Encouraging Heart & Home Blog Hop – March 29, 2017

I’ve been rather absent this week – not for any big reason, but just because I’m enjoying the time with my family.  We’re heading into a really busy two weeks, and I haven’t wanted to pick up my computer when I could be hanging out with them before the whirlwind begins.  Does your life happen in seasons like that?

Exciting news!  The weekly blog hop formerly known as Hearts for Home has been updated with a new name and logo!  While we’re still dedicated to sharing encouraging and inspiring ideas for your home and family, there are a few new features.  Isn’t the new logo beautiful?

Blog Hop

That’s not the only new feature; the most clicked post each week will be entered to win a monthly prize package!  So share your favorite posts and link up your own to increase your chances of winning these great prizes. 

Tweet: Find encouragement for your heart and home at A Nest in the Rocks. This week’s blog hop is live! https://ctt.ec/epe5O+

All of this excitement is one reason I’m excited that …

A Nest in the Rocks is now one of the co-hosts for the weekly Encouraging Hearts and Home Blog link-up, which means that every Thursday you’ll find lots of great tips, recipes, and other family-friendly ideas listed throughout this post. If you’re a blogger, we’d love to have you link up your posts and join us. You can find information about the other co-hosts of this hop here.

The most clicked post from last week was 10 Homeschooling Strategies to Use with Your Resistant Child

Some of my favorite posts from last week were: 10 Homeschooling Strategies for Your Resistant Child.

Memory Quilt from Baby Clothes

Homeschoolers Can Get Creative with High School El

Spring Subway Art Free Printable | Intelligent Dom

If your post is listed above, please grab one of our ‘Featured Blogger’ buttons! Congratulations, and thanks for writing such inspiring posts.

Please share your family friendly posts with us!

The most clicked posts of each week will be entered to win a Monthly Giveaway!

So, be sure to 1) include your email when you link up and 2) share the link to Encouraging Hearts and Home via social media with your readers, fans and followers! 

By linking up you agree that if your blog post is selected to be featured on any of our hosts’ blogs that we can use an image from your post with a link back to your post. 

Monthly giveaway winners must be 18 yrs.+ and live in the USA. Winners will be given 48 hours to respond to winning email. Mailing and/or email address will be required to receive giveaway packages. You may only win 1 time in every 6 month period. 


Please share your family friendly posts with us!

The most clicked posts of each week will be entered to win a Monthly Giveaway! So, be sure to 1) include your email when you link up and 2) share the link to Encouraging Hearts and Home via social media with your readers, fans and followers! 

By linking up you agree that if your blog post is selected to be featured on any of our hosts’ blogs that we can use an image from your post with a link back to your post. 

Monthly giveaway winners must be 18 yrs.+. Winners not living in the USA will win a digital prize package, while USA winners will be shipped their prize via the USPS. Winners will be given 48 hours to respond to winning email. Mailing and/or email address will be required to receive giveaway packages. You may only win 1 time in every 6 month period.

Encouraging Hearts and Home Blog Hop – March 22, 2017

Blog Hop

We had the best time having book club this week – I can’t wait to tell you all about it!  Any guesses about which book we might have read?

Exciting news!  The weekly blog hop formerly known as Hearts for Home has been updated with a new name and logo!  While we’re still dedicated to sharing encouraging and inspiring ideas for your home and family, there are a few new features.  Isn’t the new logo beautiful?

Blog Hop

That’s not the only new feature; the most clicked post each week will be entered to win a monthly prize package!  So share your favorite posts and link up your own to increase your chances of winning these great prizes. 

Tweet: Find encouragement for your heart and home at A Nest in the Rocks. This week’s blog hop is live! https://ctt.ec/epe5O+

All of this excitement is one reason I’m excited that …

A Nest in the Rocks is now one of the co-hosts for the weekly Encouraging Hearts and Home Blog link-up, which means that every Thursday you’ll find lots of great tips, recipes, and other family-friendly ideas listed throughout this post. If you’re a blogger, we’d love to have you link up your posts and join us. You can find information about the other co-hosts of this hop here.

The most clicked post from last week was 7 Things to Know About Homeschooling Middle School.

Some of my favorite posts from last week were:

Petite Coconut Popovers

Mexican Rice and Beans

Coconut Cream Pound Cake

If your post is listed above, please grab one of our ‘Featured Blogger’ buttons! Congratulations, and thanks for writing such inspiring posts.

