Review: “With Love, Wherever You Are” by Dandi Daley Mackall

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Bonus trivia: That’s a photo of the real-life Helen and Frank on the cover!

This book review features a book that is as interesting as it is riveting because much of the story is based on the true-life events of a couple who met, married, and served in Europe during WWII. The book, With Love, Wherever You Are, by Dandi Daley Mackall, is a recent release from Tyndale House.

About the BookEveryone knows that war romances never last . . .
After a whirlwind romance and wedding, Helen Eberhart Daley, an army nurse, and Lieutenant Frank Daley, M.D. are sent to the front lines of Europe with only letters to connect them for months at a time.

Surrounded by danger and desperately wounded patients, they soon find that only the war seems real—and their marriage more and more like a distant dream. If they make it through the war, will their marriage survive?

Based on the incredible true love story, With Love, Wherever You Are is an adult novel from beloved children’s author Dandi Daley Mackall.Review

“Based on a true story”, “WWII era”, and “letters” were all I needed to know I really wanted to read this novel. With flowing style, intriguing settings around the US and the war theater of Europe, and a love story that transcends all kinds of obstacles, this book kept me hooked late into the night.

For starters, this book is based on the real life love story of the author’s parents. While some elements and characters were understandably fictionalized for heightened story tension, the personalities of Frank and Helen clearly shine through as observed by Dandi, their daughter. Fast forwarding to the end and the author’s note section, readers learn what parts of the story are identical to the real-life situation– and those were the most incredibly interesting elements of the story!

I was impressed with the contrasting humor and wit of the relationship between Frank and Helen compared to the dramatic responsibilities, convictions, and events depicted in the book. To quote an author friend, I felt like I was reading the script of a Cary Grant movie sometimes! These personalities really come out in the real-life letters, notes, telegrams, etc. included all throughout the novel—they were a treat!

The pain and destruction of World War II was not shied away from, yet a lens of eternal hope was applied to the gravity of loss experienced by the world. In the middle of it all, this beautiful romance and subsequent relationship was formed, tested by fire, and proved a lasting legacy for Dandi and a story of inspiration to me. It reminded me of the individual sacrifice many men and women have made for their countries. It made me all the more thankful for the generations, past and present, who have held strong to liberty and freedom. Veterans, I thank you.

If you are a fan of history, WWII/military fiction, (slightly) epistolary novels, or romance, I highly recommend this book.

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

What is your favorite book with letters or your favorite WWII novel?

 

Review: “Long Time Gone” by Mary Connealy

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

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

Review

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

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

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

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

Check out my review of book 1 in the series:

No Way Up

Review: The Message in a Bottle Romance Novella Collection

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Welcome! Today is all about a delightful novella collection from Barbour Publishing, The Message in a Bottle Romance Collection by authors Heather Day Gilbert, Amanda Dykes, Maureen Lang, Jocelyn Green, and Joanne Bischof. With five separate stories, this collection is tethered with a common theme of hope and an antique bronze bottle that travels around the globe and through the centuries, appearing in each story.

About the Book


Join the journey as one word etched in Latin on an ancient bronze bottle travels through the centuries to reach five young women who are struggling to maintain their faith in God and love. An Irish princess, a Scottish story weaver, a Post-Colonial nurse, a cotton mill worker, and a maid who nearly drowned each receive a message from the bottle just when they need their hope restored. But will the bottle also bring them each to a man whose love will endure?

Review

Each story has a unique setting and voice, but a common theme of hope can be found in them all. The Message in a Bottle Romance CollectionSometimes it’s a hope to survive, a hope for a second chance, a hope for love and belonging, or a hope that trusts in God for a better future.

The entire collection was delightful and encouraging. Each had a sweet romance, sometimes with a surprise or two thrown it. Each told a different story of family or culture, presenting its era and setting with bright clarity and detail. All of it was threaded with the theme of hope and connected with a seemingly small item, a brass bottle. I thought it was representative of the hope we do share — in faith and trust in God — that might seem small but has a mighty strength and endurance when tested.

Prologue 834 AD & The Distant Tide • 1170 Ireland • by Heather Day Gilbert

  • The origin story of the bottle is very well told and connects closely to the characters in Heather’s story.
  • I enjoyed the setting and conflict: a northern Irish kingdom during medieval times with threats from Vikings and Northmen. This is a period I’ve not read (or heard much about) in the Christian fiction genre. I do know that Heather has penned a Viking series I’m now interested in!
  • This story surprised me in a few ways – what I would have predicted about a certain character’s response and attitude was completely turned around in a very good way.

