Posted in Book Reviews

Book Review: A Chance at Forever by Melissa Jagears

223In early 1900s Kansas, Mercy McClain, determined to protect Teaville’s children from the bullying she experienced as a child, finds fulfillment working at the local orphanage and serving on the school board. When Aaron Firebrook, the classmate who bothered her more than any other, petitions the board for a teaching position, she’s dead set against him getting the job.

Aaron knows he deserves every bit of Mercy’s mistrust, but he’s returned to his hometown a changed man and is seeking to earn forgiveness of those he wronged. He doesn’t expect Mercy to like him, but surely he can prove he now has the best interests of the children at heart.

Will resentment and old wounds hold them back, or can Mercy and Aaron put the past behind them in time to face the unexpected threats to everything they’re working for?

What I Loved: If you haven’t picked up this series, you’re really missing out! From book one, I’ve felt like this was Christian fiction at it’s finest. I’ve been entertained, encouraged, and rebuked all at the same time. Again and again, Jagears addresses the issue of how we treat those who don’t meet our standards. In A Chance at Forever, I was challenged in how I forgive and pray for those who have hurt me. I’m very grateful for her work.
Alongside the spiritual content is a sweet love story about two unlikely friends. It was easy to connect with both characters and understand their motives.
For the sensitive reader, I do want to point out that there is a brief testimony of sexual abuse. Jagears handles the situation very well and does NOT go into detail. It’s not a topic that comes up many times, but the subject is in the book. Being a sensitive reader myself, while I wish this character, and those real people this person represents, never had to experience that, I never felt as if I needed to put the book or was disappointed about its inclusion.

Rating and Recommendation: I give it 5 stars and highly recommend this entire series to those who enjoy Historical Christian fiction or fiction with a purpose.

~ 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 Lost Castle by Kristy Cambron

199Broken-down walls and crumbling stones seemed to possess a secret language all their own.

What stories would they tell, if she finally listened?

Ellie Carver arrives at her grandmother’s bedside expecting to find her silently slipping away. Instead, the beloved woman begins speaking. Of a secret past and castle ruins forgotten by time. Of a hidden chapel that served as a rendezvous for the French Resistance in World War II. Of lost love and deep regret . . .

Each piece that unlocks the story seems to unlock part of Ellie too—where she came from and who she is becoming. But her grandmother is quickly disappearing into the shadows of Alzheimer’s and Ellie must act fast if she wants to uncover the truth of her family’s history. Drawn by the mystery surrounding The Sleeping Beauty—a castle so named for Charles Perrault’s beloved fairy tale—Ellie embarks on a journey to France’s Loire Valley in hopes that she can unearth its secrets before time silences them forever.

Bridging the past to the present in three time periods—the French Revolution, World War II, and present day—The Lost Castle is a story of loves won and lost, of battles waged in the hearts of men, and of an enchanted castle that stood witness to it all, inspiring a legacy of faith through the generations.

My Thoughts: The story inside is just as lovely as the cover, and that’s really saying something! There are three different stories taking place in three vastly different eras. The only complaint I have is that is was confusing in the first 100 pages as you were getting established within 3 different stories while all three stories bounced to a past and present moment in the heroine’s timeline. Once I became grounded and could understand the flow of the story, I was able to fully enjoy it.
Cambron touched upon eras and settings that I rarely get to read: The French Revolution, WWII in France, and a present-day French vacation. Each one was enjoyable and even though they took place in the same locations, they felt vastly different. The setting was easy to visualize through Cambron’s vibrant descriptions.
All three plots carried their own purpose, spunky heroine, romance, and one had a thicker mystery while the other two had higher threat levels.
Overall, this was a delightful novel and I’m looking forward to the Irish adventure Cambron is preparing for us.

Rating and recommendation: I’m giving The Lost Castle 5 stars and recommending it for those who enjoy historical fiction, war fiction, and multi-timeline stories.

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

Posted in Book Reviews

Book Review: The Innkeeper’s Daughter by Michelle Griep

221A London officer goes undercover to expose a plot against the Crown
Dover, England, 1808: Officer Alexander Moore goes undercover as a gambling gentleman to expose a high-stakes plot against the king—and he’s a master of disguise, for Johanna Langley believes him to be quite the rogue. . .until she can no longer fight against his unrelenting charm.
All Johanna wants is to keep the family inn afloat, but when the rent and the hearth payment are due at the same time, where will she find the extra funds? If she doesn’t come up with the money, there will be nowhere to go other than the workhouse—where she’ll be separated from her ailing mother and ten-year-old brother.
Alex desperately wants to help Johanna, especially when she confides in him, but his mission—finding and bringing to justice a traitor to the crown—must come first, or they could all end up dead.

My Thoughts:  I think I say this with every Griep book that I’ve read, but still she somehow manages to surprise me with her ability to craft memorable quirky characters. Lucius and Nixie are two that have stayed with me long after I put down the book, and I’m guessing that they’ll remain with me. Seriously, Griep gets a standing ovation from me on this point alone.
One of the highlights of the book is Griep’s sound message on trusting Christ and not your own efforts. I appreciated the way this thread was weaved in throughout the novel and brought to life.
I will say for more sensitive readers, that I felt like The Innkeeper’s Daughter took on a darker side in terms of violence. I don’t think it went outside the bounds of Christian fiction, but it was beyond what I normally find. For those who read more suspense or thriller novels, you’re not likely to be surprised. But for those who stick to romance, it’ll be a little more surprising.
There was something about Alex and Johanna that just didn’t jive with me. I’m not sure why I was never fully able to connect with them. But I was completely taken in by the way the plot continued to evolve. Griep had certainly crafted a full ride for the reader, especially within those last 100 pages.

Rating and Recommendation: I’m giving The Innkeeper’s Daughter 4 stars and recommending it to those who enjoy Christian Historical Fiction or those looking for an undercover novel.

~ 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: The Lacemaker by Laura Frantz

195When colonial Williamsburg explodes like a powder keg on the eve of the American Revolution, Lady Elisabeth “Liberty” Lawson is abandoned by her fiancé and suspected of being a spy for the hated British. No one comes to her aid save the Patriot Noble Rynallt, a man with formidable enemies of his own. Liberty is left with a terrible choice. Will the Virginia belle turned lacemaker side with the radical revolutionaries, or stay true to her English roots? And at what cost?

Historical romance favorite Laura Frantz is back with a suspenseful story of love, betrayal, and new beginnings. With her meticulous eye for detail and her knack for creating living, breathing characters, Frantz continues to enchant historical fiction readers who long to feel they are a part of the story.

My Thoughts: You know when you pick up a Frantz novel that you’re about to be treated to something saturated in historical detail and a plot that twists and turns around every bend. The Lacemaker was certainly one of those novels. Although I struggled in the very beginning while being introduced to a great number of names and characters, I did fall into a groove and the story really took off for me. As a history lover, I really enjoyed getting a look at what was going in the months leading up to the Revolutionary War.

Rating and Recommendation: I’m giving The Lacemaker 4.5 stars and recommending it to those who enjoy Historical Christian Fiction or Revolutionary War Fiction.

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

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.

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

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!