Tidewater Bride

Author: Laura Frantz

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: January 5, 2021

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Frantz always does her research and it shines through in Tidewater Bride.

Selah Hopewell thoroughly enjoys matching other people up, especially the tobacco brides that arrive into the new colonies.  Unfortunately, there are more men than there are available women, which she has no intent to marry as she is taking care of her family’s shop.  When she meets Xander Renick, who is married to his business, can she find him a mate?  Or will she find what has been missing in her life?

Laura Frantz never ceases to amaze me in the amount of research that she puts in for each of her novels.  Tidewater Bride is no exception.  From the true era language to the description of scenery and activity, it all rang true.  I love how she makes me do my own research to determine the accuracy of hers, which has always showed to be true.  I also love that the book doesn’t center on romance but has action to move the story along.  Readers of early frontier colonial era stories will love this one as well!

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

Night Bird Calling

Author: Cathy Gohlke

Publisher: Tyndale

Release Date: January 5, 2021

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Fantastic character development mixed with well researched history make this a must read to start off 2021!

After years of watching her mother in an abusive relationship, Lilliana finds herself in a similar situation.  After her mother dies, she overhears her husband and father discussing her future so that her husband can divorce her with the church’s sympathy so that he can freely remarry.  Lilliana musters what strength she has coupled with a ring that her mom gave her and flees from Philadelphia to her Great Aunt Hyacinth’s house in the small town of No Creek, North Carolina.  Her aunt is overjoyed to see her and works to provide her a safe place, but she isn’t in the best health and won’t be on this earth for long.  She begins to make some new friends with those that help her Great Aunt and before long, great plans to restore the house’s library surface.  This library will become a lending library for the town to promote the joy of reading to anyone in town regardless of the color of their skin.  However, some feel that this library should only be used by the whites and don’t like change.  As war in Europe begins to brew, so do the dangers in this small community.  There are secrets that could change everything that Lilliana holds dear!

Cathy Gohlke is a master of creating stories set during difficult times.  She has such an inspiring ability to create real conflict between her characters that makes her stories move along as such a suspenseful pace that readers can’t help but be intrigued.  Her ability to create a world to bring readers to the time of the Klan mixed with a young woman who had never experienced the Jim Crow era of the South that was suddenly thrust into it was just masterful. 

The development of the main characters was brilliant as well.  Lilliana was extremely flawed having been involved in two abusive relationships, her father and husband, and was extremely untrustworthy of men.  Yet she had the courage and backbone to stand up to several men she didn’t know.  Celia was loud, outspoken, and yet yearned for a father figure to keep her dreams alive.  Ruby Lynne was such a heartbroken character in so many ways that you just wanted to reach through the pages to hold and comfort her.  Not many authors can successfully create that level of emotional connection with so many characters. 

This will be a difficult novel to read for some as it deals with abusive relationships, Jim Crow era violence, drinking, and rape.  However, the story is so genuine that it is well worth the read!

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

The Art of Deception

Author: Leonard Goldberg

Series: Daughter of Sherlock Holmes #4

Publisher: Minotaur Books

Release Date: June 16, 2020

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Yet another fantastic installment to the Daughter of Sherlock Holmes series!

To be visited by Scotland Yard to consult on a case is not out of the ordinary for the Watsons, but a case involving vandalism of fine art seems a bit low on the docket for them.  But as Joanna Watson knows, nothing is really as it seems until you truly observe.  As the Watsons visit the crime scenes, it becomes apparent that the vandal isn’t simply vandalizing the paintings, but the manner he is doing it shows that he is looking for something hidden behind the canvas.  As they begin to unravel the mystery, more than just art begins to arise, including murders.  Will they be able to determine who is behind the vandalism before he finds what he is looking for?

As always, Leonard Goldberg has crafted yet another thrilling tale for readers to devour and try to match wits with Joanna Watson, the daughter of Sherlock Holmes and Irene Adler.  These books are just good, clean reads and this was no exception.  I love that Goldberg has developed a new line of mysteries that readers are able to enjoy and try to see if they can figure out the culprits before Joanna does.  And true to form, there is usually an unexpected twist or two at the end that will keep your mind whirling to keep up!

2020 Top Historical Fiction

It’s that time of year again! Not only is Christmas right around the corner, but it’s time to reveal our top five selections for multiple reading genres for 2020! And what a year 2020 has been! Thank goodness for books! And to kick it off, we are sharing our top five picks for historical ficiton!

