Thursday, September 28, 2017

Reviewing: The Christmas Blessing: An Uplifting Book by Melody Carlson

If you are looking for a book to lift your spirits, The Christmas Blessing by Melody  Carlson is for you.  I was caught between the pages from the beginning and read it straight through. 

 It is close to Thanksgiving in 1944 and Amelia Richards is determined to take her infant son James to meet his grandparents for the first time.  The only problem is, they don't know about her or little Jimmy.  She met James, a handsome Navy pilot and they enjoyed a whirlwind wartime romance.  They had a license and were set to marry but just the day before the wedding, the Navy called him back to duty.  A duty that would lead to his plane being shot down over the Pacific.

Amelia and little Jimmy embark on journey by train from San Diego to Rockford Montana.  Down on her luck, she makes a decision that will change their lives for good.  She finds a resilience and strength that she never knew she possessed.  Montana is very different than San Diego and all too soon Amelia  learns that she is alone and broke.  I found her courage and determination to do the best for Jimmy very admirable.

Melody Carlson captures the human spirit so well. Each year I look forward to her annual Christmas book.  I recommend The Christmas Blessing wholeheartedly and hope you will pick up a copy at your favorite bookseller.  This book has found a spot with my Christmas Collection and will be read again as the season draws near each year.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Bygone Christmas Brides - Seasoned Tales for Today

Product Details Bygone Christmas Brides, set in days gone by, is written by six authors sharing a bit of Christmas romance. Written by Ginny Aiken, Carla Gade, Pamela Griffin, Tamela Hancock Murray, Jill Stengl and Gina Welborn, these novellas will warm your hearts and spread a little welcome cheer as the summer wanes and darker evenings beckon.

I enjoyed these stories, richly woven with tradition and the hope for love.  Love at Christmas seems all the more poignant when the dreams of the young are often closer to the heart.  Each bride carefully considered her groom, whether he knew he was being considered or not.

Lost and Found by Ginny  Aiken A young woman vows to remain single rather than marry the wonderful man she loves.  the only problems is: he works at the mine. She is the daughter of an 1870's Welsh mine owner who will not suffer the loss of one more person she loves to that mine.

'Tis the Season by Carla Gade  This story is set in Schooley's Mountain, New Jersey.  The doctor's daughter met a carpenter who rescued her after her horse got spooked and tipped her carriage. She kissed him soundly afterward, an untoward action by a young lady of 1820, especially one committed to remain single to care for her aging father.  Time, it seems would find a solution to a life without her handsome young man.

I Saw Three Ships by Pamela Griffin tells the story of the love between Malcolm Sinclair and Rachel MacIvor.  Set in Scotland in the middle of the 19th century, theirs is a love that formed as children and was torn apart when he was forced to leave unannounced for university.  Now, he is the new Laird and must win back the love of the fiercely independent woman who wants no part of him or the rich life he can offer her.

Colleen of Erin by Tamela Hancock Murray  Finn Donohue, owner of the largest mercantile in Dublin, has long admired Colleen Sullivan from afar.  He'll eagerly order whatever she needs or wants, knowing it will bring her once again to his store.  He has worked hard to overcome hardships he and his mother bore when his father long ago left him.  His bitterness lingers and his hard heart is the one thing that stands between the kind and gentle spirit Colleen possesses.  As they spend time together, events occur that causes her to wonder if he can possibly change. It is a Christma visitor who opens the young man's eyes to the truth of his spirit.

A Right and Proper Christmas  by Jill Stengl  A weary soldier returning from battle finds himself in the rector's home of a small town church.  What he finds is incomparable love and service from a truly christian home.  I found this novella inspiring for the unconditional love for mankind.

Mercy Mild by Gina Welborn What better tribute to the Christmas spirit than a story of an orphan finding a new home with loving parents? Try a woman afraid to love a man because of the promise that love could bring a child to her unwilling arms.  I enjoyed this story for the hope and change anyone can receive in their life with a little faith and push from those who truly love.

Short though they are, novellas can give us a glimpse into a person's character more readily than a full book that needs to include a broader range of characters and events.  If I like a novella I often hope it is the introduction of a new series being written by the author.

For the season, we are often so busy preparing for Christmas that we may not want to contemplate reading a full book.  This collection is inspiring and sure to put a little extra spirit in your heart.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Dare To Spend 12 Days at Bleakly Manor

If you enjoy Charles Dickens and Agatha Christie, then 12 Days at Bleakly Manor by Michelle Griep is a book you want to savor by the fire.  Great hosts can entice nearly anyone to a fine mansion for the holidays. In true bleak form, however, this is one place you may not want the carriage to stop.  On December 24th, 1850, invitations were delivered to a select few who would spend the holidays at the stately Victorian manor.  
12 Days at Bleakly Manor: Book 1 in Once Upon a Dickens Christmas by [Griep, Michelle]
For Clara Chapman, a young woman reduced to poor circumstances after being left at the altar on her wedding day, the surprising invitation is quite puzzling for it said:

"The Twelve Days of Christmas 
As never's been reveled
Your presence, Miss Chapman, is respectfully herald.
Bleakly Manor's the place 
And after twelve nights
Five hundred pounds
Will be yours by rights."

There would be no question she would go though she hated to leave the aunt she lovingly cared for.  Go she did and what she found would change her life forever.

Benjamin Lane, betrayed and marked with a prison tattoo languished in his cell, angry at the unknown person who stole his life, took his fortune and turned his only love against him. He too received an invitation to the manor but his invitation gave him no choice but to attend.  Attend the twelve days at Bleakly and he may get his freedom.  Escape from Bleakly and he would love his life.

All who gathered at Bleakly were led there for a purpose. All sought the reward offered if they could but stay the twelve nights.  Each day grew bleaker, however and death was not a stranger as mysterious events turned up and the guests numbers dwindled.

As fate would have it, Clara and Benjamin had met before. She was his love, the one he lost through betrayal. He was the man who left her alone at the church humiliated. A humiliation that was heightened by the ruin of her family's business and fortune through embezzlement by the same man she trusted and loved.

Who will remain and win the prize?  If you seek the answer, read the book!  A delicious plot complete with the Dickens flavor of Victorian England.  Charles Dickens, my favorite author of all time, was a champion of the poor and mistreated.  Agatha Christie would have loved the intrigue of the stately manor and absent host.  I enjoyed the opportunity to read this book for review from NetGalley and Barbour Publishing.  I recommend this book as one you will read this season and in seasons to come!

Friday, September 8, 2017

Beloved Christmas Quilt A Tale Lovingly Written by Wanda Brunstetter, Jean Brunstetter and Richelle Brunstetter.

Product DetailsThe Beloved Christmas Quilt is a three generational story written, appropriately by three generations of Brunstetter women: Wanda, Jean and Richelle.  Neatly tucked into the story is a beautiful quilt that will bring comfort to three generations of women in the Zook family.  The quilt bears a label lovingly embroidered  by Dena Zook's mother with the words "For thou art my rock and my fortress; therefore for thy name's sake lead me, and guide me."  Psalm 31:3    

 Luella's story is written by celebrated author Wanda Brunstetter. Luella is a sweet, unselfish young woman who is the caregiver for Dena, who is dying from  heart disease.  True to her unselfish nature she strives to provide loving care to Dena's son Daryl while keeping up with all the meals and household tasks.  One day, Dena gives Luella a beautiful heirloom quilt, made by her mother.  Dena intended to lovingly pass it along to her own daughter one day.  She sees something special in Luella's heart and gives the quilt to her with the promise that she will continue to dare for Daryl and Atlee after she is gone.

