No Ocean Too Wide by Carrie Turansky
I picked up this book because I’d seen several people post about it over the course of the year. I probably would have read it faster as a print book, but my library was closed and after looking at screens for writing all day, I didn’t want to look at a screen for a book. So I listened to this as an audiobook over the course of two months, which is quite a long time to stretch a book out. There were a lot of factors, but part of it was this was a book I could put down and pick up again without much trouble. Despite that, I felt this was a book I could recommend to the right readers.
Do not expect this to be your typical historical romance. In fact, I would lean more toward the historical with a light romance thread than a true historical romance. The main story was focused on the drama of the McAlister family being sent to a children’s home and then immigrated to Canada. This dramatic story was engaging and the characters were relatable. You may not have always agreed with the characters’s choices, but you understood why they made them. It was a delight to travel across the ocean and see parts of life that have been lost to history. People who love foster family or adoption stories might enjoy this one, although be prepared to see both the good and the bad sides of this system in action.
My own warning: When I first finished this book, I was a little upset because I had no indication anywhere on the audiobook or Amazon if this was going to be a series. As a standalone, I felt like it was a realistic end but I didn’t find it 100% satisfying. I probably wouldn’t read it again if it were the only story. However, after some digging, I DID find that Ms. Turansky is currently working on the sequel. With that knowledge, I would recommend waiting to read this book until you have the second one to immediately follow up with. The story was good but definitely felt like it needed to be longer in order to reach that satisfying conclusion I desired. When the second book comes out, I may try to read this one again and then read the sequel.
Genre: Historical Romance, England and Canada, 1902
Between the years of 1869 to 1939 more than 100,000 poor British children were sent across the ocean to Canada with the promise of a better life. Those who took them in to work as farm laborers or household servants were told they were orphans–but was that the truth?
After the tragic loss of their father, the McAlister family is living at the edge of the poorhouse in London in 1908, leaving their mother to scrape by for her three younger children, while oldest daughter, Laura, works on a large estate more than an hour away. When Edna McAlister falls gravely ill and is hospitalized, twins Katie and Garth and eight-year-old Grace are forced into an orphans’ home before Laura is notified about her family’s unfortunate turn of events in London. With hundreds of British children sent on ships to Canada, whether truly orphans or not, Laura knows she must act quickly. But finding her siblings and taking care of her family may cost her everything.
Andrew Fraser, a wealthy young British lawyer and heir to the estate where Laura is in service, discovers that this common practice of finding new homes for penniless children might not be all that it seems. Together Laura and Andrew form an unlikely partnership. Will they arrive in time? Will their friendship blossom into something more?
What I loved: The amount of historical research Ms. Turansky did must have been astronomical. It was a very well researched book and I loved all the little details. The realistic look at this piece of history was incredibly fascinating.
Favorite Character and Why: Rose and Henry. These two were the solid rocks for the main characters and I really enjoyed seeing them.
Who would like this? I’d recommend it to anyone who loves family dramas, stories of separated families being reunited, and families that will go to any length to stay together. It’s not a big romance story, as the family drama definitely takes center stage.
Rating and Why: Four Stars. I would have given it three if it were a standalone, but knowing there will be another story to tie up the loose strands, I’m okay with giving it a four. It really was a well-written story as long as you frame it within a family drama versus a romance.
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A Return of Devotion by Kristi Ann Hunter
Reading during the COVID-19 Craziness has been a bit more difficult than normal for me. Books that normally hold my attention don’t, and even on the ones that do, reading a single novel takes nearly two weeks if not more, which is why there have been fewer reviews as of late. HOWEVER, A Return of Devotion by Kristi Ann Hunter totally blew me out of the water (forgive the cliche).
While this was not a story of adventure and danger, it was filled with the best character development I think I have ever read and the character tension carried throughout the story was real and personal. If you want to get to know me better, read Daphne’s story. I identified with her in ways I’ve never identified with any other character, and William was equally well-developed. Seriously, this surprised me with how well it held my attention. More than one night while reading this I woke up in the middle of the night wondering about the characters. I should have just picked the doggone book up and finished it instead of trying to fall back asleep.
If you are an introvert who struggles to be around people or just in search of a book with characters who sweep you away and become real people, this is it. This is a story that will speak to your soul and leave you thinking about it for weeks after.
Genre: Historical Romance, Marlborough, England, 1816
Daphne Blakemoor was perfectly happy living in her own secluded world for twelve years. She had everything she needed–loved ones, a true home, and time to indulge her imagination. But when ownership of the estate where she works as a housekeeper passes on, and the new marquis has an undeniable connection to her past, everything she’s come to rely upon is threatened.
