Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Egypt's Sister


Egypt's Sister:
A Novel of Cleopatra

The Silent Years
Angela Hunt
(Bethany House Publishers)
ISBN: 9780764219320
July 2017/384 pages/$15.99

You Don't Know Her Name. The World Remembers Only Her Greatest Friend: Cleopatra.

Raised together in the Alexandrian palace, Chava, the Hebrew daughter of the royal tutor, and Urbi, an Egyptian princess, become as close as sisters--and rivals with their dreams of greatness. When Urbi unexpectedly ascends the throne as Queen Cleopatra, Chava believes their bond is strong enough to survive. But absolute power has a way of changing everything.

The ultimate betrayal rips Chava from everything she's ever known and sends her to the lowest rung of Roman society where she must choose between love and honor, between her own desires and God's will for her life, if she hopes to rise again.


Read an excerpt.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

The author of more than 100 published books and with nearly 5 million copies of her books sold worldwide, Angela Hunt is the New York Times bestselling author of The Note, The Nativity Story, and Esther: Royal Beauty. Romantic Times Book Club presented Angela with a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2006. In 2008, Angela completed her PhD in Biblical Studies in Theology. She and her husband live in Florida with their mastiffs. She can be found online at www.angelahuntbooks.com.


MY THOUGHTS

I'm not a fan of ancient history settings and stories, but anything by Angela Hunt is a must-read for me. True to form, she swept me into the story and held my attention throughout the novel. Hunt seamlessly intertwines fact and fiction in this captivating tale of friendship, power, and faith. Her impeccable research add depth and rich historical detail without dragging the story down or making it read like a textbook. Set in the intertestamental period, also known as the Silent Years, the time between the Old and New Testaments when God did not speak to his people through prophets, Egypt's Sister is a reminder that God is always present even when He is silent. I completely loved this novel and couldn't set it aside until the last page was turned. Don't miss this fascinating story!


Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a copy of this book free from Baker/Bethany House for a blog tour. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


Q&A WITH ANGELA HUNT

1. Why did you decide to write about Cleopatra, of all people? She’s not exactly a biblical character.

I chose to write about Cleopatra—and in the first book, no less—because people are familiar with her history. She lived and reigned thirty years before the birth of Christ, so I knew she’d be a good introduction to this period. Plus, she’s fascinating.

2. Few Christian novelists have written about the intertestamental period. What drew you to that era?

I would always rather do something new, because I love learning new things myself. I had never read any Christian novels set in this period, and I knew very little about the time, so I knew it’d be a challenge. I love challenges.

3. What, if anything, did you learn about Egypt and Rome that surprised you?

I learned lots of surprising things. First, I learned that Cleopatra and her royal forebears weren’t Egyptian—they were Macedonian Greeks, descended from Alexander the Great. They lived in Alexandria and spoke, dressed, and behaved according to Greek traditions and customs, not Egyptian. Second, I was surprised by the many similarities between our government and the Roman system.

4. Chava, your heroine, hears the voice of God speaking to her in her youth. Did you write from experience? Has something similar ever happened to you?

Yes. Though I did not hear God speak audibly, I felt Him speak to me as a teenager, and He gave me a promise that was fulfilled, even though at the time everything seemed against that possibility. So when the same thing happened to Chava, I was writing from experience.

5. What parallels do you see between the ancient Romans and contemporary American society?

The more secular the United States becomes, the more like the Romans we become. The chief difference between our two systems is that America was founded by Christian people who sought religious freedom. The Romans celebrated religious freedom, too, but they were pagans, with a god for everything. Our system of morality is based upon Judeo-Christian principles, but the Romans had no such foundation. The more we abandon our foundational principles, the more like the Romans we become.

6. What’s up next for The Silent Years series?

The next book in the series, Judah’s Wife, goes back to the time of the Maccabees when Judea and the Jews were living under the heavy hand of the Seleucids and all the world had gone over to Greek thinking, speaking, and living. Just as many Christians find it challenging to live in an increasingly secular world, so the Jews found it difficult to live as religious Jews under the heavy Hellenistic influence.

Many thanks to Angela Hunt and Bethany house Publishers for providing this Q&A!


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Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Heart on the Line


Heart on the Line
Ladies of Harper's Station #2
Karen Witmeyer
(Bethany House Publishers)
ISBN: 9780764212826
June 2017/336 pages/$15.99

When Danger Arrives, It's More Than Just Her Heart on the Line

Grace Mallory is tired of hiding. She hungers for a normal life, perhaps even a suitor like two of her friends in Harper's Station have found. But when the man she believes responsible for her father's death discovers her whereabouts, survival takes priority.

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 fellow telegrapher, the mysterious Miss G, has been the ideal companion. For months, their friendship--dare he believe, courtship?--over the wire has fed his hope that he has finally found the woman God intends for him. However, when he intercepts an ominous message and discovers her life is in peril, Amos must shed the cocoon of his quiet nature to become the hero Grace requires.


