Friday, September 23, 2022

COVER REVEAL for A.L. Sowards upcoming A WALTZ WITH TRAITORS!

 I am delighted to be part of the cover reveal for the upcoming book of one of my favorite authors, A.L. Sowards. I'm always amazed at the stunning stories she writes and the incredible historical detail she includes.  She always manages to dig up fascinating events and stick her remarkable characters right into the middle of them. 

Her new book, A Waltz with Traitors comes out in March 2023, which is way too far away if you ask me.  But in the meantime, we can ponder this book blurb and admire the stunning cover.  



Sometimes the road to freedom is a six-thousand-mile-long railroad track. Sometimes the road to love is even longer.

The Former Russian Empire, 1918

Czech soldier Filip Sedlák never wanted to fight for the Austro-Hungarian Empire. So at the first opportunity, he defected to the Russians. Now he and others like him have formed the Czechoslovak Legion. Their goal: leave the chaos of Russia, sail to France, and help the Allies defeat the Central Powers, thereby toppling a hated empire and winning an independent Czechoslovakia.

With the fall of the tsar, Nadia Linskaya’s life is in ruins. Her family is dead, her lands are confiscated, and her aristocratic world is gone forever. But Nadia is determined to elude the Bolshevik agent who destroyed her family and find a way to survive in this changed world.

When Nadia takes refuge with the Czechoslovak Legion, the last thing she expects is an ally. But when Filip proposes a sham marriage to ensure her safe passage across Siberia, she takes it. Neither Filip nor Nadia expect real love, not when the legion has to take over the longest railroad in the world—and then hold it against Bolshevik counterattacks, partisan sabotage, Allied intrigue, and a set of brutal Siberian winters. At risk is the future of Czechoslovakia, the fate of Russia—and their hearts.




WOW! Isn't that cover amazing?! I love it!  I can't wait to get my hands on this one! I know that's a lot of exclamation marks but I'm so excited that I just can't help myself. :)

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

INSPIRATIONAL NONFICTION: Until You Find Strength by Jason F. Wright



ABOUT THE BOOK

Everyone experiences loss differently and grieves in their own way, but author Jason F. Wright has learned from his own life some key principles to regaining your footing and finding tranquility after a devastating loss.

This beautifully illustrated book helps remind those who are grieving that they are never alone in their pain and heartache.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jason F. Wright is a New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today bestselling author of seventeen books. He lives with his wife, Kodi, and their children in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.

REVIEW

This tender gift book touched my heart as I read it.  Maybe it's because not too long ago I lost a loved one myself. I cried as I read Jason Wright's sweet words of comfort and hope.  I found it a great reminder that there is help and comfort available during these times of sorrow.  It also reminded me that I can be that someone to offer love and support for others as they struggle with loss.  I also appreciated the gentle reminder to ask for help when needed, there are those willing and able to help.  The author also points out the grieving is different for everyone, that there will be ups and downs, and that we are likely to never stop missing those we love, but that good times can still be enjoyed and it's okay to laugh or cry as needed.  This sweet book would make a great gift for yourself or others whose hearts are mourning the loss of a loved one.


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Wednesday, August 17, 2022

HISTORICAL FICTION : Praying with the Enemy by Steven T. Collis

Praying with the Enemy

ABOUT THE BOOK

When pilot Captain Ward Millar is forced to eject over enemy territory in North Korea, the ejection explosion snaps both of his ankles. Unable to walk, he is easily captured by North Korean and Chinese soldiers who interrogate, threaten, and starve him for strategic wartime information. He feeds the enemy false information while plotting his escape. But it’s only a matter of time before they discover his lies. He knows it will take a miracle to gain his freedom, but his previous self-reliance on his own capabilities has never included appealing to a higher power. If only he had faith like his wife, Barbara, whose firm belief in God can move mountains.

North Korean soldier Kim Jae Pil was raised to believe in the power of prayer, but, knowing the Communist Party’s views on religious groups, Kim and his family must keep their Christian faith secret. He is desperate to escape the army, return to his family, and then flee to South Korea.

