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.

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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.)

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?

Whispering Pines (The Langtry Sisters) by Scarlett Dunn

My Review

Rose Langtry’s trip home is anything but the expected. First, her brother is almost hung by her neighbor, Morgan LeMasters; then after securing her brother’s safety, Rose is injured in a horrific stage coach accident.

Morgan LeMasters can’t believe the injured beauty he rescues was once the little girl that feared him, nor that she so staunchly defends her cattle rustling thief of a brother.

I was instantly engrossed in Whispering Pines by Scarlett Dunn. The story doesn’t follow the usual formula of romance and love. Instead, it is compelling and eventful.  There are scenes of suspense, intrigue and revenge and also scenes of faith, forgiveness and love. Some scenes are horribly disturbing and grisly. However, they perfectly illustrate the depravity of one character. Also, a few segments are borderline risque.

I fell in love with “Granny,” Rose’s grandmother, who raised her. She is tough and resilient and loves those around her mightily. Most of the main characters’ love her too and call her Granny, even though they aren’t related to her.

Whispering Pines is the first book in The Langtry Sisters collection. In this novel, we briefly glimpse the other two sisters, Adelaide and Emma, creating anticipation for the next two installments.

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

Publisher’s Summary

In Scarlett Dunn’s heartfelt inspirational series, three sisters return home to beautiful, enigmatic Whispering Pines, Colorado, and discover the men who’ll claim their love . . .

As a young girl, Rose Langtry feared her gruff, handsome rancher neighbor. Coming back to Colorado after five years, she’s outraged to find Morgan LeMasters ready to hang her brother for rustling and theft. But when the resulting skirmish leaves her injured, Morgan’s tender care turns her unease to unexpected closeness . . . and admiration.

Stopping Frankie Langtry and his gang has long been Morgan’s priority, yet he can’t resist Rose’s pleas for mercy. As brave and spirited as she is soft-hearted, Rose needs support to keep her family farm from going under, and a marriage of convenience will provide it. Morgan hardly dares admit, even to himself, his longing for a deeper, truer union. But her brother’s grudge is bringing danger back to Whispering Pines, and it’ll take forgiveness, courage—and a bond built on faith—to create a family and a future together . . .

 

The Return by Suzanne Woods Fisher

My Review

Suzanne Woods Fisher’s newest book, The Return, centers around the Amish in Beacon Hollow, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, in 1763 and is inspired by real events.

Betsy Zook and her little brother Johnny are captured by Indians and forced to march on a long, arduous journey, only to be separated at the end.

Ms. Fisher draws you into the story and doesn’t let you go. Even after the story is over, you relive the events.

I greatly enjoyed this story. The extensive research was very evident, and the story heart-rending and spellbinding. However, there were a few scenes (due to PTSD) that were deeply disturbing. Nonetheless, they were authentic to the circumstances. This is not your typical Amish tale. Intrigue, heartache, betrayal and revenge factor into the account along with redemption, forgiveness, love and hope.

The Return is book three of the Amish Beginnings by Suzanne Woods Fisher. However, I have not read the other two books, and I seriously doubt I would love Betsy or enjoy the book more had I read the other two stories first.

If you are looking for a fascinating story of early America with Amish as the protagonists, you need look no further.

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

Publisher’s Summary

Beautiful and winsome, Betsy Zook never questioned her family’s rigid expectations, nor those of devoted Hans, but then she never had to. Not until the night when she’s taken captive in a surprise Indian raid. During her captivity, Betsy faces brutality and hardship, but also unexpected kindness. She draws strength from native Caleb, who encourages her to find God in all circumstances. She finds herself torn between her pious upbringing and the intense new feelings this compelling man awakens within her.

Handsome and complex, Hans is greatly anguished by Betsy’s captivity and turns to Tessa Bauer for comfort. Eagerly, Tessa responds, overlooking troubling signs of Hans’s hunger for revenge. When Betsy is finally restored to the Amish, have things gone too far between Hans and Tessa?

Inspired by true events, this deeply layered novel gives a glimpse into the tumultuous days of prerevolutionary Pennsylvania through the eyes of two young, determined, and faith-filled women.

