Wednesday, 6 June 2018

Hearts Entwined, Four Novellas

The Love KnotWhen Claire Nevin's troubled younger sibling sends her an unexpected package by rail, the gift and the man who delivers it--an unexpected face from the past--threaten to upend Claire's life forever. Fighting to hold on to all she has built, will she lose what matters most?

The Tangled Ties That BindConnor Kincaid returns home determined to win the hand of the woman he was too young for when he left. But Maggie is training to be a doctor in a distant town, while Connor's about to settle on a ranch. Will either be willing to give up their dream? Or will they both have to give up the love of a lifetime?

Bound and DeterminedAs punishment for his recklessness, Private Bradley Willis is sent on an errand to help a retired cavalry officer move a herd across Indian Territory. No one told him the herd would be camels instead of cattle, nor that the officer's headstrong daughter, Ambrosia Herald, would seem to be trying to undermine the whole enterprise. He's definitely been saddled with more than he's bargained for.

Tied and TrueWealthy Marianne Lister is in love with business assistant Calvin Hochstetler, but he can't see past the difference in their social status. When Marianne takes a job to prove that she is prepared for a life of hard work alongside the man of her dreams, will it be enough to convince Calvin to risk it all for love?

Review: Sometimes it is really nice to be able to read a complete story without having to stay up into the wee hours of the morning finishing the 350th page of a regular novel. That is certainly the beauty of this lovely collection of novellas. I thoroughly enjoyed sitting down for an hour or two and being able to read, from start to finish, an entire story. It was very satisfying! And, as a plus, I'm not sleep deprived!

Each story is very unique, but the collection fits well together as a whole. Based in roughly the same time period, these couples find their way to love even when the odds stack against them. The story, "The Love Knot" was my personal favourite, but each story is lovely! This is the perfect book to take along to the beach this summer. 

Thank-you to Graf Martin Communications for a complimentary copy of this novel in exchange for my honest opinion. 

A Refuge Assured by Jocelyn Green

Fleeing One Revolution to the Aftermath of Another, She Seeks and Dreams of Peace

Back Cover: Lacemaker 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 danger lurks in the French Quarter, as revolutionary sympathizers begin to suspect a young boy left in her care might be the Dauphin. Can the French settlement Asylum 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 his hard-won farm near Asylum, but he soon finds himself drawn into the escalating tension of the Whiskey Rebellion. When he meets a beautiful young Frenchwoman recently arrived from Paris, they are drawn together in surprising ways to fight for the peace and safety for which they long.

Review: I recently read Jocelyn Green's novel "Mark of the King" and was utterly spell bound by the depth of historical knowledge (this lady does her research) and the captivating way she pulls her reader into her stories. As with the "Mark of the King", when I picked up "A Refuge Assured" I was unable to put it down until I turned the last page. I would certainly recommend this book. 

"A Refuge Assured" follows Vivienne Rivard, a talented lace-maker, as she flees France. Since lace-makers are associated with the wealthy and prestigious nobility, the revolutionaries are dragging those of her guild to the guillotine. Vivienne barely escapes with her life, and as she runs from the blood red streets of France she prays she will find peace and security in America. To her horror, she quickly finds out that the French revolution has spilled across the Atlantic Ocean and revolutionaries are taking to the streets in her new American home. Desperate to shed her French identity and become American, Vivienne works herself to the bone trying to make a new life for herself. However, trouble haunts her footsteps and intrigue winds its way into her arms and her heart in the form of an orphaned child. Stakes her high, and it becomes almost impossible to tell friend from foe.

Brilliantly written and undeniably believable, this historical fiction novel takes the reader back to the era of both the French and the American revolution as seen from the eyes of a French refugee. The details in this book are breathtaking. I would highly recommend "A Refuge Assured"

Thank-you to Graf Martin Communications and to Baker Publishing House for a complimentary copy of this wonderful book. 

Keturah by Lisa T. Bergren

Back Cover: In 1772 England, Lady Keturah Banning Tomlinson and her sisters find themselves the heiresses of their father's estates and know they have one option: Go to the West Indies to save what is left of their heritage.