With Millar imprisoned and unable to walk, and the North Korean army increasingly suspicious of Kim’s actions, it seems impossible that either man will find the freedom they so desperately desire. But when these wartime foes cross paths, they find in each other an unlikely ally. Despite speaking different languages, Millar and Kim find common ground in their fragile faith and must rely on each other to undertake a daring escape.

Praying with the Enemy is a story of courage, determination, unlikely friendship, and enduring faith.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR


STEVEN T. COLLIS is a storyteller at heart. He is also a law professor at the University of Texas School of Law and the faculty director of Texas's Bech-Loughlin First Amendment Center and Law and Religion Clinic. Previously, he was the Olin-Darling Research Fellow at the Constitutional Law Center at Stanford Law School and chair of the Religious Institutions and First Amendment Practice Group at Holland & Hart LLP. 

He is an engaging and sought-after speaker nationwide on religion and law. Steven received his MFA in creative writing from Virginia Commonwealth University and his Juris Doctor from the University of Michigan Law School. 

He is the author of Deep Conviction: True Stories of Ordinary Americans Fighting for the Freedom to Live Their Beliefs. He and his wife have five children and reside in Texas.

REVIEW

Ward Millar's escape from North Korea during the Korea War was a most remarkable one.  In novel, based on Millar's real life experiences, Collis takes readers into the middle of two men's experiences during war time.  After Millar's plane goes down, Millar is at the mercy of his captors.  With two broken ankles, escape seems to be an impossibility.  To get medical care he is forced to share information with his North Korean & Chinese captors.  He mixes a little truth with mostly lies knowing that it's only a matter of time before his lies are discovered.  Unlike his wife, Millar wasn't a man of faith, he'd never seen a need for a belief in God, until now when his helpless situation stares him in the face. To escape will require a miracle.

Drafted into the North Korean army after a stint in prison for his Christian beliefs, Kim Jae Pil also wants to escape to the south.  But he wants to take his family with him.  When a chance to slip away from the army arises he returns home to find only his mother waiting for him. As he and his mother make plans to go so south, Jae Pil find himself unwillingly returning to the army with little chance of finding the rest of his family.  Despite careful watching, it seems his prayers are going unanswered as weeks go by without any chance to escape.

Despite his difficult circumstances, Ward uses his intelligence to make plans for escape, hoping that his ankles are healing enough to do so.  He gathers supplies with the help of some friendly villagers and prepares to slip away before he ends up in a northern POW camp.  But the poor medical care he has received and his immobility prove to be a bigger problem than he expected and his first attempt fails miserably.

After escaping, it quickly becomes apparent that he seriously miscalculated his situation.  When he encounters Jae Pil and some other soldiers, it seems any hope of a miracle is lost.  But the hope in God that both have exercised through nearly constant prayer brings them together and hope may not be entirely lost.  But time is running out and options are few.  It will take all the ingenuity and faith the two men can muster to find a way to freedom.

Ward and Jae Pil's story fascinated me from the beginning.  I don't know what the odds are of the two men meeting the way they did, somehow managing to communicate with each other, and then trusting each other enough to attempt an escape together.  Failure means likely death for both of them.  So often people claim that such encounters are just coincidences, but here it is clearly a miracle.  While the book has been fictionalized to make it easier to tell (the author's note makes it clear where the story was tweaked a bit to help the book move a bit smoother), the main experiences of both men did happen.  

In addition, the chapters dedicated to Ward's wife's experiences after finding out her husband was missing highlight her great faith and belief that he was still alive and would be coming back to her.  Despite other's efforts to prepare her for the worst, she refused to give up and kept writing letters, even insisting to her husband's commanding officer that he keep the letters for her husband's return.

The faith demonstrated by these individuals is truly inspiring and reinforces my own belief in God and His power to work miracles.  As Ward himself realizes, not all receive the miracles they desire, but by exercising faith he, his wife, and Jae Pil receive their miracle. An incredible story of faith, courage, and determination in the face of challenging obstacles. Highly recommended.

