Tag: history

Book Review: The Things We Cannot Say, by Kelly Rimmer

the things we cannot say
Image belongs to Graydon House.

Title:  The Things We Cannot Say
Author:  Kelly Rimmer
Genre:  Fiction, historical
Rating:  5 out of 5

Alice never expected to be a stay-at-home mom, but 7-year-old Eddie is on the autism spectrum and nonverbal, and needs all the care Alice can give him, while 10-year-old Callie is smart enough to cause herself problems. So, Alice’s world revolves around her kids and her husband, until her beloved grandmother falls ill, and asks Alice to find those she left behind in Poland during WWII. Her only clues are a faded photo of a young man, a tiny leather shoe, and a letter.

In 1940s Poland, Alina is young and in love, and gets engaged to Tomasz just before he goes away to college. She can’t wait to start their future together. Then the Nazis arrive, and her whole world changes to hunger, fear, and a desperate longing for Tomasz. She knows he’ll keep his promise to return to her, but so many obstacles stand in the way, and the darkness around them may sweep them under if anyone finds out their secrets.

This book. This book. Fantastically well-written, I found myself drawn into both timelines effortlessly, caring about both Alice and Alina and their happiness. The horrors of war are captured in small bits, enough to paint the picture, but not so much that the reader can’t move past it. I cried at the end, but this story is filled with so much hope and love. A wonderful read!

Kelly Rimmer is a USA Today bestselling author. The Things We Cannot Say is her newest book.

(Galley courtesy of Graydon House via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)

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Book Review: American Princess, by Stephanie Thornton

american princess
Image belongs to Berkely.

Title:  American Princess
Author:  Stephanie Thornton
Genre:  Historical
Rating:  4 out of 5

Alice Roosevelt is the oldest daughter of Teddy Roosevelt, who becomes president unexpectedly. Life in the White House isn’t what Alice expected, and she chafes at the restrictions and rules she’s expected to follow, until she decides that doing her own thing is the way to be and becomes the darling of the press.

But Washington is not for the faint of heart, and Alice will be pushed to her limits to survive, love, marriage, and raising a family—all while keeping her political hat in the ring. Through two world wars and more loss than anyone should have to endure, Alice remains America’s princess.

Honestly, I wasn’t even aware that Teddy Roosevelt had a daughter (two, actually). I know basically nothing about his presidency or his family, but Alice is a fascinating character. It’s interesting watching her grow up in the public eye—as if growing up and navigating love isn’t hard enough by itself—but watching her adroit political maneuvering was even more fascinating. This is a solid historical read.

Stephanie Thornton is a writer and a history teacher. American Princess is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Berkley via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Woman 99, by Greer Macallister

woman 99
Image belongs to SOURCEBOOKS Landmark.

Title:  Woman 99
Author:  Greer Macallister
Genre:  historical fiction
Rating:  4.5 out of 5

Charlotte Smith’s family is wealthy, and she is expected to marry well and improve the family’s fortunes. She and her sister are to never do anything to embarrass the family. So, when Charlotte’ sister, Phoebe does embarrass the family with her behavior, she’s sent to the notorious Goldengrove Asylum.

Charlotte knows it’s her fault Phoebe was sent away, but she’s determined to make it right, so she disguises herself as a destitute woman with mental health issues and becomes Woman 99 at the asylum.

It’s not what she expected. Some of the women desperately need the help the asylum could provide—if it weren’t twisted by greed and power—but some of the women are there because they are merely inconvenient to their families. As Charlotte searches for Phoebe in the asylum, she realizes there are deeper wrongs to be righted.

I found Woman 99 engrossing from the first page. I love a good historical, and I thought this one was extremely well-done. Charlotte’s growth through the book is wonderful to see:  from a compliant, agreeable young woman to a strong and forthright woman who is not afraid to challenge the status quo. Definitely worth reading!

Greer Macallister is a USA Today-bestselling author. Woman 99 is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of SOURCEBOOKS Landmark via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Of Fire and Lions, by Mesu Andrews

of fire and lions
Image belongs to WaterBrook.

Title:  Of Fire and Lions
Author:  Mesu Andrews
Genre:  Christian fiction, historical
Rating:  5 out of 5

Abigail is just a girl when the Babylonians destroy Jerusalem—and the temple. Abigail is taken captive and finds herself serving four Hebrew boys destined to become powerful princes in Babylon, including the kind and caring Daniel. Abigail falls in love with Daniel, but the king’s machinations keep them apart, and soon Abigail finds herself lost in another city, with nowhere to turn.

