Sunday, March 26, 2017

Her Secret by Shelley Shepard Gray

A complimentary review copy was provided to me.

The weather here has been amazing these past few days, which to me equals a great day to curl up with a good book (after I enjoyed the outdoors of course). There is something so nice about being able to have the doors and windows open and feel the gentle breeze while you get lost in a great story - in this case Her Secret by Shelley Shepard Gray.

Her Secret is the first in a new Amish series from Shelley Shepard Gray, focused on the Amish of Hart County in Kentucky. This book had a nice balance of suspense mixed in, which was a nice addition to this love story set in the Amish community.

The Amish youth have a period in their life when they are allowed to explore their world before committing to join the church, it is referred to as 'running around' or Rumspringa. This period normally begins around the age of 14 to 16 and ends when a youth chooses baptism within the Amish church. It is also commonly the time when they court and look for a spouse. In Her Secret, we find out that it was during her running around that Hannah dates a young Englischer named Trent. It made me wonder, with the conservative life that the Amish leave, are their youth more likely to misjudge the character of a young man than non-Amish youth. I would guess that when someone is being sweet on you, that regardless of your upbringing, there is a tendency to ignore signs that should probably be warnings. The two went on only a few dates and the stalking did not necessarily start right after they stopped seeing each other, but as we later learn (I can't tell you why - you have to read it to find out) there were likely other influences that caused Trent to become jealous and start stalking her.

The family moved away to escape the threat of this young man stalking their daughter (turns out that's not the only reason - but again, you will have to read to find out the other reason). They finally started to settle into their new community and begin to make friends, not realizing that the threat is not yet over.

This book was captivating, suspenseful and had me hooked from the beginning. The story was filled with characters that are easy to relate to and has the right balance of friends and family, love and suspense. It showed the importance of open communication to keep a family strong and of depending on those around you in times of need. I wanted to keep reading and was a little disappointed when it ended. For now, I will have to wait on future installments in the Amish of Hart County series to keep learning more about they Hilty and Troyer families and how their stories continue to unwind.

About the book:

A suspenseful tale of a young Amish woman who is forced to move to a new town to escape a threatening stalker

After a stalker went too far, Hannah Hilty and her family had no choice but to leave the bustling Amish community where she grew up. Now she's getting a fresh start in Hart County, Kentucky...if only she wasn't too scared to take it. Hannah has become afraid to trust anyone-even Isaac, the friendly Amish man who lives next door. She wonders if she'll ever return to the trusting, easy-going woman she once was.

For Isaac Troyer, the beautiful girl he teasingly called "The Recluse" confuses him like no other. When he learns of her past, he knows he's misjudged her. However, he also understands the importance of being grateful for God's gifts, and wonders if they will ever have anything in common. But as Hannah and Isaac slowly grow closer, they realize that there's always more to someone than meets the eye.

Just as Hannah is finally settling into her new life, and perhaps finding a new love, more secrets are revealed and tragedy strikes. Now Hannah must decide if she should run again or dare to fight for the future she has found in Hart County.

Learn more and purchase a copy.


About the author:

Shelley Shepard Gray is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author, a finalist for the American Christian Fiction Writers prestigious Carol Award, and a two-time HOLT Medallion winner. She lives in southern Ohio, where she writes full-time, bakes too much, and can often be found walking her dachshunds on her town's bike trail.


Learn more about the book and see additional reviews on the Blog Tour Landing Page.

No compensation was received for this review. All opinions expressed are my own or that of my family. A complimentary review copy was provided to me.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

The Elusive Miss Ellison by Carolyn Miller

A complimentary review copy was provided to me.
With a sudden return of winter weather to our area, I found myself with some time to curl up and read. This time, the book of choice was The Elusive Miss Ellison by Carolyn Miller. This is the debut novel by Carolyn Miller and also the first in the Regency Brides A Legacy of Grace series. This piece of Regency Era fiction, set in 1813 was well written and has me looking forward to learning more about it's characters in the future books in the series.

I loved the character of Lavinia Ellison, or Livvie, as her friends know her. She is a well-educated young woman, who is a talented pianist and vocalist and one who is not afraid to speak her mind. She recognizes that she lives in a world with strict social divisions, but in spite of that she finds pleasure in helping the servants keep up with weeding the garden, tending to the needs of the poor in the village and to engage in conversation on all matters with the Earl, who has recently returned to the village of St. Hampton Heath. There is something about her lack of worry about the norms of society, her educated view on life and her almost quiet assertiveness that I was able to relate to. I love that unlike even her dearest of friends, because of her character and her up bringing, she was not focused on the latest fashions, the social scene and finding a husband...

