Series Review: "Sunrise at Normandy" by Sarah Sundin

I LOVE to learn about history through story! Sarah Sundin’s WWII “Sunrise at Normandy” series explores what life in the US and England was like for citizens in each branch of the US armed forces and for those in the Red Cross, Women’s Royal Navel Service, and on the home front employed on and off base.

You can read the synopsis and learn more about each book in this series on Goodreads.

Series Review

The “Sunrise at Normandy” series follows the stories of the three Paxton brothers, each serving in a different branch (Navy, Air Force, Army) and fighting in the Battle of Normandy. Their familial circumstances are estranged because of events at the beginning of the series. Because of this, each participates in events leading up to D-Day independently and experiences unique opportunities for romantic relationships AND for growing into forgiveness and reconciliation.

The Sea Before Us 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. Sundin’s writing style flows naturally and relates the depth of the characters with ease. 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.

The Sky Above Us is a fantastic WWII story that’s even better if you’ve read book 1!. 😉 I enjoyed that several characters are based on actual historical people — the research shines through in that aspect. Subtle faith themes and parallels to the Biblical story of Jacob and Esau deepen the characters’ arcs and add to the complexity of the plot. The romance unfolds naturally amidst all of the WWII happenings to be sensible and sweet. I think this is my favorite of the three!

The Land Beneath Us is the perfect conclusion to the series. This approach to a group of stories, all three on a similar timeline with the stories of the brothers overlapping, is unique and expertly woven by Sarah Sundin. I really appreciate the bits of real history included in this story, especially concerning the Army’s training and preparedness, and the way all the characters show true growth and maturity as a result of their experiences and relationships. Leah, especially, grows into her role as a woman through this. Another thing I really liked about each of these stories is how they parallel and draw influence from prominent Biblical persons, this one referencing Joseph and Leah.

Thank you to Revell publishers for the review copy of each title. These are my honest thoughts and reviews.

Recommended Reading: Series to Binge

In light of all the craziness happening in the world right now, you might find yourself with extra time to read that book or series you’ve had on your shelf for forever. If you’ve read all the books in your house (Go you! I commend you!), and you’re looking to discover more great stories, I have compiled a list of 11 series you can binge-read NOW!

In my reading opinion, nothing is better than getting to breeze through a series back to back with NO WAITING until the next book is released!

I’ve listed these in order of historical era and genre, with Goodreads links to the series and some links to my reviews. And, confession time, all of these have some element of romance 😉

Parish Orphans of Devon series by Mimi Matthews | Victorian Era England + abroad

Delightful and deep Victorian romances, each of these couples have unique appeal (brooding, bookish, assertive, sweet, and redeemed rogue in the mix). I will reread these forever. The audio versions are wonderful, too!

The Matrimonial Advertisement | A Modest Independence | A Convenient Fiction | The Winter Companion

Timber Ridge Reflections series by Tamera Alexander | Post-Civil War American West

I remember loving each of these historical romances for different reasons, the first one being the subject of photography in book From a Distance.

Price of Privilege series by Jessica Dotta | Mystery and Intrigue in Victorian England

My favorite EVER historical series — and I don’t say this lightly! All three books encompass one of the most transformative arcs of the heroine. The allegorical symbolism of redemption deeply embedded in this series blows me away every time I think about it.

Born of Persuasion | Series feature: Price of Privilege

The Everstone Chronicles series by Dawn Crandall | Gilded Age New England

Four novels + 1 novella all with unique 1st person point-of-view heroines. Plus the Adirondack and coastal settings are detailed and idyllic!

The Hesitant Heiress | The Bound Heart | The Captive Imposter | The Cautious Maiden

Herringford & Watts Mysteries by Rachel McMillan | Pre-WWI Toronto

Trouser-wearing lady detectives solve crime in Toronto on the cusp of world war with a colorful cast of secondary characters, and two (or three!) valiant love interests. Three full length novels, two novellas, and a short story offer pages of fun with these friends!

The Bachelor Girl’s Guide to Murder | A Lesson in Love and Murder | The White Feather Murders

Penned in Time series by Pepper Basham | WWI England & America

From the front lines to English hospitals and the US treatment of German residents, this romance series explores many facets of the era. Most outstanding, though, it its stories of love and redemption. Book 2 is my favorite!

The Thorn Bearer | The Thorn Keeper | The Thorn Healer

Sunrise at Normandy series by Sarah Sundin | WWII & Battle of Normandy

This series shows how the Allied forces approached and carried out the Battle of Normandy, each by the sea, air, and land. Three estranged brothers find reconciliation and romance while serving in each branch during this pivotal battle. Oh, and each one references and reflects a Biblical story!

