“The Courier of Caswell Hall” by Melanie Dobson

 

As the British and Continental armies wage war in 1781, the daughter of a wealthy Virginia plantation owner feels conflict raging in her own heart. Lydia Caswell comes from a family of staunch Loyalists, but she cares only about peace. Her friend Sarah Hammond, however, longs to join the fight. Both women’s families have already been divided by a costly war that sets father against son and neighbor against neighbor; a war that makes it impossible to guess who can be trusted.

One snowy night Lydia discovers a wounded man on the riverbank near Caswell Hall, and her decision to save him will change her life. Nathan introduces her to a secret network of spies, couriers, disguises, and coded messages—a network that may be the Patriots’ only hope for winning the war. When British officers take over Caswell Hall and wreak havoc on neighboring plantations, Lydia will have to choose between loyalty and freedom; between her family’s protection and her own heart’s desires.

As both armies gather near Williamsburg for a pivotal battle, both Lydia and Sarah must decide how high a price they are willing to pay to help the men they love.

Part of the American Tapestries™ series: Each standalone novel in this line sets a heart-stirring love story against the backdrop of an epic moment in American history. This is the fifth book in the series.


This is the best historical fiction I’ve read since the last time I’ve read a Melanie Dobson novel.  There’s just something about this author who is able to transport me completely to whatever time and place she chooses.  Her unique perspective helps to set her books apart from others; The Courier of Caswell Hall focuses on the many roles women played in the Revolutionary War – and I don’t mean from inside their kitchens, either.

I loved Lydia’s story.  I can’t imagine just how scary it must have been, knowing that to choose a side and lose, all principles aside, could mean the loss of your family’s security and social standing – things which mean little eternally but which can mean a great deal as you live through their loss.  I feel as if I can relate just a tiny bit more now for having read this story.

Lydia’s wasn’t the only fascinating one here, however.  I’ve always been interested in the role of women in early American wars since reading about Deborah Sampson as a kid, and Dobson included many such stories discreetly throughout this book.  It is fascinating to know that there were women, people who society completely ignored militarily, who felt so strong as to step out in courageous ways to fight for their country.

The Courier of Caswell Hall has found its way onto my bookshelf.  My children will be reading this when they’re older and studying the Revolution – not only to put themselves into the position of choosing which side to take, but also to use as a research starter – to take the details of this story and go find which ones are true.

I’d like to know that myself.

Click here to read other reviews on this bloggy hop or here to purchase your own copy now.

 
 
Melanie Dobson is the author of twelve novels; her writing has received numerous accolades including two Carol Awards. Melanie worked in public relations for fifteen years before she began writing fiction full-time. Born and raised in the Midwest, she now resides with her husband and two daughters in Oregon.
 
Connect with Melanie at: http://melaniedobson.com
 
I received a free copy of this book from LitFuse Publicity in exchange for an honest review.

“Courageous” by Randy Alcorn

I had mixed feelings about reading the new Courageous novel.  I knew the movie would be good – how could the makers of Fireproof and Facing the Giants make anything else? – but I wasn’t so sure about a book made from a movie.

Alcorn’s Courageous far surpassed my expectations.

Adam is a long-time cop whose cynicism has pushed away his son and affects his relationships with his wife and daughter.  Nathan is new in town and struggling to be involved with his three children and keep his faith active despite job pressures.  Javy struggles to support his family and leans heavily on his strong faith, but does his family share his views?  David has turned his back on his daughter and her mother completely.  As each strive to hold their head above water and survive despite intense stress, their perspective changes when tragedy strikes one man’s family.  Can his new views of eternity and his role as a father improve his relationships – and those around him?

Alcorn’s easy writing style makes it seem as if this novel happened before the movie.  It has none of the trademark novelization issues –  it’s easy to read, flows well, has a great vocabulary, and features a tight plot.  Each character sprang to life within the pages of this book and made me want to cheer them on in his efforts to become closer to God and family.  The conclusions reached by Adam and his friends prompted me to rethink the way that I interact with my own children and to wish for these types of friends myself.