 After Dena passes, Luella continues to care for Daryl as promised. As her love for the child grows, she begins to have feelings for Atlee.  Although she is being pursued by Eugene Lapp, she realizes she is in love with Atlee, Daryl's father who is sixteen years her senior.  The age difference seems insurmountable and Luella's parents are at odds to accept Atlee as a suitable husband for their daughter.  Does a heart recognize age as an obstacle?

Karen's story, written by Jean Brunstetter, is one that could resonate with any young wife and mother who has moved with her husband far from the family farm.  Karen is lost without her parents nearby. She goes through the daily motions of caring for her young family but can't help but feel her life would be so much better if she could convince Seth to move back home to be closer to family.

Seth, working through his own stress on the job feels the added pressure of Karen's unhappiness.  His job provides a better income for his family than he could earn back home. Karen and Seth face what seems to be insurmountable differences.  As she holds the Beloved Christmas Quilt close, she discovers the verse on the label and it provides her with comfort. Can she take heart in the verse as her mother did before her?

Roseanna's story is written by newcomer Richelle Brunstetter, Jean's daughter and Wanda's granddaughter. Roseanna's story is that of a young woman who is left standing alone at her wedding by her beloved John. Her mother, Karen, wants to pass along the quilt to Roseanna, believing that it could provide a special comfort to her.  Roseanna, knowing the history of the quilt, doesn't feel worthy of the quilt since John didn't marry her.

After weeks of staying home, she finally goes to town and runs into Mark, who recently moved back to town.  The attention he gives her is a welcome change after John's rejection.  After staying with his aunt and uncle to think through his actions, John returned. He tried to explain what prompted him to leave but Roseanna refused to hear him out.  But when a tragedy strikes her family will the dashing suitor or the man who truly knows her heart truly be there at her side?  Once more the quilt provides comfort that so long ago was stitched into each layer.

Like constant character in the story, a quilt that was a labor of love touched the lives of all who owned. I wonder how many of us have a treasured gift that was passed down through generation. The Beloved Christmas Quilt is a heartwarming book that will make a wonderful addition for your Christmas reading list!


Sunday, August 20, 2017

Reviewing: Any Dream Will Do by Debbie Macomber

Any Dream Will Do: A Novel by [Macomber, Debbie]Shay Benson stepped off the bus in downtown Seattle and realized that she was on her own.  She had a little money but nowhere to go. No family, no home.  Just released from Purdy Corrections Center, the real world was staring her in the face and it was overwhelming. And cold! Without thinking she walked into a church near the bus stop.  Of all the unlikely places to go she found herself in a church and found herself asking God, "You got anything for me?"

As in answer, a man looked over his shoulder and Shay realized she was not so alone after all.  Pastor Drew Douglas was deep in his own prayer as one who felt he was at his wits end.  His wife died from cancer, his church attendance was down and he could use some help with his two children.  Even after three years he couldn't seem to get on with things without her.

This quiet meeting between Shay and Drew sets the tone for a wonderful story of faith, courage, second chances and love.

Any Dream Will Do is the latest novel from beloved author Debbie Macomber. Written with well developed characters, the book is full of hope for those who seem to have lost their hope.  Shay has faced trouble since the death of her mother.  Her father was bitter and abusive and she was responsible for her younger brother Caden.  When she is seduced by the promise of love and escape from her father by her boyfriend Shooter, she finds instead an uglier world with a dangerous gang leader. Her brother is also drawn into this lifestyle and her story begins to spiral out of control.  The love she has for her brother leads her to embezzle money to ward off gang members greedy for him to repay a loan.  Off to prison she went without another word from Caden.

Drew was startled from his prayers by Shay and immediately rose to help her.  With his help she was able to enter Hope Center, a program that was designed for women who needed a second chance. The program had strict guidelines but she worked hard, graduated from the program and was ready for her new life with a new job and a new home.

Shay was grateful to Drew for seeing her as she could be, not as the woman who served time in a prison.  Her life was not easy yet it was better than she could remember. She found her faith and it stood her in good stead when troubles came her way. Life doesn't always prepare you for those times when your past encroaches like an unwelcome guest.  With Drew's help she finds her way.

Drew had faith in Shay and when things threatened to hurt her he was at her side.  As her past came to light to more members of the congregation, doubt reared its head.  Shay's resilience was admirable.  This is a well written story for anyone who has ever doubted their own courage to dream for a better situation in life.  It is uplifting and enjoyable.  When asked what her dreams were, Shay couldn't answer. She was told, "Any dream will do."  These four words were used more than once and were such an encouraging theme.  Many thanks to NetGalley and Ballantine books for the opportunity to review this book.


Friday, August 18, 2017

Reviewing: Heart On The Line By Karen Witemeyer

It's late autumn and Grace Mallory has been in hiding for nearly a year.  She holds the secret her father carried before he was gunned down before her eyes on the streets of Denver.  Greed is at the heart of the  matter when a mine owner learns his fortune is at stake. Heart On The Line by Karen Witemeyer is set in 1894 in the old west, making it a good book to sit back and enjoy with a nice cup of tea.

Heart on the Line (Ladies of Harper's Station Book #2) by [Witemeyer, Karen]Our heroine is a telegraph operator who has been "on the line" after hours with one Amos Bledsoe forming an innocent, yet warm friendship.  One night as they were "chatting", their discussion is interrupted by an urgent telegraph message that Grace's whereabouts have been discovered. She enlists help from the local lawman but help comes from another surprising source. Amos "overheard" the coded message and swiftly moved everything to catch a train then rent a stubborn mule to come to her aid.  What followed is a tale that has the flavor of the late 19th century, colorful for its innovations.

I liked the book for the sense of adventure; a young woman in hiding, rescued by an unlikely hero.  Amos was a mild mannered, bespectacled man who lived with his mother. A telegrapher by trade his preferred method of transportation was a velocipede. Amos made no secret he would rather ride a bicycle than a horse and this caused enough curiosity among the town that added fun to the story.

For every wonderful young man with a good heart there is a handsome rake that can turn women to putty in his hands.  This man was wearing the badge of a Pinkerton; one who seemingly searched long and hard for Grace.  Under the guise of protection, he assured her he was sent to personally carry out what her father intended to do before he was shot.  Justice would be served.

The man who killed her father is not one to letting sleeping dogs lie.  Although he didn't personally pull the trigger, Chaucer Haversham had men on his payroll who would do anything to keep the man's fortune from slipping to a long thought dead sister. Deception and relentless determination tested Grace's resolve.

In the end, I think one should pick up a copy of Heart On The Line to solve the mystery and see who wins the heart of Grace Mallory. From the bicycles to the parallel of chatting on the wire to online chatting I think the author brought 1894 up to speed with 2017.