William, Marquis of Chemsford’s main goal in life is to be the exact opposite of his father. Starting a new life in the peace and quiet of the country sounds perfect until his housekeeper turns his life upside down.
They’ve spent their lives hiding from the past. Can they find the courage to face their deepest wounds and, perhaps, find a new path for the future together?
What I loved: The character development was astounding. I have never connected with a character so thoroughly as Daphne’s. On top of that, William was profoundly developed. I really enjoyed walking with both of these characters over the last couple of weeks.
Favorite Character and Why: Aside from connecting with Daphne, I would say my favorite character was Jess. That woman cracked me up and was the perfect foil for Daphne.
Who would like this? I’d recommend it to anyone who loves gentle stories with a personal tension that feels natural, deep characters who you can’t help but be connected to, and especially to the introvert who struggles to be around people. Daphne is your kind of person.
Rating and Why: Five Stars. It was a fun, deep, though-proking read that will stick with me for a while.
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It’s time to tip our TBR piles again. Which ones are on the top of your pile?
May 2020 New Releases
More in-depth descriptions of these books can be found on the ACFW Fiction Finder website.
The Edge of Everywhen by A.S. Mackey — Begin with an ancient, mysterious, self-aware book. Add two heartbroken children, reeling from the loss of their mother. Mix in a cantankerous aunt, dreams that see the future, and a father trying to make his way home and you get “The Edge of Everywhen,” a captivating tale of loss, hope, revelation, and unexplained mystery. “The Edge of Everywhen” is a book-lover’s book, a story of intrigue in which two children embark upon a life-changing journey of faith. (Middle Grade from B & H Publishing)
A Mother’s Homecoming by Lisa Carter — Charmed by the two-year-old twins in her toddler tumbling class, Maggie Arledge is shocked to learn they’re the children she gave up for adoption. And when Bridger Hollingsworth—the uncle caring for the boys—needs an emergency nanny, she fits the bill. But with sparks flying between her and Bridger, can she let herself get attached…and risk exposing secrets from her past? (Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])
Love is in the Air by Tanya Eavenson, Candee Fick, Kathleen Friesen, Laura V. Hilton, and Kathleen Rouser — This collection of five brand new Christian romances is sure to send your heart soaring. Journey from Canada to Georgia and Colorado to Paris by way of Michigan as these couples find love is in the air. All they had to do was look up. (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)
The Trouble With Love by Toni Shiloh — I, Holiday Brown, have it all. A platinum record. Multi-million dollar home in Manhattan that I share with my two best friends. Life is looking fantastic until my roommate’s brother decides to bunk in our guestroom while his house gets renovated. W. Emmett Bell has always been the bane of my existence. He’s annoying, stubborn, a know it all, and just might be the most gorgeous man I’ve ever laid eyes on. But I refuse to fall for him. But when his sister’s threatened by a stalker, dynamics change. His unwavering faith isn’t quite as self-righteous as I’d always thought, and maybe he has a good side I’ve overlooked all these years. Or maybe it’s all too much trouble. (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)
Hadley Beckett’s Next Dish by Bethany Turner — Hadley Beckett became the star of the Culinary Channel following hot-tempered celebrity chef Max Cavanagh’s public fall from grace. But when Max returns, career in shambles, his only chance for redemption is to work alongside the beloved host of “At Home with Hadley.” Will these two polar opposites burn down the kitchen—or fall in love? (Contemporary Romance from Revell – A Division of Baker Publishing Group)
Stay with Me by Becky Wade — When acclaimed Bible study author Genevieve Woodward receives an anonymous letter referencing her parents’ past, she returns to her hometown in the Blue Ridge mountains to chase down her family’s secret. However, it’s Genevieve’s own secret that catches up to her when Sam Turner, owner of an historic farm, uncovers the source of shame she’s worked so hard to hide. (Contemporary Romance from Bethany House [Baker])
Within Golden Bands by Norma Gail — Newly married Bonny MacDonell finds the transition from American college professor to Scottish sheep farmer’s wife more difficult than she expected. When her miracle pregnancy ends in a devastating miscarriage, she fears her husband’s reaction will hurt more than the loss of their child. But Kieran never shows up at the hospital. When found, he is beaten and unconscious. The only memory of his attacker is the words, “Get off my land.” Reeling from the threat to her husband and the loss of their child, Bonny struggles to hold her marriage together. When faith in love is not enough, where do you turn? (Contemporary, Independently Published)