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Wednesday, June 22, 2022

HISTORICAL FICTION : A Brilliant Night of Stars and Ice by Rebecca Connolly

A Brilliant Night of Stars and Ice


ABOUT THE BOOK

Shortly after midnight on April 15, 1912, the captain of the Carpathia, Arthur Rostron, is awakened by a distress signal from the RMS Titanic, which has struck an iceberg on its maiden voyage. Though information is scarce, Rostron leaps into action, determined to answer the call for help. But the Carpathia is more than four hours away, and there are more questions than answers: Will his ship hold together if pushed to never-before-tested speeds? What if he also strikes an iceberg? And with the freezing temperatures, will there be any survivors by the time the Carpathia arrives?

Kate Connolly is excited to join her sister in America and proud to be traveling on the grand Titanic. As a third-class passenger, she is among the last to receive instruction and help after Titanic hits an iceberg. Despite the chaos of abandoning ship, Kate is able to reach the upper decks and manages to board a lifeboat, though after seeing the Titanic sink into the abyss and hearing the cries from the hundreds of people still in the water, she wonders if any rescue is even possible.

Told in alternating chapters from both Captain Rostron on the Carpathia and Kate Connolly on the Titanic, this historical novel is a compelling, heart-pounding account of two eyewitnesses to an epic disaster. Rostron's heroic and compassionate leadership, his methodical preparations for rescue, and his grit and determination to act honorably and selflessly to save lives and care for the survivors, sets the course for this awe-inspiring story.

REVIEW

The story of the Titanic is a well-known one.  Many books, both fiction and nonfiction, have been written about the disastrous sinking. Most of those books, at least the ones I've read, focus on the experience of the survivors on the Titanic itself.  This book also looks at the horrific experiences of the survivors.  What this one does that's different, is the focus on the captain and crew of the Carpathia, the ship that rescued the survivors.  In alternating chapters, Connolly shares with readers two different perspectives.  One perspective is that of Arthur Rostron, the captain of the Carpathia as he and his crew receive word of the Titanic's sinking and rush to help.  The other perspective is that of Kate Connolly, an Irish immigrant, who is traveling to the United States in the company of several friends.  The reader travels along with Kate and Captain Rostron as they face the tragedy and heartbreak of the disaster.  The author does an excellent job of helping the reader feel the terror, shock, and grief that afflicted those on the Titanic.  What makes the book especially powerful is the urgency that drove Captain Rostron and his crew as they worked feverishly to come to the aide of the Titanic.  I think what struck me most about this book, and it's the reason I liked it so much, is that is personifies what I love so much about survival or disaster stories: the courage and determination and selflessness that people so often exhibit in the face of difficult circumstances.  Connolly has done a fantastic job of sharing a fictionalized version of a true story focusing on real people and what they experienced over those few days.  Highly recommended for those who enjoy a story that inspires both tears and admiration.

Wednesday, June 1, 2022

CHRISTIAN FICTION REVIEW: The Mistletoe Countess by Pepper Basham



ABOUT THE BOOK

Will the magic of Christmas bring these two newlyweds closer together, or will the ghosts of the past lead them into a destructive discovery from which not even a Dickens’s Christmas can save them?

Mistletoe is beautiful and dangerous, much like the woman from Lord Frederick’s Percy’s past, so when he turns over a new leaf and arranges to marry for his estate, instead of his heart, he never expects the wrong bride to be the right choice. Gracelynn Ferguson never expected to take her elder sister’s place as a Christmas bride, but when she’s thrust into the choice, she will trust in her faithful novels and overactive imagination to help her not only win Frederick’s heart but also to solve the murder mystery of Havensbrook Hall before the ghosts from Frederick’s past ruin her fairytale future.

REVIEW

I know it isn't Christmas right now, but I loved this book so much I couldn't wait to review it!  The Mistletoe Countess provided a delightful and thoroughly engaging reading experience.  Not only was the plot compelling, but I absolutely fell in love with these characters.  They honestly felt like friends that I'd want to sit down and enjoy again and again.

When Gracelynn Ferguson steps in and marries an earl in her sister's place, she never expects to face a new home full of questions and the unhappiness of her new husband's past.  As Frederick and Grace's relationship develops and they become friends as well as spouses, Grace uses her unique collection of skills to help her husband find the healing and redemption he so desperately seeks.  With her sunny disposition and deep knowledge of fictional characters and plot lines, she works to help her husband discover what happened to the his brother, the former Earl of Astley.  Frederick's tender heart has been wounded by choices from the past, but Grace's openness and generousness of spirit helps him find the courage to face the past and work toward building the future.

