Posted in Book Reviews

Book Review: Where the Fire Falls by Karen Barnett

226Stunning Yosemite National Park sets the stage for this late 1920s historical romance with mystery, adventure, heart, and a sense of the place John Muir described as “pervaded with divine light.”

Watercolorist Olivia Rutherford has shed her humble beginnings to fashion her image as an avant-garde artist to appeal to the region’s wealthy art-collectors. When she lands a lucrative contract painting illustrations of Yosemite National Park for a travel magazine, including its nightly one-of-a-kind Firefall event, she hopes the money will lift Olivia and her sisters out of poverty. 

    After false accusations cost him everything, former minister Clark Johnson has found purpose as a backcountry guide in this natural cathedral of granite and trees. Now he’s faced with the opportunity to become a National Parks Ranger, but is it his true calling? 

    As Clark opens Olivia’s eyes to the wonders of Yosemite, she discovers the people are as vital to the park’s story as its vistas–a revelation that may bring her charade to an end.

My Thoughts: Karen Barnett has quickly become one of my favorite authors. It’s hard to describe exactly why that is. Where the Fire Falls is another hit from Barnett. Her characters are well developed. The plot continues to evolve. The mystery was nicely woven in and kept me guessing longer than I expected it to. The setting, both the era and Yosemite National Park, come to life and meld together with the rest of the story in a flawless way.
The only thing I would have liked was for Olivia’s salvation to have been more clear. But Barnett’s Vintage National Park series is a gem, and I can’t wait for the third release. It’s already on my must-have list for 2019.

Rating and Recommendations: I’m giving Where the Fire Falls 5 stars and recommend it to those who enjoy Christian Historical Fiction or stories about artists or wildlife.

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

Advertisements
Posted in About the Book

Meet Melissa Lowe and Rose Forrister PLUS an A.M. Heath Ebook SALE

3It’s been a while since we’ve talked about our two new friends from Out of the Ashes. You’ve met heroines, Sally Chandler and Claire Harper in the first two novels, but Out of the Ashes brings us two new heroines to fall in love with. I’m going to give you a peek at the heroines, the novel, and my inspiration boards.
*Photos on the inspiration boards were borrowed and not owned by myself. 

137

Melissa Lowe is a timid sort of gal. Ralph often refers to her as a mouse. Melissa actually was first introduced to the readers in Where Can I Flee. Frank mentions her in one of his letters. I did this knowing that I would later bring her into the story. Here’s a closer look at the character:

Full Name: Melissa Kate Lowe
Family: A demanding mother and father, and two sisters who both outshine her.
Hobbies: Bird watching and sketching
Favorite drink: Tea
Quote: “Out of fear I call him Mr. Williams, and, out of resentment, he calls me nothing at all.”

Sneak peek into Melissa’s world:

“Come, child,” Mammy Rute whispered, settling her wide hips down on the bed beside her. Her thick, dark shoulders bumped Melissa’s.

Mammy Rute gave her an affectionate pat on the knee. “What happened wit’ dis one?”

Melissa laid her head on her mammy’s shoulder. “He proposed to his cousin instead of me. And I have no idea why. What did I do to send him to Jennie?” She sighed loudly, blowing the loose hair across her forehead.

“Ohhh, I’s knowed what happened,” Mammy Rute said with another pat on Melissa’s knee. “He learnt that he wasn’t right for you, and he left.”

Melissa frowned. “What if he was right for me, but I somehow pushed him away? Momma thinks I’m to blame.”

“Naw,” she said quickly with a shake of her head. “He couldna been the one if he done left. I been prayin’ all your life, child, for a good man to love you. You’ll know it when it’s him.”

Melissa’s brows scrunched in. Sometimes her mammy just didn’t make much sense. “But, how–” she started.

Mammy Rute cut her off with a wave of her hand. “Cause when he gets a glimpse of the girl I knowed all these years, he’s gonna love you. And when you run off and hide behind those walls you always puttin’ up, he’s gonna come after you. He’ll not stop till he tears down everything you hide behind. You’ll know he’s the one when he works at lovin’ you.”

Melissa couldn’t prevent the frown that pulled at her face. Mammy did paint a really nice picture, but men just didn’t react to her that way. They reacted to Sarah that way. Her flirty sister could get men to chase her anywhere. What hope did Melissa have when she lived in the shadow of her sisters? Everyone, especially her mother, expected her to either be beautiful like Charlotte-Ann or engaging like Sarah. No one was interested in the quiet, plain sister that couldn’t take her eyes off the windows. The sister that found more fellowship outside with the birds than she did in a parlor full of men.

“Smile, baby,” Mammy Rute said, wrapping her thick arm around Melissa’s shoulders. “Your mammy be prayin’.”