Many thanks to Bethany House for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Reviewing: Amish Cooking Class - The Blessing


Amish Cooking Class - The Blessing by [Brunstetter, Wanda E.]
What better way for a woman to share her love of cooking than by teaching others.  Heidi Troyer was a wonderful cook who decided to invite people into her home for cooking lessons. Her Aunt Emma was a master quilter and to help conquer her loneliness as a widow she started teaching others to quilt.  Heidi knew that Emma got much more in return from her students than just seeing their completed projects.  So, Heidi, in turn, prayed that by giving simple cooking lessons she could bless others while adding purpose to her own life.  Her first classes were successful so she planned to teach another series of lessons.

She and her husband Lyle have been married nearly nine years yet remain childless.  After years of longing for a child, they are looking forward to adopting a baby.  As things happen in life, the best laid plans don’t always come to fruition. Disappointed and hurt, Heidi buoyed herself with her deep faith and strength of character to overcome the sadness after learning the adoption fell through.  With Lyle’s encouragement, she went ahead with her plans teach another series of classes.  The first day of class brought an unexpected mix of eager students.  From the lonely wife of a policeman to a teen struggling to fill the shoes of the mother who walked out on the family, Heidi welcomes them all to her home.  Even her mailman smelled the delightful aromas and wanted to join in. Women and a few men who wanted to prepare tasty meals unwittingly found so much more in the Troyer's kitchen.  
Each week as Heidi wrote out the weekly recipe for the class she tucked a verse of scripture on the back of t.  Devout in her faith, she prayed that someone among the group would read and need that verse before the next class.  Oftentimes, the students would gather and share how uncannily a verse resonated and hit home.  

In her simple yet faithful way, Heidi made an impact on those who took her class.  I read the first book in the series, Amish Cooking Class - where it all began when one woman decided to step out in a leap of faith to make a difference.  I enjoyed the quiet way she listened, taught and prayed for her students.  So much more was going on than mixing, baking and preparing food.  A ragtag group of unlikely people came together as strangers and came away as friends.  Each one with their own story.

I invite you to see your yourself by picking up this wonderful book.  I was pleased to read the Amish Cooking Class - The Blessing,  by Wanda Brunstetter for review for an unbiased review.  


Sunday, August 6, 2017

Sunday Review: Chasing Secrets by Lynette Eason

Chasing Secrets (Elite Guardians Book #4) by [Eason, Lynette]
Have you ever felt like you were right there in the midst of the story? Award winning author Lynette Eason is one of those writers who can draw the reader into the pages.  Chasing Secrets, fourth book of the Elite Guardian series is one of those books that will take you on a suspenseful ride page after page. 

Haley Callaghan, an Elite Guardian bodyguard finds herself in the middle of  a cold case tracing back to her roots in Ireland.  Bits and pieces of her childhood unfold as she finds herself in the middle of a deadly plot and she is the target. Drawing on all her resources, she intends to find whoever is at the center of this intrigue and why.

Detective Steven Rothwell is not going to sit idly by and let her take this on her own. Even though Haley is a force to be reckoned with on her own, there is a deadly force encroaching on her. There are too many close calls in this case, endangering her life and the lives of people she swore to protect.

In true Eason style, she wraps this puzzle into a neat package of suspense, mystery and romance. If you enjoy suspenseful novels this is a book you'll want to add to your collection. 

Friday, July 21, 2017

Reviewing: Home All Along

Home All Along (An Amish Secrets Novel) by [Wiseman, Beth]
Home All Along ,Book 3 in the Amish Secret Series  by Beth Wiseman is not your typical novel about an Englisher living among the Amish. Charlotte has made a home for herself in her late brother Ethan's house.  It is quite a change from her first visit, posing as an Amish woman searching for answers about Ethan's death.

Life has had far too many ups and downs for such a young woman.
As a child she and Ethan lived in foster homes with time off to be returned home now and then when their parents were released from rehab or jail.  And now, she just wants to live quietly, join the church and marry Daniel.   The past, however, has a way of stirring things up. For Charlotte, the past included a sister she hadn't thought of for a very long time.  As a baby, Charlotte's sister Andrea was also placed in foster care but never saw her family again. Until, that is, when she tracked Charlotte down at their mother's funeral. It didn't take long for her to get herself moved in with Charlotte, along with her baby.  For Charlotte, having her family near was a blessing and she was determined to make them a home together.

In the beginning, it seems the book is about Charlotte and Daniel's love for each other.  It is more than that, however, as three families grapple with love, death, illness and how difficult it is to understand God's will under the modern marvels of medicine.  The questions Beth Wiseman raises in this novel are complex. I liked how the decisions were made. Sometimes we need someone to nearly hit us with a two by four to wake us up about putting others needs before our desires.

Daniel family struggles with major family decisions.  He loves Charlotte but is pulling away from her. Charlotte's beloved friend and motherly mentor Lena faces yet another bout of breast cancer. Andrea is slowly learning from Charlotte's love that life can be different.  So many trials are faced in this book yet through it all. Is there enough faith and love for Charlotte and her Daniel to marry?  This book is for readers who are looking for characters who are resilient and not willing to give up when life gets hard.  Once again, Beth Wiseman has delivered!

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Reviewing: A Letter from Lancaster County

Second chances don't come along often and if we miss them, regret can linger like moss on the roof. Always lurking above as a reminder.  A letter written
A Letter from Lancaster County (Lancaster Discoveries Book 1) by [Lloyd, Kate]with hope to repair the past brings two sisters to Lancaster County to visit their mother's sister. Their memories of Aunt Sylvia are barely visible yet something stirs Angela's heart to make the journey with her sister Rose.  Memories of their mother linger within the walls of  Sylvia's home. This is the home where their  grandparents lived and raised their family.  

Within the coves of A Letter from Lancaster County, Kate Lloyd skillfully writes of the journey begun with duty and spite. Angela and Rose grew up in the same house yet are worlds apart. Angela is married to a successful attorney and her two children are of a certain age where they no longer need their doting mother managing their busy schedules.  Rose is single, owns her own business and pinches pennies.  

The simplicity of Sylvia's life seems to be at the center of the story, yet the author wrote the story from the perspective of Rose and Angela. Chapter by chapter, the events of this short trip to Lancaster County unfold through the eyes of each woman.  Their lives seem to parallel the lives of their aunt and their mother. 

Sylvia's health is failing and the letter she wrote to her nieces was written with fervent hope to repair past tensions she had with her own sister. She is a delightful woman and it is through her quiet wisdom that she lets her nieces alone to discover what she had lost with her own sister.  The past is a good teacher and regret can lead to bitterness.  

Finding a photograph with their mother and Sylvia triggers a change that opens their hearts stirring a change within Angela and Rose.  It is as though they were awakened to how they could change their lives to what was meant to be. We are rarely granted a glimpse into the lives of our mothers as young women.  We think of them as mother, not a young woman who had dreams.  Angela and Rose came to visit their aunt out of duty.  They would choose a memento from the family home and go back to their lives in Seattle.  Or would they?  

As I read this book I thought of how life can be so different for people who were raised the same within the walls of the same home.  One daughter does exactly what is expected and the other is bent on carving her niche in her own way.  One can't help but wonder what causes this and yet for my own part, I had five brothers and five sisters growing up.  It amazes me how we can each remember an event so differently.

