Posted in Book Reviews

Book Review: The Cumberland Bride by Shannon McNear

401Thomas Bledsoe and Kate Gruener are traveling the Wilderness Road when conflicts between natives and settlers reach a peak that will require each of them to tap into a well of courage.
A brand new series for fans of all things related to history, romance, adventure, faith, and family trees.

Love and Adventure Are Discovered on the Wilderness Road
In 1794, when Kate Gruener’s father is ready to move the family farther west into the wilderness to farm untouched land, Kate is eager to live out her own story of adventure like he did during the War for Independence and to see untamed lands. And she sets her sights on learning more about their scout, Thomas Bledsoe. Thomas’s job is to get settlers safely across the Kentucky Wilderness Road to their destination while keeping an ear open for news of Shawnee unrest. But naïve Kate’s inquisitive nature could put them both in the middle of a rising tide of conflict. Is there more to Thomas’s story than he is willing to tell? Is there an untapped courage in Kate that can thwart a coming disaster?

Join the adventure as the Daughters of the Mayflower series continues with The Cumberland Bride by Shannon McNear.

More in the Daughters of the Mayflower series:
The Mayflower Bride by Kimberley Woodhouse – set 1620 Atlantic Ocean (February 2018)
The Pirate Bride by Kathleen Y’Barbo – set 1725 New Orleans (April 2018)
The Captured Bride by Michelle Griep – set 1760 during the French and Indian War (June 2018)
The Patriot Bride by Kimberley Woodhouse – set 1774 Philadelphia (August 2018)​
The Cumberland Bride by Shannon McNear – set 1794 on the Wilderness Road (October 2018)
The Liberty Bride by MaryLu Tyndall – set 1814 Baltimore (December 2018)

My Thoughts: The Cumberland Bride is a strong historical novel with a strong plot twist. The depth of research and attention to detail struck me almost immediately. McNear weaves in such an authentic feel to the everyday lifestyle as well as the scenery. I did feel like it took me longer to get into, but once I was hooked, I was WAY in. I don’t want to ruin anything but wow! The plot twist was remarkable and it completely changed the course of the story. I was enthralled by the new tidbits of Shawnee culture that I had never heard of before. And McNear brings all of this together with a strong Christian message of saving faith and living out your faith in Christ. I appreciated all the Scripture she weaved in for the reader.

Rating and Recommendation: I’d recommend this one to Christian Historical fans, especially those interested in Native American stories. I’m giving it 4.5 stars.

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

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Posted in Book Reviews

Interview and Book Review: Bittersweet by Krista Noorman

262He owns a food truck. She owns a bakery. He walked out on her four years ago without a word. Will his return bring them a second chance or is it a recipe for disaster?

Harper Hensley’s greatest joy is baking. She’s co-owner of a cute little bake shop, creating delicious treats to her heart’s content, and happily dating a successful lawyer. Life seems perfect. Until Logan Riggs, the man who walked out on her without a word four years ago, rolls into town in his new coffee food truck, living the dream they were supposed to share together.

The last thing Logan ever wanted was to leave Harper, but unforeseen circumstances forced him to make that choice. He never meant to hurt her or ruin their plans of starting a food truck. Now he’s back to make things right, hoping to convince her to work with him, and longing for a second chance with the woman he loved from the start.

Coffee and cupcakes belong together. But is the truth about Logan’s disappearing act too much to forgive? Can Harper move past the bitter to get to the sweet?

*****

Second Chance with You is a series written by a group of sweet, clean romance authors connected by the the idea that past loves, broken apart for a myriad of reasons, can be brought back together—some by chance, some by circumstance, some by choice.

Bittersweet is part of the Second Chance with You series. All books in this series are standalone and can be read in any order.

My Thoughts:

If you’ve followed my blog for any amount of time, you would have already been introduced to Krista Noorman. She’s one of my favorite Indie authors, and not just because we’ve become friends, but because she happens to write a particular style of story that I’m quite fond of. I thoroughly enjoy a good friction-filled romance. And once again, Noorman delivers! Here are 3 quick reasons you should give Bittersweet a try:

Cupcakes and Coffee really do go together! If you enjoy those novels that involve your favorite foods and that make you hungry and cozy all at the same time, you’ll feel right at home here!

