2021 Reading Challenge Grand-Prize Winner & Wrap Up Announcement

2021 came with the first-ever Unlocking the Past Reading Challenge with a theme of American History. We traveled from the Colonial Era all the way through Contemporary times.

Here are some fun facts from the 2021 Reading Challenge:

  • The group collectively read 177 books.
  • We had 27 unique readers.
  • 3 readers made it ALL 12 months! (Message me for a special badge.)
    • Betsy T
    • Colleen H
    • Courtney G
  • 2 made it 11 of the twelve and earn honorable mentions!
    • Alisa W.
    • Deb H.
  • February and March had the most participants with 20 each.
  • August, September, and October had the fewest participants with 9 each.


I read and reviewed twelve books which are all part of the 2021 Grand Prize giveaway. The winner will be receiving a print copy of each of the below books:

Now for what everyone is REALLY waiting for!



Please comment and tell her congratulations!!! Then be sure to jump in and join the 2022 Unlocking the Past Challenge: Around the World. You can find suggestions for the first month’s country, Africa, HERE.

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Hidden Hearts of the Gilded Age

Book 3: Counterfeit Faith
41% Complete
41,000 of 100,000 words
Rough Draft

Free Books

Free Books

Just dropping in for a quick moment to let you know about a Bookfunnel Promotion I’m participating in. If you are looking for some new-to-you authors to possibly try out, this promotion allows you to browse through some titles and descriptions and sign up to receive a free copy of short stories, novellas, and novels. I only know one author on the list to recommend, Danielle Grandinetti, so I can’t speak to the rest.

This is your chance to try out some new authors for free. If you’d like to stay connected with them, you can stay on their newsletter lists. If not, you can unsubscribe at any time.

My short story, Banking on Love, is on the list.

Visit https://books.bookfunnel.com/newyearhistoricalfiction/thwu0n3tk7 and take a look around.

Information about Banking on Love

November 1884

When Eunice Reed discovers her younger brother has been arrested for public intoxication, she travels from Cincinnati to Chicago to save him from himself. But public intoxication is the least of their problems. Irvin is tangled up with a dangerous bank robber. With a little help from her fiance, will the love and ingenuity of a sister be enough to save Irvin from making the biggest mistake of his life?

2022 Reading Challenge Announcment

2022 Reading Challenge Announcment

Hi guys! Apparently, I am unintentionally taking the month off or writing book reviews, but there are some other great announcements to make like . . .

After having such a great year of reading books with other historical fiction fans, I’ve decided to do it again with a different theme: Around the World.

Exciting Changes:

A New Partner

This year I am partnering with the AMAZING book reviewer, Phyllis from @AmongTheReads. Together we are going to share reviews of books that take you around the world. Phyllis is an avid reader and has hundreds of book reviews on her website in an easy-to-find way. I highly suggest you pop over to her website AmongTheReads.net to check her out and find your next great read. 



Due to the high cost of the 2021 Reading Challenge, I’ve changed up how I’ll do 2022 prizes in order to make it where this can be a long-term thing. Instead of receiving a copy of the reviewed book, winners will get a chance to pick from my stack of new and gently used Christian Fiction books which will have new additions every month. I’ll keep a list of those choices on the Unlocking the Past Webpage beginning in January after the first challenge is over. At the beginning of January 2023, those who have participated in any of the monthly challenges will get entered to win a Grand Prize Reader Basket. The prizes may change, but at the moment, the prize will include a copy of Counterfeit Love by Crystal Caudill (me), Everyday Love by Katie Orr (A Focused15 Study), a book recommended by me, reader socks, tea, and a bookmark.

Participation Requirements

Books no longer HAVE to be historical, but I will push them as a preference. With the Around the World theme, some areas are just going to be really hard to find with a historical focus, plus I’m hoping this will allow more readers to be involved.

In order to be entered to win books each month and the grand prize at the end of the month, you will still be required to comment on what you read on that month’s Reading Challenge Review post from the last day of the month. I will still use Rafflecopter to randomly select the winner. Extra entries can only be earned for that month and are only available through the Rafflecopter link. HOWEVER, if someone comments that they joined the reading challenge because of your invite, I will add three extra entries for the end of the year prize manually for each person who mentions you.

