Category Archives: Religious/Inspirational

Monique Miller. Quiet as It’s Kept. Deer Park, NY: Urban Christian, 2011.

Quiet as It's KeptA pretty face, a great body, and a chaste attitude? Morgan Tracy seems too good to be true. Her new husband Will can’t believe his good luck in landing his dream woman. He wonders if Morgan was a god-sent blessing — after all they first met at church. Following a quick romance, Will and Morgan raced to the altar and immediately, but by accident, welcomed a baby son named Isaiah nine months after their wedding. Will doesn’t mind the jump from husband to husband and father. He’s elated when he sets eyes on newborn Isaiah. But there’s trouble lingering over him that casts a dark cloud over his happiness. Three weeks before Isaiah was born, Will got laid off from his successful, six-figure job.

Afraid that he might upset Morgan during the end of her three-month long bed rest, Will decides to delay sharing the unfortunate information with his wife who has been increasingly moody during her pregnancy. Besides, Will is hopeful that he will secure another job before he has to tell Morgan the bad news. Unfortunately, despite his best efforts, Will struggles to find a position to replace his lost income.

With Will’s unemployment, Morgan is forced to support the Tracy household, which she reminds Will every day. Seven months after Isaiah’s birth, Will is still out of a job and Morgan is just as temperamental as she was during her pregnancy. But Will attributes her continued sourness to stress at work and their financial strain. He spends his days and nights caring for Isaiah and searching desperately for a job. The toll of his marital discontent in addition to his unemployment and his constant work as a temporary stay-at-home-dad has weighed heavily on Will.

Will accepts more than his fair share of the blame for Morgan’s hostile attitude and her snide behavior toward him. Since being laid off, it seems that Will can’t make Morgan happy. Anything from his attempt to revise the family budget to leaving lights on around the house sets Morgan off.  But when her behavior grows suspicious and even dangerous, Will questions his wife’s intentions. After a few strange accidents, Will realizes that he doesn’t know all that much about his wife’s background. She’s remained closemouthed on the details of her home town and her deceased parents. Maybe Morgan Tracy is too good to be true.

Novelist Monique Miller covers topics of domestic violence, female-on-male violence, and childhood abuse. Miller’s story emphasizes Christian faith. Will is a devout Christian who attends church regularly and prays about the difficulties and troubles in his life. Although tested, Will’s faith is one element that helps him through his ordeal of unemployment, fatherhood, and marital strife. Quiet as It’s Kept delivers plenty of suspense and an interesting twist on a familiar plot line about abuse and deception. Miller is a North Carolina native who graduated from North Carolina Central University and resides in the Raleigh/Durham area.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2011, Miller, Monique, Piedmont, Religious/Inspirational, Suspense/Thriller

Lisa Wingate. The Prayer Box. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House, 2013.

The Prayer Box“I don’t believe it,” I answer. “Men are always trying to solve the mysteries of God, but they never will.”

She plucks a whelk shell from the sand, contemplates it, turning it over with her bone-thin fingers. “There will always be another mystery. God is infinite.”

Ninety-one year-old Iola Anne Poole doesn’t have the best reputation. The people of Fairhope regard her as a hermit and a squatter. Word around town is that Iola wormed the Benoit House away from its rightful owners. Girard Benoit’s nephews intended to sell the estate to a group of locals who had grand plans to turn the Victorian house into an upscale beach resort on Hatteras Island. But supposedly Iola intervened and manipulated the old Mr. Benoit, who was not in a clear frame of mind. Or so the story goes.

Meanwhile, thirty-three year-old Tandi Jo Reese has recently started renting Iola’s nearby cottage. Desperate and down on her luck, Tandi fled from an abusive and criminal husband with her two children, JT (age 9) and Zoey (age 14). Without a home, the cottage was the best deal Tandi could find, apart from sleeping in her car. But her money is running out. The rent is already overdue and Tandi is struggling to find a job that will hire her since she is too afraid to provide any details of her former life.

