The Lady of Tarpon Springs


Judith Miller is an excellent writer.  This is my first of her books, but I’ll be glad to read another in the future if this was any indication.

Set in 1905 Florida, Zanna Krykos works as a lawyer — almost unheard of for a woman at such a time, but even more so for a woman in a traditional Greek family (who naturally pressures her to find a husband).  A friend of hers inherits a sponging business, and Zanna agrees to run it for her, despite not feeling entirely qualified to do so.

In doing so, she meets Nico Kalos, a Greek Diver given the opportunity to lead a sponging crew in the US.  Imagine his surprise when he arrives in Florida only to find a woman running the business — at a time when men still believed a woman’s mere presence on a ship would doom them and would likely get them killed.

This book showcases a strong female personality, which I love (especially in historical fiction when it wouldn’t have been popular), and a playful, charming male character who you can’t help but love.

Filled with not only witty banter between the two main characters, but also some suspense and fear for the lives on the crew at a couple points, this story weaves together to keep you coming back for more.

The research that must have gone into this book blew my mind a little bit.  I knew very little about sea sponges.  In fact, I only really knew that they existed.  I had no idea what it takes to harvest them, nor how much more intense that process would have been a century ago.  So not only was I entertained by a great story, but I also learned a lot and it prompted me to hit up Google and learn some more.  What a crazy experience it would have been to work on a sponging boat in the Gulf of Mexico.

If you’d like to purchase this book on Amazon.ca you can do so here, or head over to wherever you tend to find books to check it out.

the lady of tarpon springs

Book was provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.

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River to Redemption


Ann H. Gabhart is a masterful writer.  I knew this about her, but I didn’t expect this book.  It was wonderful.

Orphaned in the cholera epidemic of 1833, Adria Starr was cared for by a slave named Louis, a man who stayed in Springfield, Kentucky, when anyone with means had fled. A man who passed up the opportunity to escape his bondage and instead tended to the sick and buried the dead. A man who, twelve years later, is being sold by his owners despite his heroic actions. Now nineteen, Adria has never forgotten what Louis did for her. She’s determined to find a way to buy Louis’s freedom. But in 1840s Kentucky, she’ll face an uphill battle.

Based partly on a true story, Ann H. Gabhart’s latest historical novel is a tour de force. The vividly rendered town of Springfield and its citizens immerse readers in a story of courage, betrayal, and honor that will stick with them long after they turn the last page.

I’ve always loved American Civil War era stories, and so to find out that not only was this book set in the years leading up to the war, but that it was based on a true story, I was even more in love.

In some ways it made me a little bit furious, as it always does, to read stories of a time when people could be bought.  It just baffles me that this was acceptable practice at any time, and then it hits me that it still happens, but that’s a post for another day and time.

This story about young Adria Starr growing into a strong, fiercely independent woman who will fight for what she knows to be right deep down in her soul is refreshing.  Along with historical fiction, I also love stories about strong women, especially in time periods where being strong, outspoken, and an advocate was not only not encouraged but actually discouraged, frowned upon, and called out.  Adria Starr did indeed have an uphill battle in her quest to set Louis free, but she had to try to do what she knew to be the right thing.

This story will warm your heart.  It’s a wonderful read from beginning to end, and I highly recommend it.  I’ve known Ann H. Gabhart to be skilled at character development, and this story is certainly no exception.  You’ll fall in love with these characters (where you should) and be apprehensive about the others instantly.

To grab a copy of this book on Amazon.ca, click here!  Or head to your favourite book retailer to check this out.

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Book was provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.

The Best of Intentions


Canadian Crossings.  Ahh, finally, a book about Canada!  There’ve been a few that I’ve come across, but most stories are set in the US.  It was really neat to read a story about Toronto, even if it was a different Toronto than what I’m used to, being set post-WW1.

But I digress.

This story took unexpected twists and turns at every corner.  Just when I thought I had it all figured out, I’d predict what would happen next, and that wasn’t the case.  I like that in a book.  I also liked this book more than I expected I’d like a straight romance story.  I think there was enough else in it that it was a delight.

