Mini Review: “With This Pledge” by Tamera Alexander

I’m sharing a review today of a novel that will certainly be on my end-of-the-year favorites list! With This Pledge by Tamera Alexander is a fascinating look at the near-end of the Civil War. It is rooted in a true-life setting and characters, bringing a real-life romance to life with exquisite detail all in the midst of heartache and challenge.

About the Book

On the night of November 30, 1864, a brutal battle in Franklin, Tennessee, all but decimates the Confederacy and nearly kills Captain Roland Ward Jones. A decorated Mississippi sharpshooter, Jones has a vision on the battlefield and, despite the severity of his wounds, believes his life will be spared. But a life without his leg, he can’t abide. He compels Elizabeth “Lizzie” Clouston—governess to the McGavock family at the Carnton mansion—to intervene should the surgeon decide to amputate. True to her word, Lizzie speaks on his behalf and saves not only the captain’s leg but also his life.

When a fourteen-year-old soldier dies in Lizzie’s arms that night, the boy’s final words, whispered with urgency, demand that Lizzie deliver them to their intended recipient. But all she has is the boy’s first name. And, as she soon discovers, there’s no record of him ever having enlisted. How can she set out alone across a land so divided by war and hatred to honor her pledge? Even more, does she dare accept Captain Jones’s offer to accompany her? As he coalesces at Carnton, romance has blossomed between him and Lizzie—a woman already betrothed to a man she does not love.

Goodreads | Amazon


With This Pledge is exemplary historical fiction from the characterization, romance, and to the care of social and political issues of the time. One example is with the presence of abolitionist leanings in the south: this story considers both the north and south’s positions and issues beyond the central one of slavery, clearly showing how it all pointed back to the freedom of human beings. I appreciate the honest insights into the battle of Franklin, with necessary brutal realities that served a purpose, all bringing out the emotions of the characters and connecting with the reader. And the ROMANCE. I loved it. It was natural, emotional, and refreshingly not a will-they-won’t-they scenario (because of the truth of the story behind the book), but oh the journey was full of surprises, twists, and moments where I wondered just how it would wrap up. But wrap up well, it did! And with just the right balance of resolution and open-ended possibility. The epilogue, in particular, was touching and perfect.

I’m looking forward to more in this series by Tamera!

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

Audiobook Review: “Wedded to War” by Jocelyn Green

Wedded to War is a fascinating, layered, and quite serious look at the front lines of women’s foray into nursing during the beginning of the Civil War. Jocelyn Green has written an epic story that encompasses many true-life historical figures and accurate events that serve as characters in themselves as heroines Charlotte Waverly, Ruby O’Flannery, and others work as part of the Sanitary Commission to aid, nurse, and manage the ghastly aftermath of war in their very own country. As Charlotte finds her purpose in showing compassion and grace to everyone around her, she also matures over the timeline of the story into a capable woman of character. The hint of a romance between Charlotte and the hero was happily fitting and complimentary to her role, and I was delighted to learn that the couple is based on a real historical couple! Ruby, too, is a compelling heroine. I wondered, at times, how the twisting and sad threads of her story were going to work into the whole, but like the theme of the novel, all of it works toward the surprising good and satisfying end to the story.

The research and work that went into this novel is obvious. I am in awe of what the real-life heroines who inspired this story did to sacrifice and serve in a time of war.

The audio presentation of this novel, in particular, is well-told and riveting. The narrator clearly and skillfully does different intonations and accents for the different characters, including Ruby’s Irish one!

THANK YOU to the author for the audiobook version of this novel for the purpose of a review. This is my honest review.

Wedded to War on Goodreads | Amazon | Audible

Review, Author Interview + Giveaway: “Amongst the Roses” by Meghan M. Gorecki

Today I’m SO excited because I get to host author (and friend) Meghan M. Gorecki with a review, interview, and GIVEAWAY of her recent historical romance release, Amongst the Roses. This is a rich story set against the backdrop of the Civil War and two families’ involvement in that conflict.