Friction. Filled. Romance. 🙂 These two really start off with a bang. Logan wants her back, but Harper isn’t ready to forgive him. If you like to witness the sparks, you’ll want to grab this one … and any all the other Noorman novels while you’re at it. 😉

If you like your romance plot to contain unexpected twists and turns, you’re in for a treat! I’ve read a lot. And I’ll be honest, there was one point about a third of the way in where I questioned what in the world she was intending to do with the rest of the pages. LOL I wasn’t questioning for much longer! She truly did fill out every one of those pages and some of those ways, I didn’t see coming!

Disclaimer: I typically review Christian fiction, so I feel better about pointing out that Bittersweet was written for the clean fiction genre. The main difference is that clean fiction doesn’t require a faith element. The characters in this book did allude to Christian beliefs but their faith never became a focal point. One disclaimer to point out is that there is a single use of the phrase, “Go to H…” Otherwise, the language content was clean. And the romance was clean as well. I’d still gladly recommend it but to the right reader. 🙂

I took the chance to interview Krista about her latest release, and I was surprised to learn something new about my friend. Check it out: 

Now let’s talk, cupcakes and coffee, shall we!! In your novel, Harper runs a bake shop. Is this something you’ve ever considered doing?

Not at all. Though I love cute little shops like this and always enjoy their yummy treats, I am not much of a baker.

Likewise, Logan runs a coffee food truck. If you weren’t writing, would you consider opening a coffee shop?

I don’t think I’d ever want to run a coffee shop or food truck. There are a lot of behind-the-scenes logistics, permits, and business stuff that just don’t sound like very much fun. But maybe working in one might be fun to try for a day. 😉

One of my favorite scenes is when Harper had a lot on her mind and kept messing up her cookies. Lol We’ve all been distracted cooks at some point or another. Can you tell us one of your own personal mishaps in the kitchen?

Oh goodness. One time, I made peanut butter cookies and I’m not sure if the baking soda was bad or I put too much in, but it left the nastiest aftertaste ever. I also made homemade biscuits once and they were dry and nasty—pretty much paperweights. My husband has teased me often over the years about both of these little mishaps.

I understand there’s a whole collection of second chance romance novels in the works. Who are the other authors we’ll be hearing from and where can we find them?

The series is called Second Chance with You. There are nine authors, including myself, and the common theme of our novels is a second chance at love. Each is a standalone story, so the series can be read in any order. You can learn more about the books and authors on our Amazon series page here:
https://www.amazon.com/author/secondchancewithyou

Which character did you most relate to? Why?

I think Savannah, Harper’s business partner. She’s kind of the mom figure to Harper, being a little older than her, and her reactions were a lot like mine would’ve been in the situations Harper finds herself in.

Lightning Round:
If you were forced to open a food truck, what would sell?

Can you sell toast in a food truck, because that’s pretty much all I can make. haha! Kidding. I think the coffee food truck idea would be fun. I’d go with that.

Do you watch Food Truck Race or baking challenges on Food Network?

I don’t (we don’t have the Food Network), but when we used to have cable years ago, we watched Cake Boss all the time and the occasional cooking competition show.

Favorite flavor of cupcake?

CHOCOLATE!

Favorite coffee?

Mocha latte, please.

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You can pick up your copy from Amazon today. And it’s on sale this week only! 

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Posted in Book Reviews

Interview and Book Review: Legacy of Mercy by Lynn Austin

372Having returned to Chicago, young socialite Anna Nicholson can’t seem to focus on her upcoming marriage. The new information she’s learned about her birth mother continues to pull at her, and she hires Pinkerton detectives to help her find the truth. But as she meets people who once knew her mother and hears stories about the past, Anna soon discovers that some secrets are better left hidden.

At the same time, unflattering stories about Anna are leaked by someone who would love to see her disgraced and her engagement broken. And as Anna tries to share her faith with her society friends, she understands that her choice to seek God’s purpose for her life isn’t as simple as she had hoped.

When things are at their darkest, Anna knows she can turn to her grandmother, Geesje de Jonge, back in Holland, Michigan. Geesje’s been helping new Dutch immigrants, including a teen with a haunted past, adjust to America. She only hopes that her wisdom can help all these young people through the turmoil they face.

