Book Review: Waltz With Destiny by Catherine Ulrich Brakefield

51teoT5RTyLAs Hitler and his Nazis march across Europe…

The splendors of Detroit’s ballrooms spin Esther (McConnell) Meir around like a princess in a fairy tale Here she meets junior engineer Eric Erhardt. But will Eric abandon his playboy ways for Esther?

When war comes to America’s shores, Esther questions whether she has the grit to carry on the McConnell legacy. Meanwhile, Eric comes face to face with death when he’s drafted into the Army and shipped to fight in Italy.

Once again, war separates a McConnell woman from the man she loves as the Destiny saga reaches a page-turning conclusion.

Award-winning historical fiction author Catherine Ulrich Brakefield weaves fiction with real-life events to create this inspirational fourth book of the Destiny series.

My Review:

Catherine Ulrich Brakefield’s Waltz with Destiny is the crown jewel of the Destiny series!
Brakefield brings 1940s Detroit to life, along with the WWII battlefields of Italy.

Esther Meier, daughter of Ruby (McConnell) Meier, has a legacy of faith to live up to and an unsure future with war looming and her annoying attraction to a man who seems to flirt with every girl who glances sideways at him.

Eric Erhardt is studying to be an engineer but also wants to win his father’s approval. Handsome and talented, he can’t see it in himself. When he meets Esther at the Vanity Ballroom, he finds there’s something different about her with her faith and the way she conducts herself. She captures his heart like no other girl. Though love grows between them, both are afraid to admit it and commit themselves to the relationship, especially with the war in full swing.

Brakefield has outdone herself in bringing to life battles of WWII as seen through Eric’s eyes: the angst, fear, deprivation, bravery, death, and injury that surrounded the men of the United States Army. It’s a good read to remind us of the sacrifices of those that have gone before us that have maintained our freedom at sobering cost, along with God’s grace and answered prayer.

Yet Esther is never far from Eric’s thoughts while he is away. And while she is faithful to write encouraging words to him she wonders … should she wait for him? It’s worth reading to find out! You won’t want to put this one down!

Review: Becoming Mrs. Lewis by Patti Callahan

Historical fiction based on real historical people can be a tricky genre to pull off. I admire Callahan for taking on C. S. Lewis’s wife, Joy Davidman. I knew little about her, and I expect that is the case for many fans of C. S. Lewis. She brought Joy to life while exploring her complicated relationships and her chronic health issues. I loved the way Lewis is shown as well, the way he depended on Joy emotionally and enjoyed their philosophical and theological discussions. From what I can tell, Callahan treated these historical people fairly. In the author’s note she explains how she did her research.

That alone is enough to give this book a high rating, but the writing is seller, captivating, and caused me to read this book quickly. I love a novel that pulls me in like that. If this was made into a movie, I think it would be better than the new one on Tolkien.

Highly recommended.

Review: The Last Year of the War by Susan Meissner

The Last Year of the War

By Susan Meissner

Berkley, 3/19/19

The story begins in 2010 as Elise, a woman who is aware that Alzheimer’s is stealing her away, flies alone to find her childhood friend whom she just located thanks to a new iPad with internet. Elise and Mariko became friends during WWII at an internment camp, but this story is unlike any WWII novel I’ve read. As I was taken back to 1943, I learned a lot about these camps I never knew, including the fact that they housed German Americans along with Japanese (and even some Italians.) While the camps accommodated families and allowed the residents to continue observing their cultural heritage through foods, activities, and language classes, they were still terribly unfair, especially to the children like Elise and Mariko who were born Americans and knew very little about Japan and Germany.

The way Susan Meissner presented the older Elise and her determination despite the terrible disease she struggled with was expertly done. The mystery of why Mariko and Elise were separated and unable to connect before kept me turning pages. Elise is a character you root for as she had to endure so many relocations to unfamiliar places—and unsafe places her family returns to Germany in the last year of the war—and the questions she inevitably had about who she was and where she belonged. And you will still root for the older Elise as well who married in order to find that sense of belonging and ultimately discovered she had to establish it for herself.

I love historical novels that teach you history, and this one certainly does that. But in my opinion, this is one of the best Meissner novels yet. Highly recommended.