Seventy years later, Daniel and Abigail have been married for years and have children and grandchildren when Daniel is once again called to serve the new king. Abigail’s family is full of anger and malice, but she’s kept secrets about her early years, secrets that might tear Daniel from her for good, and secrets that might have a chance of mending the rift in her family. But she will have to overcome her fear with faith if she’s ever to know true fulfillment.

Of Fire and Lions is a richly imagined tale that brings Biblical stories to life. Daniel and the lions’ dent. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and the fiery furnace. The exile of the Hebrews. These things come to mesmerizing life on the page. And Abigail—Belili—and Daniel come to life as well:  their struggles, their trials, and their faith drawing the reader in. This is an exceptionally detailed and vivid re-telling of some familiar Bible tales, but with so much life added to the story.

Mesu Andrews writes biblical fiction. Of Fire and Lions is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of WaterBrook via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: The Boys Who Woke Up Early, by A.D. Hopkins

the boys who woke up early
Image belongs to Imbrifex Books.

Title:  The Boys Who Woke Up Early
Author:  A.D. Hopkins
Genre:  Fiction, historical
Rating:  4 out of 5

Western Virginia in the days of the Ku Klux Klan is where Stony starts his junior year of high school. The town is poor, and those who live in town don’t associate with the hillbillies in the woods and hollers. But Stony has a crush on Mary Lou Martin, one of the country girls, and he can’t figure out how to cross the divide.

Then Jack moves to town. Jack dresses like TV detective Peter Gunn and plays jazz clarinet, and soon he and Stony are good friends. Jack convinces Stony they’ll be detectives, and soon the boys are spending more time at the sheriff’s department than at home. If only Stony didn’t have a history as a juvenile delinquent.

Soon the boys run up against the district attorney and find themselves involved in a raid on an illegal speakeasy…just before they face off with the Klan in their attempts to keep their town safe.

I kept telling myself I’d put this book down because the writing wasn’t quite up to par, but I enjoyed the story so much that I finished reading it. This book is decidedly not in favor of the Klan. It’s set just when the fight for equal rights begins, when discrimination is the norm, and only a few people are waking up to the awareness that the way things have always been isn’t the way they should be. I enjoyed the story of Stony’s realization that his small mountain hometown needs to make some changes.

A.D. Hopkins is a former journalist. The Boys Who Woke Up Early is his new novel.

(Galley courtesy of Imbrifex Books via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Castle on the Rise, by Kristy Cambron

castle on the rise
Image belongs to Thomas Nelson.

Title:  Castle on the Rise
Author:  Kristy Cambron
Genre:  Historical fiction.
Rating:  4.5 out of 5

Laine Forrester is in France for her best friend’s fairytale wedding—and to forget about her own failed marriage. But her friend’s devastating diagnosis takes Laine’s mind off her own problems, and she agrees to return to Ireland with her friend and new family. There, she finds an empty castle filled with treasures and a family who won’t even speak to each other, but everything she needs may just be in Ireland.

This story is actually three different stories in three separate timelines, and I loved all three of them! The troubles in Ireland are a sad subject, but the author does a good job capturing the emotions in the situations—as well as the hope. This is well-written and full of vibrant characters and settings I’d love to see!

Kristy Cambron is an award-winning author. Castle on the Rise is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Thomas Nelson via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Burning Fields, by Alli Sinclair

burning fields
Image belongs to Kensington Books/Lyrical Press.

Title:   Burning Fields
Author:   Alli Sinclair
Genre:   Fiction, historical
Rating:   4 out of 5

In 1948, World War II has impacted every corner of the globe and brought change. For Rosie Stanton, it brought an opportunity to live and work away from home for the first time, growing her independent nature even stronger. But now she’s back home on her family’s sugarcane farm, which is foundering thanks to her father’s old-fashioned ideas, sabotage from the inside, and her parents’ grief over the loss of her two brothers. Even worse is her father’s dislike of Italians, especially the Conti family that lives next door.

Thomas Conti left the war behind him when he came to Australia but finds prejudice and hatred here as well. Thomas still struggles with his experiences in the war and wants to keep to himself because he just knows he’ll hurt anyone who cares about him. Rosie wants to get to know Thomas, but when a ghost from his past shows up to ruin his future and a bombshell from Rosie’s past destroys who she thinks she is, they’ll have to turn to each other if they’re to survive.

I’d never read anything from this particular setting, so it was an interesting—and sad—read. So much conflict and hatred towards others…kind of like today. Rosie is an interesting character:  caught on the brink of a changing world and society but having to fight for every single step she takes forward. I enjoyed this read quite a bit.

