Phoebe’s Journey: Part 1: Of Passion and Pride by Kathryn B. Collett ~ Review

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Phoebe’s Journey: Part 1: Of Passion and Pride by Kathryn B. Collett

My very first reaction after finishing this terrific historical fiction is ‘wow’! Kathryn Collett is a great storyteller. I literally picked up the book and spent hours reading it and couldn’t put it down until I finished. That doesn’t happen to me very often.

In the author’s note at the beginning of the book, she gives a little bit of background about the main character and a little about herself. I find myself drawn to the same type of book she has written. I have always been fascinated by the history behind the very earliest Christians living on the Mediterranean. That’s because after Jesus died, the Mediterranean Sea was the primary vehicle in spreading the Gospel throughout the Roman world. The author explains, “Phoebe is an actual historical woman who lived in the first century. But who was she really? Was she married? Did she have children? What motivated her? Who were her friends? When did she first cross paths with the Apostle Paul? What did she wear? What was she afraid of? Who did she love? These are just a few of the questions I’ve asked at various time.” This is the basis for this historical fiction.

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There are so many things to love about this author’s writing style. First, she is meticulous in her researched details of the lifestyle of citizens of Corinth, the life of the early Christians, and the early ministry of Paul the Apostle. I felt drawn into the story personally. All the details and story line give this book credibility. I felt I was right there, side by side with Phoebe, frustrated with her, desperate to save the family business with her, grieving and angry with her throughout her experiences when life becomes unfair.

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Second, the characters are believable. Human nature hasn’t changed at all in the past couple thousand years, and this author is adept at communicating human nature in all its variations of good, bad and evil.

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Third, for me this was a fast paced adventure. The writing is compelling, establishing an urgency as Phoebe seeks to make things right for her family and friends, in spite of the challenges and limited time she faces. Since this is the first book in a series of three stories, I am looking forward to reading the rest of the books. While this tale has a definitive conclusion, it also heavily implies there is much more to come. There is still more of the mystery to solve, and resolutions to make. I highly recommend this book to you. This is one of those books I will enjoy reading over several times.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from Story Cartel on behalf of the author. I was not required to write a review, positive or otherwise. 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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The Naomi Chronicles Book 3: Beginning Anew (Inspirational Christian Romance) by Paula Rose Michelson ~ Review

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The Naomi Chronicles Book 3: Beginning Anew by Paula Rose Michelson

Beginning Anew is the third book of the Naomi Chronicles series. The entire series has close bearing on all the books as a whole, so my recommendation is for you to begin with the first book and proceed from there in order. These books are very much chronically ordered and reading the third book will make much more sense if you read the previous two books first.

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As I read this third story, I could see it is a transitional volume. First, Naomi and Chaz (also known as Chaim) are back together after a very rough beginning in their marriage. They have new complications to face both personally and as a couple. Chaz needs to become more comfortable in his new identity. Naomi also has to adjust to the new perception of her identity within the barrio she has lived in for 15 years. And, unfortunately, the Barrio itself undergoes a bit of a transition when the Church Father tries to make peace in the neighborhood. There are a few nail-biting moments when it doesn’t appear this effort is going to work.

Second, while we were introduced to Tia Vida in the first book, and became acquainted with her amazing work among immigrants, we never fully came to understand her as a person. This was true for Naomi, as well, in spite of being adopted by the woman and living with her. So in this third book, Naomi is introduced to the work of the Tia’s in a more personal manner, although Tia Vida passed on long ago, through a new found journal. This adds some new twists to a wonderfully developing plot as well as a hint of mystery.

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I love the new twists; there is also some tension as the newlyweds become more comfortable with each other and among their friends, new and old. While this is a historical piece of fiction, the issues addressed in this story are very relevant, even today. This is an exciting way to learn more of our country’s amazing history as it deals with immigrant life in developing neighborhoods. Even though this is a transition time for the newly married couple, the way it is written, there is not a dull moment in the entire book.

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I read several books a month. Some of them I write reviews for. Most of them do not stick with me over the course of time. I put them down and they are forgotten. That’s not true of any of the books in this series so far. Every single one of them has stayed with me weeks after I’ve read them. I believe it’s a sign of the relevance of the books’ contents. It’s a topic that interests me. It also has historical significance, which I enjoy. But it also reflects how well the books are written. Like most authors, the writing style is not perfect; but it is memorable. This is not just another feel good romance. There is nothing fluffy about this series. There is relevance and purpose behind the fiction. I’m drawn to that type of writing.