I received an advanced reader copy from the author and publisher for the purpose of review. I have given my honest opinions.

Susan Meissner is a USA Today bestselling author of historical fiction with more than half a million books in print in fifteen languages. She is an author, speaker and writing workshop leader with a background in community journalism. Her novels include As Bright as Heaven, starred review in Library Journal; Secrets of  Charmed Life, a Goodreads finalist for Best Historical Fiction 2015; and A Fall of Marigolds, named to Booklist’s Top Ten Women’s Fiction titles for 2014. A California native, she attended Point Loma Nazarene University and is also a writing workshop volunteer for Words Alive, a San Diego non-profit dedicated to helping at-risk youth foster a love for reading and writing.

Visit Susan at her website: http://susanlmeissner.com on Twitter at @SusanMeissner or at www.facebook.com/susan.meissner

Book Review: Destiny of Heart by Catherine Brakefield

Destiny of Heart is the third book of Catherine Ulrich Brakefield’s saga of the McConnell family, the Destiny series. This novel sweeps around the country, covering events in Colorado, Michigan, and Kentucky.

While Collina battles fever and illness at Shushan, Ruby and Stephen must head to the prairies in hopes of bringing him back to health from his battle with a strange lung disease. Collina’s husband has left her and all that remains to fight for is what is left of a dwindling Shushan and her mustard seed of faith. Eventually, Ruby faces her own tragedy and returns to her family in Kentucky. Then Franklin Long, former rough-rider and Collina’s lost sweetheart, unexpectedly runs into their sister, Myra, in Detroit. This sets into effect a chain of events that will test the McConnell family even farther, into the days of the Great Depression.

Brakefield has done her research and goes to great lengths to interweave historic events into the novels she writes and this one is no different. Her characters battle not only the difficulties around them but also wrestle with relatable spiritual issues within that can be understood in today’s culture as much as in the past. Destiny of Heart is also sprinkled with bright spots, past love fulfilled, and hope in God for the future.

For readers left wondering at the end of Destiny’s Whirlwind they will find some satisfaction in this third installment of the McConnell family saga. An enjoyable and hopeful Christian fiction read!

Catherine Ulrich Brakefield is an ardent receiver of Christ’s rejuvenating love, as well as a hopeless romantic and patriot. She skillfully intertwines these elements into her writing as the author of Wilted Dandelions, published by CrossRiver Publishing, an inspirational historical romance, along with her first Christian Romance novel, “The Wind of Destiny“, and her other history books,  Images of America,The Lapeer Area and The Images of America, Eastern Lapeer County. published by Arcadia Publishing.

Her short stories have been published in Guidepost Books; Extraordinary Answers to PrayersUnexpected Answers and Desires of Your Heart; Baker Books, Revell, The Dog Next Door, and The Horse of my Heart; CrossRiver Publishing, The Benefit Package, and Abba’s Promise; and Bethany House, Jesus talked to me Today.

Catherine lives in Addison Township, MI., with her husband Edward of forty-four years, and her beautiful Arabian horses. She enjoys horseback riding, swimming, camping, and traveling the byroads across America. Her children are now grown and married with families of their own. Catherine and Edward are now the blessed recipients of two handsome grandsons and one preciously adorable granddaughter.

Book Review: Everything She Didn’t Say by Jane Kirkpatrick

Everything She Didn’t Say

by Jane Kirkpatrick
Revell, 978-0-8007-2701-7
September 2018

Reviewed by Cindy Thomson
Everything She Didn't Say-Book Cover
Jane Kirkpatrick’s newest novel is based on the diaries of Carrie Strahorn, a woman who during the late nineteenth and early twentieth century accompanied her railroad employee husband as he wrote promotion for westward settlers and later helped him build several new towns when he became an investor. Carrie wrote her own published pieces for magazines along with her account of their adventures in the American West.

It’s hard to imagine how pioneers grappled with establishing settlements in deserts, and the accounts of how they rode on stage coaches in Indian territory very much exposed with little to defend themselves with gave me shivers. Carrie’s longing for a family and how she resolved issues in her marriage made her a character readers will root for, even though modern readers can’t truly relate to the magnitude of her struggles.

