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.

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.