A Rebel Heart

A Rebel heartAuthor: Beth White

Series: Daughtry House #1

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: June 5, 2018

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

It is obvious through every page that Beth White has done her research and turned A Rebel Heart into a must read for lovers of historical fiction.

It’s been five years since the War Between the States ended and Selah Daughtry has worked day in and out to keep herself and her family safe, and fed. Their land is about to go under in debt and giving it up is the last thing she wants to do.  When it seems like all hope is lost Levi Riggins, a former union cavalryman comes and starts to investigate some inconsistences and possible sabotage to the Daughtry family land.  Selah doesn’t know if she can trust him when he tells her he can help save her land if she agrees to turn the family home into a hotel.  Trusting Levi is the only option she has, what she didn’t expect was her heart to fall for him during this difficult time when love is the last thing she is looking for.

A Rebel Heart is the perfect book for lovers of historical fiction. With the setting in Mississippi and the family struggling to keep their land and each other together, the tension mounts quickly as the fight to keep what is theirs together.  The connection between Levi and Selah is immediate and you know the tension between them is going to build to a romance they won’t be able to turn away from.  I enjoyed the way Levi worked to keep his mission a secret and still do the work he was there to do.  It was hard for him to keep his distance when he obviously wanted to be with Selah.  The book kept a good pace throughout and I enjoyed the way it played out at the end leaving room for more to come but wrapping things up nicely.

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

Keturah

KeturahAuthor: Lisa T. Bergen

Series: The Sugar Baron’s Daughters #1

Publisher: Bethany House

Release Date: February 6, 2018

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Historical fiction is a difficult genre for some of today’s authors but Bergren does it with ease giving an amazing setting and characters we can’t help but long to see succeed.

Lady Keturah Banning Tomlinson has found herself in a difficult spot. The year is 1773 and she and her sisters are about to lose everything their family has worked so hard for. As the heiresses of their father’s estates in England and the West Indies, they know they must leave the comforts of their English home and sail to the West Indies in order to save all they have.  An unprecedented venture for women did at this time, but that doesn’t stop Keturah and her sisters from continuing their journey without a man. Keturah has been under the thumb of men all her life and refuses to let herself be put in a helpless position again. No matter how hard she tries to avoid it, every man on the island tries endlessly to win her hand, and with it the ownership of her family’s plantation.  The only person she can trust is a childhood friend that has journeyed to the island as well to gain his own wealth. She isn’t sure of his motives but she has no one else besides her sisters and without letting him help she risks losing everything.

It doesn’t seem to matter which genre Bergren writes in, she is always able to provide readers with a story they won’t soon forget and long for more. I loved her YA series and have been a fan of her work ever since. The setting of Keturah was beautifully described along with the characters and the struggles they faced.  The three sisters are forced to band together and work harder than they ever have in order to save the family plantation and secure their future.  I love the way they come together and work this out instead of looking to a man to give them the security they could have and so many others probably would. Keturah knows that she is in charge of her future and happiness and I love the way she lets her strength shine through even with the trials she has faced in her past. The relationship between Ket and Gray develops well and I enjoyed seeing him win her trust and how loyal they both were to the people around them.  With this being the first in a new series, I am curious to see how the next will play out with the other sisters most likely taking the lead.  I recommend this book to readers that enjoy historical romance with a beautiful setting and characters they can’t help but fall in love with.

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

Night Music

Night MusicAuthor: Deanna Lynn Sletten

Publisher: Self-Published

Release Date: March 13, 2018

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

When you can hear the night music, you know everything is safe. It’s when it stops that you know the storm is about to hit!

In 1968, Joe Russo has been shipped off to Vietnam. He has done well to keep himself and his fellow soldiers alive.  He doesn’t have any family and didn’t leave any friends behind, so when he gets offered a letter from a volunteer, he jumps at the chance.  His pen pal is a young girl named Charlotte (Char) Parsons, whose older brother died earlier in the war.  She writes to Joe of life in small college town that gives Joe hope after war.  If he can make it back stateside, maybe he will find a small town like that to settle down.

