Posted in Book Reviews

Book Review: Until We Find Home by Cathy Gohlke

197For American Claire Stewart, joining the French Resistance sounded as romantic as the storylines she hopes will one day grace the novels she wants to write. But when she finds herself stranded on English shores, with five French Jewish children she smuggled across the channel before Nazis stormed Paris, reality feels more akin to fear.

With nowhere to go, Claire throws herself on the mercy of an estranged aunt, begging Lady Miranda Langford to take the children into her magnificent estate. Heavily weighted with grief of her own, Miranda reluctantly agrees . . . if Claire will stay to help. Though desperate to return to France and the man she loves, Claire has few options. But her tumultuous upbringing—spent in the refuge of novels with fictional friends—has ill-prepared her for the daily dramas of raising children, or for the way David Campbell, a fellow American boarder, challenges her notions of love. Nor could she foresee how the tentacles of war will invade their quiet haven, threatening all who have come to call Bluebell Wood home and risking the only family she’s ever known.

Set in England’s lush and storied Lake District in the early days of World War II, and featuring cameos from beloved literary icons Beatrix Potter and C. S. Lewis, Until We Find Home is an unforgettable portrait of life on the British home front, challenging us to remember that bravery and family come in many forms.

My Thoughts: I really enjoyed the setting and historic angle Gohlke had for this novel. It was more than the beautiful town and descriptions. There was also the sprinkling of classic children literature. It brought a unique spin to the novel.
The Jewish refugees in England was another unique spin. I’ve read a lot of WWII fiction over the years, but this wasn’t a subject I’ve read about before. Gohlke really brings to life some of the hardships the children and their caretakers felt.
Sadly, I had some trouble connecting with the characters at times. The plot is spread over a long period of time and it caused me to lose touch with the characters since I sometimes felt like they were progressing without me.
Gohlke weaves all of this together with a sturdy message of faith and salvation. There is one point I feel obligated to make. She brought a lot of truth to the table, and I’m very grateful for that. But the actual moment of conversion was one that left me feeling uncomfortable. The character had enough knowledge beforehand to be saved, and she certainly showed fruit of conversion afterward. But the moment of surrender took place within a dream, and that’s the part that made me uncomfortable. That moment needs to be a conscious thought.
Overall, this is an enjoyable read that will likely send you to a new part of England with a new knowledge of the WWII home front.

Rating and Recommendation: I’m giving Until We Find Home 4 stars and recommending it to those who enjoy WWII fiction or Christian Historical Fiction.

~ I received a copy from Tyndale House. I was not compensated for this review. All thoughts are my own.

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Posted in Book Reviews

Christian Fiction Cover Wars: Valentine’s Edition

We’re long overdue for another round of Cover Wars! I’ll be pairing off two lovely covers. Vote for your favorites in the comments. In about a week, I’ll update the post to reveal the winners.

Red Dress: It wouldn’t be Valentine’s without the color red. Which cover featuring a red dress is your favorite?

 

Historic Couple: Two memorable couples, but which cover is your favorite?

 

Contemporary Couple: Another set of sweethearts. Which cover do you prefer?

 

Love: I searched far and wide for books with Love in the title. Which cover is your favorite?

 

Heart: Here are a couple books with Heart in the title. But which makes your heart sing?

 

Hugs and Kisses: What’s romance without a little Holding and Kissing? Which one of these covers is your favorite?

 

I never make these cover wars easy. But it’s time for us both to pick our favorites. These are mine: 
Red Dress: It seems near impossible to choose between the two…except The Lightkeeper’s Ball has a background that I’m smitten with.
Historic Couple: I’m going to go with Unrivaled. I love her dress and their expressions in the pic.
Contemporary Couple: There’s something so breathtakingly beautiful about Write Me Home that I can’t help but fall in love with.
Love: This was a hard one for me to choose between. I love the tiles and the muted coloring. But I also love the colors and sunspots. Hmmm I’m going to go with You’re Gonna Love Me. 
Heart: I super love both, but I’m going to choose A Heart Most Certain. LOVE the colors, dress, and backdrop on this one.
Hugs and Kisses: Just a Kiss. Both are fantastic and I love the bold colors on Tagg’s but they captured something ultra special in Hunter’s pic.

