March RCR: Trail of Fears by Sara Turnquist

March RCR: Trail of Fears by Sara Turnquist

Welcome to the third month of the Unlocking the Past 2021 Reading Challenge. This month focused on the Westward Expansion Period, and my choice of story was Trail of Fears by Sara R. Turnquist. Once you read my review, don’t forget to comment to be entered for your chance to win a copy.

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Trail of Fears by Sara R. Turnquist

Y’all, this book. I chose it because it covers a topic not often written about in fiction, nor is it often talked about in history more than a brief mention. While my family didn’t participate in the first Trail of Tears, they did the second during the latter half of the 19th century. It’s part of the reason why I don’t do the genealogy stuff. I could do parts of my family, but my mom’s family can only go so far back before much of our history becomes shrouded like some dark secret. Reading this book was like reclaiming a piece of my history that no one is willing to talk about. This book should seriously be required reading for every history class in America.

I am not an emotional reader. It takes A LOT for me to cry over a storyline. If an author can squeeze a few silent tears out of me, that is amazing. Y’all, I literally sobbed through the last quarter of this book. Trail of Fears did not shirk away from the hard truths of the Indian Removal Act. Through the story you walk through this pivotal point of history through the eyes of many crucial players: a senator and his aide, the captain of the group leading the Cherokees, the chief, the missionary’s parents, and of course the Cherokee heroine and white missionary hero. I have never seen such an even-hand, realistic portrayal of the struggles of all those involved and even the naivety of the real plight of all the Native Americans by the country at large. It was truly a book that brought a little talked about piece of history to life. This is one of those rare books that I want to shove into people’s hands and force them to read.

The romance story itself is not the usual story either. There are sweet moments, but it is definitely a love grown and tried through circumstances no one would wish to face. You know when you close the book, Thomas and Adsila will be able to survive anything because they survived the Trail of Fears together. I said it once, but I am saying it again, EVERYONE needs to read this book.

Genre: Historical Romance, 1850’s, Georgia

Plot Overview:

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.

What I loved: The honest, raw experience of reading this book. I feel like history has come alive in a way it never has before and I have a better understanding of a piece of history often rushed through in history classes. It was an emotional read that shook me and made me really think.

Favorite Character and Why: It is so hard to pick. The cast of characters in this book all worked together to make an experience I won’t forget.

Who would like this? Those who want an honest, hard look at a piece of history swept under the rug. Those who are concerned about the plight of others, their rights, and mistreatment. Those who want to read a story of love and faith developed and tried through adversity. And in my personal opinion, every single person in America.

Rating and Why: Six stars. I don’t give these out willy nilly guys. Very few EVER get that distinction. This story is unforgettable, raw, and exactly what every American needs to read to better understand our history, and how the plays forward into the present.


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Giveaway Time

To be entered to win a print copy of Trail of Fear by Sara R. Turnquist, comment with what book you read to meet this month’s reading challenge by midnight (EST) on April 7th. The winner will be emailed on the 8th and publically announced on the April 13th post. This giveaway is open to all legal participants locally and internationally. If the winner lives internationally, they will receive a copy through Book Depository where available. If not available, the winner will receive a $15 Amazon gift card. For extra entries, participate in the Rafflecopter giveaway below.

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Comment: What did you read for this month’s reading challenge?

Sing in the Sunlight by Kathleen Denly

Sing in the Sunlight by Kathleen Denly

Sing in the Sunlight

by Kathleen Denly

Have you ever been in a season where everything is so wonky you’re afraid to pick up a book and read? I feel like I must be weird, but January, February, and March flew by with a ton of stress. In theory, I wanted to read, but I just couldn’t get my mind to settle into wanting to read. No story appealed, even my tried-and-true friends. Knowing I needed to write a book review for this month aside from the challenge review, I finally bit the bullet and opened the e-book of the newest release on my kindle evening before bed.

Big mistake.