Grace Abernathy crosses the Atlantic on a journey the description of which makes me incredibly thankful for commercial air travel.  She goes to convince her widowed sister to come home with her, but when she gets there she finds her nephew is living with his paternal family — the Easton family — and trouble ensues.  Grace becomes Christian’s nanny and moves into the Easton home using a different name.  She needs to know if they can be good providers, not just financially, but relationally, for her nephew.  Of course she starts to fall hard for her nephew’s guardian, Andrew Easton, but he’s not available to her.  Whatever will Grace do?

This is a well-crafted story about overcoming in the face of tragedy, and about doing all we can for our families.  I enjoyed it very much.  Susan Anne Mason has a wonderful writing style, and I very much appreciated that I couldn’t necessarily see every plot point coming.  I enjoyed that while this is listed as historical fiction, the romance aspect wasn’t the only focus and that there was a beautiful story line woven in as the focus of the story.  I will definitely be back for more of Susan Anne Mason’s books!

If you’d like to pick the book up, head on over to Amazon.ca or your favourite book retailer to grab a copy.

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Book was provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.

The Reckoning at Gossamer Pond


I was not ready for how this book sucked me in.  It pulled me in right from the very start.  This was my first Jaime Jo Wright book, though I was informed when I started to read this one that I’d NEED to read The House on Foster Hill when I finished it.  Well, all those who said it, you weren’t wrong.  I’ll need more Jaime Jo Wright in my life for as long as she keeps writing books if they’re anywhere close to being as captivating as this one was!

Set in both 1907 and a century later, Wright masterfully blends historical and contemporary fiction to weave the tale of the town of Gossamer Grove and all its secrets.  You’ll be desperate to keep reading to learn more pieces of the puzzle.  Just as you get another piece, you’ll need more answers and you’ll flip centuries again to learn some more.  I was captivated right from the start, and I don’t think I could’ve stopped even if I’d had to.  I’d have found a way to get to the end of this book.

Annalise Forsythe and Libby Sheffield, along with other people in the town of Gossamer Grove, both presently and a century earlier, are connected in ways they never could have imagined.  But even though they can’t talk to each other because of the years between them (and because presumably, everyone from a century earlier was no longer around…), they must work to put the pieces of the puzzle of Gossamer Grove together.  It’s fascinating.

I haven’t read many Time Slip books, where the author jumps back and forth between characters set in different time periods.  This was by far the best one I have read though, and I highly recommend it.  I was worried I’d get lost in the flips, as has happened before, but that was not the case at all.  Jaime Jo Wright is an incredible writer.

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Check out the book here on Amazon.ca.

Book was provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.

The Accidental Guardian


Oh, I loved this book.

The irony of my love for historical fiction is not lost on me as I sit reflecting on some of the dramatic moments in this book.  There were chases through the Sierra Nevadas, all on horseback of course, that took days.  Those same chases would now take fractions of the time.  That irony isn’t lost because I’m sitting in an airport terminal waiting to board a flight to go 3400 km in 4 hours.

In particular, when it comes to historical fiction, I love a good Western.  Maybe it’s the rugged terrain and the way everyone has to band together to fend for themselves to be able to survive without the things I’ve come to depend on (ahem, airplanes, wifi…).  I don’t really know.  But I love them very much.

When Trace Riley finds the smoldering ruins of a small wagon train, he recognizes the hand behind the attack as the same group who left him as sole survivor years ago. Living off the wilderness since then, he’d finally carved out a home and started a herd–while serving as a self-appointed guardian of the trail, driving off dangerous men. He’d
hoped those days were over, but the latest attack shows he was wrong.

Deborah Harkness saved her younger sister and two toddlers during the attack, and now finds herself at the mercy of her rescuer. Trace offers the only shelter for miles around, and agrees to take them in until she can safely continue. His simple bachelor existence never anticipated kids and women in the picture and their arrival is unsettling–yet enticing.

Working to survive the winter and finally bring justice to the trail, Trace and Deborah find themselves drawn together–yet every day approaches the moment she’ll leave forever.

