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Monday, June 26, 2017

Christine Johnson: Freedom's Price



By Kelly Bridgewater

Welcome, everyone!

Read to the end after the review where I have included the instructions for a GIVEAWAY!!!!

Here is my review:

When Englishwoman Catherine Haynes loses both her parents and her home in 1856, she decides to cross the Atlantic to find her American mother's family in Louisiana. She enlists the help of Tom Worthington, a dashing Key West man who makes his living salvaging wrecked ships, but whose real goal in life is to bring to justice the man who stole his father's ship and caused his untimely death.

When Catherine finally arrives at her family's plantation, she finds it in disarray and her family absent landowners. Torn between returning to Key West with Tom or beginning the hard work of restoring the plantation, Catherine soon finds herself snared in a plot to steal her inheritance. When an incredible secret comes to light, both she and Tom will face a choice. Can they relinquish the dreams that have been holding them captive in order to step forward in faith--even if it costs them everything?

From Amazon




My Thoughts:

I enjoyed the first two novels in the Keys of Promise series by Christine Johnson, so of course, I wanted to read her latest installment, Freedom's Price. I was glad to get a review copy. With a historical romance, I knew there would be a story that had conventions that we don't necessarily use anymore, characters that had different expectations than us, and a romance that might be a little less open than currently. With Johnson's stories, that is definitely what I receive.
Her writing is clear and concise. I had no problem visualizing the setting in Key West, among the boat, and in Louisiana. Johnson does a good job at anchoring me in her settings. Allowing me to explore the unfamiliar setting with the characters. Her use of descriptive language is vibrant and welcomes me to a new world.

The characters are the most important element in the story because without them there would be no story. The heroine, Catherine, is a strong woman who is determined to save her family's history. She is also proud to create her own path in life whether any man tries to tell her otherwise. On the other hand, Tom, the hero, is a brave man who refuses to leave Catherine in the hands of a mad man. He is trusty-worthy, cunning, and hopeless for Catherine. In this novel, neither Catherine or Tom really change. Who I meet in the beginning of the novel is the same characters I meet at the end. No transformation.

The romance is really quick for me. When I meet Tom, Johnson has him think about how no woman is good enough for his standards, but then as soon as Catherine glances at him from a ship window, he loses all his reality and falls in love with her. He has an overwhelming desire to protect her at all cost. Where did that come from? Their romance blooms really fast from then on, and I had a hard time believing it.

The plot is different and unique, which is nice, but it moves really fast. Having read the first two editions in this series, I think this one flew by. One minute the story started than the book ended. It appeared to be a little short for me. It was a good story, and I enjoyed spending the two hours it took me to read it, but I wished it was longer.

Overall, a well-written story with a unique plot, untransformative characters, and a hasty romance, Freedom's Price was my least favorite book of the series.

I received a complimentary copy of Freedom's Price by Christine Johnson from Revell Publishing, and the opinions stated are all my own.

My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

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GIVEAWAY

I have two physical copies (one of each book) of Honor Redeemed and Freedom's Price by Christine Johnson to give to ONE lucky winner. Leave a blog post comment AND enter the rafflecopter form to be entered!!! (Contest is opened to residents of the United States only! Thank you!) Contest runs from June 26 until Sunday, July 2nd at midnight. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Friday, June 23, 2017

Christy Barritt: Random Acts of Fraud



By Kelly Bridgewater

Vintage-loving Holly Anna Paladin finds online dating uncouth and unbecoming. But, in an attempt to overcome her romantic slump, her BFF convinces Holy to give it a shot. When Holly is stood up on her first date, she's halfway relieved . . . until she discovers the reason isn't because her cyber matchup has cold feet. Instead she stumbles upon him in a classic Mustang, deader than good old-fashioned manners.

Holly's had enough with investigating crime and leaves her ex-boyfriend, Detective Chase Dexter, to solve this mystery. But Holly is somehow connected to this murder, and someone is determined to keep her in the thick of things. She hopes it's not Drew Williams, the handsome funeral director who's trying to sweep her off her feet.

Before more people are hurt, Holly is determined to unmask the pretender in her life. But can she keep her feelings for Chase locked away? Or will Holly end up losing her heart to him all over again? She must solve the case before someone pulls the plug on her profile . . . and deletes her permanently.

From Amazon


My Thoughts:

I have read almost everything by Christy Barritt. The other day I found out I hadn't read one of her books. Luckily, it was on sale for my Kinde, so I downloaded it and hopefully, will get to it soon. As for now, I continue to pick up all of Barritt's books, preparing for an adventure. Barritt doesn't disappoint. She knows what she wants her audience to experience and she delivers. I look forward to all her stories.

