Thursday, March 22, 2018

February Book Review Roundup

Contemporary and Historical – Two Great Reads Reviewed

It has been a busy month, and I don’t think things are going to slow down. So, as usual, I’m doing most of my recreational reading at bedtime, and I’m plugging along, but I don’t read as long into the night as I did when I was a wee bit younger. That said, I’ve read some good books this month, starting with The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck by Bethany Turner.
This is a book you would not have seen published ten or more years ago. Probably even less than that. Why? Because Christian publishing wasn’t really ready to “go there” in terms of the content. I mean, a book about how even Christians struggle with holding off on sex until marriage? About how not every hero and heroine in a story find it easy to carry on a pure relationship?  Yeah, that’s what this one is about, and let me tell you, it was a fast flowing, fun read. The characters, especially the main character Sarah is a hoot! She’s witty, clutzy at times, funny, and so, so insecure. She’s pretty real. To top it off, she’s living the dream — unknown writer becames world famous novelist — but not so fast! Maybe it wasn’t the best dream to have. It’s oh-so-colorful in all the wrong ways, but that’s about to change.
When she meets the hero in one of those “cute/meet” kind of ways, and then finds out he’s her new pastor, that takes the cake.  Both of the main characters come with a boat load of baggage, and in today’s world that’s about as real as it gets.
Thank you, Revell, for publishing a book that gets real about relationships.
If you like flawed, interesting, totally human Christians in your fiction, you will enjoy The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck.

Back to another historical, I finally got to read Laura Frantz’s latest, The Lacemaker. I always get excited when Laura has a new book come out, and this time was no exception. I just finished watching the Netflix series Turn, and that set me up perfectly to get into this Revolutionary War tale of romance and intrigue. In fact, I kind of let a couple characters from the television series influence the way I pictured Lady Elizabeth “Liberty” Lawson and the dashing Noble Renaullt.
As is always the case with Laura’s novels, The Lacemaker is rich with historical detail and insight into both daily living and period events. It was fun to “meet” Patrick Henry as well as other historical figures brought back to life in these pages. The story of the perils the Patriots faced, both through Liberty as a Tory turned Patriot spy and through Noble who is a leader in the struggle for independence, unwinds slowly and with just the right amount of tension. The love that binds Liberty and Noble make The Lacemaker a romantic and relaxing read I looked forward to picking up again each time I was forced to go cook food, sleep, or perform some other task necessary to life.
If you like early American stories that are elegantly written and fraught with period intrigue, you’ll want to read The Lacemaker.

January Book Review Roundup

January Book Review Roundup! Four historicals so far this year…

Here’s what I’ve been reading so far in 2018, all historical romances set in varying periods. Let me know what you thought if you’ve read these books. What are you reading now? I’ve moved on to a contemporary. More on that later. Here goes:
The Lost Heiress (Ladies of the Manor, #1) by Roseanna M. White, a 2015 novel published by Bethany House Publishers/Baker Publishing Group, is a Christy nominated novel that gets my choice for BEST OPENING LINE so far this year. See if this doesn’t catch your attention: Temptation sat before her, compelling as the sea. Great, isn’t it? Her opening paragraph decided me right there that I wouldn’t be setting this book aside. (You know we all do sometimes.) The Lost Heiress has that Upstairs/Downstairs, Downton Abbey quality that we all fell in love with in the series combined with the whole lost princess feel of Anastasia, and Ms. White captures the concept and time period deftly. But her characters didn’t initially show up in England. We’re introduced to them in Monte Carlo’s rich, extravagant atmosphere, and making the main character, Brook Eden, Monegasque, was a really cool twist right at the get-go. There’s a big mystery and a bad guy who is really bad, but the main feature of the story is Brook’s lifelong love for her best friend Justin Wildon, heir to the Dukedom. Of course, first we have to find out who she really is. Along the way, we are introduced to her true family, and I have to say, her father’s character was delightful, and I applaud Ms. White for creating a strong father/daughter bonding theme. While there were segments that felt a little predictable, it was still overall a great story! Five stars.
The Yielding (Age of Faith, #2) by Tamara Leigh, republished by Tamara Leigh in 2014, is an edgy romance of the middle ages. If you love romances set in this era, then Tamara’s books are not to be missed.  Lady Beatrix Wulfrith is bound for a life in the convent until she is accused of killing a man who happens to be the brother of Michael D’Arci, and his family who will do anything to get revenge upon the powerful Wulfriths. On top of it all, she is captured by him, her most vindictive enemy who would like nothing better than to exact justice immediately, but he is holding onto her until he can see her properly brought to trial and hanged. Of course, there are times when it’s uncertain as to who is whose prisoner as Beatrix’s faith leads her to rescue D’Arci when he is injured. He also returns the favor. As he works at keeping her alive and healthy to be hung, he also begins to develop a passion for her that angers him. She, too, wonders if the convent life is meant for her when she finds herself drawn into intimate situations with D’Arci. Ah! The conflicted romance! And Ms. Leigh masterfully keeps us bouncing along on that highwire of romantic tension right up to the dynamic life or death conclusion. I am really enjoying this series.
You’re the Cream in My Coffee by Jennifer Lamont Leo, published by Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas in 2017 is another award winner, and I could see why. Set during the roaring twenties, I was anxious to read this book largely because of my own series of books set during the same period. So, you know. Comparables. What I found in Ms. Leo’s story was a delightful cast of characters and a great writing style. Ms. Leo has a compelling story-telling voice that swings you along like jazz. The main character, Marjorie Corrigan, gets herself in some hot water, first with her family and fiancĂ©, and then with her new friends in Chicago and the mob. All in the name of love, of course. All in the name of trying to move on past the death of her true love, killed somewhere “over there” during WWI. Or was he…? If you enjoy reading this period, you’ll find Ms. Leo’s novel a frolic to read. You will love this story. I hear she has a book two coming out soon.

Providence: Hannah’s Journey by Barbara M. Britton, published in 2016  by Harbourlight Books is Biblical fiction that will give readers a greater appreciation for the period, conditions, and especially the despotic, idolic lifestyles of Isreal’s neighbors, the Arameans. When Hannah, the young heroine, flees her father’s house to escape an arranged marriage, she is soon captured by the Aramean army who enslaves her to the wife of its general, a dying leper. There in Aramea, forced to serve the man’s unfaithful wife, and pursued by her wicked lover, her own faith is challenged and grows, as is the faith of Gilead, the boy she loves who followed her and is also captured. The story is very edgy in sections, especially when dealing with the demands of the Aramean priests and false gods, but the story also brings to light an old testament story, while imagining  what might have happened.