Kirkpatrick takes the view that Strahorn probably gave a tidy version of her experiences in her memoir and in letters to her family, so she imagined what life had really been like for her based on historical accounts. There were parts of Carrie’s actual writings that do give the reader the idea that she’s not telling the whole story. These appear at the end of the chapters and are what Kirkpatrick built upon. The author is a master at this kind of storytelling. I’m a Jane Kirkpatrick fan. I love how she brings life to real historical figures, people that I probably never would have learned about if I hadn’t read her novels. The historical notes at the end of the book are not to be missed.

It did take me awhile to get into this story. If that’s the case for you, I recommend you keep reading. For me the pace really picked up in the last third of the book. The problem sometimes with telling the story of a real-life person is that there any many things that occur during a lifetime, and some of those things don’t move the story along at a pace fiction readers expect, and yet they really happened so the author wants to include them. Overall, I enjoyed the story. If you are a historical fiction fan, and it’s likely the readers of this blog are, I think you will enjoy Everything She Didn’t Say.

I was given a review copy by the publisher with no obligation to post a review. I have given my honest opinion.

Review: Hidden Among the Stars by Melanie Dobson

978-1-4964-1732-9In most dual-time period novels I prefer the historical line more than the contemporary one. In Melanie Dobson’s new novel, Hidden Among the Stars, I was deeply immersed in both. In the contemporary line we meet Callie, a bookstore owner who reads stories to children and is comfortable living in the secluded nest of Mount Vernon, Ohio. This appealed to me because I live nearby. The author has definitely been here as everything she described was completely accurate from the hiking trail to the Ohio State campus. That was a bonus, however, because the world of children’s stories and the compelling backstory of Callie and her sister and their mysterious but loving mentor Charlotte kept me turning pages.

Likewise the stories of Annika and the boy she admires Max and the girl he longs to marry Luzia set in Austria at the onset of WWII was so vividly drawn and compelling that I could not say which storyline I preferred.

The stories are tied together at the beginning. We know what the mystery is about: A bookstore owner discovers a cryptic list in an old book and finds herself linked to the story of a mysterious Austrian castle, where priceless treasures were hidden in the early days of WWII. We, along with Callie, suspect that Charlotte, who spent time in an orphanage in France during the war, has some connection to this old book that no one yet understands, not even Charlotte. All the characters, even Josh the man that Callie finds herself drawn to, have pasts that make it hard for them to trust and love again, and that makes a reader root for them all.

The faith element is clear in this novel and the characters cling to the hope that Jesus brings into their lives. If I have any complaint, it’s very slight. I thought the first time Josh tells Callie about his faith it seemed more like a sermon than a conversation. However, when it comes up later it flows naturally within the story. And when you are dealing with personal loss (contemporary) and persecution of the Jews (historical) clinging to one’s faith is expected. The novel did not come off preachy in my opinion.

In the Author’s Note, Melanie explains that she indeed has been to the places she writes about. From a bookstore in a small Ohio town to a castle beside a lake in Austria, these places spoke to her and they certainly spoke to me as I read the story, not just as interesting locations, but as places where common people lived, loved, and did the best they could to overcome obstacles and evil. I loved this book. I think you will too!

pic_FULL_Dobson_MelanieMelanie Dobson is the award-winning author of more than fifteen historical romance, suspense, and time-slip novels, including Catching the Wind and Chateau of Secrets. Three of her novels have won Carol Awards, and Love Finds You in Liberty, Indiana won Best Novel of Indiana in 2010. Melanie loves to explore old cemeteries and ghost towns, hike in the mountains, and play board games with her family. She lives near Portland, Oregon, with her husband, Jon, and two daughters.

An advance copy of Hidden Among the Stars by Melanie Dobson was provided to me by the publisher for the purpose of review without any requirements. I have given my honest opinion.

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Cindy Thomson is the author of eight books, including her newest novel, Enya’s Son, third in the Daughters of Ireland series based on ancient legends. Being a genealogy enthusiast, she has also written articles for Internet Genealogyand Your Genealogy Today magazines, and children’s short stories for Clubhouse Magazine. She has also co-authored a baseball biography. Most everything she writes reflects her belief that history has stories to teach. Cindy and her husband live in central Ohio near their three grown sons and their families, and can be found online at www.cindyswriting.com, on Facebook www.facebook.com/cindyswritingand on Twitter: @cindyswriting.

