The Sound of Rain by Sarah Loudin Thomas

My Review

I was interested in the book, The Sound of Rain, because of the settings of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, West Virginia and Kentucky. I lived and worked in Myrtle Beach just before Hurricane Hugo hit, then visited after Hugo and was amazed at the devastation to the area and changes to the shoreline. I also lived for a short while in St. Albans, West Virginia. In addition, I was interested because Sarah Loudin Thomas is a new author to me.

The story’s premise is about Judd Markley, a coal miner from West Virginia, and Larkin Heyward, the daughter of an affluent family in Myrtle Beach.

Judd leaves the hills of West Virginia and moves to Myrtle Beach after a coal mining accident left him permanently injured and killed his brother. His main reason for moving is to honor his brother’s dream of going to Myrtle Beach.

Larkin wants to move to Kentucky to give meaning to her life and help the poor who live there.

I am not sure how I feel about the book. Several elements of it are good, and other aspects made it less than enjoyable for me. The sequence of events during Hurricane Hazel didn’t seem realistic in many ways, especially considering the destruction it caused. Plus, Larkin’s deception toward Judd and deliberate disobedience to her father bothered me, too.

Overall, I felt the author tried to put too much into the book, making it feel watered down (no pun intended). There were characters I would have liked to have gotten to know better, for instance, Granny Jane, Ben and Larkin’s mother.

The Sound of Rain was interesting but not as compelling as other stories I have read.

I enjoyed reading about Myrtle Beach in 1954 and was sad to hear The Pavilion had its last season in 2006 and was demolished for redevelopment in 2007.

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

Publisher’s Review

Judd Markley is a hardworking coal miner who rarely thinks much past tomorrow until he loses his brother–and nearly his own life–in a mine cave-in. Vowing never to enter the darkness of a mine again, he leaves all he knows in West Virginia to escape to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. It’s 1954, the seaside community is thriving, and Judd soon hires on with a timber company.

Larkin Heyward’s life in Myrtle Beach is uncomplicated, mostly doing volunteer work and dancing at the Pavilion. But she dreams of one day doing more–maybe moving to the hollers of Kentucky to help the poor children of Appalachia. But she’s never even met someone who’s lived there–until she encounters Judd, the newest employee at her father’s timber company.

Drawn together in the wake of a devastating hurricane, Judd and Larkin each seek answers to what tomorrow will bring. As opposition rises against following their divergent dreams, they realize that it may take a miracle for them to be together.

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Out of the Ordinary (Apart from the Crowd Book #2) by Jen Turano

My Review

Jen Turano’s delightful book, Out of the Ordinary, reintroduces us to Gertrude Cadwalader whom we met in At Your Request (Apart From the Crowd): An Apart From the Crowd Novella and in Behind the Scenes (Apart From the Crowd Book #1).

Out of the Ordinary is an out of the ordinary story. I laughed so hard at some sections; I literally had tears running down my eyes. I would be hard-pressed to explain which comedic moment was my favorite as they all have their own laugh-out-loud, crack up moments. However, don’t let that mislead you. There are some very serious aspects to the story.

Gertrude is paid to be a companion to Mrs. Davenport, an eccentric lady with a propensity to take things that aren’t hers, thereby creating many precarious situations for Gertrude to correct. I really felt sorry for poor Gertrude when one situation leads to a disastrous misunderstanding and a less than ideal situation for unfortunate Gertrude.

Harrison Sinclair is a lovable hero. He has absolutely no fashion sense, and his problems with being able to see colors as others do lead to some unusual combinations of clothing. He loves his family, is loyal to his friends and overall, makes a great champion for those he cares about.

I enjoyed catching up with other characters from earlier stories. In spite of the fact that there is overlap of characters in the series, Out of the Ordinary works easily as a stand-alone.

Jen Turano has written another historical novel with quirky characters, messages of faith and humor interspersed between serious subjects.

I received this book from Bethany House and NetGalley. However, I was not required to write a review.