Read an excerpt.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Winner of the HOLT Medallion and the Carol Award and a finalist for the RITA and Christy Award, bestselling author Karen Witemeyer writes historical romance to give the world more happily-ever-afters. Karen makes her home in Texas, with her husband and three children. Learn more about Karen and her books at www.karenwitemeyer.com.




MY THOUGHTS

Karen Witemeyer is one of my favorite authors, and not just because she's here in the Lone Star State! Heart on the Line is an absolute delight and among my favorites of hers. What a great premise: two telegraph operators who become friends through dashes and dots, the precursor to today's internet romances! And I love that the hero isn't a swashbuckling hero but a more diminutive - dare I say nerdy? - fellow who prefers brains over brawn. Add in the setting of the "No Men Allowed" Harper's Station (well, except for the Sheriff) plus encroaching danger, and the result is an engaging story that is impossible to set aside! Witemeyer weaves amusing moments among the tense, and I alternately chuckled and held my breath. Don't miss Heart on the Line, and grab the first book, No Other Will Do while you're at it!


Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a copy of this book free from Baker/Bethany House for a blog tour. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”



Q&A WITH KAREN WITEMEYER

1. Amos Bledsoe is not your usual Western hero, preferring bicycles to horses and depending on brains rather than brawn to win the day. What inspired you to create such a quirky, atypical hero?

I love rugged, alpha-male heroes, but they tend to dominate the romance genre. I wanted to switch things up a bit and remind readers that sweet, caring guys can be swoon-worthy too. Maybe it ties in to the fact that my own hero in real life is a bike-riding computer nerd. His passionate love for me and our family, his devotion to God, his kind demeanor, and his dry sense of humor make him my ideal man. So when I started crafting Amos, I followed the same pattern. As a telegraph operator, Amos is a nineteenth-century technology nerd. He’s smart, kind, funny, and sacrifices himself for those he loves without regret. A true hero in every sense of the word.

2. In Heart on the Line, Grace and Amos strike up a friendship over the telegraph line that turns romantic, a situation eerily reflective of today’s online dating culture. Was it your intention to parrot the modern world in your historical story?

No. When I started crafting Grace and Amos’s story, I just wanted to tell a fun historical romance appropriate for the late 1800s. Yet as I wrote, I recognized the similarities to online dating in our contemporary world. It reminded me of the movie You’ve Got Mail, where two rivals secretly fall in love via email. Or the older movie version, The Shop Around the Corner, where Jimmy Stewart unknowing courts a female coworker through heartfelt letters. The same questions arise in this 1890s telegraph scenario. Can Amos trust that Grace is the sweet young woman she hinted at being, or is she a middle-aged harridan with five kids having a laugh at the naïve telegrapher’s expense? Is he the gentleman he seems, or is he a malicious stalker? Then there’s the awkward first face-to-face meeting. It opens space for humor, for misunderstandings, and best of all, it creates room for true love to cut through the superficial level of physical attraction to the hearts of the people involved.

3. What inspired this story of telegraph love?

The inspiration for Heart on the Line came way back in 2011 when I was doing research on telegraph communication for another book. I stumbled upon a novel written in 1879 by female telegraph operator Ella Cheever Thayer, called Wired Love.

Apparently many operators were women in the late nineteenth century, and they were often identified as such by the delicacy of their “sounding” on the wires. The hero in Miss Thayer’s novel, Clem Stanwood, knows right away that the operator at the “B m” station is female.

Nattie Rogers is intrigued by the mysterious “C” at the “X n” station and seeks out conversations that soon turn flirtatious. These two telegraph operators fall in love over the wire without ever laying eyes on one another.

There is one scene about halfway through the book that served as my inspiration for Heart on the Line. A case of mistaken identity has scared Nattie off, but Mr. Stanwood arranges a visit to her boardinghouse, and while sitting amongst others in the parlor, he begins tapping out code with his pencil against a marble tabletop. Nattie recognizes her call name, takes up a pair of scissors, and drums out her answer. They carry on an entire conversation this way with no one else in the parlor suspecting their actions are anything more than idle tapping. Until, that is, Mr. Stanwood reveals himself to be the real “C.”

Nattie jumps to her feet and exclaims aloud, “What do you mean? It cannot be possible!” Hysterical!

Of course, everyone else in the room thinks she’s lost her mind, except the hero, who crosses the room to take her hand. Aww…

In Heart on the Line, I had a great deal of fun creating situations where my two telegraph operators communicated through coded tapping without anyone else being able to understand the significance of their private conversations. It just goes to show that you never know when a random research trail will lead to the perfect plot for a new book.

