The three most important parts of a book are: a well constructed plot, compelling characters, and a satisfying conclusion.

Monday, June 22, 2015

LOVE'S RESCUE (Keys of Promise, #1) By Christine Johnson

Publisher:  Fleming H Revell Company
Pages:  336
Release Date:  June 2015
Genre:  Christian Historical Fiction
My Rating - 3.5 stars⭐️⭐️⭐️

Book Description:  When her mother dies, Elizabeth Benjamin heads home to Key West, determined to transform herself into the perfect Southern belle her parents always wished her to be. But nothing goes according to plan. Her crippled brother resents her, the servants do not obey her, and Rourke O'Malley, the dashing man she vowed to forget, refuses to relinquish his hold on her heart. Worst of all, it becomes painfully obvious that her father is not the upright man he appears to be.

As family secrets come to light, Elizabeth is faced with a difficult choice: to do her duty and abandon her dreams, or to leave her life of privilege behind to chase the man her father sees as little better than a pirate.

From the first emotional page, author Christine Johnson throws readers into a world of impossible choices, hidden desires, and heart-melting romance in the steamy south. Readers will cheer for Elizabeth and Rourke as they battle the odds and the elements to secure their future.

Wanda's Review: 
This book had potential with the interesting premise and the setting, but I found it to be just lukewarm. The writing style was detailed, with religious overtones sprinkled throughout, and for the most part interesting. Unfortunately the plot was rather drawn out and I couldn’t get into the premise until several chapters into the book. I found myself skimming throughout many parts.

Late 1840’s – Elizabeth Benjamin had just left Charleston Harbor and was returning home to Key West along with her maid, Annabelle, and her Aunt Virginia. The purpose of this voyage was to prove to her father that she was now a mature and proper young woman. However, she was returning home as an unmarried woman, the one expectation her parents had insisted that she accomplish.

For four years she’d tried to forget Rourke O’Malley, but her feelings for him had not diminished. They’d only grown stronger. Her parents had made the marriage requirements clear. She needed to choose a husband from her own class or higher, and Rourke O’Malley certainly didn’t qualify.

Rourke O’Malley has spent over a decade as a wrecker. He was looking for a valuable wreck with one good award to get him set up as a merchant and ship owner with his own warehouse. He had to win over Elizabeth’s father’s trust by proving himself as a worthy businessman.

Elizabeth was carrying guilt feelings and painful memories of four years ago when a hurricane had devastated Key West and changed their lives drastically. She felt responsible for her brother, who’d become an invalid because of that horrible storm. The doctors had saved his life, but not his legs.

Secrets are revealed as the story unfolds, and the family presents an eligible suitor, Mr. Finch, for Elizabeth. Her father feels he is a fine match for Elizabeth, but she has other ideas as she cringes over the thought of Mr. Finch. The story has a few twists and turns, but mostly predictable.

On a positive note – The story was heightened by good descriptive writing, which created great visual references for the characters and scenes. Also, I liked the character of Elizabeth who never lacked confidence, and emerges as a strong and determined woman. My rating is 3.5 stars.

I received a complimentary copy of this book through NetGalley in exchange of an honest review.

About the Author: Christine Johnson grew up in small-town Michigan, where tales rise taller than old-growth forest. God blessed her with a love of story, which thus far has led to two RWA Golden Heart® award finals and publication with Steeple Hill’s Love Inspired Historical line. When not at the computer keyboard, she loves to explore God’s majestic creation.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

A HEART'S BETRAYAL (Journey of the Heart #4) By Colleen Coble

Publisher:  Thomas Nelson
Release Date:  June 2015
Genre: Christian Historical Fiction
Format: Paperback

About the Book: 
Emmie finds shelter in the arms of a soldier, but her secret could drive them apart.

When Emmie Croftner answered the door to her late husband's home, she discovered a terrible truth. A woman she's never met reveals that she and Emmie shared the same husband and that the bigamist had never divorced his first wife. The home and farm are not Emmie's property after all.

Suddenly displaced and powerless, Emmie realizes she can't stay in Wabash, Indiana, any longer. She makes for Fort Laramie, Wyoming, where her friend Sarah Montgomery and a new beginning await her. But when she arrives, she discovers she's carrying a child, conceived before her husband's death. Was the new start she'd hoped for only a mirage?

At Fort Laramie, a soldier named Isaac Liddle begins to court Emmie, prompting her to wonder whether she could ever really be his--and whether she dares to tell him she is carrying another man's baby.

Wanda's Thoughts:  I was sadly disappointed in this book, which seemed to have an intriguing and promising premise, but it just didn’t measure up to my expectations.

I would not have needed to read the book. The entire story was told in the synopsis and then it went absolutely nowhere. It was lacking depth in both the storyline and the characters.

On a positive note – I appreciated the beautiful descriptive writing by an author I’ve truly enjoyed in the past. This was part 4 of the 6 installments to The Journey of the Heart series. Perhaps if I had read the first 3 books it might have made a difference to me, but unfortunately this story alone never touched me. My rating is 2 stars.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from BookLook Bloggers in exchange for an honest review.

About the Author: USAToday bestselling author Colleen Coble lives with her husband, Dave, in Indiana. She is the author of dozens of novels including the Rock Harbor Series, the Aloha Reef Series, the Mercy Falls Series, the Hope Beach Series, the Lonestar Series and two Women of Faith fiction selections, Alaska Twilight and Midnight Sea. She has more than 2 million books in print.

Monday, June 15, 2015

THE WOOD'S EDGE (The Pathfinders, #1) By Lori Benton

Publisher:  WaterBrook Press
Release Date:  April 21, 2015
Pages:  400
Genre:  Historical Fiction

Format:  Kindle
Rating:  5 Stars⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Book Description: 
At the wood's edge cultures collide. Can two families survive the impact?