The book I chose ended up being Kathleen Denly’s Sing in the Sunlight. I didn’t stop reading until 12:30, and when hubby graciously said he’d take the boys to school the next morning so I could rest and get work done, I stayed in bed and read until the entire book was done instead of cleaning or anything else productive. But hey, we all need a mental day, right?

Sing in the Sunlight was a wonderful book to get back into reading with. I loved the depth and realistic portrayal of all the characters’ struggles, especially Clarinda’s. There were some pretty tough subjects touched including unwanted pregnancy, strained parental relationships, trauma, physical scarring, and some of the emotional ramifications. All were dealt with a soft, but truthful touch. The marriage of convenience was a spin I hadn’t seen before, and I enjoyed watching Richard and Clarinda learn to love each other and face the challenges their pasts brought into their marriage.

I recommend this book to readers who love historical romance, marriage of convenience stories, stories with characters who face difficult challenges with real-life consequences, and stories where the hero pursues the heroine.

Genre: Historical Romance, 1858, California

Plot Overview:

Richard Stevens isn’t who he thinks he is. Neither is the woman who now claims his last name.

Disfiguring scars stole Clarinda Humphrey’s singing career, her home, and her family, but she refuses to let her appearance steal her future. While attending The Young Ladies Seminary in 1858 Benicia, California, she finds a man who promises to love and cherish her. Instead, he betrays her, leaving her with child, and Clarinda must take drastic measures to ensure her child doesn’t suffer for her foolishness.

Richard Stevens’s life hasn’t turned out as he expected, and when a shocking letter turns even his past into a mystery, he travels to San Francisco in search of guidance. On the way, he encounters a mysterious young woman hiding beneath a veil. That night he experiences a dream that sends him on a quest to find the bride God has chosen for him. He never imagines she’s already told everyone they’re married.

Unwilling to lie, nor accept a marriage of mere convenience, Richard wants the real thing. Yet Clarinda’s not interested in love, only a chance to save her child. Can he help her rise above the pain that runs deeper than her scars to accept a love worth every risk?

What I loved: The gentle, but real-life, approach to hard topics. I appreciated especially the struggle with an out-of-wedlock pregnancy and the struggle to decide what is best for the child in her situation. The note at the back from the author also was something I recommend reading, especially if you have been touched by any of the hard topics she addresses in the book.

Favorite Character and Why: I really liked Richard. He really helps Clarinda to see her situation, parents, and scars in a whole new way. He seems to have a deeper understanding of who she is in Christ, and he does his best the be the husband she needs while also pushing her to see hard truths. I really appreciated his persistence and endurance. 

Who would like this? Readers who love historical romance, marriage of convenience stories, stories with characters who face difficult challenges with real-life consequences, and stories where the hero pursues the heroine.

Rating and Why: Four and a half stars. There were a couple of possible subplots that felt hinted at and then dropped. I’m not sure if that is set up for the third book in the series, but didn’t seem like it from the third book blurb. I’m sort of left wondering about some things. The story as a whole was amazing, and again the soft touch of hard topics is something I really enjoyed.


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What books have you read that deal well with tough topics?

February RCR: The Patriot Bride by Kimberley Woodhouse

February RCR: The Patriot Bride by Kimberley Woodhouse

Welcome to the second month of the Unlocking the Past 2021 Reading Challenge. This month focused on the Revolutionary War Period, and my choice of story was The Patriot Bride by Kimberley Woodhouse. Once you read my review, don’t forget to comment on what you read to be entered for your chance to win a copy.

Last month’s winner was Kathy A. You can see a picture of her with her book on the Challenge Page.

*Want more interaction and/or suggestions each month? Join the Facebook Group. Want a bookmark with the monthly themes? Fill out this Google Form.*

The Patriot Bride by Kimberley Woodhouse

With over half of my February being either filled with edits or travel, I opted for a quicker read this month. I’ve heard so many wonderful things about Kimberley Woodhouse’s books that I decided it was time for me to check into a new-to-me author.