Please share your family friendly posts with us!

The most clicked posts of each week will be entered to win a Monthly Giveaway!

So, be sure to 1) include your email when you link up and 2) share the link to Encouraging Hearts and Home via social media with your readers, fans and followers! 

By linking up you agree that if your blog post is selected to be featured on any of our hosts’ blogs that we can use an image from your post with a link back to your post. 

Monthly giveaway winners must be 18 yrs.+ and live in the USA. Winners will be given 48 hours to respond to winning email. Mailing and/or email address will be required to receive giveaway packages. You may only win 1 time in every 6 month period. 


Please share your family friendly posts with us!

The most clicked posts of each week will be entered to win a Monthly Giveaway! So, be sure to 1) include your email when you link up and 2) share the link to Encouraging Hearts and Home via social media with your readers, fans and followers! 

By linking up you agree that if your blog post is selected to be featured on any of our hosts’ blogs that we can use an image from your post with a link back to your post. 

Monthly giveaway winners must be 18 yrs.+. Winners not living in the USA will win a digital prize package, while USA winners will be shipped their prize via the USPS. Winners will be given 48 hours to respond to winning email. Mailing and/or email address will be required to receive giveaway packages. You may only win 1 time in every 6 month period. 

“Her Secret” by Shelley Shepard Gray

Shelley Shepard Gray

After a stalker went too far, Hannah Hilty and her family had no choice but to leave the bustling Amish community where she grew up. Now she’s getting a fresh start in Hart County, Kentucky…if only she wasn’t too scared to take it. Hannah has become afraid to trust anyone-even Isaac, the friendly Amish man who lives next door. She wonders if she’ll ever return to the trusting, easy-going woman she once was.
 
For Isaac Troyer, the beautiful girl he teasingly called “The Recluse” confuses him like no other. When he learns of her past, he knows he’s misjudged her. However, he also understands the importance of being grateful for God’s gifts, and wonders if they will ever have anything in common. But as Hannah and Isaac slowly grow closer, they realize that there’s always more to someone than meets the eye.

 

Just as Hannah is finally settling into her new life, and perhaps finding a new love, more secrets are revealed and tragedy strikes. Now Hannah must decide if she should run again or dare to fight for the future she has found in Hart County.
 
Gray has nailed the stalker situation perfectly in her new book Her Secret.  From Hannah’s fears to reactions to changes in her environment, Gray describes the reactions of a stalker’s victim perfectly.
 
That realism is what made this book so exciting.  While the love story is fun, it was that combination along with the suspense of Hannah’s situation that kept the pages turning.  As someone who was stalked years ago – and still prefers to keep her back to the wall in a crowded room – I could totally relate to Hannah’s fears throughout the book.  I enjoyed the safe places and friends with which Hannah was surrounded, however, and that made Her Story a fun and suspenseful read.
 
I love the way that Gray reinvents each new series that she writes.  Her Amish books are typically touching; the historical fiction are suspenseful, but this was definitely a great combination of the two, and I love the way that Gray combines the realistic, dangerous situation with the Amish setting.  I hope that it’s not a situation that ever occurs for any Amish women, but it’s a very exciting concept.
 
I can’t wait to see where Gray is going with the next book in the series. 
 
 

 
About the author:
 
Shelley Shepard Gray is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author, a finalist for the American Christian Fiction Writers prestigious Carol Award, and a two-time HOLT Medallion winner. She lives in southern Ohio, where she writes full-time, bakes too much, and can often be found walking her dachshunds on her town’s bike trail.
 
Visit our blogLike us on FacebookFollow us on TwitterFind us on Pinterest
 
I received a free copy of this book from LitFuse Publicity.  All opinions are my own.

Field Work Friday – Berry Hill Resort

It’s probably the last place you’d expect to find a bunch of kids – but the Berry Hill Resort and Conference Center is exactly where we went.Berry Hill

Berry Hill was part of a land grant from the British Crown decades before the American Revolution.  The estate was protected from destruction during wartime by the owner’s wealth and political clout and has a long and colorful history.

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Berry Hill has it’s own historian and tour guide, and this retired teacher gives a great tour.  He took us through the mansion, room by room, telling funny stories and sharing how the building has changed over time.