The 1757 New York frontier is home to the Oneida tribe and to British colonists, yet their feet rarely walk the same paths.

On the day Fort William Henry falls, Major Reginald Aubrey is beside himself with grief. His son, born that day, has died in the arms of his sleeping wife. When Reginald comes across an Oneida mother with newborn twins, one white, one brown, he makes a choice that will haunt the lives of all involved. He steals the white baby and leaves his own child behind. Reginald's wife and foundling daughter, Anna, never suspect the truth about the boy they call William, but Reginald is wracked by regret that only intensifies with time, as his secret spreads its devastating ripples.

When the long buried truth comes to light, can an unlikely friendship forged at the wood's edge provide a way forward? For a father tormented by fear of judgment, another by lust for vengeance. For a mother still grieving her lost child. For a brother who feels his twin's absence, another unaware of his twin's existence. And for Anna, who loves them both--Two Hawks, the mysterious Oneida boy she meets in secret, and William, her brother. As paths long divided collide, how will God direct the feet of those who follow Him?

Wanda's Thoughts:  An impulsive decision made by Reginald Aubrey causes years of repercussions for the lives of so many. The buried truth and a lifetime of lies and deceptions unfold slowly and steadily as tensions escalate throughout this compelling story.

The author really gets into the hearts and minds of the characters, some likeable and some not so likeable. This is truly an engaging story that will capture your emotions, and keep you absorbed through to the end. The ending doesn’t necessarily bring peace and resolution, but has issues that will lead nicely into the second installment of this Pathfinder’s series.

I highly recommend this great historical fiction with a 5 star rating - definitely a 2015 favorite!

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Blogging for Books via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

About the Author: 
Lori Benton was born and raised east of the Appalachian Mountains, surrounded by early American and family history going back to the 1600s. Her novels transport readers to the 18th century, where she brings to life the Colonial and early Federal periods of American history, creating a melting pot of characters drawn from both sides of a turbulent and shifting frontier, brought together in the bonds of God's transforming grace.

When she isn’t writing, reading, or researching 18th century history, Lori enjoys exploring the mountains with her husband.

Burning Sky, Lori's debut novel, was a finalist for the ECPA 2014 Christian Book Award, and winner of the 2014 Christy Award for First Novel, Historical, and Book of the Year

Friday, June 5, 2015

MURDER AT BEECHWOOD (Gilded Newport Mysteries #3) By Alyssa Maxwell

Publisher:  Kensington
Release Date:  May 2015
Pages:  304
Genre: Mystery/Historical Fiction
Rating:  4 Stars⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Book Description: 
For Newport, Rhode Island’s high society, the summer of 1896 brings lawn parties, sailboat races…and murder.

Having turned down the proposal of Derrick Andrews, Emma Cross has no imminent plans for matrimony—let alone motherhood. But when she discovers an infant left on her doorstep, she naturally takes the child into her care. Using her influence as a cousin to the Vanderbilts and a society page reporter for the Newport Observer, Emma launches a discreet search for the baby’s mother.

One of her first stops is a lawn party at Mrs. Caroline Astor’s Beechwood estate. But an idyllic summer’s day is soon clouded by tragedy. During a sailboat race, textile magnet Virgil Monroe falls overboard. There are prompt accusations of foul play—and even Derrick Andrews falls under suspicion. Deepening the intrigue, a telltale slip of lace may link the abandoned child to the drowned man. But as Emma navigates dark undercurrents of scandalous indiscretions and violent passions, she’ll need to watch her step to ensure that no one lowers the boom on her…

Wanda's Thoughts:  Newport, Rhode Island – 1896 – Gull Manor, a New England sort of house, was sprawled on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean. The structure, a bit isolated, and on the proper side of shabby, had enough rooms to house several families comfortably. It belonged to Emma and she loved it. It had been the gift of her great-aunt Sadie, who’d left Emma the means to lead an independent life. Gull Manor, was known to the people in the area as the place that never turned away anyone who needed help.

During one night in June, Emma heard cries that called her from her sleep. These cries were from a baby that had been tucked into a basket, and left on her doorstep. The only clue left behind was an embroidered lace handkerchief, which led Emma to believe the mother might be a lady of quality. Did someone want them to know where the baby came from? And the story unfolds as Emma sets into motion an investigation to find the baby’s mother.

Certainly a story with an interesting premise, Murder At Beachwood offers a glimpse into the Gilded Era, bringing the wealthy and elite families to life.

This is a story filled with deceit and lies, glamour, tragedy, and loss, with a thread of romance. Lives are profoundly changed because of unexpected events. This certainly was a complex and well-written book, with a tempo that varied throughout. There didn’t seem to be an easy resolution, with the impossible situations that had developed, but a crescendo of suspense builds, with unexpected twists and turns, for a satisfying conclusion.

My one negative comment – I got the many characters confused. My rating is 4 stars.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

About the Author: Alyssa Maxwell began a love affair with the city of Newport while visiting friends there back in her high school days. Time and again the harbor‑side, gas‑lit neighborhoods drew her to return, and on one of those later visits she met the man who would become her husband. Always a lover of history, Alyssa found that marrying into a large, generations‑old Newport family opened up an exciting new world of historical discovery. From the graveyards whose earliest markers read from the seventeenth century, to original colonial houses still lived in today, to the Newport Artillery Company whose curator for many years was her husband’s grandfather, Newport became a place of fascination and romantic charm. Today, Alyssa and her husband reside beneath the palms and bright skies of Florida, but part of her heart remains firmly in that small New England city of great significance, a microcosm of American history spanning from before the Revolution through the Civil War, the Industrial Age, the Gilded Age, and beyond.