Tag: historical

Book Review: Once Upon a Mail Order Bride, by Linda Broday

Image belongs to Sourcebooks Casablanca.

Title: Once Upon a Mail Order Bride
Author: Linda Broday
Genre: Romance
Rating: 4 out of 5

Accused of crimes he didn’t commit, ex-preacher Ridge Steele is forced to give up everything he knew and make his home with outlaws. Desperate for someone to confide in, he strikes up correspondence with mail-order bride Adeline Jancy, finding in her the open heart he’s been searching for. Upon her arrival, Ridge discovers Addie only communicates through the written word, but he knows a little of what trauma can do to a person and vows to stand by her side.

Addie is eager to start a new life with the kind ex-preacher and the little boy she’s stolen away from her father–a zealot priest of a terrorized flock. As her small family settles into life at Hope’s Crossing, she even begins to find the voice, and confidence, she’d lost so long ago.

But danger is not far behind, and her father will not be denied. While Addie desperately fights the man who destroyed her childhood, a determined Ridge races to the rescue. The star-crossed lovers will need more than prayers to survive this final challenge…and find their way back to each other again.

This is the fourth installment in the Mail Order Brides series. I haven’t read the others, but it’s a standalone, so that’s no big deal. I thought this was a solid read, a standard HEA-romance. I enjoyed the setting, and I’d probably read the other books in this series if I had time, as I enjoy linked standalones and getting glimpses of characters’ lives after I finish reading their story. Addie and Ridge are both interesting characters, and I enjoyed reading their journey as they struggle to overcome the scars of their past.

Linda Broday is a bestselling author. Once Upon a Mail Order Bride is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Sourcebooks Casablanca in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Glimmer As You Can, by Danielle Martin

Image belongs to Alcove Press.

Title: Glimmer As You Can
Author: Danielle Martin
Genre: Fiction
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Welcome to the Starlite. Let your true self shine.

1962. In the middle of Brooklyn Heights sits the Starlite: boutique dress shop by day, underground women’s club by night. Started by the shop’s proprietor after her marriage crumbled, Madeline’s social club soon becomes a safe haven for women from all walks of life looking for a respite from their troubled relationships and professional frustrations. These after-hour soirées soon bring two very different women into Madeline’s life–Elaine, a British ex-pat struggling to save her relationship, and Lisa, a young stewardess whose plans for the future are suddenly upended–irrevocably changing all three women’s lives in ways no one could have predicted.

But when Madeline’s ne’er-do-well ex-husband shows up again, the luster of Starlite quickly dampens. As the sisterhood rallies around Madeline, tension begins to eat at the club. When an unspeakable tragedy befalls their sorority, one woman must decide whether to hide the truth from the group or jeopardize her own hopes and dreams.

This is a hard time period to read about:  women’s rights are still a pipe dream and getting married and having a family should be all every woman wants. Except it’s not. The three main characters are very different, yet all three struggle with some of the same issues. The women’s club community was both fun to read about and also seemed a bit random.

I found this book to be disjointed in a lot of places. I can see what the author was trying to do, butthis fell a bit short. I felt disconnected from these characters, and while I cared what happened, my connection to them was erratic enough that I wasn’t deeply invested in the read.

Danielle Martin is a teacher. Glimmer As You Can is her debut novel.

(Galley courtesy of Alcove Press in exchange for an honest review.)

Blog Tour and Book Review: The Forgotten Sister, by Nicola Cornick

Image belongs to Harlequin/Graydon House.

Title: The Forgotten Sister
Author: Nicola Cornick
Genre: Historical Fiction/fiction
Rating: 4 out of 5

1560: Amy Robsart is trapped in a loveless marriage to Robert Dudley, a member of the court of Queen Elizabeth I. Surrounded by enemies and with nowhere left to turn, Amy hatches a desperate scheme to escape—one with devastating consequences that will echo through the centuries…

Present Day: When Lizzie Kingdom is forced to withdraw from the public eye in a blaze of scandal, it seems her life is over. But she’s about to encounter a young man, Johnny Robsart, whose fate will interlace with hers in the most unexpected of ways. For Johnny is certain that Lizzie is linked to a terrible secret dating back to Tudor times. If Lizzie is brave enough to go in search of the truth, then what she discovers will change the course of their lives forever.