As I read the book I was taken in by both Rose and Angela. I felt I was with them on this journey, a reminder of trips I have taken with my own sisters.  This is a book worth adding to your collection. The simplicity of Sylvia's life and how she quietly accepts her nieces, each for who she is is wonderful!  



Saturday, July 8, 2017

Reviewing: Gladden the Heart by Olivia Newport

Gladden the Heart (Amish Turns of Time Book 5) by [Newport, Olivia]Gladden the Heart  by Olivia Newport, gives us a glimpse of the revivalism movement in America in 1847.  When our story begins, Susanna Hooley is gathering roots and wildflowers to create dyes for fabric.  In the clearing is a large tent for one of Reverend Braxton's revival meetings.  The hot July afternoon brought a large crowd to hear her friend Patsy's father preaching a powerful message. Susanna's Amish community was not immune to the impassioned messages that poured from the good reverend's tongue. Such things were not heard in the long three hour meetings she experienced every other Sunday. Intrigued by what she heard, coupled with seeing so many Amish from her district, she steeled herself away.

Not long after this, however, her life is turned upside down by her cousin Noah. During a normal conversation on an ordinary Sunday afternoon, he fell under a spell.  The normally quiet man began to preach from the book of John.  His message was so powerful and strong, many gathered to hear, including the bishop.  The bishop fully believes that Noah is wakeful and willful with his preaching and orders him to stop. Noah was unaware that he gave such stirring sermons straight from the bible. When he woke from his trances he was exhausted and slept for hours.

It isn't long before Susanna discovers Noah's unpredictable behavior has happened before.   She is determined to help Noah's wife Phoebe keep him safe, disregarding opinions from her mother, the bishop and even Adam Yotter, her intended.  The situation becomes a controversy as many in the community begin congregating at Noah's house daily to hear him preach.  It is only when a near tragedy occurs that Susanna, Adam, his uncle and the bishop come together to help Noah and find common ground. 

I enjoyed this book.  Many people were yearning for meaningful spiritual experiences they didn't find in their usual long, dry services.  A powerful message such as those delivered under the big tent seemed to offer more.  While traditional clergy may have argued that nobody could gauge a true enlightened experience, I disagree. How can anyone know what another truly experiences.  The human experience is amazing and sometimes the true picture cannot be told by looking at someone.  The sleeping preacher phenomenon was real, something I was unaware of.  In the midst of this time in America, great changes were taking place. It is ironic that even the Amish, who lived separate from others would experience such things. Enlightening.  

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Under A Summer Sky (Follow Your Heart Book 3) by Melody Carlson

Under a Summer Sky (Follow Your Heart): A Savannah Romance by [Carlson, Melody]Melody Carlson is a writer for all seasons.  Under A Summer Sky is a wonderful addition for summer reading.  Travel first class to Savanna this Summer!  Vicariously, of course with Nicole Anderson, who leaves her Seattle home to manage an art gallery for an old family friend.  The gallery is owned by Vivian Graham, her mother's best friend through school.  While growing up, summer vacations were often spent with the Graham family. Nicole and her sister Kate spent a lot of time with the sons Alex and Ryan.

Arriving in Savanna, Nicole finds she is one step ahead of her old life as a high school art teacher. Staying in the Graham home for the summer home is a dream and when she steps into the gallery she feels like she has stepped into her true calling.  Except, of course, for her snarky coworker, Amyra, an unhappy woman who seems willing to go the extra mile to make things unpleasant.  Determined to make things work, Nicole maintains a positive attitude under pressure and begins to find her niche in the gallery business. It doesn't take long for her to put her own successful stamp on the business.

Nicole presents a positive impact on a situation that could be tough. I found her character admirable.  About the second night of her stay she heard unmistakable noises from the attic.  She called on Ryan to help her investigate only to find Alex's daughter Bernie camping out in protest to her parents pending divorce.  With great aplomb, our heroine embraces the girl in a positive way by allowing her to stay in the home and mentoring her at the gallery.   The way the author characterized Nicole makes her such a good role model for the other young women in the story.

As a single woman, of course there is romance for Nicole and I went back and forth on who I wanted her to choose in the end.  The handsome Alex, who she secretly had a crush on as a teen or younger brother Ryan, the former nerd, who may be more than meets the eye.  Melody Carlson once again played this well and I liked the ending very much.

Savanna in the summer, romance, patience and finding your true calling are woven together in this wonderful summer novel.  I recommend it as an addition to any beach bag or perhaps in that carry on bag you'll stow under your seat as you fly away for your summer vacation!

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Reviewing: My Heart Belongs on Mackinac Island

Now and then I read a book that just says summer is here! I recently finished reading My Heart Belongs on Mackinac Island Maude's Mooring: by Carrie Fancett Pagels and this is just such a book.

My Heart Belongs on Mackinac Island: Maude's Mooring by [Pagels, Carrie Fancett]
Maude Welling is a lovely young woman, considered by fellow islanders to be the best sort of girl.  She is unspoiled by the things most girls visiting the island long for.  Her desire is to marry Greyson, her long time intended, and run the family inn.  Fate, however unkind, intervenes and Maude is left at the pier to watch in horror as Greyson introduces Maude to Ann, his new wife.

Enter Mr. Frederic Konig, a handsome young man who is a very wealthy industrialist, witnessing the entire scene between Maude, Greyson and Ann.  He was taken in by her hurt manner, but even more so by  her beauty and grace.

Mr. Konig will be staying at the very smart Grand Hotel, the very best place on the island to find wealthy young women. Frederic, though, is an imposter. He is not who he says he is. He is actually Ben Steffan, a young reporter for the Detroit Post.  He was furnished in the finest men's fashions, schooled in the proper etiquette of wealth and, more specifically, on special assignment to expose handsome young dandies who prey on lovely young women of fortune. He can fool the many but in his heart he knows who he is.   A man of compassion, he feels like he is playing a game of the Prince and the Pauper.  His dress and actions speak the part but his good nature continues to shine through.  Mark Twain himself appears at the Grand, a nice touch of poetic license that adds just the right spice for Ben when he needed it.

Maude lives with her widowed father and lively brother Jack.  She should be learning to take over the family inn, The Winds of Mackinac, but her father's wishes are adamant: she will not run the inn without the help of a husband.  With her wedding plans down the pipe she is determined to prove to her father that she is capable of running the inn.  She assumes the role of maid at the Grand Hotel, fooling her father but risking termination by  her lack of skills.

Frederic takes an interest in Jack, an incorrigible lad who seems to be everywhere at once with many plans up his sleeve.  He and his games are incorrigible.  Jack is running so much it is hard to realize that if he slowed down he'd have to deal that old pain that keeps rising to the surface named grief. The Wellings lost their mother the year before and the grief is still hanging around the house like an unsung song.

Maude, her father and uncle Robert all have to come to an understanding of the future of the inn.  Wills are meant to make things easier for loved ones left behind but once in a great while, a codicil can change the expectations of everyone.  There is more riding on the fate of this will than just a family legacy on the island.
I liked the story.  The setting on Mackinac Island lent itself well to the summer people who likely found respite from the city during the heat of the summer.  Young women of marriageable age would have enjoyed being pampered at the Grand Hotel.  The idea that a paper would set a handsome young reporter on unsuspecting gold diggers was a nice twist.  It lured me in like a fisherman with a tall tale.  I recommend you add My Heart Belongs on Mackinac Island to your summer reading list!

