Tag Archives: Zondervan

Audiobook Review: How to Catch a Prince by Rachel Hauck

Title: How to Catch a Prince
Author: Rachel Hauck
Series: Royal Wedding, Book 3
Print Publisher: Zondervan
Audio Publisher: Oasis Audio
Narrator: Eleni Pappageorge
Genre: Contemporary Christian Romance
Published: February 2015
Length: 11 hours and 26 minutes, Unabridged

Book Description (from the publisher):

Behind him, beside him, before him, the synchronized cathedral bells began to ring out.

One, two, three . . .

Then she said it first. The words his heart burst to share. “I love you, Stephen. You are my true prince.”

An American heiress and a crown prince seem destined to be together. Will the devastation of war keep them apart forever?

American heiress Corina Del Rey caught her prince once. But the tragedy of war kept her too long in a fog of grief. Now she’s shifting her life forward, reigniting her career as a journalist. Still, nothing can relieve her of the secret and the love she carries in her soul.

Prince Stephen of Brighton is one of the world’s most eligible bachelors and a star rugby player, trying to make sense of his life. His days in Afghanistan with the Royal Air Command will mark him forever. And he can’t seem to shake their dark shadow.

But when his brother, King Nathaniel, confronts him with a document the prince thought long buried and forgotten, Stephen is forced to face the pain of his past and the love he left behind.

With a little heavenly help, Prince Stephen and Corina embark on a journey of truth. But when the secrets are revealed, can they overcome and find love again?

My Thoughts on the Story:

After having enjoyed the audio editions of Once Upon a Prince and Princess Ever After as much as I did, I wasn’t about to miss out on listening to How to Catch a Prince, the third book in Rachel Hauck’s Royal Wedding series. I’m pleased to say, it lived up to my expectations, and I’m happy to recommend it.

Like the others in this series, How to Catch a Prince has a fairytale feel to it and features a romance plotline revolving around the fictional country of Brighton and its monarchy. But in keeping with what I’ve loved about this series so far, the story, characters, and themes in this installment were unique from those that came before.

This installment features Prince Stephen, a hero we’ve met before, and American heiress Corina Del Rey. Unlike in the earlier books, this romantic couple has a past, one with a lot of emotional baggage that has to be dealt with before they can find their happily ever after. And the theme centers on what it means to love well.

I found the main characters likeable, engaging, and well suited to each other. And the secondary characters were vividly portrayed. Gigi, Adelaide, Brill, and Clive Boston each added something special to the story with their unique personalities and quirks. And the Madeline and Hyacinth show with its hashtag, #HowToCatchAPrince was highly entertaining.

Overall, a fun read with a worthwhile message.

My Thoughts on the Narration:

Eleni Pappageorge ranks among my all-time favorite audiobook narrators. She has an amazing variety of vocal qualities she can employ to give each character a unique voice that is perfectly suited to his or her character. And I love how she injects feeling into her readings through intonation and varied pacing in dialogue and narration. Both British and southern accents are well done and varied from character to character. Let’s just say, if in doubt, the audio edition is the way to go. I could listen to these stories again and again.

Thank you to Oasis Audio for providing an electronic copy of this audiobook for review purposes.

Audiobook Review: Distortion by Terri Blackstock

Title: Distortion
Author: Terri Blackstock
Narrator: Nan Gurley
Published: March 2014 by Zondervan and Brilliance Audio
Genre: Suspense, Christian fiction.
Series: Moonlighters, Book 2
Duration: 8 hours, 48 minutes. Unabridged.

About the Book (from Publisher, Zondervan):

A husband’s lies can have deadly consequences.

When Juliet Cole’s husband of fifteen years is murdered before her eyes, she thinks it was a random shooting. Devastated and traumatized, she answers hours of questioning, then returns home to break the tragic news to her sons. But a threatening voicemail escalates this from a random shooting to a planned, deliberate attack.

