Monday, June 12, 2017

Reviewer's Bookshelf: High as the Heavens by Kate Breslin

Book Summary (Goodreads): In 1917, Evelyn Marche is just one of many women who has been widowed by the war. A British nurse trapped in German-occupied Brussels, she spends her days working at a hospital and her nights as a waitress in her aunt and uncle's café. Eve also has a carefully guarded secret keeping her in constant danger: She's a spy working for a Belgian resistance group in league with the British Secret Service.

When a British plane crashes in Brussels Park, Eve is the first to reach the downed plane and is shocked to discover she recognizes the badly injured pilot. British RFC Captain Simon Forrester is now a prisoner of war, and Eve knows he could be shot as a spy at any time. She risks her own life to hide him from the Germans, but as the danger mounts and the secrets between them grow, their chance of survival looks grim. And even if they do make it out alive, the truth of what lies between them may be more than any love can overcome.

My thoughts...
Kate Breslin's books are packed with non-stop intensity from beginning to end. I have thoroughly enjoyed her previous two books and could hardly put them down. High as the Heavens was equally intense as the story of Evelyn Marche comes to life.

Breslin has found a sweet spot in writing books that take place during times of war. She is able to capture the sights, sounds, sacrifices, heartaches...and even the hope...that her characters experience during these difficult times in history. Even though these characters are fictional, the atmosphere could very much be true to life. I found myself physically tensing up as I was reading, I was so immersed in the dangers that Evelyn and Simon were facing. There was never a dull moment as the plot moves steadily on. There was a suspense element to the story as well, as Evelyn and the spy network she is part of try to uncover a traitor. The romantic tension increases as Eve interacts with Simon, who she knows from her past. As a Christian fiction novel, there was a spiritual element as well. It didn't seem like an afterthought or a forced part of the story, which I appreciated. For me, all the elements of a great read! If you enjoy this genre, I would definitely recommend this book.

**I received a free copy of this book from the publisher, via NetGalley, in order to share my thoughts and opinons, which I did.**

Friday, June 9, 2017

Reviewer's Bookshelf: With You Always by Jody Hedlund

Book Summary (Amazon): When a financial crisis in 1850s New York leaves three orphaned sisters nearly destitute, the oldest, Elise Neumann, knows she must take action. She's had experience as a seamstress, and the New York Children's Aid Society has established a special service: placing out seamstresses and trade girls. Even though Elise doesn't want to leave her sisters for a job in Illinois, she realizes this may be their last chance.

The son of one of New York City's wealthiest entrepreneurs, Thornton Quincy faces a dilemma. His father is dying, and in order to decide which of his sons will inherit everything, he is requiring them to do two things in six months: build a sustainable town along the Illinois Central Railroad, and get married. Thornton is tired of standing in his twin brother's shadow and is determined to win his father's challenge. He doesn't plan on meeting a feisty young woman on his way west, though.

My thoughts...
Before you read With You Always, I would highly recommend reading the novella An Awakened Heart, which is the prequel to this novel. This novella tells the story of other characters, but it also gives some important backstory of Elise and her family. It also paints a realistic picture of the suffering and hardships of 1850s New York.

I am a big fan of Jody Hedlund, and once reason is because she can write romantic tension like no one else! While With You Always did have some romantic tension,  it had a different tone than many of her other historic novels. The plight of those trying to survive a very difficult time in history, the contrast between the wealthy and the poor, and the sacrifices families had to make in order to survive were the central themes of this novel. My heart was wrenched as Elise had to make hard choices, faced starvation, and fought to provide for the family she had to leave behind. Thorton came from a wealthy family but he was a man of character who wanted to provide jobs and a safe place for those working for him. As he and Elise cross paths and interact with each other, a relationship blossoms. I would characterize this as stronger in the historical aspect than the romantic aspect, but the plot was interesting, it evoked a wide range of emotions, and is a series I would be interested in reading more of.

**I was given a free copy of this book from the publisher, via NetGalley, to share my personal opinions, which I did.**

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Reviewer's Bookshelf: Heart on the Line by Karen Witemeyer

Book summary (Amazon): Grace Mallory is tired of running, of hiding. But when an old friend sends an after-hours telegraph transmission warning Grace that the man who has hunted her for nearly a year has discovered her location, she fears she has no choice. She can't let the villain she believes responsible for her father's death release his wrath in Harper's Station, the town that has sheltered her and blessed her with the dearest friends she's ever known.

Amos Bledsoe prefers bicycles to horses and private conversations over the telegraph wire to social gatherings with young ladies who see him as nothing more than an oddity. His telegraph companion, the mysterious Miss G, listens eagerly to his ramblings every night and delights him with tales all her own. For months, their friendship--dare he believe, courtship?--has fed his hope that he has finally found the woman God intended for him. Yet when he takes the next step to meet her in person, he discovers her life is in peril, and Amos must decide if he can shed the cocoon of his quiet nature to become the hero Grace requires.

My thoughts...I have yet to read a Karen Witemeyer book that I didn't enjoy. Heart on the Line is the second book in this series, but could also be read as a stand alone. This story includes some of the characters that I really enjoyed in the first book, but also introduces the characters of Grace and Amos.

I've read a lot of books in a western setting, and often you find some of the same plot lines. This story had the western aspects I love, but with refreshing twists and characters that were believable. I loved Grace's level-headedness even though she was forced into a dangerous situation. She wasn't a heroine that fell for any handsome face or what anyone told her, but followed her heart (and mind) in everything she did. Amos is not your typical hero, but is so likeable and has a big heart, especially for Grace. Both characters take physical and emotional risks throughout the plot that developed their character and the story. There was a spiritual connection between the characters as well, which was well integrated and didn't feel forced.

Smart, interesting characters, a lot of heart, and a western setting are just a few of the things you'll get in this new Karen Witemeyer book. Even the side plot was entertaining and held my attention. I would definitely recommend this book to readers who enjoy this genre. You really can't go wrong with Karen Witemeyer!

**I was given a free copy of this book from the publisher, via Netgalley, to share my honest opinions, which I did. **