The Sea Before Us

Tox Files series by Ronie Kendig | Paramilitary Thrillers

This series needs a seatbelt warning! The prequel novella and three novels follow a covert team around the globe as they work to eliminate a threat and save the day. Besides the kick-butt heroines, the team camaraderie is fun! Oh, and the slight supernatural elements are super cool!

Conspiracy of Silence | Crown of Souls | Thirst of Steel

Two Blue Doors series by Hillary Manton Lodge | Family, Food, & Romance in the PNW

Basically love letters to food and romance, this series courts identity and family as well as a perfect romance between imperfect people. The included recipes will make your mouth water, as will the heritage threads and few “trips” abroad.

A Table by the Window | Reservations for Two | Together at the Table

Chesapeake Valor series by Dani Pettrey | Romantic Suspense

Investigator and law enforcement friends find love amidst the chaos of solving crimes and puzzles in the Chesapeake Bay area and beyond. Fast-paced and memorable, a thread of a story ties all four books together to culminate in a final gripping tale.

Cold Shot | Still Life | Blind Spot | Dead Drift

A Bradford Sisters Romance series by Becky Wade | Contemporary Romance

This series has it all: romance, sisters, family, romance, books, mystery, romance, humor, chocolate, and a hint of suspense. Reading it will make you fall in love with the characters! The epistolary prequel novella and the midpoint Christmas novella are fully-developed and sweet, too!

Falling for You | True to You | Falling for You | Sweet On You

Do you have any recommendations for series I should read ASAP?

Seriously, ya’ll. Stay safe and wash your hands.

Book Review & Blog Tour: “Promised” by Leah Garriott

Margaret Brinton keeps her promises, and the one she is most determined to keep is the promise to protect her heart.

Warwickshire, England, 1812

Fooled by love once before, Margaret vows never to be played the fool again. To keep her vow, she attends a notorious matchmaking party intent on securing the perfect marital match: a union of convenience to someone who could never affect her heart. She discovers a man who exceeds all her hopes in the handsome and obliging rake Mr. Northam.

There’s only one problem. His meddling cousin, Lord Williams, won’t leave Margaret alone. Condescending and high-handed, Lord Williams lectures and insults her. When she refuses to give heed to his counsel, he single-handedly ruins Margaret’s chances for making a good match—to his cousin or anyone else. With no reason to remain at the party, Margaret returns home to discover her father has promised her hand in marriage—to Lord Williams.

Under no condition will Margaret consent to marrying such an odious man. Yet as Lord Williams inserts himself into her everyday life, interrupting her family games and following her on morning walks, winning the good opinion of her siblings and proving himself intelligent and even kind, Margaret is forced to realize that Lord Williams is exactly the type of man she’d hoped to marry before she’d learned how much love hurt. When paths diverge and her time with Lord Williams ends, Margaret is faced with her ultimate choice: keep the promises that protect her or break free of them for one more chance at love. Either way, she fears her heart will lose.

Find Promised on: AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE | BOOK DEPOSITORY | INDIEBOUND | AUDIBLE | GOODREADS | BOOKBUB

Review

Promised is a LOVELY escape to England with a swoony romance! This story has all the fun elements one can expect from a Regency story since Jane Austen set the standard. More than witty characters, though, and a search for a convenient love match, Promised features a sensible and intelligent romance whose main couple is matched in humor, intelligence, AND love.

This story is told in first person POV, a rare and tricky thing in the historical genre. Leah Garriott manages this well, though there were a few times I struggled to like the heroine, Margaret, or understand some of her reasoning. She does exhibit growth, though, and I like the way she finally makes some conscious decisions and chooses to extend forgiveness to a certain character in the end.

The colorful cast of characters, likened to an Austen cast (again), is a fun treat! I particularly liked Mr. Lundall and his humorous role — and the way he figures unexpectedly in showing Margaret a few things about herself. Margaret’s siblings, too, have a playful and sweet dynamic. The best relationship, though, is between Margaret and Lord Williams. Any time they share a scene together, the tension is palpable. From a love/hate stance to tentative respect to understanding, I enjoyed seeing their relationship grow.

The Regency era setting brings to light Margaret’s socially expected role in life versus the way she is trying to shield herself with her own choices. Through some subterfuge, connections over music, a “Pemberley” moment, and lovely banter with the hero, Margaret begins to find hope for her future, even if it is unexpected. I will look forward to whatever historical novel Leah writes next — and I hope we get a future glimpse of these characters again!

