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A Stranger at Fellsworth By Sarah E. Ladd

Publisher’s Summary

In the fallout of her deceased father’s financial ruin, Annabelle’s prospects are looking bleak. Her fiancé has called off their betrothal, and now she remains at the mercy of her controlling and often cruel brother. Annabelle soon faces the fact that her only hope for a better life is to do the unthinkable and run away to Fellsworth, where her estranged uncle serves as the school’s superintendent. Upon arrival, Annabelle learns that she must shed her life of high society and work for her wages for the first time in her life.

Owen Locke is unswerving in his commitments. As a widower and father, he is fiercely protective of his only daughter. As an industrious gamekeeper, he is intent on keeping poachers at bay even though his ambition has always been to purchase land he can call his own. When a chance encounter introduces him to Annabelle Thorley, his steady life is shaken. For the first time since his wife’s death, Owen begins to consider a second chance at love.

As Owen and Annabelle grow closer, ominous forces threaten the peace they thought they’d found. Poachers, mysterious strangers, and murderers converge at Fellsworth, forcing Annabelle and Owen to a test of fortitude and bravery to stop the shadow of the past from ruining their hopes for the future.

My Review

Annabelle Thorley is shocked when her brother, Thomas, starts selling off the furnishings in her home. However, that’s not the worst of what he does, and her shock sends her fleeing.

Owen Locke is the gamekeeper for Mr. Treadwell, owner of Bancroft Park, in the Fellsworth area. During Treadwell’s visit to the Thorleys, Locke meets Annabelle and sets off an unimaginable chain of events.

Sarah Ladd does a very good job of portraying the angst, anguish and anxiety suffered by Annabelle when she finds herself in an untenable position. Miss Ladd describes the time frame, situation and plot in a realistic and intriguing manner. The story draws you in and doesn’t let go, beginning when Annabelle discovers her family’s financial straits and her brother’s treachery. Then she figuratively pulls herself up by her bootstraps and devises ways to better herself and her financial condition.

I enjoyed reading about the time period, the disparities in the social classes and the way society, in general, was so different. The imagery is well depicted and enhances the story, richly illustrating the variations in clothing and even the distinctions between living in city and country living.

A Stranger at Fellsworth is novel three in the set of Treasures of Surrey. Nevertheless, the story works well as a stand-alone book.

I received a copy of A Stranger at Fellsworth from The Fiction Guild. However, I was under no obligation to provide a review.

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The Illusionist’s Apprentice by Kristy Cambron

Publisher’s Review

Harry Houdini’s one-time apprentice holds fantastic secrets about the greatest illusionist in the world. But someone wants to claim them . . . or silence her before she can reveal them on her own.

Boston, 1926. Jenny “Wren” Lockhart is a bold eccentric–even for a female vaudevillian. As notorious for her inherited wealth and gentleman’s dress as she is for her unsavory upbringing in the back halls of a vaudeville theater, Wren lives in a world that challenges all manner of conventions.

In the months following Houdini’s death, Wren is drawn into a web of mystery surrounding a spiritualist by the name of Horace Stapleton, a man defamed by Houdini’s ardent debunking of fraudulent mystics in the years leading up to his death. But in a public illusion that goes terribly wrong, one man is dead and another stands charged with his murder. Though he’s known as one of her teacher’s greatest critics, Wren must decide to become the one thing she never wanted to be: Stapleton’s defender.

Forced to team up with the newly formed FBI, Wren races against time and an unknown enemy, all to prove the innocence of a hated man. In a world of illusion, of the vaudeville halls that showcase the flamboyant and the strange, Wren’s carefully constructed world threatens to collapse around her. Layered with mystery, illusion, and the artistry of the Jazz Age’s bygone vaudeville era, The Illusionist’s Apprentice is a journey through love and loss and the underpinnings of faith on each life’s stage.

My Review

Wren Lockhart becomes embroiled in a mystery of epic proportions when, not long after Houdini’s death, she is at the scene of a possible murder.

Elliot Matthews is an agent in the recently formed FBI. He notices Wren, an eccentric woman dressed in men’s clothing, while attending the same event that culminates with a man’s death.

Kristy Cambron has written a lengthy story about the life of an illusionist in the 1920s. Her attention to detail during that era is noteworthy. However, the story is slow-paced with a lot of flashbacks, tending to cause the reader to lose interest. Wren is a very closed up character whom you never really get to know until near the end of the book. Because of this, it is hard to be invested her life, and she is one of the main characters!

Miss Cambron shows, through dialogue and some illustrations, the differences between illusion and magic. I feel she wants readers to be sure they know magic isn’t healthy, and illusion is just sleight of hand-a tenuous difference at best.