With Barritt's latest addition to her Holly Anna Paladin mysteries series, Random Acts of Fraud, it was nice to catch up with Holly and follow the hunt for a mystery at the same time. Barritt does a good job at creating relatable characters that keep turning out more and more mysteries. Gabby St. Clair is still my favorite heroine by Barritt. I like their her characters aren't perfect or too rich or snotty. They are average characters that makes them empathetic to the reader. I enjoy seeing Holly struggle and change as her life moves along.

As for the plot in Random Acts of Fraud, it is a typical cozy mystery story. Holly finds herself in trouble in the first chapter, and I follow her throughout the rest of the story as she tries to solve the mystery. Barritt even likes to throw in a little bit of romance to see how much the reader notices. Not that you could miss it, but it is nice to see Holly fall in and out of love as she struggles with the complications of today's romance field.

Overall, Random Acts of Fraud is another keeper for my shelf. Holly is a wonderful, brave character who struggles with her personal life while trying to solve the mystery she finds herself in. I highly recommend Random Acts of Fraud, and I can't wait to see what Barritt creates next.

I received a complimentary copy of Random Acts of Fraud from Christy Barritt, but the opinions stated are all my own.

My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Melody Carlson: Under a Summer Sky



By Kelly Bridgewater

High school art teacher Nicole Anderson is looking forward to a relaxing summer in Savannah, house-sitting and managing an art gallery for a family friend. The house is luxurious in a way that only old money could make it, and the gallery promises interesting days in a gorgeous setting. Yet it isn't long before her ideal summer turns into more than she bargained for: a snooty gallery employee who's determined to force her out, a displaced adolescent roosting in the attic, and two of Nicole's close childhood friends--who also happen to be brothers--vying for her attention.

With a backdrop of a beautiful historical city, incredible architecture, and even an alleged ghost or two, combined with the opportunity for romance . . . anything can happen!

Bestselling and award-winning author Melody Carlson invites readers to spend the summer surrounded by beauty and tantalizing possibilities for the future.

From Amazon


My Thoughts:

Under a Summer Sky by Melody Carlson is a quick read with an interesting plot. From the first chapter, I was drawn into the story of Nicole as she finished up the school year as an art teacher and moved into the position of an art gallery manager. I enjoyed spending time with Nicole and watched as she took over the art gallery and tried to be a mother figure to Bernie, Alex's daughter. Alex and Ryan are the sons of the owner of the art gallery. While I haven't seen the plot done in another book, it did bring images of Jennifer Aniston working in the art gallery in The Break-up. The romance is downplayed a lot. Nicole does have two brothers trying to grab her attention, but I don't remember Nicole ever falling in love with one over the other and listening to her internal dialogue about her emotions. This wasn't a typical romance novel is that respect. I really enjoyed that to be honest. Sometimes in contemporary romances, the feelings can be up-played so the reader really understands the feelings of the characters. If you aren't a fan of deeply spiritual romance novels, but love to be swept away in a romance, than this might be the book for you. Carlson really doesn't lay on the spiritual elements. This would be a good book for fans of secular romance books. Overall, this was a quick read that I didn't mind spending a couple of hours with.

I received a complimentary copy of Under a Summer Sky by Melody Carlson from Revell Publishing, and the opinions stated are all my own.

My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

When you read a romance novel, what is an element that has to be there (besides the obvious)?

Monday, June 19, 2017

Jennifer Delamere: The Captain's Daughter



By Kelly Bridgewater

When a series of circumstances beyond her control leave Rosalyn Bernay alone and penniless in London, she chances upon a job backstage at a theater which is presenting the most popular show in London. A talented musician and singer, she feels immediately at home and soon becomes enthralled with the idea of pursuing a career on the stage.

An injury during a skirmish in India has forced Nate Moran out of the army until he recovers. Filling his time at a stable of horses for hire in London, he has also spent the past two months working nights as a stagehand, filling in for his injured brother. Although he's glad he can help his family through a tough time, he is counting the days until he can rejoin his regiment. London holds bitter memories for him that he is anxious to escape. But then he meets the beautiful woman who has found a new lease on life in the very place Nate can't wait to leave behind.