Melissa gave a half-hearted smile. She herself had prayed for a husband for the last five years, but God hadn’t seemed to be listening. If Mammy Rute said she’d been praying since Melissa was born, then God surely wasn’t listening anymore or else she’d been married by now. Maybe she should pray for a faith like Mammy’s because praying for a husband didn’t seem to be working any.

Melissa may be shy, but she’s also compassionate and loyal.

129

Rose Forrister is quite the opposite of Melissa in terms of personality, but she shares her misfortune in the romance department. Rose is much more outspoken, and, when we meet her, she’s quite bitter about being left behind to fend for herself. When a certain Yankee Colonel shows up on her doorstep, looking for food, she lets him know how it stands.

Full Name: Eva Rose Forrister
Family: Deceased mother, no siblings, one doting father.
Hobbies: She writes short stories
Favorite Food: Oranges
Quote:  “Your offer of marriage was no more logical than it was sensible. What woman in her right mind would accept such an offer? I have greater plans for myself than to run off with the first stranger who wanders up to my door with a proposal.”

Sneak peek into Rose’s world: 

She was sick to death of this war and sicker of the men that caused it. If she never saw another soldier, it’d be too soon. Pity, her once-welcoming “Forrister’s Table” sign hung high and proud over her front porch, and it attracted hungry souls like boys to mischief.

She reached the door at the same time it swung on its hinges and slapped the wall behind it. Rose looked from her abused door to the guilty party of blue, and she narrowed her chestnut eyes to mere slits. Jaws clenched tightly, she could do nothing more than growl low in her throat, her false greeting now swallowed up.

“We’ve come for a meal,” the tall man in the front of the group announced. “We’ll be sitting . . .” he scanned the capped heads behind him before spinning back around to her, “eight of us. Ma’am,” he added for good measure.

“I haven’t any tables,” she barked.

He blinked back his confusion and craned his neck to look past her. “Well, seems to me, you’ve plenty of empty tables.”

The very phrase, “empty tables” ushered the men in without an invitation, forcing Rose to scramble back. “Now you wait just a cotton-picking minute. I told you I didn’t have any available tables, and that’s what I meant.”

The man before her gave her a hard study. “You mean you don’t serve Union men?”

“I mean, I don’t serve any men.”

He chewed on the inside of his lip. “We were paid today. You might not find much in the pockets of a Butternut, so perhaps you should rethink your answer before chasing us off the property.”

She rolled her eyes and settled her hands on her hips. “Your money can’t go producing food where God hasn’t left it. I haven’t the food to feed myself, much less to sell to the likes of men who probably stole it from me to start with!”

His faded green eyes studied her, and his manner seemed to weigh her every word. The man before her was the oldest of the bunch, or at least that’s what the graying sepia hair peeking out from his kepi had to say for him. Upon closer study, she viewed the laugh lines around his mouth. The man must have smiled often at one time in his life. He hadn’t smiled since he had walked through her door, but neither had she donned an apron and served him the vittles he came looking for.

“Don’t go buying her tales, Pops, she’s got food a’plenty,” a giant of a man hollered from behind her.

Rose spun around in time to see a man with a chest-length beard honing in on her meager plate of scones. “Those are not for you!” she shouted, rushing to the table.

Too late. The bearded stranger was already at the table, hand out to snatch one from the plate.

Quick as lightening, Rose grasped the plate with both hands. “I said, hands off!” When the man continued grasping for the scones, she pulled the plate away.

He swiped his hands to-and-fro, a new determination to get a freshly-baked scone. The others pressed in closer.

Suddenly she saw every moment one of the armies had forced their way into her home and stolen what wasn’t offered in free will. The demands for food. The commandeering of her father’s restaurant for a Union hospital. Every helpless moment came flooding back, and now a plate of scones represented so much more than the last of her flour or the quiet celebration. It was her freedom. She’d not give in this time. She’d done enough of that.

Dread crept up her spine and demanded action. She let the scones fall away to the table, and swung the plate with both hands, cracking it over the man’s head.

Silence immediately followed the crash that echoed off the walls, the bearded man slumping onto the table.

Then all at once, life poured into the room …

Rose’s hurt leads her to lash out at times, but beneath her stony glare lies a passionate heart.

You can get to know both ladies in Out of the Ashes, book 3 of the Ancient Words Series. You’ll want to pick this series up from the beginning, though. You’ll find all three books on sale for .99 cents each.

Ebook Sale

Posted in Book Reviews

Book Review: The Sea Before Us by Sarah Sundin

229In 1944, American naval officer Lt. Wyatt Paxton arrives in London to prepare for the Allied invasion of France. He works closely with Dorothy Fairfax, a “Wren” in the Women’s Royal Naval Service. Dorothy pieces together reconnaissance photographs with thousands of holiday snapshots of France–including those of her own family’s summer home–in order to create accurate maps of Normandy. Maps that Wyatt will turn into naval bombardment plans.

