Sign up for Meridian’s Free Newsletter, please CLICK HERE
I promised more of my personal favorites before Christmas; here are three of them. This doesn’t make the list of favorites complete, but are certainly worth considering for the bookworms on anyone’s Christmas gift list.
KEPT SECRETS by Traci Hunter Abramson
Six years have passed since high school sweethearts Devin Shanahan and Grace Harrington last saw each other. Devin’s best friend and Grace’s cousin are getting married in Las Vegas in a planned elopement to which close friends and family are invited. A week of fun is planned for the small wedding party prior to the wedding which isn’t long for Devin and Grace to get to know each other again and fall in love all over. It’s all they need, and following the planned wedding, they have their own unplanned elopement to which none of their friends are invited or even told about.
The young pair each have one more semester of school to get their MBAs and since they’re attending different schools, they only see each other during breaks and holidays. They assume they’ll be able to establish a home together after graduation, but Devin is keeping a secret from Grace. He’s working for the CIA and is being sent to Hong Kong on a top secret mission. Devin trained to become an analyst, not an agent, and is heavily dependent on his handlers to know what to do and to keep Grace safe when Chinese intelligence agents attempt to coerce him to become a double agent. If he survives the international intrigue, will he have a wife to go home to?
Grace finds she doesn’t enjoy her new job as much as she expected and is unhappy living in a tiny one room, cockroach infested apartment in New York. She counts down the days until she and Devin can be together again and is devastated when he suddenly stops calling or e-mailing her. A break-in to her apartment is the final straw and she flees to Colorado to her grandfather. She has a secret too, one she’s anxious to share with her husband, but how can she when he never answers his phone or responds to her emails?
Abramson’s characters are people readers quickly identify with. They think and react like real people. Her own experience with the CIA gives her particular insight into the intelligence community and adds authenticity to the story. This story blends two genres and handles both with finesse. It’s an intriguing suspense and at the same time a tender romance. Careful research has gone into the various settings that play an important role in the story. Location details from New York to San Francisco, from a Colorado ranch to the Hong Kong night life scene are handled with equal strengths.
Traci Hunter Abramson began life in Arizona, but has spent most of her adult life in Virginia. After graduating from Brigham Young University she went to work for the Central Intelligence Agency. After her marriage and plans for children entered her life, she resigned and now spends her time being a mom, coaching high school swimming, and writing spine tingling novels.
* * *
KEPT SECRETS BY Traci Hunter Abramson, published by Covenant Communications, 279 pages, soft cover $16.99. Also available for eReaders.
LOVE’S BROKEN ROAD by Julie Coulter Bellon
Victoria’s six year marriage ended in a car wreck that took her husband’s life. It’s not sadness, but relief, that propels her to accept a job on the other side of the country where she and her five-year-old son can put the past behind them. Even with her self-confidence greatly battered, she is determined to forget the physical and emotional abuse she and her son suffered at her husband’s hands and move forward to a better life for just the two of them.
Drew Dalton is assigned to show the new math teacher around the small town high school where he teaches. A widower still mourning the loss of the woman he loved with all his heart, he isn’t prepared for the jolt to his senses that shakes him when he meets Victoria Newel. When she makes it clear she’s not looking for anything more, he offers friendship to her and her child. Obviously another teacher at the high school didn’t get the message Victoria wants nothing more than friendship and why should his attention to the young widow annoy Drew so much?
Bellon usually writes action packed international intrigues, but with Love’s Broken Road she introduces a tender romance to her readers. Granted her suspense novels have included a touch of romance, but have been primarily intrigue. This story is a second romance between two people who have suffered hurt and loss and are uncertain whether they can risk loving again. The characters are likable and draw the reader’s sympathy from the start. Their development progresses at a believable rate as they come to terms with their pasts and gain the strength and courage to press forward.
Julie Coulter Bellon was born and raised in Canada, graduated from Brigham Young University, and now lives in Utah with her husband and large family. In addition to writing, she teaches writing courses for BYU Continuing Education. She has received several awards for excellence in writing.
* * *
LOVE’S BROKEN ROAD by Julie Coulter Bellon, published by Stone Hall Books, 209 pages, soft cover $14.99 Also available for eReaders.
TO WIN A LADY’S HEART by Sian Ann Bessey
Expanding on the legend of Gelert which originated in Wales, Sian Ann Bessey has written a captivating late medieval tale of a lord who returns to his castle to find chaos and a huge bloody, dead wolf in the nursery. His child’s cradle is empty and overturned. His massive wolfhound limps toward him and assuming the dog has killed his child, he plunges his sword into the dog’s heart. Moments later the baby, Joanna, cries and crawls from under the blankets and debris. Lord Gilbert realizes the dog had protected the child from the wolf, not killed it. It’s not the only time Lord Gilbert has reacted blindly in a fit of rage. The midwife was banned from the castle when his wife died birthing his only child. When he angrily orders a search for the child’s nursery maid, one of the knights, Sir Edwyn, acts quickly to find the young woman and arrange for her and her young son to flee to safety.
Years later Lady Joanna sneaks through a secret tunnel from the castle to visit her friend, the healer. On the narrow cliff side path she discovers a badly injured man and seeks help for him from the healer and her two adopted sons. The injured man, Sir Lukas, begins to heal and pushes himself to meet two goals; identify the men who tried to kill him and find Sir Edwyn whom he learned on his mother’s deathbed had been the knight who saved his and his mother’s life. Lady Joanna has a goal too. Someone has stolen the common people’s wool, leaving them with no profit on which to live, taxes to pay without resources from which to pay it, and the repercussions of Joanna’s father’s wrath since he assumes the peasants are withholding their taxes to benefit themselves.
One more crisis looms over Joanna when her father decides she should wed and promises her as the prize for the winner of the archery tournament he planned without her knowledge.
Bessey admits this story has grown in her imagination since she was a young child and visited the site where the valiant wolfhound, Gelert, is said to be buried. The dog belonged to Llewelyn the Great and was a gift from King John of England in the thirteenth century. Bessey updated the story to the fifteenth century and moved it from Wales to England. The characters burst forth onto the pages of the story as fully developed real people who could only act and speak as men and women of that time period through the personal knowledge of the land and people that Bessey can claim. She was born in England and grew up on a Welsh island where she learned the history and legends of those countries.
To Win a Lady’s Heart is Historical Romance at its best. The romance is tender and sweet, but doesn’t overpower the historical aspects of the story. The story is also a powerful Intrigue with the mysteries of who attacked Sir Lukas and the theft of the wool. This well-written, captivating novel will appeal to a broad spectrum of readers.
Sian Ann Bessey left England to attend school at Brigham Young University where she not only obtained a BA degree but married a young man who is now a longtime faculty member at BYU-Idaho. They are the parents of five children and grandparents of five. She is the author of more than a dozen novels.
* * *
TO WIN A LADY’S HEART by Sian Ann Bessey, published by Covenant Communications, 234 pages, soft cover $15.99. Also available on CD and for eReaders.