"She could hide nothing. Like the fact she now enjoyed his company. Which was just as well, because he enjoyed hers. She was interesting, well-read, able to converse on all matters of life. How refreshing to speak to a young woman whose topics of conversation were not limited to the latest fashions or gossip about others. And her quiet absorption in his conversation had led him to open his heart as he never had before." (p 170)

...and it was as though that lack of focus and her intelligence were exactly what made her so attractive. Of course, there always has to be a foil to an easy boy meets girl story. In this case, it was of course the difference in their station - him an Earl and her merely the daughter of the reverend. I was not surprised at the change in environment when the Earl's mother arrived at his house and decided to invite over friends, whose daughters were a better match for the Earl in her mind. She definitely was not about to let her son fall for the daughter of the reverend and did her best to intervene.

I was at first a little bit disappointed to learn about the family secret that was revealed to Liviana as she dealt with disappointment in herself and the loneliness that ensued. It felt like too neat of a turn at first, but the author did a great job using it to help unwind the story without allowing it to become a truth that made all the rest neatly fall in place. The story wrapped in a great fashion, almost in spite of the turn of the family secret, leaving me wanting for more. I guess the good news is that the next book in this series is set to be available this summer and I can continue to learn more about this set of characters from the Regency Era.

If you enjoy period fiction, and more specifically Regency Era fiction, I would recommend this book to you.


About the book:

Handsome appearance counts for naught unless matched by good character and actions.

That's the firm opinion of not-so-meek minister's daughter Lavinia Ellison. So even though all the other villagers of St. Hampton Heath are swooning over the newly returned seventh Earl of Hawkesbury, she is not impressed. If a man won't take his responsibilities seriously and help those who are supposed to be able to depend on him, he deserves no respect from her. In Lavinia's pretty, gray eyes, Nicholas Stamford is just as arrogant and reckless as his brother-who stole the most important person in Livvie's world.

Nicholas is weighed down by his own guilt and responsibility, by the pain his careless brother caused, and by the legacy of war he's just left. This quick visit home to St. Hampton Heath will be just long enough to ease a small part of that burden. Asking him to bother with the lives of the villagers when there's already a bailiff on the job is simply too much to expect.
That is, until the hoydenish, intelligent, and very opinionated Miss Ellison challenges him to see past his pain and pride. With her angelic voice in his head, he may even be beginning to care. But his isn't the only heart that needs to change.
These two lonely hearts may each have something the other needs. But with society's opposition, ancestral obligations, and a shocking family secret, there may be too many obstacles in their way.

Fans of Georgette Heyer, Lori Wick, and Julie Klassen will enjoy the spirited exchanges between the bluestocking minister's daughter and the bruised war hero as they move past pride and presumption to a humbled appreciation of God's grace and the true strength of love.


Learn more and purchase a copy here.


About the author:

Carolyn Miller lives in New South Wales, Australia, with her husband and four children. A longtime lover of Regency romance, Carolyn's novels have won a number of RWA and ACFW contests. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and Australasian Christian Writers.


Learn more about the book and read additional reviews on the Blog Tour Landing Page.


No compensation was received for this review. All opinions expressed are my own or that of my family. A complimentary review copy was provided to me.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Home To Paradise by Barbara Cameron

A complimentary review copy was provided to me.
The past few weeks, I took a break from historical fiction and returned to Amish fiction. I had the chance to read Home To Paradise by Barbara Cameron. It was the first book that I have read by her and the last book in The Coming Home Series.

The book was an enjoyable story with nice characters. I liked the dual perspectives, the chance to really get to know what Rose Anna and John were experiencing as well as their thoughts around it. The characters were real people and had real struggles - Rose Anna with her expectations of a future with John and a need to find a way to win him back to her and the community and John with his struggles with his father and trying to find his place in the world. This story of coming home allowed us to watch the characters make decisions that were not always easy or simple. Compared to many other books that I have read, there was a lot more interaction with Englischers in this story, such as volunteering at a Woman's shelter, teaching classes at the local fabric store and working on an Englischer's farm.

It was a good book, but seemed to be a slower moving book which is probably an okay thing in the fast moving world in which we live. It would be interesting to learn more of the back stories, but the book functioned well as a stand alone story and nothing was lost by not reading the earlier books in the series.


Book info

Highly anticipated final book in The Coming Home Series from best-selling Amish author Barbara Cameron.