This was a beautiful story with more action and adventure than romance, I thought, though there was a good mixture of both.  I loved it very much and I highly recommend it.  This was my first book by Mary Connealy and it will certainly not be my last!  I will be on the lookout for more, for sure!

If you like crime chasing, action, adventure, and a good old-fashioned Western love story, give this Mary Connealy gem a read.  I’m sure you won’t regret it!

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Book was provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.

All My Tomorrows


If you’ve been following any of my reviews for any length of time, you know I swoon for historical fiction.  It doesn’t even have to be historical romance fiction, though it tends to end up as such, but just something with a historical flair.

So you can imagine my delight when I was offered the opportunity to review a collection of historical novellas including short novels (the very definition of a novella) by Karen Witemeyer, Elizabeth Camden (two of my absolute favourite authors), and Jody Hedlund.  Jody Hedlund was new to me, but I can happily add her to a list of favourites as well.

I love novella collections, but I also don’t love them.  I’m torn.  I love them because the stories are short and quick, and they are often great introductions to a story line or set of characters that an author will use throughout a series.  But for very similar reasons, I also don’t love them.  I don’t love them because they leave you desperate for more information and, in my case, the next book.  I don’t love them because you JUST start to get attached to characters, and then the stories seem to end very abruptly.  I think of them like a trailer for the larger book series.

This was especially true of Jody Hedlund’s “An Awakened Heart.”  It follows a young woman into the shadows of New York’s tenements where she and a newly appointed minister spar over the best way to care for the poor and orphaned.  This story was beautifully done, but it definitely left me aching for more of these characters.  Once you read this, you’ll need to snag “With You Always,” which continues from where “An Awakened Heart” left off.  It was my next book.  I regret nothing.  I’ve not yet read Together Forever or Searching for You (Orphan Train series books 2 and 3), but I will.

Karen Witemeyer’s “Worth the Wait” takes readers to the Harper’s Station women’s colony where a young mother must overcome pains and fears of the past in order to trust again.  I’ve read others in this series, and I likely read them out of order.  But it was great to revisit Harper’s Station under the keen historical style of Karen Witemeyer.  I’ll read anything she writes, and my only complaint about this was that it ended too soon.  But it was like 100 pages, so novellas will usually be guilty of that if you’re used to 300 page novels.

Elizabeth Camden’s “Toward the Sunrise” finds a young female medical student trying to overcome the ramifications of a decision that leave her at the mercy of a stubborn but handsome attorney.  In typical Camden fashion, this story was expertly crafted.  The characters were relatable, and I felt great about how it wrapped itself up. I haven’t looked into whether there are more that continue on from this book or not, but I will.

In short, I highly recommend this collection of novellas if for no other reason than that you will need to add more from these authors to your collections.

Buy the book here on Amazon.ca

all my tomorrows

Book was provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.

Judah’s Wife | A Book Review


It’s not often that I find a book I don’t love, but this one fits that category.  I typically know what I like, and I have a pretty good idea that something sounds interesting before I pick it up.  I’m not even completely sure why I didn’t like all of it, if I’m completely honest.  There were definitely parts that I did like, but it’s not something I grieved over finishing.

Don’t get me wrong, it was well written.  I felt many feelings in relation to those characters, and the characters were well developed.  The plot flowed well, and the story line made a lot of sense.

What I did really like, and what drew me into the book in the first place, was the historical setting — set in that vague in-between time between the Old and New Testaments in the Bible, the “silent years” — scholars say something like 400 years? — I was very interested to learn a little bit more about the way of life, being a pretty big historical fiction nerd.  It was very interesting to read about Jerusalem during the time of Alexander the Great.  I don’t know about the rest of you, but I find I don’t often connect the Biblical history to the Classical history and what I know about the two of them.  It never seems to occur to me that they would coincide, although obviously they have to.  I loved that part.  The story sets up the story of the Maccabees and the history around Hanukkah, which I did find fascinating.

Again, I can’t say that I loved it, despite it being well-written.  I’ve liked other works by Angela Hunt as well!  I’m just not sure.  I even waited a while after finishing to write the review, hoping it would come to me, but it hasn’t.  It took me a long time to finish the book, too.  Almost a month, actually.  And that’s not like me.

