Each year I like to tell you what were my favorite novels. As a book buyer I read a lot of books (although I didn’t read as many as I did last year…must rectify that in 2013!) and there are always a handful that stand out.
So, without further ado and in no particular order, here are my favorite novels of 2012.
Oh, wait… I do have a little “ado” before you read my list. I’ll be giving away two sets of my favorite books tomorrow so be sure to come back and see me. Talk about a jackpot! That’s a lot of books!
Okay, here’s the list!
It’s rare for a debut novelist to land on the New York Times Best Seller list right out of the gate. It’s even rarer for a writer in the Christian fiction market to do this. But that is just what Julie Cantrell did with Into the Free. A riveting coming of age story, this novel will have you glued to young Millie Reynold’s life as she deals with family secrets, abuse, first love, and an introduction to a faith that seems to be just what her restless heart is searching for. This is probably the most beautiful story I read all year. If you are fan of more literary fiction, then be sure to check out Into the Free.
I am a sucker for World War II novels so I was eager to get my hands on Tracy Groot’s Flame of Resistance. Set against actual events that occurred in Normandy in 1944, we are introduced to an American pilot that was shot down and rescued by French Resistance workers. They immediately recognize that he has the height and build to impersonate a German officer and persuade him to get intelligence from a prostitute whose brothel serves German officers. Stakes are high for all involved and one slip could cost the lives of many. It doesn’t take long to recognize the biblical account of Rahab woven into Flame of Resistance which was a nice surprise. If you’re a fan of World War II novels like me, I can highly recommend this one to you.
If you’ve read my blog for any length of time, you’ll know my love of Julie Klassen’s writing. She’s one of the few authors who have dared to bring regency fiction into the Christian market. And oh, how she has succeeded! The Maid of Fairbourne Hall captures the best of a romance tale with plenty of mystery to keep you wondering just how it’s all going to unfold. Margaret Macy has left from her affluent home in order to avoid having to marry a man who is out to gain control of her inheritance. She takes a position as a servant at Fairbourne Hall and hopes she can remain hidden until her next birthday. Never could she have imagined that the owner of the estate is none other than the man whose marriage proposal she once rejected. Will she be able to protect her identity and her inheritance? Oh, I won’t say…you’ll have to discover for yourself.
This was one of LifeWay’s top debut novels for 2012. Becky Wade’s My Stubborn Heart was welcomed by many fans of contemporary romance novels. I will admit that I’m not drawn to many books in this genre because many of them are just a little too sappy for my taste. I want a story where the characters are people I can relate to and that’s just what I found in Becky’s book. Surrounded by colorful characters and laugh-out-loud moments is a story of a young woman who, like so many of us, is trying to wait and listen to God for his direction in her life. While her head wants to dive into a relationship with a guy that she still can’t believe wants to be with her, her heart tells her that it’s not time. She knows it’s her heart she should follow even though she can’t see God’s reasoning for it. See? A believable, sap-free romance story. Thank you, Becky!
I shared with you my thoughts a couple of weeks ago on the latest novel by Tamera Alexander. She is hands down a favorite of mine. I had high expectations on To Whisper Her Name since I learned that it was set at the Belle Meade Plantation which is a favorite spot of mine in Nashville. Tamera captured the grandeur and history of one of the South’s most prestigious plantations through her attention to detail and commitment to historical accuracy. There are many characters to love from young window Olivia Aberdeen, to civil war veteran Ridley Cooper, and Belle Meade horse trainer Uncle Bob Green, and many others. To Whisper Her Name is a novel that you need to curl up with on the couch along with a warm cup of tea and just savor each page.
I’ve described this book to people by saying that if John Eldredge was to write a novel it would be like The River by Michael Neale. While The River is an actual body of water that Gabriel Clark grew up beside, it comes to symbolize so much more as he grows into a young man. Pulled away from The River by life’s circumstances, he has faint memories of it, some good and some bad. When he finds himself back at The River as a teenager, he is flooded with questions and stirrings in his soul that leads him to explore more of what The River could offer him. This book is really resonating with men who are finding it to have a lasting impression on them after they finish it.
If we had unlimited time, I would share with you my love of Mesu Andrew’s writings. Honestly, if you only read one book on this list, I would want you to read Love’s Sacred Song. Mesu has been blessed with the gift of making stories from Scripture come alive for her readers. In this year’s release, she takes us into the life of a young King Solomon just as his beloved father, David, is dying. We see him struggle to assume the throne of one of Israel’s most popular kings. Who can he trust? How will he keep peace among the many tribes? And how will he have peace in his own life? As was the custom then, Solomon has a large harem but there is one beautiful shepherdess that captures his heart. Told through the scriptures of the Song of Solomon, readers will be drawn into King Solomon’s and Arielah’s story as well as the powerful true story of God’s heart for his people. Seriously. Read it.
