Friday, January 31, 2014

"To Whisper Her Name" by Tamera Alexander - a beautiful, indulgent read

To Whisper Her Name (Belle Meade Plantation, #1)In To Whisper Her Name, the first of her Belle Meade Plantation series, Tamera Alexander writes a beautiful novel on overcoming fears and growing strong in the Lord.  Widow to an abusive husband and traitor to the South, Olivia Aberdeen has no option but to trespass on the hospitality of the Hardings of Belle Meade until she is married off again to secure financial gain for her guardians.  Ridley Cooper, a South Carolina man, fought for the Union and is on his way out to homestead in Colorado, but before he goes he wants to learn how to handle horses like the horse whisperer Robert Green - head hostler of Belle Meade plantation - does.  The two end up working together, he as foreman and she in charge of ordering goods for the entire farming operation, but no one but Bob Green knows of Ridley's allegiances, least of all Olivia, who hopes to remarry a well-respected Southern man when the time comes.

I love long books - and this one is nearly 500 pages - as there is so much time to develop characters, plot, setting, etcetera.  Perhaps the story moves more slowly, but it feels so much richer. There is time to establish the characters' personalities and struggles, time to grow gradually so that it's realistic, not just BAM they have an epitome and change.  There is time to win the reader over, even if one of the characters is not likeable in the beginning.

Honestly, I am frustrated with Ridley's arrogance and impatience when he first begins training with Uncle Bob.  The chip on his shoulder turns me off, and his impatience hits close to home.  However, while he never loses his boldness, the arrogant edge is smoothed off, and impatience no longer cripples him.  I might still question his tact, but we're none of us perfect, even at the end of a romance novel.  Olivia has nearly the opposite problem - free thinking, hopes, dreams, preferences - it has all been beaten out of her so many times that she struggles to step outside absolute propriety or even voice an opinion slightly contrary to the others.  Like the horses she so fears, she shies away people again and again until they have finally earned her trust.  As she is given more responsibilities and opportunities to fight her fears, she blossoms into a confident young woman who is able to make her own choices. 

Compared to other books, not a lot of excitement happens, but it does not need so much either.  The point of the plot is not a dangerous mission or thrilling adventure; it is journey toward healing and growing into a child of Christ - more into the person they are beneath the hurts and shame.  The descriptions of Belle Meade firmly establish the setting, as it is clear the author has been there and done her research.  This is my favorite of Alexander's books.  5 out of 5 stars.

On her website, Tamera Alexander lots of great information on Belle Meade in the form of a number of video clips - a trailer for the book, a vignette on the head hostler Bob Green, the history of thoroughbreds in the area and Belle Meade's role, footage of the old Harding cabin, views of inside the mansion, and the tracing of the bloodlines of a number of Kentucky Derby winners back to Belle Meade.  See:

Belle Meade Plantation
1. To Whisper Her Name
2. To Win Her Favor 
2.5 "To Mend a Dream" (part of the novella collection Among the Fair Magnolias)
3. To Wager Her Heart 

Belmont Mansion (Related to the Belle Meade Plantation novels)
1. A Lasting Impression
2. A Beauty So Rare
3. A Note Yet Unsung

Carnton Mansion
0.5: "Christmas at Carnton" (novella)

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Book Trailer: "A Beauty So Rare" by Tamera Alexander

Tamera Alexander's next release (set for April, from Bethany House) now has a book trailer!  Watch and enjoy!

And for more information on the post-Civil War series, as well as on the real Belmont Mansion and its history (where A Lasting Impression and A Beauty So Rare take place), visit Tamera Alexander's page on the Belmont Mansion Novels.

Monday, January 27, 2014

"With Autumn's Return" by Amanda Cabot

With Autumn's ReturnIn the final book of her Westward Winds trilogy, Amanda Cabot focuses on Elizabeth, the young and most outspoken of the three Harding sisters.  Since no woman could go through the rigors of medical school without learning how to stand up for herself, Elizabeth's sharp tongue makes her some quick enemies but also staunch allies while setting up her doctor's practice in Cheyenne, Wyoming.  Though they start off on the wrong foot, Jason Nordling, the handsome young lawyer next door, quickly learns to appreciate her as more than a quick wit surrounded by a pretty package.  It proves difficult, though, to keep a woman doctor's reputation spotless when she is off to bordellos treating prostitutes and nursing men overnight in her surgery. 