Many of the interactions between the characters are wonderfully laugh inducing.  Grace is such a fun character, and quite amusing in the way she's always referring to fictional characters and what she has learned from her reading, especially the sleuthing information.  The growing relationship between Grace and Frederick is sweet and tender. The other characters provide greatly to the story as well, especially the servants reactions to Grace's often quite improper behavior.  Frederick's mother is a rather heartbreaking part of Frederick's past, but by the end, like Grace, I felt some empathy for her situation even though it's partly self-induced.  As a romance, there is plenty of kissing involved; intimate relations are shared between Grace and Frederick as husband and wife, but are kept off the page, although there are a couple of bedroom scenes where they are talking. 

As Christian fiction there is frequent mention of God and prayer and religious belief throughout the story, but it doesn't get preachy or bog down the story in any way. The contrast between Frederick's past mistakes and Grace's innocence highlights Frederick's efforts at redemption and restitution.  The murder mystery becomes a prominent part of the story as Grace and Frederick begin to settle in at Havensbrook Hall and prepare to celebrate Christmas.  The danger that stalks Grace and Frederick builds in tension until the denouement at the end where Grace and Frederick have a chance to show just how much they have come to care for each other.

The length of this review should make it clear that I truly loved this book and plan to enjoy reading it many times in the future.



Thursday, April 28, 2022

Grief and forgiveness come together in this tender tale of family reunion. EVEN THE DOG KNOWS by Jason F. Wright



ABOUT THE BOOK

A family’s old, beloved dog takes a final road trip to help his humans find forgiveness and healing. Meg Gorton finds herself alone and lonely in Florida. Three years earlier, she had packed what she could fit into her sister’s car and asked her estranged husband, Gary, to take care of Moses, their beloved black Labrador. Things between Meg and Gary hadn’t been the same after the loss of their only daughter many years ago. Even after raising their grandson, Troy, it was clear that if Meg wanted a new beginning, she would have to do it alone.

Haunted by the tragedy of his daughter’s death, Gary is stuck in his life in Woodstock, Virginia. He still owns and drives the bus for their hometown minor league baseball team, and he still thinks about the day his wife drove away.

Everything changes when Meg contacts Gary with a request to bring Moses to visit her one last time before the old dog passes on. Gary is reluctant, but Troy thinks it’s an excellent idea. They could even travel together in Gary’s bus. Along the way, Gary takes a detour to visit Troy’s ex-girlfriend, Grace. Gary might not know how to fix things with his wife, but he knows he doesn’t want Troy to make the same mistakes he did.

Although Moses is just a dog, he’s very observant. It doesn’t take long for him to figure out they are going on to see Meg. He knows he’s an old dog and that his time is near, but he also knows his family needs his help.

Even the Dog Knows is a novel that will take readers on a thousand-mile journey to find forgiveness, understanding, healing, and the meaning of true and lasting love.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

JASON F. WRIGHT is a New York Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today best-selling author. He is also the host of the popular podcast Wright Where You Are. He writes an occasional column, which as appeared in over one hundred newspapers, magazines and websites across the United States including the Washington Times, the Northern Virginia Daily, the Chicago Tribune, the Deseret News, Forbes, CNN.com, FoxNews.com and others.

Jason grew up in Charlottesville, Virginia, but has also lived in Germany, Illinois, Brazil, Oregon and Utah. In 2007, while researching Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley for a novel, Jason fell so in love with the area that he moved his family to Woodstock. He is married to Kodi Erekson Wright. They have two girls and two boys they love, and two grandchildren they love even more.

To invite Jason to your book club, school, church, conference or other event, connect online: jasonfwright.com, facebook.com/jfwbooks, Instagram.com/jasonfwright.

You can also reach Jason through a handwritten letter: PO Box 669, Woodstock, VA 22664. He answers—eventually!—every single one.

