Saturday, January 23, 2021

Julie Klassen A Castaway in Cornwall

...from the publisher...

Set adrift on the tides of fate by the deaths of her parents and left wanting answers, Laura Callaway now lives with her uncle and his disapproving wife in North Cornwall. There she feels like a castaway, always viewed as an outsider even as she yearns to belong.

While wreckers search for valuables along the windswept Cornwall coast--known for its many shipwrecks but few survivors--Laura searches for clues to the lives lost so she can write letters to next of kin and return keepsakes to rightful owners. When a man is washed ashore after a wreck, Laura acts quickly to protect him from a local smuggler determined to destroy him.

 As Laura and a neighbor care for the survivor, they discover he has curious wounds and, although he speaks in careful, educated English, his accent seems odd. Other clues wash ashore, and Laura soon realizes he is not who he seems to be. Despite the evidence against him, the mysterious man might provide her only chance to discover the truth about her parents' fate. With danger pursuing them from every side, and an unexpected attraction growing between them, will Laura ever find the answers she seeks? thoughts... 

 A Castaway in Cornwall is an intriguing story for the glimpse it gives us into another way of life in Cornwall.  The taking of plunder was so common, the residents of that coastline never considered the loss shipwrecked items were to the rightful owners.  A lost bible, a crate of rum, all for the taking and who would be the wiser.  It appeared to be a sport that gathered many to the shoreline in the hopes of finding something worthwhile.

For Laura, it was an altogether different thing.  She searched for life, and would be a healer for anyone who needed care.  I admired her spirit.  Wise beyond her years, she had an innate ability to see what others could not see.  She did discover treasures on the shore, but her treasure trove was stored until such time she could restore those treasured items to those rightful owners.  The arrival of the stranger, handsome and mysterious set the stage for a poignant love story that sets Laura onto a path that she was destined to take. 

The setting of this story is colorful and well described.  I would love to visit this area and the vast cliffs and stormy seas.  One could almost feel the storms and see the raging sea.  This is a book for those who enjoy historical fiction and a bit of adventure!

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

When Twilight Breaks Amazing Historical Fiction by Sarah Sundin

 ...from the publisher...

Munich, 1938. Evelyn Brand is an American foreign correspondent as determined to prove her worth in a male-dominated profession as she is to expose the growing tyranny in Nazi Germany. To do so, she must walk a thin line. If she offends the government, she could be

expelled from the country--or worse. If she fails to truthfully report on major stories, she'll never be able to give a voice to the oppressed--and wake up the folks back home.

In another part of the city, American graduate student Peter Lang is working on his PhD in German. Disillusioned with the chaos in the world due to the Great Depression, he is impressed with the prosperity and order of German society. But when the brutality of the regime hits close, he discovers a far better way to use his contacts within the Nazi party--to feed information to the shrewd reporter he can't get off his mind.

This electric standalone novel from fan-favorite Sarah Sundin puts you right at the intersection of pulse-pounding suspense and heart-stopping romance. thoughts...

I had a hard time putting When Twilight Breaks down.  From start to finish this book was a gripping story set just as Nazi Germany was about to pounce on the rest of the world.  Intrigue was at its highest and the pure hate deeply embedded within, showed its ugly head like a snake slithering into the very lives of the vulnerable.  Sarah Sundin has done it again with her standalone novel When Twilight Breaks.  Impeccable research with the gift of masterful writing, this reader was captivated by the story of Evelyn and Peter.

Unlikely as suitors, Peter and Evelyn are thrown into a whirlwind as danger escalates in Germany. Evelyn lived by a code she established as a woman correspondent trying to succeed in a world with doors open to men only.  She was highly motivated to get the best stories and was very aware of the danger posed in Munich in 1938.

Peter was engaged in groundbreaking work in language studies at the university while pursuing his PhD. He fit into society, and was immune to the threat posed by the Nazi regime.  After all, the overall country appeared to be doing so well since he visited as a youth. Nothing impeded his work and he enjoyed the freedoms he was accustomed to at home in America.  However, once his eyes were opened to what lay beneath the prosperous land, he and Evelyn embarked on quite a gripping journey together. It was full of suspense that kept me turning pages to see how far they could go to escape the clutches of those who wanted to stop them. 

What an amazing story.  I recommend this to all who enjoy historical fiction mixed with a bit of suspense and romance.  A five star book that is destined to become a bestseller. 