I tried to read the book with an open mind, but it was too dark and mystical, not to mention, just too ponderous for me.

I received a copy of The Illusionist’s Apprentice from The Fiction Guild. However, I was under no obligation to provide a review.

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If I’m Found (Book Two of If I Run Series) By Terri Blackstock

Publisher’s Summary

In this riveting sequel to the USA TODAY bestseller If I Run, evil lurks, drawing Casey out of the shadows . . . but there is light shining in the darkness.

Casey Cox is still on the run, fleeing prosecution for a murder she didn’t commit. Dylan Roberts—her most relentless pursuer—is still on her trail, but his secret emails insist he knows the truth and wants to help her. He’s let her escape before when he had her in his grasp, but trust doesn’t come easily.

As Casey works to collect evidence about the real murderers, she stumbles on another unbearable injustice: an abused child and a suicidal man who’s also been falsely accused. Casey risks her own safety to right this wrong and protect the little girl from her tormenters. But doing so is risky and may result in her capture—and if she’s captured, she has no doubt she’ll be murdered before she ever steps foot in a jail cell.

My Review

Casey Cox is running for her life. She’s accused of a horrendous murder she didn’t commit. In addition, she stumbles upon other situations she feels require her immediate attention, putting her in even more danger of being found.

Dylan Roberts, a private investigator, has been hired to find Casey. However, the deeper he gets into the assignment, the more uncertainties and questions he has and the more perplexing the case.

If I’m Found is written in Blackstock’s traditional spine-tingling and suspenseful way. As a reader, you will be on the edge of your seat as the book carries you through fast-moving and riveting scenarios, moving from locale to locale as Casey is being hunted. She is an author I have come to enjoy and admire. Her books are always gripping and thrilling, with a faith-based emphasis I appreciate.

Terri Blackstock’s book, If I’m Found, is the second in her If I Run Series. Initially, there are a few confusing things in the story if you haven’t read the first book, If I Run. In spite of this, you can very quickly catch up on the story.

I can’t wait to read book one, and I am eagerly looking forward to book three. Unfortunately, it doesn’t debut until next year.

I received a copy of If I’m Found from The Fiction Guild. However, I was under no obligation to provide a review.

*************************FOREWARNING*************************

If I’m Found has several incidences of graphic violence.

 

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The Memory of You by Catherine West

Publisher’s Summary

Thirteen years ago, Natalie lost a part of herself when her twin sister died. Will traveling back to the family winery finally put the memory to rest, or will it completely destroy her?

When Natalie Mitchell learns her beloved grandfather has had a heart attack, she’s forced to return to their family-owned winery in Sonoma, something she never intended to do. She’s avoided her grandparents’ sprawling home and all its memories since the summer her sister died—the awful summer Natalie’s nightmares began. But the winery is failing, and Natalie’s father wants her to shut it down. As the majority shareholder, she has the power to do so.

And Natalie never says no to her father.

Tanner Collins, the vintner on Maoilios, is trying to salvage a bad season and put the Mitchell family’s winery back in business. When Natalie shows up, Tanner sees his future about to be crushed. He knows Natalie intends to close the gates, and he’s determined to convince her otherwise. But the Natalie he remembers from childhood is long gone, and he’s not so sure he likes the woman she’s become. Still, the haunted look she wears hints at secrets he wants to unearth. He soon discovers that on the night her sister died, the real Natalie died too. And Tanner must do whatever it takes to resurrect her.

But finding freedom from the past means facing it. For both of them.

My Review

Natalie Mitchell has faced tragedy no one should have to face, but she is trying to hold it together. During a business presentation, she starts to have flashbacks and is barely able to continue the presentation. Natalie’s father, head of the corporation, won’t settle for weakness.

Natalie’s grandfather, who is handling the family’s winery, Mailios, recently had a heart attack. Natalie’s father thinks he can take care of two problems at once by sending her to care for her grandfather. He can get Natalie away from his business for a while and have her force the closure of the now unprofitable winery.

Tanner Collins, the vintner, is trying to recoup previous losses and put the winery back in the black. Natalie’s unannounced and unwanted arrival appears to put his plans in peril.

The Memory of You deals with some of the very tough issues in the novel in a realistic way. However, (and I don’t want to give a spoiler) there are similarities in Natalie and Tanner’s lives that are just too closely related. I felt part of the story detracted from its entirety and could have been left out, or a different scenario could have been used to explain some circumstances. I also felt that Tanner never truly dealt with his issues, and although Natalie began to cope with hers, neither seemed ready for a healthy relationship. Yet they were dropped into one. I don’t know if the implication was supposed to be they were “miraculously” restored to good mental health or whether, even though things were really bad, things weren’t quite as bad as they appeared to be.

