Saturday, November 30, 2013

Christmas on Harmony Hill

Christmas on Harmony Hill
Ann H. Gabhart
Revell Publisher 
Fiction, Romance

It is 1864 and the nation is still torn apart by civil war when Heather Worth discovers she is with child. She has been working as a laundress with her husband's army unit, but when the army gets orders to march south to Tennessee, Gideon insists Heather go home to have their child under safer conditions. Heather agrees, but returns home to another kind of devastation--deaths in the family and a father who refuses to forgive her for marrying a Yankee. With nowhere else to turn, Heather seeks refuge at the Shaker village of Harmony Hill, where her great aunt Sophrena lives. There, after many peaceful years at Harmony Hill, Sophrena is having doubts about her Shaker path. Both women are in need of love and forgiveness--whether given or received. With Christmas coming, can the miracle of new life fill their hearts with unexpected joy? 

Ann H. Gabhart's many fans will be thrilled to return to Harmony Hill at Christmastime for this stirring story of healing and hope.

I've read a number of Gabhart's books and she is an excellent author. The problem with that is high expectations, this book did not even come close to meeting my expectations. I kept hoping it would improve, it never did. The plot left a lot to work with and I was looking forward to the storyline. It was, sadly, a big yawn fest. There never was a crux, in fact, the story unraveled after chapter 2 and it never got back together again. I am a fan of this author so I will for sure be picking up more of her books. I will not, however, be keeping this book to read again. 

My thanks to Revell Publishers for providing me witha  free copy of this book in exchange for my real and honest review. 

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Sweet Sanctuary

Sweet Sanctuary
Kim Vogel Sawyer
Bethany House Publishers
Historical, Fiction, Romance
April 2013

A Story of Hope and Love from Bestselling Author Kim Vogel Sawyer 

Lydia Eldredge longs to provide a sanctuary for her son, Nicky. But a constant threat comes from Nicky's drug-addicted father, who wants the boy and seems willing to do whatever it takes to get him. 
Dr. Micah Hatcher serves the immigrant population in Queens, but under cover of darkness he provides another service that must not be discovered lest his and his brother's lives be in danger. 

When Lydia and Micah's paths cross, they are suddenly wrapped up in each other's callings. Through unforeseen twists and turns, they seek a refuge of safety--for Nicky, for themselves, and for the needy people God unexpectedly puts in their lives.

Dr. Micah Hatcher is called to Boston by Lydia's angry father, demanding Dr. Hatcher take responsibility for Lydia's child he supposedly fathered. Micah is shocked that a nurse he barely remembers would accuse him of such thing. He surprises Lydia by actually coming to Boston to confront her. What appears to be a vicious lie concocted by Lydia turns into the loving "butting in" of a father who made wrong assumptions. Lydia's father only wants to save his grandson, Nicky. 

The clincher here is that Nicky isn’t Lydia’s blood child. Eleanor, a friend of Lydia’s, died giving birth to Nicky while she was on the run from her drug-addicted husband, Nic Pankin. Soft-hearted Dr. Micah Hatcher is reluctantly drawn into the dramatic situation as Nicky's blood father tries to gain custody of Nicky.  When Nic and Nicky disappear there is nothing Micah or Lydia can do. 

Set in the backdrop of World Was II Micah has other things weighing his mind as well. Mysterious letters and "packages" have him scrambling to do his long lost brother's work. Into the dark of night he navigates Queens with people's very lives at stake. 

Micah and Lydia are drawn to each other as the drama unfolds. They find themselves spending more and more time together and it isn't long before they fall in love. But can their love survive heartache and danger? 

Sawyer is always an author I am happy to pick up a book from. She writes with beautiful clarity, detail, and love. Her characters manage to seem very realistic, a thing I appreciate about her.

 I will say however, the beginning of the book was so contrived and so ridiculously awkward I almost quit reading. Lydia pulls a random man out of her past (yes, she liked him at one time but still!) and names him as her son's (who isn't her son) father? And then Micah willingly travels to another state to see about it all? I'm not so sure. I was uncomfortable with the whole premise. It seemed awfully farfetched to build a story on. Micah's continued involvement also seemed highly contrived and convenient for the story.

The book is gripping ,in its own way, and sweet, in its own way, but it stays mediocre throughout. Micah's drama seems a bit overplayed in the advertising and seems to almost fight with the plotline rather than enhance it. Nicky is as cute as cute can be and you'll want to spend time with this little boy. Lydia remains somewhat flat and unmemorable. 

Overall, a decent book.  It's an easy light read that you can pick up and put down at will. Throw it in your purse to read when soccer goes long. It will keep you just interested enough to distract you. 

My thanks to Bethany House Publishers for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for my real and honest review. 

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Fifteen Minutes

Fifteen Minutes by Karen Kingsbury
Reviewed by Melissa J. MacDonald 
Fiction Addict Blog Tours
Genre: Drama
Publisher: Howard Books
Pub Date: October 29, 2013 

Karen Kingsbury’s new book asks the question: What Would You Sacrifice For Fame? 

(Synopsis from Zack Dylan made a promise to God and his college sweetheart as he left his family’s horse farm in Kentucky to compete on the popular reality television show Fifteen Minutes: If he makes it, the fame won’t change him. 