Anyway, I’d be interested to hear if anyone else has tried this book, and what you thought of it?

 

Seeking quiet and safety after a hard childhood, Leah marries Judah, a strong and gentle man, and for the first time in her life Leah believes she’ll have peace. But the very nation Judah was named for has been conquered by a cruel king, who decrees that all Jews are to conform to Syrian laws or risk death for following the laws of Moses.

Judah’s father resists the decree, igniting a war that will cost him his life. But before dying, he commands Judah to pick up his sword and continue the fight–or bear responsibility for the obliteration of Israel. Leah, who wants nothing but peace, struggles with her husband’s decision–what kind of God would destroy the peace she has sought for so long?

The miraculous story of the courageous Maccabees is told through the eyes of Judah’s wife, who learns that love requires courage . . . and sacrifice.

 

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Book was provided courtesy of Graf-Martin Communications, Inc. and Baker Publishing Group.

 

A Dangerous Legacy


My last Elizabeth Camden book pulled me in thoroughly, so I was quick to get a hold of this one as well.  A Dangerous Legacy is first in a series Camden has named “Empire State.”  The characters drew me in right away.  I finished the book in two days.  I actually had even planned to spend New Year’s Eve reading it, but…. that would have been anti-social so I opted to be a decent human being instead 🙂

Like I said, I loved the characters.  Siblings Lucy and Nick Drake are endearing, hard-working, and brave.  I loved that about them!  Sir Colin Beckwith appears to be arrogant, but he’ll grow on you so quickly!  There are sinister characters at play too, though, and Lucy and Nick have to fight hard against a dangerous family fight waged before they were even born.

Telegraph operator Lucy Drake is a master of Morse code and has made herself a valuable asset to the Associated Press news agency. But the sudden arrival of Sir Colin Beckwith at rival British news agency Reuters puts her hard-earned livelihood at risk. Colin is talented, handsome, insufferably charming–and keeping a secret that jeopardizes his reputation.

Despite their rivalry, Lucy can’t deny that Colin has the connections she needs to give her family an edge in the long legal battle they’ve been waging over their rightful inheritance. But when she negotiates an unlikely alliance with him, the web of treachery they dive into proves to be far more dangerous than they ever could have known.

I loved seeing the inner workings of Reuters and the Associated Press agencies in their earlier years, and the part of me that always wanted to be a writer/journalist growing up wistfully imagined a life where I got to send transmissions into one of the agencies that I’d picked up from somewhere around the world.  I love the life I have, so I quickly put the thoughts to bed, however, it didn’t stop my love of this plot line in any way.  I also loved the historical details put into the early years of indoor plumbing.  I found it fascinating, especially having just finished another book set in Chicago in the 1890s (ten years prior to this one) where tenement housing was a reality for a couple of the characters.  Tenement housing (I had to look it up) was housing complexes built where multiple families shared tiny spaces, and there was no running water.  Families often had to walk good distances and up or down many flights of stairs for access to pumps to get water, and it was often unclean and the source of sickness and death.  This story involves pressurized valves that allow hot and cold water alike to flow up multiple stories in a building, and it was fascinating.

If you have a love of historical fiction as I do, please check out this book.  It’ll be a quick, short read if you give it a go.  I love love loved it!  Stay tuned in 2018 for Empire State # 2, which switches its focus to be more about Nick than Lucy.

dangerous legacy

Book was provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.

Where We Belong


Oh my stars, this book.  This beautiful, wonderful book.  Historical fiction is my jam to begin with, so I knew I was going to like this book.  But I didn’t know I was going to adore and devour this book.

Where We Belong is the story of two sisters, Rebecca and Flora Hawes, who do not fit the mold of the 1890s Victorian era society they were born into in Chicago.  They’re well-read, they’re intelligent, and they’re adventurous; and they’re determined to find what God’s purpose for their lives might be.