A Song in the Night • 1715 Scotland • by Amanda Dykes

  • A bit of a secret propels this story and adds dramatic suspense to the plot. The way the main characters are established allows them to “speak for themselves”, in a way, and reveal their hearts and pasts slowly.
  • I loved the simultaneous journies of this story, a physical one across borders and to a new destination (Scotland to England), a new experience for the characters, and an emotional one from brokenness to restoration.
  • Also, I was really impressed with the lyrical writing style of Amanda and the way she incorporated Scottish culture and language into the story. Yay for discovering new authors!

The Forgotten Hope • 1798 New York • by Maureen Lang

  • This story’s spot in the lineup of the collection provides contrast and a fresh perspective. The setting, post-Revolutionary America, is appropriately different and tenuous for a young lady aspiring to follow her father’s career path in doctoring.
  • This story had a coming-of-age, young adult feel to it.
  • The two main characters, Abigail and Cal, complement each other very well. At times, I thought Abigail was a little immature in her behavior, but after finishing the story I can see that Cal’s more serious demeanor was a good fit for her. They encourage each other to be compassionate toward others and hopeful of a life beyond the sorrow of their pasts.

A River Between Us • 1864 Georgia • by Jocelyn Green

  • Jocelyn has a style that is vivid and immersive emotionally and in a sensory way. I felt like I was there, experiencing the danger of a battlefield or the uncertainty of the future through Cora Mae’s eyes. I was rooting for Ethan, the hero of this story, who demonstrated integrity and honor on multiple occasions.
  • To me, this story is about learning to see the heart of people beyond outward appearances or seemingly opposite sides. In this case, it’s a very human look at both sides of the Civil War, how both sides sacrificed and experienced pain, and how the hope for peace can be a driving force in caring for others.

The Swelling Sea & Epilogue • 1890 California • by Joanne Bischof

  • What a setting! The Hotel del Coronado near San Diego, CA just at its beginning as a travel destination for the high class. I’ve added a new destination to my dream travel list.
  • Joanne has an exquisite way of presenting a story. Whether through a personality or physical trait, her characters often exhibit a unique characteristic which further challenges their journey and enlightens the reader to a new side of human nature. In this case, Rosie and Jonas separately face a part of their past that is holding them back. Theirs is a story of finding the freedom to seek joy, to hope for happiness.
  • Reading this novella would help you to fully experience what I mean, but I have to say I ADORED the way certain aspects of this story reminded me of the importance of an unabashed, childlike faith. And, how our imperfections might just be a tool to teach us that we are not alone, that other people are placed in our lives for help and encouragement.

I was a little sad to come to the end of the journey with this bottle, but I know it’s not the end of its encouraging message of hope. These stories are ones that resonate. I hope you have the opportunity to experience this little collection some time!

Find the book on Goodreads | Amazon

Thank you to the publisher for providing a review copy of this book. This is my honest review.

 

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

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

Sweeping Historical Fiction Set at the Edge of the Continent

the-mark-of-the-king-by-jocelyn-greenAfter being imprisoned and branded for the death of her client, twenty-five-year-old midwife Julianne Chevalier trades her life sentence for exile to the fledgling 1720s French colony of Louisiana, where she hopes to be reunited with her brother, serving there as a soldier. To make the journey, though, women must be married, and Julianne is forced to wed a fellow convict.

When they arrive in New Orleans, there is no news of Benjamin, Julianne’s brother, and searching for answers proves dangerous. What is behind the mystery, and does military officer Marc-Paul Girard know more than he is letting on?

With her dreams of a new life shattered, Julianne must find her way in this dangerous, rugged land, despite never being able to escape the king’s mark on her shoulder that brands her a criminal beyond redemption.