Publisher’s Summary

Miss Gertrude Cadwalader hoped her position as the paid companion to Mrs. Davenport would be easy. But as she becomes acquainted with her employer, she realizes the wealthy Mrs. Davenport has a strange tendency to be a bit light-fingered with other people’s trinkets. Gertrude is relieved when Mrs. Davenport decides to have a quiet summer away from the social scene–until the woman changes her mind in order to help a young socialite launch into society.

When Gertrude is caught in the act of trying to return one of the trinkets by Mrs. Sinclair, the mother of shipping magnate Harrison Sinclair, the woman jumps to an unfortunate conclusion. Harrison is determined to mend fences with Miss Cadwalader, but he’s unprepared for the escapades a friendship with her will entail.

The Space Between Words by Michèle Phoenix

My Review

Jessica and Vonda thought a trip to Paris to visit their best friend Patrick was a fantastic idea until . . . it wasn’t.

I received this book from NetGalley several months ago and had just started to read it when the Las Vegas attack occurred. For that reason, and the inherently disturbing imagery (mostly from the place of my imagination and PTSD), I did not finish reading it, nor did I review it. However, early last week I received a paperback copy from The Fiction Guild. I decided to give it a second chance.

I am at a loss to describe this book. The plot is primarily set overseas after the 2015 terrorist attack on the Bataclan concert hall in Paris, France, recounting the main character’s life in the aftermath of this horrific event. Another setting is also in France. However, it deals with the persecution of the Huguenots centuries ago.  The plot strands run in a dual timeline, but the emphasis is on present times.

Parts of The Space Between Words defy description, and some emotions can only be experienced through the gut-wrenching reading of the events. Other aspects of the book challenge description in the believability of the character’s story. I didn’t have a problem with one detail of Jessica’s dealing with Patrick and her PTSD, though I can see how many would (I don’t want to give any spoilers). I did have a hard time accepting the ease with which Mona, the innkeeper, welcomed Jessica. As a mother, I found it a little unlikely that another mother would not feel a threat to her child by someone in the throes of a mental and emotional breakdown. Nor do I believe that, as a business person, Mona would have let Jessica stay there for free for such a long time.

Overall, the story is well written, the characters well developed and the narrative believable. I ran a gamut of emotions, from a heightened sense of fear to laughter and relief. Be prepared for a roller-coaster ride if you read it, as you learn more about Jessica and, also, the persecution of the Huguenots in the late 1600’s.

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

Publisher’s Summary

“There were seconds, when I woke, when the world felt unshrouded. Then memory returned.”

When Jessica regains consciousness in a French hospital on the day after the Paris attacks, all she can think of is fleeing the site of the horror she survived. But Patrick, the steadfast friend who hasn’t left her side, urges her to reconsider her decision. Worn down by his insistence, she reluctantly agrees to follow through with the trip they’d planned before the tragedy.

“The pages found you,” Patrick whispered.

“Now you need to figure out what they’re trying to say.”

During a stop at a country flea market, Jessica finds a faded document concealed in an antique. As new friends help her to translate the archaic French, they uncover the story of Adeline Baillard, a young woman who lived centuries before—her faith condemned, her life endangered, her community decimated by the Huguenot persecution.

“I write for our descendants, for those who will not understand the cost of our survival.”

Determined to learn the Baillard family’s fate, Jessica retraces their flight from France to England, spurred on by a need she doesn’t understand.

Could this stranger who lived three hundred years before hold the key to Jessica’s survival?

Of Rags and Riches Romance Collection: Nine Stories of Poverty and Opulence During the Gilded Age by Susanne Dietze, Michelle Griep, Anne Love, Gabrielle Meyer, Natalie Monk, Jennifer Uhlarik, Erica Vetsch, Jaime Jo Wright and Kathleen Y’Barbo

My Review

Of Rags and Riches Romance Collection is a delightful set of nine novellas chronicling the lives of nine couples from a variety of socio-economic stations in life. The stories are set between the years 1867 and 1899, during a time in US history known as the Gilded Age (The term was coined from a satirical Mark Twain novel, The Gilded Age: A Tale of Today).