As the two spend concentrated time together in the pressure cooker of war, their deepening friendship threatens to turn to love. Dorothy must resist its pull. Her bereaved father depends on her, and her heart already belongs to another man. Wyatt too has much to lose. The closer he gets to Dorothy, the more he fears his efforts to win the war will destroy everything she has ever loved.

The tense days leading up to the monumental D-Day landing blaze to life under Sarah Sundin’s practiced pen with this powerful new series.

What I Loved: When I think WWII fiction, I immediately think Sarah Sundin. She’s become such a staple in the genre and for a good reason. I’ve come to expect from Sundin a well-rounded story, loveable characters, clean romance, solid Christian message, along with rich and vivid historical details. The Sea Before Us is one such novel.
The history lover in me enjoyed an up-close look at part of the planning that went into D-Day. I found the map-building process to be enlightening. I also enjoyed another look at the life of an Englishmen during the later years of the war.
Much of the naval details fly over my head, but I can appreciate Sundin’s research and attention to detail. It’s clear that she put a great deal of work into this novel.
One of the things I always praise in a Sundin novel is her characters. She has a way with creating humble Christian characters. There were some solid threads on forgiving yourself, selflessly serving others, being who God created you to be, and trusting Christ with things you can’t control.
From page one, she starts off with a gripping backstory of three brothers that will be the foundation for the entire series. I can’t wait for the rest of the series to discover what happens with the other two brothers!

Rating and Recommendations: I highly recommend this one to those who enjoy WWII fiction, Christian Historical Fiction, or Christian War fiction. I’m giving it 5 stars.

Posted in Book Reviews

Book Review: April and May’s Backlist Reviews: 3 in 1

New releases are great! And there are some wonderful new releases out so far this year. But I enjoy picking up something new from the something old section. These are the books I read from my backlist collection this month.
*All links lead to Goodreads unless otherwise stated.

278Daughter of the Regiment by Stephanie Grace Whitson:

Irish immigrant Maggie Malone wants no part of the war. She’d rather let “the Americans” settle their differences-until her brothers join Missouri’s Union Irish Brigade, and one of their names appears on a list of injured soldiers. Desperate for news, Maggie heads for Boonville, where the Federal army is camped. There she captures the attention of Sergeant John Coulter. When circumstances force Maggie to remain with the brigade, she discovers how capable she is of helping the men she comes to think of as “her boys.” And while she doesn’t see herself as someone a man would court, John Coulter is determined to convince her otherwise.

As the mistress of her brother’s Missouri plantation, Elizabeth Blair has learned to play her part as the perfect hostess-and not to question her brother Walker’s business affairs. When Walker helps organize the Wildwood Guard for the Confederacy, and offers his plantation as the Center of Operations, Libbie must gracefully manage a house with officers in residence and soldiers camped on the lawn. As the war draws ever closer to her doorstep, she must also find a way to protect the people who depend on her. 

Despite being neighbors, Maggie and Libbie have led such different lives that they barely know one another-until war brings them together, and each woman discovers that both friendship and love can come from the unlikeliest of places.

My Review and Rating: From one Civil War fan to another, this one is a gem! I enjoyed the new-to-me perspective of a woman’s role in a regiment. Whitson introduces 2 memorable characters for me: Noah, and Hero, the dog.
There were a couple of Catholic “praying to the saints and/or to Mary” moments, but the rest of the religious content followed a general Protestant angle.
I thoroughly enjoyed this one from start to finish!
I give it 5 stars!

 

279A Heart Most Worthy by Siri Mitchell:

The elegance of Madame Forza’s gown shop is a far cry from the downtrodden North End of Boston. Yet each day Julietta, Annamaria, and Luciana enter the world of the upper class, working on finery for the elite in society. The three beauties each long to break free of their obligations and embrace the American dream–and their chance for love. But the ways of the heart are difficult to discern at times. Julietta is drawn to the swarthy, mysterious Angelo. Annamaria has a star-crossed encounter with the grocer’s son, a man from the entirely wrong family. And through no intent of her own, Luciana catches the eye of Billy Quinn, the son of Madame Forza’s most important client. Their destinies intertwined, each harboring a secret from their families and each other, will they be found worthy of the love they seek?