WINNERS ANNOUNCED:
Red Dress: The Lightkeeper’s Ball by Colleen Coble
Historic Couple: Tie
Contemporary Couple: Write Me Home by Crystal Walton
Love: You’re Gonna Love Me by Robin Lee Hatcher
Heart: A Heart Most Certain by Melissa Jagears
Hugs and Kisses: Just a Kiss by Denise Hunter

**If you’re coming to the party later, feel free to share your opinions, but I’ll no longer be adjusting the votes. 

Posted in Book Reviews

Book Reviews: January’s Backlist, 3 in 1 Review

One of my reading goals for 2018 is to cover more ground on the backlist. So many of my favorite authors have several previously published books that I haven’t had time for. I’m hoping to change that this year.

I decided to try something a little different. Instead of multiple posts, I’m going to collect the backlist titles and review them all at once. So here we go! These are the titles I read in January. I’ve had the pleasure of listening to all three books in audio as well and will rate the audio version.
*All links will take you to Goodreads.

198A Bride for Keeps by Melissa Jagears:
Everett Cline will never humiliate himself by seeking a mail-order bride. Not again. He’s already been jilted by three mail-order brides and figures a wife just isn’t in his future. However, a well-meaning neighbor hasn’t given up on seeing him settled, so she goes behind his back to bring yet another woman to town for him.

Julia Lockwood has never been anything more than a pretty pawn for her father or a business acquisition for her former fiance. A mail-order marriage in faraway Kansas is a last resort, but she’ll do anything to leave her life in Massachusetts and the heartbreak she’s experienced there.

Although Everett doesn’t see how a beautiful, cultured woman like Julia could be happy sharing his simple life, he could really use a helpmate on his homestead. Determined to prove she’s more than just a pretty face, Julia agrees to a marriage in name only. Faced with the harsh realities of life on the prairie and hesitant to explore the tentative feelings growing between them, can Everett and Julia ever let each other in long enough to fall in love?

My Review: I’ve always wanted to come back to this series and I’m glad I finally did. This was a classic mail-order bride story. I enjoyed it and look forward to finishing the series.
I thought Jagears did a lovely job with the gospel presentation throughout the novel.
Rating: 4 stars
Audio Version: 4 out of 5 stars.

217Love on the Line by Deanne Gist:
In 1904 Texas Ranger Luke Palmer arrives in Brenham, Texas, with one goal–to capture the gang of outlaws led by Frank Comer. Undercover as a telephone repairman, he uses his days on the range to search, not realizing there’s another pair of eyes watching him. 

Georgie Gail, switchboard operator and birder, heads out on a birding expedition, but instead of sighting a painted bunting, her opera glasses capture her telephone man, armed and far away from telephone lines. Palmer is forced to take this alluring troublemaker into his confidence and unwittingly puts her in harm’s way. The closer he comes to the gang, the further she works her way into his heart–and into trouble. Soon it’s more than just love that’s on the line.

My Review: From page one, I was hooked and couldn’t put this one down!! I loved the mystery and I especially loved the ending. There was comedy, romance, tension,  and plot twists all rolled into the climax. It was great! The romance was really pretty clean, however, the characters tended to view each other in a lustful mindset most of the time. It’s not my preference, so I’ll just leave that note there for anyone who might appreciate the heads up. The kissing scenes didn’t go far at all, though.
Rating: 5 stars
Audio Version: 5 stars

218Until the Dawn by Elizabeth Camden: A volunteer for the newly established Weather Bureau, Sophie van Riijn needs access to the highest spot in her village to report the most accurate readings. Fascinated by Dierenpark, an abandoned mansion high atop a windswept cliff in the Hudson River Valley, Sophie knows no better option despite a lack of permission from the absent owners.

The first Vandermark to return to the area in sixty years, Quentin intends to put an end to the shadowy rumors about the property that has brought nothing but trouble upon his family. Ready to tear down the mansion, he is furious to discover a local woman has been trespassing on his land.

Instantly at odds, Quentin and Sophie find common ground when she is the only one who can reach his troubled son. There’s a light within Sophie that Quentin has never known, and a small spark of the hope that left him years ago begins to grow. But when the secrets of Dierenpark and the Vandermark family history are no longer content to stay in the past, will tragedy triumph or can their tenuous hope prevail?