I enjoyed each of the stories in the compilation-some, of course, more than others, but each had its own endearing qualities. I learned a few new words (which, by the way, I love to do when reading). For example: faille, a word defined by Wiktionary as a fabric woven from silk, cotton, or rayon with slight ribs.

I was so engrossed in the story of the all-female baseball team in Susanne Dietze’s The Right Pitch that I was startled when members of the team were transported by carriage. The story is such a captivating and timeless saga that I forgot it was set in the 1800s!

Debut author Natalie Monk does an extraordinary job with her novella, For Richer or Poorer. I was drawn to Marcella Lipski and her plight in wanting to find a way to bring her family to America.

Each novella has a sweet story with messages of faith, hope and love; some have stronger messages than others, but all complement their stories well.

If you want a quick read or would rather spend more time lost in history, Of Rags and Riches is the perfect book to curl up with and get lost in the Gilded Age.

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

Publisher’s Summary

Love Flourishes during America’s Gilded Age

Journey along in nine historical romances with those whose lives are transformed by the opulence, growth, and great changes taking place in America’s Gilded Age. Nine couples meet during these exhilarating times and work to build a future together through fighting for social reform, celebrating new opportunities for leisure activities, taking advantage of economic growth and new inventions, and more. Watch as these romances develop and legacies of faith and love are formed.

Union Pacific Princess by Jennifer Uhlarik – Cheyenne, Dakota Territory, 1867
In the hell-on-wheels rail town of Cheyenne, grieving Boston socialite Dara Forsythe must choose between her estranged father; Connor, a bigwig with the Union Pacific Railroad; and Gage Wells, a former Confederate sharpshooter bent on derailing the Transcontinental Railroad’s progress.

The Right Pitch by Susanne Dietze – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1876
Guarded industrialist Beck Emerson agrees to sponsor his sister’s all-female baseball team. But when pretty pitcher Winnie Myles throws a curveball that makes him team manager, it challenges his plan to play it safe in life and love.

A Gift in Secret by Kathleen Y’Barbo – New Orleans, Louisiana, 1871
May Bolen offers Sam Austin a marriage of convenience. He will get to run the company that drove his into bankruptcy, and she will be free from her father’s rule to travel the world. But when Sam meets May, he knows the offer is too good to be true—or convenient—when hearts become tangled.

For Richer or Poorer by Natalie Monk – Newark, New Jersey, 1885
In order to bring her starving family to New Jersey, Polish immigrant Marcella Lipski must marry wealth. So she takes Americanization lessons from the poor-but-mysterious cart driver teaching her English—and loses her heart in the process.

A House of Secrets by Michelle Griep – St. Paul, MN 1890
Ladies Aide Chairman, Amanda Carston resolves to clean up St. Paul’s ramshackle housing, starting with the worst of the worst: a “haunted” house that’s secretly owned by her beau—a home that’s his only means of helping brothel girls escape from the hands of the city’s most infamous madam.

Win, Place, or Show by Erica Vetsch – New York City, 1890
Beryl Valentine, a socialite with a passion for horses, finds herself falling in love with her riding instructor, a man her parents will never accept. Will she follow her parents’ wishes, or let Gard Kennedy ride away with her heart?

The Fisherman’s Nymph by Jaime Jo Wright – Flambeau River, Wisconsin, 1890
The reclusive daughter of a fly-fisherman guide must read the waters for a wealthy gentleman’s sport and send him back where he belongs before he hooks her heart and takes her away from the river she was born to love.

The Gardener’s Daughter by Anne Love – Bay View, Michigan, 1895
When the nephew of a prestigious Chautauqua resort founder sets his eye on the new library assistant believing her an academy student, it will take more than reciting poetry for love to bloom when he learns she’s the humble gardener’s daughter.

A Tale of Two Hearts by Gabrielle Meyer – Little Falls, Minnesota, June 1899
Reputations and jobs are on the line when lady’s maid, Lucy Taylor, and neighboring footman, Elijah Boyer, compete against each other for a place of honor during the annual community appreciation event hosted by their wealthy employers.