My Review and Rating: Spectacular sums up my thoughts on this one! From the very beginning, Siri stepped outside of the norm with the use of an old-fashioned narrator. And I loved every single minute of it!! I can imagine some readers probably complained because technically Siri was “head-hopping” by modern standards. But I found it to be absolutely charming. I will say this: I listened to this one in audio. I can imagine that I might have tripped over the narrator just a bit if I had read it in physical form. But in audio (which FYI the lady reading the book did an excellent job!!) having a narrator seemed quite natural since you typically listen to someone tell a story more than you read it in that format.
The story itself was fantastic. But I will note that the religious content was highly Catholic for those who wish to know. There were some solid themes on the consequences of sin and rebellion as well as God’s forgiveness woven throughout the story. There were lots of Catholic traditions and beliefs sprinkled throughout as well.
I not only urge you to add this one to your TBR list, but I vote you grab the audio version if you can so you can enjoy the Italian accents. She’s certainly one of my favorite audio narrators to date. It’s a 5 star book for me!
*Link will take you to Amazon so that you can preview the audio version.

 

334

Dear Mr. Knightley (Audio Version) by Katherine Reay:

Samantha Moore is, to say the least, bookish. An English major of the highest order, her diet has always been Austen, Dickens, and Shakespeare. The problem is, both her prose and conversation tend to be more Elizabeth Bennet than Samantha Moore. But life for the 23-year-old orphan is about to get stranger than fiction.

An anonymous, Dickensian benefactor calling himself Mr. Knightley offers to put Sam through Northwestern University’s prestigious Medill School of Journalism. There is only one catch: Sam must write frequent letters to the mysterious donor, detailing her progress. As Sam’s dark memory mingles with that of eligible novelist Alex Powell, her letters to Mr. Knightley become increasingly confessional. While Alex draws Sam into a world of warmth and literature that feels like it’s straight out of a book, old secrets are drawn to light. And as Sam learns to love and trust Alex and herself, she learns once again how quickly trust can be broken.

I have actually reviewed this one before so you can catch my original review here. But if I’m reviewing it again, it must be among my favorites. 😉 I had the chance to get a copy of the audio version and decided that I would enjoy hearing the story all over again. I’m really enjoying it just as much as I had when I read it the first time.
In terms of the audio version, I’m only giving it a 4.5 stars. The narrator has this slight whine to her voice that pops up from time to time. It’s the type of thing that bugs me to listen to. Everyone will have different narrator preferences so you’ll want to preview the audio for yourself. But the annoyance was enough to keep from being head over heels in love but not enough to keep me from listening to a beloved story.
*The link I provided in the title will take you to Amazon where you can preview the audio.

Posted in Book Reviews

Book Review: Sons of Blackbird Mountain by Joanne Bischof

332

A Tale of Family, Brotherhood, and the Healing Power of Love

After the tragic death of her husband, Aven Norgaard is beckoned to give up her life in Norway to become a housekeeper in the rugged hills of Nineteenth-Century Appalachia. Upon arrival, she finds herself in the home of her late husband’s cousins—three brothers who make a living by brewing hard cider on their three-hundred acre farm. Yet even as a stranger in a foreign land, Aven has hope to build a new life in this tight-knit family.

But her unassuming beauty disrupts the bond between the brothers. The youngest two both desire her hand, and Aven is caught in the middle, unsure where—and whether—to offer her affection. While Haakon is bold and passionate, it is Thor who casts the greatest spell upon her. Though Deaf, mute, and dependent on hard drink to cope with his silent pain, Thor possesses a sobering strength.

As autumn ushers in the apple harvest, the rift between Thor and Haakon deepens and Aven faces a choice that risks hearts. Will two brothers’ longing for her quiet spirit tear apart a family? Can she find a tender belonging in this remote, rugged, and unfamiliar world?

A haunting tale of struggle and redemption, Sons of Blackbird Mountain is a portrait of grace in a world where the broken may find new life through the healing mercy of love.

What I Loved: I loved this one!! From the very beginning, I was hooked. I liked the mountain setting, and the addition of the KKK was a treat for this historical fan. I was a little wary about the focus on brewing and consuming hard cider. Bischof is an author that I was eager to pick up without having fully read the description, so I wasn’t prepared for this. But by the end of the book, I was satisfied with the way she handled it. I thoroughly enjoyed the love story and the love triangle was a nice touch.
For me, the highlight was Thor. It’s rare to have a hero with a disability, so he stood out to me right away. I think she did a great job displaying his form of communication, as well as his struggles (both with alcohol and communicating), and his strengths.
Sons of Blackbird Mountain is the first of a series, and I can’t WAIT to see what Joanne has in store for us next! There are certainly some redeemable characters left to look forward to.

Rating and Recommendations: I’m giving it 5 stars and recommending it to Historical Christian Fiction fans or those looking for a stand-up hero with a real disability.

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

*Sons of Blackbird Mountain releases on July 3rd, so be sure to add it to your TBR or Wish list. This link will take you to Goodreads.

Posted in Book Reviews

GIVEAWAY!! Plus Author Interview and Book Review: A Holy Passion by Alicia G. Ruggieri

228“My heart begins its slow crescendo at the news. Mr. Brainerd – my Mr. Brainerd – has come at last.”

