Irish Meadows: The Courage to Dream Bk 1 by Susan Anne Mason ~ Review~

Irish Meadows: The Courage to Dream Bk 1 by Susan Anne Mason

Irish Meadows

The author, Susan Anne Mason, has skillfully created a world into which we can feel comfortable. The two main characters, Brianna and Colleen, could be our sisters, realistically endearing and frustrating simultaneously. Brianna feels she has grown up in Colleen’s shadow, her father’s favored daughter. Nothing she did seemed to gain his respect. Colleen is the sister we love to hate. She is bold, brash, flirtatious, the apple of her father’s eye, and always on the prowl for rich, handsome bachelors. She played with them and even pit them against each other. Brianna, on the other hand, wanted to attend a university in the fall. She had no use for men at the moment, although her daddy wanted her to get married to a suitable (prosperous) gentleman as soon as possible.

But then Gilbert Whelan returned to Irish Meadows after three years at college. Gil grew up on the farm, the son of the O’Leary’s housekeeper. When she died, James O’Leary took in Gil and treated him like a son. He was big brother to all the rest of the five O’Leary children. Adam, the eldest son, resented Gil for that. Brianna wanted to enlist Gil’s aid in convincing her father to allow her to further her education. But it became a more complicated situation when she discovered her feelings for him were no longer brotherly. Gil himself has felt the stirrings of love for Brianna. When he finally gained the courage to approach James, his mentor and father figure, he was flatly refused. The reason shook him to the core.Irish Meadows quote1

One day a distant relative of mother 0’Leary’s came to stay with the family for awhile. Rylan Montgomery needed a place to stay for a few months while he worked on his internship. His goal was to become a priest. It was Colleen’s duty to ferry him around until he became familiar with the area. When her father caught her in a compromising position one evening, he “sentenced” her to working with Rylan at the orphanage. This was truly punitive for Colleen since she hated all things religious, including priests, church and orphanages. However, working with Rylan day after day brought about subtle changes to her heart. She began to enjoy working with the children. In introspection, she questioned her previous dubious behavior. And…she fell in love with Rylan. Colleen’s world was turned upside down. Family dynamics, secrets, disastrous emotional upheavals and more make this book an intriguing read.Irish Meadows quote2

There’s a lot to like in this book. First, the Point of View (POV) is key to how the author develops tension and suspense. There are four Points of View: Colleen’s, Brianna’s, Rylan’s, and Gilbert’s. This author manages to blend them so well that she avoids the disjointed feeling so common in books with so many POV’s. I feel these points of view are what keeps this storyline moving along without stalling for lack of physical action. That’s excellent characterization.Irish Meadows quote3

Second, the four main characters all have a crisis of heart to meet, deal with, and resolve. Even the secondary characters, Kathleen and James O’Leary, the parents, had to face issues themselves such as what really mattered in life, and how to handle secrets within a family unit. Each issue felt real, urgent, and relevant for today even if the source is a historical novel. I found each of the conflicts plausible and could relate to many of them myself. The author manages to create believable people we can become akin to and care for.Irish Meadows quote4

Third, this is a faith-based book. I love how each voice dealing with an issue was facing something that included a crisis of faith, as well as heart and home. When a faith issue has to be dealt with, even though it may be an entirely private matter between you and God, it does affect those around us because what we believe leads to how we live our lives. That is how this author presents each character’s conflicts. When we are privvy to their thoughts, feelings and the process of resolution within, we appreciate them more for their struggles, even if they are still a flawed individual. I enjoyed the process as I read along, because what they struggled with was thought-provoking and insightful. And since most of this was internal, none of it sounded even remotely like preaching or finger wagging. Rather, I felt blessed to gain a glimpse through the window of their souls. I am looking forward to reading the next book in the series which will give us Adam’s story.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy (ARC) of this book from Bethany House Publishers. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

 

 

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In Good Company by Jen Turano ~Review~

In Good Company by Jen Turano

In Good Company

Some of you may have had the pleasure of reading books to your children when they were young. A family favorite of ours were Amelia Bedelia books. She was a scatter-brained individual who took verbal and written instructions way too literally. The results were often hilarious. When I began reading “In Good Company” by Jen Turano, the main character, Millie Longfellow, reminded me of Amelia Bedelia. Not that she understood situations too literally, but her capacity to talk them to death is what brings levity and humor to the story. If you enjoy a light-hearted historical romance, you will enjoy this book.

