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

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Last year, one of my very favorite historical romances was A Name Unknown by Roseanna M. White. I loved it SO MUCH! It’s still at the top of the list, but the second book in the series, A Song Unheard, impressed me as well. Comparing the two is like comparing apples and oranges because each one is unique and wonderful in its own way. Book 2 features another sister in the “family”, with a trip to Wales, violin music, and a mysterious mission…

About the Book

Willa Forsythe is both a violin prodigy and top-notch thief, which make her the perfect choice for a crucial task at the outset of World War I—to steal a cypher from a famous violinist currently in Wales. A Song Unheard by Roseanna M. White

Lukas De Wilde has enjoyed the life of fame he’s won—until now, when being recognized nearly gets him killed. Everyone wants the key to his father’s work as a cryptologist. And Lukas fears that his mother and sister, who have vanished in the wake of the German invasion of Belgium, will pay the price. The only light he finds is in meeting the intriguing Willa Forsythe.

But danger presses in from every side, and Willa knows what Lukas doesn’t—that she must betray him and find that cypher, or her own family will pay the price as surely as his has.

Amazon | Goodreads

Review

A Song Unheard is a novel for anyone who loves history or music. Set during the early days of WWI, it portrays a unique era, a slice of history, and the trials ordinary people endured. I liked that it showed multiple intertwining viewpoints– that of a spunky thief-turned-government aid practically working as a spy (Willa), a refugee estranged from his family and struggling to maintain his normal lifestyle (Lukas), and that of an intelligent young lady hiding her true identity in German-occupied Belgium (Margot).

In their own ways, they each learn important lessons of faith. What stands out to me the most is Willa’s realization that the loving FAMILY she has is wonderful, but that the love of a Heavenly Father can be all-encompassing and accepting far beyond any human connection she might seek.

These twisting perspectives all tell a seamless story with action, intrigue, and true acts of heroism. Interspersed with it all is a romance that grows naturally even while the characters themselves are often (comically) unaware of their deep connection.

And OH, the music!!! The music lover in me swooned a time or two while reading Lukas and Willa’s musical scenes. I have never read a story that incorporates the emotions and visceral feelings music can evoke in mere words and paragraphs. It was so vivid, I could almost hear Willa’s song in her heart. The journey of the characters could be likened to a song that has mournful minor strains and moments of pure joy. All of it works together to present a piece of art: in this case, a musical story that incorporates both historical suspense, romance, and faith.

Thank you to Bethany House Publishers and Netgalley for the opportunity to review a complimentary copy of this book. This is my honest review.

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First Line Fridays ❤ Valentine’s Day Edition: The Breath of Dawn

It’s time for a new edition of First Line Fridays hosted by the Hoarding Books blog!

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Welcome to First Line Fridays special Valentine’s Day Edition!!!

This week is all about #romance, so I’m sharing some lines from an excellent contemporary romance/suspense book that doesn’t get enough attention here on the blog.

The Breath of Dawn by Kristen Heitzmann

It’s one of my VERY FAVORITE contemporary romances for so many reasons, most of them having to do with Morgan’s eccentricities. Hehehe. Plus, it is a unique twist on a common trope found in historical–but not so much in contemporary–stories, and that is another reason it is in a class its own. Without further ado, here are the first lines from the prologue and chapter 1, which give you all a tiny introduction to the state of both main characters.

The Breath of Dawn

First Lines:

Prologue

Seeing Morgan standing still as stone beside the freshly opened earth, Noelle St. Claire Spencer believed a man could shatter.

Chapter 1

Quinn liked the way mountains made her feel small –not unusual at five three, a hundred and five, but beneath the towering peaks, she felt miniscule, practically invisible, almost invisible enough.

Your turn! Find the book closest to you and share your first line in the comments! The, head over to Hoarding Books for the linky and visit other FLF posts!