4. Will we see more stories about the ladies of Harper’s Station in the future?

Yes, there will be one more story to finish off this series. The final installment will be a novella that features the young Irishwoman Claire Nevin, who came to Harper’s Station as a runaway mail-order bride. Claire has been apprenticing with the local midwife and learning the healing arts, which allows her to play a significant role in the secondary plotline for Heart on the Line. However, it’s not until her past thrusts itself back into her life in The Love Knot that she finds emotional healing for the broken heart that has plagued her for too long. Claire’s story will appear in the collection entitled Hearts Entwined coming in January.


Many thanks to Karen Witemeyer and Bethany House Publishers for providing this Q&A!




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Monday, July 3, 2017

On Love's Gentle Shore


On Love's Gentle Shore
Prince Edward Island Dreams
Liz Johnson
(Revell)
ISBN: 978-0800724511
July 2017/336 pages/$15.99

Natalie O'Ryan had no plans to return to Prince Edward Island. But when her fiancé books their wedding in her hometown and schedules a summer at Rose's Red Door Inn, she sets out to plan the perfect wedding. Yet she can't possibly plan for a run-in with Justin Kane--the best friend she left behind all those years ago after promising to stay.

Justin has never forgotten Natalie. He'd been prepared to follow her off the island until tragedy struck, leaving him to run the family dairy farm. He's done the best he can with the life that was thrust upon him--but with Natalie back in the picture, he begins to realize just how much joy he's been missing.

After Natalie's reception venue falls through, she must scramble to find an alternative, and the only option seems to be a barn on Justin's property. As they work together to get the dilapidated building ready for the party, Natalie and Justin may discover that there is more between them than broken promises and an old friendship.


Read an excerpt.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Liz Johnson fell in love with Prince Edward Island the first time she set foot on it. When she's not plotting her next trip to the island, she works as director of marketing for a Christian radio network. She is the author of several novels including The Red Door Inn and Where Two Hearts Meet, a New York Times bestselling novella, and a handful of short stories. She makes her home in Tucson, Arizona.


MY THOUGHTS

Liz Johnson brings her Prince Edward Island Dreams series to a satisfying conclusion with this final novel, although I hate saying goodbye to this delightul community! I've been enchanted by Prince Edward Island since reading Anne of Green Gables as a child, and Johnson has only increased my desire to visit this charming province. Don't let the fact that it is the end of a series dissuade you from reading this On Love's Gentle Shore. It stands alone, although you don't want to miss the first two books! Once again, I was mesmerized by the setting, the characters, and the story, and I was loath to set the book aside until I had read the final page. Add this book and series to your summer reading list!


Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Baker/Revell Publishing. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”



PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND DREAMS
Click each cover for my review!




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Sunday, July 2, 2017

Freedom's Price


Freedom's Price
Keys of Promise #3
Christine Johnson
(Revell)
ISBN: 978-0800723521
June 2017/336 pages/$14.99

Sometimes the hardest step to take is the first step forward

When Englishwoman Catherine Haynes loses both her father 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.

When Catherine arrives at the plantation, she finds that her family has left it in the care of a manager--who's let it fall into disrepair. Torn between returning to Key West with Tom and 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: grip their dreams ever tighter or step forward in faith--even if it costs them everything.


Read an excerpt.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Christine Johnson is the author of Love's Rescue and Honor Redeemed, as well as several books for Steeple Hill and Love Inspired. She was twice named a finalist for Romance Writers of America's Golden Heart Award. When not writing, she loves to hike and explore God's majestic creation. These days, she and her husband, a Great Lakes ship pilot, split their time between northern Michigan and the Florida Keys.


MY THOUGHTS

Prepare for adventure on land and at sea when you open the pages of this book! Christine Johnson swept me away with her vivid setting and characters. I was captivated by this story, particularly by Catherine's courage, perseverance, and spunk. Packed with danger, intrigue, and romance Freedom's Price is the perfect beach read with the sound of waves as the backdrop. Don't miss this can't-put-down novel!


Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a copy of this book free from Baker/Revell Publishing. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”




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Saturday, July 1, 2017

ACFW New Releases - July 2017

More in-depth descriptions of these books can be found on the ACFW Fiction Finder website.

Contemporary Romance:


On Love's Gentle Shore by Liz Johnson -- When Natalie O’Ryan’s fiancé books their wedding in her hometown, Natalie didn’t know the only reception venue available would be an old barn belonging to Justin Kane--the best friend she left behind all those years ago after promising to stay. As they work together to get the dilapidated building ready for the party, Natalie and Justin discover the groundwork for forgiveness--and that there may be more than an old friendship between them. (Contemporary Romance from Revell - A Division of Baker Publishing Group)


Their Ranch Reunion by Mindy Obenhaus -- Single mom Carly Wagner is surprised to learn she'll have to share ownership of the home she's inherited with her first love—and first heartbreak—Andrew Stephens. The man who fled their tiny Western town is back and standing in the way of her dreams to expand her B and B. Now a successful businessman, Andrew has eight weeks to buy Carly out. But Carly's too stubborn to persuade—and too beautiful to ignore. When fire ravages her inn and she and her daughter move in to their shared property, Andrew's in over his head. Time is running out and Andrew must decide: leave and chase another deal...or stay and chase Carly's heart. (Contemporary Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])