Wolf by Herman J. Stern

Thoroughly researched with characters that easily mixed the reality of Hitler’s rise to power through a couple of fictional characters. It’s not hard to see why this topped our list!

Read the full review.

The Book of Lost Friends by Lisa Wingate

Wingate’s ability to bring little known past occurrences to life never ceases to amaze us. This year’s story about the circulated newspapers detailing families separated when the South was liberated after the Civil War was no objection. We enjoyed every word!

Read the full review.

Bodies in the Tiber by Vincent B. Davis II

We have been waiting for the conclusion to this series since it began! The third installment dives headfirst into ancient Roman politics and Davis shows that things today are as different as we’d like to think!

Read the full review.

The Love Note by Joanna Davidson Politano

It’s not often that a new release reads like a classic novel, but that just want this did. Fans of Jane Eyre will love this beautifully written tale!

Read the full review.

Stories That Bind Us by Susie Finkbeiner

Certain authors are able to master history’s social injustice issues and make them feel just as fresh today. Finkbeiner gives us a tremendous story showing the cruelty of racism and how it shouldn’t even exist!

Read the full review.

The Conqueror

Author: Bryan Litfin

Series: Constantine’s Empire #1

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: October 13, 2020

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Litfin’s Ancient Roman world brings light to members of the early church and the push for Constantine’s conversion.

Brandulf Rex, a barbican warrior from the Germani tribe, has worked his way through the ranks to become one of the youngest speculators of the Roman military.  Now serving the great Emperor Constantine, he has been stationed as both a personal bodyguard and spy for the Emperor.  The three remaining rulers of the tetrarch, Constantine, Licinius, and Maxentius, have become involved in a civil war.  Each rules a portion of Rome, but any of the three would love to be the sole Emperor of the Republic.  Rex is sent on a mission with two other speculators to breach and observe the situation in Rome under Maxentius and infiltrate the ranks of the Pretorian Guard.  Upon arriving in Rome, Rex happens to meet a young woman trying to escape a death sentence in the Colosseum.  This meeting changes Rex’s life in a manner he never could have expected.

Lady Flavia Junia is a senator’s daughter and known Christian in the early church.  At seventeen years old, she is fortunate to have not had to endure the religious persecution of the previous rulers, but Maxentius could be easily persuaded to begin again.  When her father’s political opponent finds a way to have Flavia accused of going against the emperor’s order, she is sentenced to death by way of facing wild animals in the Colosseum.  When she tries to escape and crashes into the arms of a tall, blonde, barbarian, he vows that he will save her.  The adventure this sets the two on puts them in a front row seat for a civil war.

It’s no secret that I thoroughly enjoy a well research novel concerning ancient Rome and Litfin did not disappoint.  The Conqueror is filled with rich Roman history and lush tidbits of the early church in Rome.  Several well-known historical characters that played a part in Christianity becoming the official religion of the Roman Empire make an appearance throughout this book.  Litfin did a great job explaining the events that led to the battle between Constantine and Maxentius as well as a great depiction of the actual battle that led to Maxentius’s fall.

Liftin also does a fantastic job of the portrayal of Roman politics at the time and the ramifications and consequences of different events and actions.  His knowledge of architecture of public buildings was also astounding as he was able to describe buildings and areas, but not bog down the storyline.

The book is very detailed, so readers that prefer a light and casual read will probably need to find something else.  However, if you’re a fan of this time period and history, it will definitely need to find a way to your bookshelf.  There are sexual references made throughout that depict that time period that is being represented, but nothing lewd or inappropriate.  There are also several scenes of violence, but it is a war book after all.

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

Remember Me

Author: Mario Escobar

Publisher: Thomas Nelson

Release Date: September 15, 2020

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A glimpse into the Spanish Civil War bringing to light an often overlooked part of World War II.

Marco never anticipated the path that his life would take.  He was the oldest of three children, the two younger siblings being sisters.  His father owned a printing press and his mom worked at a theatre. They didn’t have much, but they had each other.  That all changed when the fascist party began to try to overthrow the Republic of Spain.  His parents were arrested, but released, and realized that they needed to keep their children safe.  Before the country was torn in two, Marco’s mother got them passage on a ship to Mexico, which was welcoming refugee children from Spain.  Sent to a school in Morelia, Marco and his sisters quickly realized that not everyone was happy that Spanish children were being housed in Mexico.  As the civil war raged on in Spain, a similar war was happening inside Marco.  He loved his homeland, but he hated what they were doing to it.