Fast-forward to 1970, Char is just starting her freshman year of college. Her friends are envious because she has a boyfriend that is a senior, who is very outspoken about ending the so called “Vietnam War.”  Char never really thought much about his opinions until she meets the new student Joe, who is a vet that was wounded in the war.  Joe brings a new perspective to Char and she starts to question her relationship with her boyfriend.  As the anti-war movement grows more intense, so do the emotions within Char who must decide the direction her life will go once and for all.

As usual, Sletten has crafted an emotional story centered with conflict that brings the characters to life. It happened so fast in this book, that the Joe, Char, and Deke had faces in no time.  I could picture them with ease and I’m pretty sure that Deke looked like Geoffrey Blake from Forrest Gump. The conflict within Char was raw and made it feel very real throughout the whole story.  I couldn’t help but root for her and Joe to be together and cringed when Joe kept Tony’s box because I knew what was going to happen and sure enough it did!  Why Joe?  Seriously, I can’t take things like that when I’ve fallen in love with someone’s relationship!

All that to say, if you enjoy romances written around the Vietnam war (or if you’ve ever read another Deanna Lynn Sletten book), I recommend this one as you will not be disappointed.

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

Olivia Twist

Olivia TwistAuthor: Lorie Langdon

Publisher: Blink YA Books

Release Date: March 6, 2018

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A fun, quirky, retelling of the classic by Charles Dickens that will be appealing to a new generation.

Olivia Brownlow spent a portion of her childhood living on the street pretending to be a boy while stealing on the streets of London in order to survive. When one of her thefts goes bad and she is caught, she lucks out by her uncle taking her in and treating her how to be a lady in high society.  Unfortunately, it is hard to leave behind the only life she has ever known.  Just when she thinks she has turned a corner, a face from the past comes back into her life.  Jack MacCarron has become the adopted nephew of one of London’s riches families.  Jack used to be on the street as well and was known as the Artful Dodger.  His new aunt is using him and his skills to gain enough wealth to stay in high standing.  When Jack finds out that Olivia is using her skills as well to help the local orphans, he decides that together they may be able to do enough good to outweigh the bad of their pasts.

I so enjoyed the last book Langdon wrote and was really looking forward to this retelling. It has been several years since the last time I read Oliver Twist so this seemed like an entirely new story to me.  In fact, after I read this, I had to go back and read Oliver Twist again to see what the similarities were, which happened to be more of a slight alternation rather than full retelling.  The dynamic between Olivia and Jack was played out really well, along with that of Olivia and most of those she interacted with.  The romance played out really well and didn’t seem forced, which is always a nice today in today’s novels.  The writing was very well done and told in an exciting way, but it may not click for all audiences (what book ever does).  I think many people will enjoy Olivia Twist, especially those that are fans of the original Dickens novel.  I recommend this for fans of the original and anyone who enjoys a good historical fiction novel.

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

The Sea Before Us

The sea before usAuthor: Sarah Sundin

Series: Sunrise at Normandy #1

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: February 6, 2018

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

This new historical fiction romance series has definitely gotten my attention and I’m looking forward to the next installment!

American naval officer Lt. Wyatt Paxton is stationed in England in 1944 getting ready for the invasion of Normandy. Wyatt has been running away from his past when a tragic accident spit him and his family apart, so he joined the Navy to get away.  While in England, he meets a  young 2nd Office in the Women’s Royal Navy Service (Wren) named Dorothy Fairfax.  Dorothy lost her family to the London Blitz and is now estranged with her father even though they live together.  She and Wyatt find themselves thrown together in an unusual circumstance that leads to a friendship.  As each finds strength in their friendship to face their past troubles, Dorothy believes that romance can never be as she is smitten with a British naval officer.  But she may never get the chance to find out as Wyatt is sent to sea duty for the invasion.

This new series is very promising. As a huge fan of World War II, it plays right into my interest.  The excitement of Normandy also piqued my interest throughout the book and how the exercises were used to finalize the details.  I also really enjoyed the romance between Wyatt and Dorothy through all the surprises that occurred.  Both characters matured through the story as they were hardened and had to put their trust in God.