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The main hall is just as impressive as the outside of the mansion.  With twin staircases, this room highlights the original mistress’s favorite aspect of the building:  symmetry.  The downstairs also features marble baseboards from the same quarry as Michelangelo’s David.

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Our guide pointed out more of the unique symmetrical elements around the building – including extra doors that lead only to the wall.  Everyone was amused by that!

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Twenty years ago, the estate was purchased by a French corporation who renovated it extensively.  This beautiful pool was one of their additions!

After visiting the mansion, the pool, and the new on-site hotel, we ate lunch in Darby’s Tavern.  Situated in the old kitchen, we feasted on gourmet sandwiches and salads and played in the beautiful, spring sunshine.

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After lunch, we headed off to explore more of the grounds.  Now encompassing 650 acres, there are many trails leading to historic sites, and we made great use of them.

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We found these old stone remnants near a creek, and we had fun poking around, trying to see if we can figure out how it looked originally.

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The kids also had fun playing near the creek and catching frogs.  My Little Man couldn’t resist this one!

Berry Hill Resort and Conference Center is a beautiful place.  We enjoyed learning about its varied past, but this National Historic Landmark has a bright future.  Now often used for weddings, parties, and conferences, it would make a wonderful venue for any occasion. Should you visit southern Virginia, be sure to check it out.

Encouraging Hearts & Home Blog Hop – March 15, 2017

Spring is coming

This looks so like spring to me!  The weather was sunny and super warm that day.  We wandered all over Duke Gardens, looking for turtles and pretty flowers, but this week … it’s cold, sleeting, and definitely not feeling spring-like anymore.  What’s the weather like where you live?

Exciting news!  The weekly blog hop formerly known as Hearts for Home has been updated with a new name and logo!  While we’re still dedicated to sharing encouraging and inspiring ideas for your home and family, there are a few new features.  Isn’t the new logo beautiful?

Blog Hop

That’s not the only new feature; the most clicked post each week will be entered to win a monthly prize package!  So share your favorite posts and link up your own to increase your chances of winning these great prizes. 

Tweet: Find encouragement for your heart and home at A Nest in the Rocks. This week’s blog hop is live! https://ctt.ec/epe5O+

All of this excitement is one reason I’m excited that …

A Nest in the Rocks is now one of the co-hosts for the weekly Encouraging Hearts and Home Blog link-up, which means that every Thursday you’ll find lots of great tips, recipes, and other family-friendly ideas listed throughout this post. If you’re a blogger, we’d love to have you link up your posts and join us. You can find information about the other co-hosts of this hop here.

The most clicked post from last week was Free Homeschool Curriculum – The Ultimate Resource List.

Some of my favorite posts from last week were:

St. Patrick’s Day Science: Making Green Soda Pop

DIY Farmhouse Table

20 Middle School Hobbies for Education

If your post is listed above, please grab one of our ‘Featured Blogger’ buttons! Congratulations, and thanks for writing such inspiring posts.

Please share your family friendly posts with us!

The most clicked posts of each week will be entered to win a Monthly Giveaway!

So, be sure to 1) include your email when you link up and 2) share the link to Encouraging Hearts and Home via social media with your readers, fans and followers! 

By linking up you agree that if your blog post is selected to be featured on any of our hosts’ blogs that we can use an image from your post with a link back to your post. 

Monthly giveaway winners must be 18 yrs.+ and live in the USA. Winners will be given 48 hours to respond to winning email. Mailing and/or email address will be required to receive giveaway packages. You may only win 1 time in every 6 month period. 


The most clicked posts of each week will be entered to win a Monthly Giveaway! So, be sure to 1) include your email when you link up and 2) share the link to Encouraging Hearts and Home via social media with your readers, fans and followers! 

By linking up you agree that if your blog post is selected to be featured on any of our hosts’ blogs that we can use an image from your post with a link back to your post. 

Monthly giveaway winners must be 18 yrs.+. Winners not living in the USA will win a digital prize package, while USA winners will be shipped their prize via the USPS. Winners will be given 48 hours to respond to winning email. Mailing and/or email address will be required to receive giveaway packages. You may only win 1 time in every 6 month period.