Juliet realizes that she and her children are in danger too—unless she meets the killers’ demands. But as she and her sisters untangle the clues, her husband’s dark secrets come to light. The more she learns, the more her life is dismantled. Was her husband an innocent victim or a hardened criminal?

My Thoughts on the Story:

It was a pleasure to re-immerse myself into the world of private investigative “moonlighters” Juliet, Cathy, and Holly in this second book in Terri Blackstock’s Moonlighters series. This book reveals more about each sister’s unique personality, while immersing the trio in yet another mystery, with potentially life-or-death stakes. The sisters and their PI friend Michael make a great team, and it’s neat to see how much we learn about them each through their interactions in this story.

The author did a great job drawing me into the characters’ world and making me feel for them. Juliet in particular is going through a lot in this book. Not only has she lost her husband and father of her children, she’s also being forced to face the possibility that his character and their relationship weren’t quite what she thought they were. Consequently, the book takes on something of a mournful tone to match her mood. It’s not really a light read, but it is an emotionally gripping one.

The mystery element is suspenseful and at times quite exciting. It kept me turning the pages. Okay, not literally, since I had the audio edition, but you get what I mean, right? Did not want to hit that pause button. :)

At one point, the villains’ reasoning for escalating the situation didn’t make logical sense to me. Either I missed something or the characters did. But that instance aside, I was impressed with the story’s development. Plot twists came unexpectedly, but on thinking back, the clues were there, hiding in plain sight. Nicely done. I also liked the way Juliet’s faith colored her reactions within the story, particularly at the end.

You don’t have to have read Book 1 in order to understand and enjoy Book 2, but I’d recommend starting with Book 1 anyway (see my review). Why? The books in this series feature many of the same characters, and if you enjoy one, you’ll probably want to read the others too. And since they do take place in a particular chronological sequence, it kinda makes more sense to read them that way. 😉

Speaking of which, I remain curious to see how certain threads from Books 1 and 2 will be resolved in Book 3. And what kind of mess this family of moonlighting PIs will find themselves facing in the next installment.

My Thoughts on the Audio Edition:

The narrator who read this audiobook (Nan Gurley) is not the same one who read the earlier book in this series (Gabrielle De Cuir). I’m happy to report that I did not find the change jarring or unpleasant. The narrator for this audiobook did a great job with the reading, and I think her style and vocal quality were similar enough to what I remember of the earlier narrator’s performance that the change did not feel out of place. She did a great job reflecting the characters’ emotions, which made the story feel very true to life and gave an added sense of urgency at times. Character voices were differentiated enough that I could easily keep track of who was talking when, within a scene. Overall, a great choice for listening.

Thank you to Brilliance Audio for providing a copy of this audiobook for review purposes.

Quick Links: About the Book | Goodreads | Author’s Site

Find the Audiobook: Audible | ChristianBook.com | christianaudio

Audiobook Review: Spring Brides by Rachel Hauck, Lenora Worth, and Meg Moseley

Title: Spring Brides
Authors: Rachel Hauck, Lenora Worth, and Meg Moseley
Narrators: Julie Lyles Carr, Christy Ragland, and Amber Quick
Published: March 2015 by Zondervan (print) and Brilliance Audio (audio)
Genre: Contemporary Romance, Christian fiction, Novella Collection
Series: A Year of Weddings
Duration: 8 hours, 41 minutes, unabridged

“Happily ever after begins today. The honor of your presence is requested at three spring weddings….” (from the book’s description)

The Spring Brides collection features a re-release of three of the twelve novellas in Zondervan’s A Year of Weddings series – A March Bride, An April Bride, and A May Bride. Being a fan of contemporary Christian romance, I’m enjoying the opportunity that this series offers to sample shorter pieces by a variety of authors in the genre. I previously reviewed the audio edition of the Winter Brides collection, and am pleased to have the opportunity to review this one as well. Since each novella stands independently from others in this series, there’s no need to read them in any particular order. Nevertheless, it has been fun to read them during seasonally appropriate weather, so be sure to check this one out and be on the lookout for the Summer Brides collection, coming in May.

