The Master Craftsman

Author: Kelli Stuart

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: April 5, 2022

Rating: 5 out of 5.

One of the best time-slip novels of the year!  This should be on your summer reading list!

Karl Faberge has been charged with creating some of the most memorable sculptors during his time, many that have become known as the Faberge Eggs, which were produced for the Russian Tsar family during the late 1800s and early 1900s.  But when Karl began to see the effect of the Tsar’s rule over Russia, he created one egg that hardly anyone knew about.  The secret keeper of this egg was none other than Alma Phil, one of the best craftsmen of the House of Faberge. 

Fast forward to present day, Ava Laine learns that her estranged father and famed treasure hunter Nick Laine has developed a fatal illness.  Encouraged by her mother, Ava visits Nick and learns that there is one last treasure that he wants to find and hopes that she will do it for him.  With little to hold her back, Ava, her mother, and her next-door neighbor team together for a wild trip to Russia in hopes of locating the missing egg.  But they get more than they bargained for when they find out they are not the only ones after the egg.

This is one of the best books I’ve read all year!  Not only was the historical fiction portion of the story super interesting, but the present-day mystery and treasure hunting aspect took the whole book to another level.  I couldn’t decide which of the two stories that I wanted to read more and they pretty well blended altogether.  Such a great story for anytime of the year.  I’ll even read it again before this year is up!

I enjoyed getting to watch Ava’s character growth throughout the book.  She went from feeling abandoned with a little self-centeredness to becoming a family member and genuine concern for others.  I don’t know if Stuart has considered making this into a series, but I would be on board for any future installments.  I can’t wait to see what she comes up with next!

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

A Spark of Love

Author: Amanda Cabot

Series: Mesquite Springs #3

Publisher: revell

Release Date: March 1, 2022

Rating: 4 out of 5.

What a great conclusion to the Mesquite Springs series!

Some people just won’t take no for an answer, especially when money is involved.  Alexandra Tarkington must leave New York for her own sanity and safety and decides to go to the booming metropolis of Mesquite Springs, Texas, which is nestled in the hill county and the town where her father is building a hotel.  After leaving a false trail, she arrives in Mesquite Springs to find that the hotel is nowhere close to finished and her father seems to have aged twenty years and taken on a different name.  Instead of being happy to see her, he urges her to return to her aunt in New York, but she knows she can’t and decides to carve out a life for herself here. 

However, things aren’t always as they seem.  The nice man who accompanied her to Texas known as Gabe Seymore happens to be an investigator hired to out her father as a swindler.  But as things progress, Gabe and Alexandra continue to find themselves in dangerous situations that can help but make sparks between them. 

I’ve loved this entire series and each year I get to spend a few days in Mesquite Springs with my favorite characters.  I was glad to see some characters from previous books and how they have been getting along in the town.  Each book is a little predictable, but they are still fun with a little twist of suspense thrown in at the end.  If you love western type clean romances, this is a series for you!

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

A Hundred Crickets Singing

Author: Cathy Gohlke

Publisher: Tyndale

Release Date: April 5, 2022

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Characters from Night Bird Calling return for a new adventure set between two wars!

Old houses always hold secrets and Gardens Gate is no exception.  After a storm damages the roof, a hidden room is discovered by Celia Percy and her younger brother.  With civil war era clothing and documents, they discover that this room was once used to hide slaves making their way along the Underground Railroad to find freedom in the North, which is completely unexpected knowing that the ancestors were slave owners and Klan members.  As Celia uncovers more about the civil war, her friends Marshal and Joe are across the Atlantic preparing for the Normandy invasion in 1944.  When Marshal makes a choice that shocks not only his family, but the whole community, Celia knows it is up to her to make it so that he can return home.

Eighty years earlier, Minnie Belvidere is stuck between her two brothers, one that is for the Union, but must enlist in the Confederacy and the other who fully believes the Confederate values.  Her mother was always a proponent of freedom for all men and women, which made them an unpopular family in North Carolina.  After her mother’s death, her father’s health begins to deteriorate, she knows she must step in to continue her mother’s legacy.

