“A Letter from Lancaster County” by Kate Lloyd

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Two sisters get a second chance at life and love
 
Angela—Her mother’s untimely death, a struggling marriage, a strained relationship with her sister, Rose, and regrets over what might have been haunt her. Despite being a wife and mother, she feels she has little to show for her life.
Rose–Still single, she longs for a husband and children. But Angela has all that and still isn’t happy. Rose wants to be closer to her older sister, but she and Angela couldn’t be more different. Both strong women, will their sibling rivalry ever end?
* * *
When a letter arrives from Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, Angela and Rose decide to visit Aunt Silvia, their mother’s Mennonite sister, in the heart of Amish country. This vacation could provide the opportunity both sisters need to sort out their issues. And yet instead of finding a new way of connecting with each other, Angela and Rose discover surprising family secrets that add to their strife and threaten Rose’s romance with a new beau.
Through it all, the two sisters must find the faith necessary to face their personal problems and allow God to restore hope and healing to their hearts and relationship as only He can.
Kate Lloyd
 A Letter from Lancaster County is here, and it’s Kate Lloyd’s best work yet!  This emotionally-charged novel will keep you guessing about motivations, secrets, and temptations from the first page to the last.  I think Lloyd’s writing is a bit messy in this one, but given the extreme messiness of human emotion, it was a necessary evil for the writing of this novel.
Despite it’s drama, it’s an action-packed one, too.  With adventures, crushes, missing people, secret rooms, and more, there’s always a new problem arising.
I enjoyed reading about Rose and Angela’s complicated relationship, but I liked Silvia even more.  I especially liked her quiet, deep faith that steadied the crazy currents of emotion that were happening all around her. 
The sisters were certainly more complicated, and that made them feel three-dimensional and extremely real.  I enjoyed the way that Lloyd brought them to life.
The ending of the book felt a bit abrupt; I wasn’t ready to turn the last page any more than I was ready for the sisters to leave Lancaster County.  The epilogue concludes the story nicely, however, and I was happy to learn that there is a sequel coming.
I can’t wait to read it. 

 
About the author:
 
Kate Lloyd is a bestselling novelist whose books include “A Portrait of Marguerite” and the Legacy of Lancaster trilogy. A native of Baltimore, she enjoys spending time with friends and family in rural Pennsylvania and is a member of the Lancaster County Mennonite Historical Society. She now resides in the Pacific Northwest with her husband.
Find out more about Kate at http://katelloyd.com.
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I received a free copy of this book from LitFuse Publicity.  All opinions are my own.

“His Guilt” by Shelley Shepard Gray

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Mark Fisher has returned home to Hart County, determined to put the past behind him. Two years ago, after being wrongly accused of assault, he left the Amish community, though never forgot his home. When the one person who had helped him through his rough times asks for help, Mark returns. But it is pretty Waneta Cain who makes him want to stay…

Neeta is one of the few people in Hart County who doesn’t believe Mark is guilty of hurting anyone. However, his worldliness and tough exterior do make her uneasy. As she begins to see the real man behind all the gossip and prejudice, she wonders if he is the man for her.

Just when Mark starts to believe a new life is possible, a close friend of Neeta’s is attacked. Once again, everyone in the community seems to believe he is guilty. But what hurts most is Neeta’s sudden wariness around him. When another woman is hurt, a woman who is close to both Neeta and himself, Mark fears he knows the real culprit. And time is running out. Will Mark be able to find him before Neeta becomes his next victim?

 
Shelley Shepard Gray
 
Gray pulled out all the stops with His Guilt!  I enjoyed the way that Gray created a realistic situation in today’s society and set it in an Amish community.  This setting certainly added to the emotional drama and personal complications for the main characters, but it provided the perfect opportunity to explore interpersonal relationships between Amish and English.
 
Gray used those relationships to delve into themes of gossip, forgiveness, and the way that we care for those in need around us.  The characters grew throughout the story, in character and in depth, until they felt like friends long before I turned the last page.
 
The Amish may be resist violence, but His Guilt is no peaceful story.  With brutal beatings, attempted rapes, unofficial shunning, and emotional and verbal abuse, this is not your typical Amish read.  Much like the real world, Amish and English mingle throughout the pages, interacting in a typical small town and sharing news and concerns.  That real life aspect, which is missing in so many Amish novels, brings His Guilt to life.  The story becomes a thrilling tale of suspense and attraction, and how often can you say that about an Amish story?
 
If you enjoy reading Amish fiction but are ready for a deep, edgy story, give His Guilt a try.
 

 

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.

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I received a free copy of this book from LitFuse Publicity.  All opinions are my own.

