Monday, March 19, 2018

Ashes on the Moor

After the death of her parents and most of her siblings, Evangeline finds herself thrust into a teaching position in the factory town of Smeatley.  In order to receive her inheritance and reunite with her remaining sister, she must lay aside the sophisticated Victorian values of her upbringing, and prove her worth and determination to her distant grandfather.  Irish brick mason, Dermot, has few friends in Smeatley either, and soon finds himself forming a grudging agreement with the schoolteacher.  Evangeline watches his young son while Dermot works in the evenings, and Dermot provides Evangeline with cooking lessons.  Barely able to understand the Yorkshire accents of her pupils, will Evangeline manage to earn their trust and make sufficient progress with their education?  Will her scheming aunt exaggerate her faults to her grandfather and keep the sister separated forever?  When she begins to feel more than friendship for Dermot, will her high-class past keep her from following her heart?

Sarah M. Eden tells a lovely story-- reminiscent of Elizabeth Gaskell's North and South-- in Ashes on the Moor.  With fascinating descriptions of life in a factory town, and the unique struggles and accents found there, Eden's latest is full of historical detail.  Evangeline's complicated family relationships, struggles to reach her students, and compassion for Smeatley's inhabitants were believable and beautifully told.  Dermot, similarly, is an complex and compelling male lead.  While I thoroughly enjoyed the story and its characters, the finale seems a bit forced.  Despite pages and pages of struggle and complication, somehow everyone magically gets everything they want within the last chapter.  A more believable ending would have been infinitely more satisfying.  

 I received a free copy from the publisher.  No review, positive or otherwise, was required—all opinions are my own.  

Tuesday, February 20, 2018


After their father’s sudden death in the Caribbean island of Nevis, Lady Keturah Banning Tomlinson and her sisters see no other way to recoup their sugar plantation’s losses than to sail across the Atlantic to take over the plantation themselves.  Still emotionally scarred by her first marriage, Keturah is determined to make her own way and never depend on a man again.  When the sisters arrive, however, the other sugar barons refuse to work with women, and conspire to ruin the Banning fortune.  Will Keturah choose the right people to trust in time to save her sisters and their fortune? 

Lisa T. Bergen tells a fascinating story of England and the Caribbean in the mid-1700s in Keturah.  Descriptions of harrowing sea voyages, beautiful islands, conniving sugar barons, simmering racial tensions, and a satisfying love story kept me hooked from beginning to end.  Keturah herself was a believable, relatable, female lead who absolutely deserved her lovely happy ending.  While I’ve not read any of Bergen's other novels, I will definitely call myself a devoted fan from now on.  I anxiously await the next addition to her Sugar Baron's Daughters series. 

I received a free copy from the publisher.  No review was required, and all opinions are my own.

Monday, February 12, 2018

A Chance at Forever

Mercy McClain treasures her positions on the School Board and in the local orphanage in Teaville, Kansas.  Providing love and security for vulnerable children allows her to protect innocent lives from the bullying and trauma she experienced as a child.  When her primary tormenter—Aaron Firebrook—comes back to Teaville and applies for a teaching position, Mercy decides to keep him out of the school at all costs. 

Aaron has returned to Teaville in an attempt to make amends for his former behavior, but realizes that he may never earn Mercy’s trust.   When he takes a summer position as a gardener at Mercy’s orphanage, though, he sees it as an opportunity to show her that he has changed.  Will either of them be able to move past the pain of the past in time to keep the orphans safe, or even find true love? 

Melissa Jagears takes readers back to the ever intriguing Teaville, Kansas in her third installment of the Teaville Moral Society in A Chance at Forever.  I loved the first two novels in the series, and A Chance at Forever did not disappoint.  Jagears has a talent for weaving complex and emotional plotlines that have no obvious or simple solution.  Both Mercy and Aaron were exceptionally well-developed and fascinating to read about.  While the novel stands decently well on its own, I wish I had read the previous two installments more recently to better appreciate the plot.  Overall, I loved spending a long weekend back in Teaville and look forward to hearing even more of its stories. 

I received a free copy from the publisher.  No review was required, and all opinions are my own.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

The Sea Before Us

Lt. Wyatt Paxton joined the US Navy to escape his family after a traumatic incident.  When he finds himself in London helping to prepare for the Allied invasion of France and meets Dorothy Fairfax, he remembers just how much he misses being a part of a family.  Dorothy, a “Wren” in the Women’s Royal Navy Service, spends her days piecing together reconnaissance photographs in order to create accurate maps of Normandy.  When the man she has loved since childhood comes to work just down the hall, Dorothy believes she finally has the chance to win his heart.  While she tries to be the sophisticated and aloof woman she knows Lawrence Eaton wants, she can’t help but notice that Wyatt seems to enjoy her just the way she is.  Will Dorothy choose the dashing rogue who has always infatuated her, or the kind and dependable American who truly sees her?  Will Wyatt’s guilt over running away from his family keep him from accepting love from anyone else? 

Sarah Sundin gives readers a fascinating glimpse into the days leading up to D-Day in The Sea Before Us.  London serves as a lovely setting as Sundin expertly explains and maneuvers through the numerous moving parts that made the invasion of Normandy a turning point in WWII.   Full of action, adventure, and intrigue, the plot of the novel moves very quickly.  Dorothy and Wyatt’s individual journeys toward forgiveness and self-confidence come to a beautiful conclusion and satisfying love story.  I’ve long been a fan of Sundin’s and thoroughly enjoyed this first installment of her Sunrise at Normandy series. 

I received a free copy from the publisher.  No review was required, and all opinions are my own.