Although it flies against all the conventions, they're determined to make their own way in the world. But once they arrive in the Caribbean, conventions are the least of their concerns. On the infamous island of Nevis, the sisters discover the legacy of the legendary sugar barons has vastly declined--and that's just the start of what their eyes are opened to in this harsh and unfamiliar world. 

Keturah never intends to put herself at the mercy of a man again, but every man on the island seems to be trying to win her hand and, with it, the ownership of her plantation. She could desperately use an ally, but even an unexpected reunion with a childhood friend leaves her questioning his motives.
To keep her family together and save the plantation that is her last chance at providing for them, can Keturah ever surrender her stubbornness and guarded heart to God and find the healing and love awaiting her?

Review:  My review in a sentence: If you haven't read this book so immediately. 

Lisa T. Bergren is one of those authors whose books I will pre-order without even reading the synopsis. Her stories never fail to tug at your heart strings, make you teary eyed, or grin as her heroine does something epic. Perhaps my favourite aspect of Lisa's books are her female lead characters. They are strong, independent, and capable women who maintain their femininity and grace while being non-apologetically powerful. If I had a teenage daughter, I would be giving her all of Lisa's books to read. These are the perfect female leads for any young girl to look up to to. 

Lisa's newest book, "Keturah", is no exception. Keturah had been beaten down by life, but instead of cowering in the corner, she has risen up out of her abusive relationship with her deceased husband as a stronger and more fierce individual. I loved Keturah's strength. She is amazing - and I found myself cheering for her from page one. 

The novel "Keturah" diverged from the 'run of the mill' historical fiction for teens in several aspects. One, it touched on marital abuse. Although there were no explicit scenes depicting what happened to Keturah in her first marriage, the reader is given a clear understanding that her husband abused her in a multitude of ways. As a result, Keturah is not eager to step into another relationship with any man and is very cautious of marriage for her sisters. Second, Keturah and her sisters own slaves. Now, many historical fiction romances will reference servants, but I can't recall any that I've read that have included actual slavery. When Keturah moves to the Indies, the slave scene there is described in detail and it is quite horrifying. This book touched on some very real and heavy issues (as just mentioned), and follows Keturah during a very rough period of her life and her journey with God through all of it.

This was an incredible book and I would highly recommend it. I read it in a day, and am eagerly awaiting the second book in this new series (The Sugar Baron's Daughters) 

Thank-you to Graf Martin Communications and to Baker Publishing House for a complimentary copy of this book. The opinions mentioned above are entirely my own. 

Sunday, 29 April 2018

I Will Not Fear: My Story of a Lifetime of Building Faith Under Fire by Melba Pattillo Beals

"I Will Not Fear" by Melba Pattillo Beals is an autobiography. I details the events surrounding Melba Beals' integration into the white-only Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas. Melba was one of nine brave young African Americans who volunteered to be the first to penetrate the all-white high school. Her story is sobering, and in many ways, unbelievable. 

I checked the date she was sent to integrate Central High... 1957. That was only 60 years ago... my grandparents were teenagers. This was not a long time ago. How could such racism, violence, and unbelievable cruelty exist only a few years ago? This book shocked me, and has been forcing me to evaluate it repeatedly as it refuses to leave my mind even weeks after I finished reading it. 

Melba does an admirable job writing her story in such a way that it is not too graphic in its descriptions of the violence, but yet it does the job painting an image of what it was like to live back then. Her story doesn't end at Central High, but continues onward through her life as we follow her through her university days, marriage, parenthood, and career in media and activism. 

Her life is one driven by purpose and a fierce loyalty to God. I would highly recommend this book to all audiences, and believe it should be a mandatory read for high school students. 

Thank-you very much to Graf Martin Communications and to Baker Publishing House for sharing a copy of this book with me in exchange for my opinion. 

Back Cover: 

In 1957, Melba Beals was one of the nine African American students chosen to integrate Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas.

But her story of overcoming didn't start--or end--there.

While her white schoolmates were planning their senior prom, Melba was facing the business end of a double-barreled shotgun, being threatened with lynching by rope-carrying tormentors, and learning how to outrun white supremacists who were ready to kill her rather than sit beside her in a classroom. Only her faith in God sustained her during her darkest days and helped her become a civil rights warrior, an NBC television news reporter, a magazine writer, a professor, a wife, and a mother.

