  In fact, the elements that really stood out for me were the depth of characterization and the exploration of deeper themes throughout the story.  Not to mention some fascinating glimpses into the history of the Library of Congress as well as the start of the Spanish-American War.

Both Anna and Luke faced difficult childhoods in different ways, and I found it interesting to see how their childhood experiences as well as their reactions to those experiences shaped the people they grew up to become.  It was also fascinating to see how their differences complemented each other, allowing them each to have a significant positive impact on the other.  They definitely made a great team, and it was fun watching them working together toward achieving their dreams.

Forgiveness and trust play huge thematic roles in the story, taking on significance in a number of relationships both past and present.  Then there’s an exploration of the differences between love, friendship, and infatuation.  In fact, this book raises all kinds of interesting questions on a variety of topics that would make it really well suited to discussion within a book group.  And yes, the book does include discussion questions for that purpose.

I can definitely see why Elizabeth Camden’s books have become so popular!  I know I’m looking forward to reading more from this author.  And I would not hesitate to recommend Beyond All Dreams to fans of inspirational romance and historical fiction.

Thank you to publisher Bethany House for providing me with a free electronic copy for review purposes.

See Also: Karen Collier Guest Contributing at Edgy Inspirational Romance

See also

If you follow the Edgy Inspirational Romance {and occasionally YA} blog, aka “EIR” you may have seen an announcement a couple of weeks ago that introduced me to readers as a new guest contributor to the blog. And if you missed it, feel free to hop on over there now for a few biographical details about me that you may not have known.

Here’s the link: Introducing Karen Collier! New EIR Guest Contributor

Go ahead.  It’s okay.  I don’t mind  waiting a bit for you to get back.

[Karen steals a moment to read a few pages of a novel on her Droid’s Kindle app. Either that or she attempts to quell whatever chaos is being wrought by her toddler and pre-schooler.]

Okay, back?  Cool.  Me too.

I’m super excited about contributing over at EIR, partly because of all the authors, reviewers, and fans of Christian romance I’m getting to virtually “meet” and “hang out with” in the process.  And partly because EIR is such a fun and entertaining read, it’s frankly an honor to be asked to join in the fun.

So why did I wait so long to mention it?  Because I wanted to wait until my first guest post went live so I could share it with you.  That first post went live this morning, so without further ado, here it is:

My review of Short-Straw Bride by Karen Witemeyer.  (Hint: I loved the story’s blend of light humor with tender romantic moments, and I’m happy to recommend it.)

In case you were wondering, I do plan to continue blogging right here at KarenCollier.com on a more or less weekly basis as well as making regular guest contributions to the EIR blog.

Thinking about following EIR, so as not to miss any of my posts there?  Great!  If you haven’t already met, I’d love to introduce you to co-bloggers Serena and Joy, and to Megan who’s also joining in as a new guest contributor.  And if you’re curious what EIR means by “Edgy,” be sure to check out their post entitled “What is Edgy Christian Romance?”

So tell me, do you prefer your Christian fiction edgy or sweet?  Are you a fan of romance or do you have another favorite genre?  Please leave a comment, subscribe, or connect.  I’d love to hear from you.

Book Review: Where Courage Calls by Janette Oke and Laurel Oke Logan

Title: Where Courage Calls: A When Calls the Heart Novel
Author: Janette Oke and Laurel Oke Logan
Genre(s): Inpirational Fiction, Prairie Romance
Publisher: Bethany House

Janette Oke has long been considered an influential author within the Christian fiction publishing industry, so I was excited to have the opportunity to read and review her latest book.  Where Courage Calls, was co-written with her daughter Laurel Oke Logan, and is scheduled to be released in February 2014.  It is described as a prairie romance, and is set in the Canadian west during the early twentieth century.

The story’s heroine, Beth Thatcher is a pampered daughter from a wealthy family from Toronto, and has accepted a year-long teaching position in a humble coal mining town far from the comforts of home.  She believes she is following God’s will for her life and is determined to prove to her overly protective mother that she is equal to the task, even after the conditions in the town prove more challenging and potentially dangerous than she had anticipated.  Her luggage is stolen in her travels, and she arrives to find that modern conveniences like plumbing and electricity are unavailable.  Nevertheless, she is determined to persevere.

The story is inspiring in that Beth adapts to her circumstances, continually seeks God’s will for her life, and ultimately makes a huge difference in the lives of her students and in the community.  Christians looking for a safe and comfortable read, exploring the joys of leading a Godly life will find much to like in this sequel to When Calls the Heart.

That said, I was not as impressed with this story as I had hoped I might be, given the author’s reputation.  I found the heroine hard to relate to.  Her continual self-sacrifice and nobility made her come across more as a caricature or an ideal to be aspired to than as a real person.  She is painted as selfless to the point where I’m not sure I could identify anything she wants for herself, with the possible exception of being out from under her mother’s thumb.  Most of her desires seem to be for a better life for her students and to be able to better help her new friends and neighbors.  Laudable, to be sure, but realistic?  I’m not so sure.

The story started out slowly, with a lot of introspection and reflection on the heroine’s childhood as she traveled to her new home.  Her day to day life in the mining town, and the details of what her life and career there turned out to be were very well developed and interesting.  However, for a book described as a romance, the romantic element seemed lacking.  I thought that Beth’s relationships with each of the potential suitors felt underdeveloped and her interactions with each of them limited, to the extent that I wasn’t sure who the hero would turn out to be until the book was nearly over.  Even then, the outcome felt contrived, because it did not hinge on her relationship with either suitor, but rather on an outside circumstance introduced at the last minute, seemingly to tidy things up.

Overall, Where Courage Calls was a thoroughly sweet and innocent story and a pleasant enough read.  Fans of historical fiction will appreciate the historical detail, and Christians seeking a clean and uplifting story about the good that can be accomplished by someone persevering in God’s will, need look no further.  This is your story.  Additionally, fans of Janette Oke’s Canadian West series or the Hallmark Channel’s new When Calls the Heart TV series, will likely want to give this book a read.  Just don’t go into this story expecting a great deal of emphasis on the romance, or you may be disappointed.

I would like to thank the publisher, Bethany House, for providing me with a free electronic copy of this book through NetGalley for my review.

Discussion Questions:

Since I did not find any discussion questions for Where Courage Calls available elsewhere at this time, I have written a few for your consideration.  If additional discussion questions occur to you, feel free to share them in the comments.

  1. How do Beth’s relationships with family and friends help or hinder her ability to reach her goals?
  2. In what ways is Beth’s relationship with Molly similar and different from her relationship with her mother?  How do these relationships compare to mother-daughter relationships you have experienced or observed?
  3. In what ways did Beth change over the course of the story?  In what ways did Edward change?
  4. Was there a moral to the story?  What do you think the intended message is, and do you agree or disagree?  How could this message be applied outside of the context of this story?