If you are not hooked to this story in the prologue, I’m not sure what else could have been done to trap you! I recommend this new series to history lovers and those that love a natural romance.

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

A Passionate Hope

A Passionite HopeAuthor: Jill Eileen Smith

Series: Daughters of the Promised Land #4

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: February 6, 2018

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

The next book in the series gives a new perspective to the story of Samuel’s parents.

Hannah and Elkanah share a deep love for one another. Even after having been married for several years and not conceiving a child, they still find enough with just each other.  Unfortunately, that is not the case for others, including Elkanah’s mother.  After much nagging, he agrees to take a second wife, Peninnah, who immediately produces a son.  Although Peninnah is producing heirs, Elkanah still loves Hannah more, which pits them against each other.  Peninnah continually scorns and mocks Hannah throughout their life.  One night at the temple, Hannah pours out her heart to the Lord and makes a vow that if he will give her a son, she will give him back to be raised at the Temple.  Shortly after this, she conceives a son and makes a vow that he shall be a Nazarite.  Samuel is born and is raised by Eli the priest, but still sees his parents when they are in Shiloh.  Now that Hannah is bearing children, she and Peninnah are even more at odds with each other.  Can the two ever get along?

My favorite aspect of this book was having the story told from the three different viewpoints of the main characters. When reading the story in the Bible, most people probably sympathize with Hannah as the wrongfully treated wife who is mocked because she doesn’t have children.  So, hearing the story in her words really brought the understanding of Jewish customs to a new level during the time period.  However, also hearing it from Elkahan and Peninnah made it much more real.  What must Elkannah have gone through with the hostility from both his mother and his second wife?  And how did he feel when we had to give up the firstborn son from the woman he loved?  The hurt Peninnah must have felt from never being loved as much as Hannah must have been awful for her.  As always, Jill Eileen Smith brings an old testament story to life with vibrancy and excitement while still keeping an emotional connection to her audience!

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

The Tuscan Child

The Tuscan CHildAuthor: Rhys Bowen

Publisher: Lake Union

Release Date: February 20, 2018

Rating; 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Can a young woman uncover her estranged father’s mysterious past to find a brother she never knew?

In 1944, British pilot Hugo Langley is flying a doomed mission across the Italian countryside when his plane is hit by the Germans. Hugo parachutes to safety in a section of German control Tuscany.  His leg has been shot and he must find food and shelter to survive.  A young woman named Sofia Bartoli discovers him and gives him aid.  They work together to hide him in the old monastery that has been bombed.  As the days go by, Hugo and Sofia build a relationship and begin to develop feelings for one another, even though both are still married.  As the Allies continue to push the Axis powers out of Italy, the Germans become more desperate to find the pilot that was missing in the plane wreckage.  Will Hugo and Sofia be able to escape together?  Or is their relationship doomed?

Twenty-nine years later in England, Hugo’s daughter Joanna, has returned to Langley Hall after word of her father’s death. Now a boarding school for girls, the headmistress is ready to have her father’s belongings gone from the property.  While going through the items, Joanna discovers an unopened letter addressed to Sofia Bartoli in a remote village in Tuscany with a reference to having hidden their little boy where only she can find it.  On a whim, Joanna decides to embark for the small village of San Salvatore to discover more about her father.  But when she arrives, she discovers that digging around in the past does not always find a warm welcome.

This was a really interesting book to read that was set in two past time periods. The author did a great job setting the scene for each of these periods based on technology.  Many times I find a slip up or too when authors try to do this, but Bowen did a masterful job.  I enjoyed reading both story lines, but tend to find myself more drawn to Hugo and Sofia’s story.  I really enjoy that time period and it kept the story moving fast for me.  The Italian hospitality was a keen as it has ever been throughout this story.  Lots of talk of food that often made my mouth water.  Especially for polenta!  Love that stuff.

There is very mild language at times in the book and a small sex scene, but nothing graphic at all. I recommend this book to readers that love a good story and those that enjoy WWII era novels.

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