Monday, January 18, 2021

The Moonlight by Suzanne Woods Fisher is Wonderful and Inspiring

...from the publisher...

Haunted by her sister's mysterious disappearance, Lucy Wilson arrives in Rowan County, Kentucky, in the spring of 1911 to work for Cora Wilson Stewart, superintendent of education. When Cora sends Lucy into the hills to act as scribe for the mountain people, she is repelled by the primitive conditions and intellectual poverty she encounters. Few adults can read and write.

Born in those hills, Cora knows the plague of illiteracy. So does Brother Wyatt, a singing schoolmaster who travels through the hills. Involving Lucy and Wyatt, Cora hatches a plan to open the schoolhouses to adults on moonlit nights. The best way to combat poverty, she believes, is to eliminate illiteracy. But will the people come?

As Lucy emerges from a life in the shadows, she finds purpose; or maybe purpose finds her. With purpose comes answers to her questions, and something else she hadn't expected: love.

Inspired by the true events of the Moonlight Schools, this standalone novel from bestselling author Suzanne Woods Fisher brings to life the story that shocked the nation into taking adult literacy seriously. You'll finish the last page of this enthralling story with deep gratitude for the gift of reading.



I just finished reading Suzanne Woods Fisher's latest historical fiction novel The Moonlight School.  I enjoyed the book very much in many ways.  The historical aspect of one woman's mission to eradicate illiteracy in hills and hollers of Kentucky was phenomenal. It is incredible that Cora Wilson Stewart was able to rouse a culture to an action that improved the lives of so many.  Literacy changes a way of life forever.  

The story unfolds when a reluctant Lucy is sent to Rowan County Kentucky to become her aunt Cora's assistant.  Fresh out of finishing school, she had no idea she was in for the culture shock of her life.  Suzanne Woods Fisher is a master at character development, and the Moonlight School is a canvas of characters waiting to develop.  Lucy is just one example of a character who came to life between the pages and grew to become an amazing woman.  She is an inspiring fictional character who proved to be an able assistant to the real life Cora Wilson Stewart, by overcoming her city ways to see the wonderful people of the hollers with full lives and stories of their own.

I recommend The Moonlight School as one of the important good books for the year.  It is inspiring, uplifting and a joy to read.

Saturday, January 9, 2021

A Cowboy For Keeps Engaging Story With Delightful Characters

 ...from the publisher...

Greta Nilsson's trip west to save her ailing little sister, Astrid, could not have gone more wrong. First, bandits hold up her stagecoach, stealing all her money. Then, upon arriving in Fairplay, Colorado, she learns the man she was betrothed to as a mail-order bride has died.

Homeless, penniless, and jobless, Greta and her sister are worse off than when they started.

Wyatt McQuaid is struggling to get his new ranch up and running and is in town to purchase cattle when the mayor proposes the most unlikely of bargains. He'll invest in a herd of cattle for Wyatt's ranch if Wyatt agrees to help the town become more respectable by marrying and starting a family. And the mayor, who has promised to try to help Greta, has just the candidate in mind for Wyatt to marry. thoughts...

Digging into Jody Hedlund's A Cowboy for Keeps was an easy prospect for me.  I enjoy her books and was curious to start her new Colorado Cowboys series. It wasn't long before I found myself fully engaged in the story.  Marriages of convenience are a popular topics and sometimes dismissed as lightweight fiction.  Not so when you dig deeper.  These men and women endured a hard life and their rewards were very different than what we expect for ourselves today. I enjoy reading these stories because they remind me that this was how many parts of our country were settled into communities.  Communities with families, schools and churches became the fabric of life for the men and women who had the gumption to work hard and build homes on their ranches or farmed their land.

Greta was a courageous young woman for leaving her home behind to forge a new life in an unknown territory to marry a perfect stranger.  A stranger who promised to also support her ailing little sister Astrid, whose life depended on this move.

Watt hadn't planned to saddle himself with a wife, but the mayor's proposition to help him increase his herd was too good to overlook.  The conditions of the deal were another story, but he had plenty of time to meet the requirements so he agreed.  Time, though, is a funny thing as it slips by day by day until finally something has to happen and it all happened as predicted.  Yes, this story was predictable but I didn't mind because the characters were likable and the author wove the tale together in a unique way. 

