An Apple for Christmas by Darlene Franklin

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Publisher’s Summary

Ruby Nelson trades her job in the laboratory for teaching in a small girls’ school in Vermont. Twin sisters challenge her position—and their father captivates her imagination. Will the orchard grower graft Ruby onto his heart?

My Review

Ruby Nelson, the teacher for Spruce Hill Female Academy in Vermont, is clearly overqualified for her position.

MacIntosh “Mac” Cortland, widowed father to twins, Pippa and Margil (all three of the Cortland’s are named after a type of apple), is curious as to why Ruby is teaching instead of following her original vocation as a scientist. He’s not sure he wants her teaching his girls.

I especially enjoyed Pippa as she is spunky and inquisitive, sometimes to her detriment. Both Pippa and Margil are lonely without a mother and are trying to find their way through life, trying the patience of their father and their teacher.

Darlene Franklin has written a cute, heart-warming and enjoyable story focused around apples. Although An Apple for Christmas isn’t centered around Christmas, it does address the holiday and has inspirational overtones.

(Some of the book appears to be in draft form. Nevertheless, the story is fun to read.)

                               Christmas in July sponsored by                                       


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.

The Cowboy’s Bride Collection

Cowboy's Bride

About the Book

Ride onto the open range alongside cowboys and cowgirls who embrace the adventures of living in the Old West from Kansas to New Mexico, Colorado to Texas. Whether rounding up cattle or mustangs, training horses, fending off outlaws, weathering storms, competing in rodeos, or surviving drought these cowboys work hard each day. But when hardheaded men have their weaknesses exposed by well-meaning women will they stampede away or will a lasting love develop? Find out in this exciting collection of nine historical romances.

My Review

The Cowboy Poet, by Susan Paige Davis, begins the stories in The Cowboy’s Bride Collection.

Rilla Lane has returned home to the family ranch due to her mother’s illness. She loves the ranch and her Ma and Pa, but the poetry that lives in her heart needs a release.

Bat Wilson, a cowboy, had come to work on the ranch while Rilla was away. They really didn’t know each other, but Bat was hoping to remedy that by writing his own poems.  What he didn’t expect was the ridicule he’d endure from the other ranch hands.

For A Song, by Susan Dietze, is a fun story full of miscommunication, misunderstanding, and lots of faith and humor.

Aunt Martha Phipps believes she has the perfect answer to sisters Lily and Delia Kimball’s dilemma when she receives a letter from her nephew, Jackson Bridge. However, she only opens up a can of worms, and there will be a lot of talking to get out of the mess!

Crazy About Cait, by Nancy J Farrier, introduces us to Cait Sullivan and Jonas Hall.

Cait is one of the best horse trainers in the area. However, her father hired Jonas to train his horses for the cavalry, and Cait feels betrayed. Not only did Jonas get her job, but he had stolen and then broken her sister’s heart, how could she ever forgive him?

 Love’s Sweet Storm, by Miralee Ferrell, puts us on the trail with Addie Patrick during a blizzard.

Addie is stranded when her wagon careens off the path, and the driver is gravely injured. Knowing she’ll never survive without shelter, she sets out to find somewhere warm.

Grant Hollis is caught out in the same blizzard, but he’s injured. When he arrives at the line shack Addie found, he passes out, leaving only Addie to assist him.

Darlene Franklin brings us the amusing story of Millie Cain and Wes Harper in The Reformed Cowboy.

Millie recently relocated to Wichita from Boston in order to meet her pen pal and possible boyfriend, Wes. However, she first decides she would like to teach the Kansas cowboys lessons in etiquette and how to be true gentlemen. Mayhem and confusion ensue, leaving Millie to wonder if cowboys can learn!

Trey Carpenter, a rancher by trade, is supposed to meet his mother at the train station in A Texan’s Surprise, by Vickie McDonough. However, his Mom has a surprise for him-she brought along a widow, Sadie Hunter, and her two daughters, Abby and Martha.

Trey isn’t very happy about his Mother’s unannounced surprise; however, he’s even more unhappy when the local men begin to court Sadie.