I initially didn’t like Lizzie at all, but she slowly grew on me a bit—as she showed great character growth and change through the course of the novel. She actually held it together way better than I would have, considering everything she was dealing with and experiencing.

I really enjoyed the Amy timeline. She also grew and changed as a character, and I enjoyed that, although I cannot imagine putting up with all the nonsense she put up with. Excellent writing and clearly the author did a lot of research to bring the historical details—though fictionalized—to life.

Nicola Cornick is a bestselling author. The Forgotten Sister is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Harlequin/Graydon House in exchange for an honest review.)

Blog Tour and Book Review: Tsarina, by Ellen Alpsten

Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Amazon:   https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B08472B34D/ref=x_gr_w_glide_sin?caller=Goodreads&callerLink=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.goodreads.com%2Fbook%2Fshow%2F48764258-tsarina&tag=x_gr_w_glide_sin-20

Title: Tsarina
Author: Ellen Alpsten
Genre: Historical
Rating: 4 out of 5

St. Petersburg, 1725. Peter the Great lies dying in his magnificent Winter Palace. The weakness and treachery of his only son has driven his father to an appalling act of cruelty and left the empire without an heir. Russia risks falling into chaos. Into the void steps the woman who has been by his side for decades: his second wife, Catherine Alexeyevna, as ambitious, ruthless and passionate as Peter himself.

Born into devastating poverty, Catherine used her extraordinary beauty and shrewd intelligence to ingratiate herself with Peter’s powerful generals, finally seducing the Tsar himself. But even amongst the splendor and opulence of her new life—the lavish feasts, glittering jewels, and candle-lit hours in Peter’s bedchamber—she knows the peril of her position. Peter’s attentions are fickle and his rages powerful; his first wife is condemned to a prison cell, her lover impaled alive in Red Square. And now Catherine faces the ultimate test: can she keep the Tsar’s death a secret as she plays a lethal game to destroy her enemies and take the Crown for herself?

From the sensuous pleasures of a decadent aristocracy, to the incense-filled rites of the Orthodox Church and the terror of Peter’s torture chambers, the intoxicating and dangerous world of Imperial Russia is brought to vivid life. Tsarina is the story of one remarkable woman whose bid for power would transform the Russian Empire.

This was a solid read, and the characters and setting were well-done and believable, but…these people were horrible. Seriously. Catherine rose from nothing to be the most powerful woman in the country, but the things these people do to each other and their ideas of entertainment are horrible. Believable, sadly, but horrible.

Most of the book tells Catherine’s story from the time she left her family, her struggles amidst the horrors of war, how she met Peter and their relationship. The blurb makes it sound like most of the book is about Catherine’s struggle to take the crown, but that’s only a very small portion. She’s a fascinating woman, but the cruelty of her and her world made this a tough book to read.

Ellen Alpsten was born in Kenya Tsarina is her debut novel.

(Galley courtesy of St. Martin’s Press in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: The Garden of Promises and Lies, by Paula Brackston

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Title: The Garden of Promises and Lies
Author: Paula Brackston
Genre: Fiction, historical
Rating: 5.0 out of 5

As the bustle of the winter holidays in the Little Shop of Found Things gives way to spring, Xanthe is left to reflect on the strange events of the past year. While she’s tried to keep her time-traveling talents a secret from those close to her, she is forced to take responsibility for having inadvertently transported the dangerous Benedict Fairfax to her own time. Xanthe comes to see that she must use her skills as a spinner if she and Flora are ever to be safe, and turns to the Spinners book for help.

It is then that a beautiful antique wedding dress sings to her. Realizing the dress and her adversary are connected in some way, she answers the call. She finds herself in Bradford-on-Avon in 1815, as if she has stepped into a Jane Austen story.

Now in Xanthe’s time, Fairfax is threatening Xanthe into helping him with his evil doings, and demonstrates all too clearly how much damage he is capable of causing. With Fairfax growing ever more powerful, Xanthe enlists the help of her boyfriend Liam, taking him back in time with her. It is a decision that might just ensure she prevails over her foe, but only by putting her life—and his—on the line.

I think I’ve read the first book in this series—The Little Shop of Found Things—but I’m not positive, and I know I haven’t read the second book. Honestly, that didn’t detract from reading this at all. Sure, it would have added some depth, but a reader coming into this series at book three would be totally lost and unable to figure out what was going on.

