Friday, February 9, 2018

The Sound of Rain, by Sarah Loudin Thomas {Book Review}

Judd Markley, a recent Korean war vet, has returned to West Virginia to work in the coal mines with his younger brother, Joe. Suddenly, the mine caves in and Joe is killed, and Judd is left with a shattered leg and a broken heart. This all happens in the first chapter, and this is probably the first book I have ever read where my heart ached and my eyes teared up in just the first few pages. 

Judd calls it quits at the coal mine and heads to Myrtle Beach to answer an employment ad for Waccamaw Timber Company. There, he meets Larkin Heyward, daughter of his new boss and owner of the timber company, George Heyward. Judd just wants to make a living above ground. He's not too interested in opening his heart and making friends, and most definitely not looking for a wife.

Larkin Heyward wants to save the world. She volunteers at the local hospital but has a dream to join her brother Ben in ministry to help children and families in rural Appalachia. She wants Judd's help, but he refuses. Next thing Judd knows, he's driving Larkin to Appalachia in her convertible. They stop off at his brother Abram's house in Bethel, West Virginia. Judd discovers that Larkin's father has no idea where Larkin is and that she tricked him into driving her to Kentucky. Judd spends the night with his brother and vows to take Larkin straight back to Myrtle Beach in the morning. Larkin has other plans in mind, and she takes her convertible and continues to Logan, Kentucky, to search for her brother.

Larkin gets a taste of the ministry but soon learns that the people in Appalachia, with the exception of Granny Jane and Kyle, don't want her help. She finds herself back in Myrtle Beach. By this time, Judd and Larkin are very aware of their attraction to one another, but they both have different ideas in mind.

I thoroughly enjoyed the views into life in Myrtle Beach (a place I know well and visit every summer) and also of Appalachia in the 1950's. I also appreciated the struggle Larkin faced, wanting to serve others but not quite having the tools and experience (or the trust of the people) to do so. Judd's story of overcoming a painful loss to open his heart up again is something I think we can all relate to.

Pete's story was also an interesting side-story with a lot of mystery and I am happy with how it turned out at the end.

My rating: 4-stars

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

The Lacemaker, by Laura Frantz {Book Review}

Oh my gosh! The understatement of the year: I really loved this book! Laura Frantz is an exceptionally talented writer of historical fiction, and her books always leave me with wanting more. Her characters are full of depth and she breathes life back into historical figures that have been long dead for centuries.

The story takes place during the time of the American Revolution, though in this novel Laura Frantz has left the wild frontier and entered colonial society. (If you have read any of her other novels, you'd know that often they take place in the wilderness or within the walls of a fort, and the Native Americans play a rather large role.)

The Lacemaker takes us to colonial Williamsburg, at the time the Patriots sent the Governor, Lord Dunmore, fleeing in the night. Lady Elizabeth Lawson finds herself in the middle of the struggle between the Patriots and her father, Loyalist and lieutenant-governor to Lord Dunmore. First engaged to be married to Miles Roth, the engagement is broken after her father and Lord Dunmore flee Williamsburg and her dowry is lost.

Noble Rynallt, Patriot cousin to Miles Roth, finds Elizabeth destitute and takes her and her lady's maid to his estate, Ty Mawr, for safety. Not wanting to overstay her welcome, Elizabeth, who now goes by "Liberty", is insistent upon becoming independent and leaves Ty Mawr to return to Virginia to find work as a lacemaker--an art taught to her by her mother and that has been passed down for generations. There she works for the Raleigh Tavern, mending shirts and picking up lacemaking jobs on the side. She is often suspected and accused of being a spy for her father.

Throughout the story, you can see the attraction between Liberty and Noble, though they do their best to keep it to themselves. However, those close to Rynallt can tell that he has fallen in love with Liberty. Once the feelings of Liberty and Noble are acknowledged, the story's pace picks up and there is a secret wedding, a kidnapping, a prisoner exchange, and a daring escape. It is a whirlwind of adventure during a dangerous time in American history.

