Friday, December 30, 2011

Review of Before the Scarlet Dawn by Rita Gerlach

Rating: 4 Stars
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Synopsis from Abingdon Press: In 1775, Hayward Morgan, a young gentleman destined to inherit his father’s estate in Derbyshire, England, captures the heart of the local vicar’s daughter, Eliza Bloome. Her dark beauty and spirited ways are not enough to win him, due to her station in life.   

Circumstances throw Eliza in Hayward’s path, and they flee to America to escape the family conflicts. But as war looms, it's a temporary reprieve. Hayward joins the revolutionary forces and what follows is a struggle for survival, a test of faith, and the quest to find lasting love in an unforgiving wilderness.


Review: After reading Rita Gerlach's first novel, Surrender the Wind, I was excited to discover her newest book Before the Scarlet Dawn, which will be released in February 2012.  This was one of the rare times that I did not read the synopsis before reading the novel, so I did not know what to expect of the plot.  However, even for those readers who do read the publisher's summary, they will not be prepared for the unexpected turn of events as the story weaves its course through the pages.  

Gerlach's characters are realistically flawed and make both good and bad decisions.  Particular characters frustrated me and maddened me with their reactions.  There were moments that made me want to jump into the novel and ask "Can't you see the error of your ways?"  Such moments added depth to the novel that I appreciated.  There were other times that I felt significant events were skimmed over or characters' reactions were presented in a more factual rather than an emotional manner.  Likewise, some dialogue seemed a bit formal and stilted.  Overall the novel flowed at a steady pace and kept me turning the pages and wondering what would happen next.  I truly had no idea how the novel would conclude. 

Bittersweet best describes the mood of Before the Scarlet Dawn; it left me with the hope of a happy conclusion but with the sadness of broken dreams and shattered relationships.  The last half of the novel really gripped me, and the last page left me wanting more pages to answer my lingering questions.  Fortunately, Gerlach is working on Books 2 and 3 of the Daughters of the Potomac series.

I received a complimentary e-copy of this book from NetGalley, courtesy of Abingdon Press.  I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions expressed above are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Our Top 11 of 2011: Part 2

Our top 5 books of 2011 are novels that we savor and will read multiple times to rediscover their treasures.

Allison Pittman


Allison Pittman

Lynn Austin

Laura Frantz

Tamera Alexander

Friday, December 23, 2011

A Preview of Downton Abbey Season 2

Watch Season 1 December 18, 2011-January 1, 2012. Season 2 premieres on January 8, 2012. For more information, click here.

Watch Downton Abbey I Wonder Preview on PBS. See more from Masterpiece.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Top Eleven of 2011...

Without a doubt we have read many enjoyable books this year, and it is difficult to narrow them down and says which is our number one favorite.  Since my sister and I have very similar reading tastes, we often rank the stories very closely.  Numbers 6-11 are page-turners that we highly recommend, and we may re-visit in the coming years.  The remaining five will be forthcoming and represent the top five because they are definite keepers that will re-read again!  Here are six of our top eleven of 2011:







Review of Smitten by Colleen Coble, Kristin Billerbeck, Diann Hunt, & Denise Hunter