About the Book

Amongst The Roses

The War Between the States shakes Margaret Bryant out of her comfortable upper-class life when her father enlists in the Army of the Potomac. Despite being safely ensconced above the Mason-Dixon Line in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, Margaret finds her strength tested by opposition from familiar faces and Confederate threats. Will she let a young man from a lesser station into her heart even as war rages ever nearer to the homefront?

Restless Connor Doyle sees the war as a way to escape from his family’s farm and his identity as a poor Irishman’s son. His brother, Adam, torn between duty to country and his family, enlists alongside Connor. Adam dares to hope in a future with Margaret when he begins a courtship correspondence from the war front. The two brothers make a vow to protect one another at all costs, but when faced with death and destruction from all sides—will they be able to uphold it?

The three bloodiest days in America’s history brings these three together at Gettysburg and tragedy’s cruelty threatens to tear two hearts apart—and bring two unlikely allies together.

Amazon | Goodreads


Amongst the Roses transports the reader to the northern front during key conflicts of the Civil War, including its society-shaking start. With multiple viewpoints, it explores the home front and battlefields from multiple perspectives that lend a voice to more than mere characters, but to a tragic and heartbreaking time in history.

This novel explores themes of hope, family loyalty, and the provision of a Heavenly Father whose presence is constant even when He may seem silent. The intricacies of the relationships in this book are fascinating and relatable, even when they illustrate hard truths about sacrifice and consequences.

I’m eagerly looking forward to the next story in this series — especially because “the end” came much too soon (ahem, a little bit abruptly for Margaret, too). I hope the continuing story of the Bryants and Doyles will resolve my questions and bring a few things full circle for the families.

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

Interview with the Author

What is the inspiration behind your heroine, Margaret’s, personality?

Part Scarlett O’Hara, part Elinor Dashwood, part Meg March. 🙂

What theme or spiritual message do you want to communicate to readers with this story?

That God holds our hearts in the palm of His hand—and deeply cares for us, regardless of circumstances that may suggest He’s far away. That His perfect plan—and His loving heart—never change even when the winds of war and devastation swirl.

What was most challenging about setting a story in the Civil War era?

The fact that almost the entirety of Chambersburg was burnt to the ground in 1864. And not getting to visit every single battlefield my guy characters fought at.

Which character was your favorite to write?

Connor. 🙂 He’s a stinker, but his redemption arc (ongoing) was something special to get to build.

He IS a stinker! But I can already tell his growth will be worth it.

For fun: If you could live in any other time period in history, which would it be and why?

Oooh. Love this question. Much as I do love the Civil War—I need indoor plumbing. LOL So probably the 1940’s or 1950’s. All things vintage for this red lipstick loving author!

I can’t argue with you there!!! I would NOT want to fetch water or have to go outdoors to do other necessary things. 😉

What are you currently reading (or reading next!)?

I’m reading this powerful book by Jess Connolly called Dance, Stand, Run: The God-Inspired Moves of a Woman on Holy Ground. Absolutely phenomenal—and I’m only through Chapter Two!

Thank you, Meghan, for taking the time to answer my questions today!

About the Author

Meghan M. Goreki

Meghan M. Gorecki is an author of inspirational fiction about what God can make beautiful from the ashes of history, and hearts. A lover and avid studier of people, times gone by, and fiction, she has been writing since childhood and now houses her books under Northern Belle Publishing. Coffee and red lipstick color her days as a redhead from a box, alongside her treasured tribe of family and friends in her beloved hometown of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | Website


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Giveaway open 4/26/18 12am – 5/5/18 12am CT for (1) ebook copy of Amongst the Roses, ebook format of choice, provided by the author. Entrants must use a valid email address. Void where prohibited.

Top Ten Tuesday: True History in Fiction

It’s another Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by  The Broke and the Bookish

Top Ten Tuesday at The Green Mockingbird

Today’s topic is a “Back to School” Freebie! I’m taking a suggested idea of Books to Complement a History Lesson and turning it into a list of true history in fiction. I enjoy historical fiction — especially when I’m learning something new through story. I am allowing myself to go a *little* over 10 books (I’m listing 18 books in total). I hope you find a new era or event you’re interested in learning more about!

