Review: High As the Heavens by Kate Breslin

High as the Heavens is an absolutely beautiful and riveting story of perseverance, hope, and mercy against the backdrop of WWI Belgium. Author Kate Breslin is now a new favorite and I must read her other novels soon!About the Book

High as the HeavensIn 1917, Evelyn Marche is just one of many women who has been widowed by the war. A British nurse trapped in German-occupied Brussels, she spends her days working at a hospital and her nights as a waitress in her aunt and uncle’s café. Eve also has a carefully guarded secret keeping her in constant danger: She’s a spy working for a Belgian resistance group in league with the British Secret Service. 

When a British plane crashes in Brussels Park, Eve is the first to reach the downed plane and is shocked to discover she recognizes the badly injured pilot. British RFC Captain Simon Forrester is now a prisoner of war, and Eve knows he could be shot as a spy at any time. She risks her own life to hide him from the Germans, but as the danger mounts and the secrets between them grow, their chance of survival looks grim. And even if they do make it out alive, the truth of what lies between them may be more than any love can overcome.

Review

This novel has all the appeal of –and promise to be– a classic in its genre: a vivid sense of place; plot elements inspired by real life events and people; relatable and complex characters; a romance that surprises and leaves you breathless with its strength; and, secrets, danger, and espionage (oh my!).

Drawing on the logistical complexities and melting pot of nationalities involved in The Great War, the suspenseful storyline keeps a steady pace with twists and makes the reader question just who to trust or believe. I have a new respect for Red Cross personnel who worked behind enemy lines, and citizens who risked so much while participating in underground communcations networks like La Dame Blanche. The espionage storyline alone had me nervous for Eve, Simon, and several other people who worked with them!

Side note: a few flashbacks take place closer to the beginning of the story and serve as the perfect tool to establish Eve and Simon’s personalities with a sense of normalcy (before the war changed so much). And, they also shed light on the relationship dynamic between the two of them. 🙂

Ok, now to talk about my favorite part of High as the Heavens: the romantic tension!!!! To say all I want to would give away an early surprise or two, so I’ll just have to tell you that Eve and Simon have a history. A close one. His literal crash back into her life is way more complicated than the synopsis hints. Because of this, they are both challenged with trust and the secrets they each harbor. This further complicates the way they must prioritize loyalties to family and country, but especially to each other. In their frustrating circumstance, the strength of the romance between the two of them is delightfully uncovered and shines a light on an overarching theme of hope. And oh, how their soul-deep connection is beautifully penned by Kate! I especially appreciated how Simon’s role embodied the characteristics of love — its patience, mercy, and edurance.

If you are a fan of history, WWI, romance, or even suspense, I say you should read this novel ASAP! Even if historical fiction is not your normal genre. If you want a second opinion, check out my author friend Rachel McMillan’s gushing review that convinced me to pick it up in the first place ;).

Thank you to Bethany House Publishers for the complimentary review copy of this novel. This is my honest review.

Review: True to You by Becky Wade

In my little corner of the book blogging world, I saw several gushing reviews that touted the authenticity and adorableness of Becky Wade’s new release, True to You. When your #bookbesties ALL say it’s amazing, you read it at the earliest convenience. Well, as I expected, they were completely right!

About the Book

True to You.jpgAfter a devastating heartbreak three years ago, genealogist and historical village owner Nora Bradford has decided that burying her nose in her work and her books is far safer than romance in the here and now.

Unlike Nora, former Navy SEAL and Medal of Honor recipient John Lawson is a modern-day man, usually 100 percent focused on the present. But when he’s diagnosed with an inherited condition, he’s forced to dig into the secrets of his past and his adoption as an infant, enlisting Nora to help him uncover the identity of his birth mother.

The more time they spend together, the more this pair of opposites suspects they just might be a perfect match. However, John’s already dating someone and Nora’s not sure she’s ready to trade her crushes on fictional heroes for the risks of a real relationship. Finding the answers they’re seeking will test the limits of their identity, their faith, and their devotion to one another.