Easy Cheesy Spanish Rice

Spanish Rice

I love being able to help people out, so when someone asked for our Easy, Cheesy Spanish Rice recipe, I excitedly said, “Sure!”

My kids love this rice.  They cheer every time I make it and fight over the leftovers – of which there’s never much.  It’s easy to throw together, full of flavor, and makes a great side dish.  We love to eat it alongside tacos, enchiladas, nachos, or just beside a big taco salad.

Everyone in our house loves rice, so I tend to make a double batch each time we make it.  That means we’re ending up with a large bowl of this Spanish rice, but that’s okay – it’s good and moist, so it reheats well.  Not that there is much of this left – we usually eat the majority of it.

I make this rice in my rice cooker; I bought this appliance at a great discount last year after struggling to cook different varieties of brown rice properly.  The procedure should work just the same, however, for preparing regular not-minute rice.

Easy Cheesy Spanish Rice

Ingredients

  • rice
  • chicken stock
  • water
  • olive oil
  • salsa
  • shredded cheese (Monterey Jack, Colby Jack, or cheddar)

Instructions

  1. Measure your rice directed.
  2. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil.
  3. Replace 1/2 of the water with chicken stock.
  4. Add 1/2 c. of salsa.
  5. Replace the remaining missing liquid with water.
  6. Cook as directed.
  7. Stir in 1/2 - 3/4 c. of shredded cheese.
  8. Cover rice again, let sit for 2-3 minutes or until cheese is melted.
  9. Serve hot.
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‘Home at Last” by Deborah Raney

Deborah Raney

Link Whitman has settled into the role of bachelor without ever intending to. Now he’s stuck in a dead-end job and, as the next Whitman wedding fast approaches, he is the last one standing. The pressure from his sisters’ efforts to play matchmaker is getting hard to bear as Link pulls extra shifts at work, and helps his parents at the Chicory Inn.
All her life, Shayla Michaels has felt as if she straddled two worlds. Her mother’s white family labeled her African American father with names Shayla didn’t repeat in polite-well, in any company. Her father’s family disapproved as well, though they eventually embraced Shayla as their own. After the death of her mother, and her brother Jerry’s incarceration, life has left Shayla’s father bitter, her niece, Portia, an orphan, and Shayla responsible for them all. She knows God loves them all, but why couldn’t people accept each other for what was on the inside? For their hearts?
Everything changes one icy morning when a child runs into the street and Link nearly hits her with his pickup. Soon he is falling in love with the little girl’s aunt, Shayla, the beautiful woman who runs Coffee’s On, the bakery in Langhorne. Can Shayla and Link overcome society’s view of their differences and find true love? Is there hope of changing the sometimes-ugly world around them into something better for them all?
 Home at Last is a fitting and exciting conclusion to the Chicory Inn series.  I loved the romance of the series and the real-life problems that fill it.  Home at Last wraps up most of the family issues and gives them a satisfactory conclusion.
It didn’t all happen the way that I expected, though.  I wasn’t far into this last book before I was sure that I knew how it was going to end.  I thought I had the perfect solution to each person’s problems, but Raney totally through me for a loop there.  While I had one main event right, the rest all had twists that I hadn’t foreseen.  Being surprised by a book is always a happy thing.
One of my favorite aspects of this series is the way that Raney weaves the stories of the family members together.  I love the way that each story begins in a book prior to the one that tells their story and then continues on into other books.  Lane and Shayla’s story was shorter than the others since this is the last book, but their ending is satisfying.
Raney tackled big issues with each book:  adoption, social/economic status, race, family, etc.  This last one, with racial tension running high through each page, takes the suspense to a whole ‘nother level.  She asks you to really put yourself into Shayla’s shoes and consider all aspects of the events happening to her.  I appreciate this honest appraisal of the racial tension plaguing our country and enjoy Lane’s desire to improve them.
I hope that Raney has a new series on deck.  I wouldn’t want to have to wait long for more of her work. 

About the author:
 
Deborah Raney‘s novels have won numerous awards including the RITA, National Readers’ Choice Award, HOLT Medallion, the Carol Award, and have three times been Christy Award finalists. She and her husband, Ken Raney have traded small-town life in Kansas-the setting of many of Deb’s novels-for life in the city of Wichita.
Find out more about Deborah at http://deborahraney.com.
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I received a free copy of this book from LitFuse Publicity,  All opinions are my own.

