Monday, January 15, 2018

A Song Unheard

Orphan and expert thief, Willa Forsythe, just also happens to be a violin prodigy.  When the mysterious Mr. V hires her to steal a cypher from a famous Belgian violinist staying in Wales, she takes the job immediately.  Lukas De Wilde lives in fear for his mother and sister who went missing in the aftermath of Germany's invasion of Belgium before WWI.  Afraid that Mr. V seeks to exploit his family and his father's work, Lukas decides not to trust the British government and attempt to find his family alone.  Struck with Willa's musical talent, the violinist takes her under his wing and gives her lessons.  While this personal relationship with Lukas makes her search for the cypher easier, Willa soon begins to wonder if she will be capable of betraying Lukas to provide for her own family.  Will Lukas manage to forgive Willa for her deception?  Will either of their plans to protect their families succeed?  Can Willa manage to let Lukas see herself as she truly is?

Roseanna M. White's second installment in her Shadows Over England series, A Song Unheard, certainly does not disappoint.  With wonderful historical detail pertaining to the early days of WWI, a cast of lovely characters, and plenty of mystery and intrigue, White's latest is practically perfect in every way.  Willa's journey to learn to trust, Luka's desperate need to find his family, and the fascinating tidbits about the history of this particular time period, kept me turning page after page... while I probably should have been socializing with my family on Christmas Eve!  While the novel stands well on its own, I was tempted to reread A Name Unknown just because the series is undeniably excellent thus far.  I absolutely adore the "family" at the center of the series, and can't wait to read each of their stories.

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

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

By the Book

Anne Corey has a fulfilling life and career.  She works at a beautiful college in California teaching about and researching books that she loves.  In order to earn tenured position, though, she has to finish-- and find a publisher for-- her first book.  Just as her life seems to be coming into place, Anne discovers her former fiancĂ© has been appointed the president of her college.  Will Anne succeed in the life she has chosen, or wish she had made other choices?  Is it really possible to have it all? 

Julia Sonneborn tells an entertaining, modern version of Jane Austen's classic Persuasion in By the Book.  While I typically love the creativity involved in such retellings, my personal opinion-- as an adoring fan of Persuasion-- is that Sonneborn went a bit too far in changing the ultimate premise of the story.  Sonneborn's development of most of the characters was masterful and spot-on.  Her interpretation of both Anne and Adam, however, left me frustrated.  The best parts of Persuasion were missing.  In the modern novel, Anne breaks off her engagement with Adam after a conversation with a mostly unlikeable professor whom Anne admires.  The fact that the original Anne took the advice of a much more established mother figure in Austen's version make it infinitely more believable and gut-wrenching.  Similarly, Captain Wentworth's slow realization of Anne's true worth is the most beautiful and central storyline in Persuasion.  I ended the novel not quite sure who did any persuading, or whom was persuaded to do anything.  Again, I realize that others may chalk these complaints up to artistic license, and they would be correct.  I would simply argue that too much license was taken, and resulted in an entirely different story.  

**Personal Note: unlike the majority of books I review on this blog, By the Book is not Christian fiction.  While never graphic, pre-marital sex plays a role in the plot, and a main character is openly homosexual.  I had no qualms reading the book, but others may.**

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

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

The Lacemaker

On the eve of the American Revolution, Lady Elizabeth "Liberty" Lawson finds herself trapped between the patriots and tories in colonial Williamsburg.  When her father and other British supporters flee in the night and leave Liberty behind, she finally understands that she must choose a side in the unavoidable war to come.  Patriot Noble Rynallt wants to help the homeless and friendless Liberty, despite her British connections.  Can the formerly pampered daughter of an aristocrat survive in the new world the patriots want to create?  Can she prove her loyalty before war engulfs the colonies?  

Laura Frantz takes readers back to a fascinating time in American history in The Lacemaker.  Full of historical detail, adventure, and love, Frantz's latest may be one of my new favorites.  Witnessing the tide of public opinion turn against the British and the early days of the Revolution making for a truly engaging backdrop, and a page-turning story.  Cameos and mentions of famous revolutionaries like Patrick Henry, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, and Benjamin Franklin add depth and interest to the story as well.  Noble is everything swoon-worthy in a romantic lead, and Frantz does an excellent job telling Liberty's story of growth, maturity, and independence.  I enjoyed every last page.  

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

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Troubled Waters

Everything Ian Shaw loves seems to always manage to slip through his fingers.  With his fortune frozen due to government fines, his beloved niece still missing, and the woman he loves keeping her distance, Ian feels ready to sell his ranch in Montana, and move home to Texas.  Sierra Rose still loves Ian, but knows he won't have room for a real relationship until he has dealt with the ghosts of his past.  When the PEAK chopper needs major repairs after a crash, Sierra decides to ask Ian for one last favor-- the use of his yacht for a 3-day fundraising excursion with a few of his billionaire friends. When a rogue wave capsizes the ship and Ian and Sierra find themselves stranded on an island in the Caribbean, will they finally be honest with one another, or will lingering secrets and un-forgiveness end their relationship once and for all.  