Elizabeth is a fun character - she does not back down from a fight, and will even butt into a conversation to make her opinion plain when she feels she is in the right.  Even Jason, a well-spoken, convincing lawyer, has trouble besting her in a debate.  However, while she is decidedly opinionated and bold in her assertions, she does not lack in compassion and can be quite tactful when the occasion calls for it, which softens her character and makes her very likeable. 

Like the two books before this, there is a touch of danger and suspense, but I would say it is primarily a historical read, and like Waiting for Spring, a fun glimpse of early Cheyenne.  Apparently Wyoming was one of the most progressive states in the country by allowing women the vote as of 1869, so it is an appropriate setting for a female doctor to apply her trade.  Including a map of city with locations relevant to the story was helpful, since Elizabeth does a fair amount of traveling around the city.

Though it is only a minor part of the book, I like how the author (through Elizabeth) deals with gossip and trash-talking.  Early on, before Elizabeth and Jason become friends, there are two separate occasions in which Elizabeth encounters people who are rude to Jason for his part in the Bennett Trial scandal.  Even though she doesn't even like Jason yet, she butts in to halt the gossip and goes a step further by making Jason feel welcome.  I find it hard stopping gossip when I'm actually included in a conversation - stepping into one that I've only overheard?  And to do it for someone I don't care for?  That takes incredible guts.  It's certainly what we ought to do, but do we do it? 

Of the three books of the series, I still like Summer of Promise best, but With Autumn's Return is a suitable conclusion to the series.  I was glad Cabot chose to find a good man for Gwen this time around, and she is suitably wary after her disastrous romance in Waiting for Spring.  That Harrison Landry returns for this story was also a pleasure.  At the end we finally get to see all three sisters together, even if it is only in the epilogue, for a glimpse of how they interact when all three are in the same place. 4 out of 5 stars

Thank you Revell for providing me with a free copy for the purpose of review; I was not required to make it positive, and all opinions are my own.

Westward Winds
1. Summer of Promise
2. Waiting for Spring
3. With Autumn's Return

I would also recommend That Certain Spark by Cathy Marie Hake for another good story about female doctors in the late 1800's.

Friday, January 24, 2014

"A Match Made in Texas" Novella Collection

A Match Made in Texas (Archer Brothers, #2.5)Karen Witemeyer, Regina Jennings, Carol Cox, and Mary Connealy combine their talents in an anthology of four novellas set in Dry Gulch, Texas, where Hannah Taylor, a well-meaning busybody, starts matching up women in trouble with suitable men of good character to help them out.  Clara, Grace, Lucy, and even Hannah herself find love in this humorous but thoughtful western anthology. 

A Cowboy Unmatched  (Archer Brothers, #2.5)Those who have read Karen Witemeyer's novels Short Straw Bride and Stealing the Preacher will find "A Cowboy Unmatched" to be a coda to her previous books about the Archer brothers, as this novella features Neill, the youngest of the Archer boys, who finds himself falling in love with a widow as he repairs her roof. Having read the other books, it was fun to see how Neill's history played into the story - because his best friend is black, race has no real meaning to him, so a part Comanche woman is not remotely an issue.  Additionally, the family love and protectiveness that characterizes the Archer boys stands out in Neill.  Even though Clara is not in any other book, we get a quick but clear picture of her strengths, struggles, and faith - plenty to know that she will fit in with her future sisters-in-law. 