The only thing that would make this book any better is a companion guide, as the Kendricks created for Fireproof.  A non-fiction book containing Adam’s resesarch, conclusions, and the scriptures he used would make a fantastic springboard for those wanting to delve deeper into this subject – just like The Love Dare did for Fireproof fans.

If you like action and suspense … if you like to laugh … if you like drama … if you have a family … if you are a parent … if you have friends … if you don’t but wish you did …. this is the book for you.  Don’t miss it.

I received a free copy of Courageous from Tyndale House in return for an honest review.

“The Company” by Chuck Graham

A meteor strike plunges the world into darkness. A stranger to the village of Brigos Glen restores power and light, supplied by three businesses, known as “The Company,” located beyond the forbidden mountains. The stranger reveals a plan so the Brigons can maintain the power and share the light with outlying territories, which remain shrouded in darkness.
 
 
Now, seventy years later, The Company summons six Brigons, including the young engineer Sam Mitchell, to attend a conference in the mountains of the forbidden Outlands. 
 
Responsible for compiling a report about Brigos Glen from his five companions, Sam learns how managers and villagers largely ignored the plan or compromised it to self-interest, forsaking their duty to share the light. They also took for granted The Company responsible for generating and transmitting the power.
 
In an ordeal fraught with failure, revelations, and judgment, Sam discovers the true identity behind The Company and learns the fate that may befall Brigos Glen . . . that is, unless he can stop it.
 
The Company is a futuristic allegory full of wonder and suspense.  At times the comparisons are easy to spot, at others more obscure, but throughout the book the actions of the other characters keep you on your toes.    One minute predictable, the next explosive, it was their own changing attitudes that paint the confusion and scenery of this story.  
 
Reminiscent of The Giver and Dekker’s new Mortal series, The Company plants you in the midst of a selfish, greedy world that has lost sight of compassion and kindness.  With a new, mysterious regime in charge and enemies at every turn, it is a bit difficult to relate to parts of the story – and yet this is exactly what makes certain characters who fight this mindset so appealing.  
 
There are many lessons to take away from a reading of The Company – lessons of kindness, forgiveness, compassion, honesty, truth – and that doesn’t begin to touch the true moral of the story, an understanding of the Trinity.  
 
Graham has written a complex first book – and I look forward to reading the next installment of Sam’s story, The Rise of New Power.
 
You can order your own copy of The Company here.
 
I received a free copy of The Company from LitFuse Publicity in exchange for an honest review.
 
Chuck Graham’s legal career as an attorney in private practice spanned more than thirty-one years. He represented many local, national, and international clients, acquiring intricate knowledge about the often-overlapping structures of the corporate world. He also worked against those seeking to create racial division, including the Ku Klux Klan. He has served as a member of the state bar of Georgia since 1979 and an instructor to attorneys and judges through the Institute for Continuing Legal Education (ICLE). He received the Medallion of Appreciation from ICLE.
 
Chuck is also a speaker and the author of Take the Stand (Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1996) and the compilations, A Year of Encouragement (Xulon Press).
 
In 1997 he founded Ciloa (Christ Is Lord Of All), a ministry devoted to sharing God’s encouragement with the world and teaching those who follow Him how to encourage others. Today Chuck serves as executive director and principal author of A Note of Encouragement, a weekly e-zine reaching 175 countries.
 
He and Beverly, his wife of thirty-four years, have lived in Lawrenceville, a suburb of Atlanta, for fourteen years. God has blessed them with three children. In his free time, Chuck enjoys backpacking and hiking (especially on the Appalachian Trail), playing the guitar, dabbling in photography, and reading extensively about the Christian faith. 

“Come to the Table” by Neta Jackson

Come to the Table, SouledOut Sisters Series #2

“If you give a cup of cold water to the least of these you will surely be rewarded.”  ~ Matthew 10:42

Neta Jackson’s newest book is based on this verse.  Kat Davies wants to share her food knowledge with those in need, but as a new Christian, how best can she do that?  This calling becomes particularly difficult when her new friends at church are not totally on board with the idea.  With relationship complications among her apartment mates, no teaching job in site, and jealousy looming on the love horizon, her summer is not shaping up as planned.  