The Society of Second Chances by Deborah Raney — The Society of Second Chances faces a real challenge, as they try to uncover a way to help Harmoni Branaham—a young woman just released from prison. (Women’s Fiction from Guideposts Publications)
Unveiling the Past by Kim Vogel Sawyer — Newlywed cold-case detectives Sean Eagle and Meghan DeFord struggle between past wounds and their desire for a family when one of them takes on a case involving parental abandonment. (Women’s Fiction from Waterbrook/Multnomah [Random House])
Moondrop Miracle by Jennifer Lamont Leo — Chicago, 1928. Pampered socialite Connie Shepherd lives the kind of glossy life other women read about in the society pages. Engaged to a handsome financier, she spends her days and nights in a dizzying social round. When eccentric Aunt Pearl, an amateur chemist, offers her an unusual wedding present—the formula for a home-brewed skin tonic—Connie laughs it off. But when the Great Depression flings her privileged world into chaos and rocks her marriage to the core, will Aunt Pearl’s strange gift provide the key to survival for Connie and her baby? (Historical from Mountain Majesty Media)
Tranquility Point by Pamela S. Meyers — Hannah’s life couldn’t be sweeter—a marriage proposal and law school. Then the Great War intrudes and everything sours. (Historical from Mantle Rock Publishing)
A Mosaic of Wings by Kimberly Duffy — A driven entomologist travels to India in an attempt to win a coveted scholarship and save her late father’s scientific journal. But in this enchanting land, she discovers that there are some things more important than success. (Historical Romance from Bethany House [Baker])
Rocky Mountain Redemption by Lisa J. Flickinger — Fleeing a broken engagement, Isabelle Franklin joins her aunt to feed a camp of lumberjacks in the Rocky Mountains. She doesn’t expect to fall for camp foreman Charles Bailey, nicknamed “Preach,” who is struggling between his hard past and his newfound faith. When the ghosts from her past return to haunt her, the choices she will make change the course of her life forever—and that of the man she’s come to love. (Historical Romance from Wild Heart Books)
Pretending to Wed by Melissa Jagears — It’s a match made in heaven…as long as they don’t fall in love! The ranch Nolan Key has spent decades working for, even lost a leg for, is now his—or at least it should be. But an absurd clause in his father’s will means he’s in danger of losing the place to his lazy, undeserving cousin. Nolan finds himself scrambling to save his home—by proposing marriage to the town laundress. Corinne Stillwater’s hands have betrayed her. Numb from hours of doing the same work over and over, her hands will only heal, according to the town doctor, if she gives up the laundry and marries. But she’s been stung repeatedly by love before, so that is one remedy she can’t swallow. When Nolan offers Corinne a marriage in name only, how can she refuse? Such a partnership could give them the security they seek, but what if the ranch isn’t as secure as they believe, and their lives—and dreams—aren’t quite as compatible as they thought? (Historical Romance, Independently Published)
The Sinner in Mississippi by D.L. Lane — The story of Mississippi Singletary, born to a fearful mother and an abusive father in a rundown shack outside of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. (Historical Romance from By Faith Publishing)
The Mechanic & The MD by Linda Shenton Matchett — Woman mechanic Doris Strealer has a hard time finding love until she joins the Red Cross Motor Corps and comes face to face with her past in the form of Van Toppel, an old classmate. On the brink of a successful career as a surgeon, Van’s plans crumble when he’s drafted and assigned to an evacuation hospital in England, the last place he expects to run into a former schoolmate. The gangly tomboy who was four years behind him in high school has transformed into a statuesque beauty, but a broken engagement in college leaves him with no desire to risk his heart ever again. Will the hazards of war make or break a romance between this unlikely couple? (Historical Romance from Shortwave Press)
Masquerade at Middlecrest Abbey by Abigail Wilson — In this new Regency romance, Elizabeth knows she must protect her heart from the charm of her new husband, Lord Torrington. She is not, however, prepared to protect her life. (Historical Mystery from HarperCollins Christian Publishing)
Standoff (Natchez Trace Park Rangers) by Patricia Bradley — The Natchez Trace National Parkway stretches 444 miles from Nashville to Natchez, the oldest town on the Mississippi River. It’s the perfect road for a relaxed pleasure drive. Unfortunately for park ranger Luke Fereday, lately it’s being used to move drugs. Sent to Natchez to infiltrate the organization at the center of the drug ring, Luke arrives too late to a stakeout and discovers the body of his friend, park ranger John Danvers. John’s daughter Brooke is determined to investigate her father’s murder, but things are more complicated than they first appear, and Brooke soon finds herself the target of a killer who will do anything to silence her. Luke will have his hands full keeping her safe. But who’s going to keep him safe when he realizes he’s falling–hard–for the daughter of the man he failed to save? (Romantic Suspense from Revell – A Division of Baker Publishing Group)
