Review: “A Song Unheard” by Roseanna M. White

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Last year, one of my very favorite historical romances was A Name Unknown by Roseanna M. White. I loved it SO MUCH! It’s still at the top of the list, but the second book in the series, A Song Unheard, impressed me as well. Comparing the two is like comparing apples and oranges because each one is unique and wonderful in its own way. Book 2 features another sister in the “family”, with a trip to Wales, violin music, and a mysterious mission…

About the Book

Willa Forsythe is both a violin prodigy and top-notch thief, which make her the perfect choice for a crucial task at the outset of World War I—to steal a cypher from a famous violinist currently in Wales. A Song Unheard by Roseanna M. White

Lukas De Wilde has enjoyed the life of fame he’s won—until now, when being recognized nearly gets him killed. Everyone wants the key to his father’s work as a cryptologist. And Lukas fears that his mother and sister, who have vanished in the wake of the German invasion of Belgium, will pay the price. The only light he finds is in meeting the intriguing Willa Forsythe.

But danger presses in from every side, and Willa knows what Lukas doesn’t—that she must betray him and find that cypher, or her own family will pay the price as surely as his has.

Amazon | Goodreads

Review

A Song Unheard is a novel for anyone who loves history or music. Set during the early days of WWI, it portrays a unique era, a slice of history, and the trials ordinary people endured. I liked that it showed multiple intertwining viewpoints– that of a spunky thief-turned-government aid practically working as a spy (Willa), a refugee estranged from his family and struggling to maintain his normal lifestyle (Lukas), and that of an intelligent young lady hiding her true identity in German-occupied Belgium (Margot).

In their own ways, they each learn important lessons of faith. What stands out to me the most is Willa’s realization that the loving FAMILY she has is wonderful, but that the love of a Heavenly Father can be all-encompassing and accepting far beyond any human connection she might seek.

These twisting perspectives all tell a seamless story with action, intrigue, and true acts of heroism. Interspersed with it all is a romance that grows naturally even while the characters themselves are often (comically) unaware of their deep connection.

And OH, the music!!! The music lover in me swooned a time or two while reading Lukas and Willa’s musical scenes. I have never read a story that incorporates the emotions and visceral feelings music can evoke in mere words and paragraphs. It was so vivid, I could almost hear Willa’s song in her heart. The journey of the characters could be likened to a song that has mournful minor strains and moments of pure joy. All of it works together to present a piece of art: in this case, a musical story that incorporates both historical suspense, romance, and faith.

Thank you to Bethany House Publishers and Netgalley for the opportunity to review a complimentary copy of this book. This is my honest review.

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First Line Fridays ❤ Valentine’s Day Edition: The Breath of Dawn

It’s time for a new edition of First Line Fridays hosted by the Hoarding Books blog!

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Welcome to First Line Fridays special Valentine’s Day Edition!!!

This week is all about #romance, so I’m sharing some lines from an excellent contemporary romance/suspense book that doesn’t get enough attention here on the blog.

The Breath of Dawn by Kristen Heitzmann

It’s one of my VERY FAVORITE contemporary romances for so many reasons, most of them having to do with Morgan’s eccentricities. Hehehe. Plus, it is a unique twist on a common trope found in historical–but not so much in contemporary–stories, and that is another reason it is in a class its own. Without further ado, here are the first lines from the prologue and chapter 1, which give you all a tiny introduction to the state of both main characters.

The Breath of Dawn

First Lines:

Prologue

Seeing Morgan standing still as stone beside the freshly opened earth, Noelle St. Claire Spencer believed a man could shatter.

Chapter 1

Quinn liked the way mountains made her feel small –not unusual at five three, a hundred and five, but beneath the towering peaks, she felt miniscule, practically invisible, almost invisible enough.

Your turn! Find the book closest to you and share your first line in the comments! The, head over to Hoarding Books for the linky and visit other FLF posts!

Novella Review & GIVEAWAY: “Love in Three Quarter Time” by Rachel McMillan

HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY, everyone!