An Unforeseen Match (A Match Made in Texas, #2)In "An Unforeseen Match" by Regina Jennings, Grace O'Malley is stuck living off of charity alone on a dilapidated homestead, now that she can no longer teach thanks to the blindness overtaking her eyes.  Clayton Weber finds himself horseless on the way to a race for land, so he is willing to take on just about any job that will get him enough money for a new horse, which is how he finds himself working for the bossy ex-school marm.  I like how Grace is portrayed - she is chafing from being so dependent on people who never let her do anything for herself, yet when someone finally makes her figure it out on her own, it isn't fun, it's scary, and it's incredibly frustrating.  As annoying as it had been to have people preventing her from doing anything, it had become comfortable.  It made me think, how often do we grumble about something only to get what we wanted, and then have to struggle through the unpleasant adjustment period?  Be careful what you wish for . . .
No Match for Love (A Match Made in Texas, #3)

Carol Cox's "No Match for Love" tells of Lucy Benson, a young woman who, after six proposals from an annoying local man, finds it prudent to skip town and find something to do with her life.  Andrew Simms, looking for a companion for his potentially loony aunt, ends up with Lucy, who can't even make a pot of tea without burning it, but at least she is sane company - until she starts seeing things too.   This story was cute, with a number of misunderstandings and mismatched personalities learning how God can use anyone and any circumstance to His purpose. 

Meeting Her Match (A Match Made in Texas, #4)The final story, "Meeting Her Match" by Mary Connealy, concludes the anthology when Hannah ends up in a spot of difficulty herself, and the whole town seems to get behind matching her up with Mark, the banker's son, whose shyness has prevented him from speaking up to her.  Considering that practically the whole town gets in on the rather dirty trick, Hannah and Mark take it fairly well, but I would not have been remotely pleased (but then, I don't like being pressured into anything).  It was also a cute and funny story. 

My main complaint with novellas is that they are just too short and tend to be rushed - but when they are less than 100 pages each, it is hard to write a super in-depth story.  For being less than 100 pages each, I thought that these are well done, though. They tie together well - each one starts in Dry Gulch, and though they spin off in different directions with some full of danger and some an emotional ride, they are all on the common theme of an anonymous aid matching up a woman who needs help with a man of good character who can do the job.  That the town does for Hannah as she did for the other three women is a nice twist.  Over all it is a nice collection of sweet, thoughtful stories.  4 out of 5 stars!

Thank you Bethany House for providing me with a free copy for the purpose of review; I was not required to make it positive, and all opinions are my own. 

Monday, January 20, 2014

If you don't use it, you lose it: for students of foreign languages, part I

I'm sure anyone who has studied a foreign language has heard the phrase, "If you don't use it, you lose it."  As college language courses fade further into the reaches of the past, I find myself losing that education for which I paid so highly.  Also, as a former language student who no longer has access to easy language practice (classes, groups of people who speak those languages, etc), it is hard to get motivated to keep up on those skills. 

If there is no one to speak with, reading is typically the best way to maintain or even improve one's skills, but I have to say, finding interesting reading material in the States that is neither English nor Spanish is quite the challenge.  There are some classics floating around in their original languages, but English classics can be hard enough to read, let alone foreign classics.  Thus I was excited to discover that a number of novels by Christian authors have been translated into foreign languages!  These involve typically simpler (or at least, more modern) language than classics, while on subjects and with stories that I already know I like.

How do books get chosen to be translated anyway?  On the blog Writes of Passage, Jody Hedlund (author of Rebellious Heart and A Noble Groom) has an article "It's a Small World: International Readers," which delves into how her books came to be published internationally in foreign languages. Sometimes the book looks almost exactly the same, but sometimes the cover art and titles change considerably in the marketing and translation process.  Newer novels take time to be translated, so it is unlikely to find books that were published more recently than a full year ago. 

Thus I have compiled a list of Christian historical fiction that has been translated into foreign languages (I'll work on contemporary fiction for a later post).  There are a lot more than I had anticipated!  Most titles can be found in print, and some are available on Kindle - it probably depends some on where one looks.  Amazon carries a number of titles, if you have a title that you can use to find them, along with other book sites.  The publishers of course carry them, but you would have to check to see if they are available to be shipped overseas.  However, it is fun to look at the publisher websites to find out just how much they have!

