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?

 

Top Ten Tuesday: 10 Novels with the Most Unique Settings

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

Top Ten Tuesday at The Green Mockingbird

The official prompt is: Top Ten Of The Most Unique Books I’ve Read or a variation on “unique books”. This one was a little harder to decide on because what think is unique might not be to you. So, I’ve settled on unique settings because that’s a pretty concrete story element we might agree on.

Some of these are highly unique because of their geographical setting and some are more so because of the combination of setting + era. In no particular order……

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10 Novels with the Most Unique Settings


1. The Lady and the Lionheart
by Joanne Bischof

Setting: a circus in Victorian-era Virginia. Lions (and their amazing trainer) and elephants all traveling by wagon, oh my! (No surprise it’s on another TTT list. I could talk about this book all day.)


2. The Red Door Inn by Liz Johnson

Setting: A little bed-and-breakfast inn in modern Prince Edward Island, Canada. The first of two contemporary stories on my list this week, the setting is charming and picturesque while it makes its way into the heart of the heroine.


3. The Thorn Healer
by Pepper Basham

Setting: Hot Springs, NC that hosts a post-WWI German refugee camp. It’s a cultural wake-up call for the heroine as she learns to overcome prejudices in her little Appalachian community.


4. The Brontë Plot
by Katherine Reay

Setting: a good part comprises a literary tour of England, complete with London and a visit to the Brontës’ hometown, Haworth. This is the second contemporary story on the list!


5. The Measure of a Lady
by Deeanne Gist

Setting: Gold Rush San Francisco, CA (mid 1800s) with all its roughness and rugged coastal beauty — this is a place the heroine does not want to be, but the people there inexplicably draw her in…


6. The Captive Imposter
by Dawn Crandall

Setting: a wealthy family’s hotel in the mountains of Maine during the Gilded Age (early 1900s).


7. The Sentinels of Andersonville
by Tracy Groot

Setting: Andersonville prison in Andersonville, GA during the Civil War. This prison held Yankees, including one of the main characters.


8. Duchess
by Susan May Warren

Setting: the “Golden Age” of Hollywood, CA, in the 1930s then Europe during crucial parts of political unrest just before WWII.


9. Saving Amelie
by Cathy Gohlke

Setting: a little village in hostile Germany during WWII.


10. A Moonbow Night
by Laura Frantz

Setting: a family lodge and way station of sorts in the wilderness of the Kentucky frontier in the mid-1700s. Think Daniel Boone!

What is one of the most unique settings you’ve read about? Did you participate in TTT this week? Share your thoughts in the comments!

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

Top Ten Tuesday: 10+ Novellas You Can Read in One Sitting

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

Top Ten Tuesday at The Green Mockingbird

The official topic this week is “read in one sitting”. With the open-ended nature of this, I decided to go with 10 different novellas or novella collections. Specifically, a novella is longer than a short story but not as long as a novel, so think 70-150 pages. Most of them can be read in 1-2 hours, I think!

10+ Novellas You Can Read in One Sitting

Standalone Novellas

…for when you want to read a delightful story and be happily satisfied at the end.

this-quiet-sky1. This Quiet Sky by Joanne Bischof

A touching and deeply emotional story, this one will give you a taste of Joanne’s prose-like style. Oh, and its poignancy might just leave you in tears.

HowaStarFalls-new2. How a Star Falls by Amber Stokes

This story makes you question the story world’s reality in the sweetest of ways. Is it real? Is it a modern fairy tale?

Novella Collections

…for when you want to read just 1 or several shorter stories with a related theme or element.

With This Ring3. With This Ring? collection by Karen Witemeyer, Mary Connealy, Regina Jennings, and Melissa Jaegars

This is a cute collection of 4 marriage proposal stories…  but the proposals are anything but traditional! Oh, and they are all western rom-coms! Fans of these authors might recognize the story settings or characters as minor ones from previous series.

