The Christmas Blessing

PrintAuthor: Melody Carlson

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: September 5, 2017

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jennifer S. Roman

Melody Carlson continues her feel-good, sweet stories with the Christmas Blessing.  Amelia Richards decides to go see her seven week old baby’s grandparents in Montana for Christmas.  She is hoping they will accept her and her son despite the fact that she was not yet married to her baby’s father, James, who was killed in the War.  A series of mishaps befalls her on her journey from San Francisco to Montana, and she arrives just in time to spend Thanksgiving in a run-down motel.  She and Jimmy both develop a cold, and with her money and luck run out, she decides to visit the family sooner than originally anticipated.  Word on the street is that James’ father is a doctor and salt-of-the-earth kind of guy, while his mother is a strict, cold woman who would fire a volunteer from the Red Cross for not folding bandages properly.  Desperate and broke, she decides to leave baby Jimmy in the manger that is part of the family’s outdoor Nativity scene.  She just hopes that James’ parents will take in Jimmy and find him a good home and that Amelia can move on with her life.

True to Melody Carlson novels, this one is full of gut-wrenching decisions and heartfelt moments.  Even the coldest person has a good heart inside; it just takes some digging to get there.  This novel is no different.  Amelia is down on her luck and it seems to get worse with each passing day, and she is sure that the only way to give her baby a better life is to give him up.  Stung from the loss of a son, James’ mother shuts down and doesn’t want anything to do with anyone until the baby shows up in the manger.  A baby appearing in a manger during the Christmas season is a sure sign from God, in her opinion, and this may be what she needs to move on.  Of course complications arise and make for interesting reading.

***Spoiler Alert***

I have to say, however, that I was disappointed by the ending.  Things came together a little too quickly and suddenly for my tastes.  I was not upset that James ended up being saved and returned to his hometown, but I was surprised that everything wrapped up neatly afterwards.  Considering that he and Amelia knew each other for just a few days, and then he was held captive as a POW, I was confused as to how they would marry so quickly once reunited.  Then again, I am a skeptic pragmatist, so I don’t usually fall for quick happy endings.  For those of you who do, I am sure you will be pleasantly pleased with the ending.

There is some violence in the book (in a form of POW torture), and there entire book is based on a child being born out of wedlock.  Even this is pretty tame in today’s world, so The Christmas Blessing does not have much objectionable in it.  Adults and mature teens should enjoy it for its sweet story and interesting characters.

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

The Realms of God

Realms of GodAuthor: Michael Livingston

Series: Shards of Heaven #3

Publisher: Tor

Release Date: October 29, 2017

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A terrific ending to a fantastic trilogy!

Twenty years has passed and we find that time has once again continued to move on. King Juba and Cleopatra Selene have reigned in peace without interference from Augustus Caesar or Tiberius.  The ark of the covenant has been safely place in Petra in an abandoned tomb, continually watched over by Titus Pullo and Lucius Vorenus, who are also raising Miriam, the daughter of Caesarian and Hannah, who gave their lives protecting the ark.  But evil still lurks by the way of the demons released by King Juba while trying to get revenge for Tiberius’s rape of Selene.  The demons have acquired two of the shards and are now in league with Tiberius to retrieve the remaining items and will stop at nothing for ultimate power.  Can the unlikely band come together a final time to make a stand to protect the world?

I have not enjoyed a series this much in a long time. After reading the first novel, I couldn’t wait for the second.  After the second, I endured another agonizing year for the third.  After the third, I am happy to say that I enjoyed the conclusion even though I long to see it continue out even more.  The character’s personalities really brought this to life for me.  It helps that I’m a huge fan of ancient Rome as well.  I haven’t been much of a historical fantasy fan in the past, but this series has put it on the map for me.  Bringing together some of history’s well known characters and coupling them with an intriguing story is the way to go!

This particular book did not make me research as much as the first two did on the campaigns of Octavian. Even so, I did have to look up more on the city of Petra to get a feel for where I was being taken.  Livingston is a master of tales and I highly recommended this series to all book lovers.  There is some slight harsh language and a brief sex scene, but nothing is really explicit.  Even so, mature YA readers and up should handle this book.

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

The Crooked Path

The Crooked Path Author: Irma Joubert

Publisher: Thomas Nelson

Release Date: November 7,  2017

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Another fantastic, yet emotionally gripping story set in South Africa during World War II and beyond.