Novella Review, Author Interview & GIVEAWAY: “The Cupcake Dilemma” by Jennifer Rodewald

Put the words “cupcake” and “Jennifer Rodewald” together, associated with a novella, and you have my undying attention and interest. Throw in a sweet romance, some chocolate, and a quaint (favorite) small town setting, and you have a recipe for a novella that earns a place on my favorites list!!! I’m thrilled to be sharing my review of this Valentine’s Day release AND an interview with Jennifer, along with an ebook #GIVEAWAY!

About the Book

The Cupcake Dilemma

My name is Kirstin Hill. I’m a simple girl trying to figure out life in a small town. There are a few things you should know about me before we begin. I grew up in the city. I’m a teacher–a first year teacher, (some of you understand that significance). And, finally, when it comes to cooking, I’m a disaster. Maybe none of those things seem story-worthy, but trust me, I have a story. I call it The Cupcake Dilemma, and it literally changed my life. How? I’m glad you asked.

It all started with an extra assignment delegated to me at school right before Valentine’s Day… but before we get too far, let me begin by stating this clearly. I was voluntold.

Amazon | Goodreads

Review

The Cupcake Dilemma is an absolute treat from start to finish! Kirstin and Ian are positively likable and refreshingly awkward — especially when they are “together” on the page. I expected to like this story, but I didn’t expect it to be so hilarious (I mean laugh-out-loud hilarious) in so many ways! Jennifer keeps surprising me with her versatility and voice.

It’s not all hearts and chocolate, though, as the interaction between Kirstin and Ian reveals a deeper desire to find joy and friendship. That’s what I like most about the developing relationship between Kirstin and Ian — that it begins with a friendship and wonderfully, naturally grows into a sweet could-be-love rapport.

If you’re looking for a light-hearted story with epically funny kitchen fails, look no further than this “sweet” novella from Jennifer. And, if you’re a fan of her Rock Creek stories thus far, you will be delighted by the brief appearance of beloved characters.

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

Interview with the Author

You’ve written stories across genres with different emotional depths, from lighthearted to innovative and thought-provoking. How do you prepare to write such varied stories?

You noticed that, huh? *wink and a smile* I’m not sure how to describe the prep work for my more emotionally charged books, other than to say I do quite a bit of research in the way of reading non-fiction books and blogs (blogs are a surprisingly rich wealth of information into the human heart—some people are shockingly honest on their blogs). And prayer. Lots and lots of prayer. Not just that I’d write what He would have me write, but that God would show me more of His heart for people in the stories I explore. Truly, that’s the driving force behind what I do—to discover through story more Truth, to understand the heart of God. So, even with my lighter stories, there is that. I was surprised to see God reveal to me how much I needed to let go of the guilty voices that plague me as a mother through the writing of Ordinary Snowflakes; and I was completely delighted to experience God’s pleasure in humor as I wrote The Cupcake Dilemma.

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That said, with both of my novellas, they came as a reprieve. When I wrote Ordinary
Snowflakes, I had just finished the rough draft of Red Rose Bouquet, which proved to be the most emotionally challenging—and heart-wrenching story God took me through. The Cupcake Dilemma was also written after the completion of another heart-challenging rough draft (Finding Evergreen—which releases March 22). Interestingly, both novellas started with the personal challenge to create a fun hook and write a story from there. So, for Ordinary Snowflakes, the hook I started with was the line “I almost stepped on it…” and, The Cupcake Dilemma was “Let me begin by stating this clearly. I was voluntold.” With both stories, I really didn’t have a shape in mind for what would happen as I began to write. They were both rather a reminder of the delightful surprises that come with simply creating.

I love hearing the heart behind the writing process — and your heart is clearly on display in every story you pen. ❤

What is your favorite cupcake? Did you bake cupcakes while you wrote?