I love the quirky characters—Harley especially—and find the whole basic premise fascinating, twining the past and present together like pieces of a puzzle. Brackston is an excellent writer, bringing both modern day and historical settings to vivid life and I’m now going back to read (or maybe re-read) the first two books in this series.

Paula Brackston lives in Wales. The Garden of Promises and Lies is her newest novel, the third book in the Found Things series.

(Galley courtesy of St. Martin’s Press in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: A Voice in the Wind, by Francine Rivers

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Title: A Voice in the Wind
Author: Francine Rivers    
Genre: Fiction, Christian, historical
Rating: 5 out of 5

Following the prides and passions of a group of Jews, Romans and Barbarians living at the time of the siege, the narrative is centered on an ill-fated romance between a steadfast slave girl, Hadassah, and Marcus, the brother of her owner and a handsome aristocrat. After surviving the massacre of her family and the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans, Hadassah is captured and sold to a well-to-do merchant’s family.

Brought to Rome, she is pressed into service as a personal slave to hedonistic Julia Valerian. Hadassah struggles to walk in the footsteps of Jesus and to treat her masters in a manner in keeping with His teachings, but she is forced to keep her religious identity a secret in order to survive. Confused and alone, she has only her faith to cling to as she tries to subtly bring God into the lives of her captors. Reckless, impulsive, and villainous, Julia tries to undermine Hadassah at every turn. But Julia’s brother, Marcus, is a different sort altogether. Is it possible for a love between Hadassah and Marcus to flourish considering not only their differing stations in life, but also the gap between Hadassah’s unrelenting faith and Marcus’ lack of belief in anything?

Simultaneously, Atretes, a captured soldier from Germania, is forced to become a gladiator. This is the time of Rome’s decline and the decadence of a civilization on the verge of self-destruction serves as a powerful backdrop to the Barbarian’s struggle for survival in the arena.

I think I read the Mark of the Lion books years ago, but as I don’t really remember them, it was like reading this again for the first time. I enjoy historical-fiction, and I’m always on the lookout for well-done Christian fiction. This book is both.

Hadassah is such an inspiration. She considers herself a coward for most of the book, but her strength is astonishing, as is her ability to selflessly serve the Valerian family no matter what. Julia is a horrible person and I didn’t like her—or her manipulative friend—at all. She treats people horribly and then is astonished when they retaliate or walk away from her, and people like that drive me nuts. Marcus was also a frustrating character to read, but he has faint glimmers of redeeming qualities.

I highly recommend this—and I look forward to re-reading the rest of the series!

Francine Rivers is a bestselling and award-winning author.

Book Review and Blog Tour: The Orphan of Cemetery Hill, by Hester Fox

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Title: The Orphan of Cemetery Hill
Author:  Hester Fox
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: 4 out of 5

Boston, 1844.

Tabby has a peculiar gift: she can communicate with the recently departed. It makes her special, but it also makes her dangerous.

As an orphaned child, she fled with her sister, Alice, from their charlatan aunt Bellefonte, who wanted only to exploit Tabby’s gift so she could profit from the recent craze for seances.

Now a young woman and tragically separated from Alice, Tabby works with her adopted father, Eli, the kind caretaker of a large Boston cemetery. When a series of macabre grave robberies begins to plague the city, Tabby is ensnared in a deadly plot by the perpetrators, known only as the “Resurrection Men.”

In the end, Tabby’s gift will either save both her and the cemetery—or bring about her own destruction.

I really enjoyed this read. It had a little bit of a creepiness factor, some mystery, romance, and great characters to tie it all together. Caleb wasn’t my favorite, but at least he did show a bit of character growth.

Tabby has been through a lot—but she keeps trying to help those around her. I cannot imagine spending the night in a cemetery—as a child, no less—and not totally freaking out over the smallest sound. This is a very atmospheric novel and a solid historical read.

Hester Fox lives outside Boston. The Orphan of Cemetery Hill is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Harlequin/Graydon House in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: A Life Once Dreamed, by Rachel Fordham

a life once dreamed
Image belongs to Revell.

Title: A Life Once Dreamed
Author: Rachel Fordham  
Genre: Historical Fiction, romance
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Six years ago, a shocking secret sent Agnes Pratt running in search of a new start. She found it in Penance, a rugged town of miners and lumberjacks in the Dakota Territory, where she became Miss Aggie, respected schoolteacher and confirmed old maid. But the past has a way of catching up with people.