Millie Longfellow is an orphan who’s had to earn her living from the age of 12. You may call her life dreary and tedious, but she would disagree with you. Though tough times could have made her bitter, she is surprisingly optimistic and upbeat. She has carved out a satisfying life for herself, with a big heart and a great love for children. It wouldn’t surprise you to discover she has become a nanny. Unfortunately, her verbosity has lead to a dismal employment history; instead of talking her way out of misunderstandings, she seems to talk her way into them while high society patrons lose patience with her without listening to her lengthy explanations. Her last rabbit trail ended in unemployment as the story opens. The owner of the agency Millie worked with has nearly given up on her until Mr. Everett Mulberry at the agency office in search of a nanny.

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Mr. Mulberry, a product of society’s snobbish elite, is a proper bachelor living in New York. A few months prior, a close friend of his died in a tragic accident. Everett was appointed guardian of the three young children: Thaddeus and Rosetta–5-year-old twins, and their older sister Elizabeth. He promptly brought them home to his country estate. Grieving, angry and lost, the three youngsters have run off every nanny Everett has hired in the past three months. The employment agency owner is frustrated with him and nearly ready to give up on him when Millie returns to the agency’s office. Everett has met Millie before and refused to hire her, but the owner closed the deal so quickly he had no time to decline again. He was stuck with the infamous nanny.

This situation is complicated by Millie’s unorthodox ways of handling the mischievous children, Everett’s unofficial fiance who is determined to gain a position of social prominence and wealth by marrying Mr. Mulberry, the plotting of a Mrs. Abigail Hart, a society matron who has decided to sponsor a few disadvantaged young girls, including Millie and her friend Lucetta Plum, Everett’s interfering mother, a number of disapproving and judgmental socialites, and the mystery surrounding the death of the children’s parents. The story is fast-paced, full of surprises and humor. It’s a delightful read.

My favorite part of the tale occurs when Millie bests the children at their own pranking, with the assistance of the household staff. The situation is funny enough on its own, but becomes interesting with the addition of an irritated flock of peacocks, the unexpected arrival of Everett’s parents traveling abroad, and unfortunately Caroline Dixon, the enraged and jealous fiance. How Millie settles the turmoil, the children and the complications is what makes this book such an enjoyable experience.

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There are other factors I loved about this book. For example, there is the running undercurrent of a brewing romance which has a happy conclusion. There are the comic ways Millie uses to win over the children’s hearts. I enjoyed the bumbling, scheming efforts of Abigail Hart to help along the growing romance. Millie’s friendship with Lucetta is an excellent break in the hilarity, used by the author to ground the story when it needed some moments of quiet. Even Everett undergoes some much needed character growth, especially in his relationship with his wards. I highly recommend this book for a quick light read.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from NetGalley on behalf of Bethany House Publishers. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Mercy’s Rain: An Appalachian Novel by Cindy K. Sproles ~Review~

Mercy’s Rain: An Appalachian Novel by Cindy K. Sproles

Mercys Rain

With a mix of nineteenth century tradition, customs, and superstition, a young woman’s fears and flashbacks of the ugliness of her past, the sordidness of her present, and the uncertainties of her future, this tale mesmerizes the reader from beginning to end. If you are looking for a book with a touch of edginess, a poignant back story, and a painful journey toward the light, this book is for you.

Her name is Mercy, but she hates the word. She has heard it used and abused all too often, but experienced it seldom. The book’s first two chapters sets the tone for the reader. The storyline begins in the middle at the cusp of Mercy Roller’s 19 years, the turning point that thrust her forward into the uncertainties of a future while relentlessly reviewing her painful past until the baffled reader sees the pattern and begins rooting for her to heal and move on in life.

Not all of Mercy’s flashbacks are painful. Some of them reveal to us the depth of her relationship with her best friend, Maddie. Maddie understood Mercy’s troubling family life, nor was she blind to the Pastor’s double standards and shifting image. She stood as a pillar of sanity for Mercy, silently supportive, always there to pick up the broken pieces of her friend’s shattered self-worth, tirelessly easing Mercy back to normal. These flashbacks also revealed simultaneously the strength of Mercy’s mother’s protection as well as the weakness of a woman who stands by her man even during the torridness of his sick mind. The flashbacks showcased a cohesive community that maintained an unspoken code of honor, protecting each other from abuse, helping each other in the aftermath of violence. In essence, the author’s authentic voice rips the bandage off the scabs to open our eyes to both the sordidness and the blossom of life as it truly existed. That makes this book a unique piece of historical fiction.

