Sunday, January 31, 2021

Reviewer's Bookshelf: Colors of Truth by Tamera Alexander


Book Summary (Amazon): In a town battered and bruised by war, one woman embarks upon an impossible search--and one man must face the past in the very place that almost destroyed him.

Tennessee, 1866. According to the last letter Irish immigrant Catriona O'Toole received from her twin brother, Ryan, he was being dispatched to Franklin, Tennessee, where--as a conscripted Confederate soldier--he likely endured the bloody Battle of Franklin that claimed the lives of thousands. Catriona leaves behind the lush green of their Irish homeland in search of him, with nothing to her name except the sum of cash Ryan sent to their family. Now the sole provider for her seven-year-old spitfire sister, Nora, Catriona hopes to reunite the siblings--the only surviving members of their devastated family.

Wade Cunningham is a former Federal soldier who now works for the newly formed United States Secret Service and is trying to uncover counterfeiting rings in the postwar South. In order to infiltrate their sophisticated enterprise, he must pose as a former Confederate in Franklin--a town where counterfeit greenbacks run rampant. When Wade meets Catriona, he is immediately intrigued by her and the little redheaded scamp in her care--but what he doesn't anticipate is that the cash in Catriona's possession is some of the most convincing counterfeit money he's ever seen. Soon the object of Wade's affection is also the suspect in a major crime--one he's expected to prosecute.

My thoughts.... Another brilliant novel from Tamera Alexander! Her heart for Tennessee and its local history shines through once again. The story of Catriona O'Toole, her family, and Wade Cunningham are intertwined with the real-life stories of the Battle of Franklin and those who lived at Carnton plantation. I love the way that each character, whether fictional or not, fits together perfectly into the story. The attention to detail is another strength in Alexander's writing. As she described the sight of the fields of poorly buried soldiers who died in battle, it evoked in me the same feelings the characters had. I visited Carnton a few years ago and I can imagine that area along with several other scenes in the story as the author brought history to life. Even Catriona's sister, Nora, brought out feelings of frustration in me as I read about her antics as well as how Catriona responded to her. While that could be a turn-off for some, it truly is a testament to the writer's abilities to bring out those emotions in the reader. As a reader, I'm always looking for the build up of tension, especially romantic tension. I enjoy history, but I want the love story! This book has those encounters between the hero and heroine that I was hoping for without being graphic (clean romance). This book would also be categorized as Christian fiction, so there are also clear representations of the Christian faith throughout the story. I'm looking forward to Tamera Alexander's next novel!

*I received a complimentary copy of this novel from NetGalley in order to give an honest review, which I did.**

Monday, January 18, 2021

Reviewer's Bookshelf: "Faith's Mountain Home" by Misty M. Beller


Book Summary (Amazon): Nate Long has always watched over his identical twin brother, Aaron, even when it put him on the wrong side of the law. When Aaron is wounded in a shootout, the brothers are taken to Settler's Fort to recover. As Nate works to make reparations for their past, he marvels at the nursing Aaron receives under the care of a woman with all the reason in the world to resent him.

Laura Hannon knows what it is to start over, and she knows Nate's newfound faith is real. What she can't look past is how far he allowed himself to be led astray by his brother's weaknesses.

As a fledgling trust grows between Nate and Laura, they stumble upon a mysterious cave in the mountains that may not be as uninhabited as it seems. While working together to unravel the secrets surrounding the cave, will the new lives they seek for themselves include love, or does too much stand between them?

My thoughts..."Faith's Mountain Home" is the third book in this series by Misty M. Beller, but each could be read as a stand-alone novel. This novel didn't have quite the same level of tension that I enjoyed in the first book in the series. There was a friends to romance trope, made more interesting by the fact that the leading man, Nate, played a part in the heroine, Laura's, kidnapping in a previous book in the series. By the time you get to this book, though, any point of contention between them really isn't there. It's a sweet story of the two of them helping each other through various trials, and Nate's perseverance in making amends for his past wrongs and becoming a man of honor. The cave they discover was interesting at the beginning of the novel, but became more commonplace as the story continued. There was a bit of action and some nice romantic moments (clean) added in, which were good but didn't have quite the build up that made them elicit all the feels that the first book did for me. Overall, a pleasant Christian fiction read.

