Love Comes Calling by Siri Mitchell (Against All Expectations #1)

love comes callingEllis Eaton, a young actress who dreams of Hollywood stardom, takes on her toughest role yet when she agrees to pose as a friend and temporarily work at the telephone exchange. If she succeeds, she’ll earn the funds she needs to skip town and make her dream a reality. When Ellis overhears a threat to Griffin Phillips, the boy everyone assumes she’ll settle down with, she commits to foiling the plot to hurt Griffin while avoiding his romantic advances.
 
Siri Mitchell ventures into the Roaring Twenties with a charming, but scatterbrained, heroine in Ellis whose mad-cap escapades will have you laughing at her misadventures. Mitchell’s book is well-written and has moments of (surprising) depth with a pulse on class relations and the dark side of Prohibition. Featuring a gorgeous Art Deco-influenced cover, the book also includes end notes on Prohibition and the real gangsters of Boston in the 1920’s and discussion questions for book clubs or classrooms.

———————–

This review first appeared in the August 2014 issue of Historical Novel Review. I received a copy of the book for the purposes of a fair review.

Advertisements

Every Tear a Memory by Myra Johnson (Till We Meet Again #3)

The Specs:

EVERY TEAR A MEMORY by Myra Johnson (Till We Meet Again, Bk 3), Abingdon Press, 2014, $14.99, pb, 320pp, 9781426753725

every tear a memory

Joanna Trapp leaves her old life in France behind when the war ends and family calls her home. But civilian life as a switchboard operator in Hot Springs, Arkansas, doesn’t have the same appeal as her formerly adventurous life as a Hello Girl for the Army Signal Corps. Thomas Ballard is a semi-successful businessman at the Arlington who was medically ineligible to serve, and although he seeks a quiet life, he finds himself attracted to Joanna’s daring spirit. The question they must answer together is whether there’s room for love when they differ in values.

Johnson continues her post-WWI series, which follows female protagonists who served during the war and the Ballard men who love them. The plot here is full of flawed characters, poor choices and misunderstandings that stand in the way of love and keep the emotions relatable, whether it’s teenage angst over a boy, or the desire to be respected amongst one’s family and community. The book also has a refreshing emphasis on purity (without being preachy), making this a romance appropriate for younger readers. If you enjoyed Sarah Sundin’s WWII books, you should look into reading this series.

This review first appeared in the November 2014 issue of Historical Novel Review. I received a copy of the book for the purposes of a fair review.

The Pelican Bride by Beth White (Gulf Coast Chronicles #1)

pelican brideIt is an age of exploration where men, out of greed or naked courage, fought for their own destinies and their women helped shape  a civilized community out of the marshes. Southern native Beth White is no stranger to the historical genre but she enters new territory with The Pelican Bride, the first in a series of romantic adventure novels set in eighteenth century French Louisiana.

Huguenots in flight, Geneviève Gaillain and her sister Aimée, escape France and journey to the New World where they’ve each agreed to marry a settler. As both girls wade through the murky waters of finding a good spouse and surviving the difficulties of Colonial life, the secrets they brought with them may drown the community.

Following the fates of the “Pelican Brides” of 1704, we discover with them the joys and disappointments of matrimony, and the faith and courage that is a lifeline in the midst of brutality and tragedy. In other words, this is not your typical mail order bride story. With a fast-paced plot full of dynamic characters inspired by the real settlers of the Gulf Coast (and a liberal dose of artistic license), White has fashioned a richly layered and engrossing tale.


This review first appeared in the August 2014 issue of Historical Novel Review. I received a copy of the book for the purposes of a fair review.

 

A Match of Wits by Jen Turano (Ladies of Distinction #4)

The Specs:

A MATCH OF WITS (Ladies of Distinction, Bk 4) by Jen Turano, Bethany House, 2014, $14.99, pb, 348pp, 9780764211270

match of witsThe Wild West had better watch out when Agatha Watson comes to town! Cooling her heels after a hot story earned her more than a few enemies, the last thing Agatha expected to uncover in the Colorado territory was Zayne Beckett, the man who broke her heart two years ago. Zayne is in no condition to be left on his own and since Agatha always knows best, she’s determined to bring Zayne with her back to New York, whether he likes it or not. But her time away hasn’t made her any less of a target and Zayne thinks he’s man enough to keep Agatha out of danger, but he didn’t count on risking his heart in the process.

Turano’s knack for comic timing shines in her latest book and many of the borderline absurd situations Agatha finds herself in are laugh-out-loud funny, especially if they involve a certain P-I-G named Matilda. In many ways, this feels like a series finale because we finally see how Agatha Watson and Zayne Beckett get together, but Turano keeps her options open with a new generation of irrepressible heroines waiting in the wings, who will be, perhaps, future leaders in the Progressive Era.


This review first appeared in the November 2014 issue of Historical Novel Review. I received a copy of the book for the purposes of a fair review.

Truth Be Told by Carol Cox

The Specs:

TRUTH BE TOLD
Carol Cox, Bethany House, 2014, $14.99, pb, 350pp, 9780764209574


truth be toldArizona Territory, 1893. Amelia Wagner loved the summers spent alongside her father, working at his newspaper business in Granite Springs, dedicated to bringing truth to light as the masthead states. So when it’s Amelia’s turn to take over the business, it comes natural to her to pick up her father’s investigation into the Great Western Investment Company. Befriended by Benjamin Stone, one of Great Western’s newest employees, has Amelia found an advantageously placed ally or are Benjamin’s attentions just a distraction? Because something is going on in Granite Springs and someone doesn’t want Amelia to learn the whole story.