My Review: I LOVED THIS BOOK! The family mystery was interesting, and so was the history of the Weather Bureau. But my favorite was the characters themselves. I can’t help but love the Grinch and Scrooge. I suppose there’s something about watching the cold and hateful grow warm and loving. I thoroughly enjoyed how Quentin and Sophie’s personalities played off of each other. And Sophie was a beautiful example of how a Christian ought to treat others. I would have liked for Camden to have been more clear about our worth being found in Christ and our worthiness/goodness being HIS imparted righteousness and the power of the Holy Spirit. Because Quentin starts out as an atheist there was a strong and sturdy thread about faith throughout the entire novel. I appreciated her work here, but it often felt like she started and stopped at God’s role in creation. There was room for her to be a bit more clear in Jesus’s role in our salvation and the Spirit’s role in sanctification.
Rating: 5 stars
Audio Version: 5 stars

Have you read any of these yet? Will you be adding any to your TBR list? 

Posted in Book Reviews

Book Review: A Song Unheard by Roseanna M. White

196Willa Forsythe is both a violin prodigy and top-notch thief, which makes her the perfect choice for a crucial task at the outset of World War I–to steal a cypher from a famous violinist currently in Wales. 

Lukas De Wilde has enjoyed the life of fame he’s won–until now, when being recognized nearly gets him killed. Everyone wants the key to his father’s work as a cryptologist. And Lukas fears that his mother and sister, who have vanished in the wake of the German invasion of Belgium, will pay the price. The only light he finds is meeting the intriguing Willa Forsythe.

But danger presses in from every side, and Willa knows what Lukas doesn’t–that she must betray him and find that cypher, or her own family will pay the price as surely as his has.

What I Loved: Sometimes book one of a series is so great that you almost have to expect some form of a let down in book two. This was NOT the case with A Song Unheard. White returned with the same loveable street-wise family and added to them another set of memorable, one-of-a-kind characters. One of my favorite characters, in particular, was Margot De Wilde. She seems to be autistic, although it wasn’t named. Either way, she had such a unique personality and gifting. I appreciated how White gave her, and other characters, such depth and yet it never felt like they slipped out of character.
The focus of the war was centered on the refugees and the homefront so there was little military focus. Homefront stories tend to be my favorite, so this was a treat for me.
I honestly loved every minute I spent in this book, and I can’t wait for the third in the series!

Rating and Recommendation: I’m giving A Song Unheard 5 stars and recommending it to Christian Historical Fans, musicians, and fans of WWI fiction.

~ I received a copy from Bethany House. All thoughts are my own. I was not compensated for this review.

Posted in Book Reviews

Book Review: The Ladies of Ivy Cottage by Julie Klassen

194Return to Ivy Hill in The Ladies of Ivy Cottage as friendships deepen, romances blossom, and mysteries unfold.

Living with the two Miss Groves in Ivy Cottage, impoverished gentlewoman Rachel Ashford is determined to earn her own livelihood . . . somehow. When the village women encourage her to open a subscription library with the many books she has inherited or acquired through donations, Rachel discovers two mysteries hidden among them. A man who once broke her heart helps her search for clues, but will both find more than they bargained for? 

Rachel’s friend and hostess, Mercy Grove, has given up thoughts of suitors and fills her days managing her girls’ school. So when several men take an interest in Ivy Cottage, she assumes pretty Miss Ashford is the cause. Exactly what–or who–has captured each man’s attention? The truth may surprise them all.

Meanwhile, life has improved at the coaching inn and Jane Bell is ready to put grief behind her. Now if only the man she misses would return–but where is he?

As the women of Ivy Hill search for answers about the past and hope for the future, might they find love along the way?

My Thoughts: The first book of the series had me beside myself in anticipation of the next book in the series. Sadly, I felt like so much of that tension was missing in The Ladies of Ivy Cottage. I think having that high expectation going into this one had hindered me in enjoying it as much as I had hoped. Setting aside my expectations, there IS a great story here in the inviting Regency era. Klassen draws out Biblical messages on trusting God and forgiveness. There are still some things left undone so there’s plenty to look forward to in the third and final installment. That being said, there were still plenty of romance here and happy endings for some of the characters involved. I enjoyed watching two separate mysteries unfold and come to light. And as always, I enjoyed visiting this charming village and those who live there.

Rating and Recommendation: I’m giving The Ladies of Ivy Cottage 4 stars and recommending it those who enjoy Christian Regency Fiction.
*You’ll want to read this series in order.

~ I received a copy from Bethany House through Net Galley. All thoughts are my own. I was not compensated for this review.