Languages are arranged alphabetically, with books arranged alphabetically by author, and within that by publication date (oldest to most recent) if applicable.  Because this has become a significantly larger project than expected, on the major publishers (German, Dutch) I'll list books by my favorite authors and note other authors with how many books are available. 
Guds konger (Kongekrønikerne #1)
Danish translations through Lohse:

By Lynn Austin:
Guds konger (Gods and Kings)

Dutch translations through Kok -Voorhoeve (unless otherwise noted.  Just so you know, this is the tip of the iceberg - Veerhoeve has a ton of translations!):

By Tamera Alexander (through Van Wijnen):
De erfenis (The Inheritance)
Een blijvende indruk (A Lasting Impression)

By Lynn Austin (+ 19? more - they have multiple editions for some):
Laatste Vlucht (Fly Away) - published by VBK 
Eva's dochters (Eve's Daughters)
In Wonderland (Wonderland Creek)
De plantage (All Things New)

By Lori Benton:
Het land van mijn vader (Burning Sky)

By Laura Frantz: 
De pioniersdochter (The Frontiersman's Daughter)
De dochters van de meestersmidTerug naar de rode rivier (Courting Morrow Little)
In het fort van de kolonel (The Colonel's Lady)
De dochters van de meestersmid (Love's Reckoning)
De tweestrijd van Elinor (Love's Awakening)

By Trisha Goyer/Mike Yorkey:
De jacht op de Mona Lisa (Chasing Mona Lisa)

By Jody Hedlund:
De prediker's bruid (The Preacher's Bride)
De zendelingsvrouw (The Doctor's Lady)
Opstandig hartZoeken naar Daisy (Unending Devotion)
Een echte heer (A Noble Groom)
Opstandig hart (Rebellious Heart)

By Melissa Jagears (through Grace Publishing):
Een bruid om van te houden (A Bride for Keeps)

By Julie Klassen (+3 more):
Onvoorwaardelijk (The lady of Milkweed Manor)
De stille gouvernante (The Silent Governess)
De jongedame in het poorthuis (The Girl in the Gatehouse)
De dansmeester (The Dancing Master)
Sarah E. Ladd:
De erfgename van Winterwood (The Heiress of Winterwood)

By Sarah Sundin (through Mozaïek):
Een verre melodie (A Distant Melody)
Op zilveren vleugel (A Memory Between Us)

By Karen Witemeyer (through Grace Publishing):
Geknipt voor elkaar (A Tailor-Made Bride)
Hoofd in de wolken (Head in the Clouds)
Het geheim van de smid (To Win Her Heart)
Strootjes bruid (Short-Straw Bride)
Buit gemaakt (Stealing the Preacher)

Tessa Afshar (3), Deeanne Gist (7), Robin Lee Hatcher (1), Liz Curtis Higgs (2), Lisa Norato (1), Janette Oke (4), Francine Rivers (17),  Kim Vogel Sawyer (7), MaryLu Tyndall (1), Susan May Warren (2)

Product Details
French translations through ADA-inc

By Laura Frantz:
La rançon de l'amour (Love's Reckoning)
L'éveil de l'amour (Love's Awakening)
La richesse de l'amour (Love's Fortune)

By Tracie Peterson/Judith Miller:
L’héritage de Fanny (A Daughter's Inheritance)

German translations through Francke-Buch (unless otherwise noted):

By Tamera Alexander:
Die Rückkehr des Fremden (Rekindled)
Hoffnung am Horizont (Revealed)
Geerbtes GlückLand der Sehnsucht (Remembered)
Geerbtes Glück (The Inheritance)
Geliebte Fälscherin (A Lasting Impression)
Wie ein Flüstern im Wind (To Whisper Her Name)

By Amanda Cabot:
Der Sommer, der so viel versprach (Summer of Promise)

By Carol Cox (through Hänssler):
Detektivin aus Leidenschaft (Love in Disguise)

By Cathy Marie Hake:  
Mehr Charme als Etikette (Letter Perfect)
Ein Schuss Liebe kann nicht schadenKein Job für eine Lady (Fancy Pants)  
Ein Schuss Liebe kann nicht schaden (Forevermore) 
Ein Wirbelwind namens Millie (Whirlwind)
Ärztin In Rot (That Certain Spark) 
Rose der Prärie (Serendipity)

By Jody Hedlund:
Die Assistentin des Fotografen (Unending Devotion)

