* * *Welcome to the next stop on Susan May Warren's LitFuse blog tour, promoting her two novels, Nothing But Trouble and it's follow-up, Double Trouble. Included in this post are my reviews of each book and information on how you can win the copies sent to me by LitFuse Publicity Group. So here we go...
Part One- Reviews
Book 1 - Nothing But Trouble
Book 1 - Nothing But Trouble
Publisher Introduction from Nothing But Trouble:
Sent to me for review by LitFuse Publicity Group, Nothing but Trouble is written by the prolific Christian writer, Susan May Warren. It's the first installment in her new PJ Sugar series, begun in 2009. My original assignment was to read the next book in the series, Double Trouble, but LitFuse was very gracious in sending me Book 1 per my request. As this is to be a series, I wanted to get to know Warren's characters from their inception.
When we meet PJ Sugar, she has been away from home for 10 years, following a fiery incident in her past. A new Christian, she is having trouble with her current boyfriend, a seminary student who can't quite see her as "pastor's wife material". When the relationship abruptly ends, PJ is given a good reason to head on home-- her sister Connie's wedding.
As the story unfolds over the next three weeks, we learn about PJ's life, the life-changing incident that drove her out of town, and the people who surround her. Mother Elizabeth, who adopted PJ as an infant, always seemed distant and aloof to her daughter. Sister Connie, born to Elizabeth mere months after the adoption, was always ahead of PJ, excelling everywhere that PJ didn't. And then there's the ex-boyfriend Boone, who was the cause of PJ's exodus in the first place.
When PJ returns home for the wedding and to help care for her nephew David, a murder is committed that shocks the entire town of Kellogg. Between trying to care for Davey and wrestling over her still-alive feelings for Boone, she works to solve the crime before the wrong man is framed for it.
I found Nothing but Trouble to be a fun, light read. It's a simple murder-mystery story, but the themes of redemption and romance round it out nicely. Many of Warren's readers will probably relate to PJ, as she struggles with insecurities and real failings. Christians (and those interested in the faith) will also appreciate her new-found relationship with Jesus, as she learns to comprehend her identity and reconciling that with her new life.
Warren occasionally includes brief mentions of scripture in her story, including them in a way that isn't too obtrusive and that complements the character development. On a number of occasions a passage in I Peter is cited, one that PJ uses to try to understand her new identity in Christ. She really wants to know that God has truly changed her, that she's not the same screw-up she's always been. Could she make a difference in the world? Is she worthy of God's love and the love of others?
While these are deep issues to ponder, the book also entertains with the murder-mystery theme, fairly chaste moments of romance and frequent sprinklings of humor. Nothing but Trouble would make a good choice for a day at the beach or a gift to a new Christian woman. Susan May Warren continues her run of successful storytelling. When I completed this novel, I looked forward to the next installment in the series, Double Trouble.
Book 2 - Double Trouble
Publisher Introduction from Double Trouble:
PJ Sugar has finally found something she's good at. Now she's trying not to mess it up. Her first official case as a private investigator-- well, technically a PI's assistant-- is house-sitting for a witness in protective custody. No danger involved, assures her boss Jeremy Kane, much to PJ's disappointment.
"Marry me, PJ."
At least PJ can take the next ten days to figure out the rest of her life...especially whether or not she should accept Detective Boone Buckham's marriage proposal. But one break-in by a late-night prowler is enough to put Boone's request on hold and send PJ's sleuthing skills into overdrive. Clearly this witness is hiding something...and it may cost PJ her life.
Double Trouble picks up not long after Nothing But Trouble ends. PJ is still involved with her high school sweetheart Boone, whose feelings for her have never wavered, even during the decade she was away from the town of Kellogg. In fact, he even asks for her hand in marriage. At the same time, PJ has begun working with her new Private Investigator friend Jeremy, whom she met after returning to town. She feels a romantic attraction to him as well, but this matter becomes complicated as she works to become a PI herself and as she wrestles with her feelings for Boone.
