The Rebel Bride by Shannon McNear
This book is part of Barbour’s The Daughters of the Mayflower series and is set during the Civil War. Shannon McNear’s letter to readers in the front of the book was amazing at setting the tone for the story and the historical research/details. If you choose to read the book, DO NOT miss that letter. It really spoke to some of the complexities of the Civil War.
The story itself was less action-packed or suspenseful than I thought it would be based on the description, however, it did pick up in the last quarter of the book. Reading this story gave me a look at the life of those forced to house and nurse those considered to be the enemy and all the complexities involved. The interactions between characters were believable, the love story sweet and slow, and the history was well researched.
I recommend this book to those who enjoy Civil War stories that focus on a look at the homefront, complex family situations, and slow romances born during times of personal stress and growth.
Genre: Historical Romance, Battle of Chickamauga, 1863
Can Love Form Amidst Tensions of War?
During the clash between Union and Confederacy, quiet Tennessean Pearl MacFarlane is compelled to nurse both Rebel and Yankee wounded who seek refuge at her family’s farm. She is determined to remain unmoved by the Yankee cause—until she faces the silent struggle of Union soldier Joshua Wheeler, a recent amputee. The MacFarlane family fits no stereotype Joshua believed in; still he is desperate to regain his footing—as a soldier, as a man, as a Christian—in the aftermath of his debilitating injury. He will use his time behind enemy lines to gather useful intelligence for the Union—if the courageous Rebel woman will stay out of the line of danger.
What I loved: History is always a key element for me. However, what really grabbed me was actually the author letter in front of the story. It really spoke my heart about the complexities of the Civil War which is often painted in broad strokes of black and white, right and wrong.
Favorite Character and Why: I enjoyed all the characters, but I think the dad was my favorite. He was a sweet old man who loved the Lord and extended that love willingly to the enemies living in his house.
Rating and Why: Four stars. It was a little slower paced than I expected, and though very well written, it was a story I could set down, walk away from and come back to later. I will, however, likely read it again when in the mood for a story of that pacing.
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The Spice King by Elizabeth Camden
Elizabeth Camden’s books never fail to astound me with the depth and breadth of her research, and the Spice King was no different. The historical depth was astounding, having a deep understanding of political history, its impact on the food production industry, and the lives of vastly different characters. The amount of research she must have completed in order to bring this part of history to life must have filled a public library building if combined together. In addition to that, the character development of Gray Delacroix was extraordinary. I haven’t read his personality type developed so well and likable before. It was truly a fascinating story with a solid and believable romance line.
If you love a story steeped with a rich history, fully developed characters, and a love story which stands the test of deep personal and political struggles, you will enjoy The Spice King.
Genre: Historical Romance, Washington D.C., 1900
Gray Delacroix has dedicated his life to building his very successful global spice empire, but it has come at a cost. Resolved to salvage his family before it spirals out of control, he returns to his ancestral home to save his brother and sister before it’s too late.
As a junior botanist for the Smithsonian, Annabelle Larkin has been charged with the impossible task of gaining access to the notoriously private Delacroix plant collection. If she fails, she will be out of a job and the family farm in Kansas will go under. She has no idea that in gaining entrance to the Delacroix world, she will unwittingly step into a web of dangerous political intrigue far beyond her experience.
Unable to deny her attraction to the reclusive business tycoon, Annabelle will be forced to choose between her heart and loyalty to her country. Can Gray and Annabelle find a way through the storm of scandal without destroying the family Gray is fighting to save?
What I loved: The historical depth continues to blow me away. Every aspect of life in 1900 was thoroughly researched and communicated in such a way as to bring it to life. No history book has ever been able to give such a well-rounded look at a single slice of history.
Favorite Character and Why: Gray Delacroix was well developed. Though he was a very serious and flawed man, he was likable and reached hero status.
Who would like this? If you love a story steeped with a rich history, fully developed characters, and a love story which stands the test of deep personal and political struggles, you will enjoy The Spice King.
Rating and Why: Five Stars. The combination of history and character development really drove this rating.
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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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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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Waltz in the Wilderness by Kathleen Denly
Waltz in the Wilderness is Kathleen Denly’s debut novel set in California during the 1850’s. This story is a fresh take on the wild west aspect of California’s history with a dash of adventure, romance, and danger. I particularly enjoyed seeing the early days of San Fransico and San Diego, traveling between the two via steamer, and experiencing the wilds between the two. It is an exciting view of history with lots of wonderful details. The characters were relatable and fun to watch as they maneuvered physical dangers, forbidden love, and family conflict. I would recommend this book to readers of sweet romances.
Genre: Historical Romance, California Gold Rush, 1854
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?
What I loved: The adventure of the story as well as the inner strength, loyalty, and honor of the hero, Daniel.
Favorite Character and Why: Eliza was a character I could really connect to, as I too struggle to be in control of everything. Her fear for her father drives her to dangerous things, and it is an emotion I can completely understand. Honestly, I could see my self behaving in the same manner as she.
Who would like this? Those who love sweet romances, rich in historical details, unique settings, and wilderness settings. It was a fun read which will have you turning pages.
Rating and Why: Four stars. It is a book I enjoyed and will likely read again.
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