Overnight, Zack is the nation’s most popular contestant, a country singer with the looks and voice of a young Elvis. As his star rises, Zack is asked to compromise and quiet his beliefs, and also something more. Something Zack could never have imagined. Just as America is falling in love with Zack, just as he’s on the verge of winning it all, his choices lead him to the brink of personal disaster. 

At the same time, Reese Weatherly, a therapeutic horse instructor, is no longer sure about her relationship with Zack, or the wedding they had dreamed about. While Zack advances from one round of the competition to the next, an offer comes to Reese—one that will take her to a home halfway around the world. 

Then Chandra Olson—reigning diva pop star and one of the Fifteen Minutes judges—intervenes. Chandra has suffered so much public pain and private agony since her days as a Fifteen Minutes contestant. Now she wants just one thing: meaning. 

Can Chandra’s private losses help Zack find his way, or will his fifteen minutes of fame cause him to lose the life he once loved? Fifteen Minutes is a story of character, compromise, and the cost of having it all. A story that raises the question: Who are the real winners? 

Karen Kingsbury is a celebrated author for good reason, the woman can write! She weaves a story with the right blend of detail, imagery, reality, drama, and love. She's good and Fifteen Minutes is no exception. I'll admit a few years ago I went on a Kingsburg binge and read everything I could get my hands on. Much like any binge I needed a break afterwards. Instead of enjoying the detail and drama I found it overboard so I stepped back until now. Let me say, I am so glad I'm back. Fifteen Minutes is gripping. I read it in 24 hours. 

As a character Zach is as flawed as any of us. He starts out loving Jesus and quickly gets caught up in the fame and the roller coaster of it all. His flaws were both relatable and completely annoying. I found myself rolling my eyes and wanting to yell at him for some of the situations he allowed himself to get into .

Reese is the sweetheart of the book. I loved her. Quiet strength and grace. She's a doll, you can understand why Zach's family loves her so much. 

The story also dips, in classic Kingsbury form, into other story lines. Two of the judges are brought into the story and their personal struggles are absolutely heartbreaking. They are written as real characters who are trapped in their fame. Their struggles to survive and be themselves was tangible and heart wrenching. Their stories were an added bonus to an already very good book. 

The inside peak into reality TV and showdom sickened me. In some ways ignorance was bliss. I had a feeling things were staged, I had guessed it wasn't "real", but seeing it from the other side brought it to full light. It was a good reality check (no pun intended) and I feel like I'm being wiser with my choices of what I watch and how I watch. 

The story does not end predictably and is not tied up into a neat little bow, I loved that. That might have been my favorite part. It matched the theme of the book beautifully. Mistakes lead to consequences and those consequences do not always end the way we want them to. I was so glad, as a reader, I was allowed to feel the angst. I was also left with hope, bless Karen Kingsbury's heart. 

Both powerful and captivating your going to want to read this one, promise. Now go, go on, get it! 

Fifteen Minutes is available to purchase from 

Note: I received this book as part of the Fifteen Minutes blog tour from Fiction Addict. I received no compensation for this review and only received a copy of the book for review purposes.  Review copy provided by the publisher.

Monday, October 28, 2013

The Tutor's Daughter

The Tutor's Daughter
Julie Klassen
Bethany House Publishers
January 2013 

Set high on the cliff tops of Cornwall sits Ebbington Manor. With sweeping views of the ocean and windswept paths waiting to be explored that is where Emma Smallwood finds herself. She and her father have come to be live in tutors for Sir Giles Weston and his family. Years before Emma and her father had had the two oldest Weston boys, Henry and Phillip, enrolled at their small boarding school. 
Emma only remembers Henry as a rude prankster and a bully. When the letter arrives asking her and her father to live at Ebbington Manor Emma is relunctant, afraid she'll run into Henry. Her worry was founded when she does encounter Henry at the Manor and finds him to be just as arrogant and rude as he was as a youth. 
Soon after their arrival at Ebbington Manor mysterious things begin happen. Phantom music plays through the halls, the sounds of someone in Emma's room at night, and some of Emma's things go missing. The youngest Weston boys think it's a ghost, but Emma fears something much worse. 
Danger and mystery seem to stalk Emma at every turn. Henry too seems to be nearby every time Emma needs something. She finds herself shockingly drawn to him and it seems as if he might hold some affection for her as well. 
Hats off to Julie Klassen yet again for writing a wonderful read. She remains in my list of very favorite authors. If you enjoy Jane Austen you'll love her writing and the writing in this book. There were gothic elements and Lord and Lady of the Manor  discussions and gray cloudy skies set as a backdrop for drama and love. You'll be transported. 
Emma was a strong female heroine, she was kind hearted and likeable. Well educated she was confident and self possessed. Her love for learning and teaching was woven throughout, as was her love for her father. I love how she did her own independent things and Henry always managed to "stumble" upon her. Contrived? Yes, but it worked here. 
Henry’s quickly became endearing. He was vulnerable, kind hearted, romantic, but yet a shy brooding hero as well. My initial impressions were changed as he went from arrogant to soft and open. Seen in a different light he was still all man yet with a romantic and sweet side. He constantly came to the rescue just when Emma needed it. Sigh.
The story will capture you, the mystery will have you turning lights on in the night, and the romance will delight you. Not overly done at all this is a book to read. While not my favorite Klassen book I thoroughly enjoyed it and read it within two days. 
Grab some tea and prepare to be transported to the cliffs of Cornwall. You won't want to come back, but you should, your kids are probably hungry. 
My sincere thanks to Bethany House Publishers for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for my real and honest review. 

