Review: “First Impressions” by Debra White Smith

If you put “Jane Austen retelling” in a sentence, and you have my attention. Add the “inspirational” genre to that description, and I’m even more interested!

About the Book

First ImpressionsLawyer Eddi Boswick tries out for a production of Pride and Prejudice in her small Texas town. When she’s cast as the lead, Elizabeth Bennet, her romantic co-star is none other than the town’s most eligible–and arrogant–bachelor.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

First Impressions accomplishes what any good retelling does: a fresh take on the classic with its own unique elements and wonderful nods to the original text. In this case, the tropes are all present with a new setting, time period, and extra quirks to familiar typecast characters.

This story is likable overall, BUT, some situations and behaviors felt contrived because of the expected underlying storyline. I would have liked a little more emotional depth in a grab-your-heart and relate way. A large amount of the characters’ time is spent preparing and practicing for an actual play production of Pride and Prejudice. This made story-inception and personality parallels fun, but I feel like it dragged down the pace of the story.

It was refreshing how characters one might dislike/love from the classic are more fully fleshed out and challenging their own stereotypes with their behavior — especially “Aunt Maddy”. I loved her! And, I did enjoy seeing the personalities of “Elizabeth and Darcy” playing out in a modern day comedy.

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

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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.

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!

Review: “Blind Spot” by Dani Pettrey (Chesapeake Valor #3)

Review: “Blind Spot” by Dani Pettrey (Chesapeake Valor #3)

Blind Spot by Dani Pettrey is the latest installment in the “Chesapeake Valor” series following a law enforcement friend-group as they solve crimes, deepen friendships, and find romance along the way. This is romantic suspense at its best, with mysteries, ACTION, and plenty of surprising twists!

About the Book

Blind SpotFBI agent Declan Grey is in the chase of his life–but isn’t sure exactly what he’s chasing after. Threatened by a terrorist that “the wrath is coming,” Grey fears something horrible is about to be unleashed on American soil. When his investigation leads him to a closed immigrant community, he turns to Tanner Shaw to help him. She’s sought justice for refugees and the hurting around the world, and if there’s anyone who can help him, it’s Tanner.

Tanner Shaw has joined the FBI as a crisis counselor . . . meaning she now has more opportunity to butt heads with Declan. But that tension also includes a spark she can’t deny, and she’s pretty sure Declan feels the same. But before anything can develop between them, they discover evidence of a terror cell–and soon are in a race against the clock to stop the coming “wrath” that could cost thousands their lives.

Review

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The series thus far…

Blind Spot continues the mystery of the Chesapeake Valor series, heightening the suspense and deepening the layers of secrets along the way. I think this series is best read in order because it carries forward an ongoing mystery that has to do with a friend and missing person, AND because it continues a terrorism/human trafficking story line that started in book 2.

I am continually impressed with Dani Pettrey’s ability to present a tangled puzzle of clues and hints and solve it a little at a time through the eyes of the characters. With edge-of-your-seat action, this is one book I didn’t want to put down for long! This book has two main threads of riveting mysteries, having Declan and Tanner focus on the terrorism storyline and familiar characters from the previous books (Griffin, Finley, Parker, and Avery) investigating an embezzling scheme that takes a few surprising twists.

While the intertwining investigations are fascinating, I was just as riveted with the puzzle that is Declan and Tanner’s relationship. Having previously “met” these two in the series, finally seeing their perspectives and growing mutual attraction firsthand was a treat. Amidst the action of this story, a wonderful relationship dynamic unfolds between these two as they learn from each other and reveal the secrets of their past (in particular, something I did NOT see coming from Tanner!). This romance, much like the personal faith thread of these characters, is naturally portrayed and serves as an anchor point in all of the drama and motion of the story.

One more thing I’ve really loved about this series as a whole is the differing roles/perspectives each main character has played in “investigating”: in Cold Shot, a park-ranger-turned-detective and a forensic anthropoligist; in Still Life, a crime scene analyst and a photographer; and now, book 3, an FBI agent and FBI crisis counselor.  I CANNOT WAIT for book 4, Dead Drift….like I need it now. I have a feeling it will be quite the interesting “Jason Bourne-esque” 🙂 thrill ride!

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

 

 

Review: “A Name Unknown” by Roseanna M. White

A Name UnknownOh my goodness! You know that moment when you finish a special book and want to immediately read it again, cover-to-cover? A Name Unknown by Roseanna M. White is one of those! It’s that good. It’s a beautiful story of discovery and the importance of truth with twists and a subtle and poignant romance. I’m happily reviewing it today, so read on for the bookish talk!

About the Book

Edwardian Romance and History Gains a Twist of Suspense

A Name UnknownRosemary Gresham has no family beyond the band of former urchins that helped her survive as a girl in the mean streets of London. Grown now, they concentrate on stealing high-value items and have learned how to blend into upper-class society. But when Rosemary must determine whether a certain wealthy gentleman is loyal to Britain or to Germany, she is in for the challenge of a lifetime. How does one steal a family’s history, their very name?

Peter Holstein, given his family’s German blood, writes his popular series of adventure novels under a pen name. With European politics boiling and his own neighbors suspicious of him, Peter debates whether it might be best to change his name for good. When Rosemary shows up at his door pretending to be a historian and offering to help him trace his family history, his question might be answered. 

But as the two work together and Rosemary sees his gracious reaction to his neighbors’ scornful attacks, she wonders if her assignment is going down the wrong path. Is it too late to help him prove that he’s more than his name?

Review

This is truly a book for book lovers (and history lovers!). The added bonus is that the most bookish character is the hero (ahem, books=the way to my heart). The stacks and volumes and discussions of fiction are just one of the many things to love about this story! I have so many quotes highlighted.

It’s not all books, though. It’s the Cornish culture, the impending WWI European uproar, a thief-with-a-secret-mission, hidden identities and family secrets, absolutely delightful supporting characters, witty conversations, a spunky and fiercely independent heroine, and the steadfast, quiet hero that encourages her faith and shatters her assumptions.

As Rosemary says, Peter is just “so blasted nice”! He is an exemplary man of integrity, though he knows his goodness is not innate but is a result of Christ shining through him. He lives out these truths and shows this lifestyle to Rosemary, a person whose bitterness and skepticism is understandably deeply rooted and in need of his kind encouragement. Her journey is one of discovering the power and importance of truth — and the freely offered gift of God’s love. She’s a hoot!

Back to Peter, now. He is a very determined person. He doesn’t react to pressure or various trying situations like he could, and that’s why he’s such a likable hero. Especially when he could react to a major revelation of Rosemary’s with anger or by retreating, instead his fierce determination reveals his integrity and commitment to live out his faith.

The love story between Rosemary and Peter is wonderfully slow, subtle, and thoughtful, a realistic pace they both need. I was a little bit impatient, of course, but when their emotions and actions *finally* grew into a romance, I found it WELL WORTH THE WAIT. It’s simply beautiful.

Words play an important role in this story, both in defining identity and truth. I really loved how it illustrates the way a name can hold weight or influence, yet is ultimately a result of choices and actions. Important choices of honesty, patriotism, and extending grace are all a part of this wonderful story. I am so, SO glad this book is the start of a series (the “Shadows Over England” series)….. that means MORE of Rosemary’s ragtag “family” (plus more Peter, I hope) and more of this fascinating era in Europe.

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

If you’re interested in learning more about the author or series, check out this awesome interview with Roseanna over at Just Commonly.

 

 

 

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!