Wait, that’s a true story? True History in Fiction

Luther and Katharina by Jody Hedlund

Luther and Katharina by Jody Hedlund

1520s The early Protestant Reformation and the true-life romance between the prominent protestant reformation starter Martin Luther and former Catholic nun Katharina von Bora.

The Sound of Diamonds

The “Steadfast Love” series by Rachelle Rea Cobb

The Sound of Diamonds | The Sound of Silver | The Sound of Emeralds

1566 A Catholic girl’s changing perspective in Protestant Reformation-Era England.


The Mark of the King by Jocelyn Green

1719-22 Early French settlement of New Orleans and the Louisiana area.

Woods Edge

The “Pathfinders” duology by Lori Benton

The Wood’s Edge | A Flight of Arrows

1757-1777 New York settlement and Native American involvement in Revolutionary War.


A Moonbow Night by Laura Frantz

1777 Kentucky wilderness during the early American frontier– plus a little of Daniel Boone’s personal influence on its settlement.

The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn by Lori Benton

The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn by Lori Benton

1787 The “State of Franklin” dispute in the Appalachians and western North Carolina.

With You Always by Jody Hedlund

With You Always by Jody Hedlund

1857 The “orphan train” era, including working conditions and an inside look at poverty in immigrant communities of NYC.


The Sentinels of Andersonville by Tracy Groot

1864 Andersonville prison in Georgia and its conditions toward the end of the Civil War.

The Thorn Bearer

The “Penned in Time” series by Pepper D. Basham

The Thorn Bearer | The Thorn Keeper | The Thorn Healer

1910s WWI England and post-war America, including the sinking of the RMS Lusitania, events on the England homefront, and a German internment camp in the Appalachians.

High as the Heavens

High as the Heavens by Kate Breslin

1917 WWI Belgium, with secret spy networks and methods (the heroine was inspired by 3 different real women).

maggie bright

Maggie Bright by Tracy Groot

1940 England and Dunkirk, France during the WWII evacuation event.

The Butterfly and the Violin by Kristy Cambron

The Butterfly and the Violin by Kristy Cambron

1940s WWII Auschwitz and the role of Jewish musicians/artists in concentration camps.

With Love, Wherever You Are

With Love, Wherever You Are by Dandi Daley Mackall

1941-45 America and Europe, late WWII conditions from a nurse and doctor’s perspectives. Fun fact: The couple in this story is based on the real-life parents of the author and includes much of their real-life correspondence during the war.

As always, thank you for reading!

What did you pick for this back-to-school week? Have you read any of the books on my list? What is your favorite era/setting for historical fiction? Do share in the comments!

Review & Author Interview: “Northern Light” by Annette O’Hare

Today I’m honored to feature debut author Annette O’Hare with an interview and my review of her upcoming release, Northern Light. It is an inspirational historical romance set during the Civil War and releasing in paperback THIS WEEK on February 19.


About the Book 

Civil War has robbed Margaret Logan of all she holds dear, including her beloved New Orleans home and her fiancé. When her family moves to the desolate Bolivar Peninsula to manage a lighthouse that is no longer there, all her hopes for a normal future are dashed. Her world is rocked once again when a wounded Yankee soldier washes ashore needing her help. Despite her contempt for the North, Margaret falls in love with Thomas Murphy. As their love blooms, Margaret’s sister is overcome with neurosis, and her mind slowly slips away. Bitterness, psychosis and depression yield a decision fueled by contempt. Will one fatal choice cause Margaret to lose the man she loves and condemn Thomas to death?


northernLightCoverI thought this was a sweet story that showed the transformation of one family as a result of the Civil war. It causes many trials and has a far-reaching impact on every area of their life. Annette weaves a subtle and straightforward thread of faith throughout this book, with clear themes of trust in God’s provision and design.

I enjoyed observing Margaret as her character changed and matured through the story. Her opinion and perspective are dramatically transformed because of the unexpected presence of Thomas. This really shatters her assumptions because she had a willingness to grow and an openness to what God had in store for her.

Thank you to Annette and Pelican Book Group for the complimentary review ecopy.