Posted in Book Reviews

Book Review: Holding the Fort by Regina Jennings

202Jennings Winningly Combines Humor, History, and Romance

Louisa Bell never wanted to be a dance-hall singer, but dire circumstances force her hand. With a little help from her brother in the cavalry, she’s able to make ends meet, but lately he’s run afoul of his commanding officer, so she undertakes a visit to straighten him out. 

Major Daniel Adams has his hands full at Fort Reno. He can barely control his rowdy troops, much less his two adolescent daughters. If Daniel doesn’t find someone respectable to guide his children, his mother-in-law insists she’ll take them.

When Louisa arrives with some reading materials, she’s mistaken for the governess who never appeared. Major Adams is skeptical. She bears little resemblance to his idea of a governess–they’re not supposed to be so blamed pretty–but he’s left without recourse. His mother-in-law must be satisfied, which leaves him turning a blind eye to his unconventional governess’s methods. Louisa’s never faced so important a performance. Can she keep her act together long enough?

What I Loved: I always enjoy a military setting, so I was smitten with Hold the Fort from the moment I had first heard about it. Jennings incorporates military life at a western fort along with historical details about the conflict with the relocated tribes in the area. I learned some things along the way which is always a treat. With this as a backdrop, she adds in a beautiful romance, two charming girls, and one sweet talking hero. And then there’s the well thought out gospel presentation weaved into the storyline.

Rating and Recommendation: I’m giving Hold the Fort 5 stars and recommending it to those who enjoy Christian Historical Fiction or a novel with a western military fort.

~I received a copy from Bethany House. I was not compensated for this review. All thoughts are my own.

Posted in Book Reviews

2017 Book Awards

Before I hand out awards, I want to list all the 5-star books I’ve read this year. Each link takes you to the book’s Goodreads page where you can add it to your own TBR list and check out my review alongside what others had to say about the book.

A Beauty So Rare by Tamera Alexander
Christmas at Carnton by Tamera Alexander
What Hope Remembers by Johnnie Alexander
Fly Away by Lynn Austin
Where We Belong by Lynn Austin
The Road to Paradise by Karen Barnett
Mistaken by Karen Barnett
Murder for the Time Being
by Joanie Bruce
The Illusionist’s Apprentice by Kristy Cambron
A Dangerous Legacy by Elizabeth Camden
Mail-order Revenge by Angela K. Couch
My Heart Belongs in Ruby City, Idaho by Susanne Dietze
The Price of Privilege by Jessica Dotta
Mark of Distinction by Jessica Dotta
Tin Can Serenade by Amanda Dykes
The One True Love of Alice-Ann by Eva Marie Everson
Life After by Katie Ganshert
North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell
The Mark of the King by Jocelyn Green
12 Days at Bleakly Manor by Michelle Griep
With You Always by Jody Hedlund
Love and a Side of Chips by Traci Valentyne Hilton
A December Bride by Denise Hunter
A Love So True by Melissa Jagears
Love by the Letter by Melissa Jagears
On Love’s Gentle Shore by Liz Johnson
The Innkeeper of Ivy Hill by Julie Klassen
Two Ways Home by Sondra Kraak
A Stranger at Fellsworth by Sarah Ladd
Jane of Austin by Hillary Manton Lodge
The Bracelet by Dorothy Love
Christy by Catherine Marshall
Hold the Light by April McGowen
18 Hours To Us by Krista Noorman
Lady Jayne Disappears by Joanna Davidson Politano
The Austen Escape by Katherine Reay
Through Waters Deep by Sarah Sundin
Anchor in the Storm by Sarah Sundin
When Tides Turn by Sarah Sundin
One Enchanted Noel by Melissa Tagg
The Secret Slipper by Amanda Tero
Mail-order Surprise by Lucy Thompson
Finding Margo by Jen Turano
The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck by Bethany Turner
Within the Veil by Brandy Vallance
The Bounty Hunter’s Baby by Erica Vetsch
My Heart Belongs in Fort Bliss, Texas by Erica Vetsch
Bride of Pretense by Amanda Tru and Cami Wesley
Then Came You by Becky Wade
True to You by Becky Wade
Oh, the Weather Outside is Frightful by Susan May Warren
A Name Unknown by Roseanna White
The House on Foster Hill by Jaime Jo Wright
With This Ring
The Message in a Bottle Romance Collection

142

Favorite Cover AND Best Dressed: True to You   Am I the only one completely smitten by this dress and this cover? Oh, and those shoes!!