Review

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

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

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

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

“The Thorn Healer” by Pepper D. Basham ~ Tour, Review & Author’s Top 10 Favorites

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tth_1Series: Penned in Time book 3
Genre: Fiction, Historical, Romance, Christian
Publisher: Vinspire Publishing
Publication date: December 6, 2016
Number of pages: 327

Fiction, Historical, Romance, Christian

Jessica Ross’ scars run much deeper than the wounds of war. Determined to escape the ghosts of her past and the German influence on her nightmares, she returns home to the sleepy Appalachian town of Hot Springs, NC, only to find the renowned Mountain Park Hotel has been converted into a ‘prison’ for displaced Germans. To Jessica’s dismay, her grandparents have befriended one of the treacherous internees.

August Reinhold has not only found kinship with Jessica’s grandparents, but as they share their granddaughter’s letters from the Front, he discovers a surprising bond drawing him toward the independent and beautiful woman. Displaced by a war and a painful history, he finds Hot Springs and the intriguing Jessica Ross a tempting place to start over. Determined to scale the heights of her bitterness and show her the power of love, August faces more than just Jessica’s resistance but a more devious design to harm the civilian sailors housed in Hot Springs.

Will August’s tender pursuit bring Jessica the healing and hope she needs, or will bitterness force her into the hands of a “true” enemy waiting to destroy much more than her heart?

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Pepper D. BashamPepper Basham is an award-winning author who writes romance peppered with grace and humor. She currently resides in the lovely mountains of Asheville, NC where she is the mom of 5 great kids, speech-pathologist to about fifty more, lover of chocolate, jazz, and Jesus. Her debut historical novel, The Thorn Bearer, released in May 2015 and has garnered awards such as Reader’s Favorites Award, finalist in the Grace Awards, shortlisted for the Inspy Awards, and a finalist in ACFW’s Carol Awards. Her second historical novel, The Thorn Keeper, released in Feb 2016 and her first contemporary romance, A Twist of Faith, released in April 2016 with a 4 star review from Romantic Times. You can get to know Pepper on her website, Facebook, Instagram, or over at her group blog, The Writer’s Alley.

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     Warning: only read this story if you are prepared to engage every emotion known to man because you become so invested in these characters’ hearts. Examples include tension, fear, joy, uncertainty, and brokenness that turns to healing, ALL of which are bound in exquisite hope. The hope found in acceptance, family, love, and most of all, the hope found in Christ.
     Jessica Ross has been an important, though secondary, part of 2 previous books in this series. With The Thorn Healer, her story is told fabulously. (note: this book can be read as a standalone!). She is instantly likable with her fun, feisty attitude and numerous scars just below the surface. She journeys through so much reminding her how much uncertainty one can face in life, AND how a sense of wholeness only comes through surrender to God. On top of that, she faces her own prejudices and understandable challenges when encountering August and his German countrymen in her hometown just after the catastrophes of WWI. And boy does she put up a fight facing down those issues! Talk about witty dialogue :).
     While we’re discussing August, let me just mention how he’s the perfect opposites-attract –and most unexpected — complimentary hero for Jessica. He catches her off guard with his honesty and strength of faith. As Jessica notes at one point, an apt description for him is a “quiet fighter” (ch 8). And the romance that eventually transpires between these two is “signature Pepper” with its spark, sweetness, and poignancy. As Pepper has said before, August’s character demonstrates wonderfully the unconditional love of Christ for His bride.
    14962639_10211125492113875_3513658439859111629_n This is a beautiful drama that explores much more than a romance or the aftermath of WWI. Instead, it delves deep into a story of faith, of the reminder that scars have little power over forgiveness, that God is the source of steadfast hope, and that fulfilling love is sometimes unexpected in its wholeness and form.
     There are so many facets I could further discuss about this story. Like the supporting characters and their humor, or the historically accurate (and fascinating!) setting and events that take place in small town Appalachia, or the glimpse of favorite characters from a previous story, or the beauty of the LETTERS exchanged between certain parties. Or even the hold-your-breath ending. But I will leave you with this plea: read this series from Pepper. You will be blessed by its stories of faith and love.
     My reviews of the previous books in this series: The Thorn Bearer and The Thorn Keeper.
Thank you to Vinspire Publishing and SLB for the complimentary review copy of this book. This is my honest review.