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

EARLY PRAISE:

“Promising Regency-set debut. Vivid period details and the hero’s grand romantic efforts will please fans of historical romance.”—Publishers Weekly

“Debut -author Garriott’s smooth prose and character-driven story will enthrall readers looking for sweet historicals with Austenesque plots.”—Library Journal

“Garriott’s impressive debut distinguishes itself with its expertly evoked Regency setting, a cast of realistically flawed yet eminently relatable characters, and a sweetly satisfying love story. Teen fans of Austen-era love stories will fall hard for this impeccably crafted romance.”—Booklist

“Promised is a sweet regency romance and one that I recommend to all of you romance fans, especially those of you that enjoy stories inspired by Jane Austen.”—The Book Diva’s Reads

“…a fun, entertaining, and perfect addition to the Proper Romance collection.”—The Readathon

“With an Austen-like focus on minute emotional detail and some amusing secondary characters, Garriott’s gentle novel promises a treat for Regency fans who like their characters well-bred, their interiors comfortable, and the romance no racier than the hero turning up in a wet shirt.”—Historical Novel Society

Though she earned degrees in math and statistics, Leah Garriott lives for a good love story. She’s resided in Hawaii and Italy, walked the countryside of England, and owns every mainstream movie version of Pride and Prejudice. She’s currently living her own happily ever after in Utah with her husband and three kids. Leah is represented by Sharon Pelletier at Dystel, Goderich, and Bourret.

WEBSITE | FACEBOOK | TWITTER | INSTAGRAM | GOODREADS

ABOUT THE BLOG TOUR

Debut novelist Leah Garriott tours the blogosphere February 17 through March 15, 2020 to share her new historical romance, Promised. Forty popular book bloggers specializing in historical romance, inspirational fiction, and Austenesque fiction will feature guest blogs, interviews, exclusive excerpts, and book reviews of this acclaimed Regency romance novel.

2/17 My Jane Austen Book Club (Guest Blog) | Austenprose—A Jane Austen Blog (Review)

2/18 Katie’s Clean Book Collection (Review) | Wishful Endings (Interview)

2/19 RelzReviewz (Character Spotlight)

2/20 Encouraging Words from the Tea Queen (Spotlight)

2/21 The Lit Bitch (Excerpt)

2/22 The Debutante Ball (Interview)

2/23 Adventure. Romance. Suspense (Review)

2/24 A Bookish Way of Life (Review) | Austenesque Reviews (Guest Blog) | Half Agony, Half Hope (Review)

2/25 Frolic Media (Excerpt)

2/26 Heidi Reads (Guest Blog) | The Caffeinated Bibliophile (Interview)

2/27 Wishful Endings (Review)

2/28 Lu Reviews Books (Review)

2/29 KJ’s Book Nook (Review)

3/1  My Vices and Weaknesses (Excerpt)

3/2 Bringing Up Books (Review) | Christian Chick’s Thoughts (Review) | For Where Your Treasure Is (Interview)

3/3 Heidi Reads (Review) | So Little Time…So Much to Read (Excerpt)

3/4 Romance Junkies (Guest Blog) | Gwendalyn’s Books (Review)

3/5 Laura’s Reviews (Review)

3/6 Scuffed Slippers Wormy Books (Spotlight)

3/7 Fiction Aficionado (Review)

3/8 The Christian Fiction Girl (Review)

3/9 Austenesque Reviews (Review)

3/10 Bookfoolery (Review) | From Pemberley to Milton (Review)

3/11 Faithfully Bookish (Interview)

3/12 Impressions in Ink (Review)

3/13 Robin Loves Reading (Review) | The Green Mockingbird (Review)

3/14 Inkwell Inspirations (Review)

3/15 The Calico Critic (Excerpt) | Bookworm Nation (Guest Blog)

Review: “If For Any Reason” by Courtney Walsh

I’m sharing a review today of a book by one of my favorite must-read authors! This time, Courtney Walsh is kicking off her Nantucket Love Story series with If For Any Reason, a contemporary romance with slight threads of what I consider “women’s fiction”, exploring deep themes of belonging alongside a charming love story.

About the Book

Emily Ackerman has traveled the world, her constant compass and companion a book of letters her mother left for her when she died. With no father in the picture, her mom’s advice has been her only true north. But when professional failure leads Emily back to Nantucket to renovate and sell the family cottage she inherited, she wonders if her mom left advice to cover this . . . especially when her grandmother arrives to “supervise.” And especially when her heart becomes entangled with Hollis McGuire, the boy next door-turned-baseball star who’s back on the island after a career-ending injury.