Cox returns to her beloved Old West with another inspirational romance. Like her other novels, this one packs a lot of warmth, a dose of adventure, and humor, but the crisis is a bit too pitch perfect (real phrase?) for the genre – once you’re there, you know how it all plays out. With the investigative element in the plot, fans of Trouble in Store and Love in Disguise may also enjoy this latest offering by Carol Cox.

This review first appeared in the November 2014 issue of Historical Novel Review. I received a copy of the book for the purposes of a fair review.

The Baron’s Honourable Daughter by Lynn Morris

baron's honourable daughterWith the sudden death of her step-father, the Earl of Maledon, young Valeria Segrave assumes responsibility for the family estate until her six-year-old half-brother, St. John, comes of age. But in the business world, a young woman alone would never be taken seriously so Alastair, Lord Hylton (a distant relative) agrees to assist her in her new mantle of responsibility. Valeria’s innate values of honor and duty inspire Alastair’s admiration, but her youthful indiscretions provoke condemnation and a determination in Valeria to prove to Alastair that she is capable of being an honorable daughter. Continue reading

A Match Made in Texas: A Novella Collection (Archer Brothers #2.5)

match_made_in_texasHeaven help the residents of Dry Gulch, Texas when one of their own decides to play matchmaker! This sweet collection of western romances brings in well-established authors Karen Witemeyer, Mary Connealy and Carol Cox and newer-to-the-genre Regina Jennings, each penning stories about cowboys, widows and town folk who find love. Continue reading

In The Shadow of Jezebel by Mesu Andrews (Treasures of His Love #4)

jezebelPrincess Jehosheba was reared to be a Queen of Destiny, following in the footsteps of her domineering mother, Athaliah, Queen of Judah, and tyrannical grandmother, Jizebaal, mother of the King of Israel. Living in the shadow of these powerful women, Jehosheba fears their manipulative ploys to establish a stronger king on the throne and their iron-fisted control over her future destiny. In a ploy to increase the worship and dominance of Baal Melkart, Jehosheba, a priestess of Baal, is ordered to marry and seduce the high priest of Yahweh. Continue reading

With Autumn’s Return by Amanda Cabot (Westward Winds #3)

autumn's return_cabotElizabeth Harding is newly arrived to Cheyenne and the town’s first lady doctor. Although attracted to the handsome attorney who shares her office building, Elizabeth is solely focused on establishing her medical practice. An unfriendly welcome from some of Cheyenne’s residents reveals that the frontier town is not as forward-thinking as she’d hoped. Elizabeth will have to take unconventional measures to change people’s minds about women and medicine, if she can do so without destroying her reputation in the process. Continue reading

Glamorous Illusions by Lisa Tawn Bergren (Grand Tour #1)

Glamorous Illusions-BergrenCora Diehl, a Montana girl bred for farm life, is given the opportunity of a lifetime when she discovers she is the illegitimate daughter of a powerful, wealthy man, who has been watching over her quietly in the background all her life. When Cora joins her half-siblings on a Grand European Tour, she will discover more than new places and people groups, she will discover a new way of life and have to decide who she wants to become, in a journey of danger, self-awakening, and forgiveness.

I initially picked up Glamorous Illusions for its gorgeous cover and frankly, thought this was going to be a different type of book. “Oh, this is one of those Buccaneer-type books where a wealthy American goes to England/Europe to make a good romantic match.” Erm, nope.

This Grand Tour series (a trilogy) focuses on Cora as she travels with her family across Europe encountering adventure and romance and it is also something of a late coming-of-age story for some of the characters.

Personally, I think it’s kind of brassy that an author chooses to discuss illegitimacy in an inspirational fiction, historical fiction novel set in the Edwardian Era (1913). I don’t remember reading this subject before in Christian historical fiction. Please shout-out if you’re aware of other contemporary writers covering this subject in a historical setting from a Christian perspective. (Wow, I really just narrowed that down, didn’t I?)

Side note: Mr. Kensington is an interesting character as the person who had an affair. He is just old enough and wily enough, that while he’s trying to make his peace with his past errors (which seems so 21st century to me for some reason and maybe that’s a bad thing?), he’s still got secrets and some issues that will come to light later in the series (I’m guessing).

Cover Comments: Too often historical novels depict the female lead on the cover in a period-appropriate dress but we never actually SEE that ensemble in the course of the book, or if we do, it’s far off the mark. I’m pleased to report that Cora does in fact wear that gorgeous pink confection in the course of the book!

Minor nit-picking: The story has some obvious tropes for the genre. Cora and William (the male lead) cannot be together because neither will admit their feelings. How many times have we seen this done? So Cora will get into some romantic misadventures with William to stand by and try to protect her/get jealous/eventually have to leave the group because of his burgeoning affections. This book could be resolved so much sooner if William or Cora just spoke up. But no, that never happens…

Some people may end up complaining about all the padding in the book between plot points. Personally, that doesn’t bother me. I enjoy sitting down with a long book and Bergren takes her time to let us dwell in the lives of these characters and the hurts, bonding and healing that will be necessary to restore this family.

So overall, I liked it. I’ve got the other copies on the shelf for my upcoming “readers’ vacation” and I hope they retain my interest.  With over a dozen books to get through … life’s too short for dull books. But I think if Book 2 is as good (or better) than Book 1, that shouldn’t be a problem.

Rating: 3 stars