The American Revolution was one of my favorite time periods in high school. I lived, breathed, and researched it probably more than any other typical teen that I know. Even as an adult, my bucket list includes visiting the entire Freedom Trail. I’ve done a decent portion now, but I’d still love to go back. Reading The Patriot Bride was a little thrill to this history nerd’s heart. The characters, the history, the plot were beautifully intertwined so that I didn’t just discover a personal view of the Revolutionary War, but I discovered a wonderful story that I will likely reread again. I loved bright, spunky, independent Faith; steadfast, brave Matthew; the realistic, human aspect of George Washington, hilarious and always fascinating, Benjamin Franklin, and the wonderful butler, Claton. The cast of characters really made the story, and everything felt like it progressed in a realistic way. And who can turn away a story of spies?

Overall, it is a story I would recommend to lovers of historical fiction (especially the Revolutionary War), readers who love strong, independent heroines, and stories that have romance but are light on the sappy.

Genre: Historical Romance, Revolutionary War, Boston, MA

Plot Overview:

Spies Work Together for the Patriot Cause
Faith Jackson is a wealthy widow, friend of George Washington, and staunch supporter of the Patriot cause. Matthew Weber is friends with both Ben Franklin and his son William, who increasingly differ in their political views; and Matthew finds himself privy to information on both sides of the conflict. When a message needs to get to a spy among the Loyalists, Faith bravely steps up and in turn meets Matthew Weber. Suddenly she believes she could love again. But someone else has his eye on the Faith she portrays in elite social circles. What will Matthew and Faith have to sacrifice for the sake of their fledgling country?

What I loved: The characters and history were magnificently woven together. Part of this story was taken from the POV of George Washington. I loved how it brought him to life in a realistic way. You also got to meet Benjamin Franklin, and he was as odd and humorous as always. The amount of research that went into this book must have been staggering.

Favorite Character and Why: This is a hard pick for me because so many of the characters were amazing. Faith was spunky, independent, but real. Matthew also had his own realistic struggles. The butler was amazing.

Who would like this? Lovers of historical fiction (especially the Revolutionary War), readers who love strong, independent heroines, and stories that have romance but are light on the sappy.

Rating and Why: Five stars. She did a great job with interweaving real historical characters with a  fictional story that kept me engaged the whole time I read.


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To be entered to win your own copy of The Patriot Bride by Kimberley Woodhouse, comment or email me at Crystal Caudill Writes (At) Gmail (dot) Com with what YOU read for the challenge this month. (My isn’t working right now.) For extra entries, visit the rafflecopter below. Opens on February 28th and ends at 11:59 pm on March 7th. Print copy open to all legally eligible U.S. Residents. International residents will receive a $10 Amazon gift card as Book Depository doesn’t have copies available at this time.

What did YOU read for the February challenge?

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January RCR: Tidewater Bride by Laura Frantz

January RCR: Tidewater Bride by Laura Frantz

Welcome to the FIRST month of the Unlocking the Past 2021 Reading Challenge. This month focused on the COLONIAL Period, and my choice of story was Tidewater Bride by Laura Frantz. Once you read my review, don’t forget to comment with what you read to be entered for your chance to win a copy.

THE WINNER OF THIS MONTH’S GIVE AWAY IS: Kathy Anderson! Check your email, or email me at Crystal (at) Crystal Caudill (dot) com to tell me where to ship it!

*Want more interaction and/or suggestions each month? Join the Facebook Group. Want a bookmark with the monthly themes? Fill out this Google Form.*

Tidewater Bride by Laura Frantz

I had the wonderful chance to meet and listen to Laura Frantz speak to my writing group several years ago, and her sweet personality and personal writing journey story drove me to pick up one of her books. I’ve not been disappointed since. She has a way of transporting readers into deeply developed and painted worlds that bring history to life in ways few authors have mastered. The research is impeccable, the story realistic and sweet, and the characters fascinating. You can actually learn a ton about the true history of the story by listening to Alison Treat’s Podcast, Historical Fiction Unpacked where she did an interview with Laura Frantz. You can check that out here: I’ve recently discovered the podcast and have fallen in love with it.