Time and Tide by Kristen Terrette -- Recovering from addiction and a near death experience, Chad moves to Moanna Island, a small island close to Savannah off the Atlantic coast, to begin a job with his family’s real estate empire, a job he was supposed to have taken years ago. Free-spirited Ryan Mason is a Moanna local girl from a blue-collar family. She’s dropped her own dreams to help her father care for her schizophrenic brother. When Chad and Ryan meet at the rehabilitation center where her brother lives, feelings develop between them. Can their crazy worlds ever fit together once he learns her secret and she finds out he is the sole heir to the Cusher Empire? (Contemporary from Hartwood Publishing Group)


Just Look Up by Courtney Walsh -- When a workaholic interior designer returns to her hometown to check on her brother’s welfare, she reconnects with a soldier, secretly in love with her, over a renovation project that will help the struggling town. (Contemporary Romance from Tyndale House)

Cozy Mystery:


A Tempting Taste of Mystery by Elizabeth Ludwig -- Judging a pie contest leads Cheryl Cooper and friends into mayhem and mystery after someone begins methodically sabotaging the entries. (Cozy Mystery from Guideposts Publications)


Over Maya Dead Body by Sandra Orchard -- FBI Special Agent Serena Jones arrives on Martha's Vineyard with her family, ready for a little bit of R&R and a whole lot of reminiscing as they celebrate the engagement of an old family friend. But crime doesn't take a vacation, and she's soon entangled in an investigation of a suspicious death tied to an antiquities smuggling ring.When her investigation propels her into danger, Serena must stay the course and solve this case before anyone else dies. But just how is she supposed to do that when the two men in her life arrive on the scene, bringing with them plenty of romantic complications--and even a secret or two? (Cozy Mystery from Revell [Baker])


Historical Romance:



The American Conquest (Window to the Heart Sage, Book 3) by Jenna Brandt -- Margaret must leave behind her title and wealth in Europe in order to escape and start a new life in the Colorado Territory. (Historical Romance, Independently Published)


Of Rags and Riches Romance Collection by Susanne Dietze, Michelle Griep, Anne Love, Gabrielle Meyer, Natalie Monk, Jennifer Uhlarik, Erica Vetsch, Jaime Jo Wright, and Kathleen Y'Barbo -- Journey along in nine historical romances with those whose lives are transformed by the opulence, growth, and great changes taking place in America’s Gilded Age. Nine couples meet during these exhilarating times and work to build a future together through fighting for social reform, celebrating new opportunities for leisure activities, taking advantage of economic growth and new inventions, and more. Watch as these romances develop and legacies of faith and love are formed. (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)


A Rebel in My House by Sandra Merville Hart -- Promises can be impossible to keep--especially when a Confederate soldier trapped behind enemy lines looks to a Gettysburg seamstress for help. (Historical Romance from Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas)


A Match for Melissa by Susan Karsten -- Wanting a godly husband, Melissa's only choice is to follow her father's wishes, even when doing so may not achieve the desires of her heart. (Historical Romance from Prism Book Group [Pelican]).


My Heart Belongs on Mackinac Island by Carrie Fancett Pagels -- Moor your heart on Mackinac Island along with resident sweetheart Maude Welling, an heiress trying to prove her worth by working incognito as a maid at the Grand Hotel. Meet Ben Steffans, a journalist posing as a wealthy industrialist who has come to the island to uncover a story about impoverished men pursuing heiresses at the famed hotel. Will a growing love between Maude and Ben be scuttled when truths are revealed in this Gilded Age romance? (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)


Salvation by the Sea by Kristen Reed -- Life has been anything but easy for Muirigan thanks to a series of life-altering calamities, but she's found peace with her new, understated life by the sea. However, the maid's past comes back to haunt her when she saves the shipwrecked Prince Halvard one morning. Failing to recognize one of his dearest childhood friends, the prince invites Muirigan to live at court as a reward for her valiant heroism. As the two reconnect, something deeper than friendship blossoms, but will their newfound affection survive when Muirigan’s lies are revealed and Halvard learns the truth about what has befallen since their tragic separation? (Historical Romance, Independently Published)


Romantic Suspense:


Beneath Copper Falls by Colleen Coble -- As a 911 dispatcher, Dana Newell takes pride in being calm in tough circumstances. In addition to her emotionally-charged career, she’s faced enough emergencies in her own life. She recently escaped her abusive fiancé to move to tranquil Rock Harbor where she hopes life will be more peaceful. But the idyllic town hides more danger and secrets than it first appeared. Dana is continually drawn to her new friend Boone, who has scars inside and out. Then she answers a call at her job only to hear a friend’s desperate screams on the other end. Soon the pain in her past collides with the mysteries of her new home—and threatens to keep her from the future she’s always wanted. (Romantic Suspense from HarperCollins Christian Publishing [Thomas Nelson and Zondervan])


Speculative:


The Genesis Tree by Heather L.L. FitzGerald -- Deception is rampant, the enemy is subtle, and love dares to tug at Sadie’s heart amid the turmoil that forces her and her family back to the Tethered World below. (Speculative/Contemporary Fantasy from Mountain Brook Ink)



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Tuesday, June 13, 2017

With You Always


With You Always
Orphan Train, Book 1
Jody Hedlund
(Bethany House)
ISBN: 978-0764218040
June 2017/368 pages/$15.99

Could Following the Opportunity of a Lifetime Cost Them the Love of Their Lives?