Amidst all of this lies a witness protection case with which Jeremy and PJ have become involved. PJ disguises herself as the crazy-clothes-wearing, softball-playing Dally, who is set to testify in an important, potentially lethal court case. As Dally's safety is at risk, PJ takes on Dally's life while Jeremy squirrels this endangered witness away to safety. She lives in Dally's home, meets her friends, plays in her softball games, and tries to car for her collection of chinchillas for less than two weeks. PJ once again has some exciting adventures. She grows into her role as a PI, tries to make a difference in the world around her, and makes an important decision regarding her love life.
As with Nothing But Trouble, I found this second installment to also be a fun, light read. The story begins with an exciting stakeout and continues with many interesting situations for PJ to deal with. The cast of characters is very different-- there's much more time spent away from her family and with the new life PJ adopts as a stand-in for the witness Dally. There are serious moments of trepidation as she encounters several perilous situations, sometimes even risking her life for the sake of this case. While there isn't as much humor sprinkled in this installment, it's still there, frequently showing up when 4-legged, furry creatures are involved. And while there certainly is a romantic element to the story, it's far less prevalent this time. PJ spends more time developing as a person, trying to decide the direction her life is going to take.
As with Nothing But Trouble, Double Trouble would make a great choice for teen girls, as the material is very clean and deals with many of the identity struggles that adolescents face. PJ is an inherently nice girl, although she can be mischievous and get herself into some harrowing scrapes from time to time. She's also committed to her new life as a Christian, and this is reflected in the choices she makes in her love life.
I think my only quibble with the story is the amount of time spent on the softball field, a venue that PJ takes on in Dally's stead. The game is important to PJ's client, so I can understand why she went to stand in for her at some important games. However, the story got bogged down a bit during the pages of content discussing PJ's work on the ball field. This of course is a minor issue and will not keep me from reading more PJ Sugar novels!
Warren's next volume is coming out later this year, and it's tentatively titled Licensed for Trouble. I look forward to seeing where the story takes PJ. She's a fun character, and I can especially relate to her struggles as an imperfect person. Like her, I need to remember that I can draw to God's throne of grace to find help in my times of need, because we all have them, don't we?
These titles were provided for review, free of any obligation by LitFuse Publicity Group. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.
Part Two- Win My Copies!
While I enjoyed both of these novels, I want to share them with you! So you can be up to speed on PJ Sugar, I'm offering Nothing But Trouble and Double Trouble to ONE winner! Here are the contest rules-- be sure to read them carefully!
- Leave a comment below; this counts as your entry.
- Entries accepted until 11:59pm on Saturday, March 13th
- Open to U.S. addresses only.
- Make sure your posted comment includes your email address.
- I will compile the entries and the winner will be chosen by Random.org, so even one entry can make you a winner!
- Should you win, I will contact you on Sunday the 14th. Please take measures to ensure that my email will not hit your spam folder, lest you miss my message! (CalicoCritic@gmail.com) You'll have 72 hours to respond before I pick another winner.
- More information on the giveaway policies can be found on the Contact / Policies page.
Bonus Entries (Please make note of your bonus entries in your comment(s)):
- Follow the blog by clicking on the Google "Follow" button on my sidebar (old or new followers both get the bonus entry, just let me know you're following).
- Follow me (@LHartness) on Twitter (Please tell me your @UserName).
- Tweet about this giveaway on Twitter.com; be sure to use an URL to this contest in your tweet. You may do this as frequently as every 8 hours between now and March 13th. For each tweet, please come back and post the direct URL link to that specific tweet, not just your @Username. Here's a sample tweet that you can use:
@litfuse blog tour of @SusanMayWarren 's PJ Sugar series. Stop by The Calico Critic 4 reviews & a double giveaway! http://4193a405.qvvo.com
And here's what the direct URL looked like, which you can find on your Twitter account by clicking on your time code under your tweet:
Thanks for stopping by, and good luck to the contestants!