The Spanish Civil War of 1937 does not appear in mainstream books like Hitler’s war.  Historians refer to it as one of the bloodiest wars and it completely decimated the country.  In a war, no one really wins.  The opposing political views could easily be transposed into the today’s world.  Escobar does a fantastic job showcasing the war and how the aftermath affected the citizens.  Brothers were willing to kill each other over opposing viewpoints rather than find a compromise.  It’s hard to imagine such a time, but it needs to be remembered.

Marco became the story’s central character as he aged.  From boyhood on, he witnessed the hate in the world.  Hate between the fascist and the communist.   Hate between Spaniards and Mexicans.  I never realized how different the cultures between the two countries were and how faith and religion was viewed between the two.  There is a lot to learn in this book and if you pick it up, I hope you see it through.  It is very violent and includes some unfortunate horrors, such as homosexual rape.  Many people may get uncomfortable, but the read is worth it to understand history.

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

Bodies in the Tiber

Author: Vincent B. Davis II

Series: Sertoris Scrolls #3

Publisher: Thirteenth Press

Release Date: May 15, 2020

Rating: 5 Stars

Review: Jessica Higgins

Davis moves the series from the battlefield to the battle of the senate.  Who knew that today’s politics so mimicked Rome’s over two thousand years ago?

Quintus Sertoris has just returned from the northern battle against the Cimbri to secure Rome’s borders.  Hailed as Hero of the North, Quintus is uncomfortable with all the public attention.  He only wants to find his family and start to rebuild his relationship.  He soon learns that his wife has perished by her own hand and is reunited with his servant, his nephew who is also is adopted son, and his true love Arrea.  But he has changed and so has everyone else.  Quintus soon learns that Marius wants Quintus to become a senator to show support for his consulship and elected party.  Quintus left the noble party years ago because of the corruption of politics and has misgivings but finally decides that maybe he can do some good in the world.  What he discovers is that while Rome may be secure at her borders, the Republic is on the brink of collapse within!

I’ve enjoyed all the Sertoris Scrolls, but this one was enjoyable as a political thriller.  What was interesting was how the political parties spend more time trying to stay in power than they actually do for the good of the Republic.  Sound familiar?  Like maybe it could be written in today’s world?  As always, Davis did a great job on his research for the time period and cast of characters.  I’m a huge fan of Ancient Roman history, so I’ve already done a tremendous amount of research on the time period before I read these books and I’m always pleased to see how accurate they are. 

Quintus continues to grow as a noble character, even though he had a bit of a stumble throughout this book with his drinking and depression.  However, I’m glad to see that he was able to overcome and continue to do what he thinks is right even when wrongs continue to confront him.  I’m not going to divulge much, but I’m extremely happy about an event in this book that previously frustrated me in the second.  I think those that read through the book will understand once they read it.

There is quite a bit of harsh language and violence throughout the book, so I recommend that only mature audiences select this title.  Lovers of the time period will surely enjoy this!  I hope to see this series continue!

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

Stories That Bind Us

Stories that bind usAuthor: Susie Finkbeiner

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: June 2, 2020

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Set in the civil rights movement of the 1960s, this story could just as easily be told today!

When Betty married her high school sweetheart, Norman Sweet, she had dreams of a long life together.  But after 20 years of marriage, her husband felt ill one afternoon and quickly passed due to a heart attack.  They’d had a good marriage filled with love and lots of bakery treats from the Sweet Family Bakery that they helped run.  But she quickly fell into depression and if not for her sister-in-law, she might have stayed there.  Then one day she had a surprise visitor at her door, her estranged sister and her five-year-old son.  Betty forges a bond with her biracial nephew and learns the ugly truth about the world as well as herself.  She reflects upon stories that her mother told her growing up that begin to bind their family’s relationships even tighter.

Susie Finkbeiner is a master at storytelling.  Her books can bring historical events into a picture that allow readers to see what happened in a new light.  From the dust bowl to the Vietnam War to the Civil Rights movement, she doesn’t capture the high points of the era and press on.  What she captures is so much more beautiful and crucial to our understanding of the times.  She captures everyday life of a normal person and family.