A March Bride by Rachel Hauck, narrated by Julie Lyles Carr

Susanna Truitt (Once Upon a Prince) is three weeks from royalty. She’ll soon marry King Nathaniel II of Brighton Kingdom. But when the government insists she renounce her American citizenship before the wedding, coupled with the lack of involvement by family and friends, Susanna’s heart begins to doubt whether this marriage is God’s plan for her.” (publisher’s description)

It was nice to reconnect with Susanna and Nathaniel from Rachel Hauck’s earlier book, Once Upon a Prince. The scope of this story felt well suited to its length, and it seemed a plausible extension to the earlier one. In fact, I rather liked the real-world feel to it where Susanna starts having second thoughts about her fairy tale. I also enjoyed the earthly analogy to a spiritual concept regarding citizenship. Bits of backstory from the earlier book are sprinkled here and there to refresh the reader’s memory or bring you up to speed if you haven’t read the earlier book, so this story can stand alone if necessary (though, if you ask me, there’s no reason not to read them both!)

The narration of A March Bride was clearly and precisely read in a pleasant voice. Unfortunately, it suffered a bit in comparison to the narration of Once Upon a Prince, which featured a distinctly southern accent for Susanna and a classy British accent for Nathaniel. I found myself missing those accents because the characters’ voices became a part of who they were, in my mind at least. Nevertheless, I did still enjoy listening to the novella.

An April Bride by Lenora Worth, narrated by Christy Ragland

Bride-to-be Stella Carson cannot wait another day to marry soldier Marshall Henderson. But when Marshall returns home to Louisiana, it becomes clear to them both that he is not the man he used to be. With only weeks until the wedding, Stella and Marshall must choose between a marriage built on the past and faith in long-ago love or a very different future than the one Stella imagined.” (publisher’s description)

I liked the concept behind this one and I found the ending pleasantly sweet and romantic, even if the timing was a little convenient for total plausibility. But the middle of the story turned out to be a little angsty for my taste. It felt like no matter what happened or what the characters were talking about, the characters’ thoughts and conversations kept circling back to the same dilemma with little forward (or backward) progress until nearly the end. There were some scenes I particularly liked – their carefree trip to the zoo comes to mind – but on the whole, this story wasn’t one of my favorites.

The narration got the job done in a clear and matter-of-fact style. Like the narration for the other novellas in this series, it’s a straight reading that doesn’t differentiate between characters’ voices.

A May Bride by Meg Moseley, narrated by Amber Quick

Ellie Martin, a country girl living in Atlanta, has dreamed of a traditional wedding all her life, but she’s missing a key ingredient to her plans for the future: a groom. Then Ellie meets Gray Whitby – at a wedding of all places. But when Ellie jeopardizes her own future for the sake of her sister, Gray feels like he’ll always be second to Ellie’s family. Can Ellie and Gray find their own way together amidst the demands and perceptions of others, or will their romance end before it has truly begun?” (publisher’s description)

Taking narration and storyline as a whole, I think this is my favorite of the three novellas in the spring collection…which is pretty cool, since I too am a May bride.  :)  I thought the characters and their relationship were well developed, and I loved the concept of a “guerilla wedding.” I also appreciated the growth of the characters over the course of the story, as well as the emphasis on grace.

The narrator did a great job reflecting the emotions of the characters and situations over the course of the reading, which made for a thoroughly enjoyable listening experience.

Thank you to Brilliance Audio and Zondervan for providing me with a review copy of this audiobook.