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First off, I LOVE cupcakes. Secondly, I am a total #kitchenfail. Thus, the story. 😉 I am
completely jealous of people who can bake (ehem, Courtney.) *Courtney smiles bashfully* and wish that they could come live with me so that I would have an unending supply of bakery deliciousness. I am ever-hopeful that one of my daughters will take up that charge. My favorite cupcake is a peanut butter Reese’s-esc creation. I’m also a fan of lemon.

Sadly, there was no consumption of cupcakes during the writing of this story. That is just wrong. I do plan on celebrating the release with one—or more! on Valentine’s Day.

You MUST celebrate with cupcakes!!! And, if you’ve had a particularly challenging time lately, I (and Ian would) suggest a “dark and dangerous” chocolate one!

Tell us about the inspiration for and story setting of Rock Creek.

Rock Creek is a mashup of several different small towns I’ve either been a part of, or have visited. When I made up the town for Reclaimed, I wanted to blend the charm of small town with the reality of some of the more difficult politics that are inherently part of small town life, but I didn’t want in any way to paint a real place in a bad light. Thus the fictional town. As a girl who grew up citified (just outside of Denver, in a not-so- awesome neighborhood), and who moved to rural Nebraska as a young married adult, I feel like I have a balanced and realistic view of life in the city versus life in small town. Having said that, though, I’ve kind of fallen in love with fictional Rock Creek, so don’t be surprised if you find me visiting there again. 😉

I do hope Rock Creek will be revisited soon!

Is there a theme or message you want readers to take away from The Cupcake Dilemma?

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Well, my theme song while writing it was Francesca Battistelli’s “Free To Be Me” (https://youtu.be/EKSQjSdU8VA), so that’s pretty much it.“On Your (HIS) shoulders I can see, I’m free to be me.” It is the beautiful gift we are all given, the freedom to embrace who I am, quirks and all. Oh, and to embrace laughter. Life is so much better when we laugh. 😉

What are you currently reading?

I just finished an Advanced Copy of Sondra Kraak’s upcoming release Three Words and A Kiss. Next up is When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi, and in between, I’m working through Ted Dekker’s The Forgotten Way. The next novel for me will probably be Courtney Walsh’s Just Look Up.

Oooh, out of those, I’ve read Just Look Up, and it’s fabulous!

Thank you, Jen, for taking the time to answer my questions today! You have written a treat of a story!

About the Author

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Jennifer Rodewald is passionate about the Word of God and the powerful vehicle of story. Four kids and her own personal superman make her home in southwestern Nebraska delightfully chaotic.

Born in Colorado, she experienced both the seclusion of rugged mountain living and the busy streets of a Denver suburb during her growing up years. Somewhere in the middle of college, she married a Husker and found her way back to the quiet lifestyle of a rural area, which suits just fine.

Blessed with a robust curiosity, Jen loves to research. Whether she’s investigating the history of a given area, the biography of a Christian icon, or how nature declares the glory of God, her daily goal is to learn something new. Aiming to live with boundless enthusiasm, her creed is vision, pursuit, and excellence.

Jen lives and writes in a lovely speck of a town where she watches with amazement while her children grow up way too fast, gardens, and marvels at God’s mighty hand in everyday life.

GOODREADS | FACEBOOK | TWITTER | INSTAGRAM | WEBSITE

Giveaway

CLICK HERE to enter the Rafflecopter Giveaway!

Giveaway is for one (1) Kindle ebook copy of The Cupcake Dilemma provided by The Green Mockingbird. Giveaway ends 2/17/18 11:59pm CT. Void where prohibited.

Review: “Impossible Saints” by Clarissa Harwood

When authors I love endorse or excessively talk about stories they love, I try to pay attention — even if a story is outside my “normal” reading scope (i.e. new authors, small publishers, different genres). When author Rachel McMillan gushed over Impossible Saints by Clarissa Harwood, a general market historical romance, I knew I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. And, I really liked it!

