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.