From Amazon


My Thoughts:

The Captain's Daughter by Jennifer Delamere captured my imagination with its cover design and the fact that it occurs in London. London. The city of my dreams. But unfortunately, I really didn't like this novel. The first chapter has three sisters standing on a cliff overlooking the ocean. I believe this was Delamere's way of clearing her throat and giving us backstory to the three sisters without officially telling us what we needed to know in an information dump. From there, I follow Rosalyn as she almost gets sold into prostitution before earning a job at the local theater. As a character, I found her quite shallow, and I didn't empathize with her at all. As for Nate, he had some redeeming qualities, but I still didn't find him to be the hero I wanted him to be. I wanted so much more depth to each character.

As for the pace of the novel, it moved really slow. There were moments I put the novel down and went to another book, read it completely, and came back to this one. Really didn't capture my attention. I dragged myself to finish the novel. This predictable and unoriginal story just couldn't get me excited about the plot. As a final note, The Captain's Daughter appeared to be an interesting story, but it has been written before with lackluster characters and a pace that didn't move fast enough for me. I would have a hard time recommending this story. But . . .  this is my humble opinion, so others can completely disagree with mine.

I received a complimentary copy of The Captain's Daughter by Jennifer Delamere from Bethany House Publishing, and the opinions stated are all my own.

My Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

What do you do when you come across a novel that doesn't do it for you? Do you put it down and give it another try? Or do you pick up something else? Some many books; so little time.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Top 10 Historical Authors

By Kelly Bridgewater

Every writer or reader has a number of authors who books grace their library. You know, the author who they follow on Facebook, praying for news of another book or book series. Of course, I have a number of them who have inspired and encouraged my personal writing, but they are also the writers who I LOVE reading and studied the structures of their novels to see how I can incorporate their skills into my novels.

Two weeks ago, I shared my top ten favorite suspense authors. Today, I want to share my love of historical romances. I have enjoyed exploring different time periods and learning more about these different type of heroines and heroes who made America and London what it is today. Being an avid fan of World War II, I'm even impressed with some more authors who just write a wonderful story and take me away.  

So without further ado, I announce my top ten favorite historical authors with the novel that inspired me . . .

1.) Julie Lessman, A Hope Undaunted
From Amazon
 When I read A Hope Undaunted and watched the story unfold between Katie and Cluny, I was enthralled and love watching them argue and loved their love story. Katie has such passion for everything that she involves herself in. This proves to me that a Christian novel can have passion and show the ripe side of the love God in-planted in all of us.

Synopsis:
The 1920s are drawing to a close, and feisty Katie O'Connor is the epitome of the new woman smart and sassy with goals for her future that include the perfect husband and a challenging career in law. Her boyfriend Jack fits all of her criteria for a husband good looking, well connected, wealthy, and head over heels in love with her. But when she is forced to spend the summer of 1929 with Cluny McGee, the bane of her childhood existence, Katie comes face to face with a choice. Will she follow her well laid plans to marry Jack? Or will she fall for the man she swore to despise forever? A Hope Undaunted is the engrossing first book in the Winds Of Change series from popular author Julie Lessman. Readers will thrill at the highly charged romance in this passionate story.

2.) Susan May Warren, Baroness

From Amazon
I have read all of Susan May Warren's books, so when I read the synopsis for her Daughters of Fortune series, I prayed that the story was great. Boy, was I glad I read these. I loved learning more about the glamour of the Roaring Twenties and falling in love with this story. It was my first introduction to historical novels, and I was hooked.

Synopsis:
Coming of age in the turbulent Roaring Twenties, two daughters of fortune can have anything they possibly want—except freedom. Expected to marry well and take the reins of the family empire, Lilly and Rosie have their entire lives planned out for them. But Lilly longs to flee the confines of New York City for the untamed wilds of Montana. Her cousin Rosie dreams of the bright lights of the newly emerging silver screen. But following their dreams—to avant-garde France, to dazzling Broadway, to the skies of the fearless wing walkers—will demand all their courage.

3.) Sarah Sundin, Blue Skies Tomorrow

From Amazon
 My favorite aspect of Sarah Sundin's writing is her ability to draw me into the 1940's with all her research, but I never once feel like I'm reading a textbook. I feel like I'm sitting next to Helen as she tries to survive life without her dead husband. I enjoy seeing the world through her perspective. Since I'm working on my own World War II novels, I have studied how Sundin structures and creates her stories to bring this time period to life.

