Christmas at Carnton: A Novella by Tamera Alexander

My Review

Historical fiction is one of my favorite genres, and when Tamera Alexander writes it, it’s even more special.

Miss Alexander’s Christmas at Carnton novella is the introductory story to her upcoming series, The Carnton Novels, based on the history of the Carnton Plantation in Franklin, Tennessee-near Nashville. She adroitly takes a small slice of time centered around Civil War history and brings to life the hardships endured not only by the soldiers but also the families they left behind.

I felt heartbroken for Aletta Prescott, expectant mother, mother to adorable little Andrew and widow of Warren. Facing foreclosure with no employment prospects, Aletta doesn’t lose faith or hope. In fact, she perseveres under unimaginable circumstances and is steadfast in her beliefs.

Captain Jack Winston, a wounded Confederate soldier, is demoralized when he is commanded to assist with the Women’s Relief Society auction, spearheaded by the mistress of Carnton Plantation, Mrs. John McGavock, wife of Colonel McGavock.

My favorite character is Tempy. Even though she has suffered an inconceivable early life, she hasn’t let it break her, and Miss Alexander writes her story with depth, feeling and just a touch of espièglerie.

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

Publisher’s Summary

A Christmas story to launch a brand new three-book series . . . The Carnton Novels

Amid war and the fading dream of the Confederacy, a wounded soldier and a destitute widow discover the true meaning of Christmas – and of sacrificial love.

Recently widowed, Aletta Prescott struggles to hold life together for herself and her six-year old son. With the bank threatening to evict, she discovers an advertisement for the Women’s Relief Society auction and applies for a position – only to discover it’s been filled. Then a chance meeting with a wounded soldier offers another opportunity – and friendship. But can Aletta trust this man?

Captain Jake Winston, a revered Confederate sharpshooter, suffered a head wound at the Battle of Chickamauga. When doctors deliver their diagnosis, Jake fears losing not only his greatest skill but his very identity. As he heals, Jake is ordered to assist with a local Women’s Relief Society auction. He respectfully objects. Kowtowing to a bunch of “crinolines” isn’t his idea of soldiering. But orders are orders, and he soon discovers this group of ladies – one, in particular – is far more than he bargained for.

Set against the backdrop and history of the Carnton Plantation in Franklin, Tennessee, Christmas at Carnton is a story of hope renewed and faith restored at Christmas.

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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.

In the Shadow of Thy Wings (Ancient World #2) by A.M. Heath

In the Shadow of Thy Wings

About the Book

Devastation sweeps across the land, and the families of Maple Grove cannot escape when war arrives at their front doors. After her father entrusts her with a new and dangerous task, Sally Chandler must find the courage to obey despite her fear. Meanwhile, her best friend, Claire Harper, is determined to serve others, even if it means putting herself in danger. But with a certain handsome Union soldier stationed nearby, Claire finds her heart in danger of falling for the enemy. Their differing loyalties create complications that neither could expect; her twin brother fighting for the Confederacy is only one of them. Frank Harper left home with one goal in mind – to become a prosperous plantation owner. Two years later, not only is he further from his goal, but he’s beginning to question his own desires–something that becomes more complicated when his heart becomes involved. The families of Maple Grove must learn how to survive the uncertainty of war and a country split in two. While the war in the nation rages on, the battle within grows stronger. Will they learn that the only safe place to hide is in the shadow of Thy Wings?

*The Ancient Words Series is best read in order.

My Review

In the Shadow of Thy Wings is book two of the Ancient World Series and is as well written and thought-provoking as the first book, Where Can I Flee, was.

The saga of the Civil War picks up where book one ends, and we are again privy to the letters written by Claire and Frank.

Frank is beginning to question his “enthusiasm” for preserving the Southern way of life, and Claire is beginning to fall in love. Each of the twins is immersed in the horrific dilemmas many faced during this trying time in our country. The battles and the “fight” on the home front are richly illustrated, leaving you breathless at times.

As you read, you learn more and more about Frank and Claire, their father and their friends and come to care about them as if you personally knew them.

