Review: High As the Heavens by Kate Breslin

High as the Heavens is an absolutely beautiful and riveting story of perseverance, hope, and mercy against the backdrop of WWI Belgium. Author Kate Breslin is now a new favorite and I must read her other novels soon!About the Book

High as the HeavensIn 1917, Evelyn Marche is just one of many women who has been widowed by the war. A British nurse trapped in German-occupied Brussels, she spends her days working at a hospital and her nights as a waitress in her aunt and uncle’s café. Eve also has a carefully guarded secret keeping her in constant danger: She’s a spy working for a Belgian resistance group in league with the British Secret Service. 

When a British plane crashes in Brussels Park, Eve is the first to reach the downed plane and is shocked to discover she recognizes the badly injured pilot. British RFC Captain Simon Forrester is now a prisoner of war, and Eve knows he could be shot as a spy at any time. She risks her own life to hide him from the Germans, but as the danger mounts and the secrets between them grow, their chance of survival looks grim. And even if they do make it out alive, the truth of what lies between them may be more than any love can overcome.

Review

This novel has all the appeal of –and promise to be– a classic in its genre: a vivid sense of place; plot elements inspired by real life events and people; relatable and complex characters; a romance that surprises and leaves you breathless with its strength; and, secrets, danger, and espionage (oh my!).

Drawing on the logistical complexities and melting pot of nationalities involved in The Great War, the suspenseful storyline keeps a steady pace with twists and makes the reader question just who to trust or believe. I have a new respect for Red Cross personnel who worked behind enemy lines, and citizens who risked so much while participating in underground communcations networks like La Dame Blanche. The espionage storyline alone had me nervous for Eve, Simon, and several other people who worked with them!

Side note: a few flashbacks take place closer to the beginning of the story and serve as the perfect tool to establish Eve and Simon’s personalities with a sense of normalcy (before the war changed so much). And, they also shed light on the relationship dynamic between the two of them. 🙂

Ok, now to talk about my favorite part of High as the Heavens: the romantic tension!!!! To say all I want to would give away an early surprise or two, so I’ll just have to tell you that Eve and Simon have a history. A close one. His literal crash back into her life is way more complicated than the synopsis hints. Because of this, they are both challenged with trust and the secrets they each harbor. This further complicates the way they must prioritize loyalties to family and country, but especially to each other. In their frustrating circumstance, the strength of the romance between the two of them is delightfully uncovered and shines a light on an overarching theme of hope. And oh, how their soul-deep connection is beautifully penned by Kate! I especially appreciated how Simon’s role embodied the characteristics of love — its patience, mercy, and edurance.

If you are a fan of history, WWI, romance, or even suspense, I say you should read this novel ASAP! Even if historical fiction is not your normal genre. If you want a second opinion, check out my author friend Rachel McMillan’s gushing review that convinced me to pick it up in the first place ;).

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

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

The Thorn Healer by Pepper Basham Tour Header Graphic.png

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 & Interview: “The Thorn Keeper” by Pepper D. Basham ~ Blog Tour & Giveaway

Review & Interview: “The Thorn Keeper” by Pepper D. Basham ~ Blog Tour & Giveaway

The Thorn Keeper Tour BannerA few weeks ago, I was happily a part of the blog tour for Pepper Basham’s debut novel, The Thorn BearerIt was a fabulous book, and exhibits everything I love about the historical romance genre. I didn’t think the next novel in the series could compete with my attachment to it. I was wrong. The second book, The Thorn Keeper, is different and beautiful in so many ways. And it has overtaken book 1’s position on my favorites list. It just released on February 28th! Today, I’m thrilled to feature my review and an INTERVIEW with Pepper hosted through Singing Librarian Books.

About the BookThe Thorn KeeperGenre:  Fiction, Historical, Romance, Christian

Publisher: Vinspire Publishing

Publication Date: February 28, 2015

Number of pages: 402

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With her past in shambles, how can she fashion a future of hope?
Catherine Dougall’s past of manipulation has left her future in threads. With a new faith, she longs to take the remnants of her life and make something beautiful, but shame, societies’ judgments, and the natural consequences of an unplanned pregnancy test her newfound hope. Dr. David Ross doesn’t help either. His kindness, sacrifice, and tenderness tempt her to impossible dreams. A fallen woman doesn’t merit a fairytale.

David Ross has made every effort to keep his life above reproach. His passion for the sick pump fresh purpose through his choices, but without financial support to maintain his war hospital, all is lost. When his notorious aunt offers an easy solution, David is tempted to give in to her demands, but his growing affection for the reformed flirt, Catherine Dougall, unwinds the careful wall around his heart and offers an unexpected choice.