Interviewing Author Chris Grabenstein

Disclosure Pic

It started with the happiest of emails.  Not the fake “you’ve-won-a-million-dollars” type, but the a real from-the-personal-assistant “Congratulations!  You’ve won!” type.  In this instance, though, the prize was a thirty-minute interview with Chris Grabenstein for my students.

It would be exciting to interview any children’s author.  We love books and love reading, so being able to ‘get inside their heads’ is awesome in and of itself.  We’ve met Chris Grabenstein, however, and know that he’s not only a gifted and creative author, but also an incredibly kind man.  We knew this would be a fantastic opportunity.

Chris Grabenstein

We invited all of our book club kids, took interview questions from far-away friends, and planned our room set-up.  This was a big deal, since we don’t have access to projectors, big screens, or serious microphone power.   Because the interview would happen via Skype, I wanted everyone to be able to see the laptop screen as much as possible.  To personalize the interview and keep questions clear and easy to hear, Mr. Grabenstein requested that the question-asker sit directly in front of the laptop – so we needed to be able to move around, too.

Chris Grabenstein

We figured it out, and on the day of the interview, the kids showed up with papers full of questions and nervous giggles erupting frequently.  We talked about the time delay that happens when talking with Skype, about the importance of being polite, about listening to other people’s questions so we don’t repeat a lot, etc., and then it was time.

Skype didn’t connect at first, and then my phone rang:  it was Mr. Grabenstein, checking in for the interview!  We were soon able to make the Skype connection – but how wonderful is it that he would go that extra mile?

Mr. Grabenstein talked with us for a moment, and then let us jump right in with questions.  He continued that for the full half hour.  Several of the questions asked could have been answered with very short answers, but he told funny stories for each, sharing his history, giving lots of information, and making the asker feel important with each one.

Chris Grabenstein

I’m sure that many of the questions we asked are the same questions that he fields all the time, but what impressed me most about his answers was that he formatted them just like his books:  to be funny stories with great themes and truths in each one. 

When a student asked about his writing inspiration, he didn’t get just an answer, but a mini writing lesson in comic form.  When a student asked whether he always wanted to write, we heard about his professional journey, including his motivation, the hard work he put in, and the education he has that played a role.

I especially loved his writing-inspiration answer, and it made an impression on  my kids, too.  In fact, as we walked through the NC Museum of Art yesterday, I heard one of them muttering, “What if …. we were here, alone, at night, and ….”

Chris Grabenstein’s enthusiasm for writing has been a boost for my kids’ confidence in themselves as writers and as creative people.  We’re seeing story possibilities everywhere now, and I love how much happier they are to write.

Chalk up another win for Chris Grabenstein.

We’re big Grabenstein fans around here.  To read more about our other interactions, check out these posts:

These are our favorite Grabenstein books:

To find Grabenstein curriculum, including unit studies, party printables, recipes, and STEM activities, visit my TpT store here.

The Encouraging Hearts & Home Blog Hop – March 8, 2017

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My Little Man just finished his very first history project!  We conducted an interview, played detective, wrote up his conclusions, created a bibliography, and mailed it off to the competition.  It was very exciting! 

Exciting news!  The weekly blog hop formerly known as Hearts for Home has been updated with a new name and logo!  While we’re still dedicated to sharing encouraging and inspiring ideas for your home and family, there are a few new features.  Isn’t the new logo beautiful?

Blog Hop

That’s not the only new feature; the most clicked post each week will be entered to win a monthly prize package!  So share your favorite posts and link up your own to increase your chances of winning these great prizes. 

Tweet: Find encouragement for your heart and home at A Nest in the Rocks. This week’s blog hop is live! https://ctt.ec/epe5O+

All of this excitement is one reason I’m excited that …

A Nest in the Rocks is now one of the co-hosts for the weekly Encouraging Hearts and Home Blog link-up, which means that every Thursday you’ll find lots of great tips, recipes, and other family-friendly ideas listed throughout this post. If you’re a blogger, we’d love to have you link up your posts and join us. You can find information about the other co-hosts of this hop here.

The most clicked post from last week was Little House on the Prairie Literature Unit Study Resources: A Comprehensive Collection.