REVIEW

My heart was drawn into this touching story of love and loss right from the beginning.  I felt drawn into Gary and Meg's relationship from the moment they meant.  And then my heart broke when I read about the grief they experienced at the loss of their daughter and how it ultimately drove them apart.  The story is told from three points of view, Gary, Meg, and their dog, Moses.  This gives the reader more information and insight than any of the characters have by themselves.  The addition of Troy, Gary and Meg's grandson who they raised as their own son, and his ex-girlfriend makes for an interesting additional plot line.  The dog's point-of-view provides a different perspective on everything that is happening.  Moses just wants to be with his family and for everything to work out.

When Meg, living in Florida, asks to see Moses one more time, Gary (very reluctantly), Troy, and Moses head out in the old bus that Gary uses to transport the local baseball team to games.  The trip proves to be much more eventful than any of them would have expected.  While the 'boys' are witnessing accidents, taking detours, and helping a homeless wanderer, Meg and her health care aide, Macy, prepare for their arrival.

The lessons learned and the hearts touched stayed with me as I completed the journey with the characters.  Not only did I find this an interesting story, but the themes of family, grief, guilt, and forgiveness resonated with me as well.  Wright knows how to tell a story, with enough detail to help the reader feel like they are right there with the characters.  Ultimately, this is a story of hope, of love, and of overcoming obstacles and heartbreaking circumstances, not by accident or luck, but by choice.

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Friday, April 8, 2022

BLOG TOUR and GIVEAWAY: BEFORE THE FORTRESS FALLS by A.L. Sowards

Before the Fortress Falls


ABOUT THE BOOK

When rumors reach Vienna that an attack by the Ottoman army is imminent, Wilhelm von Schor, one of the emperor’s courtiers, prepares to evacuate his family—including his sister, Katja. But Katja’s reluctance to leave the city and the people she loves so well grows the farther the family carriage gets from her childhood home. When she learns that another brother, Xavier, is returning to Vienna with his musketeers, she decides to remain behind and face the shadow of war.

Katja soon reunites with Xavier and also with Toby, a dear friend from childhood. As Katja and Toby renew their friendship, an element of attraction builds on the comradery of their youth, and they quickly realize they have found something worth fighting for: love. But all too soon, the Ottomans encircle the city, blanketing its inhabitants in fear. Katja, Toby, and Xavier must each fulfill their new roles if they are to survive. In the overcrowded hospitals, below ground in the countermines, and on the ramparts defending the city walls, the three must fight for love, family, faith, and the survival of their city and everyone inside.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

A. L. Sowards is the author of multiple historical fiction novels, with settings spanning the globe from the fourteenth to twentieth centuries. Her stories have earned a Whitney Award, several Whitney Finalists positions, and a Readers’ Favorite Gold Medal. She enjoys hiking and swimming, usually manages to keep up with the laundry, and loves it when someone else cooks dinner. She currently lives in the beautiful state of Alaska with her husband, three children, and an ever-growing library.

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REVIEW

A.L. Sowards has written another stunning historical fiction story with amazing characters, incredible historical detail, and a compelling, heart-breaking plot.  Katja and her brothers, Xavier, and Wilhelm get caught up in the siege of Vienna by the Ottoman empire in 1683.  While Wilhelm uses his diplomatic skills to get help for the besieged city, Xavier serves in the army desperately trying to hold off the highly skilled janissaries.  After deciding to stay in the city, Katja finds herself helping care for the wounded while falling in love with an old friend, Toby.  Toby works as a counterminer, helping defuse miners and fill in threatening mines. While the city's fate hangs in the balance so does the fate of Katja and her friends and family.

As in her previous works, Sowards provides an amazingly detailed glimpse into a time and place and what it may have been like to be there.  The suffering presented is heart-wrenching while the resilience and determination of various characters is inspiring.  The Christian faith of the characters shines through in the most difficult of times. Katja's and Toby's class-defying romance is both sweet and sad as it occurs during an incredibly difficult time for both of them.  Sowards' great storytelling presents readers with a story that touches the heart while sharing surprising connects to current events.  For those who enjoy reading historical fiction that leaves its mark on you when you are finished, I highly recommend Before the Fortress Falls.

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Monday, March 28, 2022

THE VALET'S SECRET by Josi Kilpack: a delightfully unexpected tale of romance between the classes with a Cinderella vibe.