As sparks fly between her and Hollis, Emily is drawn to island life, even as she uncovers shocking secrets about the tragic accident that led to her mother’s death. With her world turned upside down, Emily must choose between allowing the voices from her past to guide her future or forging her own path forward.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

If For Any Reason is a story of belonging and changing dreams told through a romance and friendship in the ideal setting of Nantucket. Themes of grace and honesty permeate the world Emily and Hollis find themselves in — literally and figuratively. As they deal with some hard things life has thrown at them, they must find the grace to work out their faith and relationship with God while a tentative connection grows between them.

Courtney Walsh excels at writing stories that blend one part women’s fiction with two parts romance and charm! She manages to include deep themes with endearing characters that stir empathy and thought in the heart of a reader. This story is another prime example, with the spark-laden friendship between Emily and Hollis developing naturally. And, Courtney takes a delicate situation and portrays it with compassion and grace, yet still depicts it appropriately with its consequences and fallout.

The romance between Hollis and Emily feels so realistic. They are simply captivated by each other, but it’s not a superficial connection — both characters are mature, both are intentional in their friendship, even if it scares them to be so vulnerable. I especially like one of the decisions Hollis makes (insert heart eyes HERE) at a moment when Emily needs space for clarity.

This review would not be complete without a paragraph devoted to Hollis’s daugther, Jolie, AKA JoJo. This girl steals every scene she’s in! She has so much spunk and acts exactly her age. I liked that she has a voice and an opinion that matters to the adults around her. It’s great to see a bright character like her add such pivotal value to a story.

One more thing I really enjoyed about this story was its inclusion of letters and a few short flashback scenes. These fill in some blanks of the deeper themes and relate things like grief, family, and the resounding impact of choices in a wonderful story device.

I’m looking forward to more stories in this series set on Nantucket, a place I have just added to my must-visit travel list!

Thanks to Tyndale for the review copy. This is my honest review.

Review + Blog Tour & Giveaway: “Follow the Dawn” by Rachelle Rea Cobb

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for Rachelle Rea Cobb’s new book, Follow the Dawn! This is a YA historical romance set in 16th century England, but I think it appeals to any readers of historical romance. Be sure to read my review and enter the giveaway!

About the Book

Anna Emory grew up the invisible younger sister, shy and quiet, and she prefers it that way. But her father’s attempts to arrange an unsavory marriage teach her that courage is sometimes found in adversity.

Then she meets a boy and his father who tip her quiet world upside down.

Captain Mathieu Tudder has run from responsibility, entrusting his young son’s care to another and devoting his Sea Beggar ship to the cause of the Dutch Revolution. After the cause fails, Tudder returns to England for the son he left behind, all he has left of the wife he lost. But Titus prefers a mysteriously quiet nursemaid to his estranged father.

Tudder wants his son back, yet Anna stands in his way. Will these two hearts—the battle-scarred and the broken—ever find true freedom?

Amazon | Goodreads

Review

Follow the Dawn is a sweet romance and story of mercy. I’m so happy Rachelle Rea Cobb has written another book in this setting and era — and one marketed as a YA historical romance with an inspirational thread! Fans of Rachelle’s previous books will be happy to revisit the setting and see cameos of beloved characters, but this book is a standalone with its own complete story.

Lady Anna and Captain Tudder weather many storms during this story, both physical downpours and emotional torrents. Seeing them grow, embrace new friendships, and tentatively find a romance together was a satisfying reading experience. I appreciate the themes of mercy, courage, and redemption deftly threaded throughout. Rachelle has a way of penning faith and characters’ thoughts in a flowing and natural way.

I REALLY liked Titus. The story is centered on him in many ways, with Tudder’s hopeful reunion and Anna’s newfound role as caretaker and friend. The interactions between these three are my favorite. 🙂 I hope this is not the last Rachelle pens in this story world!

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

Enter the Rafflecopter giveaway

Enter using the Rafflecopter form above to win a signed copy of Follow the Dawn. International friends, this giveaway is open to continental U.S. addresses only (sorry!). But do still enter, because an international winner will receive a digital copy of the book.