What I Loved: If you’ve read Waves of Mercy, you might have felt like there was more to the story. I’ll be honest with you, I was one of those rare human beings that was actually completely satisfied with the ending as it was. But that doesn’t mean, I wasn’t thrilled to get my hands on the “new ending!” And, boy, was it worth it! This was even better than the first one!
What Austin does so well, is that she brings a historical setting to life with well-developed characters and a rich spiritual message. Legacy of Mercy was a powerful story on dealing with grief and forgiveness. The story picks up right where Waves of Mercy leaves off and brings over the same lessons we were learning in the first novel and re-emphasizes their importance and adds to them in a beautiful way. I’ve read some continuations that felt like an extended epilogue but this was not that sort of novel at all! It was a fantastic ride that didn’t end until the very last chapter.

Rating and Recommendations: I give Legacy of Mercy 5 full stars and recommend it to those who enjoy historical Christian fiction. While it’s possible to read the books out of order and understand them, you’d appreciate Legacy of Mercy more if you read them in order.

~ I received a copy from Bethany House. I was not compensated for this review or required to give a favorable one.

 

It’s always a treat to hear from the author and to listen in as they describe the details of their novel in their own words. Please, enjoy this interview:

1. Legacy of Mercy will be released on October 2 and will be the first sequel you’ve ever written. What made you decide to write a sequel?

My readers decided for me! I received many, many letters from them asking if there would be a sequel to “Waves of Mercy.” The main character, Anna, is only in her twenties and is a new Christian, so when she decides to return to Chicago and marry her fiancé at the end of the book, readers wanted to know what happens next in her life. The more I thought about it, the more I wanted to explore what happens next for Anna, too. She has just discovered who her birth mother is, so naturally she’ll want to learn more about her. She’ll also want to solve the mystery of who her real father is and what became of him. What if he is still alive? Lots of material for a story here, especially when the other people in Anna’s life try to discourage her investigations.

2. This story is set in your hometown of Holland, MI. Did you discover anything surprising while you were researching these books?

I knew very little about the early history of Holland, Michigan when I began this series—only that it was settled by Dutch immigrants. What surprised me was how much they suffered to establish a settlement here, including religious persecution, a malaria plague, and a devastating fire. Their enduring faith in spite of all their many trials was a huge inspiration to me.

3. The city of Holland must have seen an increase in tourism since you started writing about it. You even did a bus tour, tell us about it.

The book seems to have sparked a renewed interest in local history. The Holland tourist bureau told me they’ve guided several happy tourists to the places described in my book. And I was very pleasantly surprised by the interest in my “Waves of Mercy” bus tour! When I offered to guide interested readers to some of the settings from my book, I never imagined there would be enough interest to fill two chartered busses! There may even be another tour after “Legacy of Mercy” releases.

4. You are known for writing multi-generational books and Legacy of Mercy is no exception. What intrigues you about writing in this style?

I enjoy creating women’s personalities from various eras and exploring how the roles and opportunities changed for women from generation to generation. I find it very interesting to see how the choices one generation makes has an influence on each generation after them. It causes me to be more thoughtful in the way I live, knowing that my children, grandchildren and even great-grandchildren may be impacted by my life.

5. Which character in Legacy of Mercy do you identify with the most and why?

I would have to say I identify the most with Geesje DeJonge. For one thing, she is about the same age as I am, and has lived long enough to be able to look back through the years and analyze them. She is in a position to see all of the ways and times when God carried her through—something we usually only see in hindsight, not when we’re going through the difficulties. I’m at the same stage in my life, and I can see God’s faithfulness to me in spite of the many times I questioned His wisdom.

6. When you sit down to write a story, do you know how it is going to end? Describe your writing process. How do you stay disciplined and not get distracted?

I never know how a story will end when I start writing. I rarely even know what comes next when I’m writing a chapter! I begin with the historical setting, and as I’m doing my research, my characters usually begin to take shape in my mind. I flesh them out by developing resumes for them so that they become real people in my mind, with backgrounds and personalities. Then I figure out where to begin the novel and simply make up the plot as I go along. If I’m surprised then the reader will be surprised.

My deadline keeps me disciplined. I know that if I write a certain number of pages a day, I’ll finish the book on time. I also know how very hard it is to write well when I’m behind schedule and a deadline is looming. Wanting to avoid that last minute panic keeps me disciplined on a daily basis.

