CHARISSE by Fay Lamb

Reviewed by Nike Chillemi –

I most often review murder mysteries, thrillers, police procedurals, and if I’m up against a wall a romantic suspense. That’s tongue in cheek, but you get it. So why am I reviewing CHARISSE, a romance novel? Well, because there’s plenty of mystery in this story, the kinds of mysteries and dilemmas life throws at individuals. And, it’s well written.

Main characters Charisse Wellman and Judge Gideon Tabor are both hiding something. Add to the mix a jealous harridan in stilettos named Delilah, who lives up to her name and you’ve got one interesting story.

Charisse carries pain, insecurity, and disappointment from her high school days, when she was quite overweight. Now as a widow who has just lost her beloved husband, she’s trying to raise her young son. It becomes apparent she must give up her dream of law school and go to work to put food on the table and a roof over their heads. She finds herself interviewing with Gideon Tabor, a local criminal court judge, with whom she had an unpleasant run-in many years ago. But does he remember her? Whatever the case, that incident from long ago, disheartening as it was, is not the only bone she has to pick with him . . . not by a long shot.

Of course, she aces the interview and begins clerking for Judge Tabor. Just as she’s hoping she can put the past behind her and settle into some kind of normal work routine, Judge Delilah James begins playing office politics. Using underhanded tactics, this vixen in judicial robes, turns what could’ve been a pleasant working experience into a nightmare where Charisse is in fear of losing the job she so desperately needs.

On top of this Charisse is battling deep resentment toward the hit-and-run driver who killed her husband and the judicial system that allowed him to get away with it. No matter how much she prays, she can’t get over the bitterness she harbors.

I immediately warmed to V.J., Charisse’s young son. He is the sweetest child, and at times, the pain of the loss of his father is palpable. However, if there is a flaw in this novel, in my opinion, it would be that this darling little boy is just a tad too perfect at times. However, I have a penchant for obviously flawed characters. Other readers might not agree on this point.

There are Christian themes running throughout the entire story. As the characters develop and grow emotionally they attain greater spiritual maturity as well. This is a read I could recommend to any fifteen-year-old, as well as anyone’s great-grandmother. Although romance novels are most often read by women, this is a story I believe many a man would enjoy.

A Review of Peril by Jordyn Redwood

By Carol McClain –

Life couldn’t get worse for Morgan Adams, a pediatric nurse in a Denver Hospital. Her infant daughter died several months earlier—shaken by a trusted friend and babysitter. Morgan’s kidneys are failing, and with her rare blood type, a hope for a donor is remote.

The events of her life erode her faith, strain her marriage, threaten her job and exacerbate her thoughts of suicide.

Then her traumatized world is turned upside down when a fourteen-year-old girl is brought to her unit, comatose, raped and brain dead. Her heart is donated, and the recipient has visions of the attack. Morgan discovers these events will entangle her own beleaguered life.

The threads of the attack stem back to her husband. Medical researcher Dr. Tyler Adams works for a renowned neuroscientist, Dr. Thomas Reeves, who has gained significant ground treating PSTD.

A past Morgan does not yet know will threaten her and the lives of those she cares for.

This is the third in the Bloodline Trilogy by Jordyn Redwood, and is as gripping as the first two in the series. Redwood, a pediatric nurse herself, uses her vast knowledge of medicine to weave twists in the story the reader never suspects, so the reader remains enthralled through the last words.

All elements of the first two books—Proof and Poison—tie together in the conclusion. Redwood’s ability to weave such a cohesive web amazes me.

If you like Richard Mabry, Robin Cook or Brandilyn Collins, you’ll love Jordyn Redwood who writes with the skill of the most popular authors.

A Lasting Impression by Tamera Alexander

Reviewed by Tammy Doherty –

A LASTING IMPRESSION immerses the reader into the gilded world of the super-rich in late 19th century America. From the start, the characters are captivating. Claire’s inability to go against her father as well her blind obedience to his command and that of Uncle Antoine is hard to grasp in this modern world. Ms. Alexander seems to have realized this—she frequently, yet gently, reminds readers of the difference between our world and that of the South 150 years ago.
This difference is seen as strongly, though more subtly, in Sutton Monroe. His adherence to honor and honesty make him stand out from modern society’s standards. That he is not swayed merely by money shows the strength of his character and personality.

Claire and Sutton find each other physically attractive; however, this is not what draws them together. Both like the good qualities in the other. The romance develops slowly and believably. The obstacles to their relationship are mostly due to the setting—time and place—and somewhat self-imposed. Again, this works well, especially towards the end when the rules of society seem too big an obstacle to overcome.

In addition to being a wonderful romance story, A LASTING IMPRESSION is fine historical novel. Ms. Alexander paints a beautiful picture of Nashville and particularly Belmont Mansion, providing a rich tapestry which sets the stage for the action and conflicts. It’s easy to sink into the atmosphere of post-Civil War Tennessee, with all the difficulties of the Reconstruction Era.

