Welcome to the third month of the Unlocking the Past 2021 Reading Challenge. This month focuses on Westward Expansion (1815 to 1860s – Pioneers, Oregon Trail, Gold Rushes). At the request of one of my readers, I’m posting suggestions from my bookshelf at the beginning of each month. This month’s suggestions feature some books from my e-book shelves, as well as a section of books suggested to me by others. I’ve read a good number of these, but some are still waiting for free time. Add your suggestions in the comments, and/or tell me what you are reading. Have you read any of these below? Which one should I choose for this month? Let me know.
Also, if a title is linked, it goes to a review I’ve written on that book. Just in case you are interested in learning more.
*If you read a book for February, don’t forget to go to yesterday’s post (RCR: The Patriot Bride) to comment and get your name entered for your chance to win a print copy. (You’ll also earn your entry for the end of the year giveaway.)
(Honest confession: I love these posts because it almost feels like I’m browsing a book store with lots more CHR selections than brick and mortar stores and easier to find what I look than a general online store… and it makes me realize how many books I own that I still need to read.)
From My Shelf
Waltz in the Wilderness by Kathleen Denly (Read & Reviewed)
She’s desperate to find her missing father. His conscience demands he risk all to help.
Eliza Brooks is haunted by her role in her mother’s death, so she’ll do anything to find her missing pa—even if it means sneaking aboard a southbound ship. When those meant to protect her abandon and betray her instead, a family friend’s unexpected assistance is a blessing she can’t refuse.
Daniel Clarke came to California to make his fortune, and a stable job as a San Francisco carpenter has earned him more than most have scraped from the local goldfields. But it’s been four years since he left Massachusetts and his fiancée is impatient for his return. Bound for home at last, Daniel Clarke finds his heart and plans challenged by a tenacious young woman with haunted eyes. Though every word he utters seems to offend her, he is determined to see her safely returned to her father. Even if that means risking his fragile engagement.
When disaster befalls them in the remote wilderness of the Southern California mountains, true feelings are revealed, and both must face heart-rending decisions. But how to decide when every choice before them leads to someone getting hurt?
Other books in the series: Sing in the Sunlight, Harmony on the Horizon
Ellie Ballantyne, youngest child of Silas and Eden, has left finishing school. But back at her family home in Pittsburgh, Ellie finds that her parents are away on a long trip and her siblings don’t seem to want her to stay. When she opens a day school for young ladies, she begins tutoring the incorrigible daughter of the enemy Turlock clan. The Turlocks are slaveholders and whiskey magnates, envious of the powerful Ballantynes and suspicious of their abolitionist leanings. As Ellie becomes increasingly tangled with the Turlocks, she finds herself falling in love with an impossible future–and Jack Turlock, a young man striving to free himself from his family’s violent legacy. How can she betray her family and side with the enemy? And will Jack ever allow her into his world?
Masterful storyteller Laura Frantz continues to unfold the stirring saga of the Ballantyne family in this majestic tale of love, loyalty, and the makings of a legacy. With rich descriptions of the people who settled and civilized a wild landscape, Frantz weaves a tapestry of characters and places that stick with the reader long after they turn the last page.
Other books in the series: Love’s Reckoning (#1 – 1780s), Love’s Fortune (#3 – 1850s)
In 1860s Seattle, a man with a wife could secure himself 640 acres of timberland. But because of his wife’s untimely death, Joe Denton finds himself about to lose half of his claim. Still in mourning, his best solution is to buy one of those Mercer girls arriving from the East. A woman he’ll marry in name but keep around mostly as a cook. Anna Ivey’s journey west with Asa Mercer’s girls is an escape from the griefs of her past. She’s not supposed to be a bride, though, just a cook for the girls. But when they land, she’s handed to Joe Denton and the two find themselves in a knotty situation. She refuses to wed him and he’s about to lose his land. With only a few months left, can Joe convince this provoking but beguiling easterner to be his bride?
The Bride Bargain by Kelly Eileen Hake (Read & Reviewed)
When Clara Fields and her aunt are kicked off their wagon train, a store owner in Buttonwood offers a chance at redemption. Desperate, she agrees to find a bride for the man’s son—a stalwart bachelor. Will Clara’s faith and wits help her wrangle a resolution to The Bride Bargain?
Other tiles in this series: The Bride Backfire, The Bride Blunder
When her mother dies, Elizabeth Benjamin heads home to Key West, determined to transform herself into the perfect Southern belle her parents always wished her to be. But nothing goes according to plan. Her crippled brother resents her, the servants do not obey her, and Rourke O’Malley, the dashing man she vowed to forget, refuses to relinquish his hold on her heart. Worst of all, it becomes painfully obvious that her father is not the upright man he appears to be.
As family secrets come to light, Elizabeth is faced with a difficult choice: to do her duty and abandon her dreams, or to leave her life of privilege behind to chase the man her father sees as little better than a pirate.
From the first emotional page, author Christine Johnson throws readers into a world of impossible choices, hidden desires, and heart-melting romance in the steamy south. Readers will cheer for Elizabeth and Rourke as they battle the odds and the elements to secure their future.