When the worst of war tears them apart, can love renew the memory of what was lost or will tragedy steal away their hope forever.

From the beautiful Derbyshire countryside to the trenches of World War One, Catherine and David must learn to trust in a God who designs a masterpiece out of brokenness and fashions hope in the most unlikely places.

Purchase on Amazon

Review

Lately I’m prone to choose one adjective to describe a story. To borrow an adjective she used a couple times in this story, I must say Pepper’s writing is exquisite. She builds on a world of characters established in The Thorn Bearer and takes them forward in another story of forgiveness and growth. So many manifestations of redemption and grace intertwine in this story while never feeling overbearing. It’s a story of second chances while WWI rages on with tumultuous challenges and social conflicts.

This story goes beyond the power of grace (and God) to transform a person and continues to show the aftermath of forgiveness. I appreciated that Pepper doesn’t depict life through a rose-colored view — even after giving your life to God, surrendering your will to His is a daily commitment. Tough choices, hard trials, and struggles to understand God’s will are all depicted realistically and contrasted with the beauty and peace that can shine through it all.

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Pepper made this meme after I posted it as my Goodreads status while reading! 🙂

David and Catherine’s relationship becomes a beautiful example of what true love should be, in my opinion. Gentle, selfless, passionate, and protective. I could talk about how perfect they are for each other (and the sparks that fly between them! *swoon*) for another hour, but I don’t want to spoil the story! Just read it. Please.

Even secondary characters in this book, like Jessica and Fanny, have a voice or influence with the main characters and their own concepts to learn. I really love it when an author uses secondary characters like this. And I’m very excited that Jessica will be the main character of book 3!

I’ve compared Pepper to Julie Lessman before, and I want to reiterate that here with a different emphasis. With The Thorn Keeper, Pepper reminds me of her characters in the best way. Pepper writes spunky characters, deep emotion, and romantic scenes with amazing skill. So, if you’re a fan of Julie’s style, historical fiction, romances, emotional page-turners, or if you’re breathing and like to read, I would HIGHLY recommend Pepper’s books! They are, 2 for 2, #mustreads.

Thank you to Pepper and Vinspire Publishing for the review copy obtained through Singing Librarian Books for this tour.

Interview

What inspired you to write The Thorn Keeper?

Well, I suppose necessity brought about The Thorn Keeper because I’d signed on for a 3 book series with Vinspire -but the most interesting thing that happened from the process is that the ‘fallen’ character from The Thorn Bearer (book 1) who was NOT supposed to be ‘redeemed’ in the initial draft, became the redeemed heroine of book two. I was not expecting that, but I’m SOOOO glad I was initially wrong. This story is my favorite historical I’ve ever written.

What spiritual message or theme do you want to communicate to readers with The Thorn Keeper?

God can take the most broken person and fashion something beautiful from the pieces of their hearts. In essence, nothing is impossible for God 🙂

What was most challenging about writing a story set in this time period?

Meeting my deadline 😉

AND…. making sure my fashion research was right. There were so many wonderful tidbits I wanted to include but just didn’t have the time or space to do so.

Just for fun: Do you have any hobbies?

Well, since I work full-time outside the home as a speech-language pathologist, writing tends to be my hobby 🙂 But I also love spending time with my awesome kids, reading, playing music, and going on walks through the Blue Ridge Mountains near where I live.

If you could live in any other time period in history, which would it be and why?

The early 20th century. I’m fascinated by the world of that time (plus indoor plumbing was in use in many places ;-). I love the costuming, the vast changes, and the beauty of the era. Of course, I’m romanticizing it, but still…I’d choose it 🙂

What are you currently reading?

A Spy’s Devotion by Melanie Dickerson. Fantastic regency novel.

Pepper, thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions! And I love that the story went somewhere unexpected — that’s just like God to show the power of his redemption, even through story.

About the Author

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, and proud AlleyCat over at a group writing blog, The Writer’s Alley. Her debut historical romance novel, The Thorn Bearer, released in May 2015, with the second arriving in February 2016. Her first contemporary romance debuts in spring 2016.

Website/blog: www.pepperdbasham.com

FB Author page – https://www.facebook.com/pages/Pepper-D-Basham
Twitter – https://twitter.com/pepperbasham
Pinterest – https://www.pinterest.com/pepperbasham/
Goodreads – https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/13561411.Pepper_D_Basham
AmazonAuthor Page – http://www.amazon.com/Pepper-Basham/e/B00W0IZ1F4/ref=dp_byline_cont_pop_ebooks_1

Giveaway

TWO ebook copies of The Thorn Keeper will be give away at the end of the tour! Click below to enter.

