All I can say is that it was a good thing that I read Rebellious Heart by Jody Hedlund while I was on vacation sitting by pool because it afforded me time to keep my pages turning with little interruption. In usual “Jody Hedlund style” we are given a wonderful Historical Fiction novel inspired by the courtship of John (2nd president)and Abigail Adams. She creates two characters that mirror a lot of the same situations that John and Abigail faced- parental disapproval, the Colonial time frame, etc. As always with Jody Hedlund books we get strong characters, an interesting storyline as well as some pretty exciting moments along the way.
Susanna Smith is a smart and well bred young woman whose been raised to understand that she need to make a profitable connection when it comes to marriage. And so when she first meets Benjamin Ross as a young girl she informs him that he is a “nobody, a Farmer and a shoemaker’s son and she would never marry anyone that is from the middling class, her mother wouldn’t allow it.” Thus sets the stage for Benjamin Ross ,years later, a poor country lawyer when he meets up with Susanna again. HIs thoughts of her are that she is still a snobby rich girl thinking herself above everyone. But as Benjamin gets to know Susanna a bit better by happening upon her at a party, he finds her socked away in a room “reading Milton”. He slowly comes to see that Susanna has grown up a bit since he’s seen her last and not only is she a beautiful woman, but she’s smart and kind as well, with a bit of gumption thrown in . Susanna’s heart is huge and she ends up getting involved in helping a runaway indentured servant escape a very cruel master. There is much danger involved with this situation as of course it is illegal to harbor an indentured servant. Susanna gets in a bit over her head and Ben comes to her rescue more than once. As he helps her escape one bad situation after another their relationship as well as their understanding and respect for each other just continues to grow.
I have to say that I really enjoyed this book. It was nice to read a book in this time frame, just pre-revolutionary war as I haven't read many historical fiction that have been written during that time. The characters were interesting and compelling and when I realized, after I finished the book, that it was loosely based on the courtship of the real couple - John and Abigail Adams -that made it even more captivating for me. I think that those that enjoy a great and well researched historical christian novel with engaging characters, some twists and turns and a stand up and cheer ending, will definitely enjoy this one, please pick up Rebellious Heart- great read!
I was given a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.
Tuesday, December 10, 2013
Monday, October 28, 2013
I would think that the last thing in the world that you would for-see happening when you feel a calling from God to be a preacher is to get highjacked off of a train because you are a preacher, but that is exactly what happens to Crockett Archer in the opening of the novel Stealing the Preacher, the latest novel in the Archer Brother’s series by Karen Witemeyer. Sweet , yet Spunky Joanna Robbins has been praying for a preacher for her small hometown in Burleson County Texas for a long time, ever since the death of her dear mother who raised who her to love and worship God. However the church has long been abandoned and Joanna longs for the church to have a wonderful preacher which will help bring the word of God to her community and especially to her father whose heart is completely hardened to anything at all to do with God. However his heart is not hardened to his daughter, not by a long shot, so that is how poor Crockett gets hijacked on the way to his job interview to be a preacher in Brenham, because a Father’s love is all about getting what his daughter most wants, which is a preacher!
For those of us that fell in love with the Archer brothers in Karen Witemeyer’s Short Straw Bride, I just can’t imagine readers not enjoying reading Crockett’s story here as he meets the spunky and fun Joanna. She is a woman with a mission and so is he- although his changes a bit from what he thought. But being a man of faith, he accepts that while he thought that God wanted him in Brenham- God had a different plan, to help get the church up and running again in the little chapel where Joanna had prayed for a preacher to come! In order to get thing up and running Crockett needs to find work for a bit so that he can pay for his expenses. The main work to be had was at Joanna’s father’s ranch. Her father (and ex-outlaw) isn’t so sure about a preacher working for him- not man enough, etc. But Crockett is no regular preacher, he knows his way around a ranch and how to work hard and he’s not a bad shot either which earns the respect of the townfolk.