My rating: 5 stars

From the writing, to the characters, and to the beautiful cover art, there is not one single thing I did not love about this book. I look forward to seeing what Laura Frantz is able to come up with next!

A "secret" bonus: 

Laura Frantz has teamed up with another author, Jocelyn Green, who has also written a book about a lacemaker, titled A Refuge Assured. The connection? Lady Elizabeth "Liberty" (of The Lacemaker) and Vivienne Rivard (of A Refuge Assured) share a lacemaking ancestor, from which both these lovely ladies learned their craft passed down through the generations. Jocelyn Green's book is set to come out on February 6, 2018. Green is a new-to-me author and I am excited to read this book.


Thursday, December 21, 2017

Holding the Fort, by Regina Jennings {Book Review}

A dance hall singer from Wichita loses her job, travels to the fort at which her brother is stationed, and ends up as the governess for the children of her brother's commanding officer. What could possibly go wrong?

Regina Jennings does it again with this hilarious and enjoyable story titled Holding the Fort.

The characters of Louisa Bell and Major Daniel Adams were well-thought out and their story did not take the expected twists and turns. From the surprising way Daniel and Louisa first met, and how it was not discussed until later in the book, to the way Daniel conceded to another man who he believed Louisa had fallen for (this part was so, so funny---especially when Daniel gives this trooper his blessing).

However, one of my favorite parts of the story had to do with a secondary character: Lieutenant Jack Hennessey. I nearly died when reading Jack's reaction to Louisa's story about an incident she witnessed before coming to the fort. And again, when Louisa brings to attention a love letter she presumes had been written by a desperate trooper to the major's eldest daughter, Caroline. While Daniel is Jack's superior, there is also a friendship there which provides a level of comedy to the situation.

Louisa and Daniel's story was a fantastic read. There isn't a part of the book that I did not love.

My rating: 5 stars

I only recently discovered Regina Jennings back in April, when I read A Most Inconvenient Marriage. I was immediately hooked and quickly finished that series and started on her Ladies of Caldwell County series, which I finished in August. You can only imagine how difficult my wait was for this newest book to come out, but it was well worth it! I eagerly await the books to come. Fortunately, I won't have to wait long as the novella collection Hearts Entwined will be released in January. It includes a novella titled "Bound and Determined", a story about Louisa Bell's brother, Bradley Willis. I also hope to read more about Jack Hennessey in the upcoming novels in the Fort Reno series. Will he be next? Or will Caroline? Will we later fast-forward a decade and see a grown up Daisy? I can't wait!

Check out the upcoming Hearts Entwined collection, featuring novellas by Regina Jennings and other brilliant authors!

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Christmas at Carnton, by Tamera Alexander {Book Review}

When looking for a cozy read this Christmas season, I was delighted to find recently this recently published book by Tamera Alexander titled Christmas at Carnton. It is considered a novella, though felt more substantial and satisfying than most novellas I have read.

It follows the story of Mrs. Aletta Prescott, a recently widowed mother of a six-year-old son, and pregnant with her second child. Her husband, fighting for the Confederacy during the American Civil War, died in action. With the South in dire conditions, she loses her job as a seamstress and the home she shared with her husband. Near destitute, she seeks employment at Carnton, a wealthy plantation in Franklin, Tennessee. Mrs. McGavock, the mistress of Carnton, takes a chance on Aletta in providing her with employment and a home for her and her son during the preparations of a fundraiser for the troops.

Jake Winston, injured in battle and unable to return to his post as a sharpshooter, is ordered by his commanding officer to assist the Women's Relief Society in their fundraiser. Here, he meets the recently widowed Aletta, and he is instantly drawn to her and her son.

I thought the story was nicely done. It almost took an unexpected turn, but fortunately everything worked out as it should. It was an inspiring read and perfect for the season.