Audiobook Review: Truth Stained Lies by Terri Blackstock

Title: Truth Stained Lies
Author: Terri Blackstock
Series: Moonlighters, Book 1
Print Publisher: Zondervan
Audio Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Narrator: Gabrielle De Cuir
Genre(s): mystery, suspense, Christian fiction
Published: 2013

Book Description (from publishers Zondervan and Brilliance Audio):

When truth doesn’t make sense, will lies prevail? Cathy Cramer is a former lawyer and investigative blogger who writes commentary on high-profile homicides. When she finds a threatening note warning her that she’s about to experience the same kind of judgment and speculation that she dishes out in her blog, Cathy writes it off as mischief . . . until her brother’s wife is murdered and all the “facts” point to him. The killer has staged the crime to make the truth too far-fetched to believe. Working to solve the murder and clear her brother’s name, Cathy and her two sisters, Holly and Juliet, moonlight as part-time private investigators. Juliet, a stay-at-home mom of two boys, and Holly, a scattered ne’er-do-well who drives a taxi, put aside their fear to hunt down the real killer. Stakes rise when their brother’s grieving five-year-old son is kidnapped. As police focus on the wrong set of clues, the three sisters and their battered detective friend are the only hope for solving this bizarre crime, saving the child, and freeing their brother.

My Thoughts:

Truth Stained Lies is a fascinating novel that starts out with the feel of a mystery, and develops features of suspense and a hint of romance as the plot thickens.  This is the first in the Moonlighters series of books by Terri Blackstock.  Distortion is second in the series, with Twisted Innocence releasing this month.

Besides featuring its own mystery to solve, this book does a fabulous job of introducing the interesting and (relatively) large cast of characters that populate the series as a whole.  At various times, it delves into the points of view of each of the three sisters in turn, as well as several other significant characters.  Within this first book, the author introduces us to the family dynamics as well as to each of the individual characters and their challenges.  The more I read about them, the more I want to read.  And while this story ends on a satisfying note, it also left me wanting to know more.  I’m definitely curious to find out what might be in store for these characters as the series continues.  Some romance perhaps?  More danger and intrigue?

I appreciated the strong Christian themes found in this book, which touched on grace & forgiveness.  It didn’t come across as preachy at all, maybe because none of the characters really have it all together.  No one is preaching at anyone else.  They’ve all got a Christian background, but they’re facing their own struggles and doubts, and they turn to each other for advice and help in their weaker moments. Judgment, forgiveness, family ties, uncertain futures, and painful pasts – these characters are dealing with a lot, all while moonlighting as private investigators.  Overall, it makes for a fascinating story, which I’m pleased to recommend.

Specific to the Audiobook:

I sought out this audiobook in particular not just because this was a series I wanted to read in order, but also because this title was an Audie Award finalist in the Inspirational Fiction category for 2014.  Quite the honor!  I held high hopes for an exceptional reading by this audiobook’s narrator, and I was not disappointed.

The audio edition of Truth Stained Lies was not just a reading.  It was a performance.  Narrator Gabrielle De Cuir did a great job showcasing the emotions of the characters and bringing the dialogue to life.  Each character’s voice reflected his or her unique personality and emotional state, even to the extent of going beyond what I might have picked up on in a strictly text-based reading.  I confess, at one point, I did wonder if the level of angst reflected in one character’s voice was a bit more than necessary, but overall, I loved the performance.  The reader’s interpretation throughout this audiobook was most definitely vivid and delightfully performed.  She didn’t pull any punches when it came to reading for emotional impact, and that made for an impressive listening experience that I would be happy to recommend.

Thank you to Zondervan and Brilliance Audio for providing me with a review copy of this audiobook.