Miss West does a very good job of explaining information about the winery, making it come to life and helping the reader understand facts pertinent to its operations. Her understanding and descriptions of mental health issues are credible and authentic, but she wraps up the characters’ struggles too quickly.

Catherine West has written an interesting story about a young woman with PTSD, a winery and a young man trying to deal with his own heartaches. Even though there were some shortcomings to the story, overall, I feel it was well written and inspirational.

I received a copy of The Memory of You from The Fiction Guild. However, I was under no obligation to provide a review.

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Beyond Justice by Cara Putman

Publisher’s Summary

Hayden McCarthy is on track to become the youngest partner in her prestigious D.C. law firm . . . if the case she’s just been handed doesn’t destroy her first.

Hayden McCarthy knows firsthand the pain when justice is not served. It’s why she became an attorney and why she’s so driven in her career. When she’s assigned a wrongful death case against the government, she isn’t sure if it’s the lucky break she needs to secure a partnership—or an attempt to make sure she never gets there.

Further complicating matters is Andrew, her roommate’s distractingly attractive cousin. But Andrew’s father is a Congressman, and Hayden’s currently taking on the government. Could the timing be any worse?

The longer she keeps the case active, the higher the stakes become. Unknown enemies seem determined to kill the case—or her. Logic and self-preservation would indicate she should close the case. But how can she, when justice is still just beyond her reach?

My Review

Hayden McCarthy is assigned a seemingly impossible case, representing the family of a young man apparently murdered in a juvenile facility for immigrants. However, it was assigned to her because the partners know she can win the seemingly hopeless cases. But the deeper she digs, the more alarming the case becomes.

Her roommate, Emilie Wesley, left a legal career to become an expose journalist and decides to help Hayden unravel the mysteries, thus getting tangled up in the conspiracy.

Andrew, Emilie’s cousin, champion to the underdogs, works at a community center helping integrate young immigrants into the community and is fast becoming a charming distraction to Hayden.

In addition to Hayden, Miss Putman has two casts of characters; one set has a diverse mixture of interesting, faith-filled and compassionate natures, and the other set is more cold-blooded, cruel and sadistic than one can imagine. She does an exemplary job of weaving the characters and their interactions in ways that leave you holding your breath, wondering what will happen next.

Beyond Justice is a hair-raising novel, rife with surprising turns and plot developments that ensure the reader is kept engaged throughout the entire story.

Cara Putman has written an edge of your seat suspense story, full of intrigue and faith. She has taken her experiences as an attorney and turned them into a gripping novel.

I received a copy of Beyond Justice from The Fiction Guild. However, I was under no obligation to post a review.

*******************FOREWARNING*******************

Beyond Justice, due to the nature of the story, has many instances of violence.

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The Matchmaker Brides Collection by Diana Lesire Brandmeyer, Amanda Cabot, Lisa Carter, Ramona K. Cecil, Lynn A. Coleman, Susanne Dietze, Kim Vogel Sawyer, Connie Stevens, Liz Tolsma

My Review

Imagine being a matchmaker and not being able to find your own match, well, that’s exactly what happens in The Matchmaker Brides Collection, a compilation of nine novellas.

Every one of the ladies and a couple of the men have been somewhat successful at finding matches for others. However, they aren’t very good at finding their own match, even when those matches are right under their noses.

The stories cover different cities in America from 1876 to 1895. The settings are in real places, and it was fun to get to know more about the history of the small towns chosen, along with the time period, too.

The tales are short, so they are quick to read and make for a wonderful opportunity to curl up and absorb them individually or all at one time.

The Matchmaker Brides Collection also resonates with inspirational themes in the narratives, highlighting the need for faith, hope and sometimes forgiveness.

If you enjoy historical fiction, with an element of romance, you are sure to love these nine novellas written by nine Christian authors.

I received a copy of The Matchmaker Brides Collection from NetGalley. However, I was under no obligation to post a review.

Publisher’s Summary

Nine Meddling Matchmakers Find Love When They Least Expect It

Meet nine women of the late 1800s who have found themselves in the role of matchmaker. They think they have mastered the art of recognizing romantic potential in others, but when it comes to their own lives they have been unlucky in love. In small communities from Tennessee to Colorado, Wyoming to Indiana, love unexpectedly enters the women’s lives with men they never imagined marrying. But what will it take to get these ladies to say “I do”?