By Julie Klassen (through Hänssler):
Die Lady Von Milkweed Manor (The Lady of Milkweed Manor)
Das Geheimnis Der Apothekerin (The Apothecary's Daughter) 
Das Schweigen Der Miss Keene (The Silent Governess)
Das Mädchen im Torhaus (The Girl in the Gatehouse)
Die Magd von Fairbourne Hall (The Maid of Fairbourne Hall)
Die Tochter des Hauslehrers (The Tutor's Daughter)
Das Geheimnis des Tanzmeisters (The Dancing Master)

By Francine Rivers (through Gerth Medien):
Rapha - Die Tore von Ephesus (An Echo in the Darkness)

By Sarah Sundin:
Der Klang deiner Gedanken (A Distant Melody)
Der Duft der Freiheit (A Memory Between Us)

Die Lady von RavencroftBy Jen Turano (through Gerth Medien):
Die falsche Gouvernante (A Change of Fortune)

By Lori Wick:
Die Lady von Ravencroft (The Hawk and the Jewel)
Und hinter dem Horizont das Glück (Sophie's Heart)

By Karen Witemeyer:
Eine Lady nach Maß (A Tailor-Made Bride)
Sturz ins Glück (Head in the Clouds)
Kann es wirklich Liebe sein? (Short-Straw Bride)
Entführerin wider Willen (

Lynn Austin (15), Lisa T. Bergren (5), Deeanne Gist (7 Gerth Medien), Judith Pella (2), Tracie Peterson (3 Francke, 8 Hänssler), Kim Vogel Sawyer (6 Hänssler), Stephanie Grace Whitson (3)

Álruhás szerelem

Hungarian translations through General Press:

By Julie Klassen:
Álruhás szerelem (The Maid of Fairbourne Hall)

Indonesian translations through Gloria Graffa:

By Cathy Marie Hake:
Cinta Pahit Manis (Bittersweet)

Cinta Pahit Manis
Norwegian translations through Lunde Forlag:

By Lynn Austin:
Det som en gang var (All She Ever Wanted)
Damer i dongeri (A Woman's Place)
Når vi ikke lenger ser hverandre (While We're Far Apart)
Dett kalles nåde (All Things New)

By Francine Rivers:  
Ufattelig kjærlighet (Redeeming Love)
Varsler i vinden (A Voice in the Wind)
Ekko i mørket (An Echo in the Darkness)
Demring i nord (As Sure as the Dawn)
Tamar (Unveiled: Tamar)
Datteren (Her Mother's Hope)
Datterens drøm (Her Daughter's Dream)

Portuguese translations:

By Lynn Austin (through Hagnos):
Lugares Escondidos (Hidden Places) - Hagnos

By Sarah Sundin (through Quinta Essência):
Nas Asas do Amor (A Distant Melody)
Nas Asas da Memória (A Memory Between Us)
Nas Asas do Amanhã (Blue Skies Tomorrow)

Romanian translations through Casa Cărţii:

By Lynn Austin (+8 more):
Zei şi regi (Gods and Kings)
Editura Casa Cartii - Carti crestine si cadouriCântecul izbăvirii (Song of Redemption)
Tăria braţului Său (The Strength of His Hand)
Credinţa părinţilor mei (Faith of My Fathers)
Printre zei (Among the Gods)
Fiicele Evei (Eve's Daughters)
Tărâmuri ascunse (Hidden Places)
Tot ce ea îşi doreşte (All She Ever Wanted)

By Janette Oke (+14 more):
Învăluiţi de iubire (Love Comes Softly)
Promisiunea neclintită a iubirii (Love's Enduring Promise)
Editura Casa Cartii - Carti crestine si cadouriDrumul lung al iubirii  (Love's Long Journey)
Bucuria nepieritoare a iubirii (Love's Abiding Joy)
Moştenirea veşnică a iubirii (Love's Unending Legacy)
Visul împlinit al iubirii (Love's Unfolding Dream)
Zborul îndepărtat al iubirii (Love Takes Wing)
Căminul regăsit al iubirii (Love Finds a Home

By Jill Eileen Smith:
Mical (Michal)
Abigail (Abigail)

Gozyasi Yoksa Ask YokturBatşeba (Bathsheba)

Slovakian translations through Vydavateľstvo:

By Tessa Afshar:

Perla v piesku (Pearl in the Sand)

Perla z Moabu (In the Fields of Grace)

By Kate Breslin:

V pravej chvíli (For Such a Time)

By Julie Klassen:

Učiteľova dcéra (The Tutor's Daughter)
Učiteľ tanca (The Dancing Master)

Turkish translations through NoktaKitap:

By Cathy Marie Hake: 
Gözyaşı Yoksa Aşk Yoktur (Letter Perfect)

If you know of any good Christian fiction written by foreign authors (not in English!), I'd love to hear about it, as well as any other translated titles!

