All She Left Behind

All She Left BehindAuthor: Jane Kirkpatrick

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: September 5, 2017

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

As always, great historical fiction based on factual events!

Jennie Pickett’s life has taught her how to become a healer using natural herbs. She loves to help people with their ailments and longs to become a doctor.  But in the Oregon Frontier of the 1870s, professional life for a woman has not yet become a reality.  So, when she has the opportunity to take care of an elderly woman, she takes it.  But after her patient dies, Jennie discovers that she has developed a romantic interest in the widowed husband, who is several years older than her.  However, he may be able to open doors to where she could become a professional healer.

The prologue of this book had me hooked. I was ready to find out what happened immediately after reading that only to find that I had to fill in a few gaps first.  Kirkpatrick is a master of historical fiction based on actual events and it appears that she is a fan of the Oregon frontier as well.  Having read her previous novel The Road We Traveled, I knew some of what to expect on her research, which also makes me research.  For historical fiction lovers, pick up a copy of this one!

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher. The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

To Wager Her Heart

To Wager Her HeartAuthor: Tamera Alexander

Series: Belle Meade Plantation #3

Publisher: Zondervan

Release Date: August 8, 2017

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A brilliant work of historical fiction coupled with a meant to be romance sure to consume many readers.

In 1871 Nashville, Alexandra Jamison comes from a high society family that requires her to put her family’s best interest above her own. Two of her older brothers left the state and married to get away from their father, while her third brother perished in the war.  In an effort to make her own life, she fell in love with a scholar that believed in racial equality only to lose him to a train accident at Dutchmen’s Curve just outside of Nashville.  Now with her father intent on marrying her to a wealthy older gentleman, Alexandra makes the decision to leave her family to teach at the freedman’s college Fisk University, but the cost is far greater than she anticipated.

Sylas Rutledge is a young railroad owner from Colorado intent on expanding his rail system by bringing the railroad to General William Harding’s Belle Meade Plantation. But he is going to have to bid against several other railroaders to win.  Being in Nashville brings an emotional torment to Sylas as his father was on his final run as an engineer when he perished in the train wreck of Dutchmen’s Curve and was blamed for the incident.  Intent on clearing his father’s name, Sylas attempts to track down the truth while trying to win the railroad bid.  But Nashville wealth has still not fully accepted racial equality and at what cost will Sylas be willing to make to ensure he wins the railroad bid?

I’m always a little weary when I start third book in a series; however, this is a perfect example of a standalone novel that has no need of a series. I felt immediately drawn into the story and the characters.  The conflict that was introduced almost immediately between Alexandra and Sylas keep the story propelling forward quickly making me want to see what the outcome would be.  Alexandra has her share of hardships and  I can’t begin to imagine what she (and all those who actually encountered) the Dutchmen Curve wreck.  And then to have her father turn his back on her for her beliefs, which I know was not uncommon of that time period.

I immensely enjoyed the setting of Belle Meade Plantation and getting to know some of history’s supporting characters such as Uncle Bob. I also enjoyed that the author referenced other major historical events as well.  I enjoy getting to research what I read as I read it.  My only complaint was that the actual Dutchmen Curve wreck occurred in a different time period, which was acknowledged by the author.  However, I understand that the conflict created between the characters of this even made for a terrific plot.

Highly recommended for lovers of historical fiction!

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher. The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

The Writing Desk

The Writing DeskAuthor: Rachel Hauck

Publisher: Zondervan

Release Date: July 11, 2017

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A romance that spans the ages, and continents, to bring people together even in the hardest of times.

After her first book became a runaway success, Tenley Roth feels the pressure to bring another hit. However, due to the pressure, she is unable to get any words on the page.  During this time, her estranged mother calls asking for Tenley to help her through chemotherapy in Florida.  Shortly after arriving, she ends up meeting a furniture designer that shows her what real romance is about.  Tenley finds an old desk at her mother’s house that she uses to try and kick-start her new book.  The desk has history to it that ties everything together between the families and past writing.

Birdie Shehorn is the daughter of old money who wants to be her own person and not have her parents make her every decision, especially about who she will marry. Birdie wants to write novels and get her stories out in the world, a difficult feat for an unknown woman in this time.  Her mother is working behind her to get her future set the way she believes it should be, which is not want Birdie wants.  Tied together through time and circumstances, Birdie and Tenley find that even though their circumstances are not what they want, they can make the best of it if they follow their hearts.

This is one of those books that at first I thought I was going to give up on, the back and forth between the timelines and characters was a little confusing and took me out of the story. However, by the end of the book, it worked together so well.  The decisions made by each character and how it brought about the actions and reactions of those around them was done incredibly well.  Rachel Hauck did a fantastic job bringing about the sympathy for Tenley and the hard times she went through with the decisions she made and the consequences she had to face.  The relationship between Jonas and Tenley was a nice slow build up instead of an instant attraction that exploded into a full-blown romance that took over the whole story.  Even though this is an inspirational novel, it never gets preachy in any way that would be a turn off to some.  One of the nicest aspects is this is a story of forgiveness and redemption and how it can soothe the soul.  This book will be great for those that love romance and a story of hope and moving on to make the best of a situation.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher. The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

High as the Heavens

High as the heavensAuthor: Kate Breslin

Publisher: Bethany House

Release Date: June 6, 2017

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Fantastic historical fiction, mystery, and redemption all in one terrific story!

In 1917 German occupied Brussels, Evelyn Marche is just trying help the Allies while working as a nurse for the Red Cross. She believed that she had lost many of her family members during the occupation, until she recently learns that her brother and sister were able to escape a work camp train and flee to France.  She also believed herself to be a widow of the war until a plane crashes near her hospital and she finds her husband was a survivor, but also an Allied spy.  Now she must figure out a way to save him without jeopardizing her position.  But being apart three years has changed both of them.  The more they learn about each other, the more secrets between them are uncovered.  Will they be able to be a family again if this war ever stops?