Untraceable Evidence by Sharee Stover — Someone’s after a deadly weapon…and only she can stop them. It’s undercover ATF agent Randee Jareau’s job to make sure the government’s 3-D printed “ghost gun” doesn’t fall into the wrong hands. So when someone goes after scientist Ace Steele, she must protect him…before she loses the undetectable weapon and its creator. But with a mole inside Ace’s company and everyone a suspect, this assignment could become Randee’s last. (Romantic Suspense from Love Inspired [Harlequin])
The Story Hunter by Lindsay A. Franklin — In this epic conclusion to The Weaver Trilogy, Tanwen and the Corsyth weavers must rescue the queen and rid Tir of the Master once and for all, but the success of their hunt depends upon an ally no one trusts, and the fate of the kingdom rests in the hands of a volatile, shattered girl. (Medieval Fantasy from Enclave Publishing)
Purgatory, A Progeny’s Quest by T. M. Brown — A teenage girl arrives in Shiloh seeking to reconnect with her estranged mother, the only remaining family member she has ever known, only to learn she too has died, but she learns of family she never knew about. All the while a limo with a dark past arrives in town along with unwanted interest by a stranger that puts lives at risk. (Thriller from Southern Fried Karma LLC/Hearthstone Press)
You’re Brilliant by Julie Arduini — Amazing things happen when a group of high school students and women discover they are more than competent. (Young Adult from Surrendered Scribe Media)
Plus check out these recent additions to Fiction Finder published within the past month:
Lost Down Deep by Sara Davidson, Romantic Suspense
Son of Mary by R.S. Ingermanson, Biblical
Then There Was You by D. L. Lane, Romantic Suspense
Love’s Silver Bullet by Julie Lessman, Historical Romance
Tug of War by Brenda C. Poulos, Thriller/Suspense
The Scholar’s Quest: The Way by Brad Rucker, Adventure
Illusions by Jennifer Sienes, General Contemporary
The Lost Lieutenant by Erica Vetsch, Historical Romance
A Beautiful Arrangement by Beth Wiseman, Amish Romance
Have you ever wondered about how authors come up with characters? I’m sure every author has their own process, but I can guarantee you, it is similar to making new friends. In the beginning, you don’t really know much about them. Sometimes you’ll have a name, sometimes not. The same goes for descriptions, personalities, jobs, etc. They are just this person that is sort of an enigma, and it takes work to get to know them.
While I struggle to make friends with people existing outside of fiction–I can’t say real people because my fiction characters DO become real to me–I always get very excited when it comes time to meet my newest characters. I thought it might be fun to take you through a little bit of my process as I get to know a character I’m developing for a short story. At this point, I know VERY little about my character. I’ve already brainstormed a few ideas with my critique partner, but Harriet is still very flat on the paper.
What I do know:
Harriet Carmichael is a bit of an outsider to the upper-class society in which her family partakes. She goes beyond avid gardener to more of the botanist level, and she relates better to the plants than people. In fact, most people find her odd even though gardening was a perfectly acceptable hobby for upper-class women of the time.
She is forced to attend the Christmas party of a woman who is skilled at double-edged compliments and making Harriet feel even more insignificant than before. However, while at this party, she receives a note or a gift (not sure which yet) from a secret admirer. No matter how much she wishes it were true, she can’t believe its authenticity. However, something happens (again, don’t know what yet) will send her on a hunt to discover the true identity of the letter writer. Was it another cruel joke of the woman, or had someone really seen her and wanted to get to know her better?
That’s it, that’s all I really know right now, but I’m really excited about writing this brief story. Depending on how it turns out, it may be my Christmas gift to my newsletter subscribers. But I digress…
After attending the Online Character Summit this weekend, I am determined to take some of what I have learned and carve Harriet into a deeper more human character that we can all relate to on some level. So here we go:
Getting to Know Harriet
This portrait by George Clausen is how I physically envision Harriet at the moment. She’s nothing extraordinary, and her clothes are rather dull. She tends to wear browns in order to disguise her constant work in the soil. From here, it becomes sort of an interview process.