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What I liked best about Cindy Sprole’s novel is the honesty with which she portrays Appalachian life. She doesn’t paint a fanciful picture of this segment of history. There ‘s no room for idealistic fantasies or perfection. Sometimes we readers tend to gloss over the past and call our version of it “simpler times.” The truth is that there are no simple times. When people are involved, life becomes complex and usually delivers up starkness along side the beauty. When an author can tell a story with all its honest parts and yet instill hope and triumph into the message, we have a good story. Mercy’s Rain is a good story.

The second element I like about Mercy’s Rain is the balance the author incorporates. Once Mercy leaves the familiarity of her home, it becomes obvious she has trust issues. Eventually her travels lead her to a river where she rests a bit. She has gone beyond the place where she knows the landmarks. She meets young Samuel Stone there and he offers to accompany her to his friends’ homestead, where they need some help. The young father lost his arm recently in an accident; Samuel was on his way to help the couple with their harvest. On the way, Mercy learns that Samuel is a pastor. Her first reaction is distrust because the only pastor she had ever known was her father. The remainder of the tale is like a study in contrasts as Mercy embarks on a healing journey. While settling into life on Terrance and Isabella Johnson’s homestead, Samuel stays on to help her adjust to her new life. The author excels in writing gut-wrenching tension, anguish, triumphs and hope. Mercy’s process of recovery balances her painful history very well.

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While the book is beautifully written, I have to admit that I was a little uncomfortable with the content of some of the back story and flashbacks. Some were graphic and reminded me that if these scenes were made into a movie, they would be rated PG-13 to R for the violence. For that reason, I advise caution for those readers with young children around. This book contains many gritty, unpleasant details. It’s fine for young adults, but I don’t recommend it for young teens. Overall, however, I give this book an enthusiastic thumbs up.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from LibraryThing.com on behalf of Kregel Publications. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Beyond All Dreams: A Novel by Elizabeth Camden ~Review~

Beyond All Dreams by Elizabeth Camden

Beyond All Dreams

A peek into the history of the Library of Congress, a mysteriously inaccurate naval document that no one would discuss, a particularly persistent librarian, timid but with fire in her blood, an annoyingly arrogant congressman from Maine, and the circumstances that precipitated the Spanish American War are all ingredients that make this book a fascinating read. Add a generous amount of romance and the book becomes irresistible.

Anna O’Brian was one of only a handful of female librarians allowed to work at the Washington D.C. location of the Library of Congress in the late nineteenth century. For her, it was a dream come true. Anna’s responsibilities were to care for the library’s maps and to conduct research for congressmen. Occasionally librarians even provided expert advice and testimony for congressional committees as well as for individuals. It was her attention to detail and her persistence that made her an excellent researcher. It also got her into trouble with the US Navy when she noticed an error in the reports of an incident that occurred 15 years ago. It also happened to be the same incident in which her father, a cartographer, disappeared with the ship he was sailing on. There was a definite mystery and she wanted it solved.

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Anna’s retiring yet understated fire also caught the eye of Lucas Callahan, a fairly new congressman from Maine. His youth, energy and brashness were all the talk of the town. His rivalry with the Speaker of the House got him removed from the US Budget Committee and reassigned to the committee on Fisheries. Their former war of words had hiked up a notch. But under all his fuss and blunder was a man with principles, who understood the hard-working laborers, the every day man, because his own roots were from the lumber industry. His family’s newly gained wealth was only a thin veneer that barely covered a darkness he wanted very much to escape. When he met Anna, he discovered her naturally placid nature brought a peace and calm to his turbulent one. But getting Anna to accept his suit was a challenge. It was not until he became entangled in her mystery document and the affairs of the Navy that she realized how serious he was. The truth behind the mystery had the potential to either drive them apart forever or weld them together.

What I enjoyed most about this charming historical fiction was the author’s use of wit and humor. Because of her nature, Anna just could not refrain from delivering a not-so-gentle reprimand to the presumptuous congressman who attempted to summon her services and expertise by snapping his fingers. Later, when he began to pursue her with the idea of courtship, she couldn’t imagine why. She described herself as a “short, ordinary girl who had a voice like sandpaper and the habits of a hermit crab.” Luke himself described her as his opposite. “She never did anything impulsively and liked the safety of her map room in the attic of the Capitol. She hid up in that room like a princess in a castle tower, surrounded by a fortress of books and maps.”

