Tuesday, July 31, 2012

My Review of High Desert Haven

Here's a description of the book from the author's website:

"Is Jason Jordan really who he says he is?
Everything in Nicki’s life depends on the answer.
Oregon Territory, 1887

When her husband dies in a mysterious riding accident, Nicki Trent is left with a toddler and a rundown ranch. Determined to bring her ranch back from the brink of death, Nicki hires handsome Jason Jordan to help. But when William, her neighbor, starts pressing for her hand in marriage, the bank calls in a loan she didn’t even know about, bullets start flying, and a burlap dummy with a knife in its chest shows up on her doorstep, Nicki wonders if this ranch is worth all the trouble.

To make matters worse, terrible things keep happening to her neighbors. When her friend’s homestead is burned to the ground and William lays the blame at Jason’s feet, Nicki wonders how well she knows her new hand…and her own heart.

A desperate need. Malicious adversaries. Enticing love.
Step into a day when outlaws ran free, the land was wild, and guns blazed at the drop of a hat.

Read an excerpt of High Desert Haven."

My Rating


My Review

For a well-rounded Christian historical romance novel, High Desert Haven has it all: a caring and cared-for heroine, a charming and God-fearing hero, great secondary characters, and a rather well-paced plot. The elements that really shine are those secondary characters and the plot riddled with tension and dilemmas.

Nicki is a bit typical in her feisty damsel-in-distress role. Jason helps her find the gumption to keep persevering through her ranch's endless problems, and ultimately she does an adequate job at holding the reader's sympathy, although she does lack a certain something to make her stand out and inspire the reader.

Jason really does fit the bill as a great cowboy-hero. He respects and loves his family, takes on tasks wholeheartedly, never ceases to try to save the day for Nicki, and is man enough to work off the land and still play with a little boy. He's quite likeable, although he does seem to be portrayed as too perfect in some ways.

The emphasis on the secondary characters admittedly came across as a hindrance for me initially. After all, this is Nicki and Jason's story, right? And I can be impatient when there are distractions from the budding romance! But the quirks and mannerisms and heart of those secondary characters won me over, perhaps even more so than Nicki and Jason for the most part. Even one of the villains quite intrigued me with his disastrous marriage.

It is evident that High Desert Haven is only one book in a series, because characters from a previous novel (Rocky Mountain Oasis), as well as characters promised to star in their own future books, share the spotlight on occasion in this installment. But the story stands on its own. Some of the attitudes and words of the characters come across as more "modern" at times, and the faith element is kind of forceful. Still, High Desert Haven is a story that holds one's interest and contains a cast of interesting characters.

*With thanks to the author for providing me with an e-copy of the book in exchange for my honest opinion.* 


Miranda said...

Hi Amber,

What I love most about this review - your honesty. I get that its generally a good read, but I've learned a thing or two:
i) Being cliche in creating the personality of a character doesn't add spice to the story. Hence the reason Nicki turns out to be a regular damsel in distress that doesn't make her stand out and inspire a reader. There should be a twist, hence the reason I'm following a character trait series on 'The Book Musers' Blog. Here's a link to see exactly what I mean: http://t.co/LwqzxOQ4

ii) Humans have flaws and when that's displayed in a character, a reader can relate in some ways. I guess a book is more inspiring, hope-filling and satisfying when we are able to see a character's struggles and witness how God walks them through it to victory. Will keep that in mind ;)

iii) Secondary characters should just be that - secondary! They shouldn't fight for too much space in a story. (God help us not to fall too much in love with the secondary characters we create. Amen!)

Amber, thanks for these reminders and your honesty! Looking forward to the next one.


Miranda said...

Just in case that link doesn't work, you could copy this directly into the address box: thebookshelfmuse.blogspot.com/2012/07/character-trait-glamorous.html?spref=fw

They have articles on other character traits like courageous, sensitive, witty ... the list could go on.

Amanda Stanley said...

Great review Amber! I had read Rocky Mountain Oasis back when it first released in 2009 (I think?) and really enjoyed it. I just stumbled upon the cover of this book a few days ago and it was a great surprise to see Lynette had written another novel! I went to her website and saw the rest of the books in this series and they all sounded really good. I think it said she was re-releasing RMO, too.