ABOUT THE BOOK

As a once happily married woman, Rebecca Parker had a good life, but now widowed, working for a living, and her only child grown, she feels invisible, tired, and lonely. That is until the day a valet speeding by on a horse nearly runs her off the road. Mr. Malcolm Henry is apologetic, gentle, and handsome. She’s instantly drawn to him, which is why, rather than stopping him from kissing her, she kisses him back, reigniting a nearly forgotten passion. But love at first sight only happens in fairy tales—never to an ordinary woman like her.

She sees Mr. Henry again and feels the possibilities growing until, while working in the kitchens during a dinner party, she sees the valet she kissed sitting at the right hand of the baroness. Mr. Henry is not the earl’s valet; he is the heir to the earldom—Kenneth Winterton.

Heartbroken, angry, and betrayed, Rebecca does not trust Lord Winterton and refuses to accept his apology. But when Lord Winterton proves he is as kind and gentle as “Mr. Henry” was, she finds herself willing to give him a second chance. But will he take a chance on her? He needs a wife to help him in his place in society, and nothing about Rebecca’s life does that...except how he feels when she is with him.

Trust, love, loneliness, and passion collide in this story about a man who will risk it all to fight for the woman he loves and a woman who does not believe in fairy tales—until she finds herself living in one.

REVIEW

As with all her books, Josi Kilpack manages to make this historical romance based on a fairy tale feel fresh and new.  Kilpack creates such interesting characters who are fully fleshed out.  They have strengths and weaknesses, interesting personalities, and diverse backgrounds.  This story creates an interesting contrast between the two main characters while still finding common ground between them.  Rebecca Parker's background as her father's artistic assistant and former maid stands in stark contrast to Kenneth Winterton's background as a gentleman who has become heir to an earl.  According to their classes the two would have never conversed except as servant and gentleman.  But an inadvertent encounter changes both their lives.  In an attempt to ease the awkwardness of their meeting Kenneth lies about who he is, believing they aren't likely to meet again.  When they do meet again and discover the connection between them remains, things get more complicated, especially when Rebecca does eventually find out his correct name and position.  It seems their is no hope for a relationship between them despite their growing feelings for each other.  But perhaps an extra ounce of courage and help from a surprising source may pave the way for more than either could have ever dreamed.  

This Cinderella-based tale made for thoroughly enjoyable reading.  Both Kenneth and Rebecca are sympathetic characters who find themselves in difficult circumstances yet find joy in each other's company.  I also appreciated the fact that both characters are middle-aged and not expecting to find romance when they meet.  I found it refreshing to read about characters who come from more humble circumstances who struggle with their changes in circumstances but have the maturity to face them with courage and compassion.  Kenneth and Rebecca's love story is full of delightful details and smile-inducing moments.  A thoroughly engaging read for those who love clean historical romance as I do.

Tuesday, March 1, 2022

Can love conquer all in the face of differing beliefs and a world turned upside down? Find out in Arlem Hawks stunning BEYOND THE LAVENDER FIELDS.

Beyond the Lavender Fields


ABOUT THE BOOK

1792, France

Rumors of revolution in Paris swirl in Marseille, a bustling port city in southern France. Gilles Étienne, a clerk at the local soap factory, thrives on the news. Committed to the cause of equality, liberty, and brotherhood, he and his friends plan to march to Paris to dethrone the monarchy. His plans are halted when he meets Marie-Caroline Daubin, the beautiful daughter of the owner of the factory.

A bourgeoise and a royalist, Marie-Caroline has been called home to Marseille to escape the unrest in Paris. She rebuffs Gilles’s efforts to charm her and boldly expresses her view that violently imposed freedom is not really freedom for all. As Marie-Caroline takes risks to follow her beliefs, Gilles catches her in a dangerous secret that could cost her and her family their lives. As Gilles and Marie-Caroline spend more time together, she questions her initial assumptions about Gilles and realizes that per-haps they have more in common than she thought.