The Wrangler’s Woman, by Davalynn Spencer, captures the story of Corra Jameson, widower Josiah Hanacker and his two children, Joe and Jess, and Josiah’s meddling sister in law.

Josiah needs help with turning his daughter Jess from wrangling and tomboy ways to a refined and genteel young woman, and if Corra agrees, she’s the perfect answer to his dilemma. If Corra’s unable to help with his daughter, his sister in law plans to spirit her away and train her properly.

Toby Lane needs to hire on as a foreman at the Double L Ranch in Cowboy Competition, by Becca Whitham, but he fears his family’s “curse” will keep him from doing his job.

Nia (Petunia) Lindley is trying everything she can to convince her Father she can “run” the ranch and still be a lady. However, her Father is doubtful and determined to sell the ranch. Toby may just be the answer to her problems if he can overcome the family “curse.”

The Cowgirl’s Lasso, by Jaime Jo Wright, is about Jonah Sparks and his search for a new foreman on his ranch. He is thrilled when his mentor, Charlie, recommends CJ Matheson. That is until he learns CJ is a woman named Celia Jo.

Jonah doesn’t believe CJ can do the job and constantly challenges and undercuts her authority. CJ knows she can work wonders for the ranch if only Jonah would leave her alone to work.

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


Tuesday’s Teaching


An Advent Journey through Matthew 2015 by Darlene Franklin

About the Book

Take a step away from the busy days that fill Advent. Begin with the miraculous birth and get caught up in the story which adds layers of understanding of Jesus’s extraordinary life. (67 pages)

My Thoughts

Darlene Franklin begins her devotional book on November 29th and continues through Christmas Day, December 25th. Each day starts with a Daily Bible Portion from The Message, followed with a short devotional and ending with an Advent Reflection.

As I learned more about Miss Franklin’s life, feelings and thoughts, I was able to appreciate the devotional even more.

The entire book of Matthew is broken into bite-sized, manageable pieces to read every day.

The devotional section includes timely questions, personal anecdotes, and reflections. In addition, there is an overview of the day’s reading.

The Advent Reflections call on the reader to dig deeper into their thoughts, beliefs and actions throughout the year. The focus is primarily on how to apply the principles to the holidays.

An Advent Journey through Matthew 2015 is a great devotional for the holidays. It is perfect for a quick private or family read and can be the catalyst for generating more thoughts and discussions.

I was given this book by the author in exchange for an honest review. (Thank you, Darlene Franklin, for a really nice devotional!)

Monday’s Mention

Lucy Ames

Lucy Ames, Sharpshooter by Darlene Franklin, is an historical Christian romance novel.

About the Book

Sharpshooter Lucy Ames’ dreams come true when Major Paulson’s Wild West Show asks her to perform in their summer tour. More than sparks fly when Lucy meets the Major’s son, Gordon. But how can their love survive when Lucy’s path leads her to Europe and Gordon heads to West Texas to teach?

My Thoughts

Lucy Ames is determined to join Major Paulson’s Wild West Show as a female sharpshooter. Even though she has the ability and the charisma to win, she has to overcome numerous obstacles, the largest one being her father’s objections.

As Lucy tours the United States as “Texas Born Annie Oakley,” she becomes more and more familiar with Major Paulson’s son, Gordon, and as a result, falls in love with him.  However, things aren’t as wonderful and easy as Lucy imagined. Jealousy rears its ugly head when Lucy receives a promotion over other female cast mates. In addition, Lucy’s heart is tugging her toward a European tour, and Gordon’s is leading him to teach in Texas.

Darlene Franklin aims high and hits the “bull’s-eye” with her novel Lucy Ames, Sharpshooter. The story, modeled after the infamous Wild West shows that were popular in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, incorporates the excitement and thrill of the re-enactments of the “Wild West.”

Ms. Franklin’s written an appealing story with Christian life lessons we can all learn from and one you are sure to enjoy.

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

Tuesday’s Tale Tail

Paint Me a Murder, (Christian Cozy Mystery) (A Dressed for Death Mystery Book 3) begins approximately 2 years after A String of Murders (Christian Cozy Mystery) (A Dressed For Death Mystery Book 2).