Enter the Rafflecopter giveaway here.

Tour Schedule

February 29–Singing Librarian Books
March 1–Toni Shiloh Prayerfully-Lifted Romance | Smiling Book Reviews
March 2–Just Commonly 
March 3–Griperang’s Bookmarks
March 4–Red Headed Book Lady | The Green Mockingbird
March 5–Reading Is My SuperPower

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The Thorn Bearer by Pepper D. Basham Blog Tour

The Thorn Bearer by Pepper D. Basham Blog Tour

 

 

The Thorn Bearer Tour BannerWelcome to my stop on the blog tour for The Thorn Bearer by Pepper D. Basham! Read on for my review and tons more info.

About the Book

The Thorn BearerSeries: Penned in Time

Genre: Fiction, Historical, Romance, Christian

Publisher: Vinspire Publishing, LLC

Publication date: May 7, 2015

Number of pages: 362

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Other books in the series:

#2-The Thorn Keeper (coming February, 2016)

#3-The Thorn Healer (coming TBD)

When Ashleigh Dougall’s fiancé leaves her eight months before their wedding, the unexpected blow ignites a battalion of insecurities stemming from her father’s intimate betrayal. In an attempt to escape her shame, Ashleigh boards the ill-fated Lusitania to cross the war-torn waters of Europe. Much to her dismay, she isn’t traveling alone. 

Sam Miller is always making up for his best friend’s mistakes. Determined to help his childhood friend, Ashleigh, he offers his compassion and companionship as she ventures across a perilous sea. With the faint hope of renewing his lost love for Ashleigh’s sister, Sam never expects to find the woman of his dreams in the love of his childhood friend. 

Neither are prepared for the life-altering and heart-breaking journey of their friendship.

Purchase on Amazon

About the Author

Pepper D. Basham

Pepper 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, and proud AlleyCat over at a group writing blog, The Writer’s Alley. Her debut historical romance novel, The Thorn Bearer, released in May 2015, with the second arriving in February 2016. Her first contemporary romance debuts in spring 2016.

Pepper Basham Author Promo Video from Dan Phillips on Vimeo.

 

Website/blog: www.pepperdbasham.com
FB Author page – https://www.facebook.com/pages/Pepper-D-Basham
Twitter – https://twitter.com/pepperbasham
Pinterest – https://www.pinterest.com/pepperbasham/
Goodreads – https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/13561411.Pepper_D_Basham
AmazonAuthor Page – http://www.amazon.com/Pepper-Basham/e/B00W0IZ1F4/ref=dp_byline_cont_pop_ebooks_1

Book Snippet

The last remnants of the thick morning fog clung to the horizon, but with a bright sun overhead it promised a full evaporation within the hour. A mixture of relief and fear washed over her. Land. With the warnings of torpedoes, nothing looked more reassuring, but with landfall came a closer step to Catherine- and Ashleigh’s next conflict. What price would she have to pay to convince Catherine to be with Sam? Were there other romantic options in Edensbury besides her faithless sister?

“Are you alright?”

Sam’s voice broke through her thoughts.

“Why didn’t you bring your plate camera? Didn’t you say it made clearer photos?”

“It’s with my luggage.” He shook his head and placed his palm over his heart. “My pride and joy and much too nice a camera to toss around on the deck of a ship.”

His gaze held hers until she returned his smile. The power the man had over her was unnerving. Her stomach twisted at the thought. Another man with power over her? She stepped toward the railing and looked out toward the coastline. A gray-green mound broke the line of the horizon. Sunlight sparkled across the waves. She blinked her eyes open against the sun’s reflection on the horizon. It was easy to see God in the vastness of the sea and the strength of those waves. A frown pulled at her bottom lip. So where was all that power years ago? Did He even hear her cry for help? She closed her eyes to the sun’s warmth and breathed in the salty air as it sent her well-kept hair into chaos. Her thoughts almost formed into a prayer, years of habit and necessity. But He didn’t care.

“Ash, come take a look at this view.”

She pushed away her thoughts and walked to Sam’s side. Carefully she leaned close to the small leatherbound box on its precarious tripod perch. Sam hobby had grown into a little business back in Millington, even finding some of his photographs of Appalachia in a few magazines, but Ashleigh had never grown adept in working the tiny device. Her hand reached to steady the instrument and brushed against Sam’s fingers. She attempted to pull her hand back, but he captured her fingers and placed them on the side of the camera, firming his palm over them.

“Hold it like this.”