If I remember correctly Jason wasn't exactly hero material in the first book of this series. He was very troubled and I think had a drinking problem. Gosh, I can't remember details anymore! 26 and loosing my mind... sigh... Anyway, I'm pretty sure he cleaned up his act by the end of the first book so that would explain him becoming a hero in this one. I only mention it because you said he sounded too perfect at times. I'm pretty sure he wasn't always. Was there any acknowledgement of that in this book?

Also, if I'm remembering correctly (but don't bet the farm on it!) their sister (forgot her name, of course, even though I JUST seen it a few days ago!) had a love interest in the first book, but I'm not sure what became of it. Did she get any page time in this second book?

Sorry for all the questions and all my ramblings, lol! I'm glad you liked the book. A Spring rating isn't too shabby ;)


Amber Holcomb said...


I'm glad you found this review helpful in regards to your own writing, and thank you for sharing that link! :) That does look like an interesting website regarding characterization!

As for your second point, I think it does help to walk along the characters in their struggles and see where they turn and what they decide to do about them. After reading Amanda's comment, I was reminded that Jason's previous problem with alcoholism was referred to in High Desert Haven, so he wasn't portrayed as completely perfect. But this particular story was more about him helping others than any personal struggles of his own (other than falling in love, of course, *wink*). :)

And regarding secondary characters, I confess that I do like secondary characters with depth, and I intended that comment to be a compliment to the author in that area... Her main characters' romance interested me, but they didn't stand out to me as much as her secondary characters, which says that I loved her characterization in some areas but not as much in others. Sorry if that was confusing! And you do have a good point, that we want to have great main characters that hold the spotlight well on their own. :) But I love when all of the characters - secondary included - are well-drawn. Submerged by Dani Pettrey is a great example of great characterization across the board, although I couldn't help especially falling in love with a couple of secondary characters! ;) And to be honest, in my own writing I've had some secondary characters steal my heart... I know I've got a lot to work on in my own writing, and hopefully reading a lot will help! :)

Anyway, I appreciate your comments, and best wishes in your own writing endeavors! :)


Amber Holcomb said...


Thank you! Lynnette has done a great job with those covers and the self-publishing route! :)

I'm glad you pointed that out about Jason - you're right, this book did refer to his previous drinking problem a couple of times. I guess since I hadn't read the first book I wasn't as sympathetic to his previous dilemmas... But I still should note that he isn't portrayed as entirely perfect!

This book really was an enjoyable read overall, and I hope that comes across in the review. Sometimes I'm so concerned with dissecting the reasons for why a book doesn't entirely captivate me that I think I can be too nitpicky. :( I mean, I don't generally have a problem with a charming cowboy hero who saves the day! ;) I think it was more the modernisms (is that a word? ) and the forceful faith elements that made it a little tougher to swallow in general...

However, yes, the main characters of the next book do get some page time in this one (I think that's who you're talking about: Victoria and Rocky, right?), and Lynnette's upcoming releases look good. :) I'm especially intrigued by the synopsis of Spring Meadow Sanctuary - I love a good outlaw story! ;)

Thank you so much for stopping by and leaving a comment, dear friend! :)


Lynnette Bonner said...

Hi ladies, :)

First a big thank you to Amber for her honest and insightful review. It takes a lot of time and thought to put together something like this and I appreciate the time she invested to help me share this story with others.

And Amanda asked about Sharyah's love story... yes, she is the MC in book 4, Spring Meadow Sanctuary, which will be out this winter.

Amanda Stanley said...

Thanks Lynnette! I'm looking forward to catching up with old friends and seeing what you've dreamed up for them :)

God bless you and your writing!

Amber Holcomb said...


You are very sweet, and I've appreciated the chance to communicate with you and read/review your book. :) Thank you for your kindness! We'll be seeing you back around here very soon for the Bash!

And thank you for answering Amanda's question - I guess I was thinking of the wrong couple! Spring Meadow Sanctuary sounds like an exciting read based on the synopsis! :)


Michelle said...

Thanks for sharing your thoughtful and well written review, Amber. : )

Amber Holcomb said...


You're welcome! Thank you so much for stopping by! :)