One of the many immigrants struggling to survive in 1850s New York, Elise Neumann knows she must take action to care for her younger sisters. She finds a glimmer of hope when the New York Children's Aid Society starts sending skilled workers to burgeoning towns out west. But the promise of the society's orphan trains is not all that it seems.

Born into elite New York society, Thornton Quincy possesses everything except the ability to step out from his brother's shadow. When their ailing father puts forth a unique challenge to determine who will inherit his railroad-building empire, Thornton finally sees his chance. The conditions to win? Be the first to build a sustainable community along the Illinois Central Railroad and find a suitable wife.

Thrown together against all odds, Elise and Thornton couldn't be from more different worlds. The spark that ignites between them is undeniable, but how can they let it grow when that means forfeiting everything they've been working toward?


Read an excerpt.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jody Hedlund is the author of over a dozen novels, including Love Unexpected, Captured by Love, Unending Devotion, The Preacher's Bride, and A Noble Groom, winner of the 2014 Carol Award for historical romance. She received a bachelor's degree from Taylor University and a master's from the University of Wisconsin, both in social work. She lives in Michigan with her husband and five children. She loves hearing from readers on Facebook and on her blog at jodyhedlund.com.


MY THOUGHTS

It's a happy day when Jody Hedlund releases a new book, especially one that kicks off a great series! With You Always takes the reader on a touching journey to the orphan trains of the nighteenth century and the disparate world of wealth and want. As always, Hedlund's dual gift of historical accuracy and character development make this book impossible to put down. As someone who was not very familiar with the orphan trains, I was simultaneously fascinated and heartbroken at the bleak reality that faced so many of the children and families impacted by the lack of jobs and opportunities. Elise and her family immediately found a place in my heart! Thornton garnered my sympathy as well, as his situation is a reminder that wealth doesn't ensure contentment. Don't miss this endearing story, and be prepared to read it in one sitting, happily ignoring all other responsibilities!


Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a copy of this book free from Jody Hedlund and Bethany House for a blog tour. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


Q&A WITH JODY HEDLUND

1. What’s the inspiration behind your new Orphan Train series?

I have long been fascinated by the era of the orphan trains and the heartrending stories of the helpless young orphans taken from the streets of New York City and other eastern cities and shipped west by the dozens. I was familiar with stories of the scared orphans who were placed out in what was thought to be a more wholesome, healthy environment of the newly settled Midwestern states. Some of the orphans found happy endings and were adopted into loving families, while others experienced abuse and heartache in their new homes.

While stories of the orphans who rode the trains have been told—and rightly so—the stories of the women who were involved in the movement are not as well known. One of the things I particularly like to do when telling my stories is focus on women who have been overlooked by the pages of history. I consider it a great privilege to be able to bring such forgotten women to life for modern-day readers. Throughout this series I’ll be focusing each novel on a different aspect of the Orphan Train Movement, particularly from the perspective of those women who experienced riding the trains in one form or another.

2. An e-novella, An Awakened Heart, kicks off the series. What is the novella about, and is it a must-read in order to understand the series?

An Awakened Heart is not a must-read in order to understand the series. But I do highly recommend reading it. (Plus it’s FREE, so you have nothing to lose by giving it a try!) The e-novella introduces a couple, Guy and Christine, who are both passionate about helping the poor immigrants crowded into the overflowing and dirty tenements of New York City. The novella shows their efforts in bringing about change in the city, also bringing them together in a satisfying love story.

The novella also introduces the three orphan sisters who will each become main characters for the three full-length novels in the series. It gives some of the background information on their situation and how they become orphans, which I think readers will find helpful as well as informative.

3. How did you come up with the idea for the first book in the series, With You Always?

For this first book, I decided to center the story around the placing out of women that happened in 1857 as a result of a financial crisis and economic panic in the autumn of that year. Women laborers were already at a disadvantage with poor working conditions and low wages. In September of 1857, estimates of New York unemployment ran as high as forty percent. Female employment was cut by almost half. With prostitution already a main source of income for many women, the recession drove even more to taking desperate measures, and the number of women in prison rose as a result.