 

About the BookSet in England in 1907, Impossible Saints is a novel that burns as brightly as the suffrage movement it depicts, with the emotional resonance of Tracy Chevalier and Jennifer Robson. 
Impossible SaintsEscaping the constraints of life as a village schoolmistress, Lilia Brooke bursts into London and into Paul Harris’s orderly life, shattering his belief that women are gentle creatures who need protection. Lilia wants to change women’s lives by advocating for the vote, free unions, and contraception. Paul, an Anglican priest, has a big ambition of his own: to become the youngest dean of St. John’s Cathedral. Lilia doesn’t believe in God, but she’s attracted to Paul’s intellect, ethics, and dazzling smile.

As Lilia finds her calling in the militant Women’s Social and Political Union, Paul is increasingly driven to rise in the church. They can’t deny their attraction, but they know they don’t belong in each other’s worlds. Lilia would rather destroy property and serve time in prison than see her spirit destroyed and imprisoned by marriage to a clergyman, while Paul wants nothing more than to settle down and keep Lilia out of harm’s way. Paul and Lilia must reach their breaking points before they can decide whether their love is worth fighting for.

GoodreadsAmazon

ReviewImpossible Saints is a flowing, layered general fiction title with subtle Christian overtones, exploring themes of conviction, purpose, and challenges to preconceptions or societal norms. Its two characteristics that stand out the most are its depiction of an era both tumultuous and expectation-laden, a relevant parallel with today in some ways; and its endearing characters, with even the secondary characters taking on vibrant tones. Rachel McMillan was right in referencing both Grantchester (ITV) and the film Suffragette(2015) in her review. This book has similarities with both “visual” depictions, but its storyline is distinctly its own. I would say it is like Grantchester without the moral ambiguity or mystery meets Suffragette with all the wit and verbal banter of the classic Hollywood era.

Oh, the romance! What starts as believable camaraderie between reunited childhood friends grows into an authentic friendship with sparks of attraction. Before long, Paul and Lilia must face what their relationship must look like in the face of the women’s movement, church and societal expectations, and personal motives as it morphs into a romantic dynamic. The push-pull of their relationship really represents the importance of broadening perspective — that being inclusive and choosing to care for someone doesn’t mean you must compromise your identity or convictions.

For my blog readers who typically stick to clean inspirational fiction titles, I do want to mention a few things about this novel’s content. It is a *little* more candid and sensual when it comes to the romance verbiage, it depicts tobacco use, and has a few very mild expletives.

Impossible Saints is equally candid, and refreshingly so, when tackling issues such as women’s roles or the contrasts between ritual in the church vs. faith in action. I would have liked Lilia’s growth in receptiveness to Paul’s faith to have been a little more by story’s end, though I think the door is left open to her for deeper faith after “the end”. But maybe that’s my personal convictions shining through in my perception of her character. Overall, I thought it an authentic portrayal of the era and a beautiful story of romance.

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

 

Review: “Troubled Waters” by Susan May Warren

It’s no secret I love everything Susan May Warren writes, and her latest adrenaline-packed romance is no exception. Fans of the “Montana Rescue” series have eagerly waited for Ian and Sierra’s story, sometimes not-so-patiently (ahem, that’s me). This fourth book is everything I hoped it would be and more!

About the Book

Billionaire Ian Shaw can have everything he wants–except a happy ending. Or at least that’s what it feels like with his fortune recently liquidated, his niece, Esme, still missing, and the woman he loves refusing to speak to him. In fact, he doubts she would date him even if they were stranded on a deserted island.

Troubled WatersDespite her love for Ian, Sierra Rose knows he has no room in his life for her as long as the mystery of his missing niece goes unsolved. The only problem is, Sierra has solved it, but a promise to Esme to keep her whereabouts secret has made it impossible to be around Ian.

When the PEAK chopper is damaged and Sierra lacks the funds to repair it, Ian offers a fundraising junket for large donors on his yacht in the Caribbean. But the three-day excursion turns into a nightmare when a rogue wave cripples the yacht and sends the passengers overboard. Shaken up and soaked to the bone, Ian finally has a chance to test his theory when he and Sierra do indeed find themselves washed up on a strange, empty shore.