Tandi grew up in a family of slick smooth talkers – her father, her mother and her sister, Gina – who merge fact with fiction to get what they want. Her home life was tumultuous. Then again, it still is. Although Tandi has escaped from her husband, Trammel, she sees the disillusionment in her kids’ faces. Up until Tandi decided to leave, she hadn’t been the world’s greatest mom. After an accident, she became hooked on Oxycontin and walked around in a doped up haze. Because of her tough upbringing and her abusive husband, Tandi hasn’t trusted anyone in a long time, if ever. Now JT and Zoey’s faith in their mother is wavering.

One day, not long after Tandi and her kids have moved into the cottage, she notices a suspicious lack of movement in Iola’s house. When she investigates, she finds Iola’s body lying peacefully in a bed. At first, Tandi is worried that hubbub surrounding Iola’s death might draw notice to the fact that she’s behind on the rent. But Tandi isn’t aware of Iola’s general unpopularity around Fairhope. Tandi’s financial woes aren’t a complete secret though. One of the lay people at the Fairhope Fellowship Church strikes a bargain with Tandi: she will clean out Iola’s house in exchange for her rent.

Tandi accepts the deal. But it isn’t an easy job. The house has been damaged by the most recent hurricane. Architecturally, the house is unsound. Buckets are scattered throughout the rooms to catch dripping water. And Iola hoarded a massive stockpile of food from home grocery deliveries. Canned goods flooding out of the pantry shock Tandi, especially since she can barely afford food for JT and Zoey without skipping meals herself. However, the prayer boxes are the best surprise that Tandi stumbles upon.

If you’re not familiar with the concept of a prayer box, check out this blog entry by Lisa Wingate on making and using prayer boxes. The basic concept behind a prayer box is to create a box or decorate a pre-existing box, which the owner will fill with prayers and reflections, or even favorite scriptures. Every year, for eighty-one years, Iola fashioned a prayer box and filled it with letters to her father. As Tandi combs through the boxes she relates the struggles in Iola’s life to her own. Strangely, the lessons in Iola’s letters resurface and guide her through this trying chapter in her life. And in the process, Tandi discovers that Iola was not the woman that many presumed her to be.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Coast, Dare, Religious/Inspirational, Wingate, Lisa

Monique Miller. The Marrying Kind. Deer Park, NY: Urban Christian, 2012.

marryingAs this novel opens, Travis Highgate definitely does not look like the marrying kind.  He is divorced, disengaged from his two sons, unemployed, and about to be evicted from his not-so-nice apartment.  A chance encounter with a college friend leads to a house-sitting gig in a very nice neighborhood. This could be just the break that Travis needs, but how will Travis use it?  At first, it is all about enjoyment–days in front of his friend’s wide screen TV and nights taking out new women, using his friend’s car and even his clothes.  Slowly, Travis comes to see that this is not the way to make a life that will give him lasting happiness.  Readers will root for Travis as he struggles to dig himself out of a financial hole, live the values that will lead to happiness, save his ex-wife from a dangerous entanglement, and reunite his family.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2012, Miller, Monique, Novels in Series, Novels Set in Fictional Places, Piedmont, Religious/Inspirational, Romance/Relationship

Marybeth Whalen. The Wishing Tree. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2013.

The Wishing TreeJust as the pieces of Ivy Marshall’s life are shattering, it seems like all of the elements in her sister Shea’s life are fitting together seamlessly. Shea’s long-term boyfriend Owen plans a grand, romantic proposal on national television. Meanwhile, Ivy discovers that she’s losing her job at the family company because her father is shutting down her local branch in Asheville. On top of that, she finds out that her husband Elliot has cheated on her. Ivy bears Shea’s good news through gritted teeth. To add insult to an already terrible situation, Ivy’s family and friends blithely tell her not to worry about her job termination and to see it as an opportunity to prepare for Shea’s upcoming wedding. For the time being, Ivy has decided to keep word of her marital discord under wraps. Since she and Elliot married under tense circumstances, she is ashamed to admit possible defeat to her family.