After a few scant years of solitary missionary work among the American Indians on the colonial frontier, David Brainerd has been forced off the field once more by his terminal illness. A man who has sacrificed every earthly comfort for the sake of Christ, he takes refuge in the home of Reverend Jonathan Edwards, eminent Great Awakening theologian and pastor… and the father of a young woman named Jerusha. 

Unbeknownst to David, Jerusha Edwards has nurtured an affection for him since she met him long ago. Their renewed acquaintanceship challenges Jerusha to understand the meaning of selfless, Calvary love. Yet does such love demand too great a sacrifice for her to make?

Told with an emphasis on the known facts of Jerusha and David’s relationship as well as his missionary undertakings, this novel carefully embellishes the historical record, weaving a bittersweet tale of romantic, holy devotion.

 

I’ve packed a great deal in this blog post for you. A Holy Passion is a fiction book based on non-fiction events and characters. You’ll find my interview with the author, my review, and a giveaway for a paperback copy. Enjoy! 

My Interview with Alicia G. Ruggieri:

What was your inspiration for A Holy Passion?
My husband, Alex, and I used to live in Rhode Island, and we liked to take weekend jaunts exploring interesting places in New England. One time, a few years ago, we stayed at an old inn that had named its rooms after historical inhabitants of the town in which it was located. Our room was named after a young woman who had been captured by American Indians during a raid. At the time, I mentioned to Alex that I’d like to write a novel about that young woman. Well, I didn’t end up writing about her, but the idea of writing a colonial-era story got stuck in my mind for good. Sometime after that, I remembered a little book on my sister’s bookshelf: The Life and Diary of David Brainerd. I had never read the book, but I’d read a brief history of his life somewhere else and found him admirable. I also remembered that the biographer had mentioned that it was possible that the resolutely-unmarried missionary had entertained a romantic relationship with Jonathan Edwards’ daughter, who cared for him on her deathbed. Well, at that, the wheels of my writerly mind began turning… So that was the start of it!

How much research went into this novel? Did you research before or during the writing process?
As I started this project, I wanted to be sure that I accurately represented the people depicted in it (most of them are real people that we will meet in heaven someday), and so I really tried to delve deeply into both secondary and primary sources. The novel includes a list of some of the sources I used. Though most of the research was book-based, one of the fun parts of the research included traveling to Yale in New Haven and to Northampton, Massachusetts, to see the actual places Brainerd would have seen.
My research for this novel began well before the actual writing started and ended… Has it ended? 🙂 The fun – and sometimes heart-stopping – part of writing historical fiction is that there’s always something new to learn and another side to the story that you can explore.

Are there any books you’d recommend for us to read to learn more about David Brainerd?
If you only read two books on David Brainerd, read his Life and Diary. Alongside it, read David Wynbeek’s Beloved Yankee. Wynbeek’s book will make the Diary come to life for you. It’s out-of-print, but it’s the best and most readable adult biography of Brainerd available, in my opinion.

What was the most surprising thing you learned about these people?
One of the things that surprised me was the legacy that Brainerd left. This man died unmarried and childless; never graduated from seminary; and most of his work on the mission field, with the exception of the Crossweeksung revival, appeared a failure. He spent most of his own spiritual life in deep discouragement, and his body basically fell apart by his late twenties. This doesn’t sound like the kind of man who leaves a great legacy, does it?
Yet, over and over, I found Christians since Brainerd’s death who pointed back to him as their spiritual father, as the one who passed the torch to them, through his honest, God-seeking diary and through his life’s example of incredible endurance, made possible only by dependence moment-by-moment upon the Holy Spirit. Jim Elliot, Hudson Taylor, William Carey, and Henry Martyn are just a few of these who were encouraged as a result of Brainerd’s life and work.

Could you relate to any of them? In what way?
Oh, yes! That’s one of the things that drew me into the story and kept me writing… These “characters” are real – they existed – we can go and visit their graves – and their experience of the Christian life was also real. In Hebrews 12:1, the Bible talks about how we have a great cloud of witnesses, those who have gone before us. We can look at their testimony and know that God’s testimony in His Word is true. We can see how they lived and how they died, and we can pattern our own lives after theirs, as John Wesley, leader of Great Awakening in England, advised that we do.
One of the specific things that really encouraged me was the honest way in which Brainerd describes his lifelong, severe battle with discouragement/depression as a Christian… and the way that he continued to persevere through it. Before I read his diary, I had heard it described as somewhat bleak because of the way Brainerd often wishes (literally) for death to come or continually relates his hopelessness that God will ever use him. That is true; his diary is the account of a man who went through significantly more “demon-possessed valley” experiences, as Oswald Chambers describes them, than mountaintop ones. However, as a result, reading Brainerd’s diary centuries later, I felt a spiritual kinship with and encouragement from this man who pressed on, despite the dark clouds that would not lift, despite the seeming lack of measurable spiritual progress. I find myself now remembering his example when discouragement loom, remembering to take heart, take hope in God, and to press on, not in a fake kind of joy, but in a determined belief that I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. (Psalm 27:13)
Another way that I found I could relate to them was through Jerusha’s struggle to let Brainerd go. How often have we prayed for something before God, all the while with our spiritual hands tightly gripping that thing or person, refusing to let God take it or them and do what His loving will is with them or it? I know that has often been the case with me.