The location was also a character in this story with descriptions that are picturesque and engaging.  I don't  think Greta could  have found her new home in a better place. It seemed to have it all with plenty of hills, plains and of course, hot springs. I think this is one of those books that would appeal to any reader who enjoys good, clean historical fiction.  I am already looking forward to the second book in this series.

Sunday, December 27, 2020

Reviewing: The Right Kind of Fool by Sarah Loudin Thomas

...from the publisher...

 Thirteen-year-old Loyal Raines is supposed to stay close to home on a hot summer day in 1934. When he slips away for a quick swim in the river and finds a dead body, he wishes he'd obeyed his mother. The ripples caused by his discovery will impact the town of Beverly, West Virginia, in ways no one could have imagined.

The first person those ripples disturb is Loyal's absentee father. When Creed Raines realized his infant son was deaf, he headed for the hills, returning only to help meet his family's basic needs. But when Loyal, now a young teen, stumbles upon a murder it's his father he runs to tell--shaping the words with his hands. As Creed is pulled into the investigation he discovers that what sets his son apart isn't his inability to hear but rather his courage. Longing to reclaim the life he abandoned, Creed will have to do more than help solve a murder if he wants to win his family's hearts again. thoughts...

Sarah Loudin Thomas' The Right Kind of Fool took me right to that hot day in Beverly, West Virginia in 1934. I could feel the heat and desire to shed my shoes and dip my feet in that cool water with Loyal Raines, a young deaf teenager by my side.  He was exploring that delicious feeling we all feel when we are 14 and escaping the strictures of rules that keep us indoors when we just know we should be out having fun.  Only Loyal got more than he bargained for.  

True to her fashion of hooking the reader into her pages, this author had me reading once more into the wee hours of the night. I can't recall any book written by Sarah Loudin Thomas that didn't intrigue me from the start.  Loyal is a formidable hero who is bright for his age, able to see things many overlook and with the knack of remembering what is laid out before him.  He stumbled upon a murder, saw things that could or could not be true and the fact that he was deaf had a profound impact on all that unfolded.  I particularly liked reading his thought process throughout the book. Whether he reasoned through the clues about the murder, his parents relationship. his desire for friendships or to prove himself to his father, he was wise beyond his years.

This story is definitely a murder mystery, and it is a good one.  It is also much more.  It is about pulling people together by one young man who, when finally allowed, touches the lives of his community.  His courage is inspiring and his love is a gift.  The events of the story are almost secondary to the master weaving of a family back together.  This is an inspiring story of hope, set in a time when deaf children were not seen for their precious worth. They were different and often overlooked.  Loyal was not going to be overlooked.  Things are much improved these days, yet all of the modern conveniences pale in comparison to seeing the smiles of a group of children playing where one of them just happens to be deaf. Many thanks to #BethanyHouse and #NetGalley for the opportunity to read this wonderful book in exchange for an honest review.  The opinions are mine.

Saturday, December 26, 2020

Reviewing: The Sowing Season by Katie Powner

...from the publisher...

After he's forced to sell the family farm he's labored on his whole life, 63-year-old Gerrit Laninga doesn't know what to do with himself. He sacrificed everything for the land--his time, his health, his family--with nothing to show for it but bitterness, regret, and two grown children who want nothing to do with him.

Fifteen-year-old Rae Walters has growing doubts and fears about The Plan--the detailed blueprint for high school that will help her follow in her lawyer father's footsteps. She's always been committed to The Plan, but now that the pressure to succeed is building, what was supposed to unite her family in purpose, may end up tearing it apart.

When their paths cross just as they each need a friend the most, Gerrit's and Rae's lives begin to change in unexpected ways. Can they discover together what really matters in life and learn it's never too late for a second chance? thoughts... 

I didn't know what to expect the first time I opened the pages to The Sowing Season.  Inside was a surprise that filled me each time I turned a page to see what was happening to Gerrit and Rae.  I felt torn between laughter and compassion for Gerrit. After selling a farm that totally consumed his life, he was confronted with time; time to see what he missed all the days and nights while he worked a farm that, in the end, provided nothing meaningful in his life. Except memories.

Rae was the perfect daughter. She had a bright disposition, was number one in her class and volunteered in all the right places in order to check off the boxes on her long list of "must-do's" to secure her a spot at Columbia University.  She was so perfect she wasn't really enjoying life.