As for distractions—there are so many! Over the years, I’ve had to learn when to put the book aside and enjoy a pleasant distraction (an old friend who has come to town, an afternoon with my husband), and when there’s no value in the distraction and it will only make the writing process harder.

7. Did anything surprise you about the Legacy of Mercy story?

Yes. One of the main characters ends up in an impossible situation, which put me in an impossible situation as I tried to figure out what to do! But I just kept writing and the dilemma untangled in a very natural but surprising way. (You’ll see when you read it!)

Also, the ending surprised me—a lot! I hope that all of my readers who asked for a sequel are pleased with it.

Posted in Book Reviews

Book Review: Backlist Titles August and September

I’ve been enjoying some of the books on my backlist this year. Here are the two novels that I’ve read during August and September.
*Both links will take you to Goodreads.

7

Tired of pining for handsome sheriff Ward Gleason, seamstress Hazel Andrews plans to head East for a fresh start—until Ward finds an abandoned child. Hazel can’t turn down his request that she watch the little girl while he investigates a spate of crimes. But spending time with Ward is sending local gossips—and Hazel’s heart—into turmoil. 

Nothing in Ward’s world is the same since he took charge of orphaned Meg…and that includes his growing feelings for Hazel. A fake engagement will allow them to care for the child together until Hazel moves away and finds someone more worthy. But with little Meg convinced she’s already found her forever family, can Ward and Hazel dare to make her dreams come true, along with their own?

Tailor-Made Husband

My Review: This was an enjoyable read. Romantic. Sweet. With an interesting mystery to keep your mind engaged. This is perfect for those looking for a light western.
I’m giving it 4.5 stars.

93Grace McCaffery hopes that the bustling streets of New York hold all the promise that the lush hills of Ireland did not. As her efforts to earn enough money to bring her mother to America fail, she wonders if her new Brownie camera could be the answer. But a casual stroll through a beautiful New York City park turns into a hostile run-in with local gangsters, who are convinced her camera holds the first and only photos of their elusive leader. A policeman with a personal commitment to help those less fortunate finds Grace attractive and longs to help her, but Grace believes such men cannot be trusted. Spread thin between her quest to rescue her mother, do well in a new nanny job, and avoid the gang intent on intimidating her. Grace must put her faith in unlikely sources to learn the true meaning of courage and forgiveness.

 Grace’s Pictures

My Review: I waited so long to finally get to this one and I enjoyed it. There was natural setting, one that didn’t make you feel like were visiting a fictional world but a real one. While there were areas where I felt that the main characters were inconsistent, the spiritual threads of redemption, trusting God, and finding your worth in Christ really shined here.
I’m giving it 4 stars.

Posted in Book Reviews

Book Review: A Tale of Two Hearts by Michelle Griep

280Book 2 in Reader Favorite Michelle Griep’s Charming Once Upon a Dickens Christmas Series

London, 1853: Innkeeper’s daughter Mina Scott will do anything to escape the drudgery of her life, for there’s nothing more mundane than serving customers day after day. Every minute she can, she reads and dreams of someday becoming a real lady—and catch the eye of William Barlow, a frequent guest at the inn.

William is a gentleman’s son, a charming but penniless rogue. However, his bachelor uncle will soon name an heir—either him or his scheming cousin. In an effort to secure the inheritance, William gives his uncle the impression he’s married, which works until he’s invited to bring his wife for a visit.

William asks Mina to be his pretend bride, only until his uncle names an heir on Christmas Day. Mina is flattered and frustrated by the offer, for she wants a true relationship with William. Yet, she agrees. . .then wishes she hadn’t. So does William. Deceiving the old man breaks both their hearts. When the truth is finally discovered, more than just money is lost.

Can two hearts survive such deception?

My Thoughts: Are you looking for a solid dose of Christmas cheer? You’ll find it right here in A Tale of Two Hearts. From the moment the book begins, I felt like I stepped into a Victorian Christmas setting. It was cozy, warm, inviting, and I always enjoy the historical facts that Griep weaves into her Christmas stories. While I did feel like there were characters who needed more depth, I greatly appreciated the lovely example Griep gives us of Christ wiping away our sins and forgiving our debts.

Rating and Recommendation: I recommend this to those looking for a Christian Historical or Christmas novel. I’m giving it 4 stars.

~ I received a copy from NetGalley. All thoughts are my own. I was not compensated for this review or required to give a favorable one. 