I was not expecting a time slip novel from Cathy Gohlke, but I’m pleased to say that I hope she decides to write more.  She has been such a master of historical fiction that it seemed only fitting that she took this challenge to bring readers not just one, but two fantastic stories set years apart, but both at war. 

I loved seeing previous characters return for a chance to see how their stories are continuing as well as meeting new characters from a previous era.  In both timelines, the protagonist is a young female who is set on making wrongs right based on the social norms.  With love, suspense, and great characters, readers will love this book just as much as the first.  While I would say that you don’t have to read Night Bird Calling before this one, I do think it will give quite a bit of backstory that readers would otherwise miss.

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

Count the Night by Stars

Author: Michelle Shocklee

Publisher: Tyndale House

Release Date: March 8, 2022

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Terrific historical time-slip centered around the historic Maxwell House Hotel in Nashville!

Tennessee in 1897 was the place to be.  The state was celebrating its centennial anniversary and everyone came to Nashville to celebrate at the exposition.  Priscilla Nichol’s father was instrumental in bringing the railroad to Tennessee and took full charge of the exhibit, which brought their family to Nashville for the exposition.  While there, Priscilla befriends their young carriage driver Luca Moretti and his younger sister Gia.  But Nashville, like many large cities, has a dark side that people don’t want to talk about.  Priscilla learns that people that run in her family’s circles aren’t always the ones you should keep company with.

Almost seventy years later, Audrey Whitfield is helping her father run the Maxwell House Hotel in Nashville.  It’s not the crown gem that it once was, but it still has several residents as well as guests.  When Ms. Nichols, one of the longtime residents, has a stroke and is admitted to the hospital, Audrey begins going through her personal items and finds a scrapbook from the Centennial Exposition in 1897.  The more she goes through the scrapbook, the more she uncovers a mystery of the woman that she never really got to know.  Who was she?

There is nothing quite like a good time slip and when both periods deal with historical fiction, you have a very happy reader.  Shocklee did a great job tying in major historical events to both timelines with the exposition in 1897 and the hotel fire in 1961.  Both storylines were very intriguing and I keep devouring each chapter to discover what was going to happen next.  It’s not often that I get that involved in both timelines, but they were interwoven so well that I just had to know what was going to happen!  I loved the character growth of both Audrey and Priscilla and really wanted to know more.  Great read for springtime!

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

Fires of Edo

Author: Susan Spann

Series: Shinobi Mystery #8

Publisher: Seventh Street Books

Release Date: February 15, 2022

Rating: 5 out of 5.

After almost three years, Hiro Hattori and Father Mateo have returned for another mystery!

Upon arriving in Edo to fulfill their task of alerting Iga operatives that they may be in danger of Lord Oda’s uprising, Hiro and Father Mateo get caught up in the fire brigade’s rush to extinguish a burning building before it can spread to other structures.  Head of the fire brigade is no other than Hiro’s childhood nemesis from Iga, but he must put feelings aside to warm him of the possible danger.  When the remains of a samurai are discovered in the fire, all attention is put on the shop owner who is responsible for the damage and the death.  As the penalty in Edo for a negligent fire is death, Father Mateo and Hiro agree to investigate and determine the true cause of the fire to hopefully spare an innocent man’s life.

I have loved this entire series and this installment is no different.  What makes these stories so great is the banter between the two main characters.  It’s just comical and makes the story move along so well, but the mysteries are always intriguing to keep the reader trying to guess at what the truth is.  With colorful supporting characters as always, Spann does a great job introducing new friends as you lose some along the way.  The ending made me feel like this could be the end for the series, but I sure hope not.  I’ve waited three years just for this one and I hope she manages to pen one or two more before it’s officially over.

Along the Rio Grande

Author: Tracie Peterson

Series: Love on the Santa Fe #1

Publisher: Bethany House

Release Date: March 1, 2022

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Great start to a new series set in the aridness of New Mexico!

Susanna Jenkins recently lost her husband to the Spanish Flu, but she has no need to worry about financial means.  Meanwhile, her father has made some bad investments that left he and her mother financially ruined and even lost the estate that they have lived in for many years.  When her uncle refuses to just bail them out and instead gives them an opportunity to learn from their mistakes as managers of a new hotel in New Mexico, Susanna decides to accompany them at the request of her uncle.  Unfortunately, her parents can’t grasp the concept that everything shouldn’t just be given to them and much of the hotel’s operations fall to her.  Will her parents and younger brother ever be able to understand the lesson they are trying to be taught?