With a large cast of characters, this book took me a chapter or two to figure out the role that each person played, but then I’m never good with names, and when this plot began to roll, it really moved.  I love the realism of the characters – Nick, Kat’s flatmate and love interest, felt pressure as a pastoral intern as well as maintain the proper image.  His mix of wisdom and innocence felt right for a person in his position.  Kat, however, was written beautifully.  As a young on-fire Christian, she wanted to follow Jesus but still had lots to learn.  Her passion and fire made her an exciting lead.

My favorite aspect of this book is the the way that Jackson melded faith lessons with real life and issues.   Jackson explores the issues of hunger in America and what we as Christians can do about it as Kat struggles to set up a food pantry in a Chicago neighborhood.  Jackson doesn’t pretend to have all the answers to these issues, but this book could serve as a great opener to a group wanting to discuss American hunger.

If you like contemporary novels, you should definitely check out Come to the Table.  It has a lot to offer.

I received a free copy of this book from B&B Media in exchange for an honest review.

‘The Clouds Roll Away’ by Sibella Giorello

Raleigh Harmon is a forensic geologist with a secret life as an FBI agent. Following her father’s death and her return to her Richmond hometown, she works a civil rights case with a famous victim and a drug-running task force when her files begin to intersect. With a suspicious boss, the return of a love interest and an emotionally frail mother, how will Raleigh solve the case without anyone else getting hurt – including herself?

Giorello writes beautiful, descriptive text that draws the reader in. Although seemingly distant at times, throughout the book Raleigh takes on a life of her own until she seems to be munching on a Big Mac right next to the reader. The history of the Richmond area is included in a realistic way, not only bringing the area to life but helping to round out the edges of Raleigh’s case. The plot keeps the reader in suspense while not being too over the top. While faith was definitely a part of Raleigh’s make-up, it seemed to be a distant part. A deeper exploration of her return to faith would have made her character’s transformation more complete.

My biggest concern with this book lies with its history. This is the second Raleigh Harmon book, and apparently much happens in the first book that is relevant to her Richmond roots – only it isn’t fully explained here. I felt as if I would have been better able to understand Raleigh throughout the first half of the book had Giorello taken a bit more time to explore her background here and catch new readers up to speed. This will not deter me from reading these books – they are very well written – but these are definitely not stand alone books. I will recommend these to my friends – starting with the first one.

I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their BookSneeze.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 “Guidelines Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

“The Christmas Singing” by Cindy Woodsmall

After Gideon Beiler breaks Mattie’s heart one Christmas eve, she flees her home in Apple Ridge, Pennsylvania, and opens her own cake shop in Ohio.  But when it burns down three years later, she’s forced to return to Apple Ridge.  Gideon has recently returned after a long absence, as well, and when thrown into close working quarters, Mattie finds that her new perception of him is not quite accurate.  Will her new boyfriend Sol and the dream of rebuilding her cake shop be enough to draw her back to Ohio – or can her dreams be found in Apple Ridge?

Cindy Woodsmall has crafted another winner!  With enough suspense and mystery about the past to keep you on the edge of your seat but the simplicity that Amish fans know and love, The Christmas Singing engages the reader and keeps them bound in Apple Ridge through the very last page.

One of my favorite features of this story are Mattie and Gideon themselves.  Not only are Mattie and Gideon flawed in ways that cause them serious problems, but they also break the stereotypical molds of Amish characters.  These elements work together to create people who seem about to leap off the page and into your living room.

To read an excerpt from this Christmas story and meet Gideon and Mattie for yourself, click here.

Author Cindy Woodsmall had her first experience with Plain living when she became best friends with a Mennonite girl.  As an adult she met Miriam, an Old Order Amish woman who has shared her life and stories.   Now a New York Times’ bestselling author, she pens her stories from her home in Georgia, where she lives with her husband, their three sons, and their two daughters-in-law.


I received a free copy of The Christmas Singing from Waterbrook Multnomah’s ‘Blogging for Books’ program in exchange for an honest review.