Of course, there is another book in the series. Not all of the issues brought up in this book are resolved. So I am looking forward to reading the next piece in this adventure. There are mysteries to be settled.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the author. 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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Appalachian Serenade: A Novella (Appalachian Blessings) by Sarah Loudin Thomas ~Review~

Appalachian Serenade: A Novella by Sarah Loudin Thomas

Appalachian Serenade

Appalachian Serenade is a prequel to another book by Sarah Loudin Thomas, A Miracle in a Dry Season, that I have read and reviewed earlier this year. You can read that review here. In the novella, you meet Perla Long when she’s only fifteen and Casewell Phillips as a young man. The main characters in this short story are Robert Thornton and Delilah Morrissey.

Delilah and her sister Charlotte grew up in the hills of West Virginia. While her sister stayed in the area after she married, Delilah and her husband went to live in Chicago. Now, more than a dozen years later, Delilah is back after her husband’s death. She is living with her sister, brother-in-law, and her niece Perla in the little town of Wise. Besides being a companion for Perla, she has no idea what to do with her life. But then she found a job working in the local General store. She felt life held some promise after all, that is until Ed’s employers, the railroad company, planned to transfer him somewhere else. Delilah was faced with a decision. Should she move with her family, or stay in Wise?

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Years ago, Robert Thornton took over ownership of his father’s business, the General store. Robert loved his work and the opportunity to socialize with his patrons, who were more like family to him than customers. But he was frustrated because sometimes he was so busy he didn’t have time to talk as much as he wanted to. So when Delilah Morrissey inquired one day if he needed help, he hired her on the spot. Before long, he couldn’t imagine how he operated the store’s business without a woman’s touch. She nearly doubled his business. But more importantly, he was attracted to the widow. His yearning for her grew stronger the longer she worked for him. He wondered if she returned his feelings. One hindrance stood in the way of pursuing a relationship with Delilah; he had a secret that has kept him from marrying anyone these past years. He didn’t know how she would react if she knew about it. At the very least, he didn’t want to lose her friendship.

This is a sweet romance of two mature people beyond their 30’s. The prequel is short and only took me a few hours to read. I have already read Miracle in a Dry Season, and was delighted to have an opportunity to review this novella and get the chance to get some background on Robert and Delilah. They play a major role in Book 1 of the Appalachian Blessings series.

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One of the things I like about this tale is how well it complements the theme of community we find in the first story. Robert’s store was already a hub of activity in his small town. When Delilah became part of the community again, she fit right in. She regained her sense of family and her participation further endeared her to the many customers she came in contact with. The ending of this romance was not really much of a surprise.

Sarah Loudin Thomas grew up on a 100-acre farm in French Creek, WV, the seventh generation to live there. Her Christian fiction is set in West Virginia and celebrates the people, the land, and the heritage of Appalachia. Her first novel, Miracle in a Dry Season, released August 2014. Married with one dog, she now lives in Western North Carolina, which is almost as beautiful as West Virginia.

Sarah is represented by Wendy Lawton of Books & Such Literary Agency. You can visit her at SarahLoudinThomas.com

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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Love Finds Faith: The Homeward Journey Book 2 by Martha Rogers ~ Review ~

Love Finds Faith: The Homeward Journey Book 2 by Martha Rogers

Love Finds Faith

Love Finds Faith is the second novel in the Homeward Journey series, in which a family in the post Civil War years is featured. Book one is Manfred and Sallie’s story. You can find my review for that book here. Love Finds Faith is about Sallie’s younger sister, Hannah, who has come to the frontier town of Stoney Creek, Texas to assist as a nurse in her brother-in-law’s medical practice. Both books can be read independently of each other. The third book in the series will be released in the Fall of 2014.

Hannah Dyer was a talented, caring young woman who had grown up in proper Mississippi society. Her one challenge to living the life of her dreams, one with a family of her own, was a physical disfigurement. One of her legs was shorter than the other. To keep from being thrown off balance as she walked, she needed to wear a special elevated shoe which was unfortunately heavy and awkward. Yet Hannah’s faith in God was strong and she was not afraid to lean on Him for strength and wisdom. She had decided years ago to accept the fate of remaining single and prepared to support herself by studying to become a nurse. The story opens at her arrival in Stoney Creek by train.