Owen Turner is a boilermaker for the Santa Fe railroad.  You might say that the railroad is in his blood since his father was an engineer on the line until he died.  Owen tries to live his life right and walk with God, but he still has a lot of skeletons in the closet.  When he meets the new hotel managers, he is quickly drawn to Susanna, especially when he learns that she is now widowed.  When her brother comes to work at the railroad, he has a lot of trouble learning the craft and falls in with a group of friends that don’t help his behavior.  Can Owen open his hear to Susanna and help her brother at the same time?

Tracie Peterson writes such fun stories and for those of us who love steam trains as well, what could be better than a historical romance set amid the beginnings of the Santa Fe rail line?  I loved the setting (especially since I only live about 5 hours away) and the talk of local cuisine would always make me hungry.  Both Owen and Susanna were such lovable characters that you couldn’t help but hope that would end up together and not have a stumbling block.  Susanna’s parents, however, were nothing short of loathsome characters for most of the book.  With their attitudes throughout, I couldn’t believe that Susanna came from the same family.  But things have a way of working out in the end, especially when God is in charge.  I can’t wait to see what happens in the next installment.

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

The Lady of Galway Manor

Author: Jennifer Deibel

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: February 1, 2022

Rating: 4 out of 5.

When Irish eyes are smiling, you’ll find a book by Jennifer Deibel.

When Annabeth De Lacy’s father is appointed to a Parish, she quickly bores of the trappings that come with the British Court.  So, she devises a plan to get her father to arrange an apprenticeship for her.  While at the apprenticeship, the war for Irish Independence begins to strengthen and those with British ties become very unpopular.  Will the lessons that Annabeth has learned be tested or true?

One thing is for certain, Deibel does a masterful job of bringing Irish history and lore to her readers.  I love picking up a book by her because I’m always sent on a journey to the Emerald Isle, home of my ancestors.  Maybe that’s why I love her books so much.  Overall, this was an easy read that was fun as well.  Not as much tension as I like, but that’s not really the base here either.  I recommend this to readers who enjoy stories of Irish history.

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

Until Leaves Fall in Paris

Author: Sarah Sundin

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: February 1, 2022

Rating: 5 out of 5.

This is by far Sundin’s best book yet!

With the fall of Paris on the horizon, Lucie Girard’s Jewish friends that own her favorite bookstore have decide to leave for their own safety.  They’ve been so good to Lucie by allowing her to stay with them so she could study ballet when her parents moved back to the United States that she feels she must help them, so she buys the bookstore.  A year later Paris is fully occupied, and several titles are banned from being sold, but she manages to get by a little at a time.  When she discovers that the French resistance is using her bookstore to pass along coded messages, she knows that she too must do her part to be part of pushing back against the Nazis.

After the death of his wife, automaker Paul Aubrey wants to return to the United States with his daughter to keep her safe.  But the US government wants him to keep the factory open and appear as a collaborator with the Germans so that he can pass information back to the US.  Paul becomes shunned by the Americans remaining in Paris, even the young bookstore owner that his daughter has taken such a liking too.  But he knows that to make it convincing, he needs to keep up appearances.  As his silent effort grows by taking in British airmen at the factory, he becomes more drawn to Lucie Girard, but can he risk his secret?

There is no doubt that this is Sarah Sundin’s best book!  I have been reading her WWII fiction for years and this book had me captured from the beginning through the end.  Just when I thought that the story was about to let up, she threw in a twist that I didn’t see coming and kept me glued to the page.  Thank goodness I had a couple of days where all I had to do was read! 

I love both Paul and Aubrey.  And as a reader you get to see what is happening before it ever does.  But with that comes the pain that both characters feel from each other when the truth isn’t known.  The tension is spot on.  The romance isn’t forced but allows for a natural attraction.  There just aren’t enough good things to say about this book.  Get your copy today!

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

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.