Audiobook Review: Winter Brides by Denise Hunter, Deborah Raney, and Betsy St. Amant

Title:  Winter Brides
Authors:  Denise Hunter (A December Bride), Deborah Raney (A January Bride), and Betsy St. Amant (A February Bride)
Narrators:  Julie Carr (A December Bride), Christy Ragland (A January Bride), and Amber Quick (A February Bride)
Audio Publisher:  Brilliance Audio
Print Publisher:  Zondervan
Genre(s):  Contemporary Romance, Christian Fiction
Published:  2014

About the Collection (from the Publisher):

Happily ever after begins today. The honor of your presence is requested at three winter weddings…

My Thoughts on the Collection:

Winter Brides is a fun collection of short and sweet contemporary Christian romances. Each of the three novellas included in this collection was first published individually in print and audio editions as part of Zondervan’s A Year of Weddings series, so if you’ve already read A December Bride, A January Bride, or A February Bride, then parts of this collection will be very familiar to you.  I had not previously read any of the individual titles myself, but I’d heard some lovely things about them, so I was excited at the opportunity to read and review the audio edition of this book.  And yes, the collection turned out to be just as much fun as I’d hoped.

If you enjoy reading contemporary romance, this book is for you. Each story brings something uniquely enjoyable to the mix. While the shorter length of the novella format doesn’t lend itself to the complex plots and characterizations typically found in longer novels, I thought each of the authors did a great job giving readers a fully fleshed out story in a short and sweet package. In fact, if you’re looking for some light reading to fill the gaps in the midst of this busy holiday season, or an audiobook to pass the hours on a long car ride, this book could be just the thing!

Since we’re talking about the audio edition in particular, I’ll confess to being a little surprised that the narrators didn’t give each character his or her own unique voice. Given the wide range of characters in terms of age, gender, and other traits, this struck me as a missed opportunity to make the audio edition really stand out. However, I’ll also say that I didn’t miss that feature as much as I thought I might. The narrators’ clear and pleasant reading styles worked well with the strengths of the stories themselves to keep me hanging on every word.

About A December Bride by Denise Hunter:

When Layla O’Reilly and Seth Murphy make their engagement public, she knows it’s only to convince a major client that she’s high-society enough to work for his agency. Seth has secretly loved Layla for years, but she’s never given him the time of day. For Layla, this romantic illusion is the chance to save her career. And for Seth, it’s the chance to finally win her heart.

My Thoughts on A December Bride:

I imagine fans of Denise Hunter’s Chapel Springs Romance series will find the setting and some of the characters in this novella familiar from the novels in that series. However as someone who hasn’t read that series yet, I can tell you that this lovely little novella stands on its own two feet just fine.

This is the story of two friends, Seth and Layla, who kind of had a thing for each other once upon a time but never actually dated because Seth’s best friend Jake asked Layla out first… only to break her heart. Trouble is, Layla blames Seth in part for introducing Jake to the woman who came between them. Circumstances conspire to give Seth a chance to change her mind about him and possibly win her heart.

The premise works really well for a novella. There’s enough history in their backstory to make the story’s outcome and timing plausible and enough built in conflict to keep things interesting. I liked the characters, especially Seth, and was totally rooting for him to win Layla over. The author included some really sweet romantic moments and wrapped the story up with a conclusion that brought a smile to my face.

In the audio edition, Julie Carr’s narration does a great job capturing the characters’ emotions, and keeping the reader engaged with the story.

About A January Bride by Deborah Raney:

Novelist Madeleine Houser arranges a temporary office in a local bed and breakfast to escape the distracting renovations at her sister’s house. Although she’s never laid eyes on the inn’s owner, an unlikely friendship blossoms between them as they leave daily notes for each other, and before long, Maddie finds herself falling for her mysterious host — a man likely many years her senior — and a man she’s never even met.

My Thoughts on A January Bride:

This one was such a cute story! I was highly amused by the way one detail after another reinforced Maddie’s and Art’s erroneous assumptions about each other, right up until the point they finally met face to face. What a surprise they’re in for, and the fact that the reader sees it coming a mile away makes it all the more enjoyable. I don’t know how Ginny managed to keep quiet about the misunderstanding as long as she did, but as a reader, I kept wanting to nudge Maddie and Art toward the truth, because it was so easy to see they were perfect for each other.  I had a lot of fun reading this one, and particularly enjoyed the bit about the photo Maddie used to represent her book’s hero.  (You’ll understand when you read it.)

