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.

Along a Storied Trail

Author: Ann H. Gabhart

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: June 1, 2021

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Gabhart crafts a beautifully written tale set in the Appalachian Mountains with characters that tug at the heartstrings.

Tansy Calhoun feels like love will never find her after being left by the man she thought she was going to marry. She spends her time as a librarian, taking books up the rough trails on horseback to others in the area that otherwise wouldn’t have anything to read. The Great Depression is in full swing and her family works together to survive the hard times. Tansy has given up hope of finding love until a young writer comes to town and she believes she might have found her perfect man. Perdita Sweet is a lot like Tansy, love has not been a friend to her, and she eventually stopped trying. Now, she sees a love blooming for Tansy but fears no one will listen to her advice.

Set in the time of the Great Depression when many were struggling financially and had so many problems, Gabhart weaves a beautiful tale of love, longing to belong and so much more. For fans of historical romance this book will hit all the right buttons. A fun read about horseback librarians, something I had never heard of but makes total sense, a way to get literature to those who would otherwise have none. The main focus of this story is love but in so many ways, love of family, finding love for yourself, loving where you are at and what you can do for those around you, love, love, love. While historical romance is not my normal read, I enjoyed the themes and characters. Tansy is a great protagonist as the horseback librarian, ones I think others will relate to and enjoy reading. Fans of Gabhart and historical romance will not want to miss this one. 

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

Whom God’s Destroy

Author: Vincent B. Davis II

Series: Sertoris Scrolls #4

Publisher: Self Published

Release Date: May 1, 2021

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Davis is back in his element with Quintus Sertoris again on the war path!

After his tenure as senator and following the disaster that befell the senate, Quintus Sertoris is now serving as a legate for Rome to Greece.  While this should be a mission of peace, he quickly realizes that his new commander expects to return with a tribute of at least 5,000 deaths.  Once the legion is in Greece, Quintus begins to realize that Roman citizens are disappearing, some being sold into slavery, which is illegal.  As he investigates, he realizes that he is up against a villain known as Cerebus that is bent upon the full destruction of Rome.  Sertoris must devise a way to put an end to the conspiracy while making new friends, and losing some, along the way.

I love this series, but after Bodies in the Tiber, I was ready to get back on the war path and leave the politics behind.  Luckily, Davis does just that in his new Sertoris Scroll.  Now under the command of Proconsul Titus Didius, he is dispatched to Greece as a legate.  Unfortunately, this leaves readers without the Quintus/Arrea love story that many were hoping to get back on track, but it does allow for good banter with his old friend Apollonius once again.  This book introduces new friendships and sees some old friendships start to dwindle.  The drama with Sulla continues at a distance, mainly through letters of Rome’s impending civil war.  Everything is being set up nicely for the Social War that Sertorius is greatly known for.

Highly recommended for lovers of ancient roman literature.

A Lady in Attendance

Author: Rachel Fordham

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: June 1, 2021

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Such a great historical fiction story that had me laughing as much as researching!

After serving a five-year sentence in the House of Refuge in Hudson, New York, Hazel is released with little hope of finding a decent job as she believes no one will trust her.  She uses an alias to find employment and lands a job as a lady in attendance for a dentist, Dr. Gilbert Watt.  As she begins to work with Dr. Watt, she begins to trust again and finds a friendship that may be able to heal her soul and mend any past transgressions.

There is nothing better when you read a historical fiction novel that makes you research the accuracy of the story.  This holds so true for Rachel Fordham and this book.  From the prologue set in the House of Refuge, which was actually the second prison for women in the United States, to the job duties of a lady in attendance for dentistry at the time.  I learned so much through this book that I had to go back and reread parts just to make sure I fully understood what was going on.  In addition to the historical accuracy, I couldn’t have loved seeing two characters thrown together more than Hazel and Gilbert.  Their banter was priceless throughout the book.  The humor was spot on and I even laughed out loud at a book I thought I wouldn’t even crack a smile in.  Great job!

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

A Piece of the Moon

Author: Chris Fabry

Publisher: Tyndale House

Release Date: April 6, 2021

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Fabry never fails to give readers a story that will be enjoyable with flawed characters that readers are easily able to bond with.

Gideon Quidley has achieved great wealth throughout his life and when he receives a divine vision telling him to hide his treasure based on bible verses, he sets out to do just that.  When people find out what he has done, treasure hunters search high and low based on the clues.  It becomes an obsession for some people.  For others, it’s become more of a joking matter.  In the small town of Emmaus, West Virginia, mooring radio talk show hosts Waite Evers and TD Lovett, tend to joke about the matter weekly.  But when one of TD’s estranged friends goes missing, he is suddenly pulled into the hunt for his friend over the treasure.  As TD dives into the clues, he begins to discover his own real treasure that isn’t just of this earth.