Some of my favorite posts from last week were:

Butterscotch French Toast Bake

Chocolate Almond Croissant Bread

20 Middle School Hobbies for Education

If your post is listed above, please grab one of our ‘Featured Blogger’ buttons! Congratulations, and thanks for writing such inspiring posts.

Please share your family friendly posts with us!

The most clicked posts of each week will be entered to win a Monthly Giveaway!

So, be sure to 1) include your email when you link up and 2) share the link to Encouraging Hearts and Home via social media with your readers, fans and followers! 

By linking up you agree that if your blog post is selected to be featured on any of our hosts’ blogs that we can use an image from your post with a link back to your post. 

Monthly giveaway winners must be 18 yrs.+ and live in the USA. Winners will be given 48 hours to respond to winning email. Mailing and/or email address will be required to receive giveaway packages. You may only win 1 time in every 6 month period. 


Please share your family friendly posts with us!

The most clicked posts of each week will be entered to win a Monthly Giveaway! So, be sure to 1) include your email when you link up and 2) share the link to Encouraging Hearts and Home via social media with your readers, fans and followers! 

By linking up you agree that if your blog post is selected to be featured on any of our hosts’ blogs that we can use an image from your post with a link back to your post. 

Monthly giveaway winners must be 18 yrs.+. Winners not living in the USA will win a digital prize package, while USA winners will be shipped their prize via the USPS. Winners will be given 48 hours to respond to winning email. Mailing and/or email address will be required to receive giveaway packages. You may only win 1 time in every 6 month period.

“The Elusive Miss Ellison” by Carolyn Miller

Disclosure Pic

Handsome appearance counts for naught unless matched by good character and actions.

That’s the firm opinion of not-so-meek minister’s daughter Lavinia Ellison. So even though all the other villagers of St. Hampton Heath are swooning over the newly returned seventh Earl of Hawkesbury, she is not impressed. If a man won’t take his responsibilities seriously and help those who are supposed to be able to depend on him, he deserves no respect from her. In Lavinia’s pretty, gray eyes, Nicholas Stamford is just as arrogant and reckless as his brother–who stole the most important person in Livvie’s world.

Nicholas is weighed down by his own guilt and responsibility, by the pain his careless brother caused, and by the legacy of war he’s just left. This quick visit home to St. Hampton Heath will be just long enough to ease a small part of that burden. Asking him to bother with the lives of the villagers when there’s already a bailiff on the job is simply too much to expect.

That is, until the hoydenish, intelligent, and very opinionated Miss Ellison challenges him to see past his pain and pride. With her angelic voice in his head, he may even be beginning to care. But his isn’t the only heart that needs to change.

These two lonely hearts may each have something the other needs. But with society’s opposition, ancestral obligations, and a shocking family secret, there may be too many obstacles in their way.

Carolyn Miller

If you’re a fan of Regency romance, you’ll love The Elusive Miss EllisonIt has it all – inter-class attraction, a poor village in need of attention, a faith journey by one unaware, slanderous gossip by the wealthy, drama, tragedy, and more.   I think Miller’s book would attract even those unfamiliar with this time period because of the great drama and repartee that lies within these pages.

I loved the descriptions.  From ball gowns to wild blossoms by the roadway, Miller set the backdrop to each scene well.  I could picture how it must look and loved the extra oomph that gave to the story.

Nicholas is a very complex character.  With much tragedy in his past and unwanted responsibility now sitting on his shoulders, he struggles to deal with it all, and yet he comes across as a now-honorable man, at least most of the time.  I found myself wanting him to fare well even when he wasn’t behaving well, and yet you could see the man that he could be. 

The best element to Miller’s writing, though, was the way that she wrote subtle mysteries into the story.  This wasn’t an ordinary historical romance; she fed you small pieces of backstory at unexpected times, often when you hadn’t been sure there was even more to tell.  I loved the way that more kept coming just when I wanted it.

There are more books coming soon in the Regency Brides series – I can’t wait to read them.

You can read other reviews on this bloggy hop here or purchase your own copy here.

 
About the author:
 
Carolyn Miller lives in New South Wales, Australia, with her husband and four children. A longtime lover of Regency romance, Carolyn’s novels have won a number of RWA and ACFW contests. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and Australasian Christian Writers.
 
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I received a free copy of this book from LitFuse Publicity.  All opinions are my own.