Friday, January 17, 2014

Amanda Cabot's "Waiting for Spring"

Waiting for SpringIn the second of her Westward Winds trilogy, Amanda Cabot writes about Charlotte, the eldest and most fragile of three sisters.  A widow with a baby boy, Charlotte must find work to support herself, so she turns to her one marketable talent - dressmaking - which puts her in contact with a number of Cheyenne's elite, including the handsome and politically-aspiring Barrett Landry.  Unfortunately, a villain with whom her dead husband had tangled is still looking for Charlotte to exact revenge.

Charlotte seems almost like a different person from the character in Summer of Promise, in which she was a little more frivolous, flightier, and markedly more social (when not done in by anxiety).  In this novel she is quite sedate, partly I'm sure from trying to keep from drawing attention to herself and attracting the Baron, and partly from the stress of running a business and mothering a blind baby.  She seems more like a scared version of her practical sister Abigail than the animated young wife she was at Fort Laramie.  I would have liked her to retain that liveliness and propensity towards ups-and-downs, since it would have felt more like the same character. 

Like in Summer of Promise, Cabot does an excellent job of developing a solid, healthy relationship between the main characters.  By juxtaposing an example of an unhealthy relationship where they merely go through the motions - Barrett and Miriam - next to a solid relationship where friendship and genuine love (not just a calculated show) are developed over time - Barrett and Charlotte - the healthy relationship stands out all the more.  In more minor roles are the romances between Miriam and Richard and between Gwen and Warren, which again underscore what builds a healthy relationship and what can doom one.  (Even looking past the psycho murderer aspect, which is uncommon in the general way of things, Gwen and Warren's relationship is developed in an unhealthy way).

I like the length of the novel, which allows several plot lines to be developed properly without being rushed, especially Barrett's struggles to get out of the shadow of his older brothers' success, which results in becoming a cattle baron, running for political office, and eventually finding what he truly loves to do.  The story felt a little more oppressive than I would have preferred, probably because both the main characters are under a lot of stress and have a hard time feeling free to be themselves, so I did not enjoy it as much as the first book in the series, but it was still an enjoyable read.  4 out of 5 stars

Westward Winds
1. Summer of Promise
2. Waiting for Spring
3. With Autumn's Return

Monday, January 13, 2014

"Summer of Promise" by Amanda Cabot

Summer of PromiseThe first of Amanda Cabot's Westward Winds trilogy focuses on the middle of three sisters - Abigail, the practical (though sometimes impulsive) sister.  A teacher in a girls' school, Abigail decides to travel out west during her vacation to Fort Laramie, Wyoming, to visit her older sister, whose letters have not left Abigail satisfied as to her health and well-being.  Because of Charlotte's pregnancy, Abigail puts off her return to school and her almost-fiance, and in doing so spends more time with Lieutenant Ethan Bowles, a man desperate to solve the mysterious thefts plaguing the fort.

Cabot has a nice pace to the novel - it takes place over several months, and one can feel the time passing without the story dragging.  The relationship between Ethan and Abigail (and Abigail's waning feelings for Woodward), Ethan's struggles to improve the morale of his troops and lower desertion rates, the increasing audacity of the stagecoach robbers - such things are not resolved instantly, but take time.  Each feels better developed and more realistic thanks to their timing over the course of the story, without any losing its freshness and becoming a bore. 

Probably my favorite part of the novel is how Ethan and Abigail's relationship develops - first as friends, since Abigail is practically engaged to another man and Ethan has no intention of ever marrying, and then slowly over the course of many suppers, horseback rides, and walks with the dog, their friendship deepens into love.   I also really like that Abigail cares so much for Ethan's spiritual state and relationship with his grandfather, and she knows when to broach or back off those sensitive subjects.  They are not perfect - occasionally they hurt one another - but they are quick to forgive and ask for forgiveness, modeling a very healthy relationship. 