Love at First Laugh4. Love at First Laugh collection by Pepper Basham, Chrinstina Coryell, Heather Gray, Elizabeth Maddrey, Jessica R. Patch, Krista Phillips, Laurie Tomlinson, and Marion Ueckermann

This humorous little collection is one I’m currently reading. It promises many laughs, romance, and fun banter!

The Message in a Bottle Romance Collection5. The Message in a Bottle Romance Collection by Joanne Bischof, Amanda Dykes, Heather Day Gilbert, Jocelyn Green, and Maureen Lang

I recently finished this unique collection of stories all connected with a bronze keepsake bottle and a theme of hope. I enjoyed all of the different historical settings and time periods this collection spans.

Series Start Novellas

…for when you want to try out a new series or author. These wonderfully introduce the characters and establish the setting. Plus, series start novellas are often free ebooks!

If Ever I Would Leave You by Susan May Warren6. If Ever I Would Leave You by Susan May Warren

Setting up the Montana Rescue series, this novella introduces us to key characters and to a main conflict that carries on through the series. Plus, it establishes a certain relationship dynamic that I love and still want to see resolved!

Three Little Words7. Three Little Words by Melissa Tagg

If you’ve never read anything by Melissa, this is a perfect place to start! This is really more of a standalone, too, because the main characters’ story is wrapped up nicely by the end. There are letters, people! But if you want more, the setting and family are featured in the Walker Family series.

 

A Singular and Whimsical Problem8. A Singular and Whimsical Problem by Rachel McMillan

This is a little mystery to introduce you to Jem, Merinda, Ray, and Jasper with their quirky habits and penchant for crime solving. It’s the start of a must-read historical mystery & romance series, Herringford and Watts Mysteries.

the-warriors-seal9. The Warrior’s Seal by Ronie Kendig

This sets up the Tox Files series very nicely with plenty of action and intrigue in itself. It’s the backstory, if you will, of this special team and the events that lead up to a predicament which carries on into book 1.

 

The Boden Birthright10. The Boden Birthright by Mary Connealy

You just can’t go wrong with a single-dad-turned-cowboy, a ranch in the middle of a land dispute, and a beautiful rancher’s daughter thrown together with the humor and wit of Mary’s storytelling. This is a “family history” story, if you will, that sets up Mary’s The Cimmaron Legacy series.

Did you participate in Top Ten Tuesday this week? Do you enjoy novellas or short stories? Do you have any recommendations? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Review: “Rescue Me” by Susan May Warren

Today I want to share my thoughts on Susan May Warren’s latest release, Rescue Me, book #2 in her new-ish “Montana Rescue” series. (click here for my review of book 1). I enjoy everything Susan writes, so my review *might* get a little lengthy. This particular story is one part tense action in the wilderness, one part a tentative romance, and one part a story of forgiveness.

About the Book

When Deputy Sam Brooks commits to something, nothing can sway him–not just on the job as liaison between the Mercy Falls sheriff’s department and PEAK Rescue, but in his private life. Rescue Me by Susan May Warren.jpgHe’s the one who stuck around to take care of his mother after his father’s accidental death. And he’s the one–perhaps the only one–who believes Sierra Rose is the perfect girl for him. Safe, practical, and organized, she’s nothing like her hippie, impulsive, bleeding heart sister, Willow.

Willow, however, has been in love with Sam Brooks for as long as she can remember. But she wants her sister to have a happy ending. Besides, Willow has other things to focus on–namely, nabbing the job as youth pastor for her small-town church. Best thing for her to do is to purge Sam from her heart.

Neither can predict the events that will bring them together in a fight for their lives in the forbidding wilderness of Glacier National Park. Stranded, injured, and with the winter weather closing in, Sam and Willow will have to work together to save a crew of terrified teenagers. As they fight to survive, they might just discover a new hope for love.

Review

Susan’s talent lies in depicting characters “right where they are” in life, with all their flaws and shortcomings. She does this with such care it reveals what they can be through another’s eyes or through the healing grace of God. This realness makes them instantly relatable, making the reader empathize and even gain perspective from their experiences. (I know they are fictional, OK. But that’s the power of story.) Especially when it is a plausible story like this one. Sam and Willow, and the secondary storyline with his brother, Pete, are likable and relatable, even when they are wrong in their assumptions or reflex decisions that have consequences later in the story.