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Some of the historical events in the book are based on actual occurrences. The author created a personal link to the tragic loss of life in the event that eventually helped to fuel the flame of American sentiment against Spain–the link that lead to the Spanish American War. Anna’s father lost his life in that tragic event, creating an inner conflict between her desires to avoid war and the loss of more lives and revenge for such a loss in her young life. I was touched by the author’s empathetic writing. Many readers today will be able to relate to such a conflict.

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The author wasn’t heavy-handed with spiritual lessons learned during a character’s development, but it was there, nevertheless. One doesn’t have to talk about God’s work to know His Presence is evident through their thoughts and actions. Each of the people we grow to love in this book had to face basic personal challenges. Not only did God meet them in their growing pains, He used other characters to assist in bringing them to maturity faster, much like a jeweler chips away the dross to find the diamond inside. I enjoyed how the author made this happen with every interaction between Luke and Anna.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from Bethany House Publishers. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Keepers of the Covenant (The Restoration Chronicles) by Lynn Austin

Keepers of the Covenant by Lynn Austin

Keepers of the Covenant

Have you ever read parts of the Bible and then tried to imagine the events as they occurred in the day to day moments? I used to wish there were more books written that way. This book is one that accomplishes that feat completely. It opens the windows and doors and allows us to live with friends and family of some well-known characters of biblical events. In this case, it’s about Ezra, family man, scholar, Rebbe, husband, brother, friend, son, leader, and teacher. He struggled with daily life justlike you and I do.

Nearly 500 years before Jesus of Nazareth arrived in Galilee, Ezra lived in a world of danger, secular influence, hatred and enemies. About 100 years before his time, a group of Jews were allowed to return to Jerusalem and the country of Judah. What were they returning from? Their country had been decimated by enemies over 70 years before that. Their people were taken away or scattered throughout the land. Many lived in Babylon itself. Judah was then filled with neighboring peoples such as Edomites and Amalakites. The first wave of returning refugees helped to rebuild the walls and established businesses and families again. They made efforts to live in peaceful co-existence with the inhabitants. Sayfah and Amina were Edomites living near Bethlehem in a village of their own. Amina was crippled from her younger years. Now she was treated like a servant in her own home and scorned by most of the men. One day she met an older woman who also suffered from a weak, twisted leg. But she was a Jewess, a talented weaver who brought her goods to Bethlehem to sell in the market. They became friends. It was a friendship that would save Amina and Sayfah’s lives years later.

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In Casiphia, another province of the Persian Empire and near Babylon, Reuben was apprenticed to his father, David of the tribe of Levi. David was a blacksmith, since the Levites had no temple to serve in. Reuben was twelve when he learned that through his second in command, Haman, King Xerxes had pronounced a death sentence for all the Jews living in all his 127 provinces, on the thirteenth of the month of Adar. They were to be killed and plundered. Reuben’s father was angry at his peoples’ helplessness and began to secretly stockpile weapons he made at his forge. Reuben watched in concern as people began to buy the supplies for their protection. When the day finally arrived, the fighting was fierce. Greed motivated some of the hatred against the sons of Jacob. Their enemies wanted the plunder. While most of God’s people survived, some were injured or killed. Reuben’s father was one who never returned from battle alive leaving Reuben at thirteen in charge
of caring for his mother and family. Since he was too young to operate his father’s business, his uncle sold it to another blacksmith who would continue Reuben’s apprenticeship. But Reuben was filled with rage and hatred. He took to the streets at night, and eventually became adept at thievery. He was then taken in by a gang of Babylonian robbers. He turned his back on God.

Ezra’s brother, Jude was also killed in the conflict in the city of Babylon itself. Ezra grew up in a potter’s family although early on, they discovered he had a gift for reading, understanding and interpreting the Torah. So when his brother died, Ezra married his brother’s wife, according to the law, to help provide for her and their family. Eventually he was responsible to provide a son to carry on Jude’s name. Some time later, God laid on Ezra’s heart to petition the King of Persia to allow him to lead a group from his community back to the Promised Land, Israel, to build up the city of Jerusalem. Once the petition was granted, Ezra was appointed governor over the province. This wasn’t the end of the story, however, but the beginning. Somehow Ezra, his family and friends, Reuben and his band of Babylonian robbers, Amina and Sayfah and their adoptive Jewish family all intersect in a powerful way.

