Her Secret War

Author: Pam Lecky

Publisher: Harper Collins

Release Date: January 4, 2022

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Interesting historical fiction account of the bombing of Dublin during WWII and the work of drafters for the Spitfire.

Sarah Gillespie spends her time focusing on her life and avoiding her brute of a father.  All that changes one night when the Germans bomb the North Strand section of Dublin where she lives, killing her sister and father.  Sarah herself is badly wounded but is dug out of their home and rehabilitated in a hospital.  With nothing left for her in Ireland, she takes passage to her uncle in England, where is employed at Southmarine as a tracer for drawings created for the spitfire airplane.  As she gets to know the other workers, she finds herself drawn into a spy ring where she must participate in order to keep her new family safe!

Overall, I enjoyed the story and learning some of the history behind the Dublin bombing as well as how the plans for different aircraft were drawn up for the Royal Air Force.  After the bombing, much of the story was a bit slow until the last 100 pages, which flew off the page.  It is definitely worth sticking with and the ending feels like there may be a sequel in the works.  I liked Sarah’s character and how she went from being self-absorbed to wanting to do her part to support the war effort. The main drawback I had was in the writing style as it felt like the author was telling me what was going on in Sarah’s mind rather than showing me.  Aside from that, it was intriguing, and I would be curious to read any future installments.

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

A Heart Adrift

Author: Laura Frantz

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: January 4, 2022

Rating: 4 out of 5.

A second chance romance written by a master at historical fiction?  Yes, please!

Esmee Shaw lives a content life in York, Virginia as a chocolatier.  She has been courted in the past, but the romance failed and she has yet to find someone that she would prefer to spend the remaining years of her life with.  Now twenty-eight, she wishes that she could find some meaning in her life.

Captain Henri Lennox has never gotten over his romance with Esmee Shaw.  Now back in Virginia, he focuses on restoring the lighthouse that was one their shared vision.  But when his government calls on him to enter the war against France, will he be able to restore their relationship before it’s too late?

There are two things that happen like clockwork every January: A New Year and a new Laura Frantz novel!  If you love reading about colonial America, Frantz is an author that you need to read.  Her research of this time period is unmatched by any I’ve found.  Coupled with fictional and real characters, her stories weaver together the strands of remembered history with characters that you can’t help but cheer on through their hardships and troubles.  I never tire of her stories and this one will stay on the shelf for another peek in the future.

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

2021 Top Historical Fiction

It’s that time of year again! Time for Christmas festivities and year end events. And with that comes our top selections for different reading genre’s for the year! Kicking it off with historical fiction. So many great books were released this year and none of them disappointed, so it is always difficult to narrow it down to a select few, but we do our best!

Whom Gods Destroy by Vincent B. Davis II

This has been a fantastic series and this installment continues the journey of Quintus Sertoris. This book changes direction that the series has been heading, but readers will likely see that it is for the better. We can’t wait for the next book!

Read the full review!

Night Bird Calling by Cathy Gohlke

Fantastic character development mixed with interracial tensions make this story a lesson that many could learn from in today’s culture. Readers will quickly fall in love with the main character and her story and cheer her on in her crusade to make her community a better place.

Read the full review!

When Twilight Breaks by Sarah Sundin

What historical fiction list is complete without a World War II era novel. And who better to bring one of the best than Sarah Sundin. This is a change for her typical approach by focusing on the rise of the Nazi party instead of events going on during the war. All to say, this is the beginning of a great new series!

Read the full review!

The Paris Dressmaker by Kristy Cambron

Can we have a list without Kristy Cambron? In short answer, of course not! Her dual timeline storytelling is masterful and this story set in France during World War II is no exception. Instead of a true time slip, her timelines converge on one another with the same characters making it doubly enjoyable!

Read the full review!

If It Rains by Jennifer L. Wright

Our final pick finds the characters set in the Oklahoma panhandle during the dust bowl. The story of two sisters: one who is trapped into a marriage and one who is forced to leave her home behind. The character growth of both women is phenomenal as is the settings readers will experience throughout this story of hardship.

Read the full review!

Boy Underground

Author: Catherine Ryan Hyde

Publisher: Lake Union Publishing

Release Date: December 7, 2021

Rating: 4 out of 5.

A very different tale of war, love and what it means to be wanted by someone and feel the love you have been deprived of for years.

Steven Katz grew up in 1941 as the son of a landowner in California. He doesn’t realize it at the time, but he is very different than others he hangs out with. His parents don’t approve of his new friends Nick, Suki, and Ollie who are sons of field workers in town. About the time he starts to hang out with them, Steven realizes that his feelings for Nick are more than just friendship. After Pearl Harbor is bombed and the US enters the war, Suki and his family are forced into an Internment camp, Ollie leaves to enlist in the war and Nick goes into hiding after he is falsely accused of a crime actually committed by his father. Steven hides Nick and spends his time trying to take care of the boy he is falling in love with. When Nick leaves, Steven tries to find him and ends up finding more than he bargained for about life, love and what it means to be happy.