My Heart Belongs in the Shenandoah Valley: Lily’s Dilemma by Andrea Boeshaar

My Review

The My Heart Belongs series is fast becoming one of my favorite  go-to series for appealing and likeable, quick to read romantic history novels, and My Heart belongs in Shenandoah Valley continues the lore!

Lillyanna “Lilly” Laughlin is the oldest sister of two brothers, all three of whom are orphans. Mr. Silas Everett, her late father’s closest friend and confidante, takes on the guardianship of the three, convincing them, and a judge, it is their father’s wish. Yet, when Captain McAlister “Mac” Albright purchases land Lilly believes to be hers from Mr. Everett, she begins to question Mr. Everett’s altruism.

I enjoyed most of the interplay and teasing between Lilly and Mac, but at times it seemed a little too dramatic. However, I may be a little less sympathetic because I prefer honest, straightforward dialogue, even with myself, and felt Mac wasn’t always honest with himself.

My Heart Belongs in the Shenandoah Valley sheds light on problems those returning from the war of 1812, the second war of independence, encountered while trying to assimilate into society.

Andrea Boeshaar has written a charming, compassionate and at times heartbreaking story of life in 1816’s Shenandoah Valley.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Barbour Publishing and was under no obligation to post a review.

Publisher’s Summary

Journey into the Shenandoah Valley of 1816 where…
With Very Little Left of the Family Farm, Lily May be Forced into a Loveless Marriage.

Captain McAlister “Mac” Albright has purchased land in the Shenandoah Valley. However, the land belongs to Lillyanna Laughlin—or so she erroneously thinks. Mac sets her straight and despite a poor start, the two become friends. . .if only he were financially stable to offer her more.

When Lily’s life is threatened and his whole future goes up in flames, Mac truly becomes a man without means, and Lily is forced to make the impossible choice between a loveless marriage with a man twice her age or the man who has shown her what true love could be. How can she choose between love and economic security? Her family is depending on her. Is her heart destined to break?

Journey into Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley of 1816 where a woman’s dreams and future happiness are on the line.

GIVEAWAY!!!!!

GIVEAWAY HAS ENDED

I am now able to use my computer, so I decided to have a giveaway! (Of course, as you can guess, I’ll be spending the next several weeks trying to get caught up with everyone and everything I missed!!!!)

I received two paperbacks of To Wager Her Heart by Tamera Alexander, therefore I am giving away one paperback copy!

***********GIVEAWAY***********

I have a copy of To Wager Her Heart to giveaway!

Leave a comment with an email address to enter the drawing.

Drawing will be open September 19th  to September  26th.

One name will be randomly drawn as winner.

Check Wednesday, September 27th  , to see if you won!

GOOD LUCK!

 This giveaway is open to U.S. residents only, void where prohibited by law and you must be at least 18 to enter. The odds of winning depend on the number of comments received.

Blessings to everyone~

GIVEAWAY HAS ENDED

WINNER ANNOUNCEMENT

(Error updated to reflect I did not receive an e-book.)

The Promise of Dawn by Lauraine Snelling (Under the Northern Skies Book 1)

My Review

Lauraine Snelling’s newest book, The Promise of Dawn, focuses on the lives of Rune and Signe Carlson and their boys after they move from Norway to America to help relatives Einar and Gerd Strand.

I had a hard time getting into the story. Einar is a tyrant and basically, treats Rune and his sons like they are indentured slaves. Gerd, who is bedridden, treats Signe essentially the same way. Einar is mean and gruff, and Gerd is demanding.

Einar is verbally abusive and unkind. As the story progresses and different situations occur, Signe begins to stand up to him. However, it’s not until an accident occurs that Rune begins to support his wife and children and stand up to Einar, also.

The story could have been better if there was some relief from or explanation of Einar’s attitude, but alas, there was none.