Our Rating:  4 Stars
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Synopis from Thomas Nelson:  Four friends devise a plan to turn Smitten, Vermont, into the country's premier romantic getaway-and each finds her own true love along the way.
With Smitten Lumber closing, residents wonder if their town can stay afloat. Then four friends and local business owners-Natalie, Julia, Shelby, and Reese--decide the town is worth saving. How will they do it? They'll turn Smitten into a honeymoon destination!
As Natalie, Julia, Shelby, and Reese work to save the town, each discovers romance in her own life. Meanwhile, the faith of a little child reminds the whole town what it means to have real faith in the God who is the always and forever Love.
Discover a novel written by four of Christian fiction's most popular romance novelists- friends in real life who've drawn an amazing story of four friends! Includes a Reading Group Guide as well as "Conversation over Coffee with the Authors".
Review:  I have to admit that sometimes I am a bit weary about reading a collection of inspirational fiction short stories because past experience has shown me that the characters can be somewhat one-dimensional and lack plot development.  However, when I saw the authors who had contributed to Smitten, I decided that this particular collection may well be worth my time.  I have enjoyed books from each of the authors in the past; and like the introduction  and acknowledgments explain,  Smitten is a work that developed as a result of their friendship.  
As the authors state,  elements of each of the four friends' personalities mirror their own.  It is this real-life friendship that creates one seamless story about the trials, support, laughter, and love among friends and community members in Smitten, Vermont.  Although each short story focuses on one of the four friends, Natalie, Julia, Shelby, or Reese, it progresses through the year as the town rallies to save the town by transforming it into a romantic destination.  As a reader, I relished the descriptions of the idyllic small-town with citizens working together to create successful private businesses.  Despite the small town appeal, Smitten would be a failure without a plot that develops each of the characters and encourages readers to relate to them.  Fortunately, like the title suggests, readers will likely become emotionally connected to the characters' struggles, and "smitten"  with their stories.   
Smitten is a collection of light-hearted and uplifting stories to escape to at the end of the day. Readers can re-visit Smitten at www.smittenvermont.com, and a sequel entitled Secretly Smitten will be available December 2012.  
I received a complimentary copy of this book from Thomas Nelson Publishers through their book review program, BookSneeze.  I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions expressed above are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Books on Our Christmas Wish List...

Now that the holiday season is upon us, I am looking forward to spending time with family, enjoying the Christmas season, and curling up with a few good books in the evenings.  There are a few books that have been on my wish list for a while, and a couple of others that will soon be released in late December.

Since reading Waterfall, the first book in Lisa T. Bergren's The River of Time Series, I have been eagerly anticipating Cascade and Torrent.  I have to admit that I would probably not have read Waterfall if it had not been offered as a free Kindle book in the summer.  Besides Jenny B. Jones'  YA fiction books, I have not read many other YA Christian fiction books; but if their writing is any indication of what else is out there, I need to search for more!  The River of Time Series packs in all of the elements of engaging fiction:  multi-dimensional characters, a plot full of adventure with twists and turns, mystery, danger, romance... and time travel.

I still love to have a real book in my hands; so I am looking forward to getting these paperback books for Christmas.   I am also a big fan of the free books that Kindle offers; and in several cases, it has introduced me to great stories and authors that I would likely never have known.  The free ebook monthly promotions can be a powerful marketing tool for authors and publishers.

I am also looking forward to reading Alice Wisler's A Wedding Invitation.  I have enjoyed all of her previous books; so I am sure to enjoy her new release as well.  Like Wisler,  Julie Klassen is an author that has become synonymous in my mind with good fiction.  I love traveling to historic England in the pages of her stories.

After reading The Lady of Bolton Hill last summer,  I have been looking forward to Elizabeth Camden's sophomore release,The Rose of Winslow Street, as well.  I love the cover, and I hope that the story is just as promising!

The Maid of Fairbourne Hall

The Rose of Winslow Street

Wings of a Dream

A Wedding Invitation

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Review of Wonderland Creek by Lynn Austin

Rating: 5 Stars
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Synopsis from Bethany House: I was perfectly content with my life--that is, until the pages of my story were ripped out before I had a chance to live happily eve after.

Alice Grace Ripley lives in a dream world, her nose stuck in a book. But the happily-ever-after life she's planned on suddenly falls apart when her boyfriend breaks up with her, accusing her of living in a world of fiction instead of the real one. To top it off, Alice loses her beloved library job because of cutbacks due to the Great Depression.

Longing to run from small-town gossip, Alice flees to the mountains of eastern Kentucky to deliver five boxes of donated books to the tiny coal-mining town of Acorn, a place with no running water, no electricity, and where the librarians ride ornery horses up steep mountain passes to deliver books. When Alice is forced to stay in Acorn far longer than she planned, she discovers that real-life adventure, mystery--and especially romance--may be far better than her humble dreams could have imagined.

