Review: “Veiled in Smoke” by Jocelyn Green

Today I’m featuring one of my favorite kinds of stories: one filled with true history! While the characters and plot are fiction, Veiled in Smoke by Jocelyn Green features so many accurate historical details of Chicago and life in the 1870s in the shadow of the Civil War. If you want to take a trip back in time, pick up this book…

About the Book

Meg and Sylvie Townsend manage the family bookshop and care for their father, Stephen, a veteran still suffering in mind and spirit from his time as a POW during the Civil War. But when the Great Fire sweeps through Chicago’s business district, they lose much more than just their store.

The sisters become separated from their father, and after Meg burns her hands in an attempt to save a family heirloom, they make a harrowing escape from the flames with the help of Chicago Tribune reporter Nate Pierce. Once the smoke clears away, they reunite with Stephen, only to learn soon after that their family friend not only died during the fire–he was murdered. Even more shocking, Stephen is charged with the crime and committed to the Cook County Insane Asylum.

Though homeless, injured, and suddenly unemployed, Meg must not only gather the pieces of her shattered life, but prove her father’s innocence before the asylum truly drives him mad.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

Veiled in Smoke is a richly detailed story of sisters, family, love, and trust. Set during a fascinating time — featuring the Great Fire of Chicago in 1871 and the reconstruction period after the Civil War — it features a city and a family making sense of their lives in the aftermath of loss and destruction.

The many complexities of this novel are revealed at a steady pace along with the development and growth of characters. Meg, Sylvie, Nate, and Stephen share chapter points-of-view and convey the tension and emotions of events well – especially during the fire evacuation. From the dynamic of sisters to a love of literature, the trauma and aftermath of Andersonville prison, a couple new friendships and hints of romance, the way all of these elements work together is a feat in itself. This combined with a subtle mystery and suspense thread makes for a wonderful work of historical fiction.

A slight romantic element is there, too. While it is slowly explored from roots of friendship between the characters, it feels organic to the setting. Now I can talk about Nate! He is SUCH a likable gentleman. His character really shines a light on the theme of sharing everyday life with loved ones, with all its burdens and joys.

Author Jocelyn Green depicts history in a relatable way that always shines a light on unique or lesser-known aspects of the world. In a sense, this gives the past a voice, even in fiction. I’ve enjoyed each and every novel of hers I’ve read (3 to go!). Veiled in Smoke is just as enthralling and enjoyable. Its themes of second chances, trust in God’s unchanging nature, and the strength of love come to life along with the bustling city of Chicago as a backdrop. I am looking forward to the next book in this series — especially catching up with these characters and their bookstore!

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

Review: “Above the Fold” by Rachel Scott McDaniel

Above the Fold happens to be the first book I finished reading in 2020 & it’s set in the “roaring” 1920s! 🙂

About the Book

After losing the love of her life to a big city journalism job, Elissa Tillman pours herself into the suffragette movement and her secretarial work helping keep her father’s Pittsburgh newspaper afloat.

Cole Parker returns to the steel city with the phantom failures of his past nipping his heels. All he asks of the future is a second chance with the woman he once spurned.

The murder of a millionaire offers the perfect chance for Elissa to prove to her father and the world that she’s a serious journalist. But there’s a catch—she has to compete for the story. Against none other than Cole Parker, the very man who shattered her heart.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

Above the Fold is a fun and romantic debut from author Rachel Scott McDaniel! It has everything one would want in a 1920s tale: snappy dialogue, a thrilling mystery to investigate, a competition between rival formerly-romantically-entangled reporters, swoony romance, and deeply expressed themes of forgiveness, unconditional love, and a heavenly Father who never forsakes.

Reading a historical novel like this with simultaneous fun and light banter backed by some serious themes is a rare treat! Elissa and Cole come to life on the page as they spar (a la His Girl Friday) while some serious sparks fly! I appreciated the ways the reality of women’s changing independence and roles in the workforce in this era were depicted and kindly handled by most of the male figures in the story (we have to have a few villains, you know). Cole, especially, understands Elissa in the sweetest way and just wants her to realize it.