Midway, when Abigail is waffling in indecision, Cabot makes an excellent point that convicted me regarding my plans versus God's plans: "Ask God.  She had been doing that.  Or had she? . . . Had she really asked, or had she merely told God what she wanted and then waited for his approval of her plans?" (150).  I know God's plans are always the best plans, and yet for some reason it is so easy just to make my own notably inferior plans and expect God to approve them.  His are so much more imaginative, interesting, and efficient than mine, so one would think I would learn . . .

Besides being a lovely historical read about the latter days of Fort Laramie, the story also sports a mystery as to who is behind the stagecoach robberies, and the clues point to several possibilities.  It wasn't until near the end that I was sure who the villain was.  An excellent read!  5 out of 5 stars!

Westward Winds
1. Summer of Promise
2. Waiting for Spring
3. With Autumn's Return

Friday, January 10, 2014

Most Anticipated Novels of 2014

For Such a Time
A Place in His HeartMore correctly, of the authors/publishing companies who have put out the titles and dates of their new historical releases for this year (which really only extends through August, so there are still some authors who I hope will be putting out new releases this fall), but of those that are revealed, these are the ones that have me most excited (in order as to publishing date).

By three new authors I am excited to try:

The Pelican Bride
For Such a Time by Kate Breslin (Bethany House, April); a WWII novel about a young Jewish woman disguised as a German and working at a transit camp in Czechoslovakia

The Pelican Bride by Beth White (Revell, April); a colonial Louisiana mail-order bride story

A Place in His Heart by Rebecca DeMarino (Revell, June); a colonial romance about an Anglican and a Puritan

By authors I know and love:

Circle of SpiesThe Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn by Lori BentonCaught in the Middle

Circle of Spies by Roseanna M. White (Harvest House, April); third book of the Culper Ring trilogy (after Ring of Secrets and Whispers from the Shadows).  Thanks to NetGalley, I have already read this one, but I cannot own it until it is officially published.  It was excellent!

The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn by Lori Benton (WaterBrook, April)  

Caught in the Middle by Regina Jennings (Bethany House, April); third book of the Brides of Caldwell County (after Sixty Acres and a Bride and Love in the Balance) 

Yankee in Atlanta, Heroines Behind the Lines Series #3   -     By: Jocelyn Green
      Full Steam Ahead       Captured By Love 
Yankee in Atlanta by Jocelyn Green (River North, June); third book of her Civil War-based series Heroines Behind the Lines (after Wedded to War and Widow of Gettysburg)

Full Steam Ahead by Karen Witemeyer (Bethany House, June)

Captured by Love by Jody Hedlund (Bethany House, July); third (or first, chronologically) book of the Michigan Brides Collection (along with Unending Devotion and A Noble Groom)

A Match of Wits       In Perfect Time       With Every Breath 
A Match of Wits by Jen Turano (Bethany House, July); fourth book of the Ladies of Distinction series (after A Change of Fortune, A Most Peculiar Circumstance, and A Talent for Trouble)

In Perfect Time by Sarah Sundin (Revell, August); third book of the Wings of the Nightingale trilogy (after With Every Letter and On Distant Shores)

Love's FortuneWith Every Breath by Elizabeth Camden (Bethany House, August)

Love's Fortune by Laura Frantz (Revell, September); third book of the Ballantyne Legacy (following Love's Reckoning and Love's Awakening)

Monday, January 6, 2014

"No One to Trust" by Lynette Eason

No One to TrustIn the first of her Hidden Identity series, Lynette Eason writes an action-packed story of a woman who wakes up one morning to discover her husband has another name, has gone missing, and has stolen something from some decidedly dangerous men.  And if there is one thing Summer Abernathy hates, it is a liar.  On the run from the mafia and yet tracked and attacked at every turn, Summer does not know who she can trust - her deceptive husband? the U.S. Marshals? random people she meets on the street?  Somehow mob boss Raimondi's men keep finding her . . . Can she and her husband survive long enough to work through the repercussions of his deception and overcome her broken trust?

