Posted in Elizabeth Camden, Reviews

A Dangerous Legacy

Recently, I’ve come across a few books I thought I’d reviewed, but realized I never actually did! So, over the next few weeks, I’ll be fitting them in between reviews of current books.

The first in the list is A Dangerous Legacy by Elizabeth Camden. As a long-time Camden fan, it has been fun to read each new title and see how she has evolved – and stayed the same – as a writer. Her job as a research librarian seems to keep her creativity flowing as she discovers new and fascinating tidbits of history to combine with her delightful imagination, weaving engaging stories that combine historical facts, intrigue and mystery, engaging characters, and genuine romance.

In A Dangerous Legacy, Lucy Drake and her brother Nick have poured their lives and resources into a single goal: regaining rightful control of their grandfather’s invention. Unfortunately, their opponents have seemingly unlimited resources and influence to keep Lucy and Nick stuck on the losing side of the legal battle. Lucy’s job with the Associated Press provides her a secret weapon in the fight, but will it be enough?

Matters complicate even further when Lucy meets Sir Colin Beckwith, the new man in charge of Reuters, Britain’s news agency and rival of the Associated Press. The two agencies share a building and certain resources, at least for the time being. The partnership leads Lucy and Colin into a tentative friendship that cannot help but grow in depth. But, each one carries burdens, responsibilities, and secrets that no amount of friendship seems capable of breaching.

Every aspect of the story in A Dangerous Legacy reinforces Elizabeth Camden’s skill as a storyteller capable of weaving history and fiction, romance and real character development. But something felt different as I read this particular novel. It seemed that there was not enough room for the depth of development Camden usually manages to pull off. Lucy and Colin are, to be sure, explored beautifully. Their characters deal with life and issues that have no clear solution, and the resolution of their story fits with the reality that sometimes the answer arrives from a completely unexpected direction. There was something delightfully unexpected about the way events twisted and turned to their final conclusion.

But, then there was Nick Drake. As I read, I could not help but feel that I was supposed to be getting to know him better. That his story was there, waiting to be exposed and explored. That his interactions were essential, not to the immediate plot of A Dangerous Legacy, but to becoming known. The feeling intensified as I read the epilogue and realized that new information was being presented – information that could not possibly be resolved in a few pages. Sure enough, Nick’s story will continue in A Daring Venture, releasing in 2018. This is part of what shows Camden’s skill as an author. Instead of trying to cram too much into this one novel or glossing over the additional story begging to be told, she allowed the glimpses to shine through and lay the groundwork that would allow a sequel to follow.

As with other Elizabeth Camden books, I recommend this for older teens through adults who love history and intrigue interwoven with some romance.

This book was sent to me by Bethany House Publishers in exchange for my honest review.
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Posted in Reviews

The Ladies of Ivy Cottage

Welcome back to Ivy Hill, the setting of Julie Klassen’s first series, Tales from Ivy Hill. Last year about this time, I reviewed book one, The Innkeeper of Ivy Hill. I was delighted to return for the second installment entitled The Ladies of Ivy Cottage.

Shifting attention from Jane Bell and her inn, Ivy Hill readers get to know two other characters a little better. Mercy Grove, introduced in book one as one of Jane’s dearest friends, runs a residential girls’ school with help from her aunt Mattie. Although Mercy would love a husband and children of her own, she is content pouring her heart and love into the girls who attend her school. Meanwhile, she is thrilled to welcome Rachel Ashford into her home. Once a belle of high social standing, Rachel had turned the head of the highly eligible Sir Timothy Brockwell years before. But, when her father became embroiled in scandal, everything changed. And, upon her father’s death, the Ashford home was inherited by a distant cousin, leaving her homeless. Welcomed warmly into Ivy Cottage, Rachel seeks to find a way to earn her own keep and make herself useful. Could the unlikely idea of a circulating library be the solution she has been needing?