And, happy birthday to my author friend Rachel McMillan, who just happens to have a contemporary novella releasing today: Love in Three Quarter Time--congratulations are in order! Friends, join me in gushing over her beauty of a romance and enter the giveaway at the end for your chance to win a Kindle copy of the story for yourself!

About the Book

Love in Three Quarter Time

Evelyn Watt fell in love with Austrian marketing director Rudy Moser the moment he stepped into their Boston firm. With his ice blue eyes and chocolate-melting accent, he is as refined as she imagines his home country to be. When Evelyn finds herself unexpectedly unemployed right before Christmas, she is left with an unknown future until Rudy steps in with a job appraising, assessing and cataloging heirlooms, lending her American vernacular to the translated descriptions to give each item international appeal. Evelyn will live in Vienna for the months leading up to a grand auction at a party held in conjunction with the Opera Ball—on Valentine’s Day.

Vienna is a magical blend of waltzing, antiques, and bottomless cups of Einspanner coffee at the Café Mozart. When a secret from Rudy’s family’s past blows in with the winter chill, Evelyn is forced to confront how well she knows the object of her affection. Her café tablemate, the gruff and enigmatic Klaus Bauner might be the only person who holds the key to Rudy’s past. But could that key also unlock her future? In the days leading up to the Opera Ball, Evelyn finds herself in the middle of the greatest romance of her life…as long as she doesn’t trip over her two left feet.

Amazon | Goodreads

Review

Sometimes I approach story with routine as a “book blogger”, analyzing things along the way. This is a good habit because I have learned to perceive story differently. BUT, those rare books that just sweep me up to get lost in the story world are the ones that remind me WHY I love reading. Love in Three Quarter Time is such a story — an atmospheric and eloquent romance with poignancy and depth.

Love in Three Quarter Time is a discovery of self as much as a discovery of culture and history through the heroine’s eyes. Evelyn is relatable, introverted, caffeine-dependent, and very likable. Seeing Vienna (and briefly Prague) and its history through her eyes is one thing that makes the story so atmospheric and lovely. As she follows after Rudy and discerns her own heart, she starts to see that her romantic ideal just might be simpler and steadier that the showy dream she thought she wanted. I appreciated the way Rudy fit into the story and had a necessary purpose beyond being a foil for the hero.

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And then there’s Klaus! ❤ HE is where the quiet and subtle romance begins to intertwine with Evelyn’s journey, with such an eloquence and spirit unique to Rachel McMillan’s voice and view of the world. Calling Klaus a gentleman and somewhat of a history nerd (who knows his Shakespeare and Brontë!) is the highest compliment. As Evelyn (and the reader) gets to know him more and more, she sees beyond his shell and into his endearing handkerchief-carrying nature, and he encourages and shows Evelyn her value in a way she has never experienced.

This is where the vulnerability and longings of the characters converge: in an idea of romance beyond a relationship between a man and a woman. That it can manifest in a love of travel, a joy found in little things in life like coffee and books and Waltzes, in tidbits of history and the legacy of a place. That romance can be found in life even apart from what we think we need in a “romantic” relationship. Evelyn and Klaus both see life in this manner. When they each realize the other is a kindred spirit that understands this concept without pretense, what results is a heart-stopping and joyous ending fitting for these two. ❤

This is a book to read with a cup of coffee! I smiled, sighed, and giggled my way through it in just a few hours. I loved the deeper and varied meanings of romance, the shared silence, my personal realization that Rudy was a “Mr. Collins”, the pastries and coffee and European history, and the Waltz lessons! Rachel McMillan’s heart is in her story, and it’s a beautiful work of art.

Giveaway

Click HERE to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway!

Giveaway is for one (1) Kindle ebook copy of Love in Three Quarter Time by Rachel McMillan provided by The Green Mockingbird. Giveaway ends 2/24/18 11:59pm CT.

Top Ten Tuesday: 10 Best On-Screen Rom-Com Couples

It’s another Top Ten Tuesday, now hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl!