Six years ago, Ivy was engaged to Owen’s cousin, Michael. Childhood friends Ivy and Michael and Shea and Owen coupled off naturally in their teens. Their lives were set on a happy track, but when Ivy met Elliot at a ski lodge on vacation, she recognized Elliot immediately as her true soul mate. She abandoned her family and her home in Sunset Beach and tossed away her former life to move to Asheville and wed Elliot instead. Lately though, Ivy observes that she and Elliot only seem to discuss “the business of life – what groceries they were out of, what bills needed to be paid, when they were expected to be somewhere” and she rues that their spark has mellowed. Elliot’s betrayal unhinges Ivy, but it is not a total surprise. The instant Ivy learns of Elliot’s infidelity, she sets out for Sunset Beach without waiting around for an explanation.

The process of wedding planning is near traumatic for Ivy, especially since the news team that covered Shea and Owen’s engagement story is also interested in broadcasting their wedding. As all the decisions and preparations play out before Ivy’s eyes, she cannot help but consider the wedding she was supposed to, but never had. She fights back jealousy for Shea and what appears like a perfect wedding. Disillusioned by a broken engagement and a failing marriage, Ivy flings herself alternately between the men in her life, Michael and Elliot, confused about which path to take into the future – her past or her present. As she wonders what could have been with Michael, she plays a dangerous what-if game.

But Elliot is not ready to let Ivy go and he uses creative measures to communicate his remorse. In a charming and modern twist on traditional love notes, Elliot creates a Twitter account and tweets his apologies and affections for Ivy through the handle, @ElliotIdiot. Forgiveness is a concept central to novelist Marybeth Whalen’s The Wishing Tree. One of Ivy’s greatest struggles is learning to accept being alone. While Ivy owes forgiveness to many people in light of her impulsive actions, she must also separate her individual desires and fears, and forgive herself, before she can find a happier ending.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Brunswick, Buncombe, Coast, Mountains, Religious/Inspirational, Romance/Relationship, Whalen, Marybeth

Tyora Moody. When Rain Falls. Deer Park, NY: Urban Christian, 2012.

whenWhen she was a young girl, Candace Johnson was present when her mother was killed by a drunken, abusive lover.  Aunt Maggie took Candace in but her home was one of harsh, religious judgments, and Candace fled as soon as she could.  In the years since Candace made a good life for herself, marrying a police detective, raising two children, and opening her own beauty salon in Charlotte, North Carolina.

But good friends and a loving spouse are no protection from the violence of the world.  Candace’s husband is killed, and two years later the murder remains unsolved. Candace has kept herself together for the sake of her children, but as When Rain Falls opens, she is hit with another hard blow: her best friend, Pamela Coleman, is murdered in her own garage.  Her husband’s former partner is one of the detectives investigating Pamela’s murder.  The other investigator, Darnell Jackson, is new to the Charlotte police force, but not new to Charlotte.  The failure of the police department to solve her husband’s murder prompts Candace to investigate Pamela’s death; she just can’t loose her two soul mates without getting some answers–and some justice.

The two investigations–Candace’s and the official one–turn up unpleasant facts about Pamela, her law firm, and some respected people in her social circle.  Candace and Detective Jackson butt heads over Candace’s activities even as they find themselves thrown together (and attracted to each other) in various social situations.  The author does a good job of balancing several threads of the story–Candace’s backstory, her struggle as a mother and as a Christian, the possibility of a new romance, and the murder investigations–and concluding them in a satisfying way.  The community of family, friends, and clients who support Candace is well drawn, adding another layer to the novel.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2012, Mecklenburg, Moody, Tyora, Mystery, Piedmont, Religious/Inspirational

Sarah Martin Byrd. The Color of My Heart. Greenville, SC: Ambassador International, 2013.

color heartHow well do we know our neighbors?  How well do we even know our own family?  Laura Carter loves her husband, Cam, and although she knows his father Monroe is a hard, racist man, she treats her father-in-law with respect.  Laura accepts the fact that Cam, an accountant, has to help his father with his farm, and she does not object when Cam goes out at at night to assist his dad.  Laura believes that she and Cam are a team, and that together they can weather any storm.