“The Writing Desk” by Rachel Hauck

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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.

The Writing Desk 2

Rachel Hauck is the master of creative, historic romance, and she’s penned another bestseller:  The Writing Desk.  She artfully compares contemporary romance with the arranged marriages of the wealthy during the 1920s while painting elements of spiritual lessons in every scene.

I love the way that Hauck ties Birdie’s story with Tenley’s.  Hauck connects them in myriads of ways, some superficially, some with a much deeper meaning.  These connections usually relate to spiritual lessons happening within the pages from which the reader can grow, as well. 

In some of Hauck’s books, these lessons are super deep, ones that totally shook me as I was reading.  The lessons in The Writing Desk are a bit different; they’re simple, basic tenants of the Christian faith, but ones that many of us struggle with.  Long-time Christians may not find these lessons earth-shattering, but I think that this is the perfect sort of book to give a person new to faith, or to someone who isn’t yet a believer.  Tenley’s situation and confusion resonates, and Hauck shares answers to that confusion gently and creatively.

These faith lessons are not diluting the romance.  For someone who’s supposed to be writing such a story, Tenley is living a sizzling one of her own.  Hauck spares no sidelong glance or warm, fuzzy feeling when penning The Writing Desk, and with Birdie involved in her own romantic relationship, this book is oozing love.

The Writing Desk is another winner, and I hope Hauck continues to be as prolific as Birdie.

I received a free copy of this book from the author.  All opinions are my own.

“The Captain’s Daughter” by Jennifer Delamere

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When a series of circumstances beyond her control leave Rosalyn Bernay alone and penniless in London, she chances upon a job backstage at a theater that is presenting the most popular show in London. A talented musician and singer, she feels immediately at home and soon becomes enthralled with the idea of pursuing a career on the stage.

A hand injury during a skirmish in India has forced Nate Moran out of the army until he recovers. Filling his time at a stable of horses for hire in London, he has also spent the past two months working nights as a stagehand, filling in for his injured brother. Although he’s glad he can help his family through a tough time, he is counting the days until he can rejoin his regiment. London holds bitter memories for him that he is anxious to escape. But then he meets the beautiful woman who has found a new lease on life in the very place Nate can’t wait to leave behind.

The Captain's Daughter

The Captain’s Daughter is the perfect story for fans of mysteries and musicals!  With an unusual combination of Gilbert and Sullivan, London theater life, and villains on every corner, this story is unexpectedly fun.

Delamere weaves threads of mystery and history throughout the story.  There’s more to Rosalyn’s background than we know, and I have a feeling that there’s more to the story that will be revealed in later books.  I love the way that her past was affecting her present, and I’ll be anxious to see what it does to her future.

The theater plays an enormous role in this book – a much bigger one than I expected.  That’s not really my thing, but I enjoyed the way that Delamere used the interactions off stage to add spiritual depth and lessons to the story.

The Captain’s Daughter is a great summer read.  With loads of British history, scoundrels, and lessons to learn, you should add it to your reading list.

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

 
About the author:
 
Jennifer Delamere’s debut Victorian romance, “An Heiress at Heart,” was a 2013 RITA award finalist in the inspirational category. Her follow-up novel, “A Lady Most Lovely,” received a starred review from “Publishers Weekly” and the Maggie Award for Excellence from Georgia Romance Writers. Jennifer earned a BA in English from McGill University in Montreal, where she became fluent in French and developed an abiding passion for winter sports. She’s been an editor of nonfiction and educational materials for nearly two decades, and lives in North Carolina with her husband.
 
Find out more about Jennifer at jenniferdelamere.com.
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I received a free copy of this book from LitFuse Publicity.  All opinions are my own.

“A Matter of Trust” by Susan May Warren

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Champion backcountry snowboarder Gage Watson has left the limelight behind after the death of one of his fans. After being sued for negligence and stripped of his sponsorships, he’s remade his life as a ski patrol in Montana’s rugged mountains, as well as serving on the PEAK Rescue team. But he can’t seem to find his footing–or forget the woman he loved, who betrayed him.

Senator and former attorney Ella Blair spends much of her time in the limelight as the second-youngest senator in the country. But she has a secret–one that cost Gage his career. More than anything, she wants to atone for her betrayal of him in the courtroom and find a way to help him put his career back on track.

When Ella’s brother goes missing on one of Glacier National Park’s most dangerous peaks, Gage and his team are called in for the rescue. But Gage isn’t so sure he wants to help the woman who destroyed his life. More, when she insists on joining the search, he’ll have to keep her safe while finding her reckless brother, a recipe for disaster when a snowstorm hits the mountain.