Rachelle Rea Cobb has history with words. She penned her first short story in middle school, her first novel right out of high school, and signed a three-book publishing contract right after college. Her Steadfast Love series (from WhiteFire Publishing) and 2020 release, Follow the Dawn (Illuminate Publishing) are set during the Dutch Revolution. She is also the author of Write Well, a short writing guide designed to teach the structure of good writing. Rachelle is a freelance editor, an author of six books, and voracious reader. If you’re looking for her, check the bookstore. In 2016, she married a man with the same name as her fictional hero and they live happily ever after in a fixer-upper by the sea. She’s a fan of chai and lemonade (though definitely not together)!

Website | Facebook | Pinterest | Instagram | Amazon Author Page | Goodreads

Although Follow the Dawn is written as a stand-alone for a Young Adult audience, beloved characters from the “Steadfast Love” series do make an appearance. And Letters Home: A Christmas Short Story is actually the prequel!

Check out Letters Home here: Amazon Kindle | Goodreads If you’d like to see my thoughts on the Steadfast Love series, start with this review of book 1: The Sound of Diamonds

Favorite Quotes from “The Blue Castle” by L. M. Montgomery

Last year, in April, I had the privilege of reading The Blue Castle by L. M. Montgomery for the first time. (Shoutout to my friend Rachel McMillan for hosting the readalong!) While this novel is much less well-known than Montgomery’s classic Anne of Green Gables series, it deserves ALL the love for its brilliance and wit. Barney and Valancy are the ultimate couple, making The Blue Castle one of my all-time favorite books now.

Today I want to share some of my favorite quotes from The Blue Castle. I have highlighted my Kindle book and seriously underlined and written notes in the margin of my paperback copy (which I rarely do!), so I have a ton of beautiful lines to choose from. A few of these are more significant in context, but I couldn’t resist including them here. I’ll let Barney and Valancy and John Foster speak for themselves…

Favorite Quotes

‘”The woods are so human,” wrote John Foster, “that to know them one must live with them. An occasional saunter through them, keeping to the well-trodden paths, will never admit us to their intimacy. If we wish to be friends we must seek them out and win them by frequent, reverent visits at all hours; by morning, by noon, and by night; and at all seasons, in spring, in summer, in autumn, in winter.’

‘”Do you want to catch your death of cold again?” Her voice implied that Valancy had died of a cold several times already.’

‘”The greatest happiness,” said Valancy suddenly and distinctly, “is to sneeze when you want to.”‘

‘”Good-evening, Miss Stirling.” Nothing could be more commonplace and conventional. Any one might have said it. But Barney Snaith had a way of saying things that gave them poignancy. When he said good-evening you felt that it was a good evening and that it was partly his doing that it was. Also, you felt that some of the credit was yours.’

‘”John Foster says,” quoted Valancy, “If you can sit in silence with a person for half an hour and yet be entirely comfortable, you and that person can be friends. If you cannot, friends you’ll never be and you need not waste time in trying.'”

‘Once in a thousand years, you know, one cat is allowed to speak. My cats are philosophers—neither of them ever cries over spilt milk.’

‘”Isn’t it better to have your heart broken than to have it wither up?” queried Valancy. “Before it could be broken it must have felt something splendid. That would be worth the pain.”‘

‘After the meal was over they would sit there and talk for hours—or sit and say nothing, in all the languages of the world…’

‘Barney knew the woods as a book and he taught their lore and craft to Valancy. He could always find trail and haunt of the shy wood people. Valancy learned the different fairy-likenesses of the mosses—the charm and exquisiteness of woodland blossoms. She learned to know every bird at sight and mimic its call—though never so perfectly as Barney. She made friends with every kind of tree.’

‘Or they just prowled and explored through woods that always seemed to be expecting something wonderful to happen. At least, that was the way Valancy felt about them. Down the next hollow—over the next hill—you would find it. “We don’t know where we’re going, but isn’t it fun to go?” Barney used to say.’

‘Once they stood in a hesitation of ecstasy at the entrance of a narrow path between ranks of birches. Every twig and spray was outlined in snow. The undergrowth along its sides was a little fairy forest cut out of marble. The shadows cast by the pale sunshine were fine and spiritual. “Come away,” said Barney, turning. “We must not commit the desecration of tramping through there.”‘

‘There are so many kinds of loveliness. Valancy, before this year you’ve spent all your life in ugliness. You know nothing of the beauty of the world. We’ll climb mountains—hunt for treasures in the bazaars of Samarcand—search out the magic of east and west—run hand in hand to the rim of the world. I want to show you it all—see it again through your eyes. Girl, there are a million things I want to show you—do with you—say to you. It will take a lifetime.’

All quotes attributed to Lucy Maud Montgomery, The Blue Castle, Feedbooks. Kindle Edition.

Have you read The Blue Castle? Are you

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.