Posted in Book Reviews

Book Review: The Heart Between Us by Lindsay Harrel

331

Lindsay Harrel presents a powerful story of healing, adventure, and learning how to live life to the fullest.

Megan Jacobs always wished for a different heart. Her entire childhood was spent in and out of hospitals, sitting on the sidelines while her twin sister Crystal played all the sports, got all the guys, and had all the fun. But even a heart transplant three years ago wasn’t enough to propel Megan’s life forward. She’s still working as a library aide in her small Minnesota hometown and living with her parents, dreaming of the adventure she plans to take “once she’s well enough.” Meanwhile, her sister is a successful architect with a handsome husband and the perfect life—or so Megan thinks.

When her heart donor’s parents give Megan their teenage daughter’s journal—complete with an unfulfilled bucket list—Megan connects with the girl she meets between the pages and is inspired to venture out and check off each item. Caleb—a friend from her years in and out of the hospital—reenters her life and pushes her to find the courage to take the leap and begin her journey. She’s thrown for a loop when Crystal offers to join her for reasons of her own, but she welcomes the company and the opportunity to mend their tenuous relationship.

As Megan and Crystal check items off the bucket list, Megan fights the fears that have been instilled in her after a lifetime of illness. She must choose between safety and adventure and learn to embrace the heart she’s been given so that she can finally share it with the people she loves most.

What I Loved: This was an adventure from page to page! But more than an adventure, it was a story with real heart. I loved watching Megan and Crystal evolve and their relationship deepen as the story unfolded. I also enjoyed witnessing their own personal love stories as well.
Harrel did an amazing job describing the various countries. There was enough info to feel as if you have left the states, but not too much that it slowed the story down. And there were so many tidbits sprinkled throughout, that I couldn’t help wondering if Harrel had been on this trip herself.
Aside from all the traveling and romance, there was a solid story centered around some very important themes. Turning to Christ, letting go of a painful past, learning not to worry, and forgiveness was among the spiritual highlights.

Rating and Recommendations: I happily give The Heart Between Us 5 stars and recommend it to Contemporary Christian fans or for those looking for a good vacation read.

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

Posted in Book Reviews

Book Review: Bride Tree by J.P. Robinson

370The year is 1789. France is reeling under the impact of a civil war between its social classes. When a secret agent from Rome joins forces with a vindictive politician bent on revenge, the stage is set for an explosive outcome that will shake the country to its core.

Meanwhile, Queen Marie-Antoinette engages the help of her lady-in-waiting, Viviane de Lussan, in a desperate battle to keep her throne… and her head. But how can she win a struggle she seems fated to lose?

Amid the chaos of the revolution, Viviane’s heart is torn between a nobleman who sacrifices everything for her and a peasant who promises true freedom.

Saturated with suspense and lavish detail, Bride Tree combines  elements of alternative history with Biblical allegory. The result is a  romantic thriller that will grab you by the heart and never let go.

My Thoughts: I found the concept behind Bride Tree to be extremely interesting. Robinson’s choice to use alternative history (which in a nutshell uses real historical setting and some historical events while changing other events or the timeline to suit the story) really paid off. It gave him room to change things as needed in order to keep the reader guessing and offer the story even more possibilities.
There were some of the characters who could have been written with more depth. But the spiritual content was the real highlight here. His spiritual angle was spot on!  In many ways, I was often reminded of The Holy War by John Bunyan. He shared an amazing picture of how our fallen hearts are often led astray by the sinful temptations offered by Satan, and likewise how Christ draws us back to Himself with unmatched beauty and contentment. There was also a clear picture of Christ’s sacrifice as well as His fickle acceptance while here on earth.

I do want to give a slight warning. There were adult topics on the table, but it was never graphic or displayed in detail. It was always only alluded to or mentioned by name. Those who are familiar with the French Revolution will also understand the extremely violent nature of the setting. For those who aren’t familiar, you should know up front that this one includes a great deal more bloodshed. All that being said, there was a balance of honest human behavior and carefully crafted descriptions at work here. It was almost as if Robinson had decided to be just blunt and open about what happens but at the same time without going into further detail.
For me personally, as a conservative reader, I liked this type of balance. I struggle more when the author shares moment by moment details (or feelings and sensations if we’re speaking of sensual moments).