Betty is this person.  An average white female living in Michigan.  She’s far from the throes of the racially charged south and she sees the news, but largely ignores it as it does not directly affect her.  But when she meets her nephew Hugo, that begins to change.  She never sees him as anything more than a little boy, which is all that he is.  And her family only sees that as well.  But other people in the town do see him as different and she quickly realizes how ugly people can be.  I hope that readers are able to take this book to heart and begin to understand the importance of true relationships with one other.  As the stories Betty shares throughout the book bind her and Hugo, so do they bind us as readers!

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

What Momma Left Behind

What momma left behindAuthor: Cindy K. Sproles

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: June 2, 2020

Rating: 3.5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

With plenty of tension, heart and trying moments, this is a book historical fiction readers will not want to miss!

Deep in the Appalachian Mountains in 1877 the “Fever,” influenza and typhoid, are ravaging the land leaving many orphaned children with no one to care for them. Worie Dressar is seventeen when she is left on her own after her mother’s death. She quickly finds out that her mother had been taking care of the orphaned children in the area and the more she takes in the more she finds. Her two brothers aren’t much help, one is a drunk and the other a greedy man who wants anything their mother left behind. As she grows, Worie realizes the power of love and forgiveness as she cares for her Momma’s children.

Let me start out by saying that historical fiction set in this particular time period is not my normal genre to read. I just haven’t been able to relate to it as well as other periods that hold my interest better. However, this was a good stor. At its heart is a story of forgiveness, love and how what we don’t know or understand, if given time, will all come to make sense. By the end of the story, a lot of what Worrie goes through comes to make sense. The way her mother went about leaving her doesn’t make sense; so many things she could have made known before and not made it so difficult for her children. Being set in the 1800s, seventeen is considered grown and old enough to have a family, yet Worie acts immature and like a little brat much of the time. The way she acts doesn’t suite her and what she is supposed to be portraying. I couldn’t find many redeeming qualities throughout the book. I’m sure that there are many readers who will enjoy this so much more than I did. I did enjoy a few of the characters, the pastor, Ely and Bess made the story so much better than if they had not been written in. I would recommend this to lovers of Historical fiction, especially those that enjoy reading about the Appalachian Mountain region.

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

The Book of Lost Friends

Book of lost friendsAuthor: Lisa Wingate

Publisher: Ballantine

Release Date: April 7, 2020

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Wingate again brings history to life with a tale based on real world events that will reconnect people!

Louisiana in 1875 is in the full swing of post-civil war reconstruction. Hannie Gossett is now a free colored woman, but with no place to go she remained on the Gossett Grove planation and entered into a share cropping contract with the master of the planation. But when he goes to Texas to bring back his troublesome son, it is believed that he has been felled by some ill luck and perhaps dead. One night, the half-breed creole daughter of the master’s mistress shows up to seek her inheritance. When his rightful daughter, Missy Lavina, and her half-sister, Juneau Jane set off to find out the truth about his will, Hannie knows that she must tag along to find out the truth so that she can keep her share cropping land. She could never have imagined this trip would have spanned across half of Texas and introduced her to more truth than she had ever known.

In 1987, Benny Silva has taken a teaching job in Augustine, Louisiana to assist in forgiveness on her student loan. The first day in class she learns the truth about this school, no one really cares. She is just a babysitter for a group of kids between the bells. Almost all the kids are from impoverished families and many don’t have enough food to eat. When a guest speaker spurs the movement of a project in her classroom that excites her kids, things start to take a turn for the better, until members of the community that don’t want things to change get involved. Benny decides that she will do whatever it takes to get her kids to improve their learning and participation at school, even if it cost her the job.

I love how Lisa Wingate can connect the past and present (or at least closer to the present in this case) with a book. The Book of Lost Friends centers on the Lost Friends column that was published in Southern newspapers that reconnected families separated by slavery. Several of the actual stories are shared throughout the book in-between chapters. Both stories were powerful. Hannie become the matriarch of the town of Augustine, but not before a lifetime of adventure that developed the book. Benny was able to connect seemingly worthless kids to their past ancestors and give them hope for the future. I’m not sure which story that I enjoyed better. As always, her research on the time period is spot on. I enjoyed reading about the Texas hill country during this time period with references to present day Menard and Fort McKavett.

I hope that as many readers as possible will enjoy this book as with her previous.

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