Comments for the monthly drawing must be made by midnight EST of the 8th of the month. Any comments made after that point will still get you an entry to the end of the year drawing, but will not go toward the monthly drawing.

Suggested Reading Posts

I will once again be adding monthly suggested reading posts on the first of each month. My suggestions will be a mix of historical and contemporary, with a heavier focus on historical when possible. These suggestions will not necessarily be ones that I have personally read but have been found on Among the Reads, the Inspirational Historical Fiction Index, and my connections in the author world.


The giveaway portion is open to all eligible members of society according to their country’s and state’s laws and it is up to you know whether you are legally able to enter. Print copies are only eligible to winners eligible for media mail in the 50 states of the USA. Any winner outside of the United States (or readers within the USA who prefer an e-book) will get to choose a Christian Fiction e-book that is on sale for $5 or under on Amazon. If the winner of the grand prize is outside of the United States, they will receive an e-copy of Counterfeit Love, three additional e-books, and a snail mail letter with bookmarks. This giveaway is not associated with anyone but me, Crystal Caudill, and all winners will be randomly drawn by a third-party app like Rafflecopter (monthly) or https://miniwebtool.com/random-name-picker/ (end of the year).

Unlocking the Past 2022 Reading Challenge: Around the World

Monthly Themes

January – Africa

February – Asia

March – Caribbean

April – Eastern Europe

May – Europe

June – Mediterranean

July – Middle East

August – N. America

September – Oceania (Australia, New Zealand, all the little islands around there – Samoa, Guam, Marshall Islands, Fiji, etc)

October – S. America

November – Bucket List Country

December – Christmas in Any Country

So here’s the question: Are YOU going to participate this year? And is there anyone you can share this reading challenge with? The more the merrier. What books do you recommend for the first month: Africa?

Lost in Darkness by Michelle Griep

Lost in Darkness by Michelle Griep

Lost in Darkness

by Michelle Griep

If I were to describe this book in one word, it would be intense. Marvelously so. Michelle Griep has taken her writing to new levels in this gothic romance that leaves characters battling the monsters within . . . and without. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein had nothing on this story where the famed author makes several appearances. The story of Amelia Balfour, Graham Lambart, Colin Balfour, and Dr. Peckwood is sure to have your angst ratcheting tight all the way to the spell-binding ending, that while holding to magnificent gothic tradition, leaves the reader with hope for the future.

This was the most intense book from Michelle Griep that I have ever read, and to be honest, I was glad that I was listening to it as an audiobook and was forced to do thirty or fewer minute increments. The tension was so deep, so constant that my heart couldn’t take it all at once. I’m looking forward to reading it again soon, this time in one fell swoop. This is an unforgettable tale that will sweep readers away to a different time to face monsters that they might even see reflected in themselves.

I recommend this book for fans of Gothic romances, Frankenstein, obscure history, and deep truths discovered during trying circumstances.

*While I’ve purchased an additional copy myself, a copy of this book was provided to me by the publisher and the review above is my honest opinion of the book and was not influenced in any way.*

Genre: Historical Romance, Regency Era, England

Plot Overview:

Even if there be monsters, there is none so fierce as that which resides in man’s own heart.

Amelia Balfour has one dream . . . to tour Egypt as a travel writer. But when her wish is finally within reach, her father dies, and her malformed brother, Colin, depends on her to arrange for a revolutionary surgery. Amelia returns home, hoping he’ll recover before the ship sails for Cairo.

Former Navy surgeon Graham Lambert is sick–of traveling, loneliness, and especially the injustice of the world. Leaving behind the military, he partners with a renowned surgeon, the man who promises new life to Amelia’s brother.

But just as the operation begins, Graham suspects the surgeon is a fraud. After a botched procedure, Colin goes mad and escapes, terrorizing their neighbor, author Mary Godwin–planting the seed for her greatest creation, Frankenstein.

Can Amelia and Graham stop Colin before he destroys everyone in his path and find the tender soul still trapped inside . . . or will they be too late?