What was the biggest obstacle to writing this novel?
The sheer feeling of inability that often overcame me in the midst of the writing. Above all, I didn’t want to misrepresent these people in any way, and sometimes, especially in the beginning of the writing, I wasn’t sure how to form David’s character. God mercifully led me to write this in first-person, present tense, from Jerusha’s perspective, and seeing David from Jerusha’s eyes helped immensely.

What are you hoping the reader will get out of it? 
Well, the thing that made the greatest impression on me during the writing of this was the message that flames brightly from David’s life – and Jerusha’s – more than 250 years after their deaths: Hold nothing back from Christ. Give up lands, houses, relationships, and ambitions, if they distract in any way from the high calling we have in Christ Jesus. Christ Jesus is worth all of it, and more. In his day, David was unusual, peculiar, because of his total commitment. We are each called to this. We are called to it in a day of innocent indulgences and diversions; we are called to it when sleep is so appealing, yet we know that God wants us to plead before His throne; we are called it when the compromise the world asks of us is so small, so seemingly insignificant.
Growing up, my mom often said in response to a Christian dilemma of what to do or not to do, “Count the cost. The cost is high.” And it is. We would do well to ask ourselves daily, as Brainerd did, “Am I counting the cost?”
So, if nothing else, I hope that readers will be inspired by David and Jerusha’s story of doing just that – counting the cost – that they will be inspired by it to do likewise, to think of their own lives in light of eternity.

Light and Quick Questions:

Do you journal?
Oh, dear, I am such a delinquent journaler! 🙂 Yes, but not consistently. I like to journal my prayers sometimes because I often can express myself better in writing than in speech.

What’s the one thing (besides God and family/friends) that you don’t think you could live without?
Stories, in some form, of course! 🙂

Do you write in the morning or evening?
Usually in the morning, but when I’m on a deadline, I will write any time.

Do you think you would have been a patient nurse like Jerusha?
I think genuine, God-given love makes any of us patient, so I have a feeling that any one of us could have been patient as Jerusha was, if we loved David as she did.

What is one of your favorite old hymns?
Oh, there are so many good ones, but one of my favorites is Charles Wesley’s “Arise, My Soul, Arise.”

 

Here are my thoughts on A Holy Passion: 

What I Loved: A Holy Passion is a fiction novel based on real events and real people. From beginning to end, it’s clear the author spent a great deal of time researching everything from the lifestyle, disease, conflict, and down to her best perception of the characters’ real personalities. Naturally, there are areas where she’d have to fill in the blanks with her imagination, but her imagination felt as real and as plausible as the tidbits of facts that were woven in.
The bulk of the novel is told through the first person, present tense. This is a style that I find harder to wrap my mind around. I knew the story would be worth persevering and I’m grateful that I did. After the first couple of chapters, the present tense became rather natural to me, and I no longer tripped over it.
I found it delightful to meet up with big names and events that have been passed down through Christian circles for the last two centuries. And it was refreshing to get to meet two of these people who I have never heard of before now. The romance is at first relatable and entertaining. It’s not hard to understand Jerusha’s feelings as she anticipates David’s appearance and, later, his attention. But the further the story moves, the deeper and more awe-inspiring the romance becomes. From a historical standpoint, you’ll learn a great deal about tuberculosis, evangelism among the Indians, and some of the conflict surrounding the Great Awakening.
But the highlight of the novel is truly the spiritual content. Alicia brings David’s biggest desire for living a dedicated life of service to Christ and through evangelizing the lost to bear on the reader. It was the type of message, through the type of means, that will weigh on my heart, and help to bring me back to the basics, for a long time to come.

Rating and Recommendation: I’m giving A Holy Passion 5 stars. I recommend it to those who enjoy Christian Fiction, especially those looking for novels based on real believers. Also for those who enjoy Christian Historical Fiction and those looking for more novels about the 1700s.

~ 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. 

 

Giveaway Info: 

The author is generously providing a paperback copy to one of my readers. Follow the link to enter the giveaway!

*Continental U.S. residents only due to shipping costs, but an ebook version can be provided for international readers.