As far as Tidewater Bride goes specifically, I loved the look at early Jamestown life and the reality of the day-to-day life they faced without relief. There were so many facets of struggle I hadn’t realized, and Laura brought them onto the page in meaningful and poignant ways. Her heart for both the Jamestown colonists and the Powhatans were evident throughout the story. Completely respectful and enlightening. Knowing exactly how much research went into this really gave me a new respect for both groups.

Genre: Historical Romance, 1634, “James Towne, Virginia Colony”

Plot Overview:

Selah Hopewell seems to be the only woman in the Virginia colony who has no wish to wed. True, there are too many men and far too few women in James Towne. But Selah already has her hands full assisting her father in the family’s shop. And now she is in charge of an incoming ship of tobacco brides who must be looked after as they sort through their many suitors.

Xander Renick is perhaps the most eligible tobacco lord in the settlement. His lands are vast, his crops are prized, and his position as a mediator between the colonists and the powerful Powhatan nation surrounding them makes him indispensable. But Xander is already wedded to his business and still grieves the loss of his wife, daughter of the Powhatan chief.

Can two fiercely independent people find happiness and fulfillment on their own? Or will they discover that what they’ve been missing in life has been right in front of them all along?

What I loved: The historical picture this story brought to life. I really felt like I had a deeper understanding of Jamestown’s struggles and the fortitude it took for the colonists to live and thrive. It also helped me to understand how some of the pull away from England began just because the absolute difference in how lives were lived. I adored getting a glimpse of the Powhatan culture as well. The only way to understand someone else’s perspective is to walk in their shoes for a while, even if only mentally.

Favorite Character and Why: Watseka was a fun, adventurous child who brought a lot of levity to the story. She is quite the little scamp, too. 😉

Who would like this? Anyone interested in learning about colonial history, especially Jamestown and a touch of the Powhatan culture. Those who like stories that comprise of political and social struggle, and those who lived through it.

Rating and Why: 4.5 Stars. I adored the way she brought history to life, but while I’ll likely read it again, I felt more engaged with learning the history than the romance line of the story. Not a terrible thing, but just something that knocked it down from being a five star.


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For your chance to win a copy of Tidewater Bride by Laura Frantz and have an entry added to the grande-prize finale at the end of the year, comment below with what book you read for the reading challenge this month. The winner will be randomly selected and emailed on February 8 and announced on February 9th.

This will be open to international winners, but if the book is unavailable to ship to you through Book Depository you will receive a $10 (USD) Amazon gift card. You must have commented on the blog post or have emailed me to be eligible for the extra entries.

To earn extra entries, use the Rafflecopter link below. I decided I didn’t like how KingSumo sent you guys a ton of emails. That is not what I want for you. We all already get a ton of emails. Happy reading!

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The Thief of Blackfriars Lane by Michelle Griep

The Thief of Blackfriars Lane by Michelle Griep

Winner of the Gift Cards: The winner of the $25 Baker Bookhouse gift card from the Class of 2021 post giveaway, is Amy (amy****9@****.com)! Congratulations! Please check your email! The winner of the $15 Get the Word Out Giveaway is sweets (sweets***** Please check your email!


The Thief of Blackfriars Lane

by Michelle Griep

Y’all, this book. 😍😍😍😍 I finally was able to step away from responsibilities long enough to finish it. You have to buy a copy. It is the perfect delicious mix of danger, mystery, history, romance, and God’s perfect love. I have long been a “super-fan” of Michelle Griep, and guys it was such a blessed relief to sink into another one of her amazing stories. No matter how crazy the world turns, I can always count on her books to leave me satisfied and hopeful. 💕 This one was no different. You don’t want to miss her way with words and ability to transport you back in time. I seriously want to write like her one day. 