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

Sunday, January 10, 2021

Reviewer's Bookshelf: "A Cowboy For Keeps" by Jody Hedlund


Book Summary (Amazon): Greta Nilsson's trip west to save her ailing little sister, Astrid, could not have gone more wrong. First, bandits hold up her stagecoach, stealing all her money. Then, upon arriving in Fairplay, Colorado, she learns the man she was betrothed to as a mail-order bride has died. Homeless, penniless, and jobless, Greta and her sister are worse off than when they started.

Wyatt McQuaid is struggling to get his new ranch up and running and is in town to purchase cattle when the mayor proposes the most unlikely of bargains. He'll invest in a herd of cattle for Wyatt's ranch if Wyatt agrees to help the town become more respectable by marrying and starting a family. And the mayor, who has promised to try to help Greta, has just the candidate in mind for Wyatt to marry.

My thoughts...I was SUPER excited to see that Jody Hedlund was writing a western novel. I love the rugged setting and the resilient characters, who face so many hardships but keep pressing on. Greta and Wyatt both show these traits in different ways. Greta will do practically anything to help her sister, Astrid, to find relief from consumption. At times, her stubbornness on this issue can be a little off-putting, but it does contribute to the plot and tension in the story. Astrid is a bit spoiled due to her illness (which sometimes annoyed me as well), but she also had some heartfelt moments that I enjoyed. Wyatt is a handsome rancher who agrees to step in as Greta's mail order husband when the other man is assumed dead, but he isn't doing it completely out of the goodness of his heart. This aspect of the story also adds to the plot. Each time I post a review of a Jody Hedlund book, I always mention the romantic tension...because she is the queen of clean romance! She has a way of directing the characters to some fantastic moments that really drive the story. 

Overall, I enjoyed the book and would like to read the next book or books in the series. What I hope to see is some pre-epilogue resolution of all of that tension : ). I'm totally good with a fade to black...but please don't leave me hanging, Jody! :D 

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

Monday, January 4, 2021

Reviewer's Bookshelf: "Tidewater Bride" by Laura Frantz


Book Summary (Amazon): Selah Hopewell seems to be the only woman in the Virginia colony who has no wish to wed. True, there are too many men and far too few women in James Towne. But Selah already has her hands full assisting her father in the family's shop. And now she is in charge of an incoming ship of tobacco brides who must be looked after as they sort through their many suitors.

Xander Renick is perhaps the most eligible tobacco lord in the settlement. His lands are vast, his crops are prized, and his position as a mediator between the colonists and the powerful Powhatan nation surrounding them makes him indispensable. But Xander is already wedded to his business and still grieves the loss of his wife, daughter of the Powhatan chief.

Can two fiercely independent people find happiness and fulfillment on their own? Or will they discover that what they've been missing in life has been right in front of them all along?

My thoughts...Two independent people making their way in a wild, untamed land. They've survived near starvation, Indian raids and attacks, and demonstrated the fierce determination it takes to thrive. Laura Frantz weaves a vivid tale of these two, Selah and Xander, and the way their lives, and the lives of their families, intertwine in seventeenth century Virginia. I don't really know how Laura Frantz does it, but when you read one of her books it's like you've stepped right into the pages, listening to the sounds of life in whatever time period she chooses to take you. Not only will you hear the sounds, but you'll smell, touch, and taste all that she's a feast for the senses. The historical accuracy is also unlike any other author I've read. Then set in the middle of all of that goodness is a compelling story with tension, both physical and emotional. Survival always hangs in the balance, whether it be the success of Xander's tobacco crop, Seleh's father's trading company, good relationships with neighboring Indian tribes, or any number of things. The tension builds as Selah and Xander's relationship shifts, and various plot twists occur. 

    This is one of my new favorite books by Frantz. When I think back on the journey I took through this novel, all I can think about is how much I enjoyed it (and couldn't go to sleep one night because I HAD to finish). I highly recommend "Tidewater Bride."

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