Other books in the series: Honor Redeemed, Freedom’s Price
In the first book of the Irish Angels series, we meet Laura Foster, a woman with the darkest of pasts, and Reverend Brand McCormick, a man with everything to lose by loving her. Having escaped a life she never chose, Laura Foster is finally living her dream. But even after four years of posing as a respectable widow in Glory, Texas, she is always afraid someone from her past might reveal her true identity. Believing no man could love her if he knew the truth, Laura tries to resist Brand’s courtship. His reputation would be shattered if Laura’s former life is discovered. But it’s not only Laura’s past that threatens to bring him down—it’s also his own. As they open their hearts to love and faith, will Laura and Brand find the depth and power of forgiveness from their community?
Other books in the series: Heart of Lies, Heart of Glass
Ever since her mother’s death, twenty-two year old Jori Hayden has lived safely under the shelter of her wealthy father. But when the severe economic depression of the 1800s destroys the family’s fortune, the Haydens must venture west together along the Santa Fe Trail in search of a new livelihood.
With her father in poor health and her Aunt Kate–a dedicated Christian–keeping charge over the younger siblings, Jori hires Chad Rocklin right out of prison to lead their wagon train. And in a journey marked with danger at every turn, romance, faith, and family prove to be the biggest fortunes of all.
Other books in the series: A Man for Temperance, Joelle’s Secret, Angel Train
When high-spirited Jane Fellowes finds her world turned upside down, she is determined to right it. First her uncle experiences periods of violent insanity, then her father is accused of crimes he surely cannot have committed. When Jane finds Sir Isaac Newton’s box of mysterious scientific discoveries in her mad uncle’s home, she feels compelled to analyze the information within. Can it be true that the box contains proof of the existence of God?
Lights of Lowell book 1. Tapestry of Hope weaves together the heartrending and hope-building stories of two young women. Jasmine Wainwright is the sheltered daughter of a Mississippi plantation owner. When her father strikes a deal to sell his cotton to Lowell mills through businessman Bradley Houston, he throws an arranged marriage with Jasmine into the bargain. Kiara O’Neill and her brother escape starvation in Ireland by traveling to America as Bradley Houston’s indentured servants. But Bradley has more in mind for Kiara than she wants to imagine. Both women suffer in the home of this unloving husband and merciless master. Will God somehow bring hope to their lives?
Other titles in the series: A Love Woven True, The Pattern of Her Heart
Born into affluence, Mia Stanley is a winsome socialite with a knack for matchmaking. She’s also a writer for Godey’s Lady’s Book magazine, much to the disdain of her family–and their society friends. A proper young lady of her social standing isn’t meant to labor in such a way, but Mia has always had a way with words…
When her writing draws her into the world of downtrodden seamen’s wives on Philadelphia’s docks, Mia uncovers a scheme that puts her in harm’s way. But her heart ends up on the line as well…Has her determination to always make a match driven away the one man whose esteem she covets?
Other books in the series: A Lady of Hidden Intent, A Lady of Secret Devotion
California’s gold country, 1850. A time when men sold their souls for a bag of gold and women sold their bodies for a place to sleep. Angel expects nothing from men but betrayal. Sold into prostitution as a child, she survives by keeping her hatred alive. And what she hates most are the men who use her, leaving her empty and dead inside.
Then she meets Michael Hosea, a man who seeks his Father’s heart in everything. Michael obeys God’s call to marry Angel and to love her unconditionally. Slowly, day by day, he defies Angel’s every bitter expectation, until despite her resistance, her frozen heart begins to thaw.
But with her unexpected softening comes overwhelming feelings of unworthiness and fear. And so Angel runs. Back to the darkness, away from her husband’s pursuing love, terrified of the truth she no longer can deny: Her final healing must come from the One who loves her even more than Michael does…the One who will never let her go.
A powerful retelling of the story of Gomer and Hosea, Redeeming Love is a life-changing story of God’s unconditional, redemptive, all-consuming love.
Under This Same Sky by Cynthia Roemer (Read & Reviewed)
~ She thought she’d lost everything ~ Instead she found what she needed most. ~
Illinois ~ 1854
Becky Hollister wants nothing more than to live out her days on the prairie, building a life for herself alongside her future husband. But when a tornado rips through her parents’ farm, killing her mother and sister, she must leave the only home she’s ever known and the man she’s begun to love to accompany her injured father to St. Louis. Catapulted into a world of unknowns, Becky finds solace in corresponding with the handsome pastor back home. But when word comes that he is all but engaged to someone else, she must call upon her faith to decipher her future.
Matthew Brody didn’t intend on falling for Becky, but the unexpected relationship, along with the Lord’s gentle nudging, incite him to give up his circuit riding and seek full-time ministry in the town of Miller Creek, with the hope of one day making Becky his bride. But when his old sweetheart comes to town, intent on winning him back—with the entire town pulling for her—Matthew must choose between doing what’s expected and what his heart tells him is right.
He’s a steadfast missionary. She’s a proud Cherokee. Can their love survive the brutal Trail of Tears?
Thomas Greyson believes God had called him to spread the gospel. He leaves his sheltered world behind to live among the native peoples and teach in their school. But as the government tightens its grip, not everyone is ready to listen to the gospel’s message of love… least of all the stubborn beauty who stole his heart.