As the story progresses Crockett earns the right to be heard as the preacher and captures more than a few hearts of the female persuasion which adds to the conflict in the story with the very headstrong and persistent character of Holly Brewster who stirs up all sorts of trouble for poor Crockett. But hang in there, as things come together all right in the end.
This was a nice follow up sequel to a Short Straw Bride and in the usual Karen Witemeyer way things end just as you would want them too.
I was given a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.
Monday, October 7, 2013
Have you ever gotten yourself into such a pickle that you just have no way of figuring out how to get out of it? I would say that is the general feeling of Miranda Woodruff, the heroine of the debut author Melissa Tagg’s book Made to last. But it’s not just Miranda who feels that way, I would venture to say the male lead Matthew Knox feels the exact same way. And so how do two people that find themselves in a pickle with insurmountable obstacles come together? Well it isn’t easy, that’s for sure. We have Miranda Woodruff who is the star of a homebuilding television show called From the Ground up, who has been pretending to be a happily married woman and quoting on her show all the tips and tricks her dream husband has passed onto her regarding home building projects. But here’s the problem, the shows ratings are sinking and the show is in danger of being pulled and so, a pretend husband is introduced to the public. And where does Matthew Knox fit it? Well he is a down and out reporter looking to make a comeback in his career and has been assigned the job of digging up dirt on Miranda Woodruff- America’s favorite tomboy. The problem? He’s a good reporter and actually does discover all of her little secrets. And so how can he possibly print all that he knows when he is falling for her...
This is one of those books where you are reading the storyline, fall in love with the characters and are rooting for them to get out of their messes, get over their insecurities and mis-understandings and just figure it out already! I can’t help but hear those sage words of wisdom in my head- “ Patience, Grasshopper! “ I did enjoy the fact that there are a lot of subplots going on here which really made sense to me with regards to the decisions the characters were making. For instance, the basic identity question- who am I? We all have to answer that and if a vocation was taken away or if you fail big at something where does that leave you- are you completely defined by your mistakes? Do you end up lost or do you trust that God has a plan in all of it, even if a dream changes to something different than what you thought. Could the new dream be even better? Lot’s of interesting thought to ponder.
This was a great contemporary novel and wonderful first run for Melissa Tagg, I think that she will definitely have a nice niche in this genre. I found her character’s engaging, real ,and very relatable and a storyline that played out well in the end.
I was given a complimentary copy of this book through the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.
Tuesday, June 18, 2013
There are certain themes in writing that I am just always drawn to again and again. It’s familiar and yet interesting and the author brings their own spin to the situation. In A Noble Groom by Jody Hedlund our familiar themes are “the fish out of water” theme, (which I always happen to love) as well as the ill treated damsel in distress (perhaps a little Cinderella here). When you combine the two- you have Carl Richards (fish out of water) meeting up with new widow and mother Annalisa (Cinderella) and the two together give you a great story filled with humor, poignancy, much growth and self-discovery for both characters and of course a bit of romance (Cinderella, remember?) thrown in for good measure.
I have to say that Carl is just a generally lovable character. He isn’t quite who he seems to be, but shows up at just the right time to help poor widow Annalisa Werner to help her work her farm in Forestville, MIchigan to pay off her land debt or she will quite literally “lose the farm”. Carl is running from a complicated situation from his home country of Germany and seeks sanctuary from the troubles at home, as well as a job. It turns out that he is the worst farmer in the history of the world, little strength, no know-how and unaccustomed to long work hours, but he somehow manages to hang in there and learn how to help on the farm and in turn help out Annalisa. She is a new widow whose now deceased husband wasn’t the best guy around and so she is unused to being around a man such as Carl. Carl is thoughtful and kind and cares about her welfare as well as her thoughts and opinions on things. The tough situation here is that Annalisa needs a new husband to run the farm and one has been arranged for her, by her father through relatives in her homeland of Germany, but this likely groom has been detained, indefinitely. And so while she waits for his arrival, she can’t help but draw closer to Carl. as she watches him tend to things on the farm, laugh at himself when he constantly makes mistakes and lovingly watch out for her daughter Gretchen. I mean what woman wouldn’t fall for him? But the dark cloud hanging over them was that any day “the groom” would be showing up sending Carl on his way.
