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.

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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.

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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.

Hope at Dawn by Stacy Henrie (Of Love and War #1)

The Specs:

HOPE AT DAWN (Of Love and War, Bk 1) by Stacy Henrie, 2014, Forever (an imprint of Grand Central Publishing), $8.00/C$9.00, pb. 384pp, 978-1-455-59880-9

hope at dawnLivy Campbell is the daughter of an all-American family; with two brothers fighting overseas, she desperately wants to help her family and accepts the first job she’s offered, as a schoolteacher in Hilden, Iowa. Friedrick Wagner, a handsome German-American living in Hilden, just wants to provide for and protect his family, but the fear and prejudice against people like him makes that increasingly difficult. Complicating things is his growing attraction to Livy, a match that can never be. With an uncertain future ahead of them, Livy and Friedrick must tread carefully to retain their faith and their freedom.

Condensing a timeline of real events in 1918-1919 including the liberty loan drives and a language law passed by the Governor of Iowa in 1918; Henrie sets the fictional town and characters of Hilden in a hotbed of anti-German sentiment and fear. While the romantic tension could be stronger and Friedrick’s rival more developed, Henrie keeps the plot simple and familiar. At its most ordinary, this is a romance novel that doesn’t whitewash the persecution against German-Americans during WWI, at its best; Henrie offers a compelling look at the danger of xenophobia, especially during times of war.

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.

 

The Swan Gondola by Timothy Schaffert

swan_gondolaThe World’s Fair of 1898 was the biggest thing to ever hit the Western town of Omaha. The Fair was held in conjunction with the Indian Congress and included a visit by President William McKinley and Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. Fair-goers flocked to Omaha from miles around, and with the promise of their purses came thieves, opportunists, prostitutes, and performers setting up shop along the fair’s Midway and the Grand Court.

When a hot air balloon stolen from the Fair crashes on the farmhouse of the Sisters Egan, they take in its injured pilot, Ferret Skerritt. Ferret, a ventriloquist and con, weaves them a tale of his grand love affair with Cecily, a beautiful actress closely guarded by a one-eyed witch. The deeper the sisters are drawn into his fable, the more the magic of the fair is unveiled, complete with spiritualists, masquerades, a Chamber of Horrors and other surprises.

The Swan Gondola is a beautiful portrayal of love and loss set against a glorious backdrop so vivid, it becomes an entire world. The Fair is described in such exquisite detail that you feel that you are walking along the colorful tents and booths of the Midway and sailing down the length of the 2000-ft. lagoon in a gondola on a moonlit night. Schaffert, a Nebraska native, takes some of his inspiration from Baum’s classic novel, The Wizard of Oz, and cheerfully admits to the allusions. Although this is not a retelling or an origin story, I enjoyed discovering the allusions for myself. Schaffert’s novel is a romantic, breathtaking work of literary fiction, and an absolute treat. Highly recommended.


This review first appeared in the February 2014 issue of The Historical Novel Review. I was provided with a copy of the book for the purpose of a 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.

Blackmoore by Julianne Donaldson (A Proper Romance #2)

blackmooreKate Worthington is a beautiful, intelligent young woman with a natural empathy for birds, understanding the frustration of their cages and the longing and heartache of their song. She has become an amateur ornithologist with the help of her childhood friend Sylvia Delafield, and Sylvia’s brother, Henry. Each summer, the Delafields travel to their country manor, Blackmoore, and return with such stories as to inspire an unflagging fascination in Kate to see the world. Kate is willing to make a devil’s bargain to travel but discovers that her friendship with the Delafields may soon change forever. If Kate is to find her own freedom, she must learn to follow her heart and accept that some secrets are meant to be told.

Bestselling author Julianne Donaldson delivers another passionate Regency-era romance, full of sizzling tension and unconsummated love (earning it the term of a “proper” romance). Blackmoore is similar to her previous work (Edenbrooke) in that both feature strong heroines who travel to country estates and find love. Blackmoore stands out for its Brontë-like atmosphere and haunting landscapes. The windswept moors, ocean-battered cliffs, and dark and mysterious passages of Blackmoore are a perfect backdrop for a Gothic-inspired romance. Fans of Little Women and Northanger Abbey will enjoy the focus on the changing nature of friendship and importance of family connections.


This review first appeared in the February 2014 issue of the Historical Novel Review. I was provided with a copy of the book for the purpose of a review.

 

The Pursuit of Mary Bennet by Pamela Mingle

pursuit of mary bennetWith warmth, wit, and infinite charm Pamela Mingle brings to the page Pride and Prejudice’s reserved and awkward Mary Bennet and proves that there is always room for another Austen spin-off when it’s this good.

For most of her life Mary Bennet has been an object of ridicule. With a notable absence of the social graces, she has been an embarrassment to her family on more than one occasion. But lately, Mary has changed. She’s matured and attained a respectable, if somewhat unpolished, decorum.

But her peace and contentment are shattered when her sister Lydia turns up-very pregnant and separated from Wickham. Mary and Kitty are bustled off to stay with Jane and her husband. It is there that Mary meets Henry Walsh, whose attentions confound her. Unschooled in the game of love, her heart and her future are at risk. Is she worthy of love or should she take the safer path? In her journey of self-acceptance, she discovers the answer. (GoodReads) Continue reading

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