Me: So Harriet, who are you? Why do you feel you that you don’t fit in? It can’t just be your love of plants.
Harriet (rubbing hands together and then tucking them behind her when she finds dirt under her nails): I don’t really know much about people, and honestly, I don’t understand them. People are unpredictable. Plants follow certain rules, I know what they need to coax them into vibrancy, which ones to pair together, and which ones to plant in order to entice or repel certain insects or animals. I love being able to create and work within God’s creation. Plants are exactly what they are supposed to be. People? Not so much.
It’s not that I don’t like them, it’s that I don’t know what to make of them. Some are genuinely who they appear to be, others opposite from what they present to the world. I have a few friends, but mostly, I am uncomfortable around people. I don’t know what to say. I don’t enjoy the same things as my peers.
I like books about gardening, plant life, and even scientific articles about altering plants to be more sturdy against the elements. Miss Austen, Mr. Dickens, and the such leave me baffled. I can play cards, play piano, and embroider as required, but why would anyone want to do those when you can be outside? In fact, I hate winter. I spend most of it planning my next garden or tinkering in the greenhouse/conservatory. The best days are the days I can go to the university and work in the botany department (need to check that was a thing then).
Oh, thought! Have her compare different people/personalities to different types of plants!
And so it will go for a few days. Harriet and I will be having some deep conversations and some lighter-hearted ones. What are the things she likes? The things she fears? What does she want more than anything? What does she believe about herself? What does she need to learn? etc. These are hard questions to draw out, but I love the excitement of it.
Just so you don’t think Harriet is fully developed before I put words on paper, this initial examination is rarely what she ends up looking like as I actually write. Harriet will grow and define herself, shedding some of the things I thought we decided in the beginning. She will develop her own voice and become a real person. Even scarier, she will start making her own decisions and direct my story in ways I never envisioned.
I hope you enjoyed a little sneak peek of my process in developing characters, now I really am going to get off here and dive into uninterrupted conversation with Harriet. I’m starting to get caught up on reading, so look for more steady book reviews in the coming months. 🙂
Do you like gardening? What things do you think Harriet will need in order to rightly portray someone who loves plants, maybe even more than people?
Last Chance Wife by Janette Foreman
I don’t know if you have heard the news, but Love Inspired is bringing back their Historical line for a limited time. I didn’t even know the line existed until after they’d already closed it, so with the announcement of the new line, I decided to read a dozen or so first chapters and pick out which story grabbed me and wouldn’t let me go. Janette Foreman’s story was exactly that!
This was such a fun twist on mail-order brides and love letters. Winifred is a disgruntled mail-order bride ready to admit defeat and return home, however, first she must earn her way back home. Ewan begrudgingly puts an anonymous ad out for a mail-order bride–and his cut and dry expectations flare Winifred’s frustration with men to new heights. She picks up a pen and immediately writes to “Business Man” and signs it “Thoroughly Disgruntled,” never expecting to actually send the letter. Of course, it gets sent, and I have to say, I love the results.
Last Chance Wife is a story that will have you giggling, grinning, and turning the pages all night long.
Genre: Historical Romance, Mining Camp, 1878
Her Secret Suitor
When six-time mail-order bride Winifred Sattler is stranded in Deadwood, Dakota Territory, she’s grateful to find a temporary position at Mr. Ewan Burke’s business until she can return home. Ewan is handsome, but stuffy and serious—her complete opposite. Unlike her new anonymous correspondent, Mr. Businessman, who appreciates her bubbly optimism.
To keep his mining company afloat, Ewan can’t be distracted by Winifred’s vivacious beauty. He needs a no-nonsense wife. Someone like Miss Thoroughly Disgruntled, the only respondent to his recent ad with whom he truly connected. In person, Winifred and Ewan don’t get along, but in their letters they’re falling in love. Will they discover a perfect match in each other?
What I loved: I loved the letters the most! It was so fun seeing them interact in person and then through the written word. It truly made my heart swoon.
Favorite Character and Why: Although Ewan appears to be a stiff, stand-offish person on the outside, he proved to be a multi-layered hero who steals your breath with his generous heart.
Who would like this? I’d recommend it to anyone who loves sweet romances with heroes who are generous on the inside but appear rigid on the outside, and heroines who are independent and capable but not perfect.
Rating and Why: Five Stars. It was a fun, quick read with a unique twist on letter writing and mail-order brides.
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