Despite the novel’s length (426 pages), the story does not drag. The pages turn quickly and there’s a sense of being pulled through a time warp to view actual events. The Belmont Mansion really exists in Nashville. Likewise, Adelicia Aklin really lived there and though her characterization is fictional, Ms. Alexander used historical records to bring Adelicia to life. Even more, this story reads as if Claire and Sutton, and all the secondary characters, were real and that the events depicted actually happened.

This novel will truly leave A LASTING IMPRESSION.

Review of Walks Alone by Sandi Rog

By Nike Chillemi –

WALKS ALONE captivated and mesmerized me at times. No wonder it won in the Grace Award 2012 Action-Adventure/Western/Epic Fiction category.

This is a well-written epic novel beginning in Holland and ending in the old west. I loved the way it opened with the tenderness of Anna’s widowed father aboard ship. It was hard not to get involved in the father’s dream of traveling to Denver City with seven-year-old Anna to start a new life. Unfortunately, Anna’s father falls ill in New York City and passes away. She is left in the care her father’s brother for six terrible years.

The scenes with Anna’s abusive uncle were brutal and fully engaging. After Anna escapes from her uncle, she travels westward by train, and finally joins a wagon train where she’s not well treated. There is a fascinating, though not explicit, bathing scene in a river, where an exhausted Anna allows herself to relax and find relief from the intense and life-threatening heat of the prairie. When half-breed Jean-Marc comes upon her with a small band of angry-braves, the reader is hooked between instant knowledge of the hero’s strong attraction to her and the extreme danger she’s in. Anna is taken by this brave’s strange blue-green eyes and can’t help wondering how it is that he speaks English better than she does.

Ms. Rog understands Native American life in that era quite well. I appreciated her attention to the details of Cheyenne tribal life. She did an excellent job of showing the anger and murderous rage of the braves as well as the prejudice of the settlers and their inability to see Native Americans as people, which led to Indian massacres.

Both Anna/Walks Alone and Jean Marc/White Eagle are flawed and well written. White Eagle’s poetic declaration of how his love is so large and encompassing that he sees and hears Walks Alone everywhere, even in the wind, was superb. He tells her of his pain at having caught her engaging in conversation with his sworn enemy, the man who led the deadly raid against his tribe. Through this, the author conveys how painful it is for Father God to witness His children engaging with idols. Beautifully done. Touches the reader at a deep spiritual level.

My only problem was with Anna’s continued insistence on finding herself and her pulling away from White Eagle after their Native American marriage is consummated and then again after his poetic declaration of love. I’m not sure such personal enlightenment was high on the list in those days. However, the author did manage to sweep me back into the story. Then the story would move on and carry me through thrilling bandit attacks, chilling raids on White Eagle’s tribe by a rogue Cheyenne warrior and his band of braves. A fantastic read, which I highly recommend.

River Rising by Athol Dickson

Review By Nike Chillemi –

Dickson writes with poetical grace, using the historical flood on the Mississippi River of 1927 as a backdrop. I delighted in reading this work with language that flowed like literary fiction while leading me into a complex mystery story. Significant issues are raised, questions asked.

Reverend Hale Poser, a black man with piercing blue eyes, leaves a high paying and respected position as chaplain in a New Orleans orphanage and travels to Pilotville, LA, where he takes a job as janitor in the Negro infirmary. Poser was an orphan and has reason to believe he will find out about his ancestry in Pilotville. His arrival makes a few in the town suspicious, including Dorothy Truett, a nurse in the infirmary, who it also attracted to him.

Under the wing of Papa DeGroot, a rich white businessman who built the infirmary, the Negro community has felt secure and largely untouched by the Jim Crow atmosphere pervading the south at that time. At the infirmary, Rosa Lamont agonizes with a breech birth until Hale Poser massages her protruding belly, turning the baby around. Baby Hannah is born. Some in the town see this as a miracle. Others fear the janitor is a flimflam man. Her parents rejoice and then the unthinkable happens. The baby vanishes. Both white and colored residents of Pilotville search the swamp and Hale Poser learns this is not the first baby to disappear. Baby disappearances have been going on for years. Reluctantly, Dorothy Truett takes Poser to the grave of a woman whose baby was stolen long ago.

Jean Tibbets, harbormaster of sorts, thought the troubles were over. Then this strange colored preacher came to town. Tibbets saw the janitor praying with arms outstretched near the white church, which made him uneasy. Now another colored baby has vanished. Was that coincidence? There are those in Pilotville who think this Hale Poser asks too many questions about the infants who went missing long ago. Some fear he’s stirring up all kinds of trouble. He asks why the whites and colored folk never worship together. Both the Negro and white preachers put him off, but he doesn’t quit asking. This reveals festering antagonism and resentment that is seldom voiced in Pilotville.

When all others except the baby’s father have given up the search for Baby Hannah, Hale Poser continues in his efforts to find the infant. As if baby snatching weren’t bad enough, then there’s a real nasty turn in the plot. As horrid as events become, Hale Poser’s spirituality and determination to serve God shine through. Was he a miracle worker? A prophet?

This novel got to me. As Hale Poser questions his own spiritual motivations, I had no choice but to look at mine. Athol Dickson has a unique and beautiful voice. The second edition of this novel has just come out and it is well worth the read.

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