Sunday, October 27, 2013

The Language of Sparrows

The Language of Sparros
Rachel Phifer
David C. Cook
July 2013

Brilliant and fluent in too many languages to count, 15-year-old Sierra Wright can't seem to communicate what is important to her in any language. 

Though April Wright stubbornly keeps an upbeat attitude about her daughter's future, she has let her own dreams slip away. 

Just across the bridge lives old Luca, scarred from his time in a Romanian gulag years before. Though he has seemingly given up on people, Sierra is drawn to him despite his prickly edges. No one else is comfortable with the unpredictable old man spending time alone with Sierra, not even Luca's son. Yet it is this unconventional relationship that will bring two families together to form friendships and unearth their family stories, stories that just might give them all the courage to soar on wings toward a new future.

If you've been a follower of this book review blog for any amount of time you know I'm not a huge modern day fiction girl. I love historical fiction. It's pretty rare for a modern day book to grab my attention. Enter The Language of Sparrows I was hooked in the first page and read for hours finishing the book in a day. Welcome new author Rachel Phifer! Phifer wrote a captivating and deep book. Way to go! 

Sierra is precious and I loved her. She was both strong and odd and unique, in all the good ways. April gets a bit annoying with her seeming lack of involvement but once you get to know her story you quickly understand why. There is a bit of a romance that takes place between Luca's son Nic and April, beware. It's super sweet. 

Luca will capture your heart, break it, and then put it back together. He's a well rounded and deep character. As he tells his story you are transported back to Romania 30 years before. It's historical and shocking. 

In short, I loved this book. It has enough layers I just might read it again. I highly recommend it and tip my hat to this new author. I'm already looking for her next book! 

My sincere thanks to my friends at David C. Cook for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for my real and honest review. 

Saturday, October 26, 2013

All For a Song

All For a Song
Allison Pittman 
Tyndale House Publishers
February 2013
Fiction, Historical 

 Dorothy Lynn Dunbar has everything she could possibly want in her hometown of Herron's Nest. She's engaged to be married to the young pastor that's she's deeply in love with. She also has her music. With her guitar in hand and time alone in the woods Dorothy pens and sings beautiful worship songs. With all she could ever want she still longs for something more. When Dorothy heads to St. Louis so her older sister can help her find a wedding dress a whole new world is opened up to her. 

Dorothy is enraptured by movies, music, new fashions, cars, different foods, and dancing. While exploring the city she encounters the dynamic and charismatic evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson. When she's asked to join the crusade team she can't say no. She tells her fiancee she'll see him at the wedding and heads off across country. Beyond the allure of singing in front of thousands is also her desire to track down her long lost brother who disappeared after World War I.

The crusade and her ultimate arrival in California is more than she could have ever imagined. She's faced with very hard to resist temptations. Money, men, fame, clothes, and more all pull for her attention. She has to decide who she's going to be and where her heart really belongs. 

Seeing the Roaring Twenties through Dorothy's eyes was really quite fun. Her arrival in the city and being thrust into the "world" was as startling for the reader as I'm sure it was for Dorothy. As a character Dorothy was not overly intriguing. She was wishy washy and that actually translates into annoying. She didn't know who she was and as a reader it was not a fun journey. Her fiancee both irritated me and endeared himself to me. 

Aimee Semple McPherson is an actual historical person. I found her completely unlikeable. Typically a historical fiction book should make you want to know more about that time period or character. In this case, I had absolutely no desire to know more. In fact, I almost quit reading the book at one point because I so disliked her. 

Pittman is typically a very good author so I was a bit disappointed with this book. She writes the time period well, however, and I felt like I could easily picture the 1920's. The best part of the book was near the end as Dorothy made her decision. It was a lovely story of love and forgiveness. 

This was not my favorite book from Pittman but it's still worth a read. It moves a bit slow at times but there is just enough to keep you reading and interested. 

My thanks to Tyndale Publishing for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for my real and honest review. 

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

It Happened at the Fair

It Happened at the Fair
DeeAnne Gist
Howard Books
Fiction, Romance, Christian 
April 2013

Beginning to lose his hearing and highly allergic to cotton and farm life in general Cullen's father gambles everything to send him to the 1893 Chicago World's Fair. Cullen goes extremely reluctantly sure he's going to fail. He's also hesitant to leave his girlfriend turned fiancee, but his father has arranged everything so Cullen goes. He's been enamored with the fair and with inventing for quite awhile and while he's reluctant a tiny seed of excitement stirs inside him. Once at the fair he quickly realizes his hearing loss is going to be a major issue in the very noisy mechanics building. At the suggestions of a possible investor he hires Della Wentworth, a teacher of the deaf, to tutor him in the art of lip-reading.  

Della is at the fair teaching deaf children in a live exhibit. She's reluctant to teach Cullen but agrees when he suggests that they can explore the fair while he's learning. Della is immediately attracted to Cullen but remains very wary at the caution of her overly protective father. 