I have to say this was “that book” for me where I found myself in every last free moment running to, so that I could finish it. The characters were characters that you cared about and really were wishing the best for. Jody Hedlund did a wonderful job in slowly opening up the character of Annalisa as she was a bit closed off and downtrodden at the beginning of the story with her financial difficulties and being under her father’s thumb, etc. But as the character of Carl works his magic with his kind ways and loving nature she truly becomes stronger and more open and loving. It was really neat to see that progression. Carl exemplified that person that we all should be- someone who is able to laugh at themselves when they make mistakes, someone who looks out for the interests of others and someone who learned about what it was truly like to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes. He gained understanding and a deeper faith in God through his experiences on the farm.
I really recommend this books for those who love a great historical fiction Christian romance. You will love the characters, how they grow from the hardships they face and how they trust God through all of it. I hope to see this book make many awards lists in the future! Great read!
I was graciously given a copy of this book by Bethany House publishers in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed ar my own.
Saturday, June 1, 2013
A Handsome modern day prince about to become King, amazing travels abroad, beautiful ball dresses, a chance meeting that leads to something more. Wow, all of these ingredients add up to a recipe that readers love when it comes to contemporary Christian romance novels. Honestly, these are all the things that I love when it comes to “Once upon a time” stories. And I really liked this story and the characters, but I have to say that I felt that maybe an ingredient or two might have been left out of this one.
As this novel opens our sweet heroine Susanna, a beautiful landscape architect, is getting dumped by her long time fiance’ on a scenic walk along the beach. All of her plans came crashing in around her as she thought that this stroll was the one to ‘“set the date” for her happily ever after. However, it turned more into-” See ya, I’ve met someone else. kind of stroll” This sends poor highly structured and infinite planner Susanna into a tailspin. And so tailspinning Susanna then meets up with playboy prince, “not -excited- to-be-King-someday Nathaniel as our damsel in distress has a flat tire. And the gallantry begins. He is a fish out of water in her world, even helping out at her family’s restaurant as they were short handed and a mop thrown in his hand. And she ventures to his neck of the woods too, where she needs to observe all the royal etiquette correctly and makes an occasional “Eliza Doolittle “ move by standing when she should be seated, etc.
I have to say that I absolutely adore a storyline where royalty falls for the girl next door, I mean who doesn’t? I just felt that this relationship didn’t form that deeply for me. It just felt a little rushed and I had a hard time seeing how with so little interaction that they could be so connected so quickly. Perhaps I just needed to suspend disbelief as it is a bit of a modern fairytale. As mentioned previously, it just felt like something was missing. I will have to say that it was a charming read and like I said had many things that I did enjoy. The ending is sweet and very romantic and I know that many readers will love it! I am a fan of Rachel Hauck’s writing and know that I will continue to read her in the future.
I received a complimentary digital copy of this book for review purposes. All opinions expressed are honest and my own.
Monday, May 6, 2013
As this novel progresses, of course we have Charlie meeting up with Lucy and there is an immediate attraction between the two. You might say sparks were flying. However once the pair discovered who their parents were, we go from sparks to full-fledged fireworks! As each person tries their hardest to a) not be attracted to the other and B) try and run the other out of business, things continue to heat up and the back and forth between the two as they try to outmaneuver the other gets pretty intense.
Overall, I would say that I liked this story; I do believe each character goes on their own personal journey and grows as a result which is always what we want our characters to do. Where I had a little trouble with this story is I felt that the hero of the story tended to be more likable than the heroine. That’s a little problematic for me as I always want to be rooting the girl on (sister power!). Honestly I felt that the business dealings with each other got a little too underhanded and their tactics a bit too much and went on a bit too long and as a result, I found it a little unbelievable that all of a sudden at the end Boom!, they magically reconcile. That being said, Charlie is a pretty charming “rogue turned good “character and I greatly enjoyed reading his portions. ( Note, the book alternated first person point of view between Charlie and Lucy, which I did find interesting.)