My rating: 4 stars

Thursday, November 16, 2017

The Magnolia Duchess, by Beth White {Book Review}

The Magnolia Duchess is the final book in the Gulf Coast Chronicles series by Beth White. I had finished the previous book, The Creole Princess back in March but took my time getting to the third book because it was the last book published by the author and I wanted to prolong my goodbyes. However, I recently learned that Beth White is publishing a new book in a brand new series in 2018! This was the green light I needed to get started on the third book.

While each book can be read as a stand-alone, I recommend reading them in order to get the back story on the characters and their families. Beth White has created a full pedigree of characters, spanning over five generations. While the first story with Genevieve Gallain is mostly forgotten by the third book, many of the characters from the second book are back, though much older.

The Magnolia Duchess takes place during the War of 1812. Fiona Lanier is the daughter of Simon Lanier and Daisy Redmond from book two. In a sad turn of events, Simon and Daisy are killed two years prior when the British attacked the ship they were traveling on. However, Simon's sister Lyse (the main character in book two) and her husband Rafael Gonzalez are both alive and well. Back to Fiona... she is a bit of a tom-boy, being the only girl of the family with three brothers. It is by chance that she happens upon Charlie Kincaid lying half-dead on the beach. He doesn't remember her due to memory loss, but she remembers visiting him with her Uncle Rafe, Aunt Lyse, and cousin Maddy in England years before. The two develop an attraction, though they are on opposite sides of the war between the Americans and the British. He becomes her prisoner, as she hopes to exchange him for her brother Sullivan who is being held by the British. Charlie successfully escapes from the tack room where he is being held and tries to make it to Pensacola to rejoin the British but Fiona is after him, furious that he took her horse, and shoots him in the thigh. She takes him back to her home, and he is later exchanged.

While staying with her cousin Maddy in mobile, Fiona can't take any more and runs off to join the troops on their way to New Orleans. She dresses in her cousin Israel's clothes and chops off her hair. However, she is found by one of her brothers and is taken to a plantation home for safekeeping until he can return her to Mobile. During this time, the British invade, take the plantation as their headquarters, and who none other than her beloved Charlie saves her from a dangerous encounter.

He goes off and fights and she stays at the mansion as a prisoner and nurses the injured and dying British soldiers. After a gruesome battle, Charlie gets captured again, though Fiona thinks he has been killed when he doesn't return to her. She is released back to the Americans and returns, heartbroken, to Mobile.

There is more to the story and it is a very exciting read with so many twists and turns. Beth White is a wonderful author who carefully does her research. The events are factual and the characters are endearing.

My Rating: 5 stars

I urge you to read the entire Gulf Coast Chronicles series. You won't be disappointed!


Beth White is back with a new series. The first book of the Daughtry House series will be released June 5, 2018. I can hardly wait!

Sunday, November 5, 2017

A Stranger at Fellsworth, by Sarah E. Ladd {Book Review}

A Stranger at Fellsworth is the third and final book in the Treasures of Surrey trilogy by Sarah E. Ladd.

Sarah Ladd has become a fast favorite for me. She has quality to her writing and truly draws in the reader in a calming way. For me, this is what makes her books so enjoyable. I enjoy suspense and mystery, but I don't want to experience anxiety at 3 a.m. because the lead character is having a major crisis. For this, I appreciate the way Sarah writes her stories.

In this latest book, Annabelle Thorley is a lovely, kind, and generous young lady living as part of London's society. Her mother died a decade earlier and her father recently died, but not before leaving the family in financial ruin. Annabelle's fiancé breaks things off and her brother is desperate marry Annabelle off to a wealthy sleaze. She fears this arrangement and late one night, she and her ladies' maid escape London with the help of Owen Locke, gamekeeper for one of her brother's friends. (In Owen's character description, I may have had flashes of Aiden Turner of Poldark fame. I think it was the hair.) On the same night of her escape, the murder of one of her brother's friends occurs at her home in London. Owen takes Annabelle to her estranged uncle's home in Fellsworth, where he works as the superintendent for Fellsworth school. Owen has known Annabelle's uncle for years, and almost from the beginning, Annabelle's aunt tries her hand at subtle matchmaking between the two.