“The Christmas Quilt” by Vannetta Chapman

Annie’s life is deliciously full as the Christmas season approaches. She helps her husband, Samuel, attend to the community’s minor medical needs. She occasionally assists Belinda, the local midwife, and most days, she finds herself delivering the buggy to her brother Adam. Annie’s sister-in-law Leah is due to deliver their first child before Christmas morning, and Annie is determined to finish a crib quilt before the boppli arrives. With six weeks to go, she should have no problem . . . but God may have a different plan. Leah is rushed to the English hospital when the infant arrives early, and Annie discovers the Christmas quilt may hold a far greater significance than she ever imagined.

Do you ever get hung up on a detail?  I do.  I guess I’m persnickety like that, which is why it’s taken me so long to write this review.  I’ve written it dozens of times in my head and never felt that it’s quite right.

But, here goes.

I read the first book in this series and felt that both are very high quality.  They are written about an Old Order Amish community and many of those details are accurate.  The story is dramatic, the characters likeable, and the faith lessons deep.  Chapman is an excellent writer and that shines through every page of this book.

My problem?  It’s picky, I know, but … she set the book in Mifflin County, Pennsylvania, home of the most traditional white top community in the world.

It’s also where I grew up.

I grew up just a few miles from that community.  There were Amish kids in my elementary school.  We bought our strawberries from them every June so we could fill our freezer with jelly for the year.  We gave our chickens to Amish friends the summer after fifth grade when they outgrew us.  We shopped at the Belleville sale while I secretly eavesdropped, not to be rude but to practice my quite limited German skills.  My grandfather retired and became an Amish taxi driver and when he died, many Amish people came to his services.

The Amish culture of Mifflin County is distinctly different from that of Lancaster or Ohio.  Both of those are written about in many, many Amish fiction books, and the setting is clear throughout all of them.  There are inside bathrooms.  There are towns named Paradise and Intercourse.  People wear shoes and have mud sales.

In Mifflin County it’s different.  Old Order Amish aren’t required by law to have indoor plumbing.  Children run free with no shoes and no pastel dresses.  

Most Old Order Amish live in Belleville, or at least in Big Valley, which is a lengthy journey by buggy to Lewistown, the county seat.  It wouldn’t be a trip to be taken lightly.  It couldn’t happen in an afternoon unless by taxi driver, and certainly not by two very pregnant women.

There are general stores, two main ones in the Valley, and both are hugely popular tourist spots.  Everyone shops there, and you can get anything you’d like there.  They’re both great places.

So “The Christmas Quilt” frustrated me not because it was poorly written, because it wasn’t – but because these distinct details weren’t there.  Just like those details make a Lancaster County Amish book, adding in these details could have really made this book stand out.  Fleshing out the setting more would have made the story even more unique – because it really is, and it deserves the attention.  Those details spice up the story and give it a life-like quality that can’t be reproduced any other way.

I hope that Chapman writes another book in this series.  I enjoy the characters and would be interested to know what happens next in their saga – but please, highlight the setting.  Flesh out those details.  It will only add to the wonder of the story.

Read other reviews on this bloggy hop here, or purchase your own copy now.

 
Vannetta Chapman has published over one hundred articles in Christian family magazines, receiving over two dozen awards from Romance Writers of America chapter groups. She discovered her love for the Amish while researching her grandfather’s birthplace in Albion, Pennsylvania. Chapman lives in the Texas hill country with her husband.

Find out more at: http://www.quiltsoflovebooks.com


I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

“Christmas at Holly Hill” by Martha Rogers

 

Clayton Barlow is finally a free man.  After serving five years in prison for bank robbery, he’s eager to return home and prove to everyone that he’s a changed man.  Not everyone wants to give him a second chance, but his old friend Merry Lee Warner seems eager to resume their former friendship. When Barlow’s old gang returns to town and stirs up trouble, will anybody believe in his innocence, or will he forever lose his chance at love?

 

Christmas at Holly Hill is a sweet story of love and redemption.  Though some of the subplots are heartbreaking, Merry’s strong faith and innocence flavor the story.  Her belief that love is possible and that lives can be changed ultimately makes a difference not only to Clayton, but to others within the town, and it will cause a cynical reader to reconsider, as well.