This may not be important for everyone, but for me living history is vital for our sense of identity and perspective on life. This book is artistically written to help the reader put faces and heart into people and events we may already have at least a nodding acquaintance with. It deepened my perspective and gave me a greater appreciation of the scope of God’s love and protection. It also heightened my awareness of the types of difficult situations many have faced when putting God’s justice into practice. This is a tremendous object lesson, carried out in the story line, how God tempers His justice with mercy and expects His followers to do likewise.

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This message couldn’t have been conveyed so aptly if the author hadn’t written with authenticity and well-researched detail. Such a writing style drew me into the scenes and into the very hearts and minds of the characters. I was right there, experiencing the events unfold and feeling their pain and joys. Excellent writing. It was all there: the pain of loss, feelings of helplessness, moments where hope had fled, funny vignettes that often accompany child rearing, the bond of marriage when it transcends the mechanics of every day life, the struggle to belong, and the joy of victories big and little.

The third element I enjoyed about this book was the complexity of the plot. You can’t say that Keepers of the Covenant is all fast-paced adventure and action, nor is it completely character-driven. The author takes the best of both genres and seamlessly blends them. They are well-balanced. Readers may already know the basic story, but the draw is how the author pulls it all together and includes us in the ride. The book is filled with sensitivity and flair–adrenaline and contemplation. I’m definitely going to read other books by Lynn Austin.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from bookfun.org on behalf of Bethany House Publishers. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Where Trust Lies (Return to the Canadian West Bk 2) by Janette Oke and Laurel Oke Logan ~Review~

Where Trust Lies (Return to the Canadian West Bk 2) by Janette Oke and Laurel Oke Logan

Where Trust Lies

Where Trust Lies is the second book in the Return to the Canadian West series. Book 1 is entitled Where Courage Calls. The protagonist of both books is Beth Thatcher who had rejected a life of ease to attend college and then choose to teach in the Canadian West where life was more about a roof over your head and food in your belly than shopping excursions in an upscale store and the latest fashions. That was in book 1. In book 2, Beth has returned home for summer vacation after completing her first year of teaching.

There had always been a gulf between Beth and her mother and youngest sister, Julie. She had hopes she could somehow close that gap over the summer. When she arrived home, she found her family preparing to go on a 6-week cruise from Toronto to the St. Laurence River and on to the east coast, finally moving into the United States before returning. At first she was reluctant to go on the trip, but her father challenged her to get to know her mother as adult to adult, rather than as a daughter to a mother. But Beth had another reason to hesitate. In her year away from home Beth had attracted a suitor–Jarrick “Jack” Thornton, an officer in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. He was stationed out west and Coal Valley, where Beth taught, was part of his jurisdiction. He requested they keep in touch over the summer to become more acquainted with each other. She agreed to write.

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When Jarrick learned of this opportunity to travel with her family, he urged Beth to go. They could keep in contact with each other through letters, phone calls and telegrams. So it was decided that Beth would go, albeit a little reluctantly. Not only was Beth’s mother and two sisters going, but so were little JW and his nanny, her mother’s best friend, Mrs. Montclair, her daughter and their maid, and their own tour guide Emile Laurant. Close quarters, differing interests, the rapid pace of events, and personality conflicts kept the pot bubbling with tension and interest. At the apex of the story, Julie was abducted, throwing the small circle of family and friends into turmoil and onto their knees in prayer. None of them were ever the same again.

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It was so good to read another of Janette Oke’s books again. I have already read nearly all the books she’s written. Like the first book in this series, her voice is distinct and heart felt. Where the focus is usually historical fiction of the Canadian west, this book explores the historical east. Building community is one of Oke’s writing talents; in this book that legacy continues but within the tight circle of friends and family on the cruise. Writing in tandem with her daughter allows for the sense of contemporary issues as well. The new voice brings with it freshness that nevertheless blends well with the familiar Oke memes. Mother and daughter make a fine writing team.

Another reason I enjoy reading this author’s books is that faith in God is nearly always faith in action. It is the driving force for many of her characters’ actions, yet not portrayed as if these men and women who loved God could do no wrong. It is their inner struggles that brings life to every individual and makes them real to us. The reader can’t help but empathize with people whose faith is neither great nor less than their own. We falter where they falter, and gain courage from the same God these characters draw courage. There’s no preaching here, only life lessons and hope.