Favorite Proposal: Oh, the Weather Outside is Frightful    As a fiction reader, I’ve read more than my share of proposals. I remember gushing over this one which is pretty rare for me.

Favorite Courtship: A Beauty so Rare   There was so something so sweet about their budding relationship that really stood out to me.

Best Love Triangle: The Innkeeper of Ivy Hill   I LOVE a good love triangle, but Klassen took it to a whole new level when every woman had more than one fella asking for her hand. If you enjoy being surprised, you’ll appreciate the way Klassen keeps you guessing.

Best Suspense: The House on Foster Hill   From the cover to the story, this one was fantastic. If you enjoy suspense and haven’t read this one yet then shame on you!! 😉 Pick up your copy asap.

Best Mail-order Bride: Mail-Order Surprise, Bride of Pretense   If mail-order novellas are your thing, these two stood out to me this year. They were humorous and enjoyable all the way around.

Best Date Request: Love and a Side of Chips    Again, I’ve read MANY date requests so it’s something ultra special when they tug at my heartstrings. It was just perfectly sweet and well done.

Favorite Pet: Rip from The Bounty Hunter’s Baby and Dash from Jane of Austin   I’m not a dog person by Rip and Dash stole my heart and almost changed my mind about wanting a dog. Almost. 😉

Best Comedy: My Heart Belongs in Ruby City, Idaho   I laughed the whole way through this one. Loved it, loved it, loved it.

Great Friction: Two Ways Home and 18 Hours to Us   There is something so engaging about a pair who rub each other the wrong way. If you like that sort of thing in your novels, give these two a try!

WWII Fiction: Waves of Freedom series and One True Love of Alice-Ann   I love war fiction, especially from the home front. It wasn’t possible to pick only one in this category. I consider myself the winner for getting my hands on more than one fantastic WWII read for the year.

Favorite Retelling: Jane of Austin and Secret Slipper   Jane of Austin retold Sense and Sensibility while Secret Slipper retold Cinderella. I was in awe at the authors’ creative take on beloved classics.

Best Novella Set: With this Ring and Message in a Bottle   If you’re looking for a great novella set to sink your teeth in, you won’t be disappointed with either of these. 5 stars all the way!

Gospel Message: Fly Away   Austin not only weaved the gospel into her story but also tackled the various conflicts someone might face when attempting to share the gospel. I was very impressed with her treatment of the gospel in Fly Away. Truly a beautiful story!

Heart Breakingly Great: Life After and Hold the Light   The award says it all. You might cry when reading these novels, but I promise you’ll feel blessed by the time you’re finished.

Oldest Novel: North and South 1854

Best Supporting Cast: Christy   This novel is chocked full of memorable characters.

Best Historical All Around: Road to Paradise   This was just plain good in all ways.

Best Hero: A Name Unknown   There’s something special about a flawed hero and White made his stutter appealing.

Best Contemporary All Around: On Love’s Gentle Shores 

Original Plot: The Austen Escape   Reay was thinking outside of the box on this one and it paid off really well.

Oddest Collection of Characters:  12 Days at Bleakly Manor  Lol There’s not much I can say but if you’ve read it, I’m sure you’d agree with me.

Best Food: My Heart Belongs in Castle Gate, Utah by Angie Dicken   I tried Greek food for the first time after reading this book and I’ve enjoyed it several times since then.

The Shortest and the Sweetest: Serenade by Amanda Dykes   This was such a special story in the tiniest of packages. Give it a try if you haven’t already.

Most Exotic Setting: Where We Belong    Austin takes you from Chicago to the far ends of the earth in her latest novel.

Best Mystery: Lady Jayne Disappears and The Bracelet    Neither of these mysteries were overly suspenseful, but the mystery was intricately crafted. I highly recommend both to the mystery fan.

Best Use of Duck: Finding Margo   LOL Nothing more needs to be said here. Finding Margo was a great mystery, but I’ll never forget that duck.

Breathtaking Message: The Mark of the King    I’ll be honest with you. Parts of this novel were just plain hard to read, but in the end, you’re left with one of the most remarkable messages of grace that I’ve read.

Kept the Pages Turning: Within the Veil    Wow!! The story kept evolving until the very end.

Stickiest Problem: Mistaken   It seemed that either way the characters turned, they were up against impossible odds. Until reading Mistaken, I hadn’t realized how rare this has become. Plus the history and the setting where remarkable.

