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.

Advertisements
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

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. 

Posted in Book Reviews

Book Review: A Dangerous Legacy by Elizabeth Camden

188Page-Turning Romance and Intrigue in Award-Winning Author’s Next Historical Novel

Lucy Drake’s mastery of Morse code has made her a valuable asset to the American news agencies as a telegrapher. But the sudden arrival of Sir Colin Beckwith at rival British news agency Reuters puts her hard-earned livelihood at risk. Newly arrived from London, Colin is talented, handsome, and insufferably charming. 

Despite their rivalry, Lucy realizes Colin’s connections could be just what her family needs to turn the tide of their long legal battle over the fortune they were swindled out of forty years ago. When she negotiates an unlikely alliance with him, neither of them realizes how far the web of treachery they’re wading into will take them.

What I Loved: Where do I start? There was a detailed plot that kept the story moving at a steady pace. Camden is gifted at bringing a scientific study to light and she did well here with the details of plumbing and telegraphy. The setting comes to life. The bad guys aren’t one dimensional. The heroes and heroine are medal-worthy. But where A Dangerous Legacy shines the most is in the relationships between the characters. From page one, Lucy and her brother, Nick, grab your attention for their plight and their endearing relationship. Then there’s the playful banter between Lucy and Colin. Not to mention the more toxic relationships sprinkled throughout the story. I truly enjoyed every minute of it and I can’t wait to see what becomes of Nick Drake.

Rating and Recommendation: I’m giving A Dangerous Legacy 5 stars and recommending it to those who enjoy Christian Historical Fiction.

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

Audio Version: I had the pleasure of picking up the audio version and can highly recommend it as well.

Posted in Book Reviews

Book Review: Christmas at Carnton by Tamera Alexander

183

A Christmas story to launch a brand new three-book series . . . The Carnton Novels
Amid war and the fading dream of the Confederacy, a wounded soldier and a destitute widow discover the true meaning of Christmas – and of sacrificial love.

Recently widowed, Aletta Prescott struggles to hold life together for herself and her six-year old son.With the bank threatening to evict, she discovers an advertisement for the Women’s Relief Society auction and applies for a position – only to discover it’s been filled. Then a chance meeting with a wounded soldier offers another opportunity – and friendship. But can Aletta trust this man?
Captain Jake Winston, a revered Confederate sharpshooter, suffered a head wound at the Battle of Chickamauga. When doctors deliver their diagnosis, Jake fears losing not only his greatest skill but his very identity. As he heals, Jake is ordered to assist with a local Women’s Relief Society auction. He respectfully objects.Kowtowing to a bunch of “crinolines” isn’t his idea of soldiering. But orders are orders, and he soon discovers this group of ladies – one, in particular – is far more than he bargained for. 

Set against the backdrop and history of the Carnton Plantation in Franklin, Tennessee, Christmas at Carnton is a story of hope renewed and faith restored at Christmas.

What I Loved: THIS is a prequel novella done right!! Prequel Novellas have grown out of favor with me because many are beginning to feel like an unnecessary prologue. But with Christmas at Carnton, Alexander has renewed my faith in the trend.
From the very beginning, Christmas at Carnton felt like its own story. We are introduced to some characters that we’ll see again in the series but what won me over was that Alexander kept the focus right where it belonged: with Jake and Aletta.
But it wasn’t just her focus that deserves the praise, Alexander brings to life the hardships of war in the midst of the Christmas season. And it’s a great start to her new series. I’m looking forward to visiting Carnton again.

Rating and Recommendation: I’m giving it 5 stars and recommending to those who enjoy Historical Christmas, Christian Christmas novellas, or Civil War fiction.

~ I received a copy from Book Look Bloggers. I was not compensated for my review. All thoughts are my own. 

 

Posted in Book Reviews

Book Review: With You Always by Jody Hedlund

160A Riveting Look at the Orphan Train from Historical Novelist Jody Hedlund

When a financial crisis in 1850s New York leaves three orphaned sisters nearly destitute, the oldest, Elise Neumann, knows she must take action. She’s had experience as a seamstress, and the New York Children’s Aid Society has established a special service: placing out seamstresses and trade girls. Even though Elise doesn’t want to leave her sisters for a job in Illinois, she realizes this may be their last chance. 

The son of one of New York City’s wealthiest entrepreneurs, Thornton Quincy faces a dilemma. His father is dying, and in order to decide which of his sons will inherit everything, he is requiring them to do two things in six months: build a sustainable town along the Illinois Central Railroad, and get married. Thornton is tired of standing in his twin brother’s shadow and is determined to win his father’s challenge. He doesn’t plan on meeting a feisty young woman on his way west, though.

My Thoughts: I struggled a bit in the beginning with this one, but once I was hooked, I was really hooked and couldn’t put it down! I always appreciate historical fiction for the insights into lesser known areas of history, and Hedlund is a master at her research. The setting comes to life with a hard look at the plight of the poor and the destruction of the gangs of New York City. A new-to-me lesson was that they sent workers out west as well as young orphans. I enjoyed seeing more on the development of a new town.
The spiritual lessons were just as strongly woven into the story as the history lessons were. We’re treated to themes such as fighting fair, finding strength in humility, not judging those beneath you, and trusting God for your needs and at to be with you in the dark times.
There were some great twist and turns along the way, and I’m looking forward to seeing what happens next with this family.

Rating and Recommendation: I’m giving With You Always 5 stars and recommending it to those who enjoy Historical Christian Fiction or stories about the Orphan train.

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