Heath has interwoven a story of faith and redemption in book two, also.

If you are an aficionado of the Civil War era and historical fiction, you will want to read both of these books. Even though the stories are labeled historical romances, the romance is secondary to the magnificent retelling of this turbulent time in our history.

Where Can I Flee (Ancient World #1) by A.M. Heath

Where Can I Flee

About the Book

War is on the horizon during the spring of 1861. It will be an event that will change the lives of everyone in its path. The Harper family included.

Frank Harper is a young man full of dreams and ambitions. Even when the country is split and war breaks out, Frank will do whatever is necessary to see his dreams come true, even when that means putting on a uniform and leaving home.

For the first time, Claire Harper is forced to consider the reasons behind such a conflict. Should slavery be abolished? Which side should she be on, and what does God have to say about this? Claire is torn between her own opinions and those of her family. The struggle within her only increases when she repeatedly runs into a kind and handsome Union soldier. She longs to see her brother turn to Christ before it is too late. Desperate to reach her brother with the gospel, Claire pens a series of inspiring letters. Will she be able to handle all the obstacles of war and continue to be a witness to those around her?

How long can Claire last when her heart is torn in half and she is burdened for her brother’s soul? How long can Frank resist his sister’s urgent pleas or the gentle tugging from within? Can a man outrun a holy God?

My Review

Where Can I Flee is the debut novel by A. M. Heath and is a richly comprehensive novel of life during the Civil War. The research needed to write the story must have been mind-boggling. However, Heath was able to convincingly convey a tale full of the pain, struggles and suffering experienced by everyone during the war.

Claire and Frank Harper, twins, have been best friends their entire lives. When the War Between the States begins, Frank, wanting to preserve the Southern way of life (to include slavery), enlists, leaving Claire bereft.

We learn of the horrors, deficiencies, and hardships the soldiers endure through letters exchanged between Claire and Frank, letters so well written you feel as if you’re in the midst of the battles yourself. Even though there are horrific scenes, the faith and love of God are portrayed throughout and give a compelling look at redemption and forgiveness.

Anyone who reads and enjoys books set during the Civil War is sure to appreciate and savor the richness and detail of Where Can I Flee and would surely want to read and own a copy.

Monday’s Mention

Basket Brigade

A Basket Brigade Christmas by Judith Mccoy Miller, Nancy Moser, Stephanie Grace Whitson

About Book

A 3-in-1 collection of Civil War Christmas novellas inspired by the true story of the Basket Brigade women of Decatur, Illinois. . . . In A Pinch of Love by Judith Miller, Sarah McHenry is drawn to Jacob Curtis, but can he control his jealousy over her care for other soldiers. In A Stitch in Time by Stephanie Grace Whitson, Lucy Maddox wins the attention of a handsome private. . .but his intentions don’t seem noble to Silas Tait, who has loved Lucy secretly for years. In Endless Melody by Nancy Moser, word of Zona Evans’s musical ministrations reaches her long-lost love, Dr. Cardiff Kensington.

My Thoughts

We meet Lucy Mattox in A Stitch in Time, by Stephanie Grace Whitson. Lucy immerses herself in working for the Basket Brigade, a group of women who provide food and clothes for the young men riding the train that makes a short stop in Decatur.  Lucy’s mother worked for the Basket Brigade before she and Lucy’s father passed away.

Lucy is fulfilled and happy as a single young woman. After all, there aren’t that many single men left in Decatur, Illinois due to the Civil War. Moreover, the one boy she truly cared for died in the war.

Feeling the first stirrings of love when Private Oscar Green makes a special trip to see her, Lucy is ready to declare her feelings. However, no one else thinks Private Green is the right person. Especially not Silas Tait, the manager of her mercantile. Will Lucy find love?

Judith Miller introduces Sarah McHenry to us in A Pinch of Love.

Sarah’s twin brother Samuel is fighting in the war, so Sarah assists her parents in the family bakery. All is going smoothly until Sarah’s mother falls ill. Now Sarah has not only her bakery duties but also assisting with the basket brigade, a job she swore she would never do.