To meet the growing crisis, the Children’s Aid Society in New York, along with organizations in other cities that were already sending children out west, decided to set up special placement offices to find jobs for seamstresses and trade girls in the west. The associations only wanted women of “good character” who were required to provide references. If the women met the qualifications, they were sent on trains to towns throughout the Midwest, particularly central Illinois where the demand for cheap labor was prevalent. They were presented to employers as “helpless females left without the means of support.” Placement of these women continued until
the spring of 1858.

My hope for With You Always was to give readers a glimpse into the disadvantage of women during this era by bringing to life the heroine Elise Neumann and her struggle, first in New York City, and later the continued heartache and challenges that arose for her after leaving family behind so that she might start a new life in Illinois, one with greater opportunity.

4. What special research did you do in writing With You Always?

In the beginning phases, I did a great deal of reading about the Orphan Train Movement. I really loved Stephen O’Connor’s book Orphan Trains, because he includes so many personal stories and details about real orphans, which are heartbreaking.

I also read A History of New York City to 1898 by Burrows and Wallace, which gave me insight into the lives of immigrants, especially the women. Masses of foreigners were arriving into New York on a daily basis, and the book gave a detailed account into their pathetic housing situation, the difficult working conditions, as well as gang problems and the city’s underworld.

Finally, another important aspect of the story that required a concentrated amount of research was the development of railroads. The mid-1800s was an incredible period of growth for the railroad industry in the Midwest. The railroads aided the Orphan Train Movement and brought about the settlement of the Midwestern states.

5. Many of your previous stories are set in Michigan. With You Always takes place in both New York City and Illinois. Why did you change settings?

I could have used Michigan as the Midwestern setting for the novel since the first orphan train traveled to Dowagiac, a small town in southwestern Michigan. However, as I studied railroads and town development, I decided the plains of central Illinois would add much to the story, especially because the Illinois Central Railroad was built between 1851 and 1856, the time period of my story.

With this new railroad that ran the length of Illinois from north to south, investors were looking at building towns along the railroad to attract new settlers who would use the railroad. Since my hero, Thornton Quincy, is involved in the development of the railroad, he and his family have an invested interest in seeing the growth of towns along its route. Adding in a competition between Thornton’s twin brother for the development of one such town made the story and setting in Illinois come alive.

I also loved having my heroine, Elise, be able to travel from the crowded dirty streets of New York to the plains of Illinois where she experienced a culture shock. She’s taken from a bustling city life to an isolated farming town that consists of only a few buildings when she arrives.

6. What do you hope readers take away from With You Always?

One of my hopes in telling this story is to leave readers with the reminder that God is walking with us in whatever dark valley we’re going through. Often, like Elise, we tend to pull away from God and let the bitterness of our circumstances drive us into a cave of isolation and self-blame and heartache. But God wants us to realize that even if we pull away from Him, He’s still there walking by our side, waiting for us to reach out our hand and grab ahold of Him. He never leaves us or forsakes us. He’s there waiting.


Many thanks to Jody Hedlund and Bethany House for this fascinating behind-the-scenes look at this novel!



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Monday, May 22, 2017

Trusting Grace


Trusting Grace
Virtues and Vices of the Old West
Maggie Brendan
(Revell)
ISBN: 978-0800722661
May 2017/336 pages/$14.99

With a farm to run, can a widow possibly hope for new love?

All of her life, Grace Bidwell has longed for children, but now the chances of her dreams coming true are looking slim. Widowed and caring for her elderly father, she struggles to maintain her late husband's farm until she places an ad for a hired hand.

Robert Frasier arrives in town with three pitiful, bedraggled children who have nothing but the tattered clothes on their backs and a load of hurt, pride, and anger. Believing this is divine intervention in her life, Grace welcomes them with open arms. As feelings grow between her and Robert, Grace will have to convince him that she is a woman who can be trusted with his heart.

Get swept away into Montana's lush Gallatin Valley, nestled among towering mountains and proud pines, in this emotional story.


Read an excerpt.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Maggie Brendan is the CBA bestselling author of the Heart of the West series and The Blue Willow Brides series, as well as The Trouble with Patience and A Sweet Misfortune. Her books have received the Book Buyers Best Award from the Orange County Chapter of Romance Writers of America and the Laurel Wreath Award. A member of the American Christian Fiction Writers Association, Romance Writers of America, Georgia Romance Writers, and Author's Guild, Maggie lives in Georgia. Learn more at her website.


MY THOUGHTS

I have loved each of the books in this series, and Trusting Grace is another delightful read. Maggie Brendan once again creates a winsome heroine who is easy to like and a worthy hero who needs someone to believe in him. And who can resist the three children who are desperately trying to hold their own family together?! Brendan weaves a creative tale that warms the heart, although she tucks in a bit of angst as well, since the series title includes both Virtues and Vices of the Old West! I happily ignored all responsibilities as I traveled back in time and lost myself in this endearing story. Trust me -- Trusting Grace is the perfect addition to your reading list!


Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a copy of this book free from Baker/Revell for a blog tour. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


VIRTUES AND VICES OF THE OLD WEST - MY REVIEWS
The Trouble with Patience
A Sweet Misfortune
Trusting Grace


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Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Too Deep for Words


Too Deep for Words
A Civil War Novel

(Shenandoah Valley Saga, #2)
Andrea Boeshaar
(Kregel)
ISBN: 978-0825444197
April 2017/320 pages/$14.99

Carrie Ann Collier has been a newlywed for nineteen blissful days--as blissful as life can be in the midst of war, that is. Soon that war will take a toll she never expected. When her new husband, Peyton, goes missing during battle, she refuses to believe he is dead and must find a way to move forward with everyday life in the face of fear.

As Carrie struggles with how to welcome her estranged sister, Margaret, back into her life, another new arrival appears on her doorstep--her husband's best friend, and rebel officer, Eli. Wounded and bitter, Eli is nonetheless committed to keeping his promise to Peyton: take care of the Collier women, no matter what. But to Carrie, he's a painful reminder of her lost love.

Then unexpected news makes Carrie wonder if miracles do happen. If Carrie infiltrates the enemy once again, she might find out what really happened to the love of her life. Will Eli be able to keep his promise to keep her safe? Can they forgive each other if promises are broken?

As fans of Boeshaar's books have come to expect, Too Deep for Words is a meticulously researched novel. Readers are taken directly into the heart of the realities of the Civil War and reminded how, even in the darkest circumstances, faith in Christ offers hope.



ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Andrea Boeshaar is the cofounder of American Christian Fiction Writers and runs "The Writer's ER," a coaching service for writers. She is the author of thirty published works, including Threads of Faith, a finalist in the Inspirational Reader's Choice Awards. Andrea is also the author of a popular devotional and regularly blogs on a number of sites. Find out more at www.andreaboeshaar.com.


MY THOUGHTS

Andrea Boeshaar's first novel in this series, A Thousand Shall Fall, captivated me, so I was thrilled to have the opportunity to review this second book. As before, Boeshaar transported me into the story from the opening paragraphs with an authentic setting, believable characters, and her talent for seamlessly weaving together fact and fiction. Divided loyalties experienced by many who knew and cared for soldiers on both sides of the war lead to ethical dilemmas, and the ever-present and turbulent passions make the pages fairly tremble with the tension. Gripping and impossible to set aside after a mere chapter or two, Two Deep for Words is historical fiction at its best. I'm already looking forward to Book #3!


Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a copy of this book free from Kregel Publications for a blog tour. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


SHENANDOAH VALLEY SAGA - MY REVIEWS

A Thousand Shall Fall
Too Deep for Words



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Monday, May 8, 2017

My Heart Belongs in Ruby City, Idaho


My Heart Belongs in Ruby City, Idaho:
Rebecca's Plight

Susanne Dietze
(Barbour Publishing)
ISBN: 978-1683220114
May 2017/256 pages/$12.99

Journey now to Ruby City, Idaho of 1866 where...
A Marriage Mishap Creates an Awkward Love Triangle in this Silver Mining Town

Looking forward to a quiet life and a full stomach, mail-order bride Rebecca Rice is pleased to marry her shopkeeper intended, Mr. Fordham, until the justice of the peace calls him Thaddeus, not Theodore—proceeded by the title Deputy.

Is it possible to marry the wrong man?

When the newlyweds realize they’ve married the wrong partners with similar names, an annulment seems in order—and fast, since Rebecca’s true intended is impatient to claim her as his own, not to mention Rebecca would never marry a lawman like her father. But when the legalities take longer than expected, Rebecca wonders if Tad wasn’t the right husband for her all along. . . .


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Susanne Dietze began writing love stories in high school, casting her friends in the starring roles. Today, she's the award-winning author of a dozen new and upcoming historical romances who's seen her work on the ECPA and Publisher's Weekly Bestseller Lists for Inspirational Fiction. Married to a pastor and the mom of two, Susanne lives in California and enjoys fancy-schmancy tea parties, the beach, and curling up on the couch with a costume drama and a plate of nachos. You can visit her online at www.susannedietze.com.


MY THOUGHTS

Susanne Dietze has quickly become a must-read author for me. This novel utterly charmed me. What a fun twist on the mail-order bride scenario! Dietze creates quite a predicament for her characters, and the result is a thoroughly enjoyable read. I alternately cringed and laughed out loud as the story progressed, as Rebecca, Thad, and Theodore attempt to work through the awkwardness of the situation. Danger from a notorious gang of stagecoach robbers adds suspense and even a bit of surprising humor. Don't miss this delightful story!



Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a digital copy of this book free from Barbour Publishing via Net Galley. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”




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Tuesday, May 2, 2017

ACFW New Releases - May 2017

More in-depth descriptions of these books can be found on the ACFW Fiction Finder website.


