Saturday, June 29, 2019

Reviewer's Bookshelf: "A Reluctant Bride" by Jody Hedlund

Book Summary (Amazon): Living in London's poorest slum, Mercy Wilkins has little hope of a better life. When she's offered an opportunity to join a bride ship sailing to British Columbia, she agrees. After witnessing so much painful heartache and loss in the slums, the bride ship is her only prospect to escape a bleak future, not only for herself but, she hopes, someday for her sister.

Wealthy and titled Joseph Colville leaves home and takes to the sea in order to escape the pain of losing his family. As ship's surgeon, he's in charge of the passengers' welfare aboard the Tynemouth, including sixty brides-to-be. He has no immediate intention of settling down, but when Mercy becomes his assistant, the two must fight against a forbidden love. 

With hundreds of single men congregating on the shore eager to claim a bride from the Tynemouth, will Mercy and Joseph lose their chance at true love, or will they be able to overcome the obstacles that threaten to keep them apart?

My thoughts...A Reluctant Bride is the first book in a new historical series by Jody Hedlund. As a loyal fan of Jody's books, I was really excited for this new perspective on a type of mail order bride story. The romantic aspect of this genre is usually my favorite part, and Hedlund is able to write those moments of romantic tension like no other! The building up of anticipation between the hero and heroine are fantastic! There is so much more to this story, though, than romance. The historical detail, the sights, sounds, and smells that Mercy, Joseph and the other passengers encountered on the ship, made the story come to life. This story is also parallel to true events, so imagining what these poor women went through that led up to the decision of being promised to strangers in a wild land, then all that they experienced on the long ship voyage, really tugged at my heart strings. They endured so much hardship. These women were extremely vulnerable physically but many of them also didn't have a formal education, which was displayed in Mercy's character. Despite her lack of schooling, she showed a determination to learn, support herself, and independently make her way in her new homeland. I really loved Mercy's fighting spirit! And what would a good story be without a hero who champions the cause of those in need?! Joseph is conflicted throughout the novel between his feelings and obligations. His character development was also a satisfying part of the story. 

If you like historical Christian fiction, you'll certainly enjoy this new series!

**I received a complimentary copy of this novel from the publisher via NetGalley in order to share my honest opinions, which I did.**

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Reviewer's Bookshelf: "The King's Mercy" by Lori Benton

Book Summary (Goodreads)...When captured rebel Scotsman Alex MacKinnon is granted the king's mercy--exile to the Colony of North Carolina--he's indentured to Englishman Edmund Carey as a blacksmith. Against his will Alex is drawn into the struggles of Carey's slaves--and those of his stepdaughter, Joanna Carey. A mistress with a servant's heart, Joanna is expected to wed her father's overseer, Phineas Reeves, but finds herself drawn instead to the new blacksmith. As their unlikely relationship deepens, successive tragedies strike the Careys. When blame falls unfairly upon Alex he flees to the distant mountains where he encounters Reverend Pauling, itinerate preacher and friend of the Careys, now a prisoner of the Cherokees. Haunted by his abandoning of Joanna, Alex tries to settle into life with the Cherokees, until circumstances thwart yet another attempt to forge his freedom and he's faced with the choice that's long hounded him: continue down his rebellious path or embrace the faith of a man like Pauling, whose freedom in Christ no man can steal. But the price of such mercy is total surrender, and perhaps Alex's very life.

My thoughts... Every book I've read by Lori Benton is like an epic journey into a time and place in history that hits on all points of the 5 senses. You are literally able to see, hear, touch, smell and taste what the characters do. Granted, these characters are fictional, but their story is written in such a detailed manner, and reflect the lives of those who really did live in that time period, that it has the feel of reading a true account. That's the appeal of her books, in my opinion. While she doesn't go into all of the details of the evil that was done to some of the characters, I physically felt the rise and fall in the tension as my heart sped up along with the angst that the author, I'm sure, wanted her readers to feel. Lori Benton also knows how to write some great romantic tension. And thank you for a Scotsman as a hero...they rarely disappoint ; ). 
The book is also cleverly titled, as "the king's mercy" is the way a person given his or her life by mercy of the king of England. Although Alex MacKinnon initially doesn't see his path to an indenture at Severn Plantation an act of mercy. At every turn, Alex is being mistreated and betrayed. His one bright spot there is Joanna Carey, but she struggles with the hold that Severn has on her as well. The story takes many twists and turns, several of which were unexpected. I really enjoyed those surprise twists, although they addressed the heartache of what many slaves, Native Americans, indentures, and others faced during that time. As the story went on, Alex saw the work of God, and His mercy, on his life. I would certainly recommend this novel if you're a fan of historical Christian fiction. While it is long (400 pages), it is worth the time!