It will take guts and gumption for the PEAK team to rescue the duo. But it will take a miracle to rescue Ian and Sierra’s relationship.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

Troubled Waters is a page-turning, heart-engaging story of choice, love, and sacrifice. The story is full of adrenaline-fueled moments of action and serious, soul-level conversations between the characters. If I were the nail-biting type, I don’t think I would have many left!

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I updated Goodreads with a spinoff novel idea…. and Susan shared it! *fangirling squeal*

This series continues to impress because of its increasing complexity in both plot and character development. For instance, Susan’s writing proves excellent not because she uses high peril situations to take advantage of the emotions of the moment, but because she uses unusual or trying circumstances to show her characters a truth or lesson about themselves or their peers. In Ian and Sierra’s case, they each deal with honesty, control, and choosing faith when you have nothing else to hold on to. They have to reach their limits both physically and emotionally to push past their problems and grow.

The ROMANCE is everything I wanted it to be. From the very beginning (the prequel novella), I was rooting for Ian and Sierra. But, they both had to journey down some difficult paths before they were in a place to truly, selflessly love and support each other.

Another treat for returning fans of this series is Pete and Jess’s page time!!!!! Their story will be the final book in the series. I really like the way Pete has matured and the man he has gradually grown into over this series…. he makes some impressive choices in Troubled Waters. I’m anxious to see how things will fall into place between them!

Ok, I’m done gushing over this favorite series! If you want, you can visit my reviews of the previous books in the series below. Or, you can go pick up a copy for your shelf now!

Prequel: If Ever I Would Leave You

Book 1: Wild Montana Skies

Book 2: Rescue Me

Book 3: A Matter of Trust

Thank you to Revell and Baker Publishing Group for the review copy. This is my honest review.

Best of 2017

This annual blog post has become a favorite because I’m sharing MY favorite reads from the year!!!!! 2017 has been a wonderful reading year. I’ve added several new all-time favorite books to my “shelves”, met some amazing new authors both through their books and on social media, and been blown away by story multiple times. At latest count, I’ve read 58 books! Whew! Comparing genres, I’ve read quite a few more contemporary stories versus historical, and my list here is representative of that slant. Most of these books were published in 2017, but a few were new discoveries I can’t believe I waited this long to read!

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But first, some ground rules: in an effort to NOT be long-winded and wordy, I’m choosing to share 3 things that describe each of these stories along with a link to Goodreads and my review. (Click each title to visit Goodreads).

Historical

The Mark of the King by Jocelyn Green | Review

Poignant. Fleur-de-lys. Scars.

A Moonbow Night by Laura Frantz | Review

Immersive. Frontier. Growth.

Many Sparrows by Lori Benton | Review

Epic. Grace. History.

A Name Unknown by Roseanna M. White | Review

Loyalty. Books. Romance.

High as the Heavens by Kate Breslin | Review

Spies. Secrets. Tenacity.

With Love, Wherever You Are by Dandi Daley Mackall | Review

Letters. Love. Sacrifice.

The White Feather Murders by Rachel McMillan | Review

Friends. Mysteries. Toronto.

Contemporary

Jane of Austin: A Novel of Sweet Tea and Sensibility by Hillary Manton Lodge | Review

Tea. Sisters. Colonel Brandon.

True to You by Becky Wade | Review

Bookish. Romance. Forgiveness.

Just the Way You Are by Pepper Basham | Review

Redemption. Fairytale. Chocolate.

Reclaimed by Jennifer Rodewald | Review

Grace. Country. Pickle.

The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck by Bethany Turner | Review

Honesty. The Sound of Music. Humor.

All This Time by Melissa Tagg | Review

Belonging. Security. Family.

Hometown Girl by Courtney Walsh | Review

Farmhouses. Siblings. Introverts.