What I loved: The storyline that so well reflected Frankenstein while bringing spiritual depth that it will long live in my mind.

Favorite Character and Why:  There was such a fantastic cast of characters that it is so hard to tell. Aside from Amelia and Graham, I loved Nemo and Mrs. Bap. Nemo was an adorable child, and Mrs. Bap’s wisdom and positive outlook were the perfect addition to the story.

Who would like this? I recommend this book for fans of Gothic romances, Frankenstein, obscure history, and deep truths discovered during trying circumstances.

Rating and Why: Five stars. This story was amazingly written, intense, and impactful. It will live in my mind for a long time to come, and I will be rereading it when I have some free time in my reading schedule.


Amazon     Barnes and Noble     BooksAMillion     Book Depository     Bookshop.org     Christianbook.com


The Lost Letter by Mimi Matthews

The Lost Letter by Mimi Matthews

The Lost Letter

by Mimi Matthews

I’d heard A LOT about Mimi Matthews books from many of my writer friends, and when I saw a freebie go up, I decided to give her a try. I will say, I didn’t realize that she wasn’t specifically Christian Fiction, and she was pretty heavy on the “steamy” side of romance while still keeping a closed-door and never having anything occur between unmarried couples. While I’d still classify it as clean romance, it might be a little spicier than some are used to or willing to read. I had no problems with it, but felt I should warn others since it took me so off guard when I first read it. Also, there is some cussing.

This Regency romance had a bit of a Beauty and the Beast feel to it with the hero being a wounded war veteran turned recluse and she seeing past all of that. I enjoyed the conniving little sister who worked hard to get Sylvia to visit her brother and rescue him from the dangerous hold of depression. The miscommunication of the past between Sylvia and Sebastian took only a conversation to solve, but the wounds of the past made it believably difficult to accomplish. I really enjoyed how Miss Matthews brought everything into its right and happy conclusion.

I recommend this book for fans of Regency-era novels that are clean but contain scenes that aren’t as chaste as holding hands or pecks on the cheek. Fans of beauty and the beast type stories, second chance love, epistolary romances, and characters with strong internal struggles.

Genre: Historical Romance, Regency Romance

Plot Overview:

A Proud Beauty

When the tragic death of her gamester father leaves her destitute and alone, society beauty Sylvia Stafford finds work as a governess in a merchant’s household in Cheapside. Isolated from the fashionable acquaintance of her youth, she resigns herself to lonely spinsterhood…until a mysterious visitor convinces her to temporarily return to her former life–and her former love.

A Scarred Beast

Colonel Sebastian Conrad is no longer the dashing cavalry officer Sylvia once fell in love with. Badly scarred during the Sepoy Rebellion, he has withdrawn to his estate in rural Hertfordshire where he lives in near complete seclusion. Brooding and tormented, he cares nothing for the earldom he has inherited–and even less for the faithless beauty who rejected him three years before.

A Second Chance

A week together in the remote Victorian countryside is the last thing either of them ever wanted. But when fate intervenes to reunite them, will a beastly earl and an impoverished beauty finally find their happily-ever-after? Or are some fairy-tale endings simply not meant to be?

What I loved: How well the wounds were played out in each character’s individual story, and how they really drove character action.

Favorite Character and Why: I love how the sister did what she had to in order to get Sylvia to go to her brother and then convinced her to stay when things did not go as expected.

Who would like this? I recommend this book for fans of Regency-era novels that are clean, but contain scenes that aren’t as chaste as holding hands or pecks on the cheek. Fans of beauty and the beast type stories, second chance love, epistolary romances, and characters with strong internal struggles.

Rating and Why: Five stars. The writing was everything I was told to expect (except a little steamier) and very well done.


Amazon     Barnes and Noble     Books-A-Million     Book Depository     Bookshop.org

September Reading Challenge Suggestions

September Reading Challenge Suggestions

Welcome to the ninth month of the Unlocking the Past 2021 Reading Challenge. This month focuses on the Roaring 20s and/or Great Depression (1920s to 1941). I’ve used the Inspirational Historical Fiction Finder to pull together my list of suggestions. I have several on my bookshelves, but we’re starting to reach the eras that I don’t generally read. I’m looking forward to peeking into parts of history I am not as familiar with.