He stood behind her now, his arms hemmed her in on each side to steady the camera and his breath warmed her ear. She swallowed, or tried to, but her dry mouth wouldn’t cooperate. Stop these feelings, Ashleigh. Ignore them.

She forced the rising heat in her chest to chill and took a deep breath, attention fixed on the site through the lens. It was remarkable how one could frame a piece of the world. The monstrous ocean wasn’t as frightening in such small doses. In fact, the angle at which the sun glazed the water held a magical, almost hypnotic quality. So vast and mysterious, and yet as beautiful as starlight’s reflection in a pond.

“It’s beautiful. It truly frames the world.”

“One of the many reasons I’m obsessed with it, I think.” Sam’s voice smoothed past her ear. He guided the camera to a different scene, nearer the coast. She ignored the influence of his closeness to the chaos in the pit of her stomach. “Can you see the coast now?”

“Oh yes, it’s lovely.” She pulled back and smiled up at him, but hadn’t calculated his extreme closeness.

His face hovered just above hers, eyes so intense, she thought he might read her rebel thoughts. His brow tilted upward, slightly, as if he was searching for an answer to an unvoiced question.

She didn’t have an answer. She couldn’t have an answer.

As if drugged, she drew her attention from his and back to the camera lens. The sea rumbled out to meet the distant shore, waves as confused as the emotions crashing about in her heart. She couldn’t wait to get off of this boat. There would be plenty of opportunities to flee Sam’s closeness in Edensbury. She knew all the hiding places at her mother’s home.

As a child, hiding had been a survival skill honed to near-perfection.

She blinked the framed scene back into view. A strange stream of bubbles broke into her line of vision making a surprisingly straight path through the waves. A fish? Whale? Whatever it was, it moved fast.

“Sam, look here. There’s some strange fish coming up from the water toward the ship.”

His lips quirked into a doubtful smirk as he took the camera. “A fish coming toward the ship?” He peered through. “I don’t know of any fi—” His breath caught and his body stiffened. “No.”

His exclamation pierced through her and echoed from her own lips. “What, Sam? It can’t be—”

“Torpedo on the starboard side!”

The shout rang down from a place above her followed immediately by another from somewhere else on the boat. A chill trembled down her spine. Sam’s gaze locked with Ashleigh’s and everything slowed. Sounds muffled except for the thrumming of her heartbeat in her ears. Sam pushed his camera aside and took hold of her shoulders just as an explosion sent them staggering like ragdolls toward the railing. Ash and dust flew into the air and rained down upon them, a few pieces stinging against her back. No, dear Lord. We’ve been hit.

Review

My thoughts: This story has it all – it incorporates truth, complex yet imperfect characters, a historical setting that definitely captured my interest, drama, spunky secondary characters, banter between the hero and heroine, and a message of redemption.

Pepper’s style and turn of phrase is beautifully prose-like at times and concisely humorous at others. For example, look at these two quotes: “He laughed and the affection for her pinned into a deeper place in his chest.” or “Ash, your grandma is the picture of gentility and temperance, but we both know she has the persuasive abilities of a cattle prod.”

Because Sam and Ashleigh have a history and established friendship already, it lays the foundation for their relationship to progress romantically. And their romance is so sweetly portrayed in the story! But they face plenty of physical and emotional obstacles as they are swept into the conflict of WWI and deal with their own baggage and old scars.

Ashleigh’s relationship with her sister, Catherine, reminds me just the slightest of a couple of the sisters in A Passion Most Pure by Julie Lessman. While connected by family and blood, they are worlds apart by choice and a difference of perspective. While reading, we see glimpses of Catherine’s viewpoint and can understand her misguided motivations. I think that really encouraged empathy for both her character and Ashleigh and set up what’s to come in book 2.

Best of all, I enjoyed this story because of its message. Each character, even the secondary ones we meet and gain perspective from, has to deal with various choices, consequences, and decisions of forgiveness. Most prominent is Ashleigh’s past abuse and her reconciliation of it as something that doesn’t have to control her future any longer. Also, I liked that some of the initially unlikable people were changed through the story and not written off (and I’m excited we get more of their story in the next book!). Everyone is in need of grace, none deserve it, yet that is the gift we have through salvation in Christ.

Thank you to Singing Librarian Book Tours, Vinspire Publishing, and Pepper D. Basham for the review copy.

Giveaway

Click to enter: a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tour Schedule

January 25–Reading Is My SuperPower
January 26–Toni Shiloh Prayerfully-Lifted Romance
January 27–Bookworm Lisa | Singing Librarian Books
January 28–Griperang’s Bookmarks | The Green Mockingbird
January 29–Just Commonly | The Artist Librarian
January 30–Fictionally

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