But old sparks relight as they search for the missing snowboarder–and suddenly, they are faced with emotions neither can deny. But when Ella’s secret is revealed, can they learn to trust each other–even when disaster happens again?

Susan May Warren

A Matter of Trust takes you on a downhill ride through danger, forgiveness, and love – and isn’t that the oddest combination?

Warren totally makes it work, though.  Gage’s skiing prowess makes him read like a superstar, which feels a bit unrealistic, and yet their humbleness makes them feel like the kids next door.  Ella’s skill and the way that the two are able to combat danger together makes it feel as if you’re right there with them.

It’s that pairing that I love about Warren’s writing, and she’s pulled it off in every book of hers (that I’ve read – which is a lot).  Her characters all have high-action, high danger careers, and Warren uses those jobs as vehicles for deep spiritual lessons. 

Ella and Gage both need to make peace with their pasts, and the stories of how they do so are complicated.  Warren weaves the book previous in the series with this one and seamlessly sets up the next book, as well.  I love how wide the cast of characters are, and how each character feels like a friend by the end of the book.

While I would never want to take on a huge mountain on skis personally, I thoroughly enjoy reading about it.  If you, too, like reading action-packed adventure stories, move A Matter of Trust to the top of your summer reading list.

I received a free copy of A Matter of Trust by Susan May Warren.  All opinions are my own.

“Fly Away” by Lynn Austin

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Wilhelmina Brewster has been a college music professor for 41 years, devoting her life to her career and never marrying. Now, after her forced retirement at age 65, she is mourning her loss and searching for something to fill the empty hours. Widower Mike Dolan is a pilot and World War II veteran who has always lived life to the fullest. When medical tests confirm that his cancer has returned, he makes plans to take a final flight in his airplane rather than become a burden to his family. Wilhelmina accidentally learns of Mike’s final plans, and when she discovers that he isn’t a believer, she knows it’s her Christian duty to talk with him about her faith. But although she has been a lifelong Christian, she feels totally inadequate for the task of witnessing to an unbeliever.
Mike and Wilhelmina are two very different people—one figuring out how to live, the other how to die. Yet they will find themselves journeying together as they search for answers to life, loss and faith in God.

Fly Away

Fly Away is a poignant tale about the circle of life.  We spend most of our days spinning our wheels, caught up in ‘stuff’ that has no eternal significance, and most of us are too afraid to be real, even with our friends. 

Austin calls us on it.  Mike doesn’t want to waste a moment of his life, but Wilhemina doesn’t know how to do anything else.  Austin explores this dichotomy while probing Wilhemina’s fears.  I admire Mike’s strengths and the way that they complement each other.  They made a uniquely suited couple, if only for a few months.

So death and eternal life are deep topics, and that’s exactly what Austin writes – a book with the spiritual depth of the Mariana Trench.  There are life lessons and spiritual lessons to be learned here, and yet it’s not a depressing book.  I found myself cheering on both main characters, and while I was sad for Mike, Austin keeps the mood from becoming completely glum.  Instead, it’s quite provocative as the reader will identify with both Mike and Wilhemina in turn.

Fly Away isn’t a fluffy beach read – but it is an enjoyable one, and one you’ll be very glad to read.

I received a free copy of this book from the author.  All opinions are my own.

“The Road to Paradise” by Karen Barnett

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An ideal sanctuary and a dream come true–that’s what Margaret Lane feels as she takes in God’s gorgeous handiwork in Mount Rainier National Park. It’s 1927 and the National Park Service is in its youth when Margie, an avid naturalist, lands a coveted position alongside the park rangers living and working in the unrivaled splendor of Mount Rainier’s long shadow.
 
But Chief Ranger Ford Brayden is still haunted by his father’s death on the mountain, and the ranger takes his work managing the park and its crowd of visitors seriously. The job of watching over an idealistic senator’s daughter with few practical survival skills seems a waste of resources.
 
When Margie’s former fiancé sets his mind on developing the Paradise Inn and its surroundings into a tourist playground, the plans might put more than the park’s pristine beauty in danger. What will Margie and Ford sacrifice to preserve the splendor and simplicity of the wilderness they both love?
 
Karen Barnett’s vintage national parks novels bring to vivid life President Theodore Roosevelt’s vision for protected lands, when he wrote in Outdoor Pastimes of an American Hunter: “There can be nothing in the world more beautiful than the Yosemite, the groves of the giant sequoias and redwoods, the Canyon of the Colorado, the Canyon of the Yellowstone, the Three Tetons; and our people should see to it that they are preserved for their children and their children’s children forever, with their majestic beauty all unmarred.”

