Saturday, January 19, 2019

Between Two Shores by Jocelyn Green



The daughter of a Mohawk mother and French father in 1759 Montreal, Catherine Duval finds it is easier to remain neutral in a world that is tearing itself apart. Content to trade with both the French and the British, Catherine is pulled into the fray against her wishes when her British ex-
fiance, Samuel Crane, is taken prisoner by her father. Samuel asks her to help him escape, claiming he has information that could help end the war. 

Peace appeals to Catherine, but helping the man who broke her heart does not. She delays . . . until attempts on Samuel's life convince her he's in mortal danger. Against her better judgment she helps him flee by river, using knowledge of the landscape to creep ever closer to freedom. Their time together rekindles feelings she thought long buried, and danger seems to hound their every mile. She's risked becoming a traitor by choosing a side, but will the decision cost her even more than she anticipated?

Between Two Shores by Jocelyn Green was an excellent novel that honestly delved into the sometimes ignored aspect of history -namely the French and Indian War and its effects on the French-Canadian settlers and the native peoples alike. The plot was well crafted and flowed seamlessly between flashbacks of Catherine's past and the present time. The story was told almost exclusively from Catherine's point of view and allowed the reader to understand her feelings, struggles, and actions. I enjoyed discovering more about how the different Indian tribes were allied with the French and/or British, the different practices that occurred between these groups (such as the ransoming of British captives by the French-Canadians for servants), and the rationale for why certain groups performed particular acts. Jocelyn Green did a marvelous job with her research and then crafting a story that allowed the reader to sympathize with all parties involved. 

The characters were also well developed and multi-dimensional with unique experiences, flaws, and strengths that added to the story's development. Catherine was an intriguing character who suffered much but also learned to trust God and to find her identity in Him instead of struggling with her mixed heritage. Oftentimes historical fiction leans heavily on romance for the plot, and I really appreciated that romance was not the defining feature of this novel. Instead, the author pointed to the fact that happiness, contentment, and satisfaction are found first in God, not in another person. So while my heart was left somewhat broken at the end for the main characters in this novel, I was satisfied with the conclusion and the reality of what the real people affected by these true events might have experienced and felt. 

I received this novel from Bethany House Publishers through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts are my own. 

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Flights of Fancy by Jen Turano



Miss Isadora Delafield may be an heiress, but her life is far from carefree. When her mother begins pressuring her to marry an elderly and uncouth duke, she escapes from the high society world she's always known and finds herself to be an unlikely candidate for a housekeeper position in rural Pennsylvania.

Mr. Ian MacKenzie is known for his savvy business sense and has built his reputation and fortune completely on his own merits. But when his adopted parents are in need of a new housekeeper and Isadora is thrown into his path, he's unexpectedly charmed by her unconventional manner.

Neither Isadora nor Ian expected to find the other so intriguing, but when mysterious incidents on the farm and the truth of Isadora's secret threaten those they love, they'll have to set aside everything they thought they wanted for a chance at happy-ever-after.

Flights of Fancy is the first in Jen Turano's new series, American Heiresses, and it certainly starts off the series with a bang (or I guess as Elmer would say, with a cluck). Izzie has always been a proper but intelligent daughter of a wealthy family who knows she will marry well but intent on marrying the right person. When her mother tries to set her up with a man rumored to have down away his previous wives, Isadora takes the only option she can think of...run away to be a housekeeper in the country. The following escapades and disasters that occur are exceedingly entertaining...who knew doing laundry could be so dangerous... and the lessons that Izzie learns along the way, extremely valuable. The other more minor characters, such as Aunt Bertha and Uncle Amos, add their own wonderful quirks and advice to the story, and the four young orphans that Ian finds in his homes are adorable, rambunctious, and all too willing to help Buttercup learn to climb stairs and to open doors (yes, Buttercup is a cow). 

I heartily enjoyed the adventures that both Isadora and Ian found themselves in the middle of, their hilarious dialogue and interactions, and the growth that both main characters experienced as they learned to let go of selfish plans and to be willing to grow their goals to meet the needs of others as well. The ending of the novel was simultaneously amusing (Elmer really leaves no other option) and heartwarming, and I cannot wait to see which American Heiress is next (my fingers are crossed for Isadora's best friend)!

I received this novel from Jen Turano and Bethany House Publishers in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts are my own. 

Searching For You by Jody Hedlund



Despite years on the run, Sophie Neumann is determined to care for two young children. She won't abandon them the way she thinks her older sisters abandoned her. But times are growing desperate, and when she falls in with the wrong crowd and witnesses a crime, she realizes fleeing 1850's New York is her only option.

