Review: “The Sea Before Us” by Sarah Sundin

Learning about real history through story is one of my favorite things, especially when it involves lesser-explored perspectives or the details of a well-known major event. In the case of The Sea Before Us by Sarah Sundin, it covers what feels like a firsthand experience of D-Day in Normandy during WWII from the sea.

About the Book

The Sea Before UsIn 1944, American naval officer Lt. Wyatt Paxton arrives in London to prepare for the Allied invasion of France. He works closely with Dorothy Fairfax, a “Wren” in the Women’s Royal Naval Service. Dorothy pieces together reconnaissance photographs with thousands of holiday snapshots of France–including those of her own family’s summer home–in order to create accurate maps of Normandy. Maps that Wyatt will turn into naval bombardment plans.

As the two spend concentrated time together in the pressure cooker of war, their deepening friendship threatens to turn to love. Dorothy must resist its pull. Her bereaved father depends on her, and her heart already belongs to another man. Wyatt too has much to lose. The closer he gets to Dorothy, the more he fears his efforts to win the war will destroy everything she has ever loved.
The tense days leading up to the monumental D-Day landing blaze to life under Sarah Sundin’s practiced pen with this powerful new series.

Goodreads | Amazon


The Sea Before Us is a historical romance that delves into just what it means to be held in God’s hand during one of the most tumultuous times in modern history (and one of the most interesting to me): WWII Europe just before and during D-Day.

This is my very first book by Sarah Sundin — and I’m happy to report that her writing style flows naturally and relates the depth of the characters with ease. Interesting facts are woven into the story in a natural way. I thought the characters wonderfully likable and easy to root for, although Dorothy annoyed me a few times with her propensity to overlook a certain someone’s roguish nature. Thankfully, the strong and steady personality of Wyatt is a bright beacon for Dorothy as she grows during the story.

I’m looking forward to seeing these characters in the next two books in the “Sunrise at Normandy” series — especially seeing how Wyatt’s brothers will be featured and how their family dynamic will play out after their current estrangement was well established in this book.


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


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


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


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.

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.


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.



Review: “Lady Jayne Disappears” by Joanna Davidson Politano

Lady Jayne Disappears by Joanna Davidson Politano is an exciting and complex debut. I’ve been anticipating this book for a LONG time! In fact, I added it to my TBR “shelf” way early in the year. The premise of a young lady in Victorian England secretly writing under a pen name while trying to solve a mystery connected to her own family just sounded so intriguing! And, it was.

About the Book

Lady Jayne Disappears

When Aurelie Harcourt’s father dies in debtor’s prison, he leaves her just two things: his wealthy family, whom she has never met, and his famous pen name, Nathaniel Droll. Her new family greets her with apathy and even resentment. Only the quiet houseguest, Silas Rotherham, welcomes her company.

When Aurelie decides to complete her father’s unfinished serial novel, writing the family into the story as unflattering characters, she must keep her identity as Nathaniel Droll hidden while searching for the truth about her mother’s disappearance–and perhaps even her father’s death.

Author Joanna Davidson Politano’s stunning debut set in Victorian England will delight readers with its highly original plot, lush setting, vibrant characters, and reluctant romance.


The one word that sums up the feeling of this story: ALLURING. From start to finish, I was impressed by the character growth, vibrancy of setting, and well-told mystery arc.

While Aurelie’s naivete was frustrating at times (to me, the reader), it truly is an asset to the story. It both excuses her innocence when it comes to her almost nonexistent knowledge of society norms and justifies her experience and manner when she’s faced with the realistic plight of common people whom society deems inferior. These seemingly contradictory facets of her character made me like her all the more — and, they are what drew the hero of the story to recognize her unique and compassionate nature.

My two favorite aspects of this story were the romance and the wonderfully deep love of literature acknowledged by the characters and observed by the reader ;). The romance cannot be commented on *no spoilers here* past saying it is as sweet as I hoped it would be and as surprising at times with its tenderness and depth. The book and story love, however, are wonderful bookworm tendencies for the people of that time AND a nod to story in itself. It’s delightful.

Victorian society is the perfect backdrop for the many twists, secrets, and mystery of Lady Jayne Disappears. All this combine with the romance to form a Dickensian-like tale of belonging and purpose. It’s a treat for lovers of historical romance and drama! I eagerly look forward to whatever Joanne pens next.

Thank you to Revell publishers and Netgalley for a complimentary copy of this novel. This is my honest review.


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: “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?


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.




Series Feature: Price of Privilege by Jessica Dotta + My Dream Cast!

Series Feature: Price of Privilege by Jessica Dotta + My Dream Cast!

Welcome to my post alllll about a favorite series! The “Price of Privilege” series by Jessica Dotta, that is. This gushing post is long overdue— I’m blaming it on the way this series blows me away each time I consider putting into words my thoughts. I should warn you there might be MILD SPOILERS AHEAD with the cast descriptions and book synopses.

I reviewed book 1, Born of Persuasion, a while ago. Then I reread the whole series a year ago with blogger friends and we fangirled on Twitter (with hashtag #POPral). Now, I want to share a few thoughts on each book and my dream cast for the series.

Oh, and I have compiled this fun Pinterest board with my dream cast, quotes, and photos that match the feel of the series :).