Rating and Recommendations: I give Bride Tree a solid 4 stars. If you enjoy the French Revolution or allegories, I think you’ll want to give this one a try.

~ I received a copy from the author. All thoughts are my own. I was not compensated for this review or required to give a favorable one.

Posted in About the Book, History

Researching the South during the Gilded Age

In this post, I want to do two things: I want to share with you some of the research that went into my novel, If Only It Were Yesterday, and I also want to review and recommend one of my key research books.

Whether you’re a historical fiction fan or history buff, you’re likely to notice that our focus shifts from region to region based on what’s going on during that time. It’s not hard to find books (fiction or non-fiction) based on life in the South during the Civil War or even the years leading up to or shortly after the war. However, the last three decades of the nineteenth century shifts our focus either to the west during the western expansion or to the north during the Industrial Revolution. But what was life like in the South during those years?

I’m not saying you won’t find ANY information, but it is a lot harder to come by. Because the focus in our nation shifts, there’s a gaping hole in our common knowledge of the period where the South is concerned. As a historical fiction fan, when I think of books during the Gilded Era, I think of stories in the North featuring either wealthy families or poor immigrant families. Because of what we commonly see, when  I sat down to write If Only It Were Yesterday, I had some questions: The last time we looked at the South, wealthy families had slaves or paid black freedmen. But the average snapshot of America during the Gilded Age shows me that most servants are immigrants. The last time we looked at the South, they were destitute. For the first time, both the rich and the poor, the black and the white, had a great deal in common: they had a great deal of nothing. But the average snapshot of America during the Gilded Age shows that electricity was becoming common, among other advances. So it begged the question: How many of these common understandings of the North were true of the South?

I don’t doubt one of you will take up the challenge and do a quick Google search and find all that it took me months to find. But for me, it was like pulling teeth to find documented proof of what the South looked like during a time that was so focused on the North or the West. Which makes From Morning to Night by Elizabeth L. O’Leary an answer to prayer.

Right there on the cover, it says “Domestic Service in Maymont House and the Gilded Age South.” FINALLY! This was the sort of book that promised to answer my questions. And, boy, did it! It’s one of those books that I highlighted but found myself wanting to highlight nearly the entire page. There was so much information packed in here.

The book features an extremely wealthy family in Richmond. The Dooleys were the exception here in the South, but O’Leary graciously explained what was commonplace for the Dooley’s and how it compared with others around them. It offered insight into the progression of technology within the home during those inventive years. It also weaves in terminology and common practices between servants and the families they served. It offers insight into the lifestyles of the servants and their employers, helping others like myself who wish to know more about the day to day life of those in the South. Since the Dooley’s were among the wealthiest in the South, you are given a look at the best that money could buy as well as how it compared to those who wouldn’t have afforded quite so much.
And in case you were wondering the answers to my questions: servants in the South during that time were primarily black people and very few were immigrants or poorer white Americans. And while electricity was becoming commonplace in the North, it was behind in the South. Wealthy families in larger cities had a better chance of having access to it, but smaller cities or rural areas couldn’t afford to supply it.

I highly recommend From Morning to Night to anyone who wishes to look deeper into the relationship between servant and employer, even if your primary concern isn’t focused on the South. But the book does bring the unique situation of the Gilded Age in the South to light. O’Leary balances what the historical documents reveal about the Dooleys with common experiences throughout the South as well as using quotes from various sources to further prove or explain the information.
I gladly give it 5 stars and a permanent place on my research shelf.

 

337Step off the lush carpet and push through the swinging door of the butler’s pantry to enter the bustling realm of domestic workers at Maymont House from 1893 to 1925. In From Morning to Night, Elizabeth O’Leary takes the reader behind the scenes in the opulent mansion of the Richmond multimillionaire James H. Dooley and his wife, Sallie. Drawing upon personal letters, business and government documents, and numerous oral histories of older Richmonders―both black and white―O’Leary examines the parallel and divergent viewpoints of server and served in this Virginia version of “Upstairs/Downstairs.”

Raised in slave-owning households before the Civil War, the Dooleys experienced the transformation of the master/mistress-slave relationship to that of employer-employee. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, they relied on a full complement of domestic servants to maintain their lavish residences and lifestyle. In turn, numerous men and women―predominantly African American―labored to meet the day-to-day challenges of running an elaborate household. At the same time, they negotiated the era’s increasing Jim Crow restrictions and, during precious hours off-duty, helped support families, churches, and the larger black community.