I was impressed with many aspects of this story, but one in particular I loved was the way it depicted 1920s Pittsburgh with its busy streets, industry, battles with Prohibition and speakeasies, and the exciting and daring life of those in the news business. Vivid depiction of setting is something that seems to come naturally to Rachel’s pen.

Thank you to Just Read Tours for the review copy of this novel. This is my honest review.

Best of 2019: (Inspirational) Historical Fiction

Welcome to my annual “best-of” celebration! Like last year, I’m separating the categories of my yearly best-of lists over a few days. It’s going to take me a few days to talk about all the stories I loved in 2019!

best of 2019 graphic

I have exceeded my reading goals for 2019 according to my Goodreads reading challenge! If you’d like to see all of my 5-star reads and extensive reviews, just check out my completed Goodreads challenge or browse my blog archives. Each day leading up to New Year’s Day you’ll get a new post about my 2019 favorites:

  1. Best of 2019: Novellas & Audiobooks
  2. Best of 2019: Contemporary Fiction
  3. Best of 2019: (General) Historical Fiction
  4. Best of 2019: (Inspirational) Historical Fiction
  5. Best of 2019: Film & TV
  6. Best of 2019: Happy New Year #OnTheBlog (reading challenge?)

The rules: because sometimes I need to keep things brief, I’m choosing to share 3 things that describe each of these stories along with a link to Goodreads and my review.

I read a lot more historical novels this year than I typically do! Narrowing down this list was a challenge — these are the best of the best!

Best of 2019: (Inspirational) Historical Fiction

A Bound Heart by Laura Frantz | Review

Fortitude. Faith. Fireflies.

Daughters of Northern Shores by Joanne Bischof | Review

Restored trust. Extending grace. Family.

Far Side of the Sea by Kate Breslin | Review

Adventure. Honor. Intrigue.

Murder in the City of Liberty by Rachel McMillan | Review

Friendship. Loyalty. Reggie’s “journal of independence”.

With This Pledge by Tamera Alexander | Review

True-life romance. Freedom. Integrity.

Finding Lady Enderly by Joanna Davidson Politano | Review

Identity. Classic literature. Worth.

Becoming Mrs. Lewis by Patty Callahan | Review

Journey to faith. Intelligent friendship. Grief.

The Spice King by Elizabeth Camden | Review

Dreams. Smart romance. Truth.

Between Two Shores by Jocelyn Green | Review

Belonging. Courage. Forgiveness.

Lady of a Thousand Treasures by Sandra Byrd | Review

Subtle mystery. Romance. Value.

Review + Blog Tour: “In Sight of the Mountain” by Jamie McGillen

In Sight of the Mountain
by Jamie McGillen

Publication Date: September 4, 2019
The Evergreen Bookshelf
eBook & Paperback; 356 Pages

Genre: Historical Fiction

~ Inspired by the trailblazing women of the 19th Century who dared to summit Mount Rainier ~

In the devastating aftermath of the 1889 Great Seattle Fire, nineteen-year-old Anna Gallagher faces considerable pressure to marry well and soon.

She has two serious suitors: a well-meaning but condescending doctor, and an evasive fisherman who challenges her mind. But Anna has no intention of giving up her freedom to keep house; she has a dream to reach the summit of Mount Rainier.

Despite her family’s disapproval and her own self-doubt, she secretly trains, raises money for supplies, and buys a train ticket to the base of the mountain. If she succeeds in reaching its icy peak, she could pioneer the way for women mountaineers; but it’s a tall task and there’s much at risk—including the heart of a man who just might love her as an equal.

On the journey, Anna will face glaciers, avalanches, and frozen temperatures, all without knowing if she even has a family or a future to return to.