Top Ten Tuesday at The Green Mockingbird

The official topic this week is a love freebie because YAY Valentine’s Day and all things hearts and chocolate!!!! I’ve decided to highlight some of my favorite couples from TV and film formats, particularly from romantic comedies.

In no particular order…

10 Best On-Screen Rom-Com Couples

Shane and Oliver from the Signed, Sealed, Delivered Hallmark movie series

#Sholiver fans have been waiting FOREVER for them to be a “couple”, but it’s been worth the relationship growth and character building. Ah!

Kathleen Kelly and Joe Fox from You’ve Got Mail (1998)

These two are a modern classic couple. From arguing over Pride and Prejudice to friendship over coffee, I love the journey of their relationship.

Lucy and Jack from While You Were Sleeping (1995)

The humor in this story is just so realistic. My favorite aspect of this story is how Lucy learns the dream she idealized is not the reality she really wants.

Ellen and Nicholas Arden from Move Over, Darling (1963)

We can’t talk about romantic comedies without mentioning THIS classic. 1. It manages plenty of romantic tension even between a married couple. 2. James Garner. 3. The hilarity of the derailed “honeymoon”.

Kate and Leopold from Kate & Leopold (2001)

A time-travel romance with humor and spunk, Meg and Hugh have the best chemistry.

Anna and Declan from Leap Year (2010)

Ireland. Sheep. Tradition. Road trip. An adorable Amy Adams. Plus a little dry humor and Matthew Goode with an IRISH accent. Need I say more?

Ellen and Roy from The Irresistible Blueberry Farm (2016) Hallmark

While I’ve only seen this once, I vividly remember how endearing and laugh-out-loud funny it was throughout. Especially that meet-cute and subsequent fallout. 🙂

Jack and Gwendolyn AND Cecily and Algy from The Importance of Being Earnest (2002)

You knew I’d squeeze a period drama onto this list, right? 😉 This play-turned-cinematic fun piece just gets funnier upon every rewatch. Mistaken identity and a town-country separation prove hilarious and fateful for this delightful cast.

Toula and Ian from My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002)

Culture shock and a vibrant family make this film one-of-a-kind. And, the quotable lines are ENDLESS. “Put some Windex on it.”

That’s it for today! Did you participate in this week’s TTT? What are YOU favorite rom-coms?

Novella Review, Author Interview & GIVEAWAY: “The Cupcake Dilemma” by Jennifer Rodewald

Put the words “cupcake” and “Jennifer Rodewald” together, associated with a novella, and you have my undying attention and interest. Throw in a sweet romance, some chocolate, and a quaint (favorite) small town setting, and you have a recipe for a novella that earns a place on my favorites list!!! I’m thrilled to be sharing my review of this Valentine’s Day release AND an interview with Jennifer, along with an ebook #GIVEAWAY!

About the Book

The Cupcake Dilemma

My name is Kirstin Hill. I’m a simple girl trying to figure out life in a small town. There are a few things you should know about me before we begin. I grew up in the city. I’m a teacher–a first year teacher, (some of you understand that significance). And, finally, when it comes to cooking, I’m a disaster. Maybe none of those things seem story-worthy, but trust me, I have a story. I call it The Cupcake Dilemma, and it literally changed my life. How? I’m glad you asked.

It all started with an extra assignment delegated to me at school right before Valentine’s Day… but before we get too far, let me begin by stating this clearly. I was voluntold.

Amazon | Goodreads

Review

The Cupcake Dilemma is an absolute treat from start to finish! Kirstin and Ian are positively likable and refreshingly awkward — especially when they are “together” on the page. I expected to like this story, but I didn’t expect it to be so hilarious (I mean laugh-out-loud hilarious) in so many ways! Jennifer keeps surprising me with her versatility and voice.

It’s not all hearts and chocolate, though, as the interaction between Kirstin and Ian reveals a deeper desire to find joy and friendship. That’s what I like most about the developing relationship between Kirstin and Ian — that it begins with a friendship and wonderfully, naturally grows into a sweet could-be-love rapport.