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Reviewing: Naomi's Hope by Jan Drexler

Naomi's Hope is book three in Jan Drexler's Journey to Pleasant Prairie series.  I have enjoyed this series from the start of the journey along the Conestoga Creek through to arriving after many trials to their land in La Grange County, Indiana in 1843. Three years have passed and the community that started as a dream is now settling into permanent homes.  Families are thriving, crops are plentiful and there is peace among their new church district and it continues to grow.

Naomi Schrock has raised her adopted seven-year old Davey for three years.  They found him, the lone survivor of a Tornado hiding inside a large fireplace.  The storm killed his parents and baby sister and raised the house and farm to rubble.  Single and likely to remain so, Naomi loves and dotes on Davey.

Cap Stoltzfus moved to the area for a fresh start. He lost both his wife and son in childbirth seven years ago and is determined to break free of his grief.  By chance, Christian Yoder drops by the clearing where Cap is building his home alone.  It doesn't take long for Christian to size things up and organize a house raising.  The work of many hands quickly builds the sides and roof of his home.  Overwhelmed by the generosity of his new neighbors Cap quickly becomes one of their own.

 Davey found Cap first, quite by accident simply by being a curious boy of seven.  Their farms are adjacent and it's not long before Davey wore a path is to Cap's. Both are taken with each other and develop a special bond.  Naomi and Cap, through Davey, spend time together, developing feelings for one another.  Could they possibly become a family?

Naomi's Hope (Journey to Pleasant Prairie Book #3) by [Drexler, Jan]This is a story of strength, courage and forgiveness.  When community warmly welcomed Cap, they also welcomed Shem Fischer, a minister from Canada to the area.  Shem is agreeable, seemingly devout and insinuates himself comfortably among the people.  Cap is wary, having known Shem under different circumstances growing up.  Before long, there is rising mistrust that threatens to splinter the community.  It takes courage and strength to rise above strife.

Davey is central to the story, tying so many facets together. Young and innocent, his strongest desire is to have a family.  His story will win your heart as he weaves into and out of mishaps. My heart was warmed by this special young man and the love he truly brings to his family.  I heartily recommend this book.  I have grown fond of the characters in this series. I admire the strength and courage they had to move from their homes and travel to a new land only to start over.

"Jan Drexler brings a unique understanding of Amish traditions and beliefs to her writing. Her ancestors were among the first Amish, Mennonite, and Brethren immigrants to Pennsylvania in the 1700s, and their experiences are the basis for her stories. Jan lives in South Dakota with her husband, their four adult children, two active dogs, and a cat. She is the author of The Prodigal Son Returns, A Mother for His Children (winner of the 2013 TARA award), and A Home for His Family (finalist for the 2016 Inspirational Reader's Choice Award), as well as Hannah's Choice and Mattie's Pledge."- Amazon


Sunday, June 11, 2017

Reviewing: The Farmer's Market Mishap


Meet identical twins Thelma and Elma!  I was introduced to them when I read The Lopsided Christmas Cake by Wanda E Brunstetter and Jean Brunstetter. When a buggy accident claimed the lives of their grandparents, the twins inherited a home and store in Topeka Illinois. Moving from Sullivan  to Topeka was not easy and they found their new home was not as ship shape as they remembered from childhood visits.  Hard work and faith carries the girls through each challenge.  The Lopsided Christmas Cake  is a lively story of their coming of age.

The Farmer's Market Mishap centers on Elma and Ben Wagler who it would seem couldn't possibly get together.  Imagine being of marrying age and just not finding the right mate yet matchmakers seem determined to pair you up with unsuitable matches. Elma feels destined to be an old spinster running her store alone after the recent marriage of Thelma to Joseph.  Even though their home is across the street she misses the close companionship she felt with her twin.
Ben has been living with his mother on the family farm since his father passed.  A farrier by trade, his life seems to be too busy to court the young woman his mother has "chosen" for him. He's met every other eligible young lady in his community and feels destined to carry out his life without a wife.

A chance meeting at the farmer's market in Shipshewana sends sparks to both Ben and Elma.  The spark kindled by this encounter leaves a lasting impression on both their hearts but she lives in Topeka and he lives in Grabill.  50 miles is a bit far apart to begin a courtship for this Amish couple!  What of Ben's mother, Dorothy, who couldn't live alone, or the store, or Thelma's new baby?  How can these two get together when distance and family obligations threaten to keep them apart?


This story is light-hearted and heartwarming.  I recommend The Farmer's Market Mishap for anyone who enjoys Wanda Brunstetter's legacy of Amish fiction.



Tuesday, June 6, 2017

An Interview with Author Jody Hedlund

Jody Hedlund's Profile Photo, Image may contain: 1 personI am excited to welcome Inspirational Author Jody Hedlund. I asked her to join me to answer a few questions about her latest book, With You Always releases today. With You Always is the first book in the new Orphan Train series.  


What is the inspiration behind your new Orphan Train series?

I have long been fascinated by the era of the Orphan Trains and the heart-wrenching stories of the homeless and helpless young orphans that were taken from the streets of New York City and other eastern cities and shipped West by the dozens. I was familiar with stories of those scared orphans who were placed out in what was thought to be a more wholesome, healthy environment of the newly settled Mid-Western states. Some of the orphans found happy endings and were adopted into loving families. Others experienced great abuse and heartache in their new homes.

While stories of the orphans who rode the trains have been told—and rightly so—the stories of the women who were involved in the movement are not as well known. One of the things I particularly like to do when telling my stories, is focus on women who have been overlooked by the pages of history. I consider it a great privilege to be able to bring forgotten women to life for our modern generation. Thus, throughout this series, I’ll be focusing each book on a different aspect of the Orphan Train movement, particularly from the perspective of women who experienced riding the trains in one form or another.

How did you come up with the idea for the first book in the series, With You Always?

For this first book in the series, I decided to base the story around the placing out of women that happened in 1857 as a result of a financial crisis and economic panic in the autumn of that year. Women laborers were already at a disadvantage with poor working conditions and low wages. In September of 1857, estimates of New York unemployment ran as high as forty percent. Female employment was cut by almost half. With prostitution already a main source of income for many women, the recession drove even more to desperate measures and the number of women in prison rose as well.

To meet the growing crisis, the Children’s Aid Society in New York, along with organizations in other cities, who were already sending children West, decided to set up special placement offices to find jobs for seamstresses and trade girls in the West. The associations only wanted women of “good character” and they were required to provide references. If the women met the qualifications, then they were sent on trains to towns in Mid-Western states, particularly central Illinois where the demand for cheap labor was prevalent. They were presented to western employers as “helpless females left without the means of support.” Placement of these women continued until the spring of 1858.

It was my hope through the first book in the series, With You Always, to give readers a glimpse into the disadvantage of women during this particular era by showing the heroine Elise Neumann’s struggle, first in New York City and then also the continued heartache and problems that arose after leaving her family behind so that she could attempt to start a new life in central Illinois.