Adsila resists bending her knee to the white man’s God when Thomas seemingly tries to steal away the last remaining shreds of her heritage. Is she prepared to fight him tooth and nail? But when he stands with her people in the face of hardship, her soul begins to long for the curious stranger and his unshakeable faith.
Against impossible odds and staggering loss, can Thomas and Adsila find the strength to follow their hearts’ true path?
Trail of Fears is a stirring historical romance that captures the heartbreaking reality of the Trail of Tears. If you like spirited characters, personal journeys of faith, and enduring love stories, then you’ll adore Sara R. Turnquist’s gripping tale of survival and salvation.
The Wilderness Is a Great Place to Hide
Jacqueline Rivers manages a Pony Express station in 1860 Utah territory after her father’s death. There are daily stresses placed on her in this unconventional role—and now a government official is asking her to sniff out counterfeiters. When Elijah Johnson passes through on the stage while on an exhausting quest to find his boss’s heir, he doesn’t want to leave the beguiling station manager. In fact, he may never leave when caught in the crossfire of the territory’s criminal activities. Jackie can’t decide if Elijah is friend or foe. Can she remain strong when secrets of the past and present are finally unearthed?
Can Olivia survive the crime and Gold Rush fever of 1849…and the countless marriage proposals?
A series for fans of all things related to history, romance, adventure, faith, and family trees.
The Daughters of the Mayflower series continues when Olivia Brighton finds herself widowed and working her brother’s restaurant in San Francisco during the height of the rush for gold. Even though she receives at least twenty marriage proposals a day, she will never marry a gold miner. Her brother’s friend Joseph Sawyer has gotten caught up in local politics and the plight of Chinese in forced labor. The more Joseph gets pulled into investigating crime in the city, the less Olivia sees of the compassionate man. And just when she thinks she could love again, a fire threatens to steal all hope.
Will Ellis Lose All at the Alamo?
Ellis Dumont finds a man in New Orleans Grey unconscious on Dumont property in 1836. As his fever rages, the man mutters strange things about treasures and war. Either Claiborne Gentry has lost his mind or he’s a spy for the American president—or worse, for the Mexican enemy that threatens their very lives. With the men of her family away, Ellis must stand courageous and decide who she can trust. Will she put her selfish wants ahead of the future of the republic or travel with Clay to Mission San Jose to help end the war?
Books Recommended to Me:
Ten years after her parents were killed, Evelyn Radcliffe is once more homeless. The orphanage that was her refuge and later her workplace has burned to the ground, and only she and a young orphan girl have escaped. Convinced this must be related to her parents’ murders, Evelyn flees with the girl to Mesquite Springs in the Texas Hill Country and finds refuge in the home of Wyatt Clark, a talented horse rancher whose plans don’t include a family of his own.
At first, Evelyn is a distraction. But when it becomes clear that trouble has followed her to Mesquite Springs, she becomes a full-blown disruption. Can Wyatt keep her safe from the man who wants her dead? And will his own plans become collateral damage?
Suspenseful and sweetly romantic, Out of the Embers is the first in a new series that invites you to the Texas Hill Country in the 1850s, when the West was wild, the men were noble, and the women were strong.
Other books in the series: Dreams Rekindled
Greta Nilsson’s trip west to save her ailing little sister, Astrid, could not have gone more wrong. First, bandits hold up her stagecoach, stealing all her money. Then, upon arriving in Fairplay, Colorado, she learns the man she was betrothed to as a mail-order bride has died. Homeless, penniless, and jobless, Greta and her sister are worse off than when they started.
Wyatt McQuaid is struggling to get his new ranch up and running and is in town to purchase cattle when the mayor proposes the most unlikely of bargains. He’ll invest in a herd of cattle for Wyatt’s ranch if Wyatt agrees to help the town become more respectable by marrying and starting a family. And the mayor, who has promised to try to help Greta, has just the candidate in mind for Wyatt to marry.
In 1844, two years before the Donner Party, the Stevens-Murphy company left Missouri to be the first wagons into California through the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Mostly Irish Catholics, the party sought religious freedom and education in the mission-dominated land and enjoyed a safe journey–until October, when a heavy snowstorm forced difficult decisions. The first of many for young Mary Sullivan, newlywed Sarah Montgomery, the widow Ellen Murphy, and her pregnant sister-in-law Maolisa.
When the party separates in three directions, each risks losing those they loved and faces the prospect of learning that adversity can destroy or redefine. Two women and four men go overland around Lake Tahoe, three men stay to guard the heaviest wagons–and the rest of the party, including eight women and seventeen children, huddle in a makeshift cabin at the headwaters of the Yuba River waiting for rescue . . . or their deaths.
Award-winning author Jane Kirkpatrick plunges you deep into a landscape of challenge where fear and courage go hand in hand for a story of friendship, family, and hope that will remind you of what truly matters in times of trial.
Leave Your Comments:
If you have a favorite book or author who writes in this time, put it in the comments so other readers can know who to go search out for options. Old or new, it doesn’t matter. 🙂