I came to appreciate the hard work everyone did so trees could be felled and shipped, farm animals could be taken care of and a large household maintained. I don’t want to give any spoilers, but there are a few sweet, endearing scenes near the end. Overall, it was an interesting story with a great lesson in persistence and Godly love toward others.

The Promise of Dawn is the first in a new series, Under the Northern Skies. It was not one of my favorites of Lauraine Snelling’s. I do plan to read the next in the series, though, if for no other reason than to see if I can discover what caused Einar to be the way he was toward his relatives.

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

Publisher’s Summary

When Signe, her husband, Rune, and their three boys arrive in Minnesota from Norway to help a relative clear his land of lumber, they dream of owning their own farm and building a life in the New World. But Uncle Einar and Aunt Gird are hard, demanding people, and Signe and her family soon find themselves worked nearly to the bone in order to repay the cost of their voyage. At this rate, they will never have land or a life of their own.

Signe tries to trust God but struggles with anger and bitterness. She has left behind the only life she knew, and while it wasn’t an easy life, it wasn’t as hard as what she now faces. When a new addition to the family arrives, Signe begins to see how God has been watching over them throughout their ordeal. But after all that has happened, can she still believe in the promise of a bright future?

Don’t forget, follow this link for the giveaway!

To Wager Her Heart by Tamera Alexander

My Review

Tamera Alexander’s To Wager Her Heart’s historical novel is replete with real characters and events. With slight literary license, she brings to life the stories of Belle Meade Plantation, Fisk University, Jubilee Singers, Philip Paul Bliss (composer and author of hymns), the Ashtabula River rail disaster and the Dutchman’s Curve train wreck.

The tapestry of the tale is woven so well, the lines between your real life and fiction become indistinct and blurred, causing you to wonder if you have stepped into the narrative or the characters have stepped out of it.

To Wager Her Heart is the third and final installment of the Belle Meade Plantation Novels. However, you will not miss anything as it can very easily be read as a stand-alone.

I received To Wager Her Heart from Zondervan Publishers and the author, Tamera Alexander. (Update: I also received a copy from The Fiction Guild) However, I was not obligated to write a review.

Publisher’s Summary

Set against the real history of Nashville’s Belle Meade Plantation and the original Fisk University Jubilee Singers ensemble, To Wager Her Heart is a powerful love story about seeking justice and restoring honor at a time in American history when both were tenuous and hard-won.  

Sylas Rutledge, the new owner of the Northeast Line Railroad, invests everything he has into this venture, partly for the sake of the challenge. But mostly to clear his father’s name. One man holds the key to Sy’s success–General William Giles Harding of Nashville’s Belle Meade Plantation. But Harding is champagne and thoroughbreds, and Sy Rutledge is beer and bullocks.

Seeking justice . . .

Sy needs someone to help him maneuver his way through Nashville’s society, and when he meets Alexandra Jamison, he quickly decides he’s found his tutor. Only, he soon discovers that the very train accident his father is blamed for causing is what killed Alexandra Jamison’s fiancé–and has shattered her world.

Struggling to restore honor . . .    

Spurning an arranged marriage by her father, Alexandra instead pursues her passion for teaching at Fisk University, the first freedmen’s university in the United States. But family–and Nashville society–do not approve, and she soon finds herself cast out from both.

Through connections with the Harding family, Alexandra and Sy become unlikely allies. And despite her first impressions, Alexandra gradually finds herself coming to respect, and even care for this man. But how can she, when her heart is still spoken for? And when Sy’s roguish qualities and adventuresome spirit smack more of recklessness than responsibility and honor?

Sylas Rutledge will risk everything to win over the woman he loves. What he doesn’t count on is having to wager her heart to do it.

With fates bound by a shared tragedy, a reformed gambler from the Colorado Territory and a Southern Belle bent on breaking free from society’s expectations must work together to achieve their dreams – provided the truth doesn’t tear them apart first.

 

The Writing Desk by Rachel Hauck

My Review

The Writing Desk, by Rachel Hauck, opens by introducing us to Tenley Roth, a modern-day author. Tenley’s first novel was a blockbuster hit. However, now she is struggling to meet a deadline for her second novel.