The Road to Paradise

Karen Barnett has written a fantastic tale of nature conservation, spiritual lessons, and mystery!  I love the way that she has combined all of these to make a rollicking, adventure story.

One of the things that stands out to me most about The Road to Paradise is the way that Margie appreciates the plants and animals found around Mt. Rainier.  She often quotes the Bible, poetry, or famous writers as inspiration strikes, and while she comes off as a bit quirky at first, her sincerity shines through, as does Barnett’s love for God’s creation.  I absolutely love that aspect of this book, and I’ve shared it with several people already.  (In fact, I can’t wait to use this as a book club pick when my girls are a bit older!)

Margie also makes a great female lead.  She’s brave, gutsy, and she knows what’s important.  She’s not afraid to follow her dreams, and she’s willing to chase them, even when it takes her into unpopular territory.  I love the way that Barnett portrays her – as a strong woman who can be romantic and love science, too. 

Margie isn’t always wise in the ways of the world, but she does try to be smart in love.  Maybe she doesn’t always make the best choices, but if she did, what would Barnett write about?  Instead, she keeps attempting to make her next choice better than the one before it, and I love that about her.

The setting of this book caught me off guard.  I expected to read about cozy cabins and beautiful scenery, but instead Barnett really makes Mt. Rainier National Park come alive.  She wrote in park dangers, conservancy efforts, flora and fauna, as well as unique park details, making them major parts of the story.  The mountain wasn’t just there in the background, but it was almost like another character, and I enjoyed this aspect very much.

Barnett uses foreshadowing throughout the book, but it’s so subtle and well-written that I rarely picked up on it until the later event was revealed.  I admire the skill with which she placed those clues throughout the story!

The Road to Paradise is a fantastic summer read.  It’s lighthearted enough to be fun poolside and involves enough nature to make you want to go exploring.  There’s more than enough spiritual depth to keep you pondering Margie’s lessons long after you turn the last page, and you won’t want to leave Margie and Nate when the book finally ends.  Be sure to find a copy ASAP – you won’t want to miss The Road to Paradise.

I received a free copy of The Road to Paradise from Karen Barnett.  All opinions are my own.

“The Great Chattanooga Bicycle Race” by Mike H. Mizrahi

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Chattanooga society is turned upside down as a young woman has the audacity to ride a bicycle-in bloomers!
 
It’s 1895. Anna Gaines, 19, struggles to conquer her insecurities after a horrible fall years ago from her beloved horse, Longstreet. On a visit with her aunt in Brooklyn, she’s drawn to the new pastime of bicycling. But back at home, cycling is a scandalous sport for a proper lady. Southern women did not engage in activities meant for men.
 
Anna has her eye on Peter Sawyer, president of the Cycling Club. As community outrage grows, an unexpected turn of events pits Anna against Peter in a race between the sexes.
 
Will Anna prove that women deserve the same right as men to ride “the wheel?” Will she choose to live a quiet, traditional life of a housewife and mother? Or will she pursue college and become one of the “new women” emerging into the twentieth century on the seat of a bicycle? What will become of the spark between Anna and Peter?
 
Faith, patience, and courage help Anna to become the person she was meant to be.
 
Mizrahi
Mizrahi writes a new kind of historical fiction in The Great Chattanooga Bicycle Race.  With subplots involving Civil War landmark preservation, mental illness, grief, marital relationships, and race relations, there’s a lot happening in this book – and that doesn’t even touch the main themes of women riding bicycles and wearing bloomers.
 
It’s obvious that Mizrahi did his homework in the way that he blended all of these themes seamlessly.  The setting is detailed and plays a large role in the story.  I love the way that Mizrahi made the bicycle the pivotal point of the story, using it to show both historical and romantic information and spiritual transformation throughout the book.
 
I really enjoyed the main cast of characters.  Anna, Peter, Emma, and Rose were all realistic-sounding people I’d love to befriend.  The villains, of course, came across as appropriately evil, and it was easy to tell the difference.
 
While Anna grew and matured throughout the story in pleasing ways, I didn’t always enjoy those changes as they happened.  Not because I didn’t want them to, but because they seemed to be sudden.  It almost felt too abrupt, as if there were partial scenes that got cut in the editing process.  Anna sometimes reversed her feelings or decisions seemingly without justification, and I would have liked to know why she was making a change.  I think it would have added much to the story.
 
I also found myself frequently wanting to yell into the pages, “Just talk already!”  While I enjoyed reading about Anna’s romantic relationships, I often felt that so much of the confusion could be cleared up if they would only communicate.  I realize that this problem was, in part, a sign of the times, but in this age of emails and texts, the many mix-ups are frustrating to me.  In that regard, I much prefer living in 2017!
 