 

 

Book Review: To Claim Her Heart by Jodie Wolfe

 

Back Cover Copy:

In 1893, on the eve of the great race for land, Benjamin David prays for God to guide him to his ‘Promised Land. Finding property and preaching to the lost are his only ways of honoring his deceased fiancée. He hasn’t counted on Elmer (Elsie) Smith claiming the same plot and refusing to leave. Not only is she a burr in his side, but she is full of the homesteading know-how he is sadly lacking.

Obtaining a claim in the Cherokee Strip Land Run is Elsie Smith’s only hope for survival, and not just any plot, she has a specific one in mind. The land’s not only a way to honor her pa and his life, but also to provide a livelihood for herself. She’s willing to put in whatever it takes to get that piece of property, and Elsie’s determined to keep it.

Her bitterness is what protects her, and she has no intentions of allowing that preacher to lay claim to her land . . . or her heart.

My Review of To Claim Her Heart

Jodie Wolfe has created a lovely chemistry of opposites between Elsie Smith and Benjamin David as they each bring their dreams to the Cherokee Strip and fight for their right to the same piece of land. To Claim Her Heart is a beautiful story of perseverance, hope deferred, and reconciliation with God and fellow man. Wolfe draws the reader into the world of frontier settlers with impressive historical detail, revealing their daily struggles and battles against nature with realism. Her spirited characters, Elsie and Benjamin, have stayed with me long beyond closing the last page of the book. I highly recommend To Claim Her Heart to fans of inspirational historical romance!

A delightful read! Five stars!

As a side note, Ms. Wolfe precedes each chapter of To Claim Her Heart with a quote on etiquette for young ladies from Mrs. Wigglesworth. The author has compiled one hundred of Mrs. Wiggleworth’s 19th-century admonitions on how to behave in the presence of young men and suggestions for deportment to publish Mrs. Wigglesworth’s Essential Guide to Proper Etiquette and Manners of Refined Society. While I haven’t read this book yet, I’m sure it would make an enjoyable companion to this novel judging from the quotes in Ms. Wolfe’s novel.

 

Kathleen Rouser is the award-winning author of Rumors and Promises, her first novel about the people of fictional Stone Creek, Michigan, and its sequel, Secrets and Wishes. Kathleen wanted to be a writer before she could even read. She lives in Michigan with her hero and husband, Jack, and the sassy tailless cat who found a home in their empty nest. Connect with Kathleen on her website at kathleenrouser.com, on Twitter @KathleenRouser. and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/kathleenerouser/.

 

 

Book Review: Songs of Willow Frost by Jamie Ford

41gFoKVfgBL._SX319_BO1,204,203,200_In this book we meet William Eng, a young Chinese boy living in a Catholic orphanage in Seattle. He remembers his mother and is sure the singer who is performing in town by the name of Willow Frost is his mother Liu Song. He escapes along with his blind friend Charlotte and they search for her. The reunion is not as joyful as he was expecting, however, and we are taken back to the 1920s and learn Liu Song’s sorrowful story of abuse and a love lost. William experiences his own loss and eventually returns to the orphanage.

 

I’m pleased that this book, so full of heartbreak, has a happy ending. I learned a lot about the time period and American-Chinese culture. I have been a Jamie Ford fan ever since reading The Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, and I recommend all his books. So touching, and so well written. Worthy to have been New York Times Bestsellers.

Cindy Thomson, owner of Novel PASTimes, is the author of eight books, including her newest novel, Enya’s Son, based on 6th-century legends. Researching her Scots-Irish roots launched a writing journey that has lasted nearly two decades. Being a genealogy enthusiast, she has also published articles in Internet Genealogyand Your Genealogy Todaymagazines. Most everything she writes reflects her belief that history has stories to teach. Cindy and her husband Tom live in central Ohio near their three grown sons and their families. Visit her at www.cindyswriting.comauthorphoto4cindy-thomson-LR-3

Review: The Lost Garden by Kate Kerrigan

f2d968_899c0f0fecec444c9f5299bf81bcdd46~mv2_d_1410_2250_s_2The Lost Garden by Kate Kerrigan

Aileen Doherty is a young Irish girl who accompanies her father and brothers on a trip to work in Scotland picking tatties. She meets Jimmy Walsh who is there doing the same, and they fall in love. But a tragic accident pulls them apart. Stung by grief and abandoned by her mother, Aileen begins working on an abandoned garden. At the same time, disfigured by burns he suffered in the accident, Jimmy falls deeply into the underworld of London. Both have to work through their grief and find their way back home.