So again, overall a good Historical Fiction Romance filled with candy making, intense business dealings and a pretty lovable hero to round things out.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from Bethany House Publishers in exchange fro an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.
Tuesday, April 9, 2013
As Elin transitions from her Swedish roots to her new English life, she adopts the name of Helena with the mindset of embracing her new English life. It is rather lonely at first as she is treated by many around her as an outsider. But Helena in her efforts to please Queen Elizabeth uses her Swedish know-how to offer her comfort and help through Herbal fragrances and massage to help with the stress that a Queen carries. After some delay she is finally married to Lord Northampton which immediately elevates her to the Marchioness of Northampton which deems her the highest-ranking woman in Elizabeth’s circle. It’s a rather interesting circle to be a part of I’m afraid as it becomes confusing to find out who can be trusted as loyal to the crown and who cannot. There are Catholic enemies plotting everywhere and the intrigue of the court and the sundry goings on keeps one turning the pages!
As with every one of these Tudor books that Sandra Byrd has written, you can’t help but fall in love with the heroine and her plight there are challenges, a romance (or two) and all sorts of things that keep a Marchioness on her toes. Poor Helena endures much and is sometimes confused about whom she can trust amongst the court and who she cannot and even falls in and out of favor with Elizabeth a time or two, but that adds to the interest of the story. One aspect that I though was especially well done was showing just how attached Elizabeth became to her ladies of the court. They really were her family and so she loathed to part with any of them as it was like parting with her own family. As she was a virgin queen and decided to forego marriage in lieu of her commitment to ruling as the Sovereign of England it gave way to much loneliness on Elizabeth’s part. I thought that was well written and added much understanding to why Elizabeth did what she did. This story also covers the time frame of leading up to the beheading of Mary, Queen of Scots and the very difficult decision that was for Elizabeth.
And so to sum up, yes, I very much enjoyed this read, it was very well done and I think the crowing achievement for these three Tudor books that Sandra Byrd has written. This book was well researched and when good research meets a wonderful storyteller you get a truly wonderful historical fiction account of Queen Elizabeth as well as Helena von Snakenborg. Again as stated above this one goes down in the books as a favorite!
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.
Friday, March 15, 2013
As the novel opens we meet the 2 main characters Nolan Cook and Ellie Tucker living in Savannah, Georgia-. Two 15 year old best friends, on the verge of being something more, are torn apart by the broken relationship of Ellies’ parents Alan and Caroline. Because of this broken relationship, Alan takes Ellie away to San Diego to a new job and what he is hoping for is a new life away from his wife. That doesn’t go so well as when we try to run away, our troubles usually follow us. On the night before Ellie is whisked away from Nolan and her mother, Nolan and Ellie meet in the park, their usual place to go and talk and decide to write each other a letter telling each other how they really feel about one another and bury it in an old tackle box. The plan was to return in 11 years, dig up the box and read what the other person wrote. Neither one thought that they would be separated from each other for that time period. Even with Ellie’s move, they could write each other, call each other, etc. Unfortunately through some unforeseen circumstances, they were separated for that long, but still in the back of their minds was returning to that tree as promised all those years ago.
Their lives each took very different directions- Nolan’s in the world of professional basketball living out the dream he had had for himself for many, many years. And Ellie, her journey was the complete opposite- she didn’t reach the dreams that she had for herself, which included writing the perfect novel and being a part of Nolan’s life. His faith had grown, hers had shrunk. How could this work out?
This story, as most of Karen Kingsbury’s stories do, resonated with me. I love the second chance- the beauty from ashes story lines. They just always make me want to stand up and cheer. This one did as well. The heart string pull was pretty strong for me and I appreciated the journey this novel takes you on. When God is allowed in the middle of relationships, there is forgiveness, grace and restoration. And this is portrayed beautifully in several of the story lines. So if you feel like reading a novel that makes you stand up and cheer both at the basketball portions as well as the relationship journeys, I recommend you pick up Karen Kingsbury’s novel The Chance.