As Sarah becomes acclimated to the rigors of the basket brigade, she meets the enchanting Corporal Jacob Curtis. Corporal Curtis, much to his dismay, is diverted from combat duty to escort the injured men on the train through Decatur.

Over time, Sarah and Corporal Curtis become friends and begin writing letters to each other and spending stolen moments together when he comes through town. However, jealousy gets the better of the Corporal, and when he is injured he doesn’t let Sarah know.

Confusion and misunderstanding take over their lives. Will they be able to forgive and start anew?

Endless Melody by Nancy Moser brings us the story of Zona Evans, a spinster and musician.

Years earlier, Zona’s betrothed, Cardiff Kensington, left to fight in the Mexican War. Never hearing from him again, Zona resigned herself to the life of a single woman.

Zona is busy getting things ready for the church’s Christmas Musicale. However, things aren’t going her way. Feeling the only way to fix things is through a “mild” deception, Zona takes matters into her own hands with disastrous results.

Will Zona be able to make things right and be forgiven, and what about Cardiff Kensington?

I enjoyed reading A Basket Brigade Christmas very much, especially since it is based on the true story of the women of the basket brigade of Decatur, Illinois.

I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

 

Tuesday’s Tale

The Innocent

The Innocent is a book about the Shaker religion by Ann H. Gabhart.

Carlyn Kearney has been living in limbo for two years; the Union Army declared her husband, Ambrose, Missing in Action in June of 1863. She and her dog, Asher, have been trying to keep the home fires burning, but it was getting harder and harder. She has no money coming in and no way to make any, either. The day her landlord, Curt Whitlow, shows up with Sheriff Mitchell Brodie to evict her, Carlyn knows she has to find some way to stay alive.

Carlyn decides to ask for help at the nearby Shaker Village of Harmony Hill. She is heartbroken when she is told she can’t keep her dog and in desperation asks the sheriff to care for Asher.

As Carlyn tries to come to terms with the unusual life of the Shakers, a series of mysterious deaths upset the peaceful village. As a newcomer and a seemingly unwilling inhabitant, Carlyn falls under suspicion.

Sheriff Brodie has his hands full investigating the murder and trying to find Asher (who disappears the night after Carlyn goes to the Shaker Village), when Carlyn disappears, too.

Will Sheriff Brodie find Carolyn and Asher? Is Carlyn guilty of murder? Will she become a Shaker?

Ann Gabhart has written several books about the Shakers at Harmony Hill. This is the second of her Shaker books I have read. She imbues each of her stories with rich narrative and eloquent narrative while allowing the reader to become more and more familiar with the Shaker lifestyle.

I received this book from the author, Ann Gabhart, and the publisher, Revell (A division of Baker Publishing) in exchange for an honest review. Thank you for the opportunity to read and review The  Innocent.

For more information about Ann Gabhart, you can visit her at:  http://www.annhgabhart.com/

For more information about Revell, visit: http://bakerpublishinggroup.com/revell

Friday’s Fiction

Another Christmas story to enjoy!

Christmas at Harmony Hill: A Shaker Story by Ann H. Gabhart begins with Heather Worth on the Civil War battlefield with her husband, Gideon.

Heather marries her true love and is condemned for it by her father.  In desperation, she follows her husband onto the battlefield as a washerwoman.

As winter sets in, Heather realizes she cannot continue as a washerwoman. She would be unable to survive the cold and her pregnancy, which she has successfully hidden, will soon be revealed. Heather decides to return home, even though she dreads her father’s censure. She knows her mother will never turn her away, especially in her delicate condition. Unknown to Heather, her mother and brother had passed away while she was on the battlefield.

Heather’s trip home is arduous and cold, but she survives, only to have her father threaten to kill her if she comes a foot closer to their house. Discouraged, she hides in the family’s barn and sets out in the early morning to find her Aunt Sophrena and the Shaker Village she lives in at Harmony Hill.

Heather and the Shaker’s endure many adjustments to each other as Heather seeks refuge there. Heather also becomes much closer to the Lord and her Aunt, as Christmas and her due date draw closer.