Review

 

Attempting to put the beauty and fun of this book into words is close to impossible. It’s the kind of story that leaves you speechless in the happiest of ways.

Allow me to go all nerdy for a mintue…. this is kind of like #bookception. Nora is the ultimate nerdy bookish heroine: she works as a genealogist/librarian and caretaker of a village (!), bookshelves overflowing, a TBR list a mile high, a BBC drama and tea enthusiast. The ultimate opposites-attract situation plays out with John Lawson. A real-life hero as opposed to Nora’s typical book boyfriends, he rocks her world with his serious and quiet demeanor, heroic “Navy SEAL-type stuff” experience, and underlying EMOTIONS. Whew! Basically, John is classic book boyfriend material. But real life material for Nora. But still a fictional book boyfriend for we readers. Hehehe 🙂

True-to-You2-533x800One more quick note on these two! Nora is at once shy and confident, able to conduct herself with grace at all times. And her vocabulary is wonderful and smile-inducing! 🙂 John, well,…… I’d make peach cobbler ❤ with him any time ;).

Beneath the lovable quirks and humor found in these pages is a deeper story of growth, of finding identity in Christ, of His sufficiency and plan being greater — and sometimes far different — than we can imagine. Both Nora and John might have different backgrounds and insecurities, but their stories intersect with a beautiful and heartwrenching complexity.

Becky Wade’s skill in storytelling is obvious in the manner in which True to You unfolds. It begins with experiencing the everyday life of both Nora and John in a get-to-know them, fun, and humorous (Nora) way. As the story gets deeper and moves beyond the surface of these characters, the emotional stuff hits you out of left field as you begin to see the heart-longings of Nora and the protectiveness of John. It’s a most beautiful journey that made me laugh and cry with its poignancy. With the strong establishment of Nora’s sister in this book, I’m looking forward to more of this lovable family in the rest of the series!

True to You is book 1 in the Bradford Sisters Romance series. Check out my review of the (free) prequel ebook, Then Came You, here!

Review & Author Interview: With You Always by Jody Hedlund

I ALWAYS love it when a novel shines light on a lesser-known historical fact, era, or event. Often, there is nothing more fascinating that real life. In this case, the time period is 1850s New York to Illinois, during a challenging economic downturn. This was especially hard on immigrant families, and subsequently children AND women were sent west to find a better life, on what is now known as the Orphan Train. With You Always by Jody Hedlund tells a fictional story based on the journeys many women took to provide a better life for their families. Read on for more about the book, my review, and an interview with Jody Hedlund!

About the Book

When a financial crisis in 1850s New York leaves three orphaned sisters nearly destitute, the oldest, Elise Neumann, knows she must take action. She’s had experience as a seamstress, and the New York Children’s Aid Society has established a special service: placing out seamstresses and trade girls. Even though Elise doesn’t want to leave her sisters for a job in Illinois, she realizes this may be their last chance.

The son of one of New York City’s wealthiest entrepreneurs, Thornton Quincy faces a dilemma. His father is dying, and in order to decide which of his sons will inherit everything, he is requiring them to do two things in six months: build a sustainable town along the Illinois Central Railroad, and get married. Thornton is tired of standing in his twin brother’s shadow and is determined to win his father’s challenge. He doesn’t plan on meeting a feisty young woman on his way west, though.

Find With You Always on Amazon | Goodreads

Review

With You Always by Jody Hedlund.jpgAuthor Jody Hedlund dependably pens characters with well-established personalities. I loved the nurturing tendencies of Elise and the gentlemanly determination of Thornton. It *did* take me a few chapters to really settle into the plot and the direction the story was taking, but I empathized with the characters immediately, especially concerning the plight of Elise and her family.

I liked that the challenges both Elise and Thornton face are not only tactile and physical but also challenges to their very hearts. Elise, for instance, faces finding a place for her family AND coming to terms with her faith that God is constant, and for her. Thornton deals with the manner of proving himself; whether choosing to set aside his pride is worth a greater, selfless task he can accomplish in the wake of his dreams.

