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.

Monday, January 22, 2018

A Refuge Assured

Despite her former occupation as a lacemaker to royalty, Vivienne Rivard manages to escape the guillotine, flees France and its roiling revolution, and finds herself in Philadelphia.  She finds work as a baker and a room in the French Quarter, but soon feels the need to flee yet again to protect a young boy left in her care.  Will a new French settlement in the wilderness of Pennsylvania finally bring her the peace, safety, and family she has always craved?

Liam Delaney fought in the American Revolution, but struggles to accept the oppressive laws and taxes the newly formed government has begun to impose on the people.  Despite his desire to live peacefully on his farm near the French asylum settlement, he continually finds himself torn between protecting his rights and defending his country.  Though Liam and Vivienne soon form a friendship, that may very well lead to more, neither one seems to ever feel truly safe.  Can their love survive such turbulent times?

Jocelyn Green shows readers a fascinating glimpse of revolutionary France and post-revolution America in A Refuge Assured.  Between the shocking violence and gore of the French Revolution, the struggle to establish an American government, and the complicated relationship between the two countries, I learned a great deal that challenged my view of history.  While I understood Green's graphic and realistic portrayal of the French Revolution, I wonder if she also over-romanticized the toppled French monarchy.  Did they deserve gruesome deaths?  No.  Were they innocent of wrongdoing?  Equally, no.  Perhaps my rebellious American roots run too deep, but I had a difficult time feeling compassion for the "poor, displaced" French aristocrats who found themselves still living in luxury in America.  Vivienne's choice to live among and align herself with them sat ill with me.  Such a decision seems to fly in the face of her hard-working, determined, and self-sufficient character.  That said, Vivienne was otherwise a worthy protagonist, and Liam a perfectly swoon-worthy male lead.  With compelling characters, plenty of intrigue, and wonderful historical detail, A Refuge Assured is certainly worth reading.

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

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.