Christmas at Harmony Hill is a captivatingly written story, revealing many insights of the Shaker religion, one I knew very little about.

Camp

 

Return to Shirley Plantation by Carrie Fancett Pagels, Volume One of Murray Pura’s Civil War Series-Cry of Freedom.

Return to Shirley Plantation is a fast-paced novella interwoven with the intricacies of life, against the backdrop of the Civil War.

The lives of everyone on the plantation are upended when the Army commandeers the old home grounds for a field hospital, spreading the injured soldier’s shoulder to shoulder as far as the eye can see.

Angelina Rose is a freed slave of one-eighth African blood. She disguises herself as a widow in mourning, helping in the home until she can earn enough money to free her dead sister’s children.

Matthew Scott is the owner of Scott’s Theatrical Troupe. He is abducted by the Confederate Army and forced to serve because of his father’s politics as a Copperhead congressman.

Angelina and Matthew are immediately attracted to each other, but Angelina knows she must guard her heart and secret at all costs.

A Christian theme runs throughout the book, along with the rich history of the Civil War.

I have to thank The Book Club Network, Inc. @ http://www.bookfun.org/   for introducing me to so many new authors to include: Murray Pura, Carrie Fancett Pagels, Braxton DeGarmo, Carol McLeod, Gregg Farah, Alice Jay Wisler and Kathi Macias just to name a few.

This book was given to me free of charge through The Christian Book Network @ http://www.bookfun.org/  in exchange for an honest review.

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The Last Waltz by Murray Pura

I’m re-posting this because it has been awhile since I posted it and my post on Monday will be Return to Shirley Plantation-the first of the Civil War Series.

Murray Pura has woven a unique story transcending time and circumstances in The Last Waltz, Volume 2 of his Civil War Series.

Charity Davis, the wife of farmer Mitchell Davis, has been caring for the farm since he and their two sons joined the Army to fight in the Civil War.  They have been gone for two years, and her loneliness has become an ache.

One day Charity sees a regiment of soldiers and runs down the long road from her house to meet them, asking if any have seen her husband Mitchell.  Finally giving up, she heads back to the farm only to hear her name called. Turning, she sees her beloved Mitchell propped up on his horse between two other soldiers.

Charity is understandably upset over Mitchell’s wound, but she soon becomes happier when learning he will be able to stay overnight.

As they talk, Mitchell reads to Charity of King Hezekiah’s request of the Lord in Isaiah 38.  Mitchell shares how the passage prompted him to pray for one perfect day with Charity.

So begins their extraordinary day together before Mitchell returns back to his regiment.

Murray richly portrays their love and joy in each other throughout their amazing day together.  A day filled with laughter, love and foreshadowing, a day to cherish forever.

This book was given to me free of charge through The Book Club Network in exchange for an honest review.

 

The Last Waltz by Murray Pura

Murray Pura has woven a unique story transcending time and circumstances in The Last Waltz, Volume 2 of his Civil War Series.

Charity Davis, the wife of farmer Mitchell Davis, has been caring for the farm since he and their two sons joined the Army to fight in the Civil War.  They have been gone for two years, and her loneliness has become an ache.

One day Charity sees a regiment of soldiers and runs down the long road from her house to meet them, asking if any have seen her husband Mitchell.  Finally giving up, she heads back to the farm only to hear her name called. Turning, she sees her beloved Mitchell propped up on his horse between two other soldiers.

Charity is understandably upset over Mitchell’s wound, but she soon becomes happier when learning he will be able to stay overnight.

As they talk, Mitchell reads to Charity of King Hezekiah’s request of the Lord in Isaiah 38.  Mitchell shares how the passage prompted him to pray for one perfect day with Charity.

So begins their extraordinary day together before Mitchell returns back to his regiment.

Murray richly portrays their love and joy in each other throughout their amazing day together.  A day filled with laughter, love and foreshadowing, a day to cherish forever.

This book was given to me free of charge through The Book Club Network in exchange for an honest review.