 

Rogers’ smooth writing style draws the reader into the story. I couldn’t put this story down, and I didn’t want to.  With fun characters, an old-fashioned setting, and a beautiful holiday timbre, this is a great Christmas story.

 

I received a free copy of Christmas at Holly Hill from Charisma House in exchange for an honest review.

“The Choice” by Robert Whitlow

One young woman. Two very different roads. The choice will change everything.

Even as a pregnant, unwed teen in 1974, Sandy Lincoln wanted to do the right thing. But when an ageless woman approached her in a convenience store with a mysterious prophecy and a warning, doing the right thing became even more unclear. She made the best choice she could . . . and has lived with the consequences.

More than thirty years later, a pregnant teen has come into her life, and Sandy’s long-ago decision has come back to haunt her. The stakes rise quickly, leaving Sandy with split seconds to choose once more. But will her choice decision bring life . . . or death?

I have long been a fan of Robert Whitlow’s books, and this one was as dramatic as any other.  Almost epic in nature, it spanned more than thirty years of Sandy Lincoln’s life and encompassed those around her, as well.  Like some of his other books, this one has hints of supernatural influence and the actions of the characters are shaped by their faith.  The main character, Sandy, also had life-and-death decisions to make that dramatically influenced the rest of her life.

The Choice is a fascinating, informative read.  Whitlow writes as smoothly as ever with characters that could be your next-door neighbors.  The content and action will make you think about and question your possible course of action should you ever find yourself in a similar situation, and all of this lives up to the high standard set by Whitlow’s other stories; but there is one thing that I think was left out of this book that could have made it better.

Spoiler Alert:  I’ll try to be vague, but I will share a bit of information below.

The first half of the book was about Sandy’s options when she discovered that she was pregnant in 1974, and the second part of the book is about her interactions with a young, pregnant student in her school thirty  years later.  Sandy finds herself in trouble for the ways in which she counsels this student, and yet while those accusations at times may border on truth, Sandy never fully sits down and has a deep talk with Maria.  I felt as if she could have gone so much deeper with her – really sharing her own story, talking through the potential ramifications of the options, even playing the numbers game and helping her to see how she might be able to make things work – but Sandy does none of this.  Instead, she starts by sharing only the options that she considers valid and ends by countering the actions of the person upset with her.  While I don’t think  that abortion should be a valid choice, maybe Sandy should’ve been the one to explain to Maria exactly what the procedure means in detail.  In the story, there wasn’t a single person willing to explain all of the options without presenting her own agenda.  This really made me hurt for Maria and understand her confusion.

I’d love to say that this would be a great story for someone facing an unplanned pregnancy to read, but I’m not sure that’s the case.  While the reader can see that Whitlow doesn’t believe in abortion, this comes through in Sandy’s story but not as well in Maria’s.

So that is ultimately my take on this story.  While it was a great read and very informative, I’m not sure that it could provide someone with all of the information necessary to make this kind of choice.

In the end, however, no matter how Maria’s story evolved, making the right choice is highlighted, no matter how difficult it may seem.

If you want to go ahead and check this book out for yourself, you can purchase it here.  You can read other reviews on this bloggy tour here

 
Robert Whitlow is the best-selling author of legal novels set in the South and winner of the prestigious Christy Award for Contemporary Fiction. A Furman University graduate, Whitlow received his J.D. with honors from the University of Georgia School of Law where he served on the staff of the Georgia Law Review. A practicing attorney, Whitlow and his wife, Kathy, have four children. They make their home in North Carolina.  

For more about Robert and his other books, visit www.robertwhitlow.com.
 
I received a free copy of The Choice from LitFuse Publicity in exchange for an honest review.

“Chasing Mona Lisa” by Tricia Goyer and Mike Yorkey

It’s August of 1944 and Paris is about to be liberated from Nazi rule.  In a last-ditch effort to leave nothing of value behind, the Nazis plunder strongholds of art throughout the region and stash it further away from the approaching Allies.  While on a secret mission inside Paris, Swiss OSS agents Gabi Mueller and and Eric Hofstadler learn that the Mona Lisa is to be the next target.  Already hidden in the French countryside, can they beat the German thugs to it – or will the French lose their most treasured piece of art?