Susan May Warren tells a page-turning, action-packed love story Troubled Waters.  Picking up almost exactly where A Matter of Trust leaves off, this fourth addition to Warren's Montana Rescue series doesn't disappoint.  Given the variety of plot lines and characters woven throughout the series, each successive book becomes less able to stand alone.  In fact, before the next installment, I may have to re-read the entire series.  That said, Warren's storytelling and character development skills continue to impress and engage the reader.  Ian Shaw has long been one of my least favorite characters, and I truly enjoyed getting to see him experience a period of deep introspection and growth.  Sierra too was compelling, and a worthy female protagonist.  The scenery change to the Caribbean was interesting, but I did miss the lack of mountain adventure in Troubled Waters.  Plenty of love stories and an overarching mystery remain to be told in future additions to the series, and I look forward to reading each of them!  

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

Monday, December 11, 2017

Judah's Wife

Having grown up with an abusive father, Leah sees her marriage to Judah Maccabaeus as a means of escape.  Determined to please her strong, yet gentle, husband, Leah works hard and eventually finds a level of peace, safety, and contentment outside of her father's home and the walls of Jerusalem.  Just as she begins to trust that God has delivered her from a marriage like her mother's, however, Judah's devout family becomes embroiled in a rebellion against Antiochus IV.  Leah struggles to rationalize the need for violence against their oppressors and even fellow Jews who have turned away from the Law.  How can she love a man who leads a violent revolt?  Why did God choose her, of all people, to be the wife of a commander?  

Angela Hunt brings to life yet another fascinating piece of history in Judah's Wife.  Much as she did in  Egypt's Sister-- the first in her Silent Years series-- Hunt uses the historical fiction genre to tell stories about people and places most modern Christians know very little about.  Hunt's portrayal of the Maccabean revolt from an insider's perspective was masterfully accomplished.  Leah's inner struggle to come to terms with God's will in her life and for His people, as well as her own journey to understand the nature of real love were equally beautiful.  While the love story between Judah and Leah was more satisfying than the virtually non-existent one in Egypt's Sister, I still could have done with more.  I realize that history-- rather than romance-- play the larger role in Hunt's works, but the amount of time Leah and Judah actually spend content in their marriage was short, and a bit rushed.  While I understand their importance, and appreciate the historical accuracy involved, I also admittedly grew tired of-- and even resorted to skimming through-- the many, many battle scenes depicted in the novel.  Overall, I enjoyed Hunt's latest, and look forward to future additions to the Silent Years collection.  

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

Monday, December 4, 2017

The Heart of an Agent

Ready to retire from her dangerous life as a Pinkerton spy, Lily Handland decides to settle down in a small town in the Adirondacks.  Unsure how to make a living in her new life, Lily decides to invest in a failing great camp owned by widower Owen Murphy.  Distraught after the death of his wife, Owen has let their once-renowned great camp fall apart.  Facing the loss of his home and livelihood, Owen accept's Lily's offer to co-own and re-open the camp, but isn't quite ready for all the changes she proposes.  Full of energy and new ideas, Lily eventually brings joy and life back to the camp and to Owen as well.  Will Lilly's past-life come back to haunt her new one?  Will Owen truly be able to risk his heart again?  

Tracy J. Lyons takes readers back to the Adirondacks in her second installment of her Adirondak Pinkertons series.  Though I have not read Lyons's first book in the series, I was still able to understand and enjoy The Heart of an Agent.  The story was more than a bit predictable, and has been told countless times before.  The interesting setting in the Adirondack Mountains of the 1890s, though, brought an interesting uniqueness, however.  The traditional "get a failing business up and running again" storyline-- while predictable-- is also always reliably satisfying.  The climax of the story is a bit frustrating in that the reader knows what will eventually happen, and is simply waiting for the characters to come to their senses.  Overall, I enjoyed the novel and managed to learn a bit of history, too!  

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

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Holding the Fort

When she loses her job as a dance-hall singer, Louisa Bell sets out to Fort Reno to check on her wayward brother, who has recently been in some trouble with his commanding officer-- Daniel Adams.  Between his two growing daughters, rowdy soldiers, an overbearing mother-in-law, and an entire fort to run, Major Adams finally decides he needs some help, and sends for a mature, religious governess to watch his daughters.  Louisa meets the governess on the way to the fort, and agrees to help deliver the necessary books to the Major when the governess decides the Western climate doesn't agree with her.  Mistaken as the governess, Louisa plays along with charade in an attempt to stay at the fort and contact her brother.  Will Louisa's acting skills convince the Adam's family that she belongs in their home, or will her unconventional methods lead them to the truth of her deception?

As usual, Regina Jennings tells an truly fascinating and entertaining love story in Holding the Fort.  Full of interesting historical details about life on an Army fort in the wild West, Jennings's latest novel was captivating from start to finish.  Louisa's character is fun, imperfect, and a refreshing break from the typical romantic novel.  Daniel is equal parts dashing military officer, devoted-- albeit exhausted-- father, and believable romantic lead.  The end of the novel was particularly satisfying in its lack of predictability.

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