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 has (read and reviewed), clicking on that takes you to a review I’ve written on that book. Just in case you are interested in learning more.

Monthly Reminders:

*If you read a book for August, don’t forget to go to yesterday’s post (RCR: Until June) 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.)

*You can also join the Facebook Group. for more interaction and suggestions, or if you’d like a bookmark to remind you of the monthly challenges, fill out this Google Form.

The Last Gasp by Chautona Havig

1920s – California

At the pinnacle of his Hollywood career, Garrison Prince’s reign ends tonight.

As plain old Gary Prinz, he can pursue his Bible education, buy a bungalow in Pasadena, acquire a few chickens, and marry the girl of his dreams. He just never imagined trading the silver screen for a pulpit would wreak such havoc.

A cigarillo girl, Lucinda Ashton spends her days with her boyfriend, Gary, and her evenings selling candy and “gaspers” to the Hollywood elite at the Taj Mahal Theater.

However, when gunshots ring out just as intermission begins, Lucinda finds herself smack-dab in the middle of a brouhaha that leaves three dead, and no one has a clue why.

All the police know is that the evidence points to Lucinda as the killer and Gary as the intended target.

Four new friends, one young orphan, and a potluck of clues that don’t seem to fit anywhere leave the police baffled, Lucinda in fear for her freedom, and Gary ready to trade in his acting shoes for gumshoes if it’ll save his “Cinda.”

The first book in the Ever After Mysteries combining beloved fairy tales and mysteries, The Last Gasp. This Cinderella retelling blends a murder with enough crime and story clues to keep you on the edge of your seat.

On Sugar Hill by Ane Mulligan

1929 – Georgia

To make ends meet, the Fitzgerald women must open their home as a boardinghouse, but will the secrets they uncover prove their undoing?

The day Cora Fitzgerald turned sixteen, she fled Sugar Hill for the bright lights of New York City, leaving behind her senator father’s abuse. But just as her career takes off, she’s summoned home.

The stock market has crashed. The senator is dead. Her mother is delusional, and her mute Aunt Clara pens novels that expose the town’s secrets. Then there’s Boone Robertson, who never knew she was alive back in high school but now manages to be around whenever she needs help.

And the Fitzgerald women need a lot of help, indeed. They are forced to find a way to make ends meet, whether it’s mining for gold or doing what Southern women have done for generations in times of need—turning their home into a boardinghouse.

But will the people of Cora’s past keep her from returning to a brilliant future?

Paint and Nectar by Ashley Clark

1929 – South Carolina

In 1929, a spark forms between Eliza, a talented watercolorist, and William, a charming young man with a secret that could ruin her career. Their families forbid their romance because of a long-standing feud over missing heirloom silver. Still, Eliza and William’s passion grows despite the barriers, causing William to deeply regret the secret he’s keeping . . . but setting things right will come at a cost.

In present-day Charleston, a mysterious benefactor gifts Lucy Legare an old house, along with all the secrets it holds–including enigmatic letters about an antique silver heirloom. Declan Pinckney, whom Lucy’s been avoiding since their disastrous first date, is set on buying her house for his family’s development company. As Lucy uncovers secrets about the house, its garden, and the silver, she becomes more determined than ever to preserve the historic Charleston property, not only for history’s sake but also for her own.

A Sojourner Christmas by Linda Brooks Davis

1923 – Texas

She relinquished her childhood home. Abandoned her former life. And set off for a faraway valley that’s touted as magical. As an aspiring newspaper reporter, Blossom Evans expects to find plenty of material with which to carve out a career. But alarming tales about the Lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas abound. Barely tamed, rugged brush land. Mexican bandits. Wildcats, rattlesnakes, and tarantulas as big around as dinner plates. Where will she find the courage to face—and overcome—such foes, even for her dream career?The first hint of an answer lies in the sleepy little West Texas town of Winters. An unexpected conflict is brewing, one that could launch a reporter’s career—or crush it before it begins. How will Blossom be lured into the fray? And where will she find the temerity to confront this particular brand of evil? It’s Christmas Eve 1923, and Blossom Evans is about to discover what’s she made of.