Cullen finds he enjoys nothing more than watching Della's lips as she teaches him. He's caught between his attraction to her and his loyalty to his fiancee back home. As Della and Cullen explore the fair together their feelings for each other develop. What will happen when Cullen's fiancee show's up at the fair demanding he marry her? Will Della and Cullen find a way to be together? 

The historical aspects of the World's Fair were incredible. It was clear Gist did an immense amount of research. I felt like I got to walk alongside Cullen and Della every evening at the fair. The detailed descriptions were captivating and I could "see" each building. What an amazing feat and showpiece for our country! 

Deanne Gist has brought us many delightful Christian romance novels filled with that perfect blend of romance, history, and God all rolled into one. I expected the exact same thing when I cracked open this book. Unfortunately I was disappointed. There was romance and there was history but there was very little God. In fact, he wasn't mentioned in the book in any noticeable way until near the very end, almost as if it was a last minute addition. Having it be a last minute disjointed addition was almost more disappointing to me.

There were some inconsistencies within the plot line that I found to be confusing. For instance, Della makes it very clear that learning the art of lip reading will take years. Cullen still decided to begin lessons knowing the fair only runs for 6 months. Other than that relationship being needed for the story it seemed very far fetched. Also, the investor who suggests lip reading plays a very small part and his suggestion is very weak. There were little to no supporting characters which meant we were always with either Cullen or Della but I would have liked to have seen them have friends around them. They were very isolated. 

One other thing worthy of note is that Gist attempts to write the way Cullen hears. She purposely omits parts of words so we as the reader can maybe understand Cullen's hearing needs. I found it more irritating than helpful. She omitted a lot of vowels which didn't make sense to me. I'm not sure it was as effective as she wanted it to be.

With all of that said Cullen and Della have a beautiful love story. They are sweet and their desire for each other is evident. It's the well written romantic piece you would expect from Gist. The historical detail is expansive and captivating. It's a good read, not a great read. I've read great from Gist so I know she can do better.

My thanks to the publisher for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for my real and honest review. 

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Rebellious Heart

Rebellious Heart
Jody Hedlund
Bethany House Publishers
Fiction, Romance, Historical
September 15, 2013 

In 1763 Massachusetts, Susanna Smith has grown up with everything she's ever wanted, except one thing: an education. Because she's a female, higher learning has been closed to her, but her quick mind and quicker tongue never back down from a challenge. She's determined to put her status to good use, reaching out to the poor and deprived. And she knows when she marries well, she will be able to continue her work with the less fortunate. 

Ben Ross grew up a farmer's son and has nothing to his name but his Harvard education. A poor country lawyer, he doesn't see how he'll be able to fulfill his promise to make his father proud of him. When family friends introduce him to the Smith family, he's drawn to quick-witted Susanna but knows her family expects her to marry well. When Susanna's decision to help an innocent woman no matter the cost crosses with Ben's growing disillusionment with their British rulers, the two find themselves bound together in what quickly becomes a very dangerous fight for justice.

Love! So good! Hedlund delivers again, seriously this woman is definitely in my top favorite author's list. She writes such a good story. This book is no exception. The story is inspired by John and Abigail Adam's love story. It's unbelievably sweet. Filled with suspense, danger, love, and mystery I was gripped from the very beginning. I loved the historical aspects of it that involved slavery and the early underground railroad. Susanna is all woman while being brave, smart, and admirable. She was no wilting flower and I loved that. Ben was completely annoying at the beginning which left a lot of room for him to improve an grow, which he did. He finds his sense of self-worth in who he is instead of who culture says he is. It's a great transformation. 

This one will have you reading late into the night and biting your finger nails as you follow the twists and turns. Get ready to enjoy. Buy anything and everything by Jody Hedlund and prepare yourself for some excellent reading. 

My thanks to Bethany House Publishers for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for my real and honest review. 

Three Hearts, One Town

Three Hearts, One Town
Sarah Jae Foster 
Aspendawn Books
Fiction, Romance, Historical 

Forced to leave home and all she's ever known at nineteen, Cameron Engel heads for Lincoln County, Kansas, ready to explore life like never before. But she quickly realizes her inexperienced nature is no match for this rough and dangerous new town. She needs confidence and bravery to survive -- and she's determined to acquire both, even if it means making choices that in the end could destroy her. 

Gunslinger Jake Collins has that fearlessness and courage Cameron wants to possess, but she soon finds herself wanting Jake, a man she's been warned against. 

Andrew Jackson is the town's preacher. He offers Cameron a way of living and loving -- she's never known... until now. 

Two very different men, and for better or for worse, two very different loves.

Torn by indecision, Cameron seeks to receive acceptance from the only one who can provide it. God. But has she gone too far by giving her heart in all the wrong ways? 

After coming into the knowledge of God's true and unconditional love, she faces the toughest choice she's ever had to make. Jake or Andrew...

When you get through 30% of a book (gotta love the Kindle that keeps you up to date on your percentage) and you have yet to like a singe character or even the story line you know it's time to call it quits. So no, I did not finish this book. Very poor characterization, scattered plot lines, and a very badly developed story made me quit reading. I felt like I was reading a rough draft or even just a series of possible story ideas, that's how badly it was put together. I also kept checking the description of the book because one of the supposedly "main characters" hadn't even entered the story by 20% of the way through. Just weird and just not worth my time to keep reading. Don't let this book cover fool you. 