In I Will Not Fear, Beals takes you on an unforgettable journey through terror, oppression, and persecution, highlighting the kind of faith we all need to survive in a world full of heartbreak and anger. She shows how the deep faith we develop during our most difficult moments is the kind of faith that can change our families, our communities, and even the world.

Encouraging and inspiring, her story offers hope that faith is the solution to the pervasive hopelessness of our current culture.

Monday, 9 April 2018

The Sea Before Us by Sarah Sundin

Nothing but love could heal the wounds of war
In 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, who pieces together reconnaissance photographs with holiday snapshots of France--including those of her family's summer home--in order to create accurate maps of Normandy. Maps that Wyatt turns into naval bombardment plans for D-day.

As the two spend concentrated time together in the pressure cooker of war, their deepening friendship threatens to turn into something more. But both of them have too much to lose to give in to love . . . 

Review:  I know I have a good book in my hands when my clock reads 2:00am and I'm still up reading. I fell in love with the characters of "The Sea Before Us" almost immediately and the dynamic between  Lt. Wyatt Paxton and Second Officer Fairfax kept me turning the pages well past my bedtime. Needless to say, I am already impatiently waiting for the next installment of this series (Sunrise at Normandy).

"The Sea Before Us" is the first book of what looks like a new trilogy based around three estranged brothers who find themselves battling on the same front of World War Two. Lt. Wyatt Paxton is originally from Texas but fled his hometown after a devastating accident ends with his own brother attempting to kill him. Wrought with guilt and desperate to make amends for the part he had to play in tearing apart his once-close-family, Wyatt enlists in the army to get far away from home and to save up money to pay back his debt to his other brother. For the last several years, he has not sent a single letter back to his family. With no one else left to turn to, Wyatt's relationship with Jesus grows and matures - his is the ultimate story of the prodigal son. 

Dorothy is British through and through. The war has stolen her two brothers and most recently her mother was killed in the Blitz. In her mind, God has forsaken her and so has her father who has turned into a complete recluse since the deaths. With a stiff upper lip, Dorothy resolutely plows forward and focuses on her military intelligence job. When Lawrence, a soldier she has been in love with since childhood is based at her station, she splits her time between the war effort and trying to win his favour. Lawrence is more than happy to take Dorothy out - and every other girl in town. Almost by accident, Dorothy strikes up an unlikely and rather reluctant friendship with Wyatt - but she has no romantic interest in him at all. He is too dull. 

What follows is a rather remarkable drama as Dorothy and Wyatt find themselves hurled about by the changing winds of the war and devastating consequences of their fractured families. I would certainly recommend this book - it was a great read.

Thank-you to Graf Martin Communications and to Baker Publishing House for a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion. 

Monday, 26 March 2018

A Dangerous Legacy

Review:  Elizabeth Camden is one of my favourite modern authors of historical fiction. She has a delightfully clever eye for finding historical tidbits that would not normally be main stream knowledge and weaving them into a spellbinding story. Considering that she has a masters degree in history and is also a research librarian, I suppose it is not too surprising that she is brilliant at bringing history alive. 

A Dangerous Legacy is centered around two prominent and competitive news agencies based out of New York City in 1903. The two companies, Reuters and the Associated Press, worked together during this period to bring news to America. This novel is based around their professional collaboration as AP leased Reuters' telegraph wires through the British colonies in Asia while the Pacific cable was being completed. At this same time, the search for a canal through Central America was on the tip of everyone's tongues, and the Isthmus of Panama was a hot debate. This periods was a time of monumental change and huge advancements... and it makes a spectacular and interesting setting for this unlikely love story between a bankrupt English noble and a clever telegraph operator.

Lucy Drake, the Morse code specialist at Associated Press, finds herself in a complicated predicament as she intercepts a secret message that has devastating political ramifications. Unfortunately, she overhears the conversation on a line she is not legally supposed to be listening to as she gleans information to help in her own legal battle against her corrupt uncle. Caught in the act by the head of Reuters, Lucy is forced to confide in Sir Colin Beckweth. An investigative reporter, Colin takes Lucy's story and  goes undercover, but what was suppose to be a simple weekend of exploration becomes highly dangerous as the web of lies, deceit, and cunning is woven much larger than either Lucy or Colin ever suspected. 