Rachel Ashford’s story is the highlight of The Ladies of Ivy Cottage; but just as in the first book, every story continues to press forward. Although Jane Bell is enjoying great success at her inn after solving the mystery behind her husband’s death and the impending financial ruin of the inn, her heart is still processing through the many stages of healing, and it is obvious that changes may still lie ahead of her. Meanwhile, great changes are already taking place in the life of Mercy Grove. Hints exist of what might lie ahead for her in an upcoming installment of Tales from Ivy Hill.

As in all of Julie Klassen’s novels, threads of mystery run through The Ladies of Ivy Cottage, but relationships seem much more prominent in this book. And, these relationships are handled quite well as the characters work through issues at stake as well as spiritual dynamics. And, as with The Innkeeper of Ivy Hill, this book offers a story with closure while still keeping readers hungry for the next book.

Yes, book two definitely confirms the Julie Klassen can write a series as successfully as she can write a single, self-contained novel.

This book was sent to me by Bethany House in exchange for my honest review.
Posted in Reviews

Death at Thorburn Hall

Although I enjoy a good twist or a bit of mystery worked into historical fiction, mystery whodunits are not necessarily my favorite genre. But, my oldest enjoys them. So, when I came across a Drew Farthering Mystery, I decided to give it a whirl to see if it was suitable for an avid sixteen-year-old reader who loves a good mystery.

Death at Thorburn Hall is the sixth book in Julianna Deering’s Drew Farthering series. So, there are obviously little details scattered throughout the book about character history and past “cases” that readers jumping in late won’t quite understand. But, those little details did not cause issue for this story. They were more like hooks, making me want to learn more about Drew Farthering.

This particular episode of Farthering’s mystery-solving adventures was an interesting one set in beautiful Scotland in the mid 1930s. While British citizens enjoy the British Open and debate happenings in Europe – especially Germany – Drew Farthering, his wife Madeline, and their friends Nick and Carrie are invited to enjoy a holiday at the home of a distant cousin of Drew’s. But upon arrival, Drew quickly realizes that his host, Lord Rainsby, had more than entertaining distant relatives on his mind when he extended the invitation to the Fartherings and their friends. Knowing Drew’s propensity for solving mysteries, Lord Rainsby shares sketchy details and feelings of unease with Drew, hoping to get to the bottom of some nagging suspicions. But before Lord Rainsby can truly disclose what is causing his unease, he is killed in a fall from his horse during an afternoon ride. What initially appears to be an accident begins to look suspicious as small clues present themselves, leaving Drew and his companions scrambling for clues.

Although not the most complex or surprising mystery I’ve ever read, Death at Thorburn Hall is also not a formulaic murder mystery. A few unexpected twists and turns give even the seemingly evident facts an element of surprise, keeping the reader engaged even when the guilty party seems apparent.

Not having read other Drew Farthering books, I did wonder if Julianna Deering had settled into a pattern in the series or if she’d been able to keep each book relatively unique. After reading this one, my mystery-loving daughter decided to check a few others of the series out from the library, and her assessment is that Deering does a great job of keeping each individual story in the series fresh and unique.

Since Death at Thorburn Hall nudged my daughter to check out other titles in the series (and add these to her wishlist of potential books to buy or ask for as gifts), I’d say Julianna Deering has produced a winner! If you enjoy a murder mystery series, Death at Thorburn Hall and the rest of the Drew Farthering Mysteries might be a great option to check out!