I enjoyed this book very much. The story was about healing and continuing on by creating beauty and love in the pieces of the characters’ lives they had left and also in new adventures they found. The author writes from the west of Ireland, and although the story is set just post WWII, the setting comes alive, as do the quirky characters. The style is different from what I usually read. The author writes from an omniscient point of view, so the reader gets to know what each character is thinking and feeling in every scene. She does this well, and once I got to used to it, I was totally emerged in the story. It felt like pure Irish storytelling.

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For those of you who read strictly Christian fiction, this is not that genre. However, even the harsh world of prostitution and drug use was handled with care, and for me it was not at all offensive. There were several allegorical images, such as the ashes from the fire where loved ones perished growing a never-before species of flower. This gave the book an overall literary feel that reminded me of novels by Susanna Kearsley, a Canadian author. If you enjoy her novels, I think you’ll also like Kate Kerrigan’s. Visit her website here.

Thanks to the author from providing a free electronic copy of this book for review. I have given my honest opinion.

 

Review: In a Pirate’s Debt by Elva Cobb Martin

In a Pirate’s Debt

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When confronted with a forced marriage, Travay Allston flees her stepfather’s Jamaica plantation and dives into the sea. Death would be preferable to life with Sir Roger Poole, a drinking, gambling, scoundrel whose advances make her skin crawl.

Lucas sails the high seas as the dreaded Captain Bloodstone. He is on a quest to find his mother, a woman last seen clapped in irons by the Spanish. As his ship slips past Jamaica, he spies a young woman plunge into the sea. A prize of such beauty must be saved and Lucas dives in to rescue her. The last thing Lucas needs is to get involved with Travay, a childhood friend who caused him nothing but trouble. Especially now that she’s become a stubborn, alluring young woman.

Lucas delivers Travay to her aunt in Charles Town and washes his hands of the affair. Or so he thinks. But when Sir Roger shows up demanding that Travay marry him or face the wrath of Charles Town’s newest council member, Lucas feels that familiar boyhood tug on his heart. Will this wanted pirate of the crown risk his life to save Travay a second time? Betrothed to a man she hates, will Travay repay her debt to a pirate by marrying Sir Roger in exchange for his promise to pardon Lucas? And if she does, will such a rascal keep his word? Falling in love with the pirate was never part of her plan …

My Review:

Travay Allston literally falls into the hands of Captain Bloodstone as she does her best to escape from marriage to the scoundrel, Sir Roger Poole, by diving off the edge of a cliff on her horse.

She doesn’t know that the young and handsome pirate, Captain Bloodstone, is Lucas, someone she knew and cared about as a child. He has been her protector before and will learn that to be Travay’s protector is no easy task. After all, he is busy seeking recompense from the Spanish and on a quest to find his mother, whom they captured. He doesn’t have time to become involved with the beautiful and haughty Travay any more than she is interested in romance with a pirate. Their voyage to romance is filled with troubles at every turn!

While Lucas is a fairly new believer and works hard to live a godly life, Travay wonders where God is. There is a strong faith thread as both hero and heroine wrestle with their questions of faith and life. Even though pirate stories aren’t my usual read, I highly enjoyed Elva Cobb Martin’s In a Pirate’s Debt. Her characters come to life in their detailed historical settings. More than just a romance, it’s a page-turner filled with adventure on the high seas. I highly recommend this enjoyable read!

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Elva Cobb Martin is president of the South Carolina Chapter of American Christian Fiction Writers (2014-2017). Her first two inspirational novels, a romantic suspense, Summer of Deception, and an historical romance, In a Pirate’s Debt, released by Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas, have both spent time on Amazon’s 100 Best Sellers List for Women’s Religious Fiction. Elva is represented by Jim Hart, of Hartline Literary.