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1. Holiday – Christmas
2. Cookie – Preacher Cookies (aka chocolate/oatmeal no bakes) (Courtney’s note: I’ve not heard them called preacher cookies! I know them as wackies or sometimes boiled cookies)
3. Date option – Nice dinner and then the local bookstore…maybe ending with a stroll through the park or drive through the mountains
4. Tea – sweet, warm or cool
5. Vacation location – UK….EVERY time!
6. Animal – wolf, followed quickly by labs
7. Scripture – (One of my favorites) Ephesians 3:14-19
8. Chocolate – ALL, but I guess my favorite is dark
9. Restaurant – I really like Carrabas, but I’m open for a new favorite
10. Book genre – romance…all kinds

Review: “Newton and Polly: A Novel of Amazing Grace” by Jody Hedlund

I think it’s safe to say most people are familiar with the hymn “Amazing Grace”. What you may not know, however, is the story of its author, John Newton. He had perilous experiences that led him to a place of redemption and repentance before his time as a pastor and figure of influence in the late 1700s. Exploring this time in his life, Author Jody Hedlund has written Newton and Polly: A Novel of Amazing Grace, a novel adaptation of the early story of John Newton’s life and romance with Polly Catlett. Interestingly, Polly’s influence is not often connected with her husband John (or at least not to my knowledge), yet it is present and important to his legacy. Though the novel is considered an inspired-by-true-life work of fiction, its historical accuracy and detail is astounding and enlightening.

About the Book

newton-and-pollyAmazing grace! How sweet the sound
that saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost, but now am found

Now remembered as the author of the world’s most famous hymn, in the mid-eighteenth century as England and France stand on the brink of war, John Newton is a young sailor wandering aimlessly through life. His only duty is to report to his ship and avoid disgracing his father until the night he hears Polly Catlett’s enchanting voice, caroling. He’s immediately smitten and determined to win her affection.

An intense connection quickly forms between the two, but John’s reckless spirit and disregard for the Christian life are concerns for the responsible, devout Polly. When an ill-fated stop at a tavern leaves John imprisoned and bound, Polly must choose to either stand by his side or walk out of his life forever. Will she forfeit her future for the man she loves?

Step back through the pages of history, to uncover the true love story behind a song that continues to stir the hearts and ignite the faith of millions around the globe.

Review

As I have noted, Jody Hedlund pays magnificent attention to historical detail with this novel. She has skillfully woven the love story between John and Polly over an accurate timeline, no small feat considering the good length of time their relationship spanned before his moment of repentance and their eventual marriage. Along with this realistic relationship, John Newton endures trials and struggles, some of his own doing, while learning the gift of forgiveness and provision of God even in dire circumstances.

Both Polly and John’s personal growth from beginning to end was engaging and interesting. In particular, their spiritual arc was emphasized. It was easy to empathize with them, understanding their doubt and questions amid cultural norms. Both had misconstrued approaches to God; Polly thinking she could earn His favor, John thinking he could prove himself on his own, not in need of a God who has allowed tragedy to become his family in the path. Both of them are similar in this respect, though their distance from God stems from different reasons, yet both find their way to faith and realizations that they are sinners only redeemed by God’s grace.

What I most appreciate about Jody Hedlund is her straightforwardness and elegance in presenting a story — in this case, she doesn’t shy away from tough subjects like the slave trade and lifestyle of seamen during this era. Instead, she presents reality and frames her characters with a hope for redemption. With this book in particular I recognized an emphasis on living with integrity. It takes the little known story of John Newton’s early life and displays it with a bright light on Polly Catlett’s complimentary encouragement. The result is a story of page-turning drama with a sweet romance made all the better for the fact that it’s true.

 

Thank you to Blogging for Books and Waterbrook Mulnomah publishers for the complimentary review copy. This review reflects my honest opinion.

Mini Review: “This Quiet Sky” by Joanne Bischof

Ya’ll might remember my recent longish review of The Lady and the Lionheart by Joanne Bischof. Well, I just needed another helping of her writing so I turned to a novella I’ve had waiting on my ereader for a while, This Quiet Sky. It’s a historical YA romance, though not your typical coming of age or first love type story. Read on for my mini review!

This Quiet SkyThis Quiet Sky by Joanne Bischof (click title for Goodreads page)

Poignant and beautiful! This novella begins as a story of a young woman finding new friendship in a new town and progresses into a story about the enduring strength of love. Sarah and Tucker just melt my heart! The story had its ups and downs, moments of fun and romance, and a few tear-inducing scenes (for me!), but it ended in a good place of peace. It really illustrated a unique picture of true love, all of which pointed to God’s sovereignty and purpose.