Laura’s belief is put to the test in more ways than she could have imagined.  Laura has always known that she was adopted.  At her birthmother’s request, it was a closed adoption–Laura has never know anything about her birth family.  As The Color of My Heart opens, Laura’s birthmother, Nelda Brinson, is dying and Nelda’s grandmother makes the fateful decision to contact Laura.  Nelda and her Me-Maw live so close by that Laura can visit them, and in doing so she finds out that her mother and her people are African Americans.  As Laura, Cam, and their daughters are adjusting to that fact and getting to know their new family, their older daughter Larkin becomes pregnant.  The baby’s father is her long-term boyfriend, a boy whose father is a good friend of Cam’s father and who shares his racist views.  Sarah Martin Byrd weaves these three strands together in multi-generational story that contains history, horror, cruelty, compassion, and uplift.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Byrd, Sarah Martin, Davie, Iredell, Piedmont, Religious/Inspirational, Rowan

Emilie Richards. One Mountain Away. Don Mills, Ont: Harlequin, 2012.

onemountainawayCharlotte Hale has lead an outwardly enormously successful life, building her own real-estate company in Asheville, North Carolina from scratch. Her rise from the poor daughter of a drunkard in the tiny mountain town of Trust to a wealthy mogul is the stuff of which American legends are made. Unfortunately, while the financial and business portions of her life have been rich, her personal life has suffered greatly. Her twenty-seven year old daughter, Taylor, cut her mother out of her life when she became pregnant at seventeen, and Charlotte has never met her granddaughter. Similarly, Charlotte has not spoken to her ex-husband, Ethan, since he left their marriage to support their daughter during that time.

Charlotte has never regretted her actions, moving ahead with confidence. Until the day that she is diagnosed with an acute form of leukemia, and realizes that life is too short and precious to waste on anger. She begins to focus on the important parts of life, and to attempt to rebuild many of the relationships she damaged, including those with her ex-husband and daughter. Along the way, she reaches out to a young, pregnant woman named Harmony, who is a complete stranger to her, but who desperately needs help. Since she refused to help Taylor so many years ago, opening her home to Harmony is a way of partially absolving her sins. But it doesn’t help everything–Charlotte still knows that the greatest reconciliation, and the hardest, is with the blood kin whom she betrayed. Will Taylor ever be able to forgive her mother?

Part of the Goddesses Anonymous series from Harlequin, this thoughtful novel encourages the reader to reconsider what’s most important in life before it’s too late.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2012, Buncombe, Madison, Mountains, Novels in Series, Religious/Inspirational, Richards, Emilie

Travis Thrasher. Hurt. Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook, 2013.

hurtIn this fourth and final installment in the Solitary Tales, author Travis Thrasher takes us back once more to the fictional town of Solitary, North Carolina.

Chris Buckley has tried everything when it comes to the evil in Solitary. He’s mocked it, pretended it doesn’t exist, given in for a time, even run away. Nothing has stopped his demon-possessed great-grandfather, Walter Kinner, from giving up his satanic control on the town. Worst of all, Chris is somehow the centerpiece of his upcoming final showdown with the powers of good. Tired, terrified, but most of all determined never to give in to the Devil, Chris takes the only course of action left– fighting back. It’s hard enough being a teenaged boy without having to fight the powers of darkness, but with his belief in the powers of God growing stronger every day, Chris has hope where before he had none.

Unfortunately, his very real demons know exactly how to keep him on their side– by threatening the ones he loves. His mother has been missing for some time, held by Walter’s henchmen. They’re also threatening his latest girlfriend, the sweet and guileless Kelsey. Since his other two girlfriends, Jocelyn and Lily, have both ended up as bloody sacrifices, Chris was reluctant to start dating again. But there’s just something about Kelsey that makes him think everything will be okay. But there is a long fight ahead, and no telling who will emerge triumphant. Will faith, hope, and love keep back the darkness?