What special research did you do in writing With You Always?

In the beginning phases of writing this series, I did a great deal of reading about the orphan train movement. In particular, I really loved Stephen O’Conor’s book, Orphan Trains, because he includes so many personal stories and details about real orphans, which are heart wrenching.

I also read, A History of New York City to 1898, by Burrows and Wallace, which gave me great insights into the lives of immigrants, particularly immigrant women. Masses of foreigners were arriving into New York City on a daily basis, and the book gave a detailed look into their pathetic housing situation, the difficult working conditions, as well as gang problems and the underworld.
Finally, another important aspect of the story that required a concentrated amount of research was the development of railroads. The mid-1800’s was an incredible period of growth for the railroad industry in the Mid-West. The new railroads aided the orphan train movement but also brought about the settlement of the Midwestern states, including Illinois, which is one of the settings of the book.

What do you hope readers take away from With You Always?

One of my hopes in telling this story is to leave readers with the reminder that God is walking with us in whatever dark valley we’re going through. Often, like Elise, we tend to pull away from God and let the bitterness of our circumstances drive us into a cave of isolation and self-blame and heartache. But God wants us to realize that even if we pull away from Him, He’s still there walking by our side, waiting for us to reach out our hand and grab ahold of Him. He never leaves us or forsakes us. He’s there waiting.

With You Always is the third book you’ve released in 2017.  How do you find time to write so many books?

I keep a very rigorous writing schedule, usually writing six days a week. I give myself a challenging word count goal—a certain number of words to write every day. Then, in the morning, I sit down and write until I meet my goals. It’s as simple . . . and as hard as that!

I like to compare being an author to a marathon runner. The person training to run a marathon doesn’t start off running twenty-six miles the first time she runs. Instead she begins with just a few miles, strengthens her muscles, builds her endurance, and slowly adds more miles.

Writing is the same way. Over the years, I’ve strengthened my writing muscles and built up my endurance so that now I can write faster and for longer stretches.

What are you working on next?

The second book in the orphan train series releases next summer in 2018. The story continues with Marianne Neumann. She gets involved in the orphan train movement as one of the placing agents and accompanies the orphans as they ride the trains west. I hope readers will enjoy Marianne’s story and also appreciate learning more about the orphan train movement from the eyes of the compassionate workers who tried to place the orphans into new homes.

 Do you have any parting words?

I love hearing from readers! Make sure you stop by one of these places and say hello!
I hang out on Facebook here: Author Jody Hedlund
I also love to chat on Twitter: @JodyHedlund
My home base is at my website: jodyhedlund.com
Find me on Instagram: instagram.com/jodyhedlund/

Come pin with me on Pinterest: pinterest.com/jodyhedlund/pins/

Thank you for stopping by Jody!  Please visit one of the places and say hello to Jody.  I recommend this book and already look forward to the second book.  Check out my review!

Monday, May 29, 2017

Take a Chance On A Love So True

A Love So True (Teaville Moral Society Book #2) by [Jagears, Melissa]A Love so True by Melissa Jagears is a welcome addition to the Teaville Moral Society collection.  In Southeast Kansas, circa 1908, a young man named David Kingsman arrived at A.K. Glass factory by his father.  Always ready to turn a profit, David's father wanted him to get that factory ready to sell. Instead, David fired two "key" employees who Loafed on the job and settled in to make necessary changes to the factory.  Hoping to impress a difficult to please father, David sees potential in the business that may prove it worthwhile for the family business to invest in this factory and the city.

Evelyn Wisely is a young woman dedicated to the orphans in Teaville.   Children  of the local soiled doves lived in the orphanage started by Lydia and Nicholas Lowe.  Housed in a mansion Nicholas built, the children thrive under Evelyn's care with the help of her parents, .....not content to house only these orphans, she visits other children on Saturdays to give them a much needed warm lunch to eat with a meaningful bible story.  She was determined to feed their souls along with their bodies.  It never seemed enough, however, to serve these children.  She wanted to serve their mothers by helping them improve their lives by leaving the dreaded profession of prostitution.

It takes one person to convince another to make a change in society.  Caring for the unloved and getting others to see them as God's creation is no small feat. The perseverance and dedication to bring these unloved women and children out of such a deplorable lifestyle was an amazing fight that I don't know I possess.  While this is fiction, the implications of the impact on those who did fight to make changes for the desperate women who were plunged low to a life of prostitution and alcohol were phenomenal.  The children who were left in the wake of that lifestyle were left to fend for themselves.  This is a difficult topic and Melissa Jagears engaged this reader's awareness in the midst of a wonderful novel.

Evelyn and David develop a high regard for one another as the book tackles obstacles they must each overcome in order to be free to fall in love. There is so much more inside the pages of this book than a simple love story. I recommend this book with warmth for your summer reading pleasure.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Take A Ride on the Illinois Central When You Read "With You Always " by Jody Hedlund


With You Always (Orphan Train Book #1) by Jody Hedlund is a very compelling book that will keep you going from the streets of New York to Quincy, Illinois.  This is a story about a young woman overcoming great odds and emerging as a leader among some of the poorest of  her time.  
The Neumann sisters, Elise, Marianne and Sophie lost both parents after emigrating to America. Life became just struggle after struggle for them. After the Financial Panic of 1857, Elise made the difficult decision to sign up with the Children's Aid Society, a group that worked under contract with many employers to offer women of good moral character employment opportunities. She left behind her sisters and two young orphan charges at a shelter in New York.  She reasoned they would all be reunited once she could save for their fares to Illinois.

This books is written about a time when so many immigrant women and children bore the brunt of poverty.  Poor working and living conditions made their plight deplorable.  An opportunity such as Elise seized, was a ticket out of poverty if she could earn enough to pay back her train fare, living expenses and other costs of employment incurred.  
With You Always (Orphan Train Book #1) by [Hedlund, Jody]  Along the journey to Quincy Illinois she encounters Thornton, a man she briefly met in New York.   He is handsome, attentive and takes her to dine at places she's only dreamt of. World's apart, and unknown to her at the time, he is the son of a wealthy man from New York. Along with his twin, he is racing to build a community along the Illinois Central Line, competing for the legacy of their dying father.  His job is to build that city and marry a woman he loves within six months!

While building the community in our story, Thornton discovers through Elise that under the facade of paperwork compiled by his assistant, there is real work for him to do.  Ledgers often tell a different story than what is beyond an office door.   Construction workers or Laundresses are much more than entries on a payroll list. What happens to Thornton as he really begins to build the community of Quincy Illinois is an uplifting transformation.  He deserves to be cheered on no matter who wins his father's competition if only for his willingness to learn from those who he worked shoulder to shoulder with.

I heartily recommend this book for so many reasons.  While fiction, it brings to life the colorful people who had the faith and courage to leave the comfort of what was known for the unknown in hopes it was ever so much better for their families.  Historical fiction such as this, written by Jody Hedlund is a catalyst for the reader to enjoy romantic fiction while spurring the desire to learn one more way just how our vast country was settled. A remarkable read, With You Always is a memorable story to read, and read yet again. Available June 6th, 2017 at your favorite booksellers.