Interview with the Author

And now, on to my interview questions with Annette!

What inspired you to write Northern Light?

My inspiration for writing Northern Light came from my love for Texas history and the Gulf Coast.The setting for the book is the Bolivar Point lighthouse. This is a real lighthouse I’ve known and loved since childhood. I drew on historical facts I learned while researching the lighthouse and combined them into a fictional love story.

10616575_303464849835705_2583502552383509096_nWhat spiritual message or theme do you want to communicate to readers with Northern Light?

The scripture reference for this novel is Psalm 43:3a, “O send out thy light and thy truth: let them lead me.” I chose this scripture for two reasons. First, it speaks of a light that guides, like the lighthouse in the book! Second, the Psalmist asks God to send His truth to lead him. The truth I want to reveal is that we can’t always believe things are right just because they’ve been handed down from one generation to the next. When we don’t know what to believe, we should seek God’s wisdom and He will lead us to the truth.

What was most challenging about writing a story set in the American Civil War era?

Good question! The most difficult thing I faced in writing a Civil War era novel is having to stop in the middle of writing a scene to look something up. For example, many words we commonly use today weren’t in existence 150 years ago. And think about how many modern advances have come about since the 1860s. A lot of thought went into researching how they took care of everyday situations differently than how we do things today.

Just for fun:

Do you have any hobbies?

Me, my husband and all three kids love surf fishing. We take really long fishing poles to the beach, cast out our bait and sit in our beach chairs and wait to see whatever bites! It’s a lot of fun and a great family outing. Our oldest son is 24 and he takes his fiancé fishing with him now.

If you could live in any other time period in history, which would it be and why?

This is a difficult question. If I could choose to live in a different time period I would love to live in the 1950s. I feel like it was a much simpler time to raise a family. Our country was respected around the world for having strong leadership that truly seemed to care about the people. We were known as a Christian Nation and those values were important to us. On the other hand, in the past 24 years of raising my kids I’ve never had to worry  about my sons being drafted into the military like those mothers did in the 50s.

What are you currently reading?

I’m currently reading The Hesitant Heiress by Dawn Crandall.

Thank you again, Annette, for answering my questions! Surf fishing sounds like fun!

For more about Annette, visit her website. While you’re there, sign up for her newsletter! I hear she has some fun giveaway contests planned for subscribers.

Annette is hosting a FACEBOOK LAUNCH PARTY with lots of giveaways on February 19, 6pm CT. Click here to join the group!

Review: “To Win Her Favor” by Tamera Alexander

Today’s book I’m reviewing is from one of my favorite historical authors, Tamera Alexander. I have liked every book of hers I’ve read, especially A Beauty So Rare (and I’ve read almost all of them!). She never fails to deliver a fascinating story, full of historical details and endearing characters. Her latest novel, To Win Her Favor, is no exception. Set in Nashville in the tumultuous aftermath of the Civil War, this story explores many themes and subjects unique to that era.To Win Her Favor Banner

Book SummaryA gifted rider in a world where ladies never race, Maggie Linden is determined that her horse will become a champion. But the one man who could help her has vowed to stay away from thoroughbred racing forever.

An Irishman far from home, Cullen McGrath left a once prosperous life in England because of a horse racing scandal that nearly ruined him. He’s come to Nashville for a fresh start, hoping to buy land and begin farming, all while determined to stay as far away from thoroughbred racing as possible. But starting over proves harder than he’d wagered, especially when Maggie Linden’s father makes him an offer he shouldn’t accept yet cannot possibly refuse.

Maggie is certain that her mare, Bourbon Belle, can take the top purse in the inaugural Peyton Stakes, the richest race ever run in America. Maggie only needs the chance to prove it. To give her that chance—and to save Linden Downs from being sold to the highest bidder—Maggie’s father, aging, yet wily as ever, makes a barter. His agreement includes one tiny, troublesome detail—Maggie must marry a man she’s never met. A man she never would have chosen for herself.