My thanks to Aspendawn Books for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for my real and honest review. 

Elusive Hope

Elusive Hope
MaryLu Tyndall 
Barbour Publishing 
January 2014
Fiction, Romance, History 

Embark on an exotic adventure in Book 2 of the Escape to Paradise series from bestselling author MaryLu Tyndall. In the fledgling colony of New Hope, their friends struggle to create a Southern utopia in Brazil soon after the Civil War. But Hayden is seeking revenge—relentlessly. And Magnolia is seeking a way out—desperately. They both seek to use the other for their own purposes—deceptively. Falling in love was never part of their plans. . . .

Jungles, pirates, mysterious spirits, romance, and more. This book has just about everything. The historical aspects are absolutely fascinating. I had no idea there was a large group of southerners who escaped and started new lives for themselves in Brazil after the Civil War. Crazy but true!

The first book in this series had me utterly captivated so I was eager to read this second book. By the way, you definitely want to read these in order. Unfortunately, this book just got a bit weird. There were a number of storylines going on and they very rarely intersected. There was just too much going on. There was also a evil spiritual realm in the book that I found creepy and very odd. The book ends with nothing wrapped up other than the romantic aspect. It left me cranky. It also left me anxious to read the next book. Yep, it's that kind of series and that kind of book. The characters are well developed and the plot is gripping. I just wish I knew which plot to follow.

My thanks to Barbour Publishing for providing me with a free review copy of this book in exchange for my real and honest review. 

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Under a Blackberry Moon

Under a Blackberry Moon
Serena B. Miller
Revel Publishing
October 2013
Fiction, Historical, Romance 
Just a few days after she gives birth alone in the Northwoods, a recently widowed young Ojibwe woman stumbles into a nearby lumber camp in search of refuge and sustenance. Come summer, the camp owner sends Skypilot, his most trusted friend, to accompany Moon Song and her baby on the long and treacherous journey back to her people. But when tragedy strikes off the shore of Michigan's Upper Peninsula wilderness, Moon Song and Skypilot must depend on each other for survival. With every step they take into the forbidding woods, they are drawn closer together, until the tough questions must be asked. Will she leave her culture to enter his? Will he leave his world to enter hers? Or will they walk away from a love that seems too complicated to last?

With evocative descriptions of a breathtaking landscape, Under a Blackberry Moon will sweep readers into a wild realm where beauty masks danger and only the truly courageous survive, even as the sweet love story along the way tightly grips their hearts.
This book caught my attention from the very beginning. The whole idea and premise was interesting. historically speaking it was a fascinating read. Michigan and the Great Lakes were depicted in a beautiful way. The plight of the Indians was real and heartbreaking. The characters were fairly well developed and intriguing. 
Overall I enjoyed the book, it caught and kept my attention. It was quite contrived in a number of areas but it is a fictional book. The love Skypilot has for Moon Song and the sacrifices he makes for her is very sweet. It's a beautiful picture of what love should look like. Moon Song's struggle with trust and her slow building a relationship with Jesus is precious. 
Like many books I've read recently I felt like this book ended very abruptly. We were taken on a slow journey that ended in a marathon. I would have liked a cleaner more thought out ending. 
With that in mind, this is an easy and enjoyable read. Miller does her research and it shows. She writes real people that are enjoyable to read. I recommend it! 

Available October 2013 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.
You can find more information at the author’s site.  My thanks to Revell Publisher for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for my real and honest review. 

Monday, September 30, 2013

The Message on the Quilt

The Message on the Quilt
Stephanie Grace Whitson 
Barbour Publishing
April 1, 2013
Fiction, Romance, Historical 

Return to historic Nebraska for the stunning conclusion to The Quilt Chronicles. When Emilie Rhodes convinces her newspaper editor father to assign her to interview the speakers at the 1890 Chautauqua series, she meets and falls in love with “The Man of Many Voices.” But Noah Shaw’s professional life is only one reason he’s in Nebraska. Noah is on a quest to find answers. . .but will a treasured quilt bear a message of brokenness—or hope and healing?

I loved this book. As I've mentioned before Whitson is a favorite author. This is the conclusion to The Quilt Chronicles. While I feel like the whole quilt thing is a bit of a stretch to tie the books together it hardly interferes with Whitson's solid writing. Emilie is so fun to get to know and Noah is as sweet as can be. I'm often working in Nebraska and I loved hearing about the Chatauqua series. It was incredibly intriguing. In fact, it prompted me to do some further research of my own. You've got to love a fiction book that has you researching history. The sweetness of Emilie and Noah is naive and yet special. I so enjoyed "watching" them fall in love.  There is some major intrigue that pops up as well and will have you wondering just how the story will end. I'll leave that up to you to find out. You'll enjoy it, promise. 

My thanks to Barbour Publishing for providing me a free digital copy of this book in exchange for my real and honest review. 