Disappearing with her two young charges into a group of orphans heading west by train, Sophie hopes to find safety and a happy life. When the train stops in Illinois for the first placement of orphans, Sophie faces the most difficult choice of her life.

Reinhold Weiss has finally purchased his own small farm. With mounting debts, a harvest to bring in, and past scars that haunt him, he's in no position to give his heart away . . . but can he say no when his long-lost friend shows up on a nearby train pleading for his help?

Searching For You is the third and final novel in Jody Hedlund's Orphan Train trilogy, and it finally reveals to the readers of this series whatever happened to Sophie, Olivia, and Nicholas -the three children Elise and Marianna spent so much time searching for in the previous two novels. In this novel, however, Sophie is no longer a child and is angry, hurt, and shame-filled as she attempts to care for the two little ones in any way she can. As a result, she ends up on an orphan train, eventually separated from the two she loves most, and in the same town as her old family friend, Reinhold. Reinhold has been in all three novels, and I was cheering for him at this point to finally find peace and contentment. I really enjoyed the twists and turns in this novel (I was also rooting for some matchmaking between other, minor characters, but the author left that to the reader's imagination) and seeing the main characters grow stronger together and in the Lord. It was sweet to see both Reinhold and Sophie learn to confess and surrender their fears and failures to God and to experience both His and others' love and forgiveness anew. I really enjoyed this series as a whole, and I look forward to seeing what stories Jody Hedlund chooses to write next!

I received this novel from Bethany House through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. 

The Lieutenant's Bargain by Regina Jennings



Hattie Walker dreams of becoming a painter, while her parents want her to settle down. As a compromise, they give her two months to head to Denver and place her works in an exhibition or give up the dream forever. Her journey is derailed when a gunman attacks her stagecoach, leaving her to be rescued by a group of Arapaho . . . but she's too terrified to recognize them as friendly.

Confirmed bachelor Lieutenant Jack Hennessey has long worked with the tribe and is tasked with trying to convince them that the mission school at Fort Reno can help their children. When a message arrives about a recovered survivor, Jack heads out to take her home--and plead his case once more.

He's stunned to run into Hattie Walker, the girl who shattered his heart--but quickly realizes he has a chance to impress her. When his plan gets tangled through translation, Jack and Hattie end up in a mess that puts her dreams in peril--and tests Jack's resolve to remain single.

The Lieutenant's Bargain is the second novel in Regina Jennings' Fort Reno series and is an amusing addition to the series. The novel is well written, containing elements of mystery, suspense, romance, danger, and comedy. The characters are fairly well developed and have some truly entertaining and heartwarming interactions. Hattie and Jack find themselves in a tangled mess with no seemingly easy way out that is both amusing and endearing for the reader. I enjoyed seeing how both continue to fight their growing attraction while at the same time attempting to hold onto their separate dreams. It was fun to watch them learn to trust the guidance of God and His plan instead of holding out for their own wishes. And in the end they find what they truly needed and could gain was so much greater than their original plans. Overall, I enjoyed this novel and look forward to the next addition to the series. 

I received this novel from Bethany House through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. 

Jerusalem's Queen by Angela Hunt



Born in the small village of Modein, a town made famous by the warrior Maccabees, Salome Alexandra knows better than to harbor grand dreams for her future. She pales in comparison to her beautiful older sister, and though she learns to read at an early age, girls are not valued for their intellectual ability. But when her father and sister are killed, John Hyrcanus, a distant relative, invites Salome and her mother to live with his family in Jerusalem, where her thirst for knowledge is noticed and indulged.

When her guardian betroths her to a pagan prince, she questions HaShem's plan. When Hyrcanus finally marries her to a boy half her age, she questions her guardian's sanity. But though Salome spends much of her life as a pawn ordered about by powerful men, she learns that a woman committed to HaShem can change the world. 

Jerusalem's Queen by Angela Hunt is a phenomenal book that reveals an era of Israel's history that I was not at all familiar with. This novel is the third book in Angela Hunt's series, The Silent Years, which covers the time in between the biblical book of Malachi and Matthew when the prophets were silent. While this is the third book in the series, the books can be read in any order (though you will have more backstory if you read the second novel, Judah's Wife, prior to reading this one). This novel takes place a few decades after the Maccabees free Jerusalem and goes until just a generation prior to Jesus' birth (in fact, I love how the author connected Salome's tutor, Simeon, to the Simeon that gets to see Jesus in the tabernacle as an infant). I did not know much about this time in Israel's history, and it was really interesting to learn about the powerful female leaders that existed in the ancient world during this time. The interactions between Israel and the other powerful nations at the time was intriguing, and it was shocking at times to see the pure evil that spilled out between family members, rulers, and nations. 