Another element I always appreciate about Susan’s storytelling is the way she weaves the book title into the story in a unique way, often with multiple meanings. This time, Rescue Me works out as being briefly flirtatious (at least I thought that one internal dialogue of Willow’s was amusing!), a literal need for rescue, and a steadfast prayer and lesson of rescue from the One who offers hope.

In the middle of the drama and peril, a lesson of forgiveness and reconciliation is told through these characters’ lives. As Sam sets aside his independence and realizes the limits of his humanity, he sees the God of rescue and hope reaching out for him. Similarly, Willow and Pete learn lessons of rescue and hope in their own ways, all realizing their faith is sure even when their sight is uncertain.

The romance of the story is sweetly told, unfolding gently in the turmoil of action and more than a few dangerous life situations. Sam and Willow begin to find a belonging and complementary friendship that surprises them — and makes the reader cheer them on — because their opposite personalities encourage one another to be better persons.

Also, I want to mention the beginnings of another romance we glimpse in this story between secondary characters promises more drama and a good story to continue. Coupled with the cliffhanger related to a mystery that I think will continue through the series, Rescue Me has the right amount of finality for the reader to be satisfied for now and hopeful of the untold stories to come. Thankfully, book #3 (A Matter of Trust) is set to release in July!

I voluntarily reviewed a purchased copy of this book.

Review: “Paper Hearts” by Courtney Walsh

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What better way to celebrate the week of Valentine’s than with a little review of a book that’s romance-y and cute with genuineness and heart behind it (and on it)? I thought so. I’m talking about a book that’s been on my radar and TBR shelf for way too long: Paper Hearts by Courtney Walsh.

About the Book

Abigail Pressman would never have guessed that love notes penned on paper hearts by an anonymous couple could restore her belief in love. As a business owner in a quaint town at the base of the Rockies, she’s poured everything into dreams of expansion . . . and resisting the matchmaking efforts of the Valentine Volunteers, who gather in her store to continue Loves Park’s tradition of stamping mail with the city’s romantic postmark.

When Abigail is unwillingly drafted into the Volunteers, she encounters the paper hearts, a distraction that couldn’t come at a worse time. A hard-to-read doctor has become Abigail’s new landlord, and he’s threatening to end her lease to expand his practice.

As she fights a growing attraction to this handsome man crushing her dreams, Abigail is inspired to string the hearts in her store, sparking a citywide infatuation with the artsy trend. But when a new batch of hearts reaches the Volunteers, it appears something tragic has happened to the couple. Will uncovering their story confirm Abigail’s doubts about love, or could it rescue her dreams . . . and her heart?

Review

This book is adorable. When I first heard about it, it was aptly compared to You’ve Got Mail, so I picked up a copy. It totally reflects that relationship predicament and has a small element like the show Signed, Sealed, Delivered’s dead letter office (if you can imagine it as a mismatched group of lady matchmakers – the Valentine Volunteers). But it’s deeper than a light rom-com. It’s a story of forgiveness, dreams, and love.

Paper Hearts has all the ingredients for an ideal inspirational contemporary romance: a quaint setting, meddling neighbor types, an “are-we-professional-enemies-or-am-I-attracted-to-you” relationship, a single dad trying to reinvent himself, a young woman’s journey to settle into a new dream, a sweet and meaningful romance, and themes of unconditional love and forgiveness.

I appreciate the way Courtney builds the backstory of Abigail and Jacob (the new doctor/landlord) slowly. The reader sees both characters react to the present and in turn learns a little more about their pasts and major events influencing them. As I got to “know them” better, I was rooting for them to share their insecurities and secrets with one another because I knew they had much in common AND because I was dying to know the whole story behind a certain secret.

The real “paper heart” portion of the story happens a little ways in, but it is worth the wait. Like the endearing cast of characters and charming small town setting, the romantic tradition of the hearts will pull at your hear and remind you to never take your loved ones for granted.

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.