Charming the Troublemaker by Pepper Basham | Review

Laughter. Trustworthiness. Closets.

Life After by Katie Ganshert | Review

Bittersweet. Peace. Letting go.

The Austen Escape by Katherine Reay | Review

Bubble gum. Connection. Growth.

The Esther Paradigm by Sarah Monzon | Review

Desert. Obedience. Strength.

Contemporary Action/Adventure (with romance, of course!)

Unblemished and Unraveling by Sara Ella | Book 1 Review | Book 2 Review

Disney. Twists. Enchanting.

Conspiracy of Silence and Crown of Souls by Ronie Kendig | Book 1 Review | Book 2 Review

Adventure. Dynamic. Heroes.

Blind Spot by Dani Pettrey | Review

Suspense. Puzzles. Action.

Rescue Me by Susan May Warren | Review

Tension. Reconciliation. Encouragement.

Novellas

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

Hope. Strength. Nautical.

I’ll Be There by Susan May Warren | Review

Faith. Spark. Peace.

Right Where We Belong Collection by Deborah Raney, Melissa Tagg, and Courtney Walsh | Review

Quaint. Lighthearted. Happiness.

Then Came You by Becky Wade | Review

Epistolary. Patience. Family.

Christmas Stories

Ordinary Snowflakes by Jennifer Rodewald | Review

Hot cocoa. Friends. Familiarity.

 A Cliché Christmas by Nicole Deese | Review

Dimension. Unconditional. Gloves.

WHEW! That’s it! These favorites are ones I can highly recommend and gush about for days. Have you read any of these? What are your favorite books of 2017? If you have a favorites blog post, share your link in the comments!

Review: “A Cliché Christmas” by Nicole Deese


Though Christmas is already past, this is still the time of year to enjoy reading festive stories. One I just finished — and was quite blown away by — was A Cliché Christmas by Nicole Deese. I had the privilege of interviewing Nicole earlier this year, but I had not previously read a story of hers until now. That will be remedied in the near future. Before I made it half way through this story, I added the next 2 books in the “Love in Lenox” series to my virtual shelf! 2018 TBR, here I come!

About the Book

A Cliche ChristmasWriting happy endings is easy. Living one is the hard part.

Georgia Cole—known in Hollywood as the “Holiday Goddess”—has made a name for herself writing heartwarming screenplays chock-full of Christmas clichés, but she has yet to experience the true magic of the season. So, when her eccentric grandmother volunteers her to direct a pageant at Georgia’s hometown community theater, she is less than thrilled. To make matters worse, she’ll be working alongside Weston James, her childhood crush and the one man she has tried desperately to forget.

Now, facing memories of a lonely childhood and the humiliation of her last onstage performance, seven years earlier, Georgia is on the verge of a complete mistletoe meltdown. As Weston attempts to thaw the frozen walls around her heart, Georgia endeavors to let go of her fears and give love a second chance. If she does, will she finally believe that Christmas can be more than a cliché? 

Amazon | Goodreads

Review

Don’t let the title fool you. Yes, this book includes a few clichés, but it is unexpectedly deeper. It is a beautiful story of belonging with characters that have great dimension. And oh, the chemistry!!!! It reminds me of the spark-filled romance dynamic Kristen Heitzmann accomplishes, which is a top-notch compliment.

Weston and Georgia’s shared childhood memories and history work to strengthen their characters and solidify the constant pull between them. Add to that a building anticipation of something that the reader knows will test their newfound banter and friendship, and we have the makings of a sturdy story with a few surprises.

From laugh out loud moments, swoony interludes in the snow, to emotionally touching (especially when little Savannah is involved) and meaningful conversations, A Cliché Christmas is anything but commonplace and predictable. It is a story of forgiveness as much as it is of trusting the unconditional things in life; like the support of family, professed love, and the best unconditional gift given at Christmas: the love of a newborn Savior.