I could talk about the many beautiful layers of this book for a long time. I will *try* to restrain myself, though, so you can finish my review then find a copy for yourself 🙂

The relationship between Cullen and Maggie was developed perfectly, with some very swoon-y moments. Tamera has taken a familiar plot concept, a “marriage of convenience”, and relayed it with unexpected variations and a few twists. One example of this is Maggie’s father — he gave his blessing for their marriage, and his support is a firm starting point for their relationship.To Win Her Favor

These characters quickly worked their way into my heart: Margaret, her father Gilbert Linden, Cullen, and several of the supporting characters. Margaret and Cullen both had bright personalities. Cullen was bold, straightforward, gentle with Maggie, and not afraid to stand for what was right. Maggie was sweet, considerate, and very capable of handling tough situations. It was great to see how the two of them strengthened and learned from each other. They were a beautiful example of the closeness God intends between a husband and wife.

This book is a great picture of the south in the aftermath of the Civil War. And, a new perspective on early thoroughbred breeding, training, and racing. I wouldn’t say that horsemanship was the central plot, though. “Life” was. Through the challenges Cullen faced as an immigrant and the ramifications of the Civil War, a secondary story was intertwined, dealing with prejudices of the time. I applaud Tamera for approaching this subject in such a way. At times, stereotypes are confronted in a manner both delicate and brutally realistic. It shows the cost and consequences of war – both for families of the south and for former slaves – from a fresh perspective. One character in particular really grows from the encouragement of another to open her eyes to the reality around her.

I believe the spiritual message of the book is this: sometimes God puts us through trials so we will seek Him. And sometimes He uses people and circumstances to teach us about our purposes or shed light on an opportunity right in front of us. He also guides us through times when we try to run from Him and make our own way.

Ok, maybe I ended up talking about this a little more than I planned. But it was so good! Please, if you haven’t read anything by Tamera Alexander, you should. Go to her website to see the her latest releases or to find other ways to connect with her through social media. For more info on To Win Her Favor (and to read an excerpt!), visit this page.

A sincere thank you to Tamera Alexander, Zondervan, and NetGalley for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Book Review: “A Beauty So Rare” by Tamera Alexander

I’m so happy to be sharing my review of Tamera Alexander’s latest novel, A Beauty So Rare¸ today! It is a beautiful novel that shares the hearts of the characters – and the beauty of God’s provision for us. Rich in historical details, it is set at the beautiful Belmont Mansion in Nashville (still standing today). I am privileged to be a part of a special group of reviewers who have access to extras on the novel – you can find a savory custard recipe from the novel here, and a shortbread recipe soon to come!

1920413_447912455312236_675420752_nKind, plain, and practical, Eleanor Braddock has come to Nashville for a new life after the Civil War. Facing her father’s declining health and her family’s dwindling finances, she moves to the prestigious home of her Aunt Adelicia Acklen, the famous Belmont Mansion. Hoping to achieve her independence from the benevolence and good intentions of her feisty aunt, Eleanor plans to open a restaurant to support herself and her father. Aunt Adelicia, however, disapproves of Eleanor’s premature plans to tarnish her social standing by cooking. Adelicia has other plans for Eleanor, including a potential suitor who could secure Eleanor’s future. But at what cost to her happiness?

Marcus Geoffrey, the Archduke of Austria and second in line to the throne (complete with good looks and a dreamy accent), has come to Nashville seeking to make a name for himself based on his own merits, not those of his family name. Finding solace in a new country by concealing his true heritage, he dreams of using his architect design and botany skills to achieve a lasting accomplishment of beauty and utilization. While he works at the conservatory at Belmont, he meets Eleanor and begins a friendship. As their paths cross in unexpected ways, God begins to give them a new dream and purpose in helping those less fortunate in the aftermath of war.

Both Eleanor and Marcus are enduring new seasons in their lives. Eleanor is unsure of herself, feeling somewhat out of place now as the responsible adult of the family, with her father dependent on Eleanor’s decisions. She has to learn to trust and to have a different relationship with him now. Marcus is also on his own, enjoying a unique sense of freedom – but still sensing a foreboding and pending commitment to his family and the House of Habsburg. As their relationship grows from that of friendship and confidants to something more, both must find the courage and strength to face their futures – futures that likely don’t include each other.