Monday, May 15, 2017

Reviewing Trusting Grace by Maggie Brendan


I recently finished reading Trusting Grace, Book three of the Virtues and Vices series by Maggie Brendan.  It is a story of one man's journey to let go of the past and learn to trust again.  It is also a story of a young widow who has all but giving up her dream of becoming a wife once more with the children she longs for. But more than this, it is also the story of second chances at life, love and happiness.
Grace Bidwell's lot in life shifted dramatically when her husband died and her father became disabled.  The farm her husband left behind is her livelihood. She has a potato crop to get in the ground and she can't do it alone.  Posting a help wanted notice in the mercantile seems like her best option to hire a suitable farm  hand.  Taking a chance like this could backfire and net a scoundrel for an employee but Grace had very few options to draw from.

Trusting Grace (Virtues and Vices of the Old West Book #3): A Novel by [Brendan, Maggie]Robert Frasier is stranger in town looking for work.  He needs to support the three children his late wife left behind.  She never told him about the children, nor her illness.  Saddled with this responsibility after losing his wife and then his farm, he and the children roamed the countryside together, living off the land until stopping in the Gallatin Valley in Montana.  His luck begins to change when hires on to help Grace with the crop. Robert promised to stay only until the crop was in but what he found on the farm was much more than he bargained for.

The setting for this book is richly described and the reader can almost reach up and touch the forever blue skies of Montana.  The characters are well developed with thoughts and concerns befitting of a time when the west was getting settled and communities began growing.  From hoeing the fields to unpacking merchandise at the mercantile it feels like you are right there planting the potatoes with Robert or watching Grace bake rhubarb pies with the girls.  Maggie Brendan is a very descriptive writer who keeps the reader interested in her books with colorful narrative and lively characters.

I enjoyed reading Trusting Grace for many reasons. It is set at a time when there were so many possibilities.  Montana was an exciting place to be after the Civil War. There was an air of being in a modern town with cultural experiences and a dashing hoodlum who causes havoc one can expect from the wild west!  Times could be rough when folks relied on the weather for their livelihood but the rewarding ending to this story are encouraging.

Friday, May 12, 2017

An Awakened Heart by Jody Hedlund

An Awakened Heart (Orphan Train): An Orphan Train Novella by [Hedlund, Jody]From the opening lines I knew I was hooked.  An Awakened Heart (An Orphan Train Novella) by Jody Hedlund is set in 1857.  New York City is a hotbed of immigrant lives melding together to make sense of this new country that housed so many in so little space.  People outnumbered jobs and housing was worse.  Flimsy tenements couldn't be built fast enough.  Families who dreamed of a better life were cast into disillusioned homes they shared with rats by night.

An Awakened Heart is the story of Christine Pendleton and Guy Bedell. He, an ordained minister preached a message of hope to the hopeless prostitutes.  She, a wealthy single woman yearning for meaning in her life began to volunteer once a week at the Centre Street Chapel.  Two people so far removed by ordinary standards yet in classic Jody Hedlund style come together as naturally as though he had stopped for tea in her parlor.  The characters are complex and the writing is so descriptive you can almost picture yourself alongside the women sitting on the trestle benches for a Sunday service.

I found myself looking at the characters and wondering what would become of them.  Young women wearing tattered clothes on bodies covered with the grime of poverty and shame. How can one sheltered young woman hope to encourage prostitutes to repent and rebuild their lives in an unforgiving city.  One would almost think Miss Pendleton would have been trod on herself when coming to grips with the heart of this matter.  With the stroke of a pen the author brought this woman to life in a very unexpected manner.

When the story ended I knew there was much more to come. This era is an important time in the history of our country.  It was a time of hope dashed and dreams buried beneath the harsh reality of a country that wasn't quite ready for the possibilities that lay ahead. I liked this story.  Sure, it is a romance but it is so much more than a romance. It is fiction you can change the names but these compelling characters could have been any one of our ancestors who came to this country and faced such trials. Thank God there were unsung heroes like Miss Pendleton and Reverend Bedell had the courage to work among the poor women of this difficult time in our country.

I can be allowed to be optimistic as I write this sitting on my side of history because I know the outcome of the hard work and resilience of those who came before me. I look forward to book one in the Orphan Train series, With You Always, coming June 6, 2017.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Reviewing: The Ebb Tide by Beverly Lewis

Product DetailsThe Ebb Tide by Beverly Lewis is one of those special books that will live on in your memory if only for the lessons learned. Sallie Riehl is a young Amish woman who has looked around the bend since childhood. She is determined to take just one trip before she settles down and joins the church.  Life circumstances alter her plans and she goes instead to Cape May, New Jersey for a summer job as a nanny.

This delightful story is not at all predictable.  The setting is rich with an historical beach that takes on its own life with its crashing waves, mysterious Cape May diamonds and sand castles. In the background is the Cape May lighthouse.  As Sallie and Autumn fill their days with summer activities they both come to terms with choices that will shape their lives.  Sometimes when life turns out a little differently than we plan, we can still find what we are looking for.

This is a standalone novel and a wonderful way to start reading one of Beverly Lewis' many books.  I highly recommend it for your reading list.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Find Yourself Between the Pages of Sandpiper Cove!

Sandpiper Cove: A Hope Harbor Novel by [Hannon, Irene]Sandpiper Cove is a niche tucked away at Hope Harbor, a magical place that is home for some of the nicest people you could hope to meet.  It's a place for second chances and surprising encounters. It would seem an idyllic little spot except for a string of unprovoked vandalism in their midst. It is also the place where two of the most unlikely people meet and unite efforts to put an end to the crimes.

For ex-con Adam Stone, Hope Harbor is a realm so far removed from  his painful youth.  Moved by Reverend Baker's prison ministry, Stone was encouraged to settle there after he served his time.  He was welcomed to his new church community and was blessed with the uncanny trust of his new boss B.J. Stevens as a member of her construction crew.  His life was so much better until his place was vandalized not once but twice and his dog, Clyde was left for dead.

Widowed Police Chief Lexie Graham, a single mother, moved back to Hope Harbor soon after the death of her husband.  She is dedicated to her family and her job.  Determined to keep her town safe she enlists Stone's help to find the vandals.  What Lexie discovers about Stone is from that age old adage about not judging a book by its cover.  He is rough around the edges but there is definitely more to him than meets the eye.  As the story unfolded I was reminded of how little things we do touch others in a big way.  It is so easy to be put off by appearances or base our thoughts on what others may say.  Nothing about Stone is what Lexie believed at first.  Aren't first impressions always right?

Bestselling author Irene Hannon has a gift for developing characters in well designed plots.  Whether she is writing about romance or a suspenseful novel like Buried Secrets you will find complex characters that will keep you guessing the outcome until the story culminates at the end. It is no small wonder that she continues to delight her readers.  Sandpiper Cove is no exception.  I enjoyed this entertaining book and the study in human nature.