The story, crafted wonderfully by Lynn Austin, details so much of the adventure, in pieces woven expertly together.  Just when you feel like you need more information in order to understand what’s about to happen, Austin goes back and delivers exactly the information you need to continue.  The story criss-crosses through the lives of the sisters, plus their butler, Soren, and their ladies’ maid, Kate, as the crew travels across the Sinai Desert to find a rumoured ancient biblical manuscript.

I can’t give you more information than that, but I can tell you that at times I was so enthralled by this book that I couldn’t imagine having done anything but read.  It’s a good thing it’s Christmas break, because I spent the majority of my last 3 days (including being up WAY too late last night finishing) reading it.  I related so deeply to the characters, especially to Rebecca, that I couldn’t stop.  If I’m being honest, I have a bit of a book hangover now that it’s finished and I blasted through 470 pages so quickly.  I’ve taken a break for most of today, though I may start the next adventure tonight.  Time will tell.

There wasn’t a lot of romance, though there was an element of that woven throughout the characters’ stories… but I appreciated the lack of romance in this one.  I really wanted the adventure and the history, and I sure got both.

This is my first Lynn Austin book, but if the rest of her historical fiction is as delightful as this was, I’ll certainly be back.

I was even more surprised and delighted to find that the story, while truly a work of fiction, is based on the lives of two real-life sisters.  I won’t give you any more detail than that, because to do so would give away important plot points, and I know you don’t want me to do that.  But I promise, when you get to the end of the book, you’ll want to read the very last page at the back that gives you the details of the real-life sisters that Lynn Austin based her work of fiction around.

“Join two incomparable sisters on adventures that span the decades and cross the globe.”

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Book was provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.

 

Heart on the Line


Two years ago today, actually, I wrote a review on my first Karen Witemeyer book.  It was SO good!  Well, my second Karen Witemeyer book was no different.  I’m not usually a “devour a book in 30 hours” kind of reader.  Granted, it IS summer, and I AM on vacation, but I digress — it usually takes me at least a week to knock one off.

I loved this book.  So very much.

Witemeyer has a knack, as far as I can tell, for crafting beautifully spunky, independent, resourceful, and clever young female characters who don’t actually need the men they come across, but are sure glad to have found someone who complements their lives nicely.  Given that she’s writing books set in the late 1800s in Texas, it’s refreshing and I love it.  The characters are easy to relate to, and they draw you in almost instantly.

There’s enough suspense and “oh no!  Now what’s gonna happen!?” in this book that I honestly could not stop reading.  I read while walking with it a couple times if I had to switch rooms for something (I don’t recommend that, folks…. it’s a trip hazard), and on the second last night of my vacation, I told my mom “I’ll get up when I get up — I’m gonna finish this book!” with about 130 pages left.  I didn’t actually finish that night, as I didn’t want to sleep away my whole last beach day, but I was sad that I had to stop.

I think my favourite part of this book was the telegraph courtship — it’s like online dating before online dating was a thing!

Apparently this is the second “Ladies of Harper’s Station” novel, so I’ll have to check out number 1 and add it to my “wish list” on Amazon — which is where I go to grab one book at a time whenever I’m not quite there for free shipping.

Here’s the synopsis for this book:

Grace Mallory is tired of running, of hiding. But when an old friend sends an after-hours telegraph transmission warning Grace that the man who has hunted her for nearly a year has discovered her location, she fears she has no choice. She can’t let the villain she believes responsible for her father’s death release his wrath in Harper’s Station, the town that has sheltered her and blessed her with the dearest friends she’s ever known.

Amos Bledsoe prefers bicycles to horses and private conversations over the telegraph wire to social gatherings with young ladies who see him as nothing more than an oddity. His telegraph companion, the mysterious Miss G, listens eagerly to his ramblings every night and delights him with tales all her own. For months, their friendship–dare he believe, courtship?–has fed his hope that he has finally found the woman God intended for him. Yet when he takes the next step to meet her in person, he discovers her life is in peril, and Amos must decide if he can shed the cocoon of his quiet nature to become the hero Grace requires.

I highly, highly recommend this book, especially if you’re a fan of Westerns or historical fiction, but absolutely if you’re a fan of spunky, witty writing that’ll draw you in and won’t let go.

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Book was provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.