Cici Wilde, owner of Cici’s Vintage Clothing in Dry Gulch, Oklahoma, is now married to Audie Howe, and is expecting their first child.

CiCi is made privy to a long-held secret just before another murder occurs in Dry Gulch. In addition, the artist commissioned to do the mural for the opening of Grace Gulch Center for the Arts has disappeared.

Cici is drawn into solving another mystery, despite her trepidation. As she gets closer to solving the mystery, her baby sister, Dina, becomes the second person to disappear in Dry Gulch. In addition, Cici begins receiving threats on her and her unborn baby’s lives.

Cici, overwhelmed by raging hormones, is near collapse. It doesn’t help, either, that her seemingly judgmental mother-in-law has decided to take up residence in her and Audie’s home until the baby is born. Cici feels as if she can do nothing right, and Audie’s over the top enthusiasm for his mother’s cooking sets Cici on edge.

Will she be able to solve the mystery in time to find her sister? Will she and her baby remain safe?

The third and final sequel in A Dressed for Death Mystery Series is equally hard to put down. Author Darlene Franklin composes a story so well that you can’t help but fall in love with her characters’ eccentricities and idiosyncrasies. Her ability to intertwine mystery and history together creates a fascinating tale.

I received this book free from the author in exchange for an honest review. Thank you, Darlene Franklin.

Paint me a murder cover



Tuesday’s Tale

A String of Murders,  (Christian Cozy Mystery) (A Dressed for Death Mystery Book 2) by Darlene Franklin picks up approximately six months after Gunfight at Grace Gulch (Christian Cozy Mystery) (A Dressed For Death Mystery Book 1).

Cici Wilde, owner of Cici’ s Vintage Clothing in Dry Gulch, Oklahoma, had just returned home from a long day at work when she received a disconcerting call. Audie Howe, her fiancé, had stopped by her store when he saw a light coming from the back of the store. Thinking there was something odd happening, he went inside, and found a body.

Cici is distraught-another murder in her little town. As days go by, it appears the victim was lured to her store.

A series of pithy e-mails seems to be targeting everyone in Grace Gulch. When they first started, the moniker chosen, Jerry Burton, was from an Agatha Christie novel; but then a second series, from Elsie Holland, appeared. Elsie Holland was from Agatha Christie novels, too. Determined to track down the murderer and the real owner sending the e-mails, Cici goes to work.

A String of Murders is another intriguing tale by Darlene Franklin. As an author, Darlene Franklin weaves a story so well into the lives of her characters that you can’t help but fall in love with them, quirks and all. She intertwines mystery and history together into a fascinating tale.

The sequel in A Dressed for Death Mystery Series is an equally hard book to put down.

I was given this book by the author in exchange for an honest review. (Thank you, Darlene Franklin, for a compelling story!)

WAC uniform and pearls

Wednesday’s Write-up

Gunfight at Grace Gulch (Christian Cozy Mystery) (A Dressed For Death Mystery Book 1) by Darlene Franklin is a contemporary novel based on the re-enactment of the history of Grace Gulch, a fictionalized town in Oklahoma.

Audie Howe recreates the gunfight, part the beginning of the town of Grace Gulch, every year.

Cici (Cecelia) Wilde is the owner of a vintage clothing store and provides the costumes for the re-enactment.

When the remake results in a murder, Audie and Cici decide to investigate the murder. After all, Cici’s sister/niece, Dina, and her best friend, Cord, are considered suspects, and she knows they are innocent.  Audie wants to assist her to clear the smirch on his production and be closer to Cici.

Scattered throughout the book are letters from Grace Gulch’s namesake, Robert Grace, to his fiancée, Mary. The letters give insight into the establishment of Grace Gulch. Do they also provide a clue to the murderer’s identity?

The characters in the book are fun, and some are delightfully quirky. The story is believable and keeps you guessing through plausible and realistic plot twists and turns.

An intriguing and fascinating story steeped in mystery and (imagined) history, Gunfight at Grace Gulch, is a hard book to put down.

I was given this book by the author in exchange for an honest review. (Thank you, Darlene Franklin, for a delightful story!)

CowboyLady at gunfight