If you’re looking for a light-hearted story with epically funny kitchen fails, look no further than this “sweet” novella from Jennifer. And, if you’re a fan of her Rock Creek stories thus far, you will be delighted by the brief appearance of beloved characters.

Thank you to the author for providing the review copy. This is my honest review.

Interview with the Author

You’ve written stories across genres with different emotional depths, from lighthearted to innovative and thought-provoking. How do you prepare to write such varied stories?

You noticed that, huh? *wink and a smile* I’m not sure how to describe the prep work for my more emotionally charged books, other than to say I do quite a bit of research in the way of reading non-fiction books and blogs (blogs are a surprisingly rich wealth of information into the human heart—some people are shockingly honest on their blogs). And prayer. Lots and lots of prayer. Not just that I’d write what He would have me write, but that God would show me more of His heart for people in the stories I explore. Truly, that’s the driving force behind what I do—to discover through story more Truth, to understand the heart of God. So, even with my lighter stories, there is that. I was surprised to see God reveal to me how much I needed to let go of the guilty voices that plague me as a mother through the writing of Ordinary Snowflakes; and I was completely delighted to experience God’s pleasure in humor as I wrote The Cupcake Dilemma.

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That said, with both of my novellas, they came as a reprieve. When I wrote Ordinary
Snowflakes, I had just finished the rough draft of Red Rose Bouquet, which proved to be the most emotionally challenging—and heart-wrenching story God took me through. The Cupcake Dilemma was also written after the completion of another heart-challenging rough draft (Finding Evergreen—which releases March 22). Interestingly, both novellas started with the personal challenge to create a fun hook and write a story from there. So, for Ordinary Snowflakes, the hook I started with was the line “I almost stepped on it…” and, The Cupcake Dilemma was “Let me begin by stating this clearly. I was voluntold.” With both stories, I really didn’t have a shape in mind for what would happen as I began to write. They were both rather a reminder of the delightful surprises that come with simply creating.

I love hearing the heart behind the writing process — and your heart is clearly on display in every story you pen. ❤

What is your favorite cupcake? Did you bake cupcakes while you wrote?

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First off, I LOVE cupcakes. Secondly, I am a total #kitchenfail. Thus, the story. 😉 I am
completely jealous of people who can bake (ehem, Courtney.) *Courtney smiles bashfully* and wish that they could come live with me so that I would have an unending supply of bakery deliciousness. I am ever-hopeful that one of my daughters will take up that charge. My favorite cupcake is a peanut butter Reese’s-esc creation. I’m also a fan of lemon.

Sadly, there was no consumption of cupcakes during the writing of this story. That is just wrong. I do plan on celebrating the release with one—or more! on Valentine’s Day.

You MUST celebrate with cupcakes!!! And, if you’ve had a particularly challenging time lately, I (and Ian would) suggest a “dark and dangerous” chocolate one!

Tell us about the inspiration for and story setting of Rock Creek.

Rock Creek is a mashup of several different small towns I’ve either been a part of, or have visited. When I made up the town for Reclaimed, I wanted to blend the charm of small town with the reality of some of the more difficult politics that are inherently part of small town life, but I didn’t want in any way to paint a real place in a bad light. Thus the fictional town. As a girl who grew up citified (just outside of Denver, in a not-so- awesome neighborhood), and who moved to rural Nebraska as a young married adult, I feel like I have a balanced and realistic view of life in the city versus life in small town. Having said that, though, I’ve kind of fallen in love with fictional Rock Creek, so don’t be surprised if you find me visiting there again. 😉

I do hope Rock Creek will be revisited soon!

Is there a theme or message you want readers to take away from The Cupcake Dilemma?