*Giveaway ends Sunday night, May 20th. This blog post will be updated on Monday, May 21, 2018 to announce the winner. If a response is needed and the winner doesn’t claim the prize within 7 days, a new winner will be selected.

CONGRATULATIONS: JoAnna Gommensen!! You’re our winner!!
*Expect an email from either me or Alicia.  

 

Posted in Book Reviews

Book Review: A Refuge Assured by Jocelyn Green

200Lacemaker Vivienne Rivard never imagined her craft could threaten her life. Yet in revolutionary France, it is a death sentence when the nobility, and those associated with them, are forced to the guillotine. Vivienne flees to Philadelphia but finds the same dangers lurking in the French Quarter, as revolutionary sympathizers threaten the life of a young boy left in her care, who some suspect to be the Dauphin. Can the French settlement, Azilum, offer permanent refuge?

Militiaman Liam Delaney proudly served in the American Revolution, but now that the new government has imposed an oppressive tax that impacts his family, he barely recognizes the democracy he fought for. He wants only to cultivate the land of his hard-won farm near Azilum, but soon finds himself drawn into the escalating tension of the Whiskey Rebellion. When he meets a beautiful young Frenchwoman recently arrived from Paris, they will be drawn together in surprising ways to fight for the peace and safety for which they long.

What I Loved: From the very first chapter, I recalled just why I love Green’s writing so much. She has a way of bringing history, romance, action, and God’s truth together in one enthralling package. A Refuge Assured was a ride from start to finish. The pages kept turning with tension lurking around every corner.
I appreciate how she brings the harsh realities of life to bear on the characters without discrimination. For more sensitive readers, they would like to know that Green has a bit more of a graphic nature. A Refuge Assured deals with some difficult violence in the first few chapters but things mellow out into a more comfortable level. Don’t mistake me, I wouldn’t say it was outside of Christian Fiction bounds, but, for those who are uncomfortable with violence, especially those who are unfamiliar with the realities of the French Revolution, some of those scenes may come as a shock to you. I wouldn’t say Green glorified in the violence but she did bring the reality of it to the reader’s attention.
The spiritual aspect was on the lighter side and only really came into focus at the end of the novel. However, the characters often sought God throughout their trials.
The romance was endearing. But I’d say it was the history that really took center stage. I’m fairly new to the French Revolution so there were new details to learn here. From the start, I felt like I was able to view history through the eyes of someone who walked through it, and that’s what Historical Fiction should do for the reader. One of the rare aspects of the French Revolution was how it colored things here in America. I found this very interesting and learned a great deal about my early country.

Rating and Recommendation: I highly recommend it for those who enjoy general Historical Fiction, fiction featuring the French Revolution or Post American Revolution, and for the Christian Historical Fiction fan. I’m giving it 5 stars.

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

Posted in Book Reviews

Book Review: Beneath a Prairie Moon by Kim Vogel Sawyer

225Readers rabid for the sweet historical romances of Tracie Peterson and Tamara Alexander will flock to best-selling author Kim Vogel Sawyer’s prairie-set heartwarmer of high society cast-off and the western town that welcomes her.

Abigail Brantley grew up in affluence and knows exactly how to behave in high society. But when she is cast from the social registers due to her father’s illegal dealings, she finds herself forced into a role she never imagined: tutoring rough Kansas ranchers in the subjects of manners and morals so they can “marry up” with their mail-order brides. Mack Cleveland, whose father was swindled by a mail-order bride, wants no part of the scheme to bring Eastern women to Spiveyville, Kansas, and he’s put off by the snooty airs and fastidious behavior of the “little city gal” in their midst. But as time goes by, his heart goes out to the teacher who tries so diligently to smooth the rough edges from the down-to-earth men. How can he teach her that perfection won’t bring happiness?

My Thoughts: This is a classic romantic/prairie/mail-order bride sort of story. It was endearing. There were some humorous mail-order bride mix-ups. There was also an unexpected threat toward the end that I thought really shook things up in a good way.
I felt like Sawyer offered a very solid view of marriage and she carried that theme all throughout the novel. I enjoyed the rustic prairie town feel and the characters were inviting. Sadly, the story lagged a bit for me at times. There was a couple point of view characters that didn’t seem to serve a purpose until the last quarter of the novel. I was deeply invested in Abigail and Mack and couldn’t wait to get back to them each time the focus shifted. I did really appreciate the way Helen, Bill, and Mack leaned on God at every point, and the way Abigail grew in her faith. They served as good examples for the reader.

Rating and Recommendation: I think this will be a delightful read for those who enjoy a mail-order bride or prairie story. I’m giving it 4 stars.