We are then introduced to Elizabeth “Birdie” Shehorn, a young lady of the early 1900s who desperately wants to be an author.

Ms. Hauck has deftly interwoven two different eras into one compelling story.  As we travel back in time, our eyes are opened to the difficulties women, and in this case a young woman, had in being able to choose their avocation and suitor. Birdie’s mother was ruthless in her desire for Birdie to make a suitable marriage and would stop at almost nothing to achieve her goals for Birdie. Juxtaposed against Birdie’s life was Tenley’s. A modern day young woman. Tenley was able to make her own choices for her life. However, her fears held her hostage.

The secondary characters are well written and suitably fleshed out, causing you to either love or hate them as you get to know them for whom they are. Some of the situations of the key individuals are heart-wrenching. However, Ms. Hauck, without it seeming gratuitous, offers hope and encouragement through their faith, be it new or long-standing.

There are some adult situations, but they are not salacious. Nonetheless, I would caution parents to read the book first before allowing their teens to read it.

I received this book from NetGalley (I also received a copy yesterday, 8-8-17) from The Fiction Guild.  However, I was under no obligation to post a review.

Publisher’s Summary

Tenley Roth’s first book was a runaway bestseller. Now that her second book is due, she’s locked in fear. Can she repeat her earlier success or is she a fraud who has run out of inspiration?

With pressure mounting from her publisher, Tenley is weighted with writer’s block. But when her estranged mother calls asking Tenley to help her through chemotherapy, she packs up for Florida where she meets handsome furniture designer Jonas Sullivan and discovers the story her heart’s been missing.

A century earlier, another woman wrote at the same desk with hopes and fears of her own. Born during the Gilded Age, Birdie Shehorn is the daughter of the old money Knickerbockers. Under the strict control of her mother, her every move is decided ahead of time, even whom she’ll marry. But Birdie has dreams she doesn’t know how to realize. She wants to tell stories, write novels, make an impact on the world. When she discovers her mother has taken extreme measures to manipulate her future, she must choose between submission and security or forging a brand new way all on her own.

Tenley and Birdie are from two very different worlds, but fate has bound them together in a way time cannot erase.

My Heart Belongs on Mackinac Island: Maude’s Mooring by Carrie Fancett Pagels

My Review

Carrie Fancett Pagels aptly transports us back in time to 1895’s Mackinac Island, Michigan, in My Heart Belongs in Mackinac Island:  Maude’s Mooring.

Maude Welling, her father and her little brother Jack are all still grieving the loss of their mother/wife, though each in very different ways. Maude is more determined than ever to take over the reins of Winds of Mackinac Inn, her father is just as determined she won’t and Jack is determined to become the fastest runner in the United States.

Ms. Pagels descriptive language leaves you feeling the sounds and sights of Mackinac Island, from the grandeur of The Grand Hotel to the impoverishment of the maids. As you read, you feel as if you have truly stepped back in time to a very different life and era. Plus, interspersed throughout the book are tidbits and gems of mystery, love and betrayal.

I enjoyed reading another of the My Heart Belongs collection, and the fact it was written by Ms. Pagels made it even more enjoyable.

I received this book from the author through NetGalley and Barbour Publishing. However, I was under no obligation to post a review.

Publisher’s Summary

Journey now to Mackinac Island where…
A Tangled Gilded Age Love Story Unfolds.

Although the Winds of Mackinac Inn has been in her mother’s family for generations, Maude Welling’s father refuses to let her run it without the guidance of a husband. So she seeks to prove her worth and independence by working incognito as a maid at the Grand Hotel.

Undercover journalist Ben Steffans, posing as a wealthy industrialist, pursues a story about impoverished men chasing heiresses at the famed hotel.  While undercover, he becomes attracted to an intriguing maid. By an act of heroism Ben endears himself to the closed-mouthed islanders—including Maude—and he digs deep for his story.

But when scandal threatens, will the growing love between Maude and Ben be scuttled when truths are revealed?