Home Grown Bride by Diana Lesire Brandmeyer
1876–Lebanon, Illinois
Emmie Mueller thinks the only way to leave Illinois and join her family in Kansas is to play matchmaker to the boarders who stand in the way of her grandmother selling her house. But tables are turned when the boarders attempt to match her with the newest man in town, Landon Knipp.

The Unmatched Bride by Amanda Cabot
1886–Cheyenne, Wyoming Territory
When a confirmed spinster matchmaker accepts an unusual assignment and helps a wealthy widower choose the right mate for his daughter, more than one couple finds true love.

Playing Possum by Lisa Carter
1895–Possum Trot, WY
Hoping to outplay, outwit, and outlast the Possum Trot matchmakers during the harvest festival, Cage Cooper proposes a pretend engagement to suffragette Theodosia Holland. Trouble is—in playing possum, they both may have gotten far more than they bargained for.

Hog Trough Bride by Ramona K. Cecil
1882–Honeytown, Indiana
Hoping to save her older sister from the humiliation of having to dance in the hog trough—a local custom when a younger sister beats her older sister to the altar—an aspiring bride engages in multiple matchmaking attempts with chaotic and surprising results.

The Tinman’s Match by Lynn A. Coleman
1880–On the road from Virginia to Tennessee
Josephine Woodley is surprised to find Xander Russell, a matchmaker, is an honorable man. Can she soften his tin heart enough for him to consider a match of his own?

Miss Matched by Susanne Dietze
1879–Emerald, Colorado
Brainy Grace Perkins applies scientific principles to play matchmaker for the singles in her small town. However, her hypothesis leaves out God’s role and matters of the heart, creating tangled results.

The Backfired Bride by Kim Vogel Sawyer
1889–Friendly, Kansas
Can a pair of single, inexperienced but well-meaning young people convince an older man and woman that marriage is better than remaining alone?

Sing of the Mercy by Connie Stevens
1876–Black Hills of Dakota Territory
A newly-elected mayor teams up with a hash house cook to turn a mining camp into a brand new town. Will they be able to transform the rough-edged miners into gentlemen, persuading prospective brides to consider matrimony?

A Match Made in Heaven by Liz Tolsma
1885–Detwiler, Iowa
Pastor Len Montgomery receives an unusual letter that turns him into the matchmaker he never wanted to be. But the match he most wants to make, the one with the town’s sweet and charming postmistress, may be out of his reach.

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Seven Brides for Seven Mail-Order Husbands Romance Collection by Susan Page Davis, Susanne Dietze, Darlene Franklin, Patty Smith Hall, Cynthia Hickey, Carrie Fancett Pagels and Gina Welborn

My Review

Abigail Melton becomes the mayor of Turtle Springs, Kansas, by default. Her father doesn’t return after the Civil War, in which he, along with almost the entire male population of this small Kansas town, died in the war.

Abigail knows something needs to be done; the town needs men, so she proposes advertising for husbands, in a unique twist to the more common mail-order bride scenario. Her idea mimics today’s speed dating idea. Each woman will have 15 minutes with the men who respond to the ad. At the end of all the meetings, they can write down the name of the man they want to get to know better and set up dates.

All seven tales, beginning with Abigail’s, focuses on either a single lady or widow trying desperately to survive without the men necessary to run the ranches, stores, restaurant and other business or family ventures in Turtle Springs.

There are many light-hearted and sad moments within the stories. The women are as different as can be imagined, but all have hopes, dreams and a desire for a better life, not only for themselves but also for their friends and their town.

A lot of action and adventure is in the novella collection of Seven Brides for Seven Mail-Order Husbands. Each carries a message of faith and hope, too.

I enjoy how the seven novellas, though written by different authors, all had references to other individuals in the collection. If you enjoy historical fiction with a twist, you are sure to enjoy reading this compilation about the post-Civil War era in Turtle Springs, Kansas.

I received this book from NetGalley. However, I was under no obligation to post a review.

 

Publisher’s Summary

Seven women seek husbands to help them rebuild a Kansas town.

Meet seven of Turtle Springs, Kansas’, finest women who are determined to revive their small town after the War Between the States took most of its men. . .and didn’t return them. The ladies decide to advertise for husbands and devise a plan for weeding out the riff raff. But how can they make the best practical choices when their hearts cry out to be loved?

Abigail’s Proposal by Cynthia Hickey
When her father never returned from the war, Abigail Melton stepped into his role as town mayor. The town needs men, and she needs a husband—and she has a big idea how to find both—but her first duty is to hire a sheriff. And drifter Josiah Ingram will do just fine.

The Kidnapped Groom by Susan Page Davis
Riding through the Flint Hills on his way to Dodge City, cowboy Sam Cayford finds himself the kidnapping victim of two children. When he meets their lovely mother, Maggie Piner—whom the kids insist he should marry—Sam starts to question God’s plans versus his own.