The Red Canary by Rachel Scott McDaniel

1928 – Pennsylvania

Music sparks her world, but can love ignite her heart?

In 1928, soot from the local mills and music from speakeasies linger in the Pittsburgh air. When the manager of The Kelly Club is found dead, nightclub singer Vera Pembroke is thrust into peril. As the only witness to the crime, she’s sentenced to hide away in the Allegheny Forest with a stuffy police sergeant as her guardian.

Sergeant Mick Dinelo harbors a burning hatred for Pittsburgh’s underworld after the devastation it left on his life—and heart. He should be out exposing culpable gangsters rather than tending to the impetuous woman who defies his every effort to keep her safe.

Mick and Vera must set aside their differences to solve the murder that someone wants to keep buried beneath the soot of Steel City.

In High Cotton by Ane Mulligan

1929 – Georgia

While the rest of the world has been roaring through the 1920s, times are hardscrabble in rural South Georgia. Widow Maggie Parker is barely surviving while raising her young son alone. Then as banks begin to fail, her father-in-law threatens to take her son and sell off her livelihood—the grocery store her husband left her. Can five Southern women band together, using their wisdom and wiles to stop him and survive the Great Depression?



Moondrop Miracle by Jennifer Lamont Leo

1928 – Illinois

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?

By turns heartbreaking and hope-filled, Moondrop Miracle tells the story of an extraordinary and unforgettable woman whose determination to succeed changes her life forever.

Off the Ground by Catherine Richmond

offtheground1929 – Nebraska

She wants to race Amelia Earhart. He’s afraid of flying. Will their relationship ever get off the ground?

As the Roaring Twenties come to a close, Mac McFarland falls head over heels for live-wire Corrie Tinley. Now that she’s graduated, they’re allowed to date. But before he can sweep her off the dance floor and into his life, her father gives her a winged death trap—a biplane. Refusing to stick around to see her crash, Mac leaves without saying goodbye. Corrie’s family treats her like a dumb Dora, but her former basketball coach is respectful and attentive. Mac has a noble air like Lindbergh and dark hair waving over his forehead like Gary Cooper. She can’t wait to take him flying in her new biplane, but he’s disappeared. If she can’t find him, is she destined to fly solo the rest of her life?

The Brightest Hope by Naomi Musch

brightesthope1924 – Wisconsin

Five years after the Great War…

Holly Allen is a well-adjusted war widow with a knack for running the family press. She’s over the days of waiting for a white knight to ride in and sweep her away from her cares. Besides, if Hugh Phelps is a knight, he’s certainly a black one—with his prison record, personal demons, and the ghosts of war that haunt him.

When Holly hires Hugh, despite her reservations, it isn’t long before she sees the man he could really be, and as Hugh finds his niche at Allen’s Printing, he finds his lady boss equally appealing. Despite the attraction, however, Holly won’t let herself fall for a faithless man, and Hugh isn’t on gracious terms with God.

Then, just when new beginnings seem possible, old heartaches from the war come calling. Now it might only be in letting go of everything dear that they both discover what real love

Under the Midnight Sun by Tracie Peterson and Kimberley Woodhouse

underthemidnightsun1929 – Alaska

Tayler Hale is ahead of her time as one of the first women naturalists. She has always loved adventure and the great outdoors, and her remote job location also helps keep her away from the clutches of the man to whom she once made a foolish promise. It seems she must keep running, however, and in secret, her boss from Yellowstone arranges for a new job . . . in Alaska.

The popular Curry Hotel continues to thrive in 1929 as more visitors come to Alaska and venture into the massive national park surrounding Denali. Recent graduate Thomas Smith has returned to the hotel and the people he considers family. But when a woman naturalist comes to fill the open position and he must work with her, everything becomes complicated.

The summer brings unexpected guests and trouble to Curry. With his reputation at stake, will Thomas be able to protect Tayler from the danger that follows?

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