Alli Sinclair is an award-winning author. Burning Fields is her newest novel.

(Galley provided by Kensington Books/Lyrical Press in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: The Matrimonial Advertisement, by Mimi Matthews

The Matrimonial Advertisement

The Matrimonial Advertisement
Image belongs to Perfectly Proper Press.

Website:  Title:   The Matrimonial Advertisement
Author:   Mimi Matthews
Genre:   Historical romance
Rating:   4 out of 5

Ex-army captain Justin Thornhill needs someone to make his life a little bit easier. Orphaned and growing up in poverty, he’s spent 20 years paying back old grievances, making his fortune, and getting tortured in an Indian prison. Now he just wants to get along with the local villagers and have someone run his isolated household. A matrimonial advertisement seems the perfect way to accomplish that.

Helena will do anything to escape London, even traveling to the back of beyond and marrying a stranger. It’s a small price to pay for her freedom. She even starts to think she and Justin can be happy together. But when secrets from her past show up, will Justin keep her safe? Or will he listen to his own fears and walk away?

Occasionally I’ll read a book marketed as romance. Not often. And only if the premise and characters sound fairly unique and promising. Which is why I picked this one up. I’m glad I did. Helena’s secret was perfectly horrible and completely believable, given what I know about her era, but I loved her strength. Justin is deeply wounded, but so willing to help everyone around him. I loved how their relationship grew and developed.

Mimi Matthews writes about 19th century English history, historical romances, and she’s a lawyer. The Matrimonial Advertisement is her newest book.

(Galley provided by Perfectly Proper Press in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: The Phantom Tree, by Nicola Cornick

the phantom tree
Image belongs to Harlequin/Graydon House.

Title:   The Phantom Tree
Author:   Nicola Cornick
Genre:   Fiction, fantasy, historical
Rating:   4.5 out of 5

When Alison Bannister stumbles across an old painting while browsing in an antique shop, she knows the subject isn’t Anne Boleyn, as it claims. Instead, the painting is of Mary Seymour, taken to Wolf Hall as a child in 1557, and later presumed dead. Alison knows the painting is of Mary—a friend from her own childhood in 1557.

Alison has spent years in the present searching for clues to Mary’s disappearance, hints of the son Alison never knew, and a way to return to her own time and find him. The painting might just be the clue she needs.

But the man who discovered the painting stands in Alison’s way, and she must deal with her past—both in 1557 and now—if she’s ever to find the answers she seeks.

Time travel novels aren’t too uncommon, but this is the first time I’ve read one about someone who comes forward in time and makes a life. Alison is an interesting character, and I loved the dual timelines for her, as well as the dual narrators, with she and Mary both speaking. The mystery of what happened was both sad and compelling, and I enjoyed every page.

Nicola Cornick is a writer and historian with a master’s degree in history from Oxford. The Phantom Tree is her newest novel.

(Galley provided by  in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: The Love Letter, by Rachel Hauck

Love-Letter_Cover-Comp

Title: The Love Letter
Author: Rachel Hauck
Genre: Historical, Romance
Rating: 4 out of 5

Chloe Daschle is known in Hollywood for being the actress to play a convincing death scene. But she’s tired of dying. She wants to live. When she hears about the role of Esther Kingsley in a historical film, she decides to go for it.

The script is based on a one-page love letter written by screenwriter Jesse Gates’ ancestor, Hamilton Lightfoot, but Jesse would far rather write about romance than try his hand at it…again. When Jesse and Chloe meet, they both must re-think their views on love—and their pasts.

During the Revolutionary War, Esther longs to be with Hamilton, her friend from childhood, but Hamilton is torn between his love of peace, and his desire to fight for the land he calls home. He’s afraid his thirst for revenge over the death of his father will motivate him—not the cause he wishes to fight for. And Esther must choose between her beloved father, a British Loyalist, and the rebel Hamilton, the man she loves.

I expected a light romance in The Love Letter but got so much more than that. Chloe is an intriguing character: she grew up in Hollywood and has a past as one of those behaving-badly starlets caught on tape to live down. She’s changed, and now she wants so much more out of life, but Hollywood has her in a tidy box she’s not sure she can escape. Until she meets Jesse, who does things his way, not buckling to threats or even friendly advice. With Esther and Hamilton’s story woven throughout, The Love Letter was an engrossing, lovely read.

Rachel Hauck is an award-winning and best-selling author. Her newest novel is The Love Letter.

(Galley provided by Thomas Nelson in exchange for an honest review.)