Review: Wonderland Creek is a novel for book lovers.  Which of us can't connect to a main character who is a dreamer and a bookworm?  Haven't we all had certain novels that we just can't put down?  Wonderland Creek is one of those novels, and one of my favorites of the year.  I know without a doubt that I will read it again.  The humor, quirkiness, and mystery that made Lynn Austin's A Proper Pursuit one of my favorite books is also present in this novel.  True to her trademark style, Austin incorporates a few stories into one satisfying plot. Mystery and danger are woven throughout the plot with some surprising twists to keep the pages turning.  

I loved the setting and the characters of Wonderland Creek.  Alice is an endearing and very relatable heroine, whose story has all of the elements that she adores in a good book.  The cast of characters in the backwoods "Christy"-like town of Acorn, Kentucky are no less satisfying.  From the 100 year old Lilly to a horse with its own mind, the inhabitants of Acorn are rich in personality.  Of course every heroine needs her hero, and Alice Grace is no exception.  The outcome of her story left me sighing a contented "ahh" even as I longed for the book to continue. 

Read an Excerpt:

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Review of Rose's Pledge by Sally Laity and Dianna Crawford

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Our Rating: 4 Stars
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Synopsis from cbd.com: To save their father from debtor's prison, three gently bred daughters sell themselves into servitude in America. Rose Harwood, auctioned off to the highest bidder in Virginia, is now the bondswoman of a grubby trader. Will she survive the trek deep into Indian Territory? Footloose frontiersman Nate Kinyon is eager to possess this rather thorny Rose. But is he willing to sacrifice his wealth and freedom to win her heart? When Rose's situation goes from bad to worse, she wonders if God has forsaken her after all. Is the disarming but godless Nate her only hope?

Review:  Rose's Pledge is the first novel in the Harwood House series, a promising collaboration between Sally Laity and Dianna Crawford.  After reading Dianna Cawford's other novels several years ago, I was excited to discover Rose's Pledge. Set in the untamed wilderness of 1700s America, the novel is filled with rugged peril, sacrifice, joy, and love.  The plot begins in the Harwood House in fashionable Bath, England, where the authors paint the backstory for the Harwood sisters' journey to America.  As Rose, Mariah, and Lily travel across the Atlantic and face their futures as indentured servants, Laity and Crawford create distinct circumstances and personalities for each.  The beginning of Rose's Pledge is a strong foundation for the Rose's story and those of her sisters.

From the beginning, Rose is established as a courageous  and loving young woman who will go to great lengths to protect her family.  These traits, combined with her faith, make Rose a strong and likable heroine.  She faces numerous challenges throughout her journey to an untamed and dangerous land.  Her indentured life is filled with underlying dangers, which left me in suspense and moved the plot steadily along.  Unexpected moments of joy lighten even the most difficult circumstances. 

Nate Kinyon is, in many ways, the opposite of Rose.  He is rugged, unrefined, and lacking in faith.  Laity and Crawford employ backwoods dialect to lend authenticity to Nate's character.  At times I found his written accent a bit distracting and felt that his character was not developed as deeply as Rose's.  Nate possesses a goodness that shines through his rough exterior, and his devotion to Rose's protection is endearing.  

Rose's Pledge can be read as a satisfying stand-alone novel, but there are more stories to be told.  I look forward to the future focus on Mariah and Lily.

I received a complimentary e-copy of this book from NetGalley, courtesy of Barbour Publishing.  I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions expressed above are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Sunday, November 13, 2011

CMA Awards: The Band Perry and Lady Antebellum

Watch The Band Perry's performance of "All Your Life" from last week's CMA Awards.  We loved the vintage-inspired set!



The Band Perry had a great night, winning Song of the Year, Single of the Year, and New Artist of the Year! Much deserved successes!