A Clean Slate by Susanne Dietze
Schoolmarm Roberta “Birdy” Green won’t marry any of the prospective grooms flocking to town. After losing her fiancé in the war, the only love her broken heart can bear is for her students. But then she takes on a new pupil—Drew Cooper, one of the gentlemen drawn to Kansas by the advertisement for grooms.

Sunshine of My Heart by Darlene Franklin
Debbie Barker longs to bring beauty to her new home on the prairie, where her family moved after the war, and seeks a husband to help her father run the ranch. Zack Gage returned home from the war to a life in ruins—family dead and business bankrupted. He answers the mail-order husband ad to seek a fresh start. But neither Debbie nor Zeke know what they are doing when it comes to ranching. . .or love.

Come What May by Patty Smith Hall
Chardy Stevens is at the end of her rope. Between running her late father’s store and tending to her four younger brothers, she barely has time to breathe, much less look for a husband to help her. The boys scare off most of her prospects and throw Chardy together with her childhood friend Luke, a disabled veteran who seeks her happiness above his own.

Dime Novel Suitor by Carrie Fancett Pagels
Widow Caroline Kane is the proprietor of a restaurant and inn—and responsible for her five teenaged siblings. But she has no plans of finding a mail-order groom. Britisher Barden Granville IV is on a “cowboy holiday” when he finds himself flat broke in Kansas.  When he answers an old “help wanted” ad, Caroline misconstrues Barden is there as a potential husband. Will the beautiful and fiesty widow cause the new vicar to make Kansas his home?

Louder than Words by Gina Welborn
After years of writing abolitionist pamphlets and chronicling soldier life during the war, J.R. Lockhart is bored and jumps at the opportunity to investigate an advertisement for husbands for an article in Godey’s Lady’s Book. Jane Ransome would like to help the charming-but-oblivious-to-life-out-West man chronicle the courtships developing in town, but she has her own husband to find—one who will fit perfectly in her picket-fenced Kansas home.

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You’ll Think of Me by Robin Lee Hatcher

Publisher’s Summary

In a small town in Idaho’s idyllic wine country where the past looms large, can two people realize their individual dreams for the future . . . together?

Abandoned once too often, Brooklyn Meyers never intended to return to Thunder Creek, Idaho. Her hometown holds too many memories of heartache and rejection. But when her estranged husband Chad Hallston dies and leaves his family home and acreage to her and their ten-year-old daughter Alycia, it’s an opportunity to change their lives for the better—a chance Brooklyn can’t pass up, for Alycia’s sake if not her own.

Derek Johnson, Chad’s best friend since boyhood, isn’t keen on the return of Brooklyn Meyers to Thunder Creek. He still blames her for leading his friend astray. And now she has ruined his chance to buy the neighboring ten acres that would have allowed him to expand his organic farm. To add insult to injury, Chad’s dying request was that Derek become the father to Alycia that Chad never was. How can he keep that promise without also spending time with the girl’s mother?

Brought together by unexpected circumstances, Derek and Brooklyn must both confront challenges to their dreams and expectations. He must overcome long held misconceptions about Brooklyn, while she must learn to trust someone other than herself. And if they can do it, they just might discover that God has something better in mind than either of them ever imagined.

My Review

Brooklyn Meyers was determined to make life better for herself and her ten-year-old daughter, Alycia. That was her main reason for not returning to Thunder Creek, Idaho. That and her cruel, abusive father. However, when she receives an unexpected, much- needed gift after the death of her estranged husband, Chad Hallston, she knows she must return.

Derek Johnson isn’t too happy about the news of Brooklyn’s return. He blames her for Chad leaving Thunder Creek, and in a small way, he figures she led to his death, too. But Chad’s dying wish forces him to deal with Brooklyn and Alycia.

Robin Lee Hatcher’s book, You’ll Think of Me, primarily takes place in Thunder Creek, Idaho, a picturesque, idyllic town. The local population cares greatly about its town and townspeople, jumping in to help whenever and wherever it’s needed. Miss Hatcher deftly weaves a story of a young woman beaten down by life who doesn’t trust anyone except herself but has begun to learn to lean on the Lord for guidance and assurance.

As the story progresses, key characters in the story help Brooklyn to grow and learn life is a series of forgiveness and trust. Although the story could be dark and deep, Miss Hatcher uses just the right touches of depth and feeling to illustrate the tough situations within the story.

I received a copy of You’ll Think of Me from two different sources: NetGalley and The Fiction Guild. However, I was under no obligation to post a review.

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