This is a fast-paced suspense novel that has the feel of an action movie.  Whereas many suspense stories slow down to unravel a mystery, this one has no mystery to unravel; instead, we know who the villain is and why he is after them, and the story flies along with our hero and heroine as they dodge bullets with scarcely a moment to rest.   It certainly makes it hard to put down.

Eason does a good job of revealing enough pertinent information to keep it from getting confusing while never compromising the swift pace of the story.  There were some unexpected twists in the novel, which I enjoyed - it is nice to be surprised on occasion - though one or two came out of left field.  Maybe this is partially because there was rarely more information than what was needed at the moment, or maybe because the author wanted some definite surprises that could not be worked out beforehand.  Or maybe I just missed a lot of clues. 

I liked that the novel focuses on a married couple; given that the story happens over the course of only a few days, it would be too hard to make it work for a dating couple, let alone perfect strangers meeting and falling in love.  Since they already have nearly a year of marriage as a basis for their relationship, it means they have a foundation to stand on when Summer's world is blown apart.  She knows she loves her husband, even if she does not know who he really is anymore.  They understandably have issues to work through because of his deception, but between their faith and their strong relationship, their marriage has a shot at surviving.

I would not say it is particularly realistic (or at least I certainly hope not!  Mafia are wonderful fictional villains, but not exactly good news in real life).  However, it is an attention-grabbing action-suspense, with an minor emphasis on learning to overcome and forgive that which one "could never forgive."  4 out of 5 stars

Thank you Revell for providing me with a free copy for the purpose of review; I was not required to make it positive, and all opinions are my own.

Hidden Identity
1. No One to Trust
2. Nowhere to Turn
3. No Place to Hide 

Friday, January 3, 2014

"The Dancing Master" by Julie Klassen - a good mother-daughter story

The Dancing MasterJulie Klassen's latest regency novel explores what happens when a young dancing master moves to a village where dancing is forbidden.  Alec Valcourt and his mother and sister leave scandal behind in London, retreating to his uncle's home in the small Devonshire village, where he encounters Julia Midwinter, the defiant and flirtatious daughter of the local gentry.  Julia would love to learn to dance, or do anything her mother has forbidden for that matter, and so she is intrigued with the new dance master who finds himself as a clerk in her household.  Old secrets and scandals in her own family continue to put her at odds with her mother, who essentially controls the village.  Will Julia make peace with her mother?  Will Alec be able to care for his family in a place that forbids his profession?  And is there a way that a mere dancing master could ever hope to wed the daughter of the gentry?

Like all of Klassen's regencies, this book is well researched.  Besides the obvious dancing and fencing aspects (like any good dancing master, Alec teaches fencing as well, since one helps with the footwork of the other), the author also includes traditions of Devonshire from villages around where this story is set.  It was also interesting to have a glimpse of the practices surrounding adoptions in those times.  Klassen does an excellent job of incorporating aspects of life that we frequently see and yet rarely consider in a historical light (like adoption, or autism in her previous novel The Tutor's Daughter). 

For easily the first half or more of the book, I just did not like Julia - her selfishness, flirting, falsehoods, and immaturity grated.  However, I could see where she is coming from: she is acting out to gain attention and love deprived her by her father.  It happens in real life, but it is not particularly fun to see or read about.  What she really needs is a good spanking, and while that form of discipline does not befall her, she does at least receive a wake-up call.  She improves later in the story, but I would have liked to have seen appreciable change much earlier on. 

Like Klassen's other works, this was a thick, meaty novel to devour, perfect for an indulgent day of reading.  While I was uncertain for a while if it would have much of a spiritual message like her other books, she did eventually hone in on God the Father's perfect love.  The mother-daughter aspect of the story was also good; so often parents are given superficial parts in fiction, if they exist at all, but Julia's mother was a well-fleshed character, and I thought of her as almost a secondary heroine - imperfect by far, but all the same a woman to root for.  For me, her faults were a bit easier to take than Julia's, which I found to be the main sticking point of the novel.  Over all, though, it was another good read by an excellent author!  4 out of 5 stars

Thank you Bethany House and NetGalley for providing me with a free e-copy for the purpose of review; I was not required to make it positive, and all opinions are my own.