The Shadow on the Quilt

The Shadow on the Quilt
Stephanie Grace Whitson
Barbour Publishing
November 2012
Historical, Fiction, Romance

Will past pain unravel the future?
Juliana Sutton has just about everything a woman could want. Her husband is riding a crest of success in the bustling capitol city of Lincoln, and Juliana leads various philanthropic endeavors. Once finished, their new home, a spectacular mansion on five acres, will be the envy of all. Then a devastating scandal erupts. . . .
Cass Gregory, the foreman overseeing the Sutton mansion construction, has spent recent years trying to untangle the disastrous results of his own past choices—and wishing he didn’t know the truth about his boss. When scandal ignites, Cass longs to comfort Juliana but is convinced her position in society and his past make a relationship impossible.
Juliana and Cass are thrown together as completion of the mansion draws near, each one wounded and afraid to trust. Will the shadow of a name stand between them and true happiness?
I'm a big fan of Whitson and have been from her earliest beginnings. The woman knows how to weave a story. At the risk of spoiling a part of the story I'm just going to let you know Juliana's husband dies. Hopefully you could pick up on that from the description. I'll let you read to find out the "scandal". The story is well developed and you'll be swept along. Juliana is sweet if not a bit naive. Cass is just a sweetheart. The two of them growing together is achingly sweet. You'll love where the story leads. 
I personally feel like the whole quilt theme is a bit of a stretch. But that's a moot point when it comes to this sweet story of redemption. Wrap up in a quilt and get ready to read for quite awhile. 
My thanks to Barbour Publishing for providing me with a free digital copy of this book in exchange for my real and honest review. 

Five Days in Skye

Fve Days in Skye
Carla Laureano
David C. Cook
June 10, 2013
Romance, Fiction, Modern

Hospitality consultant Andrea Sullivan has one last chance to snag a high-profile client or she'll have to kiss her dreams of promotion good-bye. When she's sent to meet Scottish celebrity chef James MacDonald on the Isle of Skye, she just wants to finish her work as efficiently as possible. Yet her client is not the opportunistic womanizer he portrays himself to be, and her attraction to him soon dredges up memories she'd rather leave buried. For James, renovating the family hotel is a fulfillment of his late father's dreams. When his hired consultant turns out to be beautiful, intelligent, and completely unimpressed by his public persona, he makes it his mission to win her over. He just never expects to fall under her spell.

Soon, both Andrea and James must face the reality that God may have a far different purpose for their lives—and that five days in Skye will forever change their outlook on life and love.

I'll be the first to admit that I'm not typically a big fan of modern fiction. However, this book may have just changed my mind. It was excellent. Such a good read! I was swept away to Scotland and found myself searching flights to I could go visit the land of my ancestors (you may have noticed the main character and I share a last name). Andrea is strong and defiant but is completely worn down by James. James is public yet very private and he's extremely likable. Like watching your favorite romantic comedy you won't want this book to end. You're going to want to grab some girlfriends, cook together, and then plan that trip to Scotland. Read it. Do it. 

My thanks to David C. Cook (holler at my favorite publishers!) for providing me with a free digital copy of this book in exchange for my real and honest review. 

Love's Awakening

Love's Awakening
Laura Frantz
Revell Publishing
Sept 2013
Fiction, Historical, Romance
“Available August 2013 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.”

Ellie Ballantyne, youngest child of Silas and Eden, has left finishing school. But back at her family home in Pittsburgh, Ellie finds that her parents are away on a long trip and her siblings don't seem to want her to stay. When she opens a day school for young ladies, she begins tutoring the incorrigible daughter of the enemy Turlock clan. The Turlocks are slaveholders and whiskey magnates, envious of the powerful Ballantynes and suspicious of their abolitionist leanings. As Ellie becomes increasingly tangled with the Turlocks, she finds herself falling in love with an impossible future--and Jack Turlock, a young man striving to free himself from his family's violent legacy. How can she betray her family and side with the enemy? And will Jack ever allow her into his world?

I loved the first book in this series and the second book does not disappoint. Frantz weaves yet another sweeping historical tale that will have you shutting out real life to read of days gone by. Don't be fooled into thinking that those days of old were peaceful. In fact they were filled with danger, intrigue, and extreme deception. Ellie teeters just on the edge of obnoxious for me. If you're looking for a strong fighter of a woman in a main character you won't find that in Ellie. She has strong character but faints no less than two times throughout the book. Jack is everything you would hope for in a hero. He's handsome and loyal and God is at work in his heart. 

While this book can be read as a standalone I'd encourage you to read it with the other book. There is just enough of overlap you'll appreciate the full story. 

My thanks to Revell Publishers for providing me with a review copy of this book in exchange for my real and honest review. 

Monday, September 16, 2013

The Invention of Sarah Cummings

Invention of Sarah Cummings
Olivia Newport 
Revell Publishing
Fiction, Romance, Historical 

Sarah Cummings has one goal in life--to break into Chicago's high society. Desperate to stop serving dinner to members of the wealthy Banning family and to start eating at society tables, Sarah spends her meager free time altering cast-off gowns to create the perfect wardrobe for her future life.

When opportunity knocks at a chance meeting, she presents herself as Serena Cuthbert, weaving a fictitious past to go with her fictitious name. But as she gets closer to her goal--and closer to Simon Tewell, director of St. Andrew's Orphanage--Sarah finds that she must choose between the life she has and the life she dreams of.

Can she piece together the perfect life from scraps? Or will it all come unraveled in the face of true love?