As usual, Kate Breslin does a great job weaving a story together set in war ravaged Europe. Not much focuses on the Great War itself, but on the internal war within Evelyn.  She has gone through so much in a short period of time that has really challenged her faith, as I have to believe it would have mine as well.  The treatment she received the first night of the occupation as well as losing most of her family members would easily tear up someone’s soul.  Simon’s had to rely on his faith to make it through multiple POW camps just to hope to see his wife again.  Setback after setback, he still managed to make it through and trust in God.  He was a very likable character that we all need to have a friend that resembles him.  If you are going through inner struggles today, I suggest you read Eve’s story.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the author. The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

A Name Unknown

A name unknownAuthor: Roseanna M. White

Series: Shadows over England #1

Publisher: Bethany House

Release Date: July 4, 2017

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Are a thief and an author really that much different?

Rosemary Gresham is one of the best thieves in England, even pulling off a museum heist. Now with England on the brink of war with Germany, everybody’s loyalty is being examined. Who better to find documents to exploit someone’s disloyalty than a thief?  That is exactly what Rosemary has been hired to do.  Peter Holtstein has the King’s ear and many believe that he is loyal to Germany given that his German parents left England so that Peter could be born in Germany to maintain citizenship.  But this may be the biggest challenge Rosemary has ever accepted.  Disguised as a librarian hired to help catalogue Peter’s massive library, Rosemary must try to find letters or record archives that prove his is sympathetic to Germany.  But she isn’t allowed in his study where he spends most everyday typing.  What could he be doing that involves typing all day?

This was a fun and well thought out story. I always enjoy literature during the Great War period as it typically provides a lot of conflict throughout the story, but this particular story had mostly inner conflict that occurred within Rosemary.  Her character development was fun to watch.  She grew from being a street rat thief to finally believing in God after seeing someone who chose to do good to help her.  The romance was brief but the growing feelings for each other were a welcome part of the story.  It didn’t center around that, it actually centered around the theme of God’s love and that is what made the story so worthwhile.  I’ll be very interested in the future installments of this series.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the author. The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

Freedom’s Price

FreedomAuthor: Christine Johnson

Series: Keys of Promise #3

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: June 6, 2017

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Can Pirates of the Caribbean characters come to life in an alternate book?  

Catherine Haynes is facing a difficult situation. With both of her parents now deceased, her cousin has taking control of their estate, but must pay a stipend to Catherine until she is wed.  Now he is in a hurry to get her married and sell the estate.  Rather than succumb to his wishes, Catherine decides to take a severance from him and sail to her mother’s homeland of Louisiana to meet the family that doesn’t know she exists.  Along the way, she is shipwrecked on the island of Key West, where she meets dashing Captain Tom Worthington, who may be the only man she has met that can match her wit, which infuriates her more.  Even so, Catherine and Tom find themselves drawn to one another even though each has their own plans.  Would it be better to stay with Tom in Key West or venture to an uncertain future in New Orleans?

This was a fun historical fiction read that had me picturing Will Turner and Elizabeth Swann from Pirates of the Caribbean. Not because of their situation, but because of their personalities.  There was lots of fun, wit, and action throughout the book.  But there were also valuable lessons learned about trust and love.  Johnson did a great job of setting the scene in pre-Civil War New Orleans.  I hadn’t realized that England had already abolished slavery by that time period, so I was happy to get to do some research based on the book.  I also love the Key West area, so anytime I get to go there in my mind is well worth it.

Even though this was the third in the series, it is easily a standalone. I recommend reading it even without a copy of the first two.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher. The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

Ascension of Larks

AscensionAuthor: Rachel Linden

Publisher: Thomas Nelson

Release Date: June 20, 2017

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Making the hard choice is never easy, but in some cases, it is a leap of faith that just might prove worth it in the end.

Magdalena (Maggie) Henry loves her life of traveling and being a renowned photographer. She is a free spirit and has never been tied down to anyone or anything before.  When her best friend Lena calls to say her husband, Marco, has died in an accident on the lake, she drops everything to go help her friend.  Maggie has always been secretly in love with Marco and being at their house with the family is harder than she thought it was going to be.  Maggie gets a call from her boss to give her a once in a lifetime opportunity to compete for the biggest award in the photography community.  Naturally, she doesn’t want to pass it up.  However, she must now decide between her career and being there for some of the only family she has ever had is the hardest decision she has ever had to make.  She knows what her heart is telling her to follow the magic of being with a family and settling down, but will she be able to make the decision?

This is not my normal go to book for a quick enjoyable read, but was worth every minute of my time. The setting was beautiful!  I love the islands of the Pacific Northwest, and every time Maggie went for a run I imagined myself on the beach with her.  While this is marketed towards women, it is one that male readers can still find enjoyable.  Lena finding out the problems her husband has left her with is something that probably happens far more often than any of us realize and was addressed well.  Lena had a hard time dealing with the stress of everything but was fortunate enough to have wonderful people in her life she could rely on to help her through the difficult times.  The few almost romance scenes were done well and not rushed.  I can’t stand to read a scene where you know the relationships are being rushed and completely not believable.  There are religious aspects to the book but nothing that is too “in your face” that might put readers off.  Linden did a fantastic job of writing a smooth flowing dialogue as well as narrative scenes.  I enjoyed the message Linden drove home of no matter how bad your situation is, the grass isn’t always greener on the other side, but at the same time seeing the other side can show you a little bit of what you are missing in life.  I recommend this to readers that enjoy a story with heart and a message that will touch them and help them if they are struggling through a difficult time.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher. The views and opinions expressed within are my own.