Contemporary Romance:


Amish Brides by Jennifer Beckstrand, Molly Jebber, Amy Lillard -- Under bright blue skies, wedding bells ring--fulfilling sweet dreams, impossible wishes, and joyous new beginnings among these three new stories. (Contemporary Romance from Kensington Publishers)


Sprouts of Love by Valerie Comer -- An overzealous community garden manager delivers more than the food bank manager can handle. Can love sprout amid the tsunami of vegetables? (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)


Summer Dreams by Delia Latham -- God's love...reflected in the waters of the Pacific, and in the eyes of a young couple who walk its moonstone shores. (Contemporary Romance from White Rose Publishing [Pelican])


Right Where We Belong by Deborah Raney, Melissa Tagg, Courtney Walsh -- Three sweet stories of small-town romance by three tried-and-true authors. Whether in a quaint home bakery in Langhorne, Missouri, a cozy boho coffee shop in Maple Valley, Iowa, or a charming lakeside cottage in Sweethaven, Michigan, love grows best in small towns just like this! (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)


A Spring of Weddings by Toni Shiloh and Melissa Wardwell -- Two Spring wedding novellas, "A Proxy Wedding," and "Hope Beyond Savannah." (Contemporary Romance from Celebrate Lit Publishing)


True to You by Becky Wade -- Former Navy SEAL John Lawson hires genealogist Nora Bradford to help him to uncover the identity of his birth mother. As they work side-by-side, this pair of opposites begins to suspect that they just might be a perfect match. (Contemporary Romance from Bethany House [Baker] Publishing)

Cozy Mystery:


What the Bishop Saw by Vannetta Chapman -- A fire blazes out of control in the San Luis Valley of Colorado, leaving an elderly, Amish bachelor dead. Bishop Henry Lapp rushes to the scene, and he learns the fire was no accident. When the police point the finger at a suspect Henry knows is innocent, the bishop must decide whether or not to use his mysterious, God-given gift—one he's tried desperately to ignore all these years—to try and set the record straight. (Contemporary Romance from Harvest House Publishers)

General Contemporary:


A Season to Dance by Patricia Beal -- The heart wrenching love story of a small town professional ballerina who dreams of dancing at the Met in New York, of the two men who love her and of the forbidden kiss that changed everything. (General Contemporary from Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas)


Looking Glass Lies by Varina Denman -- A poignant and relatable novel, Looking Glass Lies captures the war women wage against themselves, and the struggle to see beauty reflected in a mirror not distorted by society’s unrelenting expectations. (General Contemporary from Waterfall Press)

Historical:


Blind Ambition by Carol Ashby -- What began as a bored man's decision to try a different road turns into an emotional and spiritual quest that changes the direction of his entire life. (Historical from Cerrillo Press)


Wings of the Wind by Connilyn Cossette -- A broken and bitter Canaanite woman dresses as a man to fight against the invading Hebrews, never expecting that she would live to be captured and married to one of her enemies, and certainly not to find love and healing among the very people who killed her family. (Biblical/Historical from Bethany House [Baker] Publishing)
Historical Romance:



The Secret Admirer Romance Collection by Amanda Barratt, Lorraine Beatty, Molly Noble Bull, Anita Mae Draper, CJ Dunham, Jennifer Uhlarik, Becca Whitham, Kathleen Y'Barbo, Penny Zeller -- Shy expressions of love lead to nine historical romances. Declaring one’s love can be hard--even risky--especially when faced with some of life's greatest challenges. (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)



The Noble Servant by Melanie Dickerson -- She lost everything to an evil conspiracy . . . but that loss may just give her all she ever wanted. (Historical Romance from HarperCollins Christian Publishing)


My Heart Belongs in Ruby City, Idaho: Rebecca's Plight by Susanne Dietze -- It’s a mail-order disorder when newlyweds realize they've married the wrong partners with similar names. An annulment seems in order--and fast. But when the legalities take longer than expected, Rebecca Rice wonders if Tad Fordham wasn’t the right husband for her all along. . . . (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)


A Love So True by Melissa Jagears -- They begin with the best of intentions, but soon the complications pile up and Evelyn and David's dreams look more unattainable every day. When the revelation of a long-held secret creates a seemingly insurmountable rift between them, can they trust God still has a good plan for them despite all that is stacked against them? (Historical Romance from Bethany House [Baker] Publishing)


Road to Harmony by Sherry Kyle -- When Jonas returns to Harmony, Elena's heart is torn between her secret love, and the storeowner her parents hope she marries. (Historical Romance, Independently Published)


Hills of Nevermore by Janalyn Voigt -- Can a young widow hide her secret shame from the Irish preacher bent on helping her survive? (Historical Romance from Mountain Brook Ink)

Romantic Suspense:


Fatal Mistake by Susan Sleeman -- Each day could be her last...but not if he can help it. An FBI agent must protect the woman who can identify a terrorist bomber in bestselling author Susan Sleeman's riveting romantic suspense novel. (Romantic Suspense from Faith Words [Hachette])





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