**I received a free copy of this novel from the publisher via NetGalley, in order to give an honest review. All opinions are my own.**

Friday, June 7, 2019

Reviewer's Bookshelf: "More Than Words Can Say" by Karen Witemeyer

Book Summary (Goodreads)...After fulfilling a pledge to a dying friend, Zacharias Hamilton is finally free. No family entanglements. No disappointing those around him. Just the quiet bachelor existence he's always craved. Until fate snatches his freedom away when the baker of his favorite breakfast bun is railroaded by the city council. Despite not wanting to get involved, he can't turn a blind eye to her predicament . . . or her adorable dimples.

Abigail Kemp needs a man's name on her bakery's deed. A marriage of convenience seems the best solution . . . if it involves a man she can control. That person definitely isn't the stoic lumberman who oozes silent confidence whenever he enters her shop. Control Zacharias Hamilton? She can't even control her pulse when she's around him.
When vows are spoken, Abigail's troubles should be over. Yet threats to the bakery worsen, and darker dangers hound her sister. Can she put ever more trust in Zach without losing her dreams of independence?

My thoughts...This book is the second in a series, but could be read as a stand alone novel. Reading the first book, "More Than Meets the Eye," will, however, provide some good background for Zach's character and honestly is a great read so...bonus! I've been a Karen Witemeyer fan for a LONG time, and one reason is that every book feels like a new, sweet surprise. I love the dialogue she creates between the characters, the way she weaves in a faith aspect without it feeling forced, and romantic tension that's real! In this book, there's obviously going to be some tension if two people, who are basically strangers, get married and start living together in the same house. I'm glad the author didn't skirt around that but addressed it throughout the novel...which led to some fun scenes between the two main characters. Loved it! 
     I also loved the hero, Zacharias. The protector in him, even though he initially resisted a commitment to Abigail, won out. He wasn't afraid to stand up to those who mistreated her and stepped into his role in the story quite well. Abigail was a very likable character. Sweet, kind hearted, and "curvy" were some of the words I would use to describe her. I liked the connection she had with Zach in the story. My only wish for curvy girls in all the novels I read is for there to occasionally be one that is proud and confident in her curviness and not always feeling self conscious because of it. In real life, many girls who are not slim feel like they're not attractive enough to have a handsome guy like them (like Abigail did). I would love to see a heroine who may not fit the mold with her body type and have confidence that goes through the roof ; ). Personal preferences aside, I still loved this story and couldn't put it down. I would certainly recommend it!
     Karen Witemeyer was so gracious to be my very first author spotlight....way back in 2012! It's hard to believe it's been that long ago. In the interview I asked Karen what one of her favorite recipes was. Click here to find out! : )

**I received a free copy of this book from the publisher, via NetGalley, in order to give an honest review, which I did.**

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Reviewer's Bookshelf: "The Noble Guardian" by Michelle Griep

Book Summary (Amazon): The must-read conclusion to Michelle Griep’s Bow Street Runners Trilogy: Life couldn’t be better for Abigail Gilbert—but it’s been a long time in coming. Having lived with a family who hated her, it’s finally her time for love. Abby sets off on a journey across England to marry one of the most prestigious gentlemen in the land—until highwaymen upset her plans and threaten her life.

Horse patrol captain Samuel Thatcher arrives just in time to save Abby. But she’s simply another victim in a job he’s come to despise. Tired of the dark side of humanity, he intends to buy land and retire.

Abby pleads with him to escort her for the rest of her journey. He refuses—until she offers him something he desperately needs to achieve his goal. . .money. Delivering her safely will give him more than enough to buy property.

So begins an impossible trek for the cynical lawman and the proper lady. Each will be indelibly changed by the time they reach her betrothed, if they don’t kill one another first—or fall in love.

My thoughts... I have only read the first, and now the last, books in the Bow Street Runners Trilogy, but you don't have to read all three to follow the story in this book. I would, however, recommend them! I really love Michelle Griep's style of writing. It has a little extra edge to it than your traditional Christian fiction, which I really enjoy. When I say "edge", I mean that there was more in-depth descriptive language when it came to the danger and suspense aspect of the plot, along with the romantic aspect. This created so many more detailed pictures in my mind and made me have all the feelings that the author wanted me to have: excitement, fear, suspense, angst, romance, attraction, etc. You're also still getting the internal wrestling of the characters with their spiritual path. 
     Abby and Samuel's characters have a great balance. Both have had a harsh childhood and are deeply affected by it. Both have dealt with their past in different ways. Abby is determined to escape by marrying someone she barely knows, Samuel, who has been hardened by years of pursuing dangerous criminals, wants to live the rest of his days as a farmer...alone. It isn't until they meet that both of them start to envision a different kind of future than they planned on. I liked how their characters played off of each other, but my personal favorite was Samuel. Give me a strong, tough, vulnerable hero and I'm done. 
     I would highly recommend this book. I loved the plot twists, characters, romantic tension, steady plot, and descriptive language. I would also recommend to read all the books in this series, starting with Brentwood's Ward

**I received a free copy of this book from the publisher, via NetGalley, in order to give an honest review, which I did.**