Through the ups and downs of Elise and Thornton’s intersecting journeys, a sweetly natural romance emerges. Jody handles this with her signature style (read: era-appropriate swooniness) and realistic conflicts. The romance combines with the threads of faith, a story of finding a “true home”, and the belonging found with friends in a close community to make With You Always a rich story AND a lovely introduction to a new series.

Thank you to Bethany House Publishers for the complimentary review copy of this book. This review is my honest opinion.

 

Interview with the Author

What is the inspiration behind your new Orphan Train series?

I have long been fascinated by the era of the Orphan Trains and the heart-wrenching stories of the homeless and helpless young orphans that were taken from the streets of New York City and other eastern cities and shipped West by the dozens. I was familiar with stories of those scared orphans who were placed out in what was thought to be a more wholesome, healthy environment of the newly settled Mid-Western states. Some of the orphans found happy endings and were adopted into loving families. Others experienced great abuse and heartache in their new homes.

While stories of the orphans who rode the trains have been told—and rightly so—the stories of the women who were involved in the movement are not as well known. One of the things I particularly like to do when telling my stories, is focus on women who have been overlooked by the pages of history. I consider it a great privilege to be able to bring forgotten women to life for our modern generation. Thus, throughout this series, I’ll be focusing each book on a different aspect of the Orphan Train movement, particularly from the perspective of women who experienced riding the trains in one form or another.

What do you hope readers take away from With You Always?

One of my hopes in telling this story is to leave readers with the reminder that God is walking with us in whatever dark valley we’re going through. Often, like Elise, we tend to pull away from God and let the bitterness of our circumstances drive us into a cave of isolation and self-blame and heartache. But God wants us to realize that even if we pull away from Him, He’s still there walking by our side, waiting for us to reach out our hand and grab ahold of Him. He never leaves us or forsakes us. He’s there waiting.

An e-novella, An Awakened Heart, kicks off the series. What is the novella about, and is it a must-read in order to understand the series?

An Awakened Heart is not a must-read in order to understand the series. But I do highly recommend reading it. (Plus it’s FREE, so you have nothing to lose by giving it a try!) The e-novella introduces a couple, Guy and Christine, who are both passionate about helping the poor immigrants crowded into the overflowing and dirty tenements of New York City. The novella shows their efforts to bring about change in the city, but also brings them together in a satisfying love story.

The novella also introduces the three orphan sisters who will each become main characters for the three full-length novels in the series. It gives some of the background information on their situation, particularly how they become orphans, which I think readers will find helpful as well as informative.

What are you working on next?

The second book in the orphan train series releases next summer in 2018. The story continues with Marianne Neumann. She gets involved in the orphan train movement as one of the placing agents and accompanies the orphans as they ride the trains west. I hope readers will enjoy Marianne’s story and also appreciate learning more about the orphan train movement from the eyes of the compassionate workers who tried to place the orphans into new homes.

Connect with Jody

Facebook  | Twitter | Author Website | Instagram | Pinterest

Review: “Long Time Gone” by Mary Connealy

Today’s blog post is all about author Mary Connealy’s recent western release from Bethany Hour Publishers, Long Time Gone, book # 2 in “The Cimmaron Legacy” series. In this story, Mary’s characteristic dry humor is coupled with family drama, plenty of western action, and a romance.

About the Book
The Boden clan thought their troubles were over with the death of a dangerous enemy. But with new evidence on Cole’s shooting, Justin can’t deny that the plot to take their ranch was bigger than one man. While the doctor and his distractingly pretty assistant help Cole, Justin has to uncover the trail of a decades-old secret as danger closes in.

Review

Long Time Gone by Mary ConnealyThe saga of the Bodens continues as they try to dispel threats to their livelihood and search out an informant among their ranch hands. While enough detail is included to make it stand on its own, I think a reader would enjoy this story more if it were read in sequence to know the background of the characters. The second son, Justin Boden, is the main character of this story. His attitude is understandably that of a middle child: out to prove himself to his family as a leader. This proves to be quite comical as he’s up against his older brother, Cole, in a few situations. He’s completely endearing because his tough exterior conceals a caring heart that just wants to take care of his family.