The plot of this novel was well crafted and alternated between the third person view of Salome and the third person point of view of her slave, Kiera. It was interesting to see their very different perspectives and also to see how they both grew to trust and to believe more fully in HaShem and His plan for their lives and for Israel. I loved seeing Salome Alexandra grow and change as she attempted to guide her wicked husband in order to keep Israel from being destroyed both externally and internally. I was pulled into the disputes, different beliefs, and the tragedies that occurred between the different Jewish religious sects and how these set up for much of what is seen in Jesus' interactions with the teachers of the law in the Bible. Overall, I really enjoyed this novel, and I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys good historical fiction. 

I received this novel from Bethany House Publishers through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. 

Saturday, September 1, 2018

The Mark of the King by Jocelyn Green


After being imprisoned and branded for the death of her client, twenty-five-year-old midwife Julianne Chevalier trades her life sentence for exile to the fledgling 1720's French colony of Louisiana, where she hopes to be reunited with her brother, serving there as a soldier. To make the journey, though, women must be married, and Julianne is forced to wed a fellow convict.

When they arrive in New Orleans, there is no news of Benjamin, Julianne's brother, and searching for answers proves dangerous. What is behind the mystery, and does military officer Marc-Paul Girard know more than he is letting on?

With her dreams of a new life shattered, Julianne must find her way in this dangerous, rugged land, despite never being able to escape the king's mark on her shoulder that brands her a criminal beyond redemption. 

The Mark of the King by Jocelyn Green was an interesting and thought provoking read about a subject and time period I knew very little about. It involves the prison/exile French colony in Louisiana, and it delves into the conditions faced by the prisoners, locals, and soldier in ramshackle town of New Orleans. The plot line was well written and moved at the perfect pace, allowing me to dig deeper into the story and really connect with the characters. The descriptions of the settings, environment, and situations were outstanding, and I felt like I could actually picture what was happening. The characters were well developed and realistic, and I felt as if I could actually feel the emotions that Julianne experienced as she found herself first unfairly imprisoned, then married, and finally across the seas in the wilderness of Louisiana. I was drawn into her conflicts and the decisions she had to make, and I appreciated the other, more minor characters and the depth they added to the story. Overall, I highly enjoyed this novel, and I look forward to reading more of Jocelyn Green's excellent books. 

I received this novel from Netgalley and Bethany House in exchange for an honest review. 

Egypt's Sister: A novel of Cleopatra by Angela Hunt



Five decades before the birth of Christ, Chava, daughter of the royal tutor, grows up with Urbi, a princess in Alexandria's royal palace. When Urbi becomes Queen Cleopatra, Chava vows to be a faithful friend no matter what--but after she and Cleopatra have an argument, she finds herself imprisoned and sold into slavery. 

Torn from her family, her community, and her elevated place in Alexandrian society, Chava finds herself cast off and alone in Rome. Forced to learn difficult lessons, she struggles to trust a promise HaShem has given her. After experiencing the best and worst of Roman society, Chava must choose between love and honor, between her own desires and God's will for her life. 

Egypt's Sister is the first novel in Angela Hunt's new series, the Silent Years, which follows the Jewish people during the time period between the Old and New Testament when they have no communication with God via prophets. I recently wrote a review on the second novel in this series, Judah's Wife, which covers Israel during the Maccabean era. Egypt's Sister is about the Jews living in Egypt during Cleopatra's reign as Egypt begins to fall under the control of Rome. The story centers around Chava and her childhood friendship with Urbi (aka Cleopatra) and what happens to both girls as they age. It was very interesting to see the backstory behind Cleopatra, to see the tragedy and betrayal that existed in her own family, and to watch as the decisions she made led her further and further into uncertainly, lies, and deceit. I also was intrigued to follow the fictional story of Chava as she suffered under the slavery conditions in Rome and had to learn to persevere and to forgive even in the midst of great pain. I was pulled into the story from the first page, and I could not put it down until the end. I was moved to tears at times by the realistic narration and the hardship that both girls experienced for different reasons. Overall, I highly enjoyed diving into this novel, and I look forward to reading more of Angela Hunt's new series. 

I received this novel from Netgalley and Bethany House in exchange for an honest review.