Lady Antebellum won Vocal Group of the Year.  View other winners on www.cmt.com

Review of A Lasting Impression by Tamera Alexander

Rating: 5 Stars
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Synopsis from Bethany House: Claire Laurent's greatest aspiration is to paint something that will bring her acclaim. Yet her father insists she work as a copyist. A forger. When she's forced to flee from New Orleans to Nashville only a year after the War Between the States has ended, her path collides with attorney Sutton Monroe. She considers him a godsend for not turning her in to the authorities. But after he later refuses to come to her aid, Claire fears she's sorely misjudged the man. Finding herself among the elite of Nashville's society, Claire believes her dream to create a lasting impression in the world of art is within reach--but only if her fraudulent past remains hidden.

The Federal Army has destroyed Sutton's home and confiscated his land, and threatens to destroy his family's honor. His determination to reclaim what belongs to him and to right a grievous wrong reveals a truth that may cost him more than he ever imagined--as well as the woman he loves.

Set at Nashville's historic Belmont Mansion, a stunning antebellum manor built by Mrs. Adelicia Acklen, A Lasting Impression is a sweeping love story about a nation mending after war, the redemption of those wounded, and the courage of a man and woman to see themselves--and each other--for who they really are.

Review: A Lasting Impression is a stunning novel both inside and out.  I was first captured by the rich details on the cover design and Tamera Alexander's writing conveys similar beauty and grace.  The novel's setting from New Orleans to Nashville is captured in fine detail.  Alexander paints an exquisite portrait of the Belmont Mansion and its residents.  I visited the Belmont Mansion several years ago, and truly feel as though I have visited again.  It is beautiful and opulent now as a house museum, but Alexander takes us back to its prime in the pages of her novel.  The result is breathtaking.
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Equally well-crafted is the cast of characters.  Alexander's depiction of Adelicia Acklen is most memorable as the strong, influential, and determined matriarch of Belmont.  I empathized with Claire during her first meetings with Mrs. Acklen, but her loyalty and kindness were revealed as the novel progressed.  Mrs. Acklen is truly an inspiring woman, especially considering the numerous losses that she suffered throughout her life.  Combining the real-life Mrs. Acklen with fictional characters adds another layer of realism to the plot.  
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Claire's struggle to overcome her past as a forger and Sutton's fight to defend his family's land and honor add depth to the plot. Claire's past lingers throughout the novel with a sense of foreboding, leaving me wondering when her secrets will be revealed and what impact they will have on her new life.  Her resulting growth in faith and self-confidence is satisfying as is her growing love for Sutton. Their love story is developed and not rushed, a spot of beauty even amid the uncertainties that they face.  
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As Tamera Alexander states in her Author's Note, we all leave impressions on those around us, each in our own way. She demonstrates that concept in A Lasting Impression; and as with her other novels, Tamera Alexander leaves an impression on the hearts and in the minds of her readers. 
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I received a complimentary copy of this book from Bethany House Publishers through their book review program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions expressed above are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Read an Excerpt: 
A Lasting Impression

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Review of The Christmas Singing by Cindy Woodsmall

Rating: 3 Stars
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Synopsis from WaterBrook Multnomah: After Gideon coldly broke her heart, can the warmth of the season revive Mattie’s hopes?
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Mattie thought her childhood sweetheart adored her until he abruptly ended their engagement on Christmas Eve. Three years later, will learning the truth behind his rejection restore her Christmas joy – or open the door to even deeper heartbreak? Spend Christmas with the Amish in this story of love, romance, heartache, and restoration.
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Review: The Christmas Singing is a quick weekend read, great for busy readers during the holiday season.  Its hard cover and attractive dust jacket also make it a nice gift for fans of Amish fiction.  Readers who enjoy reading Amish fiction will likely appreciate this novella's journey with Mattie and Gideon.  
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I have often been turned off by the tragedy and grief that have been present in many of the Amish fiction novels that I have read in the past.  I hoped that The Christmas Singing would be an exception. Within the first hundred pages, I felt that nearly every main and supporting character had some past or present heartbreak, grief, or physical malady.  I found myself exasperated with some of the more "depressing" details.  Physical and emotional issues are parts of real life and should be included in fiction as well; but in a short novella, I felt that the details cluttered the plot and diverted my focus.  The ending was promising with a tidy and happy resolution.  
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There is potential for a few additional novellas featuring some of the characters from this novella whose stories need conclusions.  Readers who enjoyed The Christmas Singing and its predecessor, The Sound of Sleigh Bells, can read more of Aden's story in the February 2012 release of The Scent of Cherry Blossoms. 
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Click Here to Read an Excerpt from The Christmas Singing
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I received a complimentary copy of this book from WaterBrook Multnomah through their book review program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions expressed above are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Review of The Colonel's Lady by Laura Frantz