"Newport's touching historical romance sweeps readers into another time and place, where elegance and wealth are abundant and where dreams really can come true. Highly recommended for fans of Tamera Alexander."--Library Journal

You know a book is good when you find the main character completely deplorable. That's where I was. I did not like Sarah in the least, in fact I almost quit reading because I disliked her so thoroughly. I am, however, glad I stuck with the book until the end. And don't get me wrong, it was no hardship to stick with the book. Newport weaves a completely enticing and enthralling tale. I was hooked immediately. The attention to detail both in period clothing and in Chicago history was excellent. Sarah's unstable behavior is hard to believe but it's fun to read. 

My only complaints with the book are that I felt that character development was lacking. Sarah was nasty and ridiculous and we're not entirely sure why. Simon was sweet and lovable but not at all endearing and we never actually got to know him. I would have liked to have seen more into their backgrounds and their stories. The challenge with any series is to have so many character story lines it's hard to follow any one of them. This book teetered on the edge of that. It can be read alone but you'll be a lot less confused if you read the first two books. The book ended rushed. Sarah never really had that "come to Jesus" moment that she needed. It seems she got there but I'm not sure how. Between a fire at the orphanage and being propositioned to be a mistress I don't quite know how she managed to fall in love with Simon. But she did. 

In short, a great read. There are definitely some holes and some rough patches but Newport writes with ease. If she can grow to the point of being able to weave things together seamlessly and in a way that makes sense to the reader she might just catapult herself into position as one of my favorite authors. 

My thanks to Revell Publishing for providing me with a review copy of this book in exchange for my real and honest review. 

Monday, August 26, 2013

Full Disclosure

Full Disclosure
Dee Henderson
Bethany House Publishers
Fiction, Romance, Mystery, Cop Thriller

As the Midwest Homicide Investigator Ann Silver is a cop's cop. She's called into scenes around the midwest where cops are in over their heads and need a different set of eyes. She finds clues where others may not notice and she's an expert at her job. Her job is also extremely elite and trusted. When she's not investigating grisly murder scenes she can be found at home with her dog and a good book. Anonymity and solitude has been her friend for years and she'd like to keep it that way.

Paul Falcon is the FBI's top murder cop in the midwest. If the victim was in anyway connected on a federal level or had security clearances Paul and his team will most likely work the case. From a loving family Paul is content in his job while also wanting possibly more.

Ann and Paul's lives intersect when Ann passes off a case to Paul's team. A suspicious death in a car wreck leaves Ann asking questions and needing to have someone else take the case. She suspects that her case might be connected to The Lady Shooter. The FBI has been hunting The Lady Shooter for years and have continued to hit dead end after dead end. Paul has made it his personal mission to capture the killer.

Ann walks into Paul's work intending to simply pass the case off. However, life has a funny way of not going the way we would expect or want. A "chance" meeting turns into an instant connection between the two characters. To the surprise of both of them they find themselves attracted and drawn to each other. What follows is a slow and steady joining of two very different people into a couple.

Henderson's first book in 6 years this book has a sweetness and a gradualness to it that her other books have not had. She takes her time in developing the two characters and their story. At times you'll find yourself wondering if watching paint dry might go faster than the two of them finally getting together. Other times, you'll be delighted with the cuteness of the love the two share. Henderson writes with depth and experience. Perhaps one of the more real and raw relationship developments I've ever read. You won't find yourself swept up in a sweeping romance but you will find yourself falling in love with both Paul and Ann. The way they develop as people and as characters is so very real. I loved that. It was true to real life.

While the romance section might be true to real life the cop case side of the story left with something to be desired. I find myself having a hard time following the story. The book is quite lengthy and it included so much I felt it could have been a two or three novel series instead of trying to cram everything into one. It was a lot to digest. This is not a one night read kind of book. It seemed a bit dramatized and over the top in so may ways...which is something Henderson does well. I did feel like I was reading some sort of penny dreadful novel at some points and that, partnered with a sweet romance relationship made the book feel a bit choppy.

Overall I enjoyed this book. I welcome back this deeper and more developed Henderson and look forward to reading more from her in the future. Prepare yourself as you dive into this book, it will take you awhile and you may want to bring along a notepad to takes notes. You'll love so many aspects you most likely won't even notice the few choppy parts. Be prepared to be enthralled and truly transported.

My thanks to Bethany House Publishers for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for my real and honest review. 

Thursday, August 22, 2013

A Noble Groom

A Noble Groom 
Jody Hedlund
Bethany House Publishers
Fiction, Historical, Romance

It's 1881 and Carl von Reichart is fleeing Germany with his life. With the help of his manservant Matthias Carl is leaving everything familiar and fleeing to Matthias' brother Peter's homestead in Michigan. Having been convicted and sentenced to death for a crime he didn't commit Carl is left with no choice but to go to America. Shrugging of his noble birth Carl is desperate to fit in in the small German community of Forestville. 

Recently widowed Annalisa is doing her best to provide for her young daughter on their farm in Michigan. She's awaiting the arrival of a groom from Germany who will marry her and take over the farm. Although Carl is not her intended his arrival is a welcomed sight. Annalisa has only 6 months to pay back the land grant her husband purchased. A widowed woman and a young girl can not toil the land themselves. Carl takes a job working for Annalisa but struggles with adapting to hard manual labor. 