Synopsis:
Lt. Raymond Novak prefers the pulpit to the cockpit, but at least his stateside job training B-17 pilots allows him the luxury of a personal life. As he courts Helen Carlisle, a young war widow and mother who conceals her pain under a frenzy of volunteer work, the sparks of their romance set a fire that flings them both into peril. After Ray leaves to fly a combat mission at the peak of the air war over Europe, Helen takes a job in a dangerous munitions yard and confronts an even graver menace in her own home. Will they find the courage to face their challenges? And can their young love survive until blue skies return? Filled with daring and romance, Blue Skies Tomorrow will capture readers' hearts.

4.) Kate Breslin, For Such a Time

From Amazon
The cover and synopsis appealed to be because I enjoyed World War II novels. I met Kate Breslin at the 2014 ACFW conference in St. Louis, and she autographed my copy for me. I was hooked and couldn't wait to devour into this novel. Breslin also does a good job at creating a story that struck a chord with critics as well as fans, which is what a good novel should do.

Synopsis: 
In 1944, Hadassah Benjamin feels abandoned by God when she is saved from a firing squad only to be handed over to a new enemy. Pressed into service by SS Kommandant Colonel Aric von Schmidt at the transit camp of Theresienstadt in Czechoslovakia, she is able to hide behind the false identity of Stella Muller. However, to maintain her cover as von Schmidt's secretary, she is forced to stand by as her own people are sent to Auschwitz.

Suspecting her employer is a man of hidden depths, Stella appeals to him on behalf of those in the camp. Aric's indulgence gives her hope even as she risks discovery with every attempt to help the prisoners. When her bravery brings her to the point of ultimate sacrifice, she faces an excruciating choice. God may have brought her to the camp for such a time as this, but how can she save her people when she cannot save herself?

5.) Rachel McMillan, A Lesson in Love and Murder

From Amazon
Rachel McMillan and I connected on Facebook because of our mutual love of Sherlock Holmes. I have been fascinated with Holmes and Watson since I read the canon when I was an undergraduate in college. Since then, I have seen all of the movies and admire Conan Doyle's ability to create such an iconic character even after all these years. So when I heard McMillan was writing a story with a Holmes twist, I jumped at the chance to read and review her books. I admire her ability to bring Toronto Canada, her home, to life through her characters.

Synopsis:
 The legacy of literary icon Sherlock Holmes is alive and well in 1912 Canada, where best friends Merinda Herringford and Jem Watts continue to develop their skills as consulting detectives.

The city of Toronto has been thrown into upheaval by the arrival of radical anarchist Emma Goldman. Amid this political chaos, Benny Citrone of the Royal North-West Mounted Police arrives at Merinda and Jem's flat, requesting assistance in locating his runaway cousin—a man with a deadly talent.

While Merinda eagerly accepts the case, she finds herself constantly butting heads—and hearts—with Benny. Meanwhile, Jem has her hands full with a husband who is determined to keep her out of harm's way.

As Merinda and Jem close in on the danger they've tracked from Toronto to Chicago, they uncover a sinister plot to assassinate presidential candidate Theodore Roosevelt. Will they be able to save the day and resolve the troubles threatening their future happiness before it's too late?

6.) Jen Turano, Playing the Parts

From Amazon
I enjoy how Jen Turano creates the world in New York City and shows a side that isn't all flowers and roses. Turano creates smart and brave heroines who stand against what is expected of them. I truly admire her characters and enjoy seeing all the research she does to bring the late nineteenth and early twentieth century to life.

Synopsis:
 Lucetta Plum is an actress on the rise in New York City, but is forced to abandon her starring role when a fan's interest turns threatening. Lucetta's widowed friend, Abigail Hart, is delighted at the opportunity to meddle in Lucetta's life and promptly whisks her away to her grandson's estate to hide out.

Bram Haverstein may appear to simply be a somewhat eccentric gentleman of means, but a mysterious career and a secret fascination with a certain actress mean there's much more to him than society knows.

Lucetta, who has no interest in Abigail's matchmaking machinations, has the best intentions of remaining cordial but coolly distant to Bram. But when she can't ignore the strange and mysterious things going on in his house, it'll take more than good intentions to keep her from trying to discover who Bram is behind the part he plays.

7.) Kristy Cambron, The Butterfly and the Violin

relzreviewz.com
Kristy Cambron created an unique story that connected her love of art and World War II together into a timeless tale of mystery and hope. I enjoyed this novel and loved learning something truly unique about the Holocaust.

Synopsis:
 A Mysterious painting breathes hope and beauty into the darkest corners of Auschwitz--and the loneliest hearts of Manhattan.

Manhattan art dealer Sera James watched her world crumble at the altar two years ago, and her heart is still fragile. Her desire fordistraction reignites a passion for a mysterious portrait she first saw as a younggirl--a painting of a young violinist with piercing blue eyes.