I really loved how Tamera showed a different side of the aftermath of the Civil War. She did so through immigrants’ experiences, specifically widows and orphans, as they struggled in that era. I also enjoyed the themes of botany and cooking featured in the novel. At times I could almost smell the fragrant peonies and roses. And the food! Let’s just say my mouth WAS watering sometimes. Doughnuts, strudel, custards, soups, shortbread….are you hungry yet?

A Beauty So Rare is a delightful story of love, trials, purpose, family, and history. Both main characters find purpose in helping others. Though neither one’s path is what they first thought it would be, God proved faithful and showed them how He is able to take mere dreams and make them much better, even if it at first seemed hopeless. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who loves history and romance. These characters are so dear and realistic, and the storyline perfectly complex, I feel like a simple review cannot do the story justice. You should just find a copy for yourself today – you won’t be disappointed!


For more fabulous book extras and information about Tamera’s other books, visit her website, her Facebook page, or find her on Twitter.


A huge THANK YOU to Tamera Alexander and Bethany House for the opportunity to participate in this group of blogger reviewers. I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review – I was not required to write a positive review.

"A Beauty So Rare" by Tamera Alexander, Empty Shelf 12

“A Beauty So Rare” by Tamera Alexander, Empty Shelf 12

Book Review: “The Sentinels of Andersonville” by Tracy Groot

Every once in a while, you come across an epic book whose story is so captivating that it impacts your outlook on life and your attitude toward others. What if your actions, even in a small way, could change someone’s world for the better? That is the question The Sentinels of Andersonville explores.


The Sentinels of Andersonville, the latest historical novel by Tracy Groot, is an exciting retelling of the parable of the Good Samaritan through events surrounding Andersonville Prison toward the end of the Civil War.  A Confederate prison in Sumter County, Georgia, Andersonville Prison held tens of thousands of Union soldiers in appalling unsanitary conditions for several months.  Through the eyes of various characters, The Sentinels of Andersonville sheds light on the conditions of the prison and its captives while emphasizing the importance of caring for your neighbor.

Confederate Corporal Emery Jones captures and leads Union soldier Lew Gann to Andersonville Prison. Through days of travel, Lew and Emery form a camaraderie and bond of friendship which transcends their Union and Confederate heritages. Upon seeing the state of the prison and its prisoners, Emery vows to help Lew escape and return to his wife and children – even if it costs him his life. Meanwhile, Lew struggles to survive the destitute conditions of the prison and maintain a stable frame of mind.

Dance Pickett, educated at the University of Georgia, is posted as a Confederate sentry guarding the stockade wall of Andersonville. Dance witnesses the desperate circumstances of the captives but is powerless to help them. His prestigious lawyer father has connections to the Georgia Governor, but his attempts to contact him and plead for assistance have failed thus far.  With the arrival Corporal Emery Jones, Dance becomes involved in events which could mean new hope for the destitute prisoners.

The Stiles family lives in nearby Americus, Georgia. Dr. Norton Stiles is no stranger to the conditions of Andersonville, 10 miles away. He helps each week at the prison infirmary and has done his part to obtain help for the prisoners and smuggle them food. Violet Stiles, oldest of the Stiles daughters, has long been shielded from the mayhem of Andersonville Prison by her father. She reacts with shock and concern after glimpsing the prison conditions. Her ensuing campaigns to assist the prisoners and collect food for them cause doubts and rumors to spread of her family’s Union sympathies. As Emery, Dance, and Violet join forces to fight for the atrocious conditions of the prison to be remedied, they encounter resistance and turmoil within their own community of Americus. Murmurs of the Stiles and their friends being traitors or spies circulate the community and catch the attention of detectives and the Prison General. This sets off a chain of events which cannot be reversed.

The story flows seamlessly while multiple characters’ viewpoints are expressed to enrich the story. The characters experience the reluctance and doubt of their own neighbors in Americus, though a few citizens are sympathetic. They turn to the Scriptures for reassurance and guidance in helping those in need. Each character strives to find his or her own place in society and role in the world.