In Sight of the Mountain is a charming coming-of-age story, but it also casts the reader’s gaze upon issues of colonialism, class, and women’s far-too-narrow options.

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | IndieBound

Review

In Sight of the Mountain is a bright debut novel from Jamie McGillen. Showcasing a unique point in history in the Pacific northwest at the turn of the 20th century, it follows Anna’s journey as she learns important lessons of strength and dreams.

The relationships in this novel are my favorite part. From family and siblings to friendships and romance, Anna’s life is full of relationships that both teach and encourage her. The romance, in particular, is sweet in its encouragement and the way the hero sees and loves Anna just as she is (quite independent for her time!).

The beautiful descriptions of nature and attention shown to cultures and history are more facets of this story I enjoyed. A little mystery and adventure occurs, too, that adds to the depth of the story, enlightening the immigrant history of the region.

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

Praise

“Focusing on themes of the liberation of women, the American class system and effects of colonialism, this intelligent and heart-warming novel introduces us to Anna Gallagher at the tender age of nineteen… In an epic and gripping work of historical fiction with modern sensibilities, author Jamie McGillen gives you everything you could possibly hope for in this inspiring and dramatic tale… Overall, In Sight of the Mountain is the perfect historical read for fans of pioneering heroes and tales of triumph over discrimination.” –K.C. Finn, Reader’s Favorite (5 Star Review)

“As a resident of the Pacific Northwest, I found it entertaining to try to picture Seattle as a frontier town and see Mount Rainier without its modern trappings. The story begins with the 1889 Seattle fire (a true event) and I was immediately hooked… In all, In Sight of the Mountain is a really great read–compelling, educational, containing complex characters and a well-crafted plot. Recommended for all readers YA and up who enjoy historical fiction. I’d give it more than 5 stars if I could.” –Donna Gielow McFarland, Reader’s Favorite (5 Star Review)

About the Author

Jamie McGillen lives in the shadow of Mount Rainier, and no matter how many times she moves away, it draws her home. Everything about large evergreen trees delights her, except how poky they are, and the sap. Her poems and essays have been published in numerous literary journals, and she teaches English Composition at Highline College. When she’s not teaching or cutting strawberries for her starving children, she enjoys writing rhyming poetry, but it’s simply not as popular as it used to be. You can find out more about her at www.jamiemcgillen.com. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, November 18
Review at The Green Mockingbird

Tuesday, November 19
Review at Bookish Rantings

Thursday, November 21
Interview at Let Them Read Books

Friday, November 22
Feature at What Is That Book About

Monday, November 25
Review at 100 Pages a Day

Tuesday, November 26
Feature at The Book Junkie Reads

Wednesday, November 27
Review at Gwendalyn’s Books

Friday, November 29
Guest Post at Encouraging Words from the Tea Queen

Monday, December 2
Interview at Passages to the Past

Thursday, December 5
Feature at View from the Birdhouse

Friday, December 6
Review at Passages to the Past

Giveaway

During the Blog Tour, we are giving away a paperback back copy of In Sight of the Mountain! To enter, please use the Gleam form below.

Giveaway Rules

– Giveaway ends at 11:59 pm EST on December 6th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Paperback giveaway is open to the US only.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspicion of fraud will be decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.
– The winner has 48 hours to claim prize or a new winner is chosen.

Giveaway: In Sight of the Mountain

Review: “The Spice King” by Elizabeth Camden

One thing I always love about Elizabeth Camden’s novels are her intelligent heroines who illuminate aspects of women’s roles in society during the setting’s era. In her latest novel, The Spice King, a tenacious botanist is finding her place in 1900 Washington, DC. There happens to a hero to this story, too, as evidenced by the handsome cover….

About the Book

Gray Delacroix has dedicated his life to building his very successful global spice empire, but it has come at a cost. Resolved to salvage his family before it spirals out of control, he returns to his ancestral home to save his brother and sister before it’s too late.