In her search for the painting, Sera crosses paths withWilliam Hanover--the grandson of a wealthy California real estate mogul--who maybe the key to uncovering the hidden masterpiece. Together Sera and Williamslowly unravel the story behind the painting's subject: Austrian violinistAdele Von Bron.

A darling of the Austrian aristocracy of 1942, talented violinist, and daughter to a high-ranking member of the Third Reich, Adele risks everything when she begins smuggling Jews out of Vienna. In a heartbeat, her life of prosperity and privilege dissolves into a world of starvation and barbed wire.

As Sera untangles the secrets behind the painting, she finds beauty in the most unlikely of places: the grim camps of Auschwitz and the inner recesses of her own troubled heart.

8.) Elizabeth Camden, Into the Whirlwind

www.pinterest.com
 Elizabeth Camden is not like any other historical author I have ever read. She incorporates science into every single book. I learn something about how technology had transformed our country into something great. She does so much research, but reading the novel, I don't really see all the work. It appears to be a great story to inform me. I really am looking forward to whatever else Camden comes up with.

Synopsis: 
 As owner of the 57th Illinois Watch Company, Mollie Knox's future looks bright until the night the legendary Great Chicago Fire destroys her beloved city. With her world crumbling around her, Mollie will do whatever it takes to rebuild in the aftermath of the devastating fire.

Zack Kazmarek, an influential attorney for one of Chicago's finest department stores, is a force to be reckoned with among the city's most powerful citizens. Bold and shrewd, he's accustomed to getting exactly what he wants--until he meets Mollie Knox, the beguiling businesswoman just beyond his reach.

In the tumult as the people of Chicago race to rebuild a bigger and better city, Mollie comes face-to-face with the full force of Zack's character and influence. Zack believes this may finally be his chance to win her, but can Mollie ever accept this man and his whirlwind effect on her life, especially with her treasured company on the line?

9.) Lorna Seilstad, Making Waves
From Amazon
I was introduced to Lorna Seilstad when her book Making Waves was on the clearance rack at the local library's book sale. The cover was interesting, and the book was published by Revell, who I knew published Christian stories, so I jumped on the story. I'm glad I did. The stories are different, yet Seilstad has a story voice that takes me away.

Synopsis:
When spunky Marguerite Westing discovers that her family will summer at Lake Manawa in 1895, she couldn't be more thrilled. It is the perfect way to escape her agonizingly boring suitor, Roger Gordon. It's also where she stumbles upon two new loves: sailing, and sailing instructor Trip Andrews. But this summer of fun turns to turmoil as her father's gambling problems threaten to ruin the family forever. Will freespirited Marguerite marry Roger to save her father's name and fortune? Or will she follow her hearteven if it means abandoning the family she loves? Author Lorna Seilstad's fresh and entertaining voice will whisk readers away to a breezy lakeside summer holiday. Full of sharp wit and blossoming romance, Making Waves is the first book in the Lake Manawa Summers series.

10.) Cathy Gohlke, Secrets She Kept

From Amazon
 I picked up Secrets She Kept because of the Nazi flag in the background. Being a huge fan of World War II, (not like you can't tell. Scan back over this list!) I couldn't wait to read this book. It was my favorite book published for 2015. Secrets She Kept is a different look at the daughter and granddaughter of a Nazi soldier. It was an eye-opening story of forgiveness while learning the horrible story of World War II from the Nazi's. I LOVED this novel!

Synopsis:
 All her life, Hannah Sterling longed for a close relationship with her estranged mother. Following Lieselotte’s death, Hannah determines to unlock the secrets of her mother’s mysterious past and is shocked to discover a grandfather living in Germany.

Thirty years earlier, Lieselotte’s father is quickly ascending the ranks of the Nazi party, and a proper marriage for his daughter could help advance his career. Lieselotte is in love―but her beloved Lukas is far from an ideal match, as he secretly works against the Reich. Yet Lieselotte never imagined how far her father would go to ensure her cooperation.

Both Hannah’s and Lieselotte’s stories unfold as Hannah travels to Germany to meet her grandfather, who is hiding wartimes secrets of his own. Longing for connection, yet shaken by all she uncovers, Hannah must decide if she can atone for her family’s tragic past and how their legacy will shape her future.

While this list appears long, I hope you find an author who you might not have read before. Maybe even a story that you haven't heard. I really enjoy learning about history when it is in story format.

Have you read any of these authors? What historical stories resonant with you? Why?