This book was sent to me by Bethany House Publishers in exchange for my honest review.
Posted in Reviews

Deeds of Darkness

This week I recruited a “guest” reviewer. My daughter Angela has loved reading Mel Starr’s Chronicles of Hugh de Singleton. So, when the most recent addition to the series came up for review, she asked for the chance to read and review it! Here’s what she has to say:

Deeds of Darkness is the tenth book in Mel Starr’s Chronicles of Hugh de Singleton.  Hugh de Singleton, a surgeon and bailiff, must weave through a series of seemingly unconnected murders to discover the truth behind them. A man named Hubert Shillside, has gone missing, and Hugh finds himself in the midst of strife and deceit in his attempt to find his friend. While searching for any signs of Hubert, a body is found in a forest. Several robberies occur around the same time, including a robbery of Hugh’s father-in-law’s shop. The identity of the criminals is hidden, with the only clues being a wisp of green wool, men in scholar robes, and a stained book. As feuding townsfolk and a murdered heir find their way into the tangle of mysteries, Hugh must locate the end of the trail and bring the criminals to justice.

I found this book an excellent read.  The plot is absorbing and holds together well, while the twists and turns keep the readers anticipating until the very end. The mystery was enthralling to watch unfold. Starr introduces new characters and develops old ones well. Deeds of Darkness continues the series well, while still standing on its own plot. This book also upholds Starr’s excellent writing abilities and historical knowledge fantastically.

This book was sent to me by Kregel Publications in exchange for my honest review.
Posted in Reviews

The Dishonorable Miss DeLancey

When you pick up a novel that includes romance, it is almost always obvious from the beginning which characters will fall in love by the end. The challenge for an author is to recognize that the conclusion is not a mystery, yet keep the reader wondering how in the world it could possibly come to fruition. That is the key to writing romance well, and it is a key that Carolyn Miller handles with finesse.

The Dishonorable Miss DeLancey is book three of Carolyn Miller’s Regency Brides: A Legacy of Grace series. I was introduced to the series this spring with The Elusive Miss Ellison, and enjoyed book two, The Captivating Lady Charlotte over the summer. The delight of the series is such that, although it was relatively easy to see which character the author would focus on in each subsequent release, the playing out of each lady’s story was anything but predictable. In fact, Carolyn Miller tackles quite the challenge with this third title when she takes a young lady who was somewhat of a villain in the first two books and turns her into the lead character of The Dishonorable Miss DeLancey.

Miss Clara DeLancey was once among the most eligible of London’s high society. But when the Earl of Hawkesbury, the one man who held her interest, rejected her in favor of the “unworthy” Lavinia Ellison, bitterness toward both the earl and his bride buried itself deep into her soul. Then, if the rejection had not caused enough damage, scandal visited her family in another fashion, reducing them from the most admired of London society to the subjects of juicy gossip. Retreating to a modest life in Brighton, Clara finds every foundation of her life – her beauty, wealth, and status – stripped away, leaving her with little to stand on.

Clara finds herself unexpectedly drawn to Mattie McPherson and Tessa Kemsley, two sisters who exhibit a genuine love unlike anything she has ever known. Unfortunately, the Viscountess Winpoole, Clara’s mother, still clings to the pride of their station and considers her daughter’s newfound friends to be appalling company. But something stronger than society and status keeps the desperate Miss DeLancey hungry for the company of her new friends, not to mention their somewhat intimidating brother, Captain Benjamin Kemsley.

Anyone who has read the first two books in the Regency Brides: A Legacy of Grace series will expect a beautiful romance in The Dishonorable Miss DeLancey. But the true beauty of this novel is not the love story between and man and a woman. It’s the love story of redemption. Of the way God works in even the most prideful of hearts, turning them toward Himself. This story is woven naturally and seamlessly into the fabric of the novel, turning a delightful historical romance into something so much deeper.

My girls and I have fallen in love with the Regency Brides series and definitely recommend all three titles!

This book was sent to me by Kregel Publications in exchange for my honest review.
Posted in Reviews

The Promise of Dawn

Well, it seems as if I am only getting reviews written these days, but I’m definitely thankful for the chance to write those and encourage other writers in their endeavors. It can be hard to imagine that a prolific writer such as Loraine Snelling would be encouraged by reviews such as mine, but maybe you will be nourished by reading her novels as I share them with you, thus encouraging her to keep up the good work!