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

Posted in About the Book

Announcing: If Only it were Yesterday’s Release Date by A.M. Heath

Liz's Date

My team and I are hard at work, and it’s time to finally set the date!! If you enjoy Christian fiction, especially Historical Christian Fiction, then you’re going to want to look for Liz’s story on September 4th. This fun-loving novel grew out of my own avid-reader journey, and it’s something that I hope will touch the heart of fellow readers. Here’s the official blurb: 

Liz Cooke has two problems in life: Her social media is filled with brewing political conflict and her idea of a perfect man seems to have gone extinct a century ago. Inspired by the contents of an antique trunk, Liz dreams she time-travels to 1885. As she sets out to enjoy the Victorian era in all its glory, armed with knowledge gleaned through historical novels and period dramas, will she find the past to be all that she thought? And does the right man for her exist only in her dreams or has he been in her life all along?

Loosely inspired by Alice in Wonderland, A.M. Heath brings you a fun read chock-full of humor and whimsy with a special message for the avid reader in all of us.

If you’re looking forward to picking up a copy, please add it to your Goodreads TBR list! 
*And feel free to snag any graphic on this page to share with your closest reading buddy!! 

Liz Quote with date

 

Posted in Book Reviews

Book Reviews: March’s Backlist Review: 1 Large Novella Set

I’ve been enjoying the backlist titles I’ve found time for so far this year. And I hope you’re enjoying the collective review posts. Normally, the reviews are short and sweet but with a large novella collection, that just isn’t possible. And this time, I only had time for 1 backlist title. I hope to tackle a few more in time for next month’s post. 
*All links lead to Goodreads. 

185The Lassoed by Marriage Romance Collection:
Come along on a romantic journey jam-packed with all the angst of marriages founded upon practical choices as well as coercion. Meet nine couples who barely know each other before they find themselves suddenly married—to please family, to stem the tide of gossip, to save the land—and joined for life. But can love grow when duty comes before romance? 

There’s something endearing about an arranged marriage…or an unexpected marriage. I enjoy watching the characters fall in love slowly and tenderly versus the normal fashion found in your typical novel. So this collection was a must-read for me.

The Substitute Bride by Angela Bell: Elliot finds himself married to the wrong sister . . . or was she the right one for him all along?
I absolutely loved this one!!! Hands down one of my favorite novellas to date. I sympathized with Gwyn and Elliot. I thought they worked well together. And I just flat-out loved it.

Bridal Whispers by Angela Brieidenbach: Gossip sends a recent widow into matrimony with his deceased wife’s cousin. Can they develop a real marriage?
This was another smashing hit for me. The characters were well developed and the story flowed nicely. I enjoyed the extended family dynamics surrounding the couple as much as the couple themselves.

Mule Dazed by Lisa Carter: Old friends are reunited . . . and then forced to marry. This was a fun read. There were moments when I felt like the author rushed ahead a bit and I was momentarily confused. But overall, it was another good story from a collection that is quickly becoming a favorite.

The Sweetwater Bride by Mary Connealy: Tanner kidnaps his bride . . . or was he rescuing her? Debba had lived alone for years in a secret valley until Tanner comes into her life. But will love change her mind about the outside world?
Connealy knows how to craft a unique story with unique characters. You truly have no idea what you’ll find besides a great story and this novella was a prime example. The story dragged a bit towards the end for me but it was forgivable.

A Highbrook Hoodwink by Rebecca Jenson: Will marrying to give her fatherless child a new life bring Katie blessings or heartache?
True to its form, A Highbrook Hoodwink was a marriage in name only story. It’s always sweet to watch the couple fall deeper and deeper in love at a slower pace like these stories tend to show. It was an enjoyable story, although I often felt like I was being told about the characters’ feelings instead of experiencing them.

Not So Pretty Penny by Amy Lillard: Desperate for a farm hand, Penny buys herself a husband from the jail cell, and she just might have taken on more than she bargained for.
This was a cute story from start to finish. It may have been a tad too convenient toward the end, but it carried a solid message on not seeking revenge.

All’s Fair by Gina Welborn: Will a feud keep would-be lovers apart, or will love mend an age-old feud?
This was one of my favorites. It was heartwarming, charming and carried a timeless message about forgiveness and love.

The Colorado Coincidence by Kathleen Y’Barbo: When Gloree is forced to marry a passing stranger to save her ranch, will their meeting be a coincidence or a blessing from above? I wanted to enjoy this one more than I did. I found it too summarized toward the end. However, the final letter was superbly romantic.

Railroaded into Love by Rose Ross Zediker: Left with the choices of jail, saloon work, or marriage to an old friend, will a marriage of necessity to a traveling preacher be what Molly needed all along? This one was really cute and started off strongly. It grew a tad tedious for me toward the end, but overall this was an enjoying way to end the collection.

I enjoyed some of these stories more than others. At the end of the day, this was one of my favorite collections to date.