It is amazing that Rae and Gerrit found each other. It was even more amazing that they became friends.  He could have been her grandfather. She could have been the daughter who gave up on him when he was too busy working on the family farm.  Yet, he saw the real Rae.  She saw a man who was waiting to change.

I enjoyed this book and recommend it for those who enjoy a good story.  I recommend it all the more for young and old alike as it bridges what people of a certain age used to call the "generation gap". It appeals because the characters are so human.  Reading The Sowing Season was my introduction to Katie Powner's work and I look forward to more in the future. 

Thursday, December 10, 2020

Just In Time: The Fruitcake Challenge Now Available in Audiobook Format!

...from the publisher...
When new lumberjack Tom Jeffries tells the camp cook, Jo Christy, that he’ll marry her if she can make a fruitcake “as good as the one my mother makes”, she rises to the occasion. After all, he’s the handsomest, smartest, and strongest axman her camp-boss father has ever had

in his camp - and the cockiest. And she intends to bring this lumberjack down a notch or three by refusing his proposal. The fruitcake wars are on! All the shanty boys and Jo’s cooking helpers chip in with their recipes, but Jo finds she’ll have to enlist more help - and begins corresponding with Tom’s mother. 

Step back in time to 1890, in beautiful Northern Michigan, near the sapphire straits of Mackinac, when the white pines were “white gold” and lumber camps were a way of life. Jo is ready to find another life outside of the camps and plans that don’t include any shanty boys. But will a lumberjack keep her in the very place she’s sworn to leave? thoughts...

 I enjoy reading historical fiction and stumbled upon the Lumberjack Ball by Carrie Fancett Pagels several years ago.  I have enjoyed several of her other books, mainly set in the late 1800's in Michigan. When the opportunity from the author to read The Fruitcake Challenge in audiobook format I jumped at the chance. Audiobooks are not a replacement for the written word for me, but an addition to print copies.

The Fruitcake Challenge is the first book in the Christy Lumberjack Series.  Imagine being a woman living in a camp full of lonely lumberjacks. Women are scarce and you are likely to be proposed to on a regular basis.  Lucky for Jo, our heroine, she has two burly, protective brothers. No man would dare to bother Jo, until Tom Jeffries.  Confident, good looking and full of himself, his first impression on Jo was anything but impressive.  Until he issues his fruitcake challenge, that is.  Still grieving at the recent loss of her mother, she is weary of the camp, the men and would love nothing better than her independence. I enjoyed the banter between Jo and Tom in the kitchen with the other cooks.  I felt like I could have sat down on a bench and had a cup of coffee and fruitcake with everyone.

This audiobook is narrated by Virginia Gray.  She did a nice job on both women and men characters, not an easy task. I hope to listen to more books narrated by her in the future.  

Novellas are quick but shouldn't be overlooked.  This one is entertaining, and with the fruitcake theme, it reminded me of my own mother making her grandmother's fruitcake every year for Christmas. 



Thursday, December 3, 2020

A Haven for Her Heart

 ...from the publisher...

Homeless after being released from a women's reformatory in 1939Toronto, Olivia Rosetti is taken in by an angel of mercy, Ruth Bennington. The two discover they share a painful past and together decide to open a maternity home for troubled women.

Despite the success of the home, Olivia is haunted by her inhumane treatment at the reformatory and the way her newborn son was taken from her. She feels undeserving of love--until she meets businessman Darius Reed. Although his attention makes her heart soar, he can never learn of her past.

Greek widower Darius Reed is determined to protect his daughter from the prejudice that killed her mother. He'll ensure her future by marrying a woman from a respected Toronto family. But when Darius meets Olivia, he's immediately drawn to her beauty and compassion.  

Can love prove stronger than prejudice and past mistakes? Or will Olivia's secrets destroy any chance at a future together? thoughts....

A Haven for Her Heart is a story that will touch your heart.  Set in 1939, it broaches the subject of women who found themselves in trouble with no place to go.  Canada was in the throes of World War II and sending its young men to serve across the Atlantic.   Olivia Rosetti gave more than her heart to her fiancee and it had devastating effects on her life.  He was killed in battle and she found herself pregnant, alone and unmarried.  Today, society doesn't have the same stigma as it did in a time when women in her situation could be arrested and suffer the treatment Olivia experienced.