By examining the formalities and practices of the Dooleys at home and by giving a presence and voice to their “help,” From Morning to Night offers insights into domestic and social systems at work within and beyond the upper-class household in the Gilded Age South.

Buying Options: At the time that I was writing this post, I checked Barnes and Noble, Amazon, and Half.com and found both used and new options cheaper at Amazon.

 

Posted in Book Reviews

Book Review: Engraved on the Heart by Tara Johnson

330Reluctant debutante Keziah Montgomery lives beneath the weighty expectations of her staunch Confederate family, forced to keep her epilepsy secret for fear of a scandal. As the tensions of the Civil War arrive on their doorstep in Savannah, Keziah sees little cause for balls and courting. Despite her discomfort, she cannot imagine an escape from her familial confines—until her old schoolmate Micah shows her a life-changing truth that sets her feet on a new path . . . as a conductor in the Underground Railroad.

Dr. Micah Greyson never hesitates to answer the call of duty, no matter how dangerous, until the enchanting Keziah walks back into his life and turns his well-ordered plans upside down. Torn between the life he has always known in Savannah and the fight for abolition, Micah struggles to discern God’s plan amid such turbulent times.

Battling an angry fiancé, a war-tattered brother, bounty hunters, and their own personal demons, Keziah and Micah must decide if true love is worth the price . . . and if they are strong enough to survive the unyielding pain of war.

What I Loved: This was a fantastic debut novel! There’s so much to love and appreciate here. I always enjoy reading about a main character who has a disability or ailment of some sort, so I thrilled to read about Keziah and her struggle with epilepsy. I quickly connected with both Micah and Keziah. There were times, though, when I felt like some of the characters were too knowledgeable about the matters of war when the history books had yet to be written. But other than that, I found it to be a very strong and accurate historical novel. The characters relied heavily upon God to serve where they felt led to serve. The plot kept moving forward, and their romance was sweet and ended perfectly.

Rating and Recommendations: I’m giving it 5 stars and recommending it to those who enjoy Christian Historical Fiction, Civil War fiction, or those looking for fiction revolving around the Underground Railroad.

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

Posted in Book Reviews

Book Review: A Rumored Fortune by Joanna Davidson Politano

329Tressa Harlowe’s father did not trust banks, but neither did he trust his greedy extended family. He kept his vast fortune hidden somewhere on his estate in the south of England and died suddenly, without telling anyone where he had concealed it. Tressa and her ailing mother are left with a mansion and an immense vineyard and no money to run it. It doesn’t take long for a bevy of opportunists to flock to the estate under the guise of offering condolences. Tressa knows what they’re really up to. She’ll have to work with the rough and rusticated vineyard manager to keep the laborers content without pay and discover the key to finding her father’s fortune–before someone else finds it first. 

Award-winning author Joanna Davidson Politano welcomes readers to Trevelyan Castle, home of the poorest heiress in Victorian England, for a treasure hunt they’ll not soon forget.

What I Loved: This was a prime example of fine Christian fiction. From the moment the story began, I was captivated by Tressa, her world, and her story. And as it unfolded, I was treated to an interesting new mystery. The conclusion of the mystery wasn’t clear from chapter one, so it was nice to go on the treasure hunt with the rest of the cast. The romance was sweet and clean. But what really stood out to me was the way Politano crafted the story to include tips on keeping a vineyard to mirror the Christian life. Again, and again, and again I found myself being convicted, refreshed, and reminded of various areas in my relationship to Christ. If you read this novel, keeping in mind the Biblical context of Christ being the vine and you being the branches, there is so much more waiting here for you than just an entertaining story! Bringing the focus back on Christ is what makes Christian fiction such a valuable form of entertainment, and Politano kept the focus where it ought to be in the most natural way.
Oftentimes, with a vineyard setting, the reader may see things such as wine tastings but that wasn’t the case here. The focus was solely on the growth of the grapes and not the producing of wine.

Rating and Recommendation: I highly recommend A Rumored Fortune to all Christian Fiction fans but especially fans of Christian Historical Fiction. I give it 5 stars.

~ I received a copy from Bethany House through Net Galley. I was not compensated for this review or required to give a favorable one. All thoughts are my own.

*I picked up the audio version and can highly recommend it as well.