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Well, my theme song while writing it was Francesca Battistelli’s “Free To Be Me” (https://youtu.be/EKSQjSdU8VA), so that’s pretty much it.“On Your (HIS) shoulders I can see, I’m free to be me.” It is the beautiful gift we are all given, the freedom to embrace who I am, quirks and all. Oh, and to embrace laughter. Life is so much better when we laugh. 😉

What are you currently reading?

I just finished an Advanced Copy of Sondra Kraak’s upcoming release Three Words and A Kiss. Next up is When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi, and in between, I’m working through Ted Dekker’s The Forgotten Way. The next novel for me will probably be Courtney Walsh’s Just Look Up.

Oooh, out of those, I’ve read Just Look Up, and it’s fabulous!

Thank you, Jen, for taking the time to answer my questions today! You have written a treat of a story!

About the Author

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Jennifer Rodewald is passionate about the Word of God and the powerful vehicle of story. Four kids and her own personal superman make her home in southwestern Nebraska delightfully chaotic.

Born in Colorado, she experienced both the seclusion of rugged mountain living and the busy streets of a Denver suburb during her growing up years. Somewhere in the middle of college, she married a Husker and found her way back to the quiet lifestyle of a rural area, which suits just fine.

Blessed with a robust curiosity, Jen loves to research. Whether she’s investigating the history of a given area, the biography of a Christian icon, or how nature declares the glory of God, her daily goal is to learn something new. Aiming to live with boundless enthusiasm, her creed is vision, pursuit, and excellence.

Jen lives and writes in a lovely speck of a town where she watches with amazement while her children grow up way too fast, gardens, and marvels at God’s mighty hand in everyday life.

GOODREADS | FACEBOOK | TWITTER | INSTAGRAM | WEBSITE

Giveaway

CLICK HERE to enter the Rafflecopter Giveaway!

Giveaway is for one (1) Kindle ebook copy of The Cupcake Dilemma provided by The Green Mockingbird. Giveaway ends 2/17/18 11:59pm CT. Void where prohibited.

January Happenings

Today marks the last day of January and 1 month passed in 2018. How is that possible?! Join me in looking at some new books added to the shelf, popular posts, and favorites from this month.
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on the bookshelf

New books on the shelves (virtual and real): The Lacemaker by Laura Frantz, Blue Columbine by Jennifer Rodewald, The Lost Heiress by Roseanna M. White, “The Rock Harbor Collection” by Colleen Coble, and Nightshade by Ronie Kendig. ARCs: Amongst the Roses by Meghan M. Gorecki, A Refuge Assured by Jocelyn Green, Love in Three Quarter Time by Rachel McMillan, Unbreakable by Sara Ella, The Lost Castle by Kristy Cambron, The Heart Between Us by Lindsey Harrel, No One Ever Asked by Katie Ganshert, and The Cupcake Dilemma by Jennifer Rodewald.

on the blog

Most popular posts:

  1. Best of 2017
  2. Top Ten Tuesday: Top 13 New-to-Me Authors I Read in 2017
  3. First Line Fridays #9: The Saturday Night Supper Club

1-The UncloakedMost popular book reviews:

  1. Impossible Saints by Clarissa Harwood
  2. I’ll Be Yours by Jenny B. Jones
  3. “The Uncloaked” Trilogy by J. Rodes

on the screen

Oh, so many movies, so little time! Instead of waxing poetic about a movie or two, I’m just going to list some I’ve really enjoyed lately. What have YOU been watching?

  • One Winter Weekend (Hallmark) |While not without its little moments of cheesiness, this one was 99% believable and one of the best of the winter themes. Plus, the leading actress, Taylor Cole, is a fav.
  • VictoriaVictoria, S2season 2 (on Masterpiece Classic, PBS) | My history and romance loving heart LOVES this series! It’s one of the best developed series I’ve ever seen, everything from the historical accuracy, gorgeous sets/costumes, the ❤ great cast, and the nuances of the supporting cast just works.
  • 12 Strong (Warner Bros.) | Riveting and eye-opening, this depiction of true life events just after 9/11 makes me honored and proud to be an American.
  • Star Wars: The Last Jedi (Disney) | Yes, I’m a nerd. And a fan of the direction this movie took. #REYLO
  • The Case for Christ (Pure Flix) | This biopic based on Lee Strobel’s life and journey from atheism to faith is interesting and faith-affirming. Go watch it.

around the web

If you’re still on the lookout for a reading challenge to complete this year, go check out Bethany House’s unique and quirky list.