It’s no secret that I love fiction. And although romance just for the sake of romance is not my favorite genre, I do enjoy the novels that have romance brewing while deeper issues are being dealt with. But, most of us spend a good deal more time living life after the giddy feelings of a new romance. So, it is nice to see Christian fiction that matches that stage of life as well.

That is where The Promise of Dawn fits.

Opening in Norway where the Carlson family struggles simply to put food on the table, The Promise of Dawn proceeds across the ocean and over land to Minnesota where Rune and Signe Carlson and their three sons intend to help an uncle and his wife clear timber from their farmland. Rune embraces the opportunity, expecting his family to flourish in America in ways they never could in Norway. But Signe’s concerns fill her with reluctance from the moment the invitation arrives. An illness-filled journey and cold welcome do not ease her mind in any way.

Signe’s fears are confirmed as her family interacts more with Uncle Einer and Aunt Gerd, feeling the burden of their thankless, demanding hosts. As the weeks pass, the Carlsons wonder if they will ever find the better life Rune had dreamed of for his family.

The Promise of Dawn is real life. The perspective, understanding, and struggles of Rune and Signe remind me of my own experiences with newness and unexpected disappointments. I could feel the weight of discouragement, challenged faith, waning hope, and strained relationships as I walked with the Carlson family through challenges that seemed to have no foreseeable end. How often do we feel the same? Even though The Promise of Dawn is set over a hundred years ago in a time and culture long gone, the nature of the challenges remain the same.

That is why The Promise of Dawn was so refreshing, even while reading of seemingly insurmountable challenges. It was reminder that our choices in attitude, relationship, and spiritual growth are critical, whether our circumstances change or not.

The Promise of Dawn is book one in the Under Northern Skies series, and the characters are connected to Loraine Snelling’s two Red River series. I look forward to going back and meeting some of those characters while also getting to know the Carlsons a little better as the Under Northern Skies series continues. Loraine Snelling is definitely an author I would recommend and want to explore more myself!

This book was sent to me by Bethany House in exchange for my honest review.
Posted in Reviews

Walk It Out

Years ago, I became a fan of Tricia Goyer when I read her book Blue Like Play Dough. Then I got my hands on From Dust and Ashes, and I was completely hooked. Years later, I am honored to call Tricia a friend, but that doesn’t make me any less of a fan. I have had the privilege of seeing glimpses of her living out – in real life – what I once only read about in her books.

Walk It Out is a bit of that glimpse for Tricia’s readers. In every other book she writes, readers see this beautiful woman’s heart. But, in Walk it Out, Tricia gives a glimpse of the challenges, responses, and real-life growth behind the stories and non-fiction that have touched the lives of so many.

Tricia Goyer’s life today differs greatly from the dreams she held as a child. The girl who once dreamed of being a classroom teacher has homeschooled her three oldest through graduation and continues to homeschool her remaining seven children. The teen tortured teen who walked in hidden shame over her decision to abort her first child now openly shares her story to aid in the healing of other women. The task-oriented perfectionist has learned that the rewards of relationships rise above the rewards of a spotless house. Walk It Out shares the story of how Tricia learned these lessons and many more.

Two themes actively reveal themselves in Walk It Out. First, Tricia stresses the importance of growth through a relationship with Christ, obtained only through prayer and time in the Word of God. Secondly, lessons cannot truly be learned unless they are followed up with action. Each chapter in Walk It Out clearly shows Scripture and action that accompanied every step of growth God has walked her through.

But, I also see a third theme: community. In every chapter, Tricia’s story shows how integral the family of Christ has been in her growth. Fellow believers loved on her when she felt unlovable, received her story when she expected rejection, and surrounded her to walk alongside her when she stepped forward in actions of obedience. The community of faith is critical, and that shines through every single page of Walk It Out.

Walk It Out is, without a doubt, my new favorite of Tricia Goyer’s non-fiction, and I look forward to sharing it with others for years to come.