When childhood friend and former sweetheart James Harris accepts a position as the town doctor, Aggie’s pleasantly predictable days suddenly become anything but. James wants to know why Agnes left behind the life they had dreamed of creating for themselves–but he is the one person who can never know.

In the shadows of the Black Hills, can a healing light be shed on the past? Or will the secret Agnes can’t seem to outrun destroy her chance at happiness?

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel! I liked seeing how Aggie went from the life she had before—just the brief glimpse we had was enough to give an idea of her well-to-do background—to the challenging life on the frontier. I enjoyed the simple small-town life and Aggie’s interactions with the children and the townspeople.

James was a lot of fun, too, as he kept slipping aback into his old teasing ways from childhood, interspersed with his Doctor personality. This was sweet and refreshing, like a drink of sweet iced tea on a summer day.

Rachel Fordham lives in Washington state. A life Once Dreamed is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Revell in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Paris Never Leaves You, by Ellen Feldman

paris never leaves you
Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Title: Paris Never Leaves You
Author:  Ellen Feldman   
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: 4.0 out of 5

Moving between wartime Paris crushed under the boot of the Nazi Occupation and 1950s Manhattan giddy with postwar abundance and optimism, Paris Never Leaves You is the story of one woman’s struggle to save her infant daughter and herself.

Running a bookshop in occupied Paris, a city darkened by blackouts, curfews, and constant fear; gripped by hunger, cold, and sudden roundups and deportations, Charlotte Foret walks a fine line between protecting her daughter and staying true to herself and her country; between her hatred for the enemy and her unwanted sympathy for a Wehrmacht physician tortured by his own lethal secret.

Charlotte endures and her daughter ultimately thrives, but the compromises she has made shadow her new life in postwar New York, where she works in a publishing house presided over with wry irreverence by a man haunted by his own war history. Their fates and that of the Wehrmacht physician who has fled to South America prove that though the war is over, the past is never past.

I have to admit, this book traumatized me a bit…and I’m not completely sure why. Yes, the basic setting and time period in history was awful, so that was part of it. And, Charlotte’s worry over her daughter and her struggle to keep her well and safe was terrible to imagine, but that wasn’t all of it either. Just the horrifying experiences of Charlotte and the doctor and everyone…

Honestly, I didn’t connect too well with Charlotte. The guilt she inflicted on herself was a lot, and I found it hard to relate to her. Her actions in the present weren’t that likable, either, but even the secondary characters weren’t terribly likable (Except the doctor. I liked him.). I just found this book more emotional than I was comfortable with at the time I was reading.

Ellen Hampton lives in New York. Paris Never Leaves You is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of St. Martin’s Press in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review and Blog Tour: The Woman Before Wallis, by Bryn Turnbull

red sky over hawaii blog tour

 

the woman before wallis
Image belongs to Harlequin/MIRA.

Title:   The Woman Before Wallis
Author:   Bryn Turnbull
Genre: Historical fiction
Rating:   4.5 out of 5

In the summer of 1926, when Thelma Morgan marries Viscount Duke Furness after a whirlwind romance, she’s immersed in a gilded world of extraordinary wealth and privilege. For Thelma, the daughter of an American diplomat, her new life as a member of the British aristocracy is like a fairy tale—even more so when her husband introduces her to Edward, Prince of Wales.

 In a twist of fate, her marriage to Duke leads her to fall headlong into a love affair with Edward. But happiness is fleeting, and their love is threatened when Thelma’s sister, Gloria Morgan Vanderbilt, becomes embroiled in a scandal with far-reaching implications. As Thelma sails to New York to support Gloria, she leaves Edward in the hands of her trusted friend Wallis, never imagining the consequences that will follow.

This was such an excellent read! I was engrossed from the very first page and couldn’t stop reading! Thelma was an incredible character, and if I’ve ever known anything about the facts this novel is based on, I’ve totally forgotten them, so everything was fresh and new.

The life of wealth and privilege Thelma marries into is a bit mind-blowing—as are her wealthy new friends’ morals, but I enjoyed reading about the glitz and the glamour—and the royalty, even though the prince was a bit disappointing (His behavior, I mean. Not very princely when he dropped Thelma for Wallis.)

Bryn Turnbull lives in Toronto. The Woman Before Wallis is her debut novel.

(Galley courtesy of Harlequin/MIRA in exchange for an honest review.)