As the spirit of revolution descends on Marseille, people are killed and buildings are ransacked and burned to the ground. Gilles must choose between supporting the political change he believes in and protecting those he loves. And Marie-Caroline must battle between standing up for what she feels is right and risking her family’s safety. With their lives and their nation in turmoil, both Gilles and Marie-Caroline wonder if a révolutionnaire and a royaliste can really be together in a world that forces people to choose sides.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

ARLEM HAWKS began making up stories before she could write. Living all over the western United States and traveling around the world gave her a love of cultures and people and the stories they have to tell. She has a bachelor’s degree in communications, with an emphasis in print journalism, and she lives in Arizona with her husband three children.

REVIEW

Arlem Hawks hits it out of the park with her new historical fiction novel Beyond the Lavender Fields.  Her characters are fascinating and intriguing, her setting is superbly presented, and her plotting is magnificent.  I found this novel of the French Revolution to be utterly compelling.  I didn't read it quickly, the story has to many ins and outs and ups and downs to be read quickly.  But I found myself relishing each encounter between Gilles and Caroline as they got to know each other.  Not only was their relationship complicated from the beginning because of their political beliefs but the circumstances and people around them complicated things as well.  This made their love story all the sweeter and more intricate as they both come to terms with their feelings for each other as well as face the ongoing challenges of the revolution.  Caroline seems firmly placed on the royaliste side of things, but as I got to know her better I realized that it wasn't that simple.  Some of her actions were distinctly non-royaliste.  Gilles grows and develops as he realizes that his beliefs and actions don't always match up to the revolutionary zeal that he has long professed.  This stunning novel full of intricate details and sometimes shocking events took me on quite the journey. By the time I was finished reading, I considered Gilles and Caroline to be dear friends.  The mixing in of the French phrases and places made it feel all the more real.  I did appreciate the inclusion of a glossary of the French terms and a pronunciation guide for the names. The only thing missing was a good map or two.  This is a book that I will read again and again just to enjoy meeting old friends again.

BOOK TRAILER




Tuesday, February 22, 2022

SUMMERHAVEN: A Regency Romance by Tiffany Odekirk

Summerhaven


ABOUT THE BOOK

Hannah Kent and Oliver Jennings pledged their hearts to each other as children. Now, years later, Hannah is thrilled to receive an invitation to spend the summer at Oliver’s family’s country estate. The path to wedded bliss is clear—so long as Oliver’s highbrow older brother, Damon, has ceased his juvenile antics, Hannah’s future looks bright indeed.

But from the moment Hannah arrives at Summerhaven, nothing is as she expected. Oliver seems disinterested in renewing their acquaintance, and Damon is not the brutish boy she remembers but a man intent on avoiding marriage. Although she has loathed Damon her whole life, when he contrives a ruse designed to win them both what they desire, Hannah warily agrees. All she has to do to reclaim Oliver’s attention is pretend to be madly in love with Damon. But when Damon is surprisingly convincing in his role as a suitor, it proves difficult to discern the line between pretense and true love.

REVIEW

This lovely tale of love misguided and love forsworn made for a sweeping adventure.  Hannah's dream of the promised love between her and Oliver Jennings sends her to Summerhaven in hopes of seeing the promise from her youth fulfilled.  To her surprise, however, Ollie doesn't seem at all interested in her anymore.  After making a deal with Ollie's older brother, she discovers to her surprise that maybe dreams can change.  Damon and Hannah make for some great characters that I thoroughly enjoyed reading about, especially as they got to know each other better.  Odekirk does a fabulous job bringing not only her characters to life but the time and place as well. I very much look forward to returning to the sweet environs of Summerhaven again and again.

BOOK EXCERPT

Damon stepped forward, and his watch key and seal—visible reminders of his status and self-importance—clanked together. He bowed. “Miss Kent.”

“My lord,” I returned with a shallow curtsy. 

The corners of his mouth curled into a smile. “I see someone has managed to make a lady out of the wild girl I once knew,” Damon said, and before stepping back in line with his mother, he met my eye and added, “A pity.”

My eyebrows pulled together in surprise. 

“Do try not to scowl, Miss Kent. It will crease your lovely brow.”

“Damon Jennings,” Lady Winfield scolded. “You have been taught better manners.”

“My apologies, Mother. Teasing a beautiful woman is one of few things that has yet to be lectured out of me.” 

I gaped. Never in all my life had a man spoken so casually to me. Damon may have grown into a man, but he was not a gentleman.


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