Rose Anna Zook has watched her two older sisters marry two Stoltzfus men and has always thought she and John, the third Stoltzfus brother, would marry, make a home together, and have children. But John has other ideas. He's enjoying his Rumschpringe in the Englisch world a little too much and isn't interested in returning to the Amish community-especially to marry.

Rose Anna is determined to bring her man back into the Amish fold. John is equally determined to live his life free and unencumbered. Who will win this battle of wills? Will love prevail?

Learn more and purchase a copy.

Barbara Cameron has a heart for writing about the spiritual values and simple joys of the Amish. She is the best-selling author of more than 40 fiction and nonfiction books, three nationally televised movies, and the winner of the first Romance Writers of America Golden Heart Award. Her books have been nominated for Carol Awards and the Inspirational Reader's Choice Award from RWA's Faith, Hope, and Love chapter. Barbara resides in Jacksonville, Florida.

Learn more about the book and see additional reviews on the Blog Tour Landing Page.

No compensation was received for this review. All opinions expressed are my own or that of my family. A complimentary review copy was provided to me.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

An Uncommon Courtship by Kristi Ann Hunter

A complimentary review copy was provided to me.
The weather here in Ohio has been unseasonably warm which has been wonderful, but with the early dark fall of winter, I have still found ample opportunities to read. Most recently, I have been reading An Uncommon Courtship by Kristi Ann Hunter.
About the book:
Lord Trent Hawthorne couldn't be happier he is not the duke in the family. Free to manage his small estate and take his time discovering the life he wants to lead, he has grand plans of someday wooing and falling in love with the woman of his choice. When he finds himself honor bound to marry a woman he barely knows, his dream of a loving marriage like his parents' seems lost forever.

Life for Lady Adelaide Bell was easier when she hid in her older sister's shadow--which worked until her sister got married. But even with her socially ambitious mother's focus entirely on her, the last thing she expected was a marriage of convenience before she's been introduced to society.

With nothing going as expected, can Trent and Adelaide's marriage of obligation survive their own missteps and the pressures of London society to grow into a true meeting of hearts and minds?

The story is filled with challenges, growth and romance. It starts with a marriage of two young people that barely know one another and although they don't follow traditional paths, with effort and focus and a little help from family and friends, the young couple is able to slowly build a relationship and begin the journey to love.

This piece of period fiction, Regency fiction to be exact, was a wonderful story with memorable characters. The author does a great job of developing the characters and helping you feel a connection to the endearing, unique characters within the story. I found myself easily relating to the shy, book-loving Adelaide whose fidgets left something on her out of sorts by the end of the evening and cheering Trent along as he warmed to the awry portions of his wife's appearance and found himself looking for ways to protect his wife from the interference of her mother and the less than scrupulous men that seemed to cross her path. The class system of the era was a huge influence on the story and there were some characters who were so focused on the societal standing that they were willing to hurt their own family members to assure their own status, yet still there were some characters were more focused on family and acceptance and worried little about their status.

I didn't know it when I selected the book, but it is the third book in her Hawthorne House series. The good news is it works well as a stand alone novel and although I am a fan of following the lives of those I meet in earlier books, I don't feel like I missed out on anything by starting with the third book...of course, I would like to go back and read the first two. I know that I know where those couples wind up based on this book, but I think it would still be enjoyable to go back and learn more about them.

No compensation was received for this review. All opinions expressed are my own or that of my family. A complimentary review copy was provided to me.


Saturday, January 28, 2017

The Mark of the King by Jocelyn Green

A complimentary review copy was provided to me.
Growing up, I was a huge fan of Little House on the Prairie, despite the challenges that they likely faced as pioneers on the prairie, I still had romantic notions of the simplicity of the life and the focus on the importance of your family. I think sometimes, as you study history and read historical fiction, it has a tendency to leave you with a different impression than the likely reality, not that you don't recognize the differences and realize the challenges that they were facing, but it doesn't tend to really provide focus on the difficulties that they really faced. In The Mark of the King by Jocelyn Green, I got a really different perspective on the early settlements in Louisiana.
The story starts in France, where Julianne is serving as a midwife with her teacher as her assistant, a delivery that alters Julianne's future. Finding herself imprisoned for murder, she barters her way out of prison and onto a ship headed to Louisiana, in hopes of connecting with her younger brother who went to Louisiana to serve as a soldier. Little does she know when making the deal, but before they leave France, all of the passengers on the ship are forced to chose a mate (a fellow convict) and marry, as they are headed to the colony to help populate it for France. There is no shortage of challenge and heartache along the way for Julianne. Even in escaping France, she is unable to escape the mark of the king that has been etched into her skin...the mark creating issues for her, but also the potential to finally find happiness in the rough environment of the colony.