Dani Pettrey was LifeWay’s break-out debut novelist of the year. Once Submerged hit our shelves, it seemed that word spread quickly about this new romantic suspense novelist. Right from the start we are in the middle of a mystery: a plane is sabotaged, divers are missing, and there are few clues in a small Alaskan town to solve any of it. Bailey has returned to Yancey to bury her beloved aunt who died on the plane. She had no idea how much she would be involved with the investigation into the accident… or that a past high school boyfriend would reenter her life. If you’re a fan of Dee Henderson or Irene Hannon, you’ll definitely want to check out Submerged. You have a couple of months to get it read before book 2 comes out. Shattered will be available early in the spring. I can’t wait!
This was the year for me to discover new authors! Let’s add Katie Ganshert to the list with her debut novel Wildflowers from Winter. She offers contemporary fiction fans a fresh voice as she tells us about Bethany Quinn who is back in her small Iowa hometown in order to pay respects to a family member who has passed away. Her plans of a quick visit are soon derailed when she learns she has inherited the family farm. Not only does she have to wade through the decisions that need to be made, Bethany is forced to face a childhood that is covered in pain. Wildflowers from Winter is a lovely story of friendship, forgiveness, and the joy that can be found even in the midst of life’s coldest and bleakest seasons of life. I’m eagerly awaiting Katie’s next novel, Wishing on Willows that continues the story of many of the characters we meet in her debut novel.
Sigh…just thinking about one of Laura’s books makes me happy. Love’s Reckoning is one of those sweeping novels that just sticks with you long after you read the last page. Silas Ballantyne is the perfect leading man. Determined to make his way in the world he has apprenticed himself to an iron forge in Pennsylvania. His goal? Earn enough money to head west in order to start his life over. The master of the forge sets off to keep Silas there once he sees how good his work is and that it’s bringing in more business. Implementing a long standing custom, he tells Silas he must marry one of his daughters. Eden is a quiet, hardworking girl while her sister, Elspheth is high-spirited and cunning. As he gets to know the family, Silas realizes that they are not what they seem. Which sister will he marry? Or will he forgo it all and try to make his way in the world by some other means? Love’s Reckoning is the first book in a stunning family drama that will surely take Laura’s popularity among historical fiction fans to a much higher level.
I’ll admit I picked up this book because of the beautiful cover. What a treat I found inside! The Wedding Dress has several characters but the main one is a wedding dress. We follow it from when it was created for a young, albeit reluctant bride, in Birmingham in 1912 to the next owner in 1939 and then to another bride in 1968. Each one of the brides has a story that the current owner of the dress, Charlotte in 2012, sets off to discover. Besides being woven with pearls, lace, and delicate details, the dress is fitted together with faith and courage which seems to be passed along to each young lady who wears it.
I didn’t think it was possible for me to love one of Elizabeth Camden’s books more than The Lady of Bolton Hill but she surpassed it with Against the Tide. Strong but slightly flawed Lydia Pallas has managed to put together a nice, quiet life for herself after being orphaned at a young age. She’s fluent in several languages which makes her an asset to the U.S. Navy where she works. Her gift at linguistics catches the eye of Alexander Banebridge (yes, the same Bane that was in The Lady of Bolton Hill…yay!) who is on a personal mission to wipe out the illegal opium trade in America. When he asks Lydia for her assistance, she has to decide if she’s willing to risk her position with the Navy, her quiet and safe life, as well as her heart, in order to help this mysterious, and handsome, man. This story will have the ladies swooning over Bane, trust me!
Popular southern fiction writer Michael Morris ventured into the Christian market this year with The Man in the Blue Moon. Set in the months after the end of World War I, Ella is forced to carry on with her life after her no good husband disappears. She along with my favorite character of the book, Narissa, runs a small store that supports her and her boys. Ella is on her last rope when a man arrives on her doorstep…packed in a shipping crate from the Blue Moon Clock Factory. This drifter brings with him an air of mystery as he stays on to help work the fields. People in town swear he is up to something even as though he appears to have the gift of healing. If you’re looking for a well-crafted and gripping southern tale, then be sure to check out The Man in the Blue Moon.
Well, there’s my list. Have you read any of these novels? I would love to know what you thought about them.
What were some of your favorite books for 2012? Be sure to share those as well!
Don’t forget… HUGE giveaway tomorrow on all of the books I’ve mentioned today!