While the focus is on the Bodens and Justin much of the time, Angie Dupree, the love interest and the doctor’s “pretty assistant”, was another perspective shared throughout the book. I though her character and persona were important and the most dynamic emotionally. As she was revealed to have more “grit” than I first thought, I was cheering her on. Her journey is one of learning to find strength in independence while simultaneously realizing it’s a privilege to accept someone’s protection and care.

This is a thoroughly enjoyable western rom-com. The action-packed nature of Long Time Gone keeps the pages turning quickly as these characters learn important lessons of love and faith in the middle of the whirlwind drama. While most things are tidied up by the end, lingering questions as to the source of the family’s “threat” remain… which just means we’ll get to have more fun with the next book of the series!

Thank you to Bethany House Publishers for the complimentary review copy of this novel. This is my honest review.

Check out my review of book 1 in the series:

No Way Up

Book Review: “Still Life” by Dani Pettrey

img_20170225_193923_755.jpgThis review is all about book #2 in Dani Pettrey’s “Chesapeake Valor” series, Still Life. It is a contemporary romantic suspense story continuing to focus on a group of crime-solving and law enforcement friends in the Baltimore area. This time, we get to witness crime scene investigator Parker Mitchell and professional photographer Avery Tate as they are thrown back together to solve a potential crime and confront their growing mutual attraction.

About the Book

Work hits too close to home for crime scene photographer Avery Tate when her best friend disappears. The only lead is a chilling photo of her–apparently dead. As Avery, her boss Parker, and his friends dig into the case, she’s forced to confront her feelings for Parker when they come face-to-face with a dangerous criminal.

Review

This novel is another GREAT work of romantic suspense from Dani. It’s action-packed and suspenseful, in the page-turning kind of way, the perfect blend of crime drama and slight thriller with a hint of romance.

still-lifeBook 1, Cold Shot, introduced us to this group of best friends with various accomplishments and roles in law enforcement, from FBI to forensics to homicide detectives. We glimpsed the working relationship between Parker and Avery in Cold Shot, and Still Life picks up a little after they have separated ways professionally. Circumstances out of their control force them to work together again to find Avery’s missing childhood friend. Confronting old acquaintances, however, causes Avery to begin a revealing journey back into a past she regrets — and fears will come between hers and Parker’s friendship with permanent ripples.

There are many things to love about Still Life, but my favorite thing is the relationship dynamic between Parker and Avery. The way both of them gradually realize the depths of connection they share; the way Parker is a very strong character (with quite the Irish brogue 🙂 ) but not above vulnerability; they way they are each encouraging and protective of the other, in different ways; and the way Avery is relatable and assertive. Most importantly, the story of forgiveness that unfolds a little at a time is a demonstration of how God can redeem your past and show you His unconditional love through the people close to you.

While the focus of this story is Parker and Avery, another criminal incident takes place that draws the whole group into the investigation. This adds even more suspense to the plot and sets up a few things to come in the next book, I think. Through this, we get to know the personalities of the next “couple” the series will focus on (Declan and Tanner). Also, a plot thread that will seemingly continue through the series, dealing with the group’s missing friend Luke, is developed further and is proving quite interesting.  I’m ready for more of this crew already!

Thank you to Bethany House Publishers and Netgalley for the review copy. This is my honest review.

Review: “The Mark of the King” by Jocelyn Green

It’s no secret around here I am somewhat of a history buff. Lately, I’ve been enthralled with American frontier-era fiction because it’s often supported by meticulous research and historical accuracy (yay for dedicated authors!). I always love learning something new about this era, especially when it involves a setting I’ve not previously read. One of the latest books I’ve enjoyed in this category is a new standalone novel by Jocelyn Green: The Mark of the King, a vivid historical drama with hints of romance. Its setting is 1720s New Orleans, Louisiana, — the French frontier in America at a tumultuous time of survival before the French and Indian War.

Sweeping Historical Fiction Set at the Edge of the Continent

the-mark-of-the-king-by-jocelyn-greenAfter 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.