Heart on the Line by Karen Witemeyer

Publisher’s Summary

Grace Mallory is tired of running, of hiding. But when an old friend sends an after-hours telegraph transmission warning Grace that the man who has hunted her for nearly a year has discovered her location, she fears she has no choice. She can’t let the villain she believes responsible for her father’s death release his wrath in Harper’s Station, the town that has sheltered her and blessed her with the dearest friends she’s ever known.

Amos Bledsoe prefers bicycles to horses and private conversations over the telegraph wire to social gatherings with young ladies who see him as nothing more than an oddity. His telegraph companion, the mysterious Miss G, listens eagerly to his ramblings every night and delights him with tales all her own. For months, their friendship–dare he believe, courtship?–has fed his hope that he has finally found the woman God intended for him. Yet when he takes the next step to meet her in person, he discovers her life is in peril, and Amos must decide if he can shed the cocoon of his quiet nature to become the hero Grace requires.

My review

Grace Mallory has spent the last year hiding in the all-female town of Harper’s Station. She had learned the art of telegraphy and uses her experience to work in the town’s telegraph office. However, a sinister man tracking her finds her hideout. Now her life and the lives of her friends are in danger.

Amos Bledsoe, bicycle rider extraordinaire and telegraph operator in Dennison, Texas, overhears a startling message for Grace and sets out to help defend her.

Heart on the Line is written In Miss Witemeyer’s traditional style with lots of humor, intrigue, suspense and tales of the wild west! She also infuses all of her heroines with an ability to fend for themselves, along with a strong, unwavering faith in God.

I savored Heart on the Line. Grace’s courage and spunkiness were integral to the story and held me riveted, wanting to know how she could extricate herself from her dire circumstances.  I am sure if you enjoy historical fiction mixed with a little romance, you will enjoy this newest story in the Harper’s Station Series.

Karen Witemeyer has written another superb book about life in the late 1800’s. Heart on the Line is book two of the Ladies of Harper Station Series. However, it is great as a standalone. I didn’t even realize it was part of a series. (I had read the first book last year and vaguely recognized a few of the town’s inhabitants in the newest book.)

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

Such a Tease (Meddlin’ Madeline Book 2) by Chautona Havig

Publisher’s Summary

Madeline, with a little assistance, discovers her old adversary is gaining a following in Rockland! Can she expose him for the fraud she’s sure he is?

Rockland:1901
In book two of the Meddlin’ Madeline series, Madeline Brown has a new endeavor to occupy her time. But is it to keep her out of the way or a reward for her work in Sweet on You? With the help of her young friends, Madeline discovers her old adversary is gaining a following in Rockland! What’s a girl to do?

However, her new position also gives her opportunities to observe, and what she sees sets more than one new investigation in motion. What does her old suitor, Delbert Jackson, know? Why is Mr. Merton giving important papers to that scoundrel, Vernon Smythe, and whatever happened to poor Abigail Cooper?

Add to these intriguing questions Henry Hardwick’s continued attentions, Edith’s newfound devotion to the temperance movement and Madeline’s determination to find her a more reliable suitor, and strange behavior from her Aunt Louisa and things heat up as summer fades from Rockland.

Unfortunately, her dear friend, Russell, busy with an important project at work, finds himself unable to help keep her out of trouble and away from danger. Is Madeline going too far? Will her meddling get her in serious trouble this time, will it destroy her reputation irreparably, or will she rid Rockland of a scoundrel once and for all?

My Review

Madeline is now stretching her wings in book two of the Meddlin’ Madeline series. She has taken a job as a bank teller, a job some feel, as a woman, she has no business doing. Others are thankful it will keep her out of trouble. Well, they just don’t know Madeline very well!

Such A Tease picks up not long after Sweet on You (see review here).  Even though you could read it without reading the first book, I feel you will get more out of book two if you read book one first. In Sweet on You, the cast of characters and the investigative skills of Madeline appear.

I love Madeline; she’s spunky, sassy, outspoken and virtually fearless. She sees something unusual or disconcerting, and she “teases” it like a dog with a bone, until she figures it out. She also has a deep abiding faith, surprising herself sometimes with how much she believes.

Chautona Havig has a keen imagination and a wicked sense of humor spilling into her stories, making them a delight to read. Her attention to detail and obvious research into the era she’s writing about lend a richness to her books that makes you eager for the next installment.

I received this book from Celebrate Lit. However, I was under no obligation to write a review.

Such a Tease was part of this blog tour, but due to illness, I had not read it, and I was unable to do a review in the time for the tour.

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.