This isn’t the normal book I would pick up and read but I have been a fan of Catherine Ryan Hyde for a long time and honestly didn’t know what it was about before starting it. The story was written really well, just like all of hers are. Even though the subject matter isn’t what I agree with and doesn’t follow my views, I enjoyed the story and the way it was written. Even though this is a story about a boy finding love in an unconventional way, especially at this time, it is really more about how he finds himself and learns to move beyond his family and how they have treated him over the course of his life. Steven learns how to be his own person and help others, even if it isn’t what his parents would approve of. He knows in his heart he is doing the right thing and he sticks with it, that is what made him a great character in my eyes. Catherine Ryan Hyde has a way of crafting stories and characters in a way that others just can’t do,;she makes these stories relatable in one way or another for everyone who reads them and wants to walk away from the story feeling changed, even if what the character feels and believes doesn’t match up with the readers beliefs.

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

A Midnight Dance

Author: Joanna Davidson Politano

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: September 7, 2021

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Carlson delivers another lighthearted Christmas story, just in time for the season!

In London, 1833, a young ballerina, Ella, encounters a young male ballerina who captures her heart as she sneaks in dances in the theater. Many years later, she returns to the theater as a true ballerina. Ella reconnects with her mystery dancer and tries to win his heart. At the same time, Ella looks to discover the truth about her mother, a former prima ballerina who almost lost her life in the theater. Through her journey, she meets a mentor who befriends her and helps her on her search for truth as he also waits for her heart.

This is a beautifully written book that explores the hidden world of the theater in the 1800s. The truth Ella discovers is a surprise in some ways. There is action and romance. The characters are set up so that readers can’t help but discover has become one of our best friends.  The plot was extremely well done and will pull readers in throughout the story.  Not one of my typical reads, but Politano always manages to keep me coming back to her stories again and again!

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

Every Knee Shall Bow

Author: Bryan Litfin

Series: Constantine’s Empire #2

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: October 12, 2021

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Yet another well researched novel!

Flavia and her mother have taken up the life of nuns following the Bishop Ossius on a journey.  They receive word that her uncle has passed and left his fortune to Flavia to be used for the young Christian church.  On the journey back to Rome, the vessel that Flavia and her mom are aboard is taken captive by human traffickers who intend to hold the bishop hostage for ransom and sell off all the women to the highest bidder.  Will Flavia manage to get out of this mess?

After being banished to the Roman navy, Rex has had enough of the harsh treatment of the sailors.  He mutinies against the soldiers and those who side with him take over control of the ship.  Now pirates on the open sea, Rex has been claiming cargo to keep his crew paid.  When he hears of a skirmish where the Bishop has been kidnapped and nuns sold into slavery, Rex knows it is probably Flavia.  He makes the decision to try to rescue her at any cost.

If you’ve read the first book in this series, then you will enjoy the continued adventures of Rex and Flavia.  Two unlikely characters thrown together.  Flavia, a devout Christian follower who somehow managers to find herself in life threatening situations, and Rex, a hardened soldier who gave up his country for love.  And the story is set against the backdrop of the Emperor Constantine’s empire converting the state religion to Christianity. 

This book will not be for everyone.  Litfin dives deep into research to set up accurate portrayals of the time period as well as supporting historical characters.  If you like this type of history (as I do), then you will enjoy sitting down and spending some time with this book.  Both the story of Rex and Flavia is captivating while getting to explore more of this time period.  Most ancient Roman novels are set during previous periods, so it is fun to learn more during this time and see it from the viewpoint of members of the early church.

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

All That is Secret

Author: Patricia Raybon

Series: Annalee Spain Mystery #1

Publisher: Tyndale

Release Date: October 5, 2021

Rating: 4 out of 5.

A great new mystery series begins!

When theologian professor Annalee Spain receives a cryptic telegram hinting at foul play for her estranged father’s death, she takes a hard look at her life in Chicago and decides that she should follow the trail.  She’s always been daring, known as the colored professor at the bible college, but in 1923, it doesn’t always pay to be daring.  Aboard the train to Denver, trouble manages to find her as someone seems to want to keep her away.  As she explores the events related to her father’s death, she finds a trail that leads to more danger mixed with high-ranking members of the KKK.  Along with colorful supporting characters, Annalee must charter the skills of her favorite literary detective, Sherlock Holmes, if she hopes to find the truth.

I always love getting the start to a new series and mysteries are the best.  This one sets the characters paths for future installments and I just love Annalee Spain.  She has spunk and is daring, but also has times of self-doubt that made her seem human.  There wasn’t a tremendous amount of descriptive scenery set throughout the book, but it did not take way from the story line at all.  There were hints and traces of 1923 Denver, but the mystery is what really drove the story.  I can’t wait to see how the relationship between Jack and Annalee blossoms in the future and I’m curious about how young Eddie will progress and grow as a character.  The book is colorful, exciting, and mysterious; just what anyone needs for these upcoming cold nights.

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

Under the Bayou Moon

Author: Valerie Fraser Luesse

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: August 3, 2021

Rating: 4 out of 5.

An easy, enjoyable historical romance.