Christy Ragland’s clear voice and careful enunciation made for a very pleasant listening experience and did a good job showcasing the merits of the text itself.

About A February Bride by Betsy St. Amant:

History repeats itself when Allie Andrews escapes the church on her wedding day — wearing the same dress passed down for generations of women in her family, all women with histories of failed marriages. Allie loves Marcus but fears she’s destined to repeat her family’s mistakes. When thrown unexpectedly together for a wedding months later, Allie and Marcus discover their own story might be far from over.

My Thoughts on A February Bride:

I loved the theme of restoration running throughout this sweet novella.  Allie restores old furniture and Marcus restores classic cars, but can their relationship be restored after she leaves him at the altar?  Readers of romance can probably guess the answer to that question, but the fun is in following their journey.  Imagine the awkwardness of being maid of honor in a wedding where the brother of the bride is the man you almost married.  The showers, the planning, the rehearsal… somehow they keep running into each other, and the tension is palpable.  I enjoyed seeing Allie’s faith journey and how it tied into the romantic relationship and I absolutely loved the role the dress played in the story.  One small detail of the ending stretched believability a bit in the interest of a cute wrap-up, but I did enjoy that wrap-up, so I can’t complain.

The narrator paired with this story, Amber Quick, seemed to be a good match, with a pleasant reading style, rich in emotion, that made it easy to get swept up in the story.

Many thanks to Zondervan and Brilliance Audio for the opportunity to review this audiobook.

Audiobook Review: Princess Ever After by Rachel Hauck

Title: Princess Ever After
Author: Rachel Hauck
Series: Royal Wedding, Book 2
Print Publisher: Zondervan
Audio Publisher: Oasis Audio
Narrator: Eleni Pappageorge
Genre: Contemporary Christian Romance
Published: 2014

If you saw my blog post last week, then you already know how much I loved listening to the audio edition of Rachel Hauck’s Once Upon a Prince.  If not, feel free to go check it out now, and then consider subscribing to my blog so you won’t miss out on future fun.  😉

Okay, back to hear what I thought of the second book in the Royal Wedding series?  Sweet!  Let’s get started.

Book Description (From the Oasis Audio Web site):

Regina Beswick didn’t know she was born to be a princess.

She’s content to be a small-town girl, running a classic auto restoration shop, unaware that a secret destiny awaits her. One that will leap from the pages of her grandmother’s hand-painted book of fairy tales.

Tanner Burkhardt is the stoic minister of culture for the Grand Duchy of Hessenberg. When he is tasked to retrieve the long-lost princess, he must overcome his fear of failure in order to secure his nation’s future — and his own.

Yet lurking in the political shadows is a fierce opponent with sinister plans to abolish the throne forever.

Overwhelmed with opposition, Regina must decide whether she’s destined to restore old cars or an ancient nation. Together — with a little divine intervention — Regina and Tanner discover the truth of her heritage and the healing power of true love.

My Thoughts on the Story:

Princess Ever After is a delightfully lighthearted read, with some meaningful themes woven in amongst the fun.  Having just finished reading Once Upon a Prince, I spotted a number of parallels between the two stories, but this one still felt fresh, with enough twists and variations on the ordinary girl to princess theme to keep me happily engaged in Regina’s story.  In fact, I’d say the combination of familiar elements with new variations makes this the perfect second book for this series, and I suspect fans will love this one too.

Tanner and Regina make for interesting and relatable main characters, with their flaws, fears, quirks, and dilemmas.  The story also features some great secondary characters, and I particularly enjoyed the passages from Princess Alice’s diary, which gave glimpses into Hessenberg’s past and that of Regina’s family.

I thought the romance went – to borrow a phrase from the book – from “zero to sixty” a bit quickly and I think I might’ve liked to see a little more page time devoted to showing the development of Reggie and Tanner’s feelings toward each other.  That said, this is meant to be a modern day fairy tale, and I do think it fits that bill perfectly despite, or maybe because of the whirlwind romance.  The ending in particular is spectacular in exactly the ways a fairy tale should be, and I was willingly whisked along, enjoying every minute of the ride from beginning to end.