Review

This book explores such a unique and new-to-me setting! The writing style is wonderfully descriptive of the wilds of Louisiana and the Mississippi while also connecting the reader with the deep emotions of Julianne and a few other key characters. I confess, there were a few tears shed over this story, both over moments of tragic pain and beautiful grace. This is my first ever story by Jocelyn Green, but I know it won’t be the last!

Scars, not just those of Julianne, but physical and emotional scars of the hero and others, bring them together in grace, in purpose, to bear one another’s trials, to fight for the thread of hope they hold. I can’t help but bring my thoughts full circle to the way Jesus’ scars are meant to bring us together. United by His nail-scarred hands, He offers us freedom with those scars as we seek to bring Him glory.

Amidst the twists and turns of this story, and fascinating look at life in a new world, a poignant romance blossoms. In contrast to other books in the genre, this romance is more purposeful than sweetly unexpected, which makes it all the more impactful and one to “root for”. It has to battle the elements and traitorous environment, but it promises survival and comfort through the heartache these characters face.  To say any more about this aspect would give away key plot surprises, so I won’t do that to you! Just know that all of it together brightly shines an overarching message of grace.

I voluntarily reviewed a purchased copy of this book. This review is my honest opinion.

Review: “Conspiracy of Silence” by Ronie Kendig

Review: “Conspiracy of Silence” by Ronie Kendig

Conspiracy of Silence is the first novel I’ve read by military fiction author Ronie Kendig, but it certainly won’t be the last! It’s book 1 in her new “The Tox Files” series, a riveting thriller following a former US Army Special Forces team as it battles a plague, politics, terrorists, and plenty of personal drama. Read on for more + my review!

About the Book

Four years after a tragic mission decimated his career and his team, Cole “Tox” Russell is persona non grata to the United States. And that’s fine—he just wants to be left alone. But when a dormant, centuries-old disease is unleashed at an archaeological dig where three Bronze-era censers are found, Tox is lured back into action. Partnered with an archaeologist and an FBI agent who’s an expert in deception, Tox and his team are pitted against a secret society, a plague dubbed the New Black Death, and a revered codex—which may hold the key to stopping the deadly outbreak.

Review

This book is a thrill ride from start to finish! If you’re reading this soon, you should buckle up and secure your armor and weapon before page 1 because you won’t want to stop reading until the final conflict is over. The location changes and hand-to-hand combat situations remind me of a Jason Bourne movie. With all the action, there is suspense and intrigue with a political thriller element. And, a slight family drama and romance plays out in the middle of it all!

Kendig expertly weavconspiracy-of-silencees Biblical history and modern Middle Eastern/Jewish culture into the story with skill and style. The ties to a plague in the days of Moses interestingly work into a twist on a biological weapon, of sorts. With mysterious characters and a possible secret organization behind it all, Kendig kept me anxiously guessing just what would happen next! Just when you think you can catch your breath, a surprise comes your way.

With all of the action and traversing the globe, the characters still have a strong presence throughout. “Tox”, in particular, is a steadfast example of honor and leadership with a classic guilty conscience, blaming himself for past calamities completely out of his control. He is an instantly likable hero to root for… especially where a certain prominent female is concerned. The ladies of this story, Tzivia and Kasey, hold their own in sticky situations, too.

I appreciated the subtle thread of faith and Divine orchestration in the events of the story. I suspect (and hope) we will learn more behind the layers of Tox and his team in stories to come because I still have some lingering questions. The interesting and brotherhood-like supporting cast of this novel promise more surprises to come. I don’t think I can come up with any more adjectives to describe this story without giving away too much. So, I’ll just say this is a military thriller to rush headlong into with both eyes open!

Thank you to Bethany House Publishers for the complimentary review copy. This review reflects my honest opinion.

Prequel Novella Info

the-warriors-sealIf you’re interested in reading this series, I HIGHLY recommend you start with the prequel ebook novella, The Warrior’s Seal! It’s FREE! (click here for Amazon page)

It sets the series up very nicely with plenty of action and intrigue in itself. It’s the backstory, if you will, of this team and the events that lead up to Tox’s predicament.