Rating: 5 Stars
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Synopsis from Revell: Roxanna Rowan may be a genteel Virginia woman, but she is determined to brave the wilds of the untamed frontier to reach a remote Kentucky fort. Eager to reunite with her father, who serves under Colonel Cassius McLinn, Roxanna is devastated to find that her father has been killed on a campaign.
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Penniless and out of options, Roxanna is forced to remain at the fort. As she spends more and more time with the fiery Colonel McLinn, the fort is abuzz with intrigue and innuendo. Can Roxanna truly know who the colonel is--and what he's done?
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Immerse yourself in this powerful story of love, faith, and forgiveness set in the tumultuous world of the frontier in 1779.

Review: Autumn has chased away the lingering summer and cloaked my area in an early chill. It has been the ideal weather for nestling in a cocoon of blankets and immersing oneself in the pages of an engaging novel.  I have been anticipating my opportunity to read Laura Frantz's latest release, The Colonel's Lady, and I savored the beautiful novel from the cover to the very last word.

Sometimes you can judge a book by its cover. The design of The Colonel's Lady is elegant and intriguing, capturing the essence of the book to perfection.  It is the plot that truly shines, however.  I enjoyed the danger of the new frontier and witnessing the experiences of life in a remote fort. The untamed lifestyles and ruggedness that defined America's wilderness provide an exciting setting, conducive to unexpected twists and turns.  The pace of the novel is steady throughout, but gains even more momentum towards the end.

Of course, I adore a novel with a timeless love story to balance the action.  The romantic tension between Roxanna and Cass is evident throughout the plot.  In many ways Cass reminded me of Mr. Rochester in Jane Eyre.  Roxanna was a bit spunkier and outspoken than Jane; but I saw similarities in the growth of their relationships. The addition of sweet little Abby added some lightness to the thread of danger woven in the plot. With her quiet presence, she provided a common ground between Roxanna and Cass when their relationship was on delicate ground.  Frantz's blend of characters is seamless with the right proportions of love and conflict.  The Colonel's Lady is the type of novel that you close with a contented sigh.

Laura Frantz has become synonymous with fluid descriptions and dialogue, compelling plots and characters, and interesting historical detail.  The Colonel's Lady is no exception to the high standard set by The Frontiersman's Daughter and Courting Morrow Little.  Each of these novels can be relished again and again.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Review of The Doctor's Lady by Jody Hedlund

Rating: 5 Stars
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Synopsis from Bethany House: Priscilla White knows she'll never be a wife or mother and feels God's call to the mission field in India. Dr. Eli Ernest is back from Oregon Country only long enough to raise awareness of missions to the natives before heading out West once more. But then Priscilla and Eli both receive news from the mission board: No longer will they send unmarried men and women into the field.

Left scrambling for options, the two realize the other might be the answer to their needs. Priscilla and Eli agree to a partnership, a marriage in name only that will allow them to follow God's leading into the mission field. But as they journey west, this decision will be tested by the hardships of the trip and by the unexpected turnings of their hearts.