My favorite themes from the book are the ideas of restoration (applied in several contexts) and of overcoming fear of the unknown to take a leap of faith when necessary.  Oh, and the scene in the grand ballroom is pretty spectacular.  You’ll know what I mean when you get to it.  :)

If you enjoy a good lighthearted read every now and again, this book will definitely be worth the read.  Especially if you’re a fan of modern day fairy tales.

My Thoughts on the Narration:

As she did with Once Upon a Prince, Eleni Pappageorge has done a superb job narrating this book.  Her renditions of Tanner’s British-ish accent and Regina’s southern drawl were a delightful complement to an already excellent story.  I particularly liked the narrator’s attention to detail, right down to giving a melody to songs characters sang, and making her voice sound like a character speaking through an intercom when the text called for it.  Book 3 in the series, How to Catch a Prince, is scheduled to release in February 2015, and I will definitely be on the lookout for the audio edition!

Thank you to Oasis Audio for providing an electronic copy of this audiobook for review purposes.

Audiobook Review: Once Upon a Prince by Rachel Hauck

Title: Once Upon a Prince
Author: Rachel Hauck
Series: Royal Wedding, Book 1
Print Publisher: Zondervan
Audio Publisher: Oasis Audio
Narrator: Eleni Pappageorge
Genre: Contemporary Christian Romance
Published: 2013

Once Upon a Prince is the first book I’ve read — or listened to — by Rachel Hauck and I want to read more. Starting of course, with Princess Ever After (next in her Royal Wedding series).

Book Description (from Oasis Audio’s Web site):

A royal prince. An ordinary girl. An extraordinary royal wedding.

Once Upon a Prince, the first novel in the Royal Wedding series by best-selling author Rachel Hauck, treats you to a modern-day fairy tale.

Susanna Truitt never dreamed of a great romance or being treated like a princess — just to marry the man she has loved for twelve years. But life isn’t going according to plan. When her high-school sweetheart breaks up with her instead of proposing, Susanna scrambles to rebuild her life.

The last thing Prince Nathaniel expects to find on his American holiday to St. Simons Island is the queen of his heart. A prince has duties, and his family’s tense political situation has chosen his bride for him. When Prince Nathaniel comes to Susanna’s aid under the fabled Lover’s Oak, he is blindsided by love.

Their lives are worlds apart. He’s a royal prince. She’s an ordinary girl. But everything changes when Susanna receives an invitation to Nathaniel’s coronation.

It’s the ultimate choice: his kingdom or her heart? God’s will or their own?

My Thoughts on the Story:

This sweet contemporary romance is all fairy tale, and I enjoyed every minute of it.  The premise itself requires some suspension of disbelief, but the payoff is a fun and lively story complete with a dream-come-true happily ever after ending.

What girl wouldn’t love the idea of being swept off her feet by a prince who’s ready and willing to come to her rescue, who’s not above getting his hands dirty with honest work, and who sees something special in her that even she can’t explain?

From the beaches of St. Simon’s Island, Georgia to the grand ballrooms of Brighton Kingdom, the settings are lovely and really emphasize just how different Nathaniel and Susanna’s backgrounds are.  And to watch each exploring and getting to know the other’s world?  Priceless.

Besides the sweet romance, there’s also a faith thread woven throughout.  Both hero and heroine must rely upon their faith, and recognize the importance of seeking God’s call for their lives and being ready and willing to go and do what He calls them to, even when things don’t seem to be headed in a direction they’d prefer.

Of course, in the end… well, you can probably guess.  But the journey along the way is an entertaining one full of misunderstandings, paparazzi, tricky political entanglements, barbecue ribs, and of course, true love.  Well worth the journey.

My Thoughts on the Narration:

Yes.  Just yes.