Author Carla Laureano wrote an AWESOME guest post on the Seekerville blog all about The Care and Feeding of Authors. FYI, this list applies to bloggers, too. Just throw chocolate at us when we look like we need it.

 

YOUR TURN! Tell me all about your January in the comments. 

 

Review: “Impossible Saints” by Clarissa Harwood

When authors I love endorse or excessively talk about stories they love, I try to pay attention — even if a story is outside my “normal” reading scope (i.e. new authors, small publishers, different genres). When author Rachel McMillan gushed over Impossible Saints by Clarissa Harwood, a general market historical romance, I knew I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. And, I really liked it!

 

About the BookSet in England in 1907, Impossible Saints is a novel that burns as brightly as the suffrage movement it depicts, with the emotional resonance of Tracy Chevalier and Jennifer Robson. 
Impossible SaintsEscaping the constraints of life as a village schoolmistress, Lilia Brooke bursts into London and into Paul Harris’s orderly life, shattering his belief that women are gentle creatures who need protection. Lilia wants to change women’s lives by advocating for the vote, free unions, and contraception. Paul, an Anglican priest, has a big ambition of his own: to become the youngest dean of St. John’s Cathedral. Lilia doesn’t believe in God, but she’s attracted to Paul’s intellect, ethics, and dazzling smile.

As Lilia finds her calling in the militant Women’s Social and Political Union, Paul is increasingly driven to rise in the church. They can’t deny their attraction, but they know they don’t belong in each other’s worlds. Lilia would rather destroy property and serve time in prison than see her spirit destroyed and imprisoned by marriage to a clergyman, while Paul wants nothing more than to settle down and keep Lilia out of harm’s way. Paul and Lilia must reach their breaking points before they can decide whether their love is worth fighting for.

GoodreadsAmazon

ReviewImpossible Saints is a flowing, layered general fiction title with subtle Christian overtones, exploring themes of conviction, purpose, and challenges to preconceptions or societal norms. Its two characteristics that stand out the most are its depiction of an era both tumultuous and expectation-laden, a relevant parallel with today in some ways; and its endearing characters, with even the secondary characters taking on vibrant tones. Rachel McMillan was right in referencing both Grantchester (ITV) and the film Suffragette(2015) in her review. This book has similarities with both “visual” depictions, but its storyline is distinctly its own. I would say it is like Grantchester without the moral ambiguity or mystery meets Suffragette with all the wit and verbal banter of the classic Hollywood era.

Oh, the romance! What starts as believable camaraderie between reunited childhood friends grows into an authentic friendship with sparks of attraction. Before long, Paul and Lilia must face what their relationship must look like in the face of the women’s movement, church and societal expectations, and personal motives as it morphs into a romantic dynamic. The push-pull of their relationship really represents the importance of broadening perspective — that being inclusive and choosing to care for someone doesn’t mean you must compromise your identity or convictions.

For my blog readers who typically stick to clean inspirational fiction titles, I do want to mention a few things about this novel’s content. It is a *little* more candid and sensual when it comes to the romance verbiage, it depicts tobacco use, and has a few very mild expletives.

Impossible Saints is equally candid, and refreshingly so, when tackling issues such as women’s roles or the contrasts between ritual in the church vs. faith in action. I would have liked Lilia’s growth in receptiveness to Paul’s faith to have been a little more by story’s end, though I think the door is left open to her for deeper faith after “the end”. But maybe that’s my personal convictions shining through in my perception of her character. Overall, I thought it an authentic portrayal of the era and a beautiful story of romance.

Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for the ebook review copy. This is my honest review.