The story continues with Annabelle working as a teacher's assistant and her ladies' maid working in the school's kitchen. Owen's daughter attends the school and Annabelle works with her on learning to read and also teaches her to paint. They form quite the bond, so when Owen's daughter runs away from the school through the woods trying to get to her father's house and her foot get caught in a trap, Annabelle knows just where to find her.

Owen is busy working as a gamekeeper on the estate and discovers poachers in the area. The owner of a piece of land that Owen wants is also having trouble with poachers and hires Owen to get rid of them. Owen is kept very busy, but he still finds the time to visit his daughter and to see Annabelle.

While reading the story, I thought the situation Annabelle fled in London and the poaching were unrelated. I don't know why I didn't pick up on it sooner, as I usually do! I just knew she needed to stay away from that disgusting man her brother was forcing her to marry. I did catch on quickly that her ladies' maid was no good, though I felt awful for the extent of the betrayal.

I love how Sarah Ladd slowly brought Owen and Annabelle together and the sweetness of their love story.

My Rating: 5 stars

I am looking forward to the release of Sarah E. Ladd's next book, titled The Weaver's Daughter, due to be released on April 10, 2018!!

Monday, July 3, 2017

The Captain's Daughter, by Jennifer Delamere {Book Review}

The Captain's Daughter is the first book in the London Beginnings series by Jennifer Delamere. It was published on June 6, 2017.

Summary: Rosalyn Bernay is orphaned, with her two sisters, Julia and Caroline. At seventeen, she leaves the orphanage to make her way in the world. At the age of 23, Rosalyn finds herself in London with no employment, no money, no home, and no friends.

Nate Moran, having been injured in an attack while serving in India, has been recovering at home in London. After his brother injures his leg, Nate offers to work for his brother while the leg heals in order to ensure his brother will have a job to come back to.

Rosalyn and Nate first meet at a train station, as Nate unsuccessfully tries to save Rosalyn from a sketchy character. Later, they are reunited at the theater, where Nate is filling in for his brother and Rosalyn has just been given a job as a dresser for the women in the HMS Pinafore. Soon, Rosalyn is living at Nate's residence, having been taken in by his family as a boarder. Nate has every intention of returning to service in India, but he is captivated by Rosalyn's kind and gentle demeanor, let alone her beauty. Knowing that they will soon be separated by Nate's plan to reenlist in the Army, neither one of them voice their growing feelings.

My Thoughts: This was a delightful book! I happened to come across this book at the library as one of the new releases. It is my first book by Jennifer Delamere. The setting looked interesting enough, so I checked it out. I'm glad I did. Rosalyn and Nate were both your typical main characters in this type of fiction, but as the story played out, they had their own characteristics and talents that made them unique. It is rare that I am not able to predict what will happen throughout a book, but this book didn't go the way I thought it would, and I am glad! It ended up being better. I thought I knew that Rosalyn was going to come face-to-face with Mr. Huffman, Mrs. Hurdle, or Mick again. Instead, Rosalyn had to deal with another evil-doer.

I appreciated the authors inclusion of real characters from the theater, such as Jessie Bond, who really did star in the HMS Pinafore. She did it in a way to tell Jessie's story without changing real-life events. It was fun to look up the real life characters to learn more about them and also to see what they looked like.

(L): Jessie Bond and George Grossmith in HMS Pinafore; (R): Opera Comique on East Strand, London, 1901

(L-R): Miss Helen Lenoir, Mr. William Schwenck Gilbert, Mr. Arthur Sullivan

I was pleased to learn that the author's next book in the series will tell the story of Julia Bernay, Rosalyn's sister, as she attends medical school in London. I am looking forward to reading more about the Bernay sisters!

My Rating: 5 Stars