With their lives at risk, the fight for survival lands them in places no one would ever want to go. While sparks fly between the two of them, Colin makes sure that Lucy firmly understands that he will wed for one reason, and one reason only: money. While he finds her attractive and they work brilliantly together, his estate in London is crumbling and nothing but a wealthy heiress will pull him back from ruin. Thus, with their hearts on the line, a political disaster to foil, and her own lawsuit to win, Lucy and Colin keep you flipping the pages of this novel as they struggle to stay a step ahead of the unbelievable events they find themselves caught in. 

This book is a definite 'must read' for anyone who enjoys historical romantic fiction. Of note, there is no sexual content or inappropriate scenes. Some birds do die (which is actually rather heartbreaking) and there is a description of old psychiatric practices that made me shudder, but all in all a very well written book that would be appropriate for teenagers and up.

Thank-you to Graf Martin Communications and Baker Publishing House for a complimentary copy of A Dangerous Legacy in exchange for my honest opinion. 

Back Cover: 
Telegraph operator Lucy Drake is a master of Morse code and has made herself a valuable asset to the Associated Press news agency. But the sudden arrival of Sir Colin Beckwith at rival British news agency Reuters puts her hard-earned livelihood at risk. Colin is talented, handsome, insufferably charming--and keeping a secret that jeopardizes his reputation.

Despite their rivalry, Lucy can't deny that Colin has the connections she needs to give her family an edge in the long legal battle they've been waging over their rightful inheritance. But when she negotiates an unlikely alliance with him, the web of treachery they dive into proves to be far more dangerous than they ever could have known.

Thursday, 22 March 2018

An Inconvenient Beauty by Kristi Ann Hunter

Review: I wish this book didn't have to end. I love all of Kristi Ann Hunter's works, and her most recent novel, "An Inconvenient Beauty" is no exception. Furthermore, I lent out this series (four books total) to a friend of mine who is an avid reader. After finishing the series, she told me that these books were her favourite that I've ever lent her (and I've lent her MANY books).

Throughout the first two books, I've gotten to know Griffith, the Duke of Riverton, in his role as protector and guardian of his younger siblings. His loving indulgence of his family, keen intelligence, immovable sense of honor, and unshakable integrity have made him the backbone of the family and the series. I strongly suspected that this book would be about his quest to find a bride, and I was not disappointed.

Ironically, Griffith's story does  not start out with love at first sight like with his siblings (sorta...). At first, I was a little shocked, but after I thought about it a little I realized that falling madly in love would be completely out of character for this honorable gentleman. Instead, he faces the women of London with a mental checklist in hand, and systematically sorts through their attributes and characteristics... much in the same way you'd pick a new house! With his emotions firmly put aside and his mind ruling his decision, Griffith sets forth to win his decided upon bride. Of course.... nothing could go wrong with this plan, now could it? Poor Griffith... what follows is a bit of a disaster as the purely logical duke finds the women in question not behaving at all like he intended, and then of all things, his pesky heart totally gets in the way of his practical mind.

I won't talk about the chosen bride in this book, because I wouldn't want to give away the grand surprise of who actually ends up being married to Griffith. I will say she is an absolute delight and I was cheering for her the whole time.

I would highly recommend not just reading, but buying and adding this entire series to your collection.

Thank-you to Graf Martin Communications and to Baker Publishing House for a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion....thank-you also to Kristi Ann Hunter for being such an amazing writer and bringing these unforgettable characters to life.

Back Cover: Griffith, Duke of Riverton, likes order, logic, and control, so he naturally applies this rational approach to his search for a bride. While he's certain Miss Frederica St. Claire is the perfect wife for him, she is strangely elusive, and he can't seem to stop running into her stunningly beautiful cousin, Miss Isabella Breckenridge.

Isabella should be enjoying her society debut, but with her family in difficult circumstances, she has no choice but to agree to a bargain that puts her at odds with all her romantic hopes--as well as her conscience. And the more she comes to know Griffith, the more she regrets the unpleasant obligation that prevents her from any dream of a future with him.

As all Griffith's and Isabella's long-held expectations are shaken to the core, can they set aside their pride and fear long enough to claim a happily-ever-after?