Lettie Louw is the daughter of one of the town’s only physicians. As such, she was also friends with the daughter of one of the only lawyers in town as well.  Sure she had other friends too, but as they grow older, she realizes that she doesn’t have their hair or their figures.  Even so, she has always had a crush on her friend Klara’s brother De Wet.  However, one night she says another friend Annabel and De Wet kissing and resolves that she will not succumb to her emotions and throws herself into her studies.  Upon graduating with a medical degree like her father’s, she returns home to join his practice and live her life her way.

Marco Romanelli is the a scholar who has no interest in politics, until he meets Rachael Rosenweiz. Italy in the late 1930s has suddenly become a fearful place for all Jews, including Rachael and her family.  As Hitler spreads his hatred across Europe, Mussolini is right behind him.  Marco realizes that he must find a safe place for Rachael and her family, but all the borders to safety are closing, so they must head into the mountains.  But winters in Northern Italy can be just as severe as a concentration camp and Marco endures much more than he can handle or bear.  Eventually his health becomes severe and he decides to relocate to South Africa where his brother Antonio has gone.  While there, he meets a young doctor that begins to change his perspective on life.

As always, this book in an incredible excerpt of historical fiction from a time period that I love in an area that I’m beginning to feel like I understand more with each Joubert novel that I have read. What made this even more enjoyable were the intertwining characters between this book and Child of the River.  It was such a treat getting to see the other side of conversations that happened in the other book with a fresh perspective to give even more life to several of the characters, both good and bad.  I also enjoyed that part of the book actually continued the story of Child of the River as it played out even further.

I must warn you, this book is very emotionally taxing. If dealing with lost loves wasn’t enough, now she has brought childhood polio into the mix, making it even more difficult.  Even so, I would read this book another twenty times because it is just that good.  The way she balances historical advances and events with the characters is simply wonderful.  I cannot get enough of her writing.  My synopsis are pretty generic, but once you’ve read it, I’m sure you will see why I wanted you to read this book in the first place.

Highly recommended for historical fiction lovers and to those who just love a good book!

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

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.

The Return

The ReturnAuthor: Suzanne Woods Fisher

Series: Amish Beginnings #3

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: August 1, 2017

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Faith, struggle, and history set the tone for this series!

Several years have passed since Bairn and Anna were wed and they now have a fifteen year old daughter, Tessa. Tessa is smitten with Bairn’s adopted brother Hans, but he is taken by lovely Betsy Zook.  Things drastically change when colony that Betsy’s family lives in is massacred by the local Indians.  Betsy’s parents are murdered and she is taken captive to an Indian family who lost a daughter the same age as her.  As she struggles to adjust to her captive lifestyle, she meets a half blood Indian named Caleb who inspires her to look beyond her struggles and make the most of her life.  Meanwhile, Hans burns with revenge to destroy those who took Betsy, but must subside his anger due to his church’s passiveness.  He finds comfort in Tessa, who helps him through this tough time.  But what would happen if Betsy were returned to their colony?

There was plenty of conflict throughout this book sprinkled with historical characters. This is what has made this series so interesting.  Set in Pennsylvania during the French and Indian War, notable characters from history continue to make their appearance including Benjamin Franklin and John Elder.  It is like living through a history lesson through an Amish looking glass.  And to throw in the development of the Conestoga wagon made it even more fun to read.  The author did a great job on her research in both this book and the series.  If you are interested in this time period, this is a must read!

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

These Healing Hills

These Healing hillsAuthor: Ann H. Gabhart

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: September 5, 2017

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Delightful, historical romance at it’s best.

Francine Howard has a plan for her life. She is promised to a young soldier off to fight in the second great war.  But things have a way of changing when least expected, especially when she receives a letter saying that he has falling in love with someone else in Europe and plans to remain there.  Reeling from this shock, Francine must figure out what to do with her life now.  She decides to move to the Appalachian Mountains in Kentucky and join the Frontier Nursing Service.  And as always, plans change when she meets another young soldier home from the horrors of war.

I love Ann Gabhart’s cozy mystery series, but have never tried one of her historical novels. So, I got the chance and gave it a try.  Her descriptive settings brings the beauty of the Kentucky Hills to life.  I have read several books set in the Appalachians during this time frame, but this one by far takes me there the best.  I also really enjoyed the history that Gabhart brought for the Frontier Nursing Service.  I hadn’t read about this before and as with any great historical fiction novel, I found myself researching as much as I could about it as I read along.  Terrific read for lovers of historical fiction and those looking to give it a try.

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.