Mystery abounds in this book. Annalisa has a feeling her husband was murdered but she has no evidence to prove it. She also senses that something about Carl isn't quite right but she has no choice but to trust him and allow him to help her on the farm. Against her better judgement  finds herself drawn to him. He's handsome and kind and unlike any other man she has ever met. He treats her like a rare jewel and seems to cherish her. 

Carl has only planned to stay in Michigan and hide out until his name is cleared. An aspiring chemist he's anxious to get back to his experiments and research. What he didn't count on was Annalisa. Despite the obvious class difference he can't help but be drawn to her and her little girl. Before he knows it he's fallen in love with both of them. 

Annalisa's intended groom is on his way and mysteries can not remain unsolved. As the groom gets closer to Michigan the book escalates. Lies are revealed, feelings are hurt, and the damage seems to be irreparable. Will Annalisa be with her intended groom or her noble groom? What will the future hold? And just who did murder her husband and why? 

Rest assured dear readers, the story does not end there. Everything is tied up into a neat little bow that will leave you with a very contented sigh of relief. We read fiction for the resolution that our own lives rarely have. Rarely will you find an author who so beautifully writes resolution. I found myself stressed out trying to figure out how Hedlund was going to fix this story. No need to fear, she did so perfectly and you'll love it. 

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Hedlund has quickly become one of my favorite authors and she does not disappoint with this book. The characters are SO very well developed. I loved Annalisa and her little girl, I adored Carl, and I despised Annalisa's family. I believe it was all intended for me to feel that way. Carl will warm your heart and have you randomly wishing for your own German chemist. Which brings me to my next point, I loved the uniqueness of the characters. I don't believe I've ever read about a chemist turned farmer before. It was very intriguing and so fun to read. Annalisa is a sweetheart that you so desperately want to find true love and someone to cherish her. As for her family! Good grief, what an interesting cultural experience. Slovenly chauvinistic men that will have you applauding the leaps and bounds we've made in women's rights in the last 150 years. Thank you Susan B. Anthony! 

My props to Hedlund for writing a truly delightful read. I couldn't put this book down and I enjoyed every bit of it. You won't be expecting the twists and turns it takes and you'll be up long into the night. So brew some coffee now and get ready for an adventure in Michigan in the mid 1800's. Enjoy! 

My thanks to Bethany House Publishers for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest and real review. 

Friday, July 19, 2013

Unending Devotion

Unending Devotion
Jody Hedlund
Bethany House Publishers
Fiction, Historical, Romance

It's 1883 in cold and dreary Michigan. Lily Young is working as a photographer's assistant and traveling from lumber camp to lumber camp. While her job is as an assistant her mission goes far beyond just photography. Lily is desperate to find her younger sister Daisy who ran away and, Lily believes, found a job in the prostitution trade. No saloon is too small, no hen house too dangerous for Lily to search for her dear sister. She's vowed to do whatever it takes to find Daisy. Along the way she's been helping girls escape prostitution. Fiery and brave Lily fights for girls at any cost.

Arriving in the town of Harrison as winter is settling coldly upon Michigan Oren, the photographer, and Lily have to stay put for awhile. Lily refuses to stay anywhere that doesn't practice temperance. Her stubbornness and the lack of temperance in the town cause quite a spectacle whereupon our hero of the story, Connell McCormick, enters the scene. Connell finds this headstrong beautiful woman quite intriguing. Wanting to protect her from herself he finds himself stepping in to rescue her.

Connell was raised with Christian values and is the son of a lumber baron. He's become quite apathetic and defeated by his father's constant bullying. His father says the lumber camps must make more money and Connell is in town to figure out how to make that happen. Little by little he is excusing things that his moral upbringing would never have allowed. When Lily sweeps into town on a mission to do away with all the brothels Connell has to put a stop to her. No women mean no me and no men mean no lumber money.

One particularly evil brothel owner is seducing women to work in his "hotel". He wields power and wears brass knuckles as a part of his wardrobe. The whole town is scared of him except for Lily. She's desperate to find Daisy and she's sure this man knows something. Lily reminds Connell of his morals and his ethics and bids him to join the fight.

What follows is a storyline that will keep you reading well into the night. Fraught with evil, good, love, suspense, and mystery this is a page turner. Hedlund has quickly become one of my favorite authors. Her ability to weave a good tale while teaching history is truly an art craft. I found myself quickly swept up in the story and gasping at each unexpected turn.

However, when all was said and done I took a step back and realized that while I had been wrapped up in the sensationalism of the book it seemed to be missing something...or maybe it had too much of something. It was a penny dreadful sense. Over the top plot lines, unrealistic feats, and predictable heroes and heroines. Overall I very much disliked Lily. As a character she was young, legalistic, and obnoxious. I wanted to like her but I couldn't. She never grew on me. Connell was protective and everything a hero should be which I found to be.....annoying.

 We do get insight into the sex trade taking place in the late 1800s. Both heartbreaking and real. For some readers I fear you will feel a line was crossed as things are described in detail. Hedlund does not handle this particular subject with as much class as one would desire. Perhaps I'm jaded by past reads of Hedlunds that have had both depth and a good plot line. Either way, while not a terrible read in the least, this book had me wishing for more and wishing for less all at the same time.

My thanks to Bethany House Publishers for sending me a free copy of this book in exchange for my real and honest review. 

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