I was provided a complimentary copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.
Tuesday, March 5, 2013
The Tutor’s Daughter is Julie Klassen’s latest offering in the Regency Historical Fiction genre, a genre that she simply excels at. Verging on a gothic romance with her sweeping landscapes and mysterious moments of “things that go bump in the night”, she brings home a story full of secrets, romance and some pretty suspenseful scenes as well.
We see her main character Emma Woodhouse, who is extremely prim, proper and structured, show growth in this story as her faith grows and her relationships with others as well. She truly learns to let go of the control she desperately tries to hold onto and surrender her life to God’s control. This story is reminiscent of Jane Eyre as it takes place in a grand sweeping house named Ebbington Manor in Cornwall, England. There lives the Weston family- the older sons, Henry and Phillip Weston- former pupils of Emma’s father-, their father Sir Giles, their stepmother Lady Weston and half brothers Rowan and Julian. Add in Lizzie a ward of Lady Weston’s and you have a houseful of people that add to the mystery and suspense that unfolds at Ebbington Manor. Who of these people is sneaking in to Emma’s house late at night leaving mysterious messages in her room, stealing her journal and playing music downstairs in the wee hours of the night?
Julie Klassen crafts a fun, mysterious and lovely historical fiction novel in The Tutor’s daughter. She is quoted as saying that she loves “all things Jane”- I do too! So for those that love to see the influence of Jane Austen, “Jane Eyre” and some well researched history of Cornwall thrown in, placed in a faith based novel, I am sure that you will enjoy this journey to Ebbington Manor in the form of The Tutor’s daughter.
I was provided with a free copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.
Friday, February 8, 2013
Brave, passionate and fearless are three words that I would choose to describe both the author Tosca Lee and her new novel Iscariot, A Novel of Judas. I think it takes a true master and someone who is willing to take a major risk to write a novel like this. And take risks she did. But I think unequivocally the risk paid off as Iscariot is an amazing literary work that takes us on Judas’ journey with Jesus in a way that was so heartfelt and yes, heartbreaking, I mean, how can it not be? Personally I think it’s very tough to take a story where everyone knows the ending and the ending is not a good one, but still make it a compelling read. Tosca Lee does this so well and I really appreciated the journey and feel that everyone who reads this book will look at Judas a little differently.
Judas is portrayed as someone who was always searching- searching for a true messiah. And with much heartache and tragedy to show for this search, his story unravels in an intricately done way. He loses vastly important people to him, and his grief and guilt play a major role in shaping him as a man. His search for a messiah and search for love draw him to this person of Jesus. Along with Tosca’s portrayal of Judas, I loved how she wrote Jesus as well. His amazing love for his disciples and the people around him showed through beautifully, as well as the absolute desperation for why he came to us. I think the thing I most loved about this portrayal of Judas though, is the fact that he loved Jesus, but still even with that love there was his constant battle between what he grew up knowing as the law versus what he saw before him in the person of Jesus.
Another aspect of this novel that I found utterly compelling was Judas’ “fall”- so different from how I have ever pictured it, I think that most of us have just left Judas as a 2 dimensional character- “he’s the bad guy who betrayed Jesus”, but Tosca brings him alive and we can see him and understand him and empathize with him and yes, even see ourselves in him. He like so many of us was a man deceived and with that deception came ultimate destruction.
Finally, I would like to urge you to read the author’s note at the end of the book- it is fascinating to read Tosca’s journey as she wrote this book. I loved the questions that she wrestled with to bring this character of Judas to life; especially with regards to grace- are there no limits? Truly this last bit of the book puts a period at the end of the story, which is why I mention it- I always feel that if we get a further look into the heart of the author with regards to their work that it broadens our understanding. In the usual Tosca Lee style she brings beautiful prose to this book as well as an intense realness to the situations. I found it to be masterful, compelling storytelling and a story that I will remember for a long time.
I was given a complimentary copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.