Leave it to Chris Fabry to set up an incredibly interesting tale that takes readers back to 1981.  I’ve never been disappointed in one of Fabry’s novels and this one kept me intrigued all the way through.  His characters are all incredibly flawed, just like real life, and have the ability to easily connect with readers.  Waite was just one of many, but he saw the good in everybody but himself.  TD felt he could never be more than he was and didn’t know what the point of trying was.  With plenty of supporting characters, readers will easily find someone to resonate with and cheer for throughout the book.  Fabry’s years of experience on the radio show with the technical knowledge included in this book!

The story centers around an earthly treasure of riches, but has a theme of discovering the treasure of ourselves with our heavenly father.  I love the way that this book ended.  I’m not going to say more than that, but I think all readers will enjoy the final wrap up!

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

Miriam’s Song

Author: Jill Eileen Smith

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: March 2, 2021

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Fans of Smith will likely enjoy her adaption of the story of Miriam.

Miriam and her family have been living during the Israelite oppression in Egypt.  While they have been praying for deliverance, it has been quiet.  When the Pharaoh becomes threatened and decrees that all male Hebrew babies shall be killed, she knows that her mother’s new baby is likely to die soon.  Fortunately, Pharaoh’s daughter finds him and raises him as her own.  Miriam’s little brother, Moses, will change the world for the Israelite people.

I have always enjoyed Smith’s ability to tell a well-known biblical story from a different perspective.  I enjoyed her previous book with the story of King Herod told from his sister’s perspective and felt that this one would be interesting as well.  I was able to get into the story pretty easily having well known characters, but it took a little while for me to get through it.  I’ve done a lot of research on the books of law and had to go back to double check some events based on this book.  I know that fiction is subjective and can be interpreted differently.  I’ve read past authors that have even moved actual events to different timelines to support their stories. With this story, there were some things that didn’t seem to sit correctly, which took time to research and understand her point of view.  Fans of hers will likely still enjoy this book, but I’m hoping the next one turns out to her usual standards.

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

Dreams Rekindled

Author: Amanda Cabot

Series: Mesquite Springs #2

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: March 2, 2021

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Come back to the quaint western town of Mesquite Springs, TX and read Dorothy’s story!

Dorothy Clark has always resigned herself that she will never marry.  After her father died, her mother fell into deep depression, and Dorothy doesn’t want to allow an event to do that to her.  Since her brother got married, she is helping run her sister-in-law’s restaurant, Polly’s Place in their absence.  She has always dreamed of being a writer, but never really had an opportunity.  When a newspaper man relocates to Mesquite Springs to start up a paper, Dorothy feels that she might have finally found her chance for her writing.  But will he stir up more than just words in her?

Mesquite Springs is such a fun town to visit in a book, but do the townsfolk sure get divided easily.  In the first book it was the mayoral race that did it and in this book its about the local pastor.  Readers will have a great time trying to figure out what is going to happen with all the different shady characters that show up in town. 

I liked seeing Dorothy grow more in this book.  She had a little bit of growth as a supporting character previously and really blossomed into this book.  She wasn’t shallow, she is actually very intelligent and good hearted.  I can’t wait to see what is in store for the final book of the trilogy.  I think I know who the main characters will be and am excited to see how it is going to play out!

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

The English Wife

Author: Adrienne Chinn

Publisher: One More Chapter

Release Date: June 23, 2020

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Two stories full of secrets that can finally bring out the truth!

Ellie Burgess has kept her life in order with the way she wants it to be in London with the threat of war.  She is studying art and engaged to her lifelong friend George.  But after the war begins and her best friend is killed in a bombing, she feels that she must do her part and join the fire service.  Her predictable love life also takes a turn when she meets a Newfoundlander named Thomas Parsons.  She realizes that she loves George but has never been in love with him as she is with Thomas.  She makes a decision that compromises every relationship within in her family and elopes with Thomas before he is sent off to war.  After almost of year of no correspondence after he is taken a POW, Ellie has all but decided that Thomas has perished until she finally receives a letter from him back in Newfoundland.  She packs up her belongings with their newborn son and heads across the Atlantic in a course that will forever change her life.

Sophie Parry is on a flight from London to New York for an interview with a prestigious architecture firm on September 11, 2001.  When her plan is diverted to Gander, Newfoundland and she realizes that she is not getting to New York anytime soon, she decides to call on her Aunt Ellie that she has never known.  Her mother hated her aunt and she never knew why.  Could it be fate that brought them together now?

I love a book that manages to come full circle from beginning to end.  There were quite a lot of little twists towards the end of the book, several of which were quite surprising.  I loved reading both stories, and it took having Ellie’s backstory to really understand Sophie.  I really felt for Ellie with all that she had to go through, but she was a trooper.  I also enjoyed watching Sophie’s character get developed and grow with an understanding of what to live for instead of how she was living.  There is so much going on in this novel that it would take a long time to unpack, but I feel that the reader should enjoy the gift that this book really is.  There is a lot of Newfoundland slang throughout the book that is pretty easy to pick up on.  This is the first book that I’ve read set there, but it seems like it would be a beautiful place to visit. 

There is a little bit of foul language throughout the book, but it doesn’t overpower the story.  Even so, I recommend this book for mature readers.

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