As a junior botanist for the Smithsonian, Annabelle Larkin has been charged with the impossible task of gaining access to the notoriously private Delacroix plant collection. If she fails, she will be out of a job and the family farm in Kansas will go under. She has no idea that in gaining entrance to the Delacroix world, she will unwittingly step into a web of dangerous political intrigue far beyond her experience.

Unable to deny her attraction to the reclusive business tycoon, Annabelle will be forced to choose between her heart and loyalty to her country. Can Gray and Annabelle find a way through the storm of scandal without destroying the family Gray is fighting to save?

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

The Spice King is an intelligent historical romance!
Things I loved about this novel:

  • the tenacious heroine! She’s capable and wonderfully feminine, yet she still proves her ability and right to work in an environment history traditionally viewed as a place for men. And she loves her sister so much!
  • a brooding and fiercely loyal hero, whose facade begins to melt when he sees the potential for a dream for companionship and family unrealized (both in a romantic way and the relationships restored with his siblings)
  • political intrigue and secrets! Historically accurate WASHINGTON and the White House!
  • themes truth, loyalty, patriotism, trust
  • I enjoyed learning new things about exotic spices & foods we take for granted today!
  • the friendship and rapport between Gray and Annabelle. It’s a dynamic and subtle relationship. He is attracted to her intelligence and she greatly respects him!
  • Gray’s relationship with his siblings! I’m excited about more to come… and hopefully some answers to the twists of the story.
  • THE SWOONY COVER. I’M IN LOVE. And the hero very much matches the cover, so extra points for matchy accuracy!
  • the romance-that’s-way-smart. The romance is central to the story, yes, but even more so is the simple mature friendship that develops between Gray and Annabelle. Camden doesn’t dwell on the physical dynamic between them, that’s done well and subtly just so the reader senses the attraction. The appeal in their romance is more about camaraderie, intelligence, a recognition that each compliments the other, and a mutual respect. This elevates the story to a higher level, I think!

I am excited for the rest of this “Hope and Glory” series! I know we will see more of Gray and Annabelle.

Thanks to Bethany House 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: “A Glitter of Gold” by Liz Johnson

A Glitter of Gold by Liz Johnson is the second book in her Georgia Coast Romance series. It is connected to the first novel (A Sparkle of Silver) in setting alone, so it can be read as a standalone story!

About the Book

When pirate wreck tour guide Anne Norris finds evidence of an undiscovered shipwreck, she seeks the help of museum director Carter Hale to uncover the truth and treasure that could save her business. But can she trust him with her secrets and her heart?

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

With A Glitter of Gold, Liz Johnson has written another layered contemporary romance with adventure on the surface and deeper themes of grace and trust at the core. This one happens to feature a little historical story of PIRATES and treasure that is just as riveting and wonderfully echoes the themes of the book.

This story really makes me want to visit Savannah and learn more about its nautical history! Besides the enchanting setting, Liz Johnson’s style brings the characters to life in tangible ways. I was rooting for Anne to find the security and forgiveness she longs for — even if it did take some major trials for her to arrive at a place of peace. Her backstory surprised me in many ways, making her fascinating and more relatable to readers. And Carter! He had some growing to do, too, especially when it came to familial expectations and personal identity. Anne and Carter’s unlikely partnership-turned-friendship (and romance!) leads to quite the adventure, meanwhile exposing the vulnerabilities of their pasts.

As fun and insightful as the contemporary story is, I just might be more in love with the historical elements of A Glitter of Gold. Carter and Anne search through an heirloom diary that tells of Rebecca’s quest and her involvement with Captain Samuel Thackery. Her bravery and fortitude are impressive, as are his integrity and strength of character. Their chemistry is palpable as their relationship shifts into something more… all I can say is, you might need a cooling splash of seawater after you read some of their sweet scenes together!

A Glitter of Gold is the perfect balance of pirates, adventure, longing, and forgiveness. I’m certainly looking forward to Liz’s next book in the series!

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