Review: Jody Hedlund emerged last year with the riveting and emotional novel,The Preacher's Bride.  Her newest book, The Doctor's Lady, is infused with the historical detail, excitement, and depth that made The Preacher's Bride such a memorable read.  Hedlund has a remarkable talent of integrating true stories with elements of fiction to embellish the plot.  The Author's Note at the end of the novel added extra substance to an already poignant story.  Priscilla's journey as the first white woman to travel West is not just a fanciful musing of an author's imagination; it is based on actual events from the diary of Narcissa Whitman.  
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The first 90 pages of The Doctor's Lady are set on the east coast and focus on the preparations for the journey West.  Once Priscilla, Eli, and their travel companions begin their trek, the plot picks up speed and reveals unexpected dangers, challenges, and blessings.  It is very easy to romanticize the past and the life of the brave pioneers who ventured into uncharted territory. Hedlund reminds readers of the hardships that Westward travelers faced, without creating a plot that is too sad or heavy.  The marriage-of-convenience concept is common in historical fiction novels, but the setting of The Doctor's Lady offer a fresh background. Watching the restrained love develop between Priscilla and Eli enhances the plot with just the right amount of romance. 
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After several long and arduous months, Priscilla's and Eli's journey ends.  During the novel they  each grow individually and as a couple, risking their lives to follow their calling. From the first page to the very last page, The Doctor's Lady is a finely crafted novel.  The last two pages in particular showed Priscilla's growth from a sheltered and idealistic woman to a stronger, more open-minded woman. The conclusion is fully satisfying, tying up the story contained within the pages of the novel, while connecting it with the events mentioned in the Author's Note
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I highly recommend both The Doctor's Lady and The Preacher's Bride, especially for fans of historical fiction.  I will wait with anticipation for Jody Hedlund's next novel!
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I received a complimentary copy of this book from Bethany House Publishers through their book review program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions expressed above are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
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Excerpt: 
The Doctor's Lady



Our Next Great Read...A Lasting Impression by Tamera Alexander


We just received our review copy of Tamera Alexander's newest novel, A Lasting Impression.  Our first impression is that the cover design is stunning.  The title is written across the front in a metallic blue color that shimmers in the light.  We are also excited that the novel is set in the historic Belmont Mansion in Nashville, Tennessee, which we visited a few years ago.  It is always fun to read a novel set in a home that you have visited.

Here are a few photos from our trip to the antebellum Belmont mansion:



Here are some photos of another mansion in Nashville, Belle Meade Plantation.  Yet another example of antebellum beauty.



Monday, October 24, 2011

Review of Refuge on Crescent Hill by Melanie Dobson

Rating: 4 Stars
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Synopsis from Kregel Publications: This homecoming wasn’t what she expected . . .
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Jobless, homeless, and broke, Camden Bristow decides to visit the grandmother she hasn’t seen in years. But when Camden arrives in Etherton, Ohio, she discovers that her grandmother has passed away, leaving her the 150-year-old mansion on Crescent Hill. The site of her happiest summers as a child, the run-down mansion is now her only refuge.

When Camden finds evidence that she may not be the mansion’s only occupant, memories of Grandma Rosalie’s bedtime stories about secret passageways and runaway slaves fuel her imagination. What really happened at Crescent Hill? Who can she turn to for answers in this town full of strangers? And what motivates the handsome local Alex Yates to offer his help? As she works to uncover the past and present mysteries harbored in her home, Camden uncovers
deep family secrets within the mansion’s walls that could change her life—and the entire town—forever.

Click Here to read an excerpt! 

Review: The cover of Melanie Dobson's novel, Refuge on Crescent Hill, evokes the mysterious aura that lingers, almost tangibly, until the last page.  The grand home on Crescent Hill is a primary character in the novel, and she shines with a faded beauty through the dust and peeling paint. Dobson speaks of Crescent Hill in rich detail, drawing the reader in to uncover its past and present secrets. Each of the main and secondary characters is somehow tied to the house, and their lives entwine in unexpected ways.  Like any good suspense, there are good guys, bad guys, victims, and heroes.  There is little mystery as to who is good and who is bad; their loyalties are fairly clear from the beginning of the novel.  Dobson tells the story from several different perspectives: Camden Bristow, Alex Yates, Jake Paxton, and Stephanie Ellison-Carter.  Each chapter is comprised of various scenes, each told from the viewpoint of a different main character.  A scene often ends right before something is revealed,  which moves the plot at a steady pace to keep the reader interested. 