Intent on escaping her family’s expectations, Ellie Fields decides to branch out in faith and take a teaching position in the small town of Bernadette, Louisiana, far from her family’s home in Alabama.  But soon after arriving, she begins to question her decision.  There are only two teachers in the whole school and her furnished home turns out to be a cabin without any electricity, but at least it has indoor plumbing.  Deciding to make the best of it, Ellie starts teaching several Cajun children whose previous teachers have punished them for speaking French as English is the language that they should be speaking.  She quickly falls in love with the children and may become attached to a local fisherman before she has the chance to depart.

Overall, this is a good historical romance story set in the Louisiana bayou.  Part of the backstory deals with a hurricane, which is sobering considering the aftermath of Hurricane Ida.  The story is heavy on the emotional end for Ellie’s character because she is coming into her own without her family and making a new family in a new place.  She finds herself in some precarious situations, but overall, there is not a lot of tension to push the story forward at a rapid pace.  This particular story is one to slow down and enjoy.  I recommend this to readers who enjoy a slower pace with a love story that plays out without drama.

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

The Barrister and the Letter of Marque

Author: Todd M. Johnson

Publisher: Bethany House

Release Date: August 3, 2021

Rating: 4 out of 5.

An exciting, historical legal thriller!

Disgusted by the actions of his wealthy father, young William Snopes leaves his place of wealth and privilege to become a barrister.  Many years later, he has made it his practice to represent those that cannot usually afford adequate counsel to argue their case.  He’s had offers from wealthier clients, but always turns them down.  However, the day that he meets Lady Madeleine Jameson, his perspective changes just a bit.

As the Jameson estate begins to crumble, along with the health of her father, Madeline Jameson acts as the estate executor and finances a ship captained by her cousin Harold Tuttle, which has been granted the ability to operate under a Letter of Marque assigned by the Prince Regent to capture illegal tea cargo transported by French vessels.  After a successful voyage, when the ship returns to the harbor, it is met with a band of soldiers and constables to arrest Captain Tuttle for piracy.  When the Captain goes to show the Letter of Marque to the soldiers, it has vanished from his cabinet.

Barrister Snopes agrees to take the case after his own investigation and knows that going up against the Crown won’t be easy.  As he tries to collect evidence for the hearing, it seems that someone is one step ahead of him and the mystery continues to deepen with every turn!

I love a good mystery and when the synopsis of this book referenced Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, I was instantly intrigued.  However, this is really nothing like a Sherlock Holmes book other than it’s setting.  With Holmes, readers are unraveling the mystery at the same pace with the same about of information present to try and solve the case.  This book, on the other hand, is much more of a legal thriller where the reader is provided with almost all the information ahead of the characters so that they know what has happened and how it all ties together while reading ahead to determine if Snopes and his crew will be able to piece it together before it’s all too late.

It’s takes quite a while to build the setting and the story up to a point where it really takes off.  Johnson did a great job of researching the early legal system in London and how it operated.  It was almost like reading a present-day legal thriller even though it was set in the early 1800s.  I feel as though there are quite a bit of loose ends that will need future installments to tie up.  Especially now that I’m vested into the characters and would like to see more of them. 

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

If It Rains

Author: Jennifer L. Wright

Publisher: Tyndale House

Release Date: July 6, 2021

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Don’t let the dust fool you about what’s inside!

Kathryn Baile, her older sister, and father have been working hard trying to survive the drought in Oklahoma during the great depression.  Aside from being born with a club foot, everything was going great until her father married an outsider from Indiana named Helen.  Then everything started going downhill when the drought began and the dust came.  Kathryn never like Helen, but at least she had her sister, Melissa; until the day came that Melissa married into the wealthiest family in the county.  Now Helen has managed to convince her father to travel back to Indianapolis to stay with her father, who is a doctor that can help Kathryn with her foot.  Kathryn reluctantly agrees to leave her beloved Oklahoma and soon disaster strikes against their travels.  Kathryn must rely on new unconventional travel companions and sheer will to complete her journey.

Melissa Baile just married into the wealthiest family in the county and hopes that she will be able to help her family as well as others.  But she discovers that the reason this family is so wealthy is due to their treatment of the other residents.  When she tries to help others, she is scathed by those she helps and punished by her own husband.  But her will to do good can’t be outdone and she goes behind to husband’s back to help those in need, even if it cost her life.

Although this novel is set in the dust bowl, there is so much more going on than just the historical aspect to the story.  Granted, I thoroughly enjoyed seeing the historical accuracy played out across the pages from the dugouts to the dusters and the jackrabbit roundups to the government paying ranchers for their cattle and then doing what had to be done.  And to top it off is how Washington wanted to portray the dust bowl compared to what it was.

Outside of the historical perspective, the redemption story of both sisters played out beautifully.  Melissa had always had faith but had hers put firmly to the test.  Kathryn had trouble believing until she realized what unconditional love was.  Both stories were different yet intertwined.  I loved so many of the supporting characters throughout this novel as well.  Probably my two favorites were Mr. Hickory and Bert the photographer.  Both brought a different perspective to what we see in history as the Dust Bowl. 

I want to dive so much deeper, but then I feel that I would be giving a bit much away and want others to discover this wonderful book just like Dorothy discovered Oz. I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher.  The views and opinions expressed within are my own.