Favorite Couple: A Dangerous Legacy    Everyone will have their favorite couple, but I enjoyed their banter and sweetly unfolding romance. Their unique form of communicating made them memorable.

Most Read Author: Jessica Dotta: 1,335 pages   I could have also given Dotta a number of other awards for Most Surprising, New Favorite Author, Great Supporting Cast, Best Villian, Page Turner, Sticky Plot, etc. But I was trying to give the other greats room to shine. Needless to say, Dotta’s series has made it to my top ten for the year.

Most Listened to Author: Franklin W. Dixon: I listened to 10 Hardy Boy books for a total of 1,816 pages. I’m attempting to listen to some of the classics in audio and the Hardy Boys were the first I picked up. Sure they were slightly cheesy but they were also fun.

Now it’s your turn!! Were you able to narrow down your 2017 reads to a Top Ten list? Did you have a favorite cover? How about a favorite couple? Which author did you read the most in 2017? 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Book Reviews

Book Review: The Austen Escape by Katherine Reay

191Falling into the past will change their futures forever.

Mary Davies finds safety in her ordered and productive life. Working as an engineer, she genuinely enjoys her job and her colleagues—particularly a certain adorable and intelligent consultant. But something is missing. When Mary’s estranged childhood friend, Isabel Dwyer offers her a two-week stay in a gorgeous manor house in England, she reluctantly agrees in hopes that the holiday will shake up her quiet life in just the right ways.

But Mary gets more than she bargained for when Isabel loses her memory and fully believes she lives in Jane Austen’s Bath. While Isabel rests and delights in the leisure of a Regency lady, attended by other costume-clad guests, Mary uncovers startling truths about their shared past, who Isabel was, who she seems to be, and the man who now stands between them.

Outings are undertaken, misunderstandings arise, and dancing ensues as this company of clever, well-informed people, who have a great deal of conversation, work out their lives and hearts.

My Thoughts: Hands down, one of my favorite Austen inspired stories of the year!! I LOVED this fresh plot. Kudos to Reay for her creativity with this one. It wasn’t a retelling and yet all the Austenish things someone could hope for were present. The references were always explained so you don’t have to be a life-long Austen fan to understand the story at hand . . . and, yet, being an Austen fan makes it all the sweeter.
The setting was easy to visualize. The characters were richly layered. I enjoyed watching Mary and Isabel come to a deeper understanding of themselves and each other.
I’d like to point out that I really believe this novel falls into the Clean Fiction category instead of Christian Fiction. The difference is that in Christian Fiction, any lesson the characters learn is learned through or attributed to Christ. In The Austen Escape, the characters didn’t appear to have any religious affiliation whatsoever. The novel is, however, very clean. There was no language. Nothing overly passionate or graphically unnecessary or vulgar. As a dry Baptist, I didn’t appreciate the social drinking scenes. But even in this, the social drinking felt more like a backdrop and not a focal point. I’ll admit that I was a tad bit lost in the first chapter when the focus is on Mary’s work and the drama surrounding it. I don’t have a scientific brain so a lot of the info was over my head. However, Reay’s depth of research is awe-inspiring. If anyone else gets off to a rocky start like I did, just keep going. Things will smooth out in a couple of chapters and you’ll capture what was most important from those scenes.
At the end of the day, The Austen Escape was a delightful novel and has earned a place on my reread list.

Rating and Recommendation: I’m giving The Austen Escape 5 stars and recommending it to those who enjoy Clean Contemporary Fiction or for Austen fans of any age.

~ I received a copy from the publisher. All thoughts are my own. I was not compensated for this review.

Posted in Book Reviews

Book Review: Price of Privilege Series by Jessica Dotta

154The year is 1838, and seventeen-year-old Julia Elliston’s position has never been more fragile. Orphaned and unmarried in a time when women are legal property of their fathers, husbands, and guardians, she finds herself at the mercy of an anonymous guardian who plans to establish her as a servant in far-off Scotland.

With two months to devise a better plan, Julia’s first choice to marry her childhood sweetheart is denied. But when a titled dowager offers to introduce Julia into society, a realm of possibilities opens. However, treachery and deception are as much a part of Victorian society as titles and decorum, and Julia quickly discovers her present is deeply entangled with her mother’s mysterious past. Before she knows what’s happening, Julia finds herself a pawn in a deadly game between two of the country’s most powerful men. With no laws to protect her, she must unravel the secrets on her own. But sometimes truth is elusive and knowledge is deadly.