Arriving on the same train in the same town was Micah Gordon, returning home after a five year absence. His was not the joyous homecoming you would expect. He had left his parents’ ranch under a cloud, angry at the world, at his brother Levi, his father, and at God. While he wasn’t the same reckless, brash young man he was when he’d left, he was still angry at God, if he even believed there was one at all. Circumstances seemed to reinforce this lack of faith when things started to go all wrong at the ranch.

be strong let your heart take courage

Levi wouldn’t speak to him the moment he walked into the door. Micah argued with his Pa over his responsibilities at the ranch. When perusing the financial ledgers in his father’s office one day, he realized the ranch was barely solvent. Drought and losses had taken their toll on the herd. They were in debt to the bank. Costly mistakes had been made. When he offered to help with the financial end, his father stubbornly refused to talk about the problems. And he noticed his father’s health was failing. A sense of boreboding hit him. All of this was hurting his mother and sisters.

Barely a month after his arrival, Micah’s father was fatally shot during a bank robbery. The entire ranch’s fortunes were turned on its head. Levi had gone to live and work at a neighbor’s ranch, leaving Micah in charge of the home spread; he was not handling it very well.

The author, Martha Rogers, has written a flowing historical fiction that’s filled with the angst of family conflict fueled by gnawing human stubbornness, pride, sibling jealousy, self-centeredness, faulty perceptions and misunderstandings, overly zealous self-reliance, and vanity. As I grew to care about many of these family members amidst daily conflicts, I despaired they would ever reach resolution.

Underlying all the drama was Hannah’s steadfast faith in the Lord. As she was making friends in her new community, it became clear to her sister that Hannah had become attracted to Micah when they had met at the train station. In spite of their warnings against developing feelings for him, together the Whitefield family watched his family’s pain first through the brothers’ estrangement and then in Mr. Gordon’s death and prayed for them. But Hannah wanted to do more.

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The author skillfully contrasts Hannah’s peaceful, quiet and calm demeanor with Micah’s impatient, obstinate and self-centered behavior. It didn’t seem even possible the two could ever become a couple in spite of Hannah’s yearnings. It was this interesting type of suspense that kept me on the edge, waiting for some kind of resolution, right up to the final pages of the book. For this reason, I enjoyed this second book of the series even more than the first book. There was a good balance of character development and action to keep the story line moving along briskly.

My only disagreement about the way this book was written is that, to me, the Gordon family’s emotional trauma took up a disproportionate amount of book space compared to the other elements of the story including the romance between Micah and Hannah. It seemed a bit too drawn out. The budding romance was insufficiently developed and ended too quickly in my opinion. In that light, the overall atmosphere of the book felt more like a historical fiction piece than a historical romance.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from The Booketeria on behalf of Charisma Media/Realms. 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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Tide and Tempest (Edge of Freedom Book 3) by Elizabeth Ludwig ~ Review ~

Tide and Tempest (Edge of Freedom Book 3) by Elizabeth Ludwig

Tide and Tempest

Tide and Tempest is the third book in the Edge of Freedom series. Book 1, No Safe Harbor, is about Cara Hamilton and Rourke Walsh and takes place mostly in America. Book 2, Dark Road Home, is about Ana Kavanagh and Eoghan Hamilton, Cara’s brother. His desire was to join the Fenians organized in New York City.The three books share the time frame from the late 19th century and roots in Ireland. The presence of an underground revolutionary movement–a group called the Fenians–adds historical context, an element of danger, and suspense.

While there is mention of the above named characters of the first two books in the Tide and Tempest, the individual stories are only loosely associated with each other. I have not read the first two books of the series, but the third book seems to be able to stand alone very well.

For the back story, Tillie McGrath traveled overseas from Ireland with her fiance Braedon, who was a secret member of the Fenians. Unfortunately, Braedon didn’t survive the voyage and once Tillie arrived in the city, she had been forced to fend for herself. She found lodging at Amelia Matheson’s boardinghouse and work with a milliner making hats. In her spare time, she worked at a local church’s homeless shelter. Some of her hard work was a means to work off a guilty conscience for a secret she never divulged to her friends in America.