Chasing Mona Lisa begins with a bang, promising lots of action, and it doesn’t disappoint.  Agents Gabi and Eric are determined to save the Mona Lisa and protect it from falling into Nazi hands, but with French rebels and double agents everywhere you look, how are they to know who to trust?  I love the twists and turns as they struggle to stay a step ahead of the Germans.

So many World War II books are about the gruesome treatment of prisoners in the death camps, but this book takes a completely different angle.  While I knew that the Germans collected art and ravaged even private collections, I never really thought about what that meant: for the art world, for the owners, for future generations, for the German soldiers with a valuable bargaining chip in their pocket.  This book addresses those issues in a realistic, colorful way.

The only part of this story that I didn’t like was the waiting.  There were a few times when Gabi and Eric had to wait for information, to wait for directions, to wait for proper timing, and that frustrated me.  I wanted them to be on the move now, to save the painting now, and yet I realize that there world wasn’t like ours.  Without cell phones, with the danger of the Germans learning their plans or their covers being blown, they had to wait and make the best decisions possible.  How antsy and impatient they must have become! and so I realized that even those waiting times had a purpose, for it accurately portrayed what it must have been like to live at that time during the War.

Chasing Mona Lisa is the second installment of Gabi and Eric’s story.  I can’t wait to go back and read the first.

To watch the trailer of Chasing Mona Lisa or to read an excerpt,  visit here.

You can buy this book here.

This post is part of a blog tour about ‘Chasing Mona Lisa.’  To see more reviews of this book, visit the blog tour schedule.

Win an iTouch SPY Pack in the Chasing Mona Lisa Giveaway from @triciagoyer @mikeyorkey!

Chasing Mona Lisa is the
continuing tale of Gabi Mueller and Eric Hofstadler (first introduced in The
Swiss Courier
). This time the due are on a relentless quest to save the most famous
painting in the world  – the Mona Lisa. You can help Gabi and Eric
with your very own spy pack when you enter The Chasing Mona Lisa Giveaway!

One passionate protector will receive:

  • iTouch (The must-have device for any spy. Camera, Maps & Music.)
  • Starbucks Gift Card (For all those late nights.)
  • Moleskin Notebook (For those important notes.)
  • Invisible Ink Pen (Don’t want anyone reading those important notes.)
  • Chasing Mona Lisa by Tricia Goyer & Mike Yorkey (Great
    handbook and intriguing tale for any spy-in-training!)

Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends at noon on January 31st. The winner will be announced at the Chasing Mona Lisa Facebook Party on 1/31. Tricia and Mike will be hosting an author chat (on Facebook and Live from Tricia’s website) and giving away their books and a Book Club prize pack! (Ten copies of the book for your small group or book club AND a LIVE Author Chat for your group with Tricia and Mike.)

So grab your copy of Chasing Mona Lisa and join Tricia and Mike on the evening of the 31st for an author chat, spy training (do you know how to pick a lock? ) and lots of giveaways. 

Enter via E-mail Enter via FacebookEnter via Twitter

Don’t miss a moment of the fun. RSVP today and tell your friends via FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning. Hope to see you on the 31st!

Tricia Goyer is the coauthor of The Swiss Courier as well as the author of many other books, including Night Song and Dawn of a Thousand Nights, both past winners of the ACFW’s Book of the Year Award for Long Historical Romance. Goyer lives with her family in Arkansas. For more about Tricia and her other books visitwww.triciagoyer.com 
 
 
  Mike Yorkey is the author or coauthor of dozens of books, including The Swiss Courier and the bestselling Every Man’s Battle series. Married to a Swiss native, Yorkey lived in Switzerland for 18 months. He and his family currently reside in California. For more about Mike  and his other books visit www.mikeyorkey.com 

Thanks, LitFuse, for providing this book in exchange for an honest review.