Check out this final chapter in the Solitary Tales in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Henderson, Horror, Mountains, Novels in Series, Novels Set in Fictional Places, Religious/Inspirational, Thrasher, Travis

Payne, Peggy. Revelation. Wilmington, N.C. : Banks Channel Books, 1995, c1988.

revelationDr. Swain Hammond is perfectly happy before he steps out into his yard one summer night and hears the voice of God. He has a nice house with his beautiful wife in the heart of Chapel Hill, where he grew up. They don’t have a family, but neither wants children–they’re happy by themselves. Although he works as the minister of Westside Presbyterian Church in Chapel Hill, Swain would count himself as the last man likely to hear any kind of divine message. His congregation is made up of individuals who aren’t inclined to make literal interpretations of scripture, and neither is Swain. Yet, while his wife is grilling pork shish kebabs only a few yards away, God speaks to him.

The next year of Swain’s life is fraught with anguish. Far from the joy and peace he imagined hearing the voice of God would bring him, instead it seems to bring nothing but trouble. The congregation doesn’t know what to think of their formerly intellectually detached leader claiming to hear directly from God. At first they staunchly stand beside his right to free speech, but as the year wears on and Swain begins to preach about believing in miracles and hearing His voice again, they become uncomfortable and even angry. A few demand he step down, while others think he should seek counseling. Even Swain’s beloved wife, Julie, doesn’t know what to think.

In the midst of all this turmoil are the local children. Swain has never liked children, or felt comfortable around them. But when a boy named Jakey Miles, the son of a local woman he had a crush on in high school, is blinded in a terrible accident, Swain finds himself drawn to the boy. Against his will, he finds himself reflecting on his own childhood, where his intelligent parents played cruel games of emotional chess with one another that inevitably left young Swain traumatized. As the minister questions his faith, his relationships, and himself, one thing becomes startlingly clear–happiness is where you least expect to find it.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

 

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Filed under 1980-1989, 1988, 1990-1999, 1995, Orange, Payne, Peggy, Piedmont, Religious/Inspirational

Mia Ross. Hometown Family. New York: Love Inspired Books, 2012.

Matt Sawyer left Harland, North Carolina as soon as he graduated from high school.  He knew that he didn’t want to be a farmer like his father and he felt stifled by the closeness that his father and siblings expected from each other.  But it was his unspoken bitterness and grief over the early death of his mother that set him on a life of rambling, a life with no commitments, not even to his kin.  But now his father has died, and Matt finds that he has to stay in Harland to save the family farm and the way of life that is so dear to his siblings.  Matt agrees to stay long enough to get the harvest in; once that’s done, he’ll go back to his work as a mechanic in Charlotte.

But Matt didn’t count on meeting Caty McKenzie, or, really, meeting her again.  She was three years behind him in school and his awareness of her was slight.  He knew little about her other than that his brother John was clearly sweet on her.  But now Caty is a lawyer–his father’s lawyer.  It’s Caty who breaks the news to the Sawyer siblings that the farm has been left to all of then, with the stipulation that all decisions about it must be unanimous.  Matt can’t imagine that he and his sister Marianne can agree on anything, and he feels guilty knowing that his brother John has only worked on the family farm, nowhere else.

Matt’s clearly got some work to do: get over his guilt about leaving his family, his distaste for farming, and his habit of running from uncomfortable feelings–like his romantic interest in Caty McKenzie.  In contrast, Caty seems like she has an uncomplicated life.  She loves being back in her hometown and is looking forward to restoring the house that she grew up in.  But Caty’s childhood included the tragic death of her mother, and in restoring her childhood home she comes face-to-face with a secret from the past.  Will she be able to face that, especially after a house fire undoes her restoration work and almost kills her?  Over the course of the novel her faith, her hometown friendships, and Matt Sawyer’s growing love for her allow them both to see a life in Harland that neither expected.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2012, Novels Set in Fictional Places, Piedmont, Religious/Inspirational, Romance/Relationship, Ross, Mia