For my part, I was easily hooked from the beginning of this book and was sad to see it end.  It is a compelling story with a community that beckons.  I love the Oregon Coast and visiting coastal towns that are a lot like Hope Harbor.  It is easy to recommend this latest installment of the Hope Harbor series, it is just that good.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

A Secret Courage

A Secret Courage (The London Chronicles Book 1) by [Goyer, Tricia]I just finished reading A Secret Courage (The London Chronicles Book 1) by Tricia Goyer.  Travel with me to the countryside from London circa 1943 to Danesfield House.  Hidden behind the doors of this beautiful manor estate are men and women doing their part to win the war in Europe. What they didn't know could have crippled their work and cost them their lives because a spy was in their midst!  Espionage and intrigue made for those special discoveries that led to usurping air strikes that could have decimated Great Britain following the terrible blitz on London.

The cast of characters were brilliantly written and each part played a role that suited their surroundings. Emma, our heroine was an American who traveled to England to study at Oxford. Her mother hailed from England and emigrated to America after marrying a soldier from the states after W.W.I.  Emma joined the Women's Auxiliary Air Force soon after war broke out.  Stationed at Danesfield House, her job was carefully studying aerial photographs taken over Germany for signs of anything out of the ordinary.

Will Fleming, is a handsome Englishman who worked for the British government recording the changes in the landscape of the country through his painting.  He and Emma met by chance at a bookstore while she and her friend Vera were on leave for a day.

Vera, along with Georgette are Emma's friends and coworkers. These women work closely together and also share living quarters.  The ladies lived in Nissen huts, which are what I grew up knowing as "Quonset huts.  
Adding to the intrigue was Berndt, who, as a handyman, seemed to be everywhere.  Edward, the sergeant who was Emma's superior officer, supervised Emma and her coworkers.  The work being done on this estate was paramount to the cause and security was strict. People who worked together didn't necessarily know all the pieces of a project or why locations of study were chosen.  The timing was just as cryptic, making it difficult for the information to be cracked.

Emma was a dedicated member of the W.A.A.F. who was vigilant in the secret nature of her work.  Her only brother, Samuel, a pilot lost his life when his plane was downed.  She mourned his loss greatly and she worked all the harder to contribute her best to the war effort. It was her fervent hope that if she could find an important clue while studying the photographs perhaps she could help save the lives of others.

The plot of A Secret Courage was well constructed and the characters well written.  All mysteries seem to have a red herring or two and while I had some suspicions, I'll admit I was surprised more than once.  It is fun to guess an outcome but much better find that the author truly kept a mystery, creating a better book.  I heartily recommend this book. I am glad that it is only book one in a series because I feel there is more to unfold in this story.  

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Long Time Gone Has a Plot With a Twist!

I recently finished reading Mary Connealy's Long Time Gone for review.  Book 2 in the Cimarron Legacy the book will take you back on a trip back to the wild west days of New Mexico ranching.  The Boden family has been beset with troubles as they fight to keep their ranch from rustlers who will stop at nothing to bring the family down.

Long Time Gone (The Cimarron Legacy Book #2) by [Connealy, Mary]The story unfolds after a trap left Cole, the oldest Boden son nearly dead.  That leaves Justin to manage the ranch while frantically searching for the reason behind this shooting and an avalanche meant to kill their father Chance.  Only the quick thinking and training from ranch hand Heath Kincaid gave their father a fighting chance.  Secreted away to a Denver hospital Chance and his wife are unwillingly apart from the fight being fought at home.

The book is full of the usual rugged cowboys but what sets it apart are the strong women who know their way around the west.  Sadie Boden is a crack shot and fearless in a fight. Newly married to Heath, they are a force to be reckoned with.  Not content to sit around and become bait, she places herself in the middle of the whole fight.

Enter Angie DuPree with the doc to nurse Cole. Winsome and wan, she is seemingly out of place in the novel but the west definitely had some strange bedfellows when it came to surviving ranch life without the finer things in life.

If you crave tales of the old west, this book is for you. I think it only fair, however, to let you know that this is not a stand alone novel. Had I known this I would have read No Way Up, book one in the series first.  For series followers, this will make a good set. Book three is sure to follow!  Many thanks to Bethany House for an opportunity to try a new author.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Head to Turtle Springs: Seven Brides for Seven Mail-Order Husbands!

Seven Brides for Seven Mail-Order Husbands by Cynthia Hickey, Susan Page Davis, Susanne Dietze, Darlene Franklin, Patty Smith Hall, Carrie Fancett Pagels and Gina Welborn,  is a collection of novellas by seven authors who provide the "voices" in our story. The Civil War was a brutal war in our nation's history, creating widows and orphan of untold numbers. It is spring in the year 1865 and in Turtle Springs Kansas, the women left behind are tired eking out a living and barely getting by.  They band together to solve the shortage of men by placing an ad for mail-order husbands.  Men travel from far and wide for the chance to be interviewed for the honor of courting the husband hunting women.  Imagine a little town of 223 with so many bachelors converging at once that a tent city is constructed near town.  Every man had a different reason for answering the ad but none so sweet as the ones who were featured in this collection.

I liked having the continuity of the story crossing each novella. Each author built on the main story yet added her own rich style to the mix.  Each story had a different aspect that made each couple unique.  Reluctant grooms and grooms who still felt the wounds of war each shared a deep love for the woman they married.

Historical elements like the one used by Carrie Fancett 
Pagels in The Dime Novel  by adding soldiers traveling to real life  Fort  Mackinac through Turtle Springs during that era add an interesting element to the stories.  Little extras added to the story kept me hooked and drove me to search for more history online.

While this collection is fiction it is indeed true that the hardships of war can be felt long after men come home to their families to pick up their lives. For the many women and children left behind it was such a devastating loss to run the farm, run businesses and keep the family going when their man didn't make it home.

Many thanks to NetGalley for the opportunity to read an advance copy to review this book. I enjoy American fiction and this book gave me new insight to the Civil War. While the book is definitely entertaining, I can't help but think of the untold stories of women who lived through the years after the war ended.




Sunday, March 5, 2017




I enjoyed reading Love's Faithful Promise by Susan Anne Mason.  Discovering a new to me  author is exciting. It opens the door to new experiences and new people. Although this is book three in the Courage to Dream series it stood on its own quite well. 

Our heroine, Deidre O'Leary is a young woman who dreamed of becoming a doctor in a time when women were supposed to marry well and raise a family. She completed her nursing studies and was about ready to take a well-fought for seat in medical school. God's will or fate if you will, intervened when her beloved mother was stricken with a stroke. Unwilling to see her strong mother suffer the loss of mobility and on the verge of deep depression, she searched for any means of restoring her mother to health. 

Deidre traveled to meet with Dr. Matthew Clayborne, whose innovative methods in physical therapy worked wonders with critically wounded war veterans.  She worked hard to convince the doctor that she and her family were not simply a rich family entitled to services that any amount of money could buy.  Dr. Clayborne, a widower with a young daughter had trials of his own and didn't need or want anything to do with the O'Leary family. However, Deidre convinced him to bring his young daughter Phoebe to her family compound and treat Mrs. O'Leary.  What Matthew couldn't know was how his own life was on a path to healing.

Even the most hopeless situations can turn around and this story of courage and determination proves that. Love and faith can heal many things. Deidre had her life planned ahead for many years. We may plan our lives  all we want but along the way life happens. In this book a life well lived can be better than a life well planned. Love finds a way to open even the staunchest bitter heart. Well written story with characters who come to life, I recommend this book without hesitation.