Genre: Historical Romance, April 1885, City of London, England

Plot Overview: 

There’s Often a Fine Line Between a Criminal and a Saint

Constable Jackson Forge intends to make the world safer, or at least the streets of Victorian London. But that’s Kit Turner’s domain, a swindler who runs a crew that acquires money the old-fashioned way—conning the rich to give to the poor. When a local cab driver goes missing, Jackson is tasked with finding the man, and the only way to do that is by enlisting Kit’s help. If Jackson doesn’t find the cabby, he’ll be fired. If Kit doesn’t help Jackson, he’ll arrest her for thievery. Yet neither of them realize those are the least of their problems.

What I loved: I probably shouldn’t put everything. I think what sets a Michelle Griep book apart from any other is her complete ability to sink you into the world and character. I absolutely loved running around City of London with two fantastic, unique, strong characters. It is a story I intend to go back and study the “how she did it” aspect after I finish my rough draft of book two.

Favorite Character and Why: Jackson and Kit were such an amazing pair. Jackson wasn’t my typical hero type at first, but I really grew to love and respect him. He really does have a heart of gold. And Kit. Wow! What a woman to grow up on the streets and become who and what she was in the story. I loved them both individually and together. 

Who would like this? Those who have a love of gothic type mysteries, Victorian romances filled with danger, love, and hope. 

Rating and Why: Five stars. It was such an exciting adventure with imagery, emotions, and characters I want to revisit over and over and over again.

*I received a copy of this book from the author/publisher. The above opinions are my own and are in no way influenced.* (And yes, I even purchased my own extra copy. I always do with a Michelle Griep book.)


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Wonders of His Love by Erica Vetsch

Wonders of His Love by Erica Vetsch

Wonders of His Love

by Erica Vetsch

This month I am reviewing each novella from the Joy to the World: A Regency Christmas Collection. First up was Carolyn Miller’s “Heaven and Nature Sing,” followed by “Far as the Curse is Found” by Amanda Barratt.

The final novella is “Wonders of His Love” by Erica Vetsch. This novella would be considered a part of her Serendipity and Secrets series and will be best enjoyed if you have read the first two books in the series: The Lost Lieutenant and The Gentleman Spy. Even if you have not read the previous stories, you will enjoy the story of a widow finding herself anew while under the thumb of her deceased husband’s mother with the help of a Scottish painter. I really enjoyed the sweetness of the story. The dialect of Hamish was well done and so enjoyable, and the struggle between the strength and timidity of Cilla was something you cheered her on through. I truly loved the sweetness of this story as Cilla and Hamish privately deal with their growing feelings for one another. There are so many tender moments in this story, it brings a smile to my face just thinking of them. This definitely falls under the light-hearted and sweet while still dealing with the true-to-life struggles of finding your worth aside from the opinions of others. I highly recommend this story for those looking for something with sweetness mixed with a little bit of meat. The lessons learned by these characters are ones that you will chew on even after you finish reading.

Genre: Historical Romance, England, 1816

Plot Overview:

A Scots portrait painter finds work at a noble manor house over the holidays. He never imagined he’d fall in love with the emotionally frozen widow there. Now he wants nothing more than to thaw her heart.

What I loved: I loved Cilla’s dance between pleasing others and finding one’s self and desires. Perhaps it is because I’ve long struggled with being a people pleaser and determining when to step up for my needs, even when it disappoints those I love. Cilla’s struggle felt real and personal to me.

Favorite Character and Why: Oh, sweet Hamish! I love his artistic touch, sweet heart, and struggle to find his self-worth. And his dialect was something that made me smile every time it was used. It was masterfully done without being burdensome to the reader. Absolutely delightful.

Rating and Why: Five Stars. I truly enjoy the Serendipity and Secrets series. It was such a joy to return to those characters and find that the true-to-life struggles of each character were not diminished by the shortness of the story.       Baker Bookhouse        Barnes and Noble        Book Depository

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