The Great Chattanooga Bicycle Race is an exciting historical fiction about a pivotal time in history.  If romantic stories, coming-of-age tales, or women’s rights hold any interest for you, give it a try.
 
Click here to read other reviews on this bloggy hop or here to purchase your own copy now.
 

 
About the author:
 
Mike Mizrahi has a master’s degree in public relations, advertising and applied communication from Boston University. After a career in corporate public affairs, he retired to pursue a deep passion: writing.
Mizrahi and his wife, Karen, led a mission trip to the Democratic Republic of Congo four years ago and were so moved by the experience, Mizrahi wrote his first novel, which he hopes will one day be published. The Great Chattanooga Bicycle Race is his debut published work.
Mizrahi loves reading and writing stories about “sozo,” which means to be rescued in Greek. He and Karen are very active in their church and community and love to hike, travel and go the movies together. The Mizrahis live in Woodland Hills, California, where they raised their children who are now adults.
Learn more about The Great Chattanooga Bicycle Race and Mike H. Mizrahi at www.mikehmizrahi.com or on Facebook (AuthorMikeMizrahi) and Twitter (@MikeHMiz). 
I received a free copy of this book from LitFuse Publicity.  All opinions are my own.

“Treasured Grace” by Tracie Peterson

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Grace Martindale has known more than her share of hardship. After her parents died, raising her two younger sisters became her responsibility. A hasty marriage to a minister who is heading to the untamed West seemed like an opportunity for a fresh start, but a cholera outbreak along the wagon trail has left Grace a widow in a very precarious position.

Having learned natural remedies and midwifery from her mother, Grace seeks an opportunity to use her skills for the benefit of others. So when she and her sisters arrive at the Whitman mission in “Oregon Country,” she decides to stay rather than push on.

With the help of Alex Armistead, a French-American fur trapper, Grace begins to provide care for her neighbors, including some of the native populace. But not everyone welcomes her skills–or her presence–and soon Grace finds herself and those she loves in more danger than she imagined possible.

Tracie Peterson

Wow.  That’s the best way to describe Peterson’s hard-hitting new historical Western.

This is not your run-of-the-mill Oregon Trail novel.  In no way does Peterson romanticize the difficulties of the trail or of life for single women during the 1840s.  I love that she keeps history real during her stories, but she takes it many steps further during this one.

Death is not unknown on the Trail or in the West, but Peterson doesn’t hesitate to include both death and the violence of the time.  It’s actually so clearly depicted that I’m glad I didn’t share this book with My Big Helper before reading it, as I think she needs a few more years before tackling this type of hardcore violence.

It’s not gratuitous violence, though.  The scenes included put the story into perspective and added a layer of depth and wisdom to Treasured Grace that could not exist otherwise.  Peterson’s attention to historical detail is amazing, and it’s obvious that she’s both a lover of the West and an admirer of the fierce, independent spirit which was necessary to survive.

I found Grace’s knowledge of herbs and natural medicine fascinating.  As someone who is only beginning to learn about these things, I love that she was written as an expert, and I would have loved to read more details about her remedies.  Her conflicts with Dr. Whitman and other educated, trained doctors made a fascinating subplot.

Treasured Grace is a heartbreakingly raw tale of survival and love.  If you’re a fan of historical fiction, put it on your TBR pile immediately.

I received a free copy of Treasured Grace from Bethany House Publishers.  All opinions are my own.

 

Becky Wade’s ‘True to You’ Prize Pack and $100 Giveaway

Do opposites really attract? John and Nora might just be the perfect match. Find out in True to You, book one in Becky Wade’s new series! Genealogist and historical village owner Nora Bradford has decided that burying her nose in her work and her books is far safer than romance in the here and now. Former Navy SEAL and Medal of Honor recipient John Lawson is a modern-day man, usually 100 percent focused on the present. But when he’s diagnosed with an inherited condition, he’s forced to dig into the secrets of his past and his adoption as an infant, enlisting Nora to help him uncover the identity of his birth mother. Finding the answers they’re seeking will test the limits of their identity, their faith, and their devotion to one another.

Celebrate the launch of Becky Wade’s new series by entering to win a fabulous prize pack and $100 cash card!

 

One grand prize winner will receive:

  • A copy of True to You
  • A $100 Visa cash card
  • A prize pack hand-picked by Becky
 

Enter today by clicking the icon below, but hurry! The giveaway ends on May 30. The winner will be announced May 31 on the Litfuse blog.