As a fan of historic homes and history, the setting of this novel is the highlight for me.  Although the plot is modern day, its focus on the past provides just the right amount of historic elements.  The connection of the house to the Underground Railroad differentiates the Refuge on Crescent Hill from other novels.  I've read books set during the Civil War and the years of slavery, but have seen little mention of the Underground Railroad.  It is inspiring to read about the sacrifices the families made in the quest and fight for freedom.  I enjoyed looking at the photos of the real house that inspired the story on Melanie Dobson's website. 

The romance element is quite small in this novel.  It is primarily a mystery, but is also story about love and sacrifice.  There is ultimately romantic interest between Camden and Alex, but the development of their relationship is not a primary focus.  There were moments in the story that I wanted more depth.  I did not feel entirely connected to the characters, but I enjoyed this book nonetheless.  Refuge on Crescent Hill is a page-turner until the end. 
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About the Author: Melanie Dobson is the award-winning author of The Black Cloister; Love Finds You in Liberty, Indiana; and Together for Good. A former corporate publicity manager at Focus on the Family, Melanie has worked in the fields of journalism and publicity for more than eighteen years. She and her family live in Oregon.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Kregel Publications.  I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions expressed above are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Review of Forsaking All Others by Allison Pittman

Rating: 5 Stars
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Synopsis from Tyndale: Camilla Fox is alive. The last thing she remembers is being lost in the snow after leaving her home to escape the Mormon faith she no longer calls her own. She’s been taken in by the 5th Infantry Regiment of the US Army and given over to the personal care of Captain Charles Brandon. As she regains her strength, memories of her two children she had to leave behind come flooding back, threatening to break her heart. Camilla is determined to reunite with her daughters. But when news of her father’s grave illness reaches her, she knows she must return to the family farm to reconcile with her father. As spring arrives, Camilla returns to Salt Lake City a changed woman, but nothing could prepare her for the changes to the city, to the Mormon church, and to the family she left behind.



Review: I have been anticipating the release of Forsaking All Others since reading For Time and Eternity last year.  Allison Pittman never fails to produce a five star novel; each of her books have a permanent home on my bookshelf.  Forsaking All Others continues Camilla Fox's story seamlessly, beginning at the point where For Time and Eternity ended. Told in first person, the novel reads like a diary.  We are privy to Camilla's most personal emotions, doubts, fears, and her ever growing faith. Camilla's story is bittersweet  with a sadness that lingers throughout the plot. Her circumstances are difficult and much of the novel focuses on Camilla's quest to save her daughters and reconcile with her parents.  Despite the degree of heaviness to the plot, Pittman engages the reader with poignant writing.  Pittman has created a timeless and memorable heroine in Camilla, who exhibits an inspiring strength by grasping the truth of her Christian faith even when it requires her to travel a difficult path.

Allison Pittman is a standout in her genre. Her novels offer fresh plots with emotional depth, realistic characters, a strong Christian element, and a message that remains even after other books are long forgotten.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Review of His Steadfast Love by Golden Keyes Parsons

Rating: 3.5 Stars
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Synopsis from Thomas Nelson: The Civil War - a defining time of great sacrifice, change, and betrayal which determined the fate of the Nation.

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It isn’t until it comes into her very home that Amanda Belle must face impossible choices of love, loss, and loyalty.  It's the spring of 1861 on the Gulf Coast of Texas. Although Amanda never thought she would marry because of her promise she made to her dying mother, her attraction to Captain Kent Littlefield is undeniable.
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When Texas secedes from the Union, her brother Daniel marches off to war to fight for the Confederate States and Kent remains with the Union troops. Her heart is torn between the two men she loves and the two sides of the conflict. When she turns to God for help, Amanda expects direction and support, but hears nothing. Is God listening to her anymore? Where is God in the atrocities of war—and whose side is He on?
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Amanda senses her life is at a turning point. But she must trust God to bring her family through the chaos that threatens her home, her family, and the beloved state of Texas . . . with her heart, and her faith, intact.