If you’re even thinking about going with the audiobook edition of this book, then go for it.  I absolutely loved the contrasting accents the narrator, Eleni Pappageorge used for Susanna and Nathaniel.  From distinctly Southern to classy British, the accents fit the dialog and the characters perfectly and brought them to life for me.  With clear enunciation and excellent pacing, the narrator made listening easy.  Both male and female voices were well done, and the narration blended into the background, highlighting and adding an extra dimension to an already beautiful tale.

Enjoyed this review?  Come back next week for my review of the audio edition of Princess Ever After – next in Rachel Hauck’s Royal Wedding series.  Or consider subscribing to my blog so you won’t miss a thing!  Meanwhile, what do you think?  Is this a series you’d like to start reading?  Or maybe you already have?  Either way, please take a moment to share your thoughts in the comments.  Or just say hello.  I love hearing from other readers… and listeners!

Book Review: The Prodigal by Brennan Manning and Greg Garrett

Title: The Prodigal: A Ragamuffin Story
Authors: Brennan Manning and Greg Garrett
Publisher: Zondervan
Genre: Contemporary Christian Fiction

Jack Chisholm was lead pastor for a megachurch with three campuses and thousands of members.  He was a best-selling author and a public figure known by some as “America’s pastor.”  Then some poor decisions he made one night off the coast of Cancun lead him into sin he would not have thought himself capable of.  When his actions come to light he is disgraced, and he loses his job and his family.  Jack’s life is in a tailspin, until his estranged father seeks him out and brings him home.  It’s in the small town in Texas where he grew up that Jack reconnects with friends and family, learns some important lessons about grace and forgiveness, and discovers that God may not be through with him after all.

I know a lot of people, both Christian and non-Christian, who have misconceptions about what it means to be Christian.  I wish those people would read this book.  It’s that good.  Seriously.  The story is character driven, based on believable three dimensional “people,” primarily Jack, his father, and the local priest called Father Frank.  While the take home message of the story will not surprise anyone familiar with Manning’s work, it was skillfully woven into the story, seeming to arise naturally from the characters and situations, not tacked on as an afterthought, so it didn’t feel intrusive or overbearing.

I thoroughly enjoyed the vivid and out of the box  descriptions found in this book.  I’m reminded of the way Charles Dickens could paint a memorable secondary character in just a few brush strokes.  Here’s a particularly vivid example from The Prodigal:

“Carlene Petsch was the city secretary.  Carlene had been called ‘Petshop’ in their youth, if only rarely to her face.  It made her cry, got people sent to the office.  She had grown into a hard, hefty woman, the kind of hausfrau who could bake an apple pie and then beat you to death with her rolling pin.”

The ending of The Prodigal  felt a little abrupt to me.  I would have liked to see a little more resolution following Jack’s moment of epiphany, in a few specific areas that I probably shouldn’t mention for fear of spoiling the ending.  That said, if you’re going to err one way or the other, better to leave us wanting more than to make us beg for it to end.  And, much as I wanted more closure, I do think this approach left things hopeful without downplaying the consequences of Jack’s actions by tying everything up in a neat little bow.  It also left room for speculation on where the story might have gone next had it continued.  Which would be great fodder for a book discussion group.  All in all, an excellent read, and I would highly recommend it.

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

Discussion Questions:

This book comes with some excellent discussion questions for consideration, but I couldn’t resist coming up with a few questions of my own as well.

  1. How and why did Jack’s beliefs and behavior change over the course of the story?  Did you find his decision at the end of the book consistent with what we know about him?
  2. In what ways was this story similar to and different from the story of the Prodigal Son as told in the Bible (Luke 15:11-32)?  Given the definition of the word “prodigal” as well as its usage in the Bible story, do you think The Prodigal as title is a good fit for this book?  Why or why not?  Can you think of an alternative title?
  3. Where do you think the story could have gone from here, had it continued beyond “The End”?  Were you satisfied with the conclusion as it was, or did you want to know more of what the future held for the characters?