Alone, forlorn after the birth of her son, she found herself seeking shelter in the church where she met Ruth. Ruth opened new doors and together they were an inspirational team.  I enjoyed this book, not only for the well written story but also for the well developed characters who emerged resilient and strong.  Thank you #Bethanyhouse and #netgalley for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review. 

Reviewing: Depending On You by Melissa Jagears

 ...from the publisher...

Can the joy and hope of Christmas restore their love before it’s too late?

Leah Whitsett’s life was ideal until the disastrous day she nearly died because of her husband’s deceit. When he returns home weeks

before Christmas, she knows the best gift she can give him is forgiveness, but how can she relinquish her hard-won independence knowing he plans to turn their family’s life upside down again?

Bryant has always known his wife was a gift he’d never deserved, but how can he provide for her in a town that no longer wants anything to do with him? He longs to atone for the misery he’s put his loved ones through, but when he brings a family member home for the holidays, he and Leah may end up even further apart.

With emotions high and their marriage at stake, will the season bring the hope they need…or are their rifts too large to mend? thoughts...

Depending On You by Melissa Jagears is a story of forgiveness and second chances. This is book 3 in Melissa's Frontier Vows series, and I was happy to learn that Leah's story was about to be told.  Left for dead by some hired men exacting payment for her husband's dastardly deeds, I wondered what would become of her.  She had always been a devoted wife and mother and clearly didn't receive any of what she experienced for her husband's cowardly deeds.  Now, her husband Bryant is released from prison only to find Leah distant and not ready to welcome him home with open arms.  

She lost everything because of him.  Now running the local laundry, she has had to start from scratch, something Bryant would have to do too, only he has the added stigma of being an ex-convict and hard to hire. Bryant was humbled, and willing to work at any job to start over in a town that has a long memory when it comes to trusting an untrustworthy man.

Leah was not sure she would ever allow him into her heart again, but she allowed that he was a loving father.  Witnessing her daughter's marital struggles, Leah was touched by the ways Bryant's fatherly influence guided his daughters.  I could write on about the story line, but why spoil a good book for new readers?  I recommend this book to all who enjoy Melissa Jagear's books and hopefully to those who are looking for a good story that takes you back to frontier days.  While this book could stand alone, I recommend reading Romancing the Bride, book one, and Pretending to Wed. This is a good series and I like how Melissa tied everything together, happy endings in all.


Tuesday, December 1, 2020

The Dress Shop on King Street

...from the publisher...

Harper Dupree has pinned all her hopes on a future in fashion design. But when it comes crashing down around her, she returns home to Fairhope, Alabama, and to Millie, the woman who first taught her how to sew. As Harper rethinks her own future, long-hidden secrets about Millie's past are brought to light.

In 1946, Millie Middleton--the daughter of an Italian man and a Black woman--boarded a train and left Charleston to keep half of her heritage hidden. She carried with her two heirloom buttons and the dream of owning a dress store. She never expected to meet a charming train jumper who changed her life forever . . . and led her yet again to a heartbreaking choice about which heritage would define her future.

Now, together, Harper and Millie return to Charleston to find the man who may hold the answers they seek . . . and a chance at the dress shop they've both dreamed of. But it's not until all appears lost that they see the unexpected ways to mend what frayed between the seams. thoughts...

 The Dress shop on King Street is Millie's journey back to those early days when life seemed to be full of dreams of owning her own dress shop. An excellent seamstress, she longed to create beautiful fashions in her own shop. Fate and circumstances changed her life forever when she left Charleston for Fairhope Alabama.  Along the way, she met her wonderful husband and began a life that may have seemed temporary at first, just until she was able to open that dress shop.  Then, after the birth of her daughters, she begins to straddle two worlds. As the story unfolds, so to does a mystery of Millie's true identity and links to a past that she was finally ready to rediscover.  

Millie is a wonderful character and this reader wanted to learn more about her.  Ashley Clark has captured the spirit of a woman who led a very private life because of the circumstances of her birth. Mysterious and beautiful, accomplished and shy. She held secrets in her heart, yet her husband loved her for who she truly was.  Her signature red hat was her trademark companion over decades that brought love, pain and changes in a world that was very different than that day in 1946 when she was looking into that dress shop on King street. I enjoyed reading this book and thank #BethanyHouse and #netgalley for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.