Jocelyn Green does a great job in bringing the story to life. She paints the landscape and environment of the wilds of the Louisiana colony in a way that makes it very vivid in your mind. You really got to know the characters and felt that you were experiencing the challenges and heartaches along with them. Her description of the experience at sea and on land during the hurricane makes the reader feel like they are in the storm with the characters.

I highly recommend this book, as I thoroughly enjoyed it and was drawn in on each and every page. The night that I finished the book, I stayed up way later than I should have, because I simply could not put down the book without knowing the outcome and the fate of those characters that I had grown to love. Those 75 pages were read without the realization of just how the time was passing. This is the first book I have read by Jocelyn Green but based on the way that she captured me and pulled me into the story, I look forward to reading more of her historical fiction books. She has four others, also set in the early years of the United States.


About the book:

The Mark of the King (Bethany House, January 2017)

Sweeping historical fiction set at the edge of the continent

After being imprisoned and branded for the death of her client, twenty-five-year-old midwife Julianne Chevalier trades her life sentence for exile to the fledgling 1720s French colony of Louisiana, where she hopes to be reunited with her brother, serving there as a soldier. To make the journey, though, women must be married, and Julianne is forced to wed a fellow convict.

When they arrive in New Orleans, there is no news of Benjamin, Julianne's brother, and searching for answers proves dangerous. What is behind the mystery, and does military officer Marc-Paul Girard know more than he is letting on?

With her dreams of a new life shattered, Julianne must find her way in this dangerous, rugged land, despite never being able to escape the king's mark on her shoulder that brands her a criminal beyond redemption.

Purchase a copy: http://bit.ly/2iKM4uj

About the author:


Jocelyn Green inspires faith and courage as the award-winning author of ten books to date, including Wedded to War, a Christy Award finalist in 2013; Widow of Gettysburg; Yankee in Atlanta; and The 5 Love Languages Military Edition, which she coauthored with bestselling author Dr. Gary Chapman. A former military wife herself, her passion for military families informs all of her writing as well as her numerous speaking opportunities. Jocelyn graduated from Taylor University with a BA in English and now lives with her husband and two children in Iowa.



Find more reviews and learn more on the blog tour landing page.

No compensation was received for this review. All opinions expressed are my own or that of my family. A complimentary review copy was provided to me.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Buried Memories by Carol J. Post

A complimentary review copy was provided to me.

I have always been a big fan of thrillers and mysteries when you can mix in a bit of a love story, they are even better because you worry about the safety of those main characters. Such is the case with Buried Memories by Carol J. Post. I received the book just before the holidays, but we were pretty busy with company
After her broken engagement, Nicki Jackson hoped her move to Cedar Key would give her a fresh start—instead she quickly learns someone’s out to destroy her. Are the attacks tied to her mother’s recently reopened murder case…or to the nightmares Nicki’s beginning to suspect are actually hidden memories? With the threats against her escalating, former soldier Tyler Brant vows to keep Nicki safe. He refuses to lose the woman who’s swiftly becoming more than a childhood crush. But when danger circles closer, is Nicki’s traumatic past better left forgotten…or are her memories the key to something far more sinister?
There was no slow start with this story, it started right in on the first page when Nikki comes home from travel to find her house broken into. I love how the story started quickly and then over the next few pages, it slows down a bit and so that we can be introduced to the characters and start to learn more about them. The characters are very likeable and their development well done. You quickly find yourself feeling a part of the story and worrying about them and what is happening to and around them. The suspenseful plot was well done and kept me turning the pages, often times spending more time reading than I had intended. I kept trying to anticipate who was behind these attacks and threats on Nikki and her friends and yet it was only moments before Nikki herself realized who is after her that I finally reached the same realization.

Nikki and Tyler, who had known each other during another rough time in their lives, grew closer as the story progressed and drew strength from one another. Along the way, Nikki helped Tyler start to reconsider his doubts in God and he even attended church with her. She helps him see that unanswered prayers aren't actually unanswered, but that the answer isn't always yes. Tyler helps her see that friends can be just as important as family.

Buried Memories is the fourth book in the series, but the first on that I read, which did not present any challenges in enjoying the book. This is the second book that I read by the author and I look forward to reading more. You can learn more about the author and her books on her web page.

No compensation was received for this review. All opinions expressed are my own or that of my family. A complimentary review copy was provided to me.