Review: His Steadfast Love is the third novel that I have read in the past few weeks relating to the Civil War era.  Each story has brought to life different aspects of the war and its effects on the nation and its people.  In her latest novel, Golden Keyes Parsons delves into America's tumultuous years when friends and neighbors turned into enemies on the battlefield.  The plot begins in 1860, just before the start of the war and concludes at the war's end. As a result, readers see the struggles, heartaches, and uncertainties that families faced during four long years.  We also see examples of bravery and forgiveness.  It is important to remember both aspects of the war that divided the nation, and Parsons nicely combines loss and triumph.  
Amanda is caught between her love for her Southern family and her love for her Northern beau, Kent.  During much of the novel she is torn by loyalty to the South and her feelings for Kent, who suddenly becomes labeled as the enemy. The love between Amanda and Kent develops quite rapidly at the beginning of the novel.  A few months pass between their initial meeting in September 1860 and Kent's departure. Unfortunately, the jump did not allow me to witness the development of their feelings for each other.  The steadfastness of their love for one another is touching and is an example of bravery itself.  


Parsons integrates loss into the fabric of His Steadfast Love as well.  Some deaths occurred suddenly and in within a few pages of each other, leaving me stunned.  Again, I felt that the jump of a few months from chapter to chapter disconnected me from the characters' grief and their healing process.  Through the various losses, injuries, and uncertain futures, Parsons illustrates the importance of maintaining one's faith despite hardships.  Amanda questions her faith during the war, as many people undoubtedly did, but she ultimately reclaims it along with happiness. 

His Steadfast Love has strong qualities and offers a glimpse into the Civil War era. Parsons sets the plot in Texas, a state not often focused upon in Civil War novels.  The setting was refreshing, but I felt a distance from the characters at times. I had difficulty delving into the novel, especially during the first half.  The historical content is a clear strength and Parsons takes the reader on an journey from family parlors, to prisons, to battlefields.    

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Thomas Nelson through their book review program.  I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions expressed above are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Band Perry Live in Concert!

Photo from blog.gactv.com (Photo Credit: Ivan Clow, Courtesy of Republic Nashville)

We recently had the opportunity to see one of our favorite country bands in concert: The Band Perry!  We have mentioned them a few times on our blog and featured their vintage-inspired videos. During the past year we've played their CD countless times and downloaded their songs into the music player on our Kindle.
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After learning that The Band Perry would be playing near us, we were all anticipation until the show started.  From beginning to end, it was a fantastic show.  Before The Band Perry came on stage, a sound clip played what has become their slogan of sorts: "Daddy rocked us to sleep with the Rolling Stones; Mama woke us up with Loretta Lynn. So we get it honest...We're The Band Perry and we play country music."   The concert backed up their declaration and proved that they are an authentic addition to the country music world. 
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The playlist for the night included many of the songs from their self-titled CD released last year. They also introduced some new music, which made us hungry for their next CD whenever it is released.  The familial harmonies between Kimberly, Reid, and Nick were showcased during an acoustic portion of the show, during which they performed a melody of famous American/rock songs, as well as a rendition of Amazing Grace
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Kimberly described herself as the "spitfire" of the group. She brought a ton of energy to the stage.  Her true passion for music and songwriting shined through in her performance.  Unlike many stars today, Kimberly seemed approachable and real with an honest love for country music. 
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Together The Band Perry exhibits incredible talent, and the "x factor."  Their most popular single to date, If I Die Young, just went Triple Platinum. They are currently nominated for 5 CMAs and 3 AMAs.  We are hoping they claim a few victories and continue to play their country music. 
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Don't miss their performance this coming up Tuesday, October 18th on the Dancing with the Stars results show on ABC!
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Here are links to their videos on our blog: All Your Life VideoIf I Die Young Video.  

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