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Finally, the authors write with humor, keen observation of various personalities amidst the conflicts and employ some fairly intense suspense. There is an undercurrent of romance, especially when Jarrick rushes to Beth’s side at the height of the frightening events of Julie’s abduction, and a strong sense of more to come at the book’s end. Events do resolve, so there is not a cliff-hanger, although not all threads in this book are settled. It seems that there must be at least one more book in this series to come. The issue of trust, dealt with all throughout the book, is not yet completely finalized. I’m looking forward to reading more.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from Bethany House for their blogging program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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To Everything A Season (Song of Blessing Bk 1) by Lauraine Snelling ~review~

To Everything A Season (Song of Blessing Bk 1) by Lauraine Snelling

To Everything A Season

To Everything A Season is part of the Bjorklund family saga that is covered in five series of stories. All of these are historical fiction with some romance included in many of the tales. The Song of Blessing series is the fifth Bjorklund family series. I like to think of it as a two-in-one series because it wraps up the previous series’ loose ends as well as begins a new series about the Bjorklunds in Blessing, North Dakota. It is able to stand on its own, although I think it would be appreciated best if read along with its predecessors. This book came out in 2014 and the second book in the new series, A Harvest of Hope (Song of Blessing Bk 2) by Lauraine Snelling, has just been released (2015). This book is a springboard for the next book which will be more about Trygve and Miriam.

Here is the breakdown of the Bjorklund Family novels and series:

An Untamed Heart (prequel to the Red River of the North series. October 2013)

Red River of the North series (First Bjorklund family series)

An Untamed Land
A New Day Rising
A Land To Call Home
The Reaper’s Song
Tender Mercies
Blessing In Disguise

Return To Red River series (Second Bjorklund family series)

A Dream To Follow
Believing The Dream
More Than A Dream

Daughters of Blessing series (Third Bjorklund family series)
(This series has limited print availability but is available in e-book format)

A Promise for Ellie
Sophie’s Dilemma
A Touch of Grace
Rebecca’s Reward

Home to Blessing series (Fourth Bjorklund family series)

A Measure of Mercy
No Distance Too Far
A Heart for Home

Song of Blessing series (Fifth Bjorklund family series)

To Everything A Season
A Harvest of Hope (Spring, 2015)

The main theme in this book is about community and about the ones who make this community special. Since this is a series that continues the Bjorklund saga, attention is focused on an elderly couple whose legacy includes the community of Blessing, populated by Ingaborg and Haakan’s large family and their friends. There are numerous subplots and threads because the community is growing by leaps and bounds.

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One of the unusual things about this thriving North Dakota village is its hospital. There were not many hospitals available in remote areas in the early 1900’s. This one is very new and run by two female doctors, Dr. Ingrid Bjorklund Jeffers and Dr. Elizabeth Bjorklund, the senior Bjorklund’s daughter and daughter-in-law. Dr. Elizabeth was trained in Chicago and returned to open this one in her remote town mostly supported by the Chicago parent hospital. Much of the action in this story centers around the doctors, patients and the burgeoning community.

In one of the subplots, the Chicago hospital has sent three nurses-in-training out to the Blessing hospital for a year of hands-on experience. One of Ingaborg’s nephews, Trygve Knutson, became smitten with one of the nurses, Miriam Hastings. Their relationship blossomed quickly until an event at the hospital contributed to a misunderstanding between them. The books ends with a cliff-hanger and the realization that their story would continue in another book.

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One of the things that stands out most to me is how well the author built a community to which I became attached quickly. As I read the story, there were many hints of a back story that sounded intriguing and which engendered a desire to look up all the former books of the series and read them. I also sensed a closure to an era of Bjorklunds that centered around one couple, one family, and the beginning of a new era fitting for a new community filled with young families with new challenges to face. There’s the aura of a passing of the baton. It draws me in, anticipating the new series.

Not only was the baton of heritage being passed on from one generation to the next, but so was the legacy of faith-in-action being handed over from the older generation to the younger. This is aptly illustrated when a gang of bank robbers hit their small bank. When the gang was accosted, the youngest brother, just a child, was injured and left behind by his older brothers. The hospital staff and the community pitched in to help this boy recover. No one condemned him, preached at him, or rejected him. He was accepted and cared for and treated like someone of value–a new experience for him. When he was released from the hospital, he was taken in by the senior Bjorklunds where his physical and emotional healing continued. I think that this storyline too is going to be a perpetual theme continued in the new series.

With great character development, a sense of community to love, a bright future ahead, living and breathing faith that transcends mere words, this is a series and book I highly recommend to you.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from Netgalley on behalf of Bethany House Publishers. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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