At the opening of this tale, it is two years after her arrival in America and Captain Keondric Morgan, of the ship she crossed over, had come to pay her a visit. Unfortunately it wasn’t a social call. Captain Morgan had just discovered that the death of Tillie’s fiance was not due to illness but a planned murder. Captain Morgan was determined to find the reason because not only had Braedon perished, but someone had killed the ship’s doctor and a shipmate, Donal, as well. What if Tillie’s life was also in danger by association?

In a sprint against time, the Captain and his brother Cass set out to protect Tillie’s life just in time to prevent her death in several bizarre “accidents.” Their intense investigations only led to more and more questions, until Tillie admitted that when she had visited her fiance in his final moments he had given her a ring with instructions to take it to a member of the Fenians and ask for help. The key to solving the mystery of the murders was in the finely crafted ring.

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Before I read this book, I had never heard of the Fenians before. So I looked up their history and found it fascinating. I enjoy learning something new in historical fiction pieces like this. Another thing I enjoyed about the book is the way the author developed the relationship between Cass Morgan and his brother Keondric Morgan. As they faced the challenges of keeping Tillie McGrath safe and solving the mystery of the ring, their relationship grew as they gained respect for each other. Keondric realized his little brother was becoming a responsible man in his own right.

I also loved how the author created a slow burning relationship between Tillie and Keondric fraught with uncertainties. Theirs was a complex relationship, and the author fully develops moments of attraction and conflict between them. Eventually, the depth of feeling he has for her is demonstrated in a more powerful way than anything he could have said. Between the nail biting suspenseful moments and the tentative romance developing in the main characters, the author takes the reader for quite an emotional roller coaster ride, especially toward the end of the book. If you enjoy historical romantic suspense novels, then you will enjoy this book.

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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The Dancing Master by Julie Klassen ~ Review

The Dancing Master by Julie Klassen

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Dancing Master

Something was definitely amiss in Beaworthy, Devon. When Dance Master Alec Valcourt arrives in town with his sister and mother to take refuge with his uncle, he discovers to his dismay that dancing is not allowed in the region. His hopes of earning a living for his family seemed to arrive at a bump in the road. The banishment of dancing was only the first inkling of mysterious events revolving around the Midwinter family of Buckleigh Mansion. But Alec’s mind was not completely on the dancing; it was also on the daughter of the house, the beguiling Julia Midwinter.

Julia has reached the age where she views her life as tedious, boring, and meaningless. Her life seems nothing more than captivity in a plush gilded cage. Her mother’s overbearing watchfulness felt stifling, and she interpreted it as disapproval. Her reckless and flirtatious behavior, however, hides deeply felt pain left by doubts that she would ever be worthy of her mother’s love and the certainty that her father never loved her.

At first, Alec is wary of Julia because she reminds him of events and persons in the past he wants to forget. But like a moth to the flame, he is drawn to her even when her rebellious behavior creates trouble for him with his employer. The ever inquisitive Julia eventually finds some clues to a past history that puzzles her. Her mother is unwilling to discuss anything with her, so little by little Julia seeks out other ways to find answers to her questions. She uncovers some very disturbing tidbits that at first make no sense to her. When facts finally fall into place, her mother, the townspeople and a mysterious blacksmith can no longer keep issues unresolved.

I enjoy reading Regency Romance from time to time. The author Julie Klassen creates a community of people her readers grow to care about. My first impression of the main character, Julia, was of a petulant spoiled daughter raised in a privileged home. But as events unfold, I came to realize she has much more depth to her and her outrageous behavior is just a cover to a more sensitive spirit. Alec and his sister play a part in uncovering her hurts and aiding in resolving her issues. This is very much a character driven plot, while there are plenty of side threads to keep the reader intrigued. How all the seemingly loose threads and unrelated events come together at the end makes this such an enjoyable read.

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One of the things I relish most about this book was the historical information and authenticity. I admire the amount of research that goes into creating a book such as this one. And like many of this author’s readers, I am a fan of Jane Austen’s period novels. I like reading about it, but I’m forever grateful I don’t have to live in an era where opportunities for unwed women was so limiting. I also appreciated the inclusion of information about the Bryanites and their style of worship. I had never heard of this group before reading this book.

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If you like historical romantic fiction, with a touch of mystery, good character development, a touch of faith and community and family pathos, I recommend this book 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.”

graveyard near Beaworthy Devon