*Since this series is a continuation, I’ll only share the blurb for the first book.

My Thoughts: 

WOW-WEE!! Not only is this a fantastic series, but as I looked over my list of book awards for the year, I could easily hand SEVERAL awards to this series alone. Here’s a quick list: Best supporting character, Most gripping storyline, Best series, Most read author, Kept me guessing, Best villain, Best narrator. Lol Maybe I should add one for Most awards. 😉

But seriously, I cannot brag about this series enough. In fact, I personally emailed the author to find out when we could find more of her fantastic work.–Incase you’re wondering, she’s hard at work but our wait will be some longer yet.

One of the factors that stood out to me the most in this series was how Dotta worked completely out of the box. Anything goes with this one and I loved her unpredictability. I find it tedious when you always know how the story ends and it seems as if Dotta would agree. I can’t count the number of times she made me change my mind about what I wanted for the heroine or what I expect would happen next.

Needless to say, this is one series that I plan to keep on my shelf to re-read again later . . . or re-listen to as the case may be. I had the pleasure of listening to portions of this series in audio and found it even more enjoyable. There was something about the narrator’s voice that I liked. But when she spoke for the characters and infused their personality and emotions into the line, I felt like I was in the room with them. When I switched to ebook form, I could still hear her voice in my head.

I will say this for fellow sensitive readers, there are some rather passionate moments. The first novel more than any of them, I believe. I think I was more uncomfortable while reading the first novel because I didn’t know what to expect from the author. In hindsight, she stops when she should but I would rate it a PG-13 (a true PG-13, not those overly trashy PG-13s that everyone knows should have been rated R. 😉 ) But that’s on my sensitive scale. Others may not find it as strongly as I did.

This series is a continuation. You MUST read it in order. Thankfully for you, all books are available so you can keep right on trucking from one to the other. Again, I was in awe of Dotta’s ability to write three full-sized novels from one POV character and yet keep the ideas and pages turning. There wasn’t a dull moment.

In the early pages, I wasn’t quite sure what to make of the author’s theme or spiritual message. Having read them, I can honestly tell you that you’re in for more than just grit and intrigue. Dotta has woven in a strong and sturdy message on coming to faith in Christ, on trusting Christ with everything, and SOLELY leaning on Christ in the good times and the bad–and believe me, these characters know a thing or two about hard times.

Rating and Recommendation: Clearly, I loved it, and since I’m reviewing 3 books, I can give them 15 stars as they rightly deserve. Lol If you enjoy an unpredictable novel, something gritty yet still clean enough for a Christian reader, then this is a must-read for you!

Posted in Book Reviews

Book Review: Where We Belong by Lynn Austin

184The Adventure of a Lifetime for Two Indomitable Socialite Sisters

In the city of Chicago in 1892, the rules for Victorian women are strict, their roles limited. But sisters Rebecca and Flora Hawes are not typical Victorian ladies. Their love of adventure and their desire to use their God-given talents has brought them to the Sinai Desert–and into a sandstorm. 

Accompanied by Soren Petersen, their somber young butler, and Kate Rafferty, a street urchin who is learning to be their ladies’ maid, the two women are on a quest to find an important biblical manuscript. As the journey becomes more dangerous and uncertain, the four travelers sift through memories of their past, recalling the events that shaped them and the circumstances that brought them to this time and place.

My Thoughts: I’ve come to expect a well-researched, historically in-depth novel from Austin and she surely doesn’t disappoint here. The setting shifts from a 19th century Chicago to the exotic travels of two women. Her ability to transport the reader is remarkable.
Austin weaves in the gospel and a solid message about trusting God into a story with lots of heart and adventure. I enjoyed how the characters’ circumstances were constantly changing.
I really loved Becky and the way she struggled against what everyone around her wanted for life. I appreciated the way she stood her ground and kept her eyes on who God wanted her to be. Sadly, her sister Flora fell flat for me. But I thoroughly enjoyed Petersen and Kate’s stories. These two really came to life and pulled at my heartstrings and helped to give the story a very powerful ending that I couldn’t put down.

 

Rating and Recommendations: Where We Belong is a great read for those who enjoy Christian Historical Fiction or those looking for fiction based in another country. I’m giving it 4.5 stars.

~ I received a copy from Bethany House. I was not compensated for my review. All thoughts are my own.