Born of Persuasion – like I said in my earlier review, it’s a page-turner with the feel of a slightly gothic setting with deep, complex characters. The story is told from a first person narrative in the future, so it’s like Julia is telling her life story with additional insight. A brilliant setup for the rest of the series, we’re plunged into Julia’s fascinating world with questions of who to trust and very few answers. Pay close attention to every detail in this book — upon rereading I noticed so much foreshadowing for books two and three.


Mark of Distinction – this book takes us deeper into the secrets Julia’s family has kept and the hidden agenda of a certain person trying to dictate her life. It brings to light a real-life good vs evil battle that tugs Julia in multiple directions at once. Through an unexpected friendship (and even mentor-like relationship) with Isaac Dalry <3, Julia finds her footing and a deeper spiritual purpose driving her toward something…. the cliffhanger-like surprise at the end of this book threw me for a loop and had me rooting for Julia!


Price of Privilege – like the title suggests, this book truly shows the cost of deception and the contrasting beauty of sacrifice. The Christ-like picture painted through one character’s unalterable choice blew me away. Talk about a twist! (and ugly cries!) I appreciated how both Isaac and Edward are portrayed in this conclusion, both loving Julia through anything. And both making selfless decisions to help her in any way they can out of love. For any fans of gothic mysteries or the Victorian era, this series is perfection.


I’ve said before that this book series NEEDS to be adapted to a miniseries! I’ve had some of these actors/actresses in my head since first reading the series. I’ll list the book’s descriptions if you need convincing!

Casting Julia Elliston

Julia Elliston – 17 years old, ebony hair

I think Felicity has a youthful look that would convey Julia’s growth and journey to maturity very well.

Casting Edward Auburn

Edward Auburn – hazel eyes and curly, “honey” hair.

Tom Hiddleston could pull off the boyish charm of Edward, along with the more mature role he portrays while offering wisdom to Julia.

Casting Chance Macy

Chance Macy – a “captivating….dark angel”, longish black hair, much older than Julia.

Two words: Richard Armitage. After all, one moment you are as infatuated with Macy as Julia is, the next, you don’t know if you can believe anything he says.
Casting Isaac Dalry

Lord Isaac Dalry – blue eyes and russet hair

James Norton IS Isaac Dalry in my mind. Might as well call it a fact. ❤ ❤

Casting Minors 1

Casting Minors 2

(all images obtained through Pinterest)

What do you think of my choices? See any of your favorites actors on my list? 😉 Would you pick someone else for these roles?


Sometimes, I run across songs that just match a book I’ve read. These three songs fit this series in feel and theme. Do you agree?

Born of Persuasion: Volcano as performed by Phillip Phillips. The melancholy and mysterious feel of it just works. And, when applied as the male antagonist’s perspective, all sorts of underlying meanings make sense.

Mark of Distinction: You Set Me Free  by Angie Miller. This song perfectly matches the faith transformation Julia undergoes midway through book 2.

Price of Privilege: We Remain by Christina Aguilera. I love how this song matches the struggle Julia goes through with a triumphant “whatever happens here, we remain” proclamation.


Book 1, Born of Persuasion

Born of PersuasionThe year is 1838, and seventeen-year-old Julia Elliston’s position has never been more fragile. Orphaned and unmarried in a time when women are legal property of their fathers, husbands, and guardians, she finds herself at the mercy of an anonymous guardian who plans to establish her as a servant in far-off Scotland.

With two months to devise a better plan, Julia’s first choice to marry her childhood sweetheart is denied. But when a titled dowager offers to introduce Julia into society, a realm of possibilities opens. However, treachery and deception are as much a part of Victorian society as titles and decorum, and Julia quickly discovers her present is deeply entangled with her mother’s mysterious past. Before she knows what’s happening, Julia finds herself a pawn in a deadly game between two of the country’s most powerful men. With no laws to protect her, she must unravel the secrets on her own. But sometimes truth is elusive and knowledge is deadly.

Book 2, Mark of Distinction

Mark of DistinctionLondon is said to be the glittering jewel of society, a world unto itself—but to Julia Elliston it is a city of shadows. Her life is swiftly dissolving into scandal. And in Victorian society, even a whisper of scandal—substantiated or not—can be the death of a young woman’s reputation.

When Julia discovers that Lord Roy Pierson, her guardian and one of most influential men in England, is the father she has never met, she begrudgingly accepts his protection. But Chance Macy’s power is far-reaching as well.

Thrust into society as the Emerald Heiress, Julia is the toast of London, a celebrated curiosity. But in reality she’s trapped between the clutches of two powerful men. Aided only by a gentleman whose intentions she prays she can trust, Julia must finally take control of her own fate—but outwitting one’s foe rarely goes according to plan.

Book 3, Price of Privilege

Price of PrivilegeHaving finally discovered the truth of her birthright, Julia Elliston is determined to outwit Chance Macy at his own game. Holding a secret he’d kill to keep, however, is proving more difficult than she imagined.

Just when Julia thinks she’s managed to untangle herself from Macy’s clutches, he changes tactics with a risky ploy. As the scandal of the century breaks loose, drawing rooms all over London whisper what so far newspapers have not dared to print: Macy’s lost bride is none other than Lord Pierson’s daughter–and one of the most controversial cases of marital law ever seen comes before Victorian courts.

Though Julia knows Macy’s version of events is another masterful manipulation, public opinion is swaying in his favor. Caught in a web of deceit and lies, armed only with a fledgling faith, Julia must face her fiercest trial yet.

Have you read this amazing series? Do you have thoughts or FEELINGS about it?