The themes of the novel include the true meaning of sacrifice and the difference one person can make when he or she decides to take action. Through skilled storytelling and prose, Tracy Groot weaves accurate historical details and events with fictional characters to create a captivating novel which encourages the reader to consider the plights of his or her neighbors.

The Sentinels of Andersonville by Tracy Groot releases February 1 from Tyndale House Publishers.

Thank you to the publisher for providing a complementary advanced copy in exchange for my honest review.

Empty Shelf #2: The Sentinels of Andersonville

I finished my second read for the Empty Shelf Challenge over the weekend. It was an advance copy of “The Sentinels of Andersonville” by Tracy Groot. A captivating, fast-paced retelling of the parable of the Good Samaritan, “The Sentinels of Andersonville” is in a league all its own set during the Civil War period. Saying “I loved it” is putting it mildly – I think it’s going to be one of my favorites of 2014!

It releases 2/1/14 ~ review to come soon!

Empty Shelf #2: The Sentinels of Andersonville

Book Review: “Songs of the Shenandoah” by Michael K. Reynolds

Finally, I’m getting to my review of Songs of the Shenandoah Michael K. Reynolds. This was my first book for the 2014 Empty Shelf Challenge. Though I’ve not read the previous books in this series, I really enjoyed getting to know the Hanley family siblings in this one.

Songs of the Shenandoah


Songs of the Shenandoah (B&H Books) is a sweeping saga of family, forgiveness, and triumph set against the backdrop of the Civil War. The third and final novel in the “Heirs of Ireland” series, it follows the Hanley family siblings as they are involved in various efforts on both sides of the war. Immigrants from Ireland a little over 10 years earlier during the infamous Irish Potato Famine, at the start of the novel the Hanley siblings are spread throughout the United States in different vocational pursuits. The main characters are siblings Clare, Seamus, and Davin, while Caitlyn Hanley, another sister, is a supporting character.

Eldest sibling Clare, now married to Andrew Royce, is a reporter for her husband’s inherited New York Daily newspaper. The mother figure of the family, she feels responsible for her brothers and sister even now, having brought them from Ireland. As Clare witnesses battles firsthand as a journalist, the dangers of the war become credible threats for her and her family.

Seamus Hanley is a discouraged preacher recently returned from ministering in the Sierra Mountains during the California Gold Rush. He travels to New York City with his wife and daughter, Ashlyn and Grace, to reunite with his siblings before assuming ownership of Ashlyn’s family plantation in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. He hopes to avoid any renewal of his Pastoral calling, believing that he has failed to fulfill his mission in the gold fields. His reluctance does not matter, however, as he is faced with a dilemma and must choose to serve as a chaplain to the Confederate army. Seamus struggles with finding his calling and maintaining his place in serving the south, no matter his personal feelings about war politics. On top of his other struggles, his decisions as a young, inexperienced soldier years earlier in the Mexican-American War still haunt him and have potential unforeseen consequences.

Youngest sibling Davin Hanley became very rich in the California Gold Rush and is recently returned to New York City. Through a series of misguided and unwise relationships, Davin finds his only reasonable option is to join the war efforts. He fights for the Union army in an Irish battalion. Brash decisions of his past concerning the treatment of his brother Seamus haunt him and cause him to question his worth and past decisions. In the turmoil of war, a beguiling nurse, Muriel McMahon, challenges Davin’s heart and his character in ways he cannot anticipate.

Reynolds successfully tells a story spread over several years’ time, without making the reader feel overwhelmed. The story is blended seamlessly through years of war and struggles. It moves swiftly and concisely while explaining key battles and scenes essential to the storyline with great detail.

The perspectives of different war participants offer depth to the story. The novel delves into the trials and triumphs of Irish regiments in the Union army, as well as immigrants in the Confederate army. The reader experiences the war through the eyes of a chaplain, private, news reporter, and nurse. With the various viewpoints explored, the reader sees that both sides of the conflict are seeking the will of God. The perspectives of each character evolve through the course of the novel, emphasizing things that truly matter, such as family, forgiveness, and redemption.

Thank you to the publisher for providing a complimentary copy of the novel in exchange for my honest review.