Once Upon A Dickens Christmas by Michelle Griep

Once Upon a Dickens Christmas by Michelle Griep

Each novella in this collection has been released yearly, with the newest one being released in a collection containing all three. Since I have already reviewed 12 Days at Bleakly Manor and A Tale of Two Hearts, I will focus this review on the third story, The Old Lace Shop.

While the first two stories are written in typical Michelle Griep style, The Old Lace Shop is written in first person present. Since this is the least favorite of my reading styles preferences, I’ll admit it took a little longer than normal to lose myself in the story as I adjusted. Even so, I enjoyed the story itself immensely.

I loved how it felt like an echo of North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell–available as a BBC miniseries that has usurped Pride and Prejudice as my favorite. (Sorry Mr. Darcy lovers. Mr. Thornton has won my heart, even if his changes are more subtle.)

The Old Lace Shop Blurb

Recently widowed Bella White is finally freed from the domination of the overbearing men in her life, but when she enters into a business partnership with the handsome Edmund Archer, she begins to wonder if marriage is worth a second chance.

– Blurb from Amazon.com

What I loved:  My favorite part of it was all the little nods to North and South. (At least, I connected them with the book/TV miniseries.) I love seeing a picture of life in the lace mills of Northern Victorian England, and all the social aspects that play into that.

Favorite Character: This is a toughie. Edmund reminds me so much of Mr. Thornton, the imperfect hero. I also dearly love Flora. I beautiful little girl, full of character.

Who would like this: Anyone who enjoys first person perspectives, second chance romances, fans of North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell, and those who love a historical peek at industrial Victorian England.

Rating and Why: I gave this a four star rating. The collection has a great set of stories. The first person perspective in the last story was such a deviation from my expectation and comfort level that it actually detracted from the story for me, even though I still enjoyed it. The collection is still one I would recommend to anyone who is a fan of Michelle Griep and Victorian England.

You can purchase your copy at the following retailers:

Amazon Barnes and Noble Christianbook.com Joseph-Beth Walmart Target

October 2019 New Releases (ACFW)

It’s time for TBR piles to tip!

October 2019 New Releases

More in-depth descriptions of these books can be found on the ACFW Fiction Finder website.

Biblical Fiction:

Lioness: Mahlah’s Journey by Barbara M. Britton — To keep her orphaned sisters together, Mahlah must seek what has never been granted to girls, an inheritance of God’s Promised Land. (Biblical from Harbourlight Books [Pelican])

Contemporary Romance:
Hiding from Christmas by Alice K. Arenz — No matter how hard she tries, Maddie Kelley can’t seem to fit in at Ornamental, a company founded by her great grandfather and his best friend. Now, after yet another screw-up, she’s been sent into the “enemy’s” camp—two hours away from home for the next two months. A punishment or a blessing? Her life is turned upside down when the mundane turns unexpected, and she finally discovers where her heart truly lies. (Contemporary Romance from Forget Me Not Romances [Winged Publications])

Practically Married by Karin Beery — Ashley Johnson moved to northern Michigan to finally meet her fiancé face-to-face, but she arrived in time to attend his funeral. With no home back in Ohio, she decides to stay in what would have been their house, except his cousin Russ lives there too, and Russ has never heard of Ashley. To complicate matters, her fiancé accidentally willed her the family farm house. Eager to please everyone and desperate to disappoint no one, she proposes a marriage of convenience that could solve her and Russ’ problems, if they can get past her aunt, his sisters, and an ex-girlfriend. (Contemporary Romance from Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas)

Once Upon a Christmas by Andrea Boyd, Mikal Dawn, Toni Shiloh, Angela Ruth Strong, and Jaycee Weaver — Embrace the magic of the Christmas season with these contemporary twists on timeless tales. Upon a Dream: A rare sleeping disorder keeps Talia from performing, but when Philip recognizes her gift, he’ll do whatever it takes to see her onstage. Claim My Heart: Li Na and Colin Wen face off in a Mulan-esque courtroom battle where the real win might be losing their hearts. A Snow White Christmas: Sheltered heiress Amala White flees her conniving stepmother’s plans and finds refuge with a handsome orchard owner and his seven quirky uncles. Christmas Ella: Reality TV meets Cinderella story when a location director is swept off her feet by a rising star. A Splash of Love: Las Vegas glitz meets Land of Enchantment culture in A Splash of Love, a modern twist on the Little Mermaid. (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)

The Twin Bargain by Lisa Carter — A mutually beneficial temporary arrangement…But can they keep it strictly professional? Nursing student Amber Fleming couldn’t be more stunned when ex-marine Ethan Green makes an offer: he’ll babysit her twin girls if she cares for his injured grandmother. Amber knows it’s temporary. Ethan isn’t one for roots—or their hometown. But his steadfast caring has her wanting more than friendship. And with help from Amber’s mischievous twins, can they risk becoming a forever family? (Contemporary Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

The Amish Christmas Matchmaker by Vannetta Chapman — With her wedding business thriving, Annie Kauffmann could never leave her beloved Amish community. So when handsome Amish cowboy Levi Lapp tries to convince her father to move the family to Texas, she must put a stop to it. If Annie finds Levi a wife, he might forget his dream of moving…but can she keep from falling for him herself? (Amish Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Sara’s Gift by Kimberly Rose Johnson — Christmas is the season of giving, but Sara isn’t sure she is up to the task. Playing secret angel in high school was fun, and now, years later, Sara has the opportunity to do it once more on a bigger scale. She enlists the help of Gabe, her long-time best friend, to come up with a deserving recipient. But something is off with Gabe—he’s more attentive than usual.
The Christmas season has put Gabe in a reflective mood. His evaluation of his life has left him lonely and wanting more. But can his heart have its desire? That’s up to Sara. Can these two long-time best friends navigate their changing relationship, or will the romance Grinch steal their Christmas joy? (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)

Their Christmas Prayer by Myra Johnson — Searching for a new start, Pastor Shaun O’Grady can’t wait for his next foreign missionary assignment…until he begins working with Brooke Willoughby on the church’s Christmas outreach program. Even as they clash over program specifics, Shaun and Brooke are drawn to each other. Now Shaun’s not sure where he belongs: overseas for his ministry, or at home by Brooke’s side… (Contemporary Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Her Amish Holiday Suitor by Carrie Lighte — Lucy Knepp has no time for heartbreaker Nick Burkholder…until a pretend courtship means she can finish her embroidery for a Christmas fund-raiser in peace. Nick’s arrangement with the too-reserved Lucy is the perfect cover while he repairs the cabin his brother damaged. But once Nick sees how vibrant Lucy really is, can he prove himself—and show their love is for all seasons? (Amish Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

General/Contemporary:

Chasing Dreams by Deborah Raney — Reconsidering her dream of law school, Joanna Chandler finds promise in a possible wedding planning career—especially when she meets wedding DJ Lukas Blaine. But there’s more to Luke than meets the eye. The angry young boy he’s been mentoring has lost his mother and become Luke’s ward. How can Luke possibly find the time to start a new relationship or saddle someone else with a wounded child? He may have to let go of the woman of his dreams–and crush her dreams at the same time. (General/Contemporary from Kregel Publications)

Historical Romance:

Unwrapping Hope by Sandra Ardoin — When Phoebe receives a handcrafted cigar box by mistake, her desperation to give her daughter something special for Christmas drives her to suggest a trade with Spence Newland, a man she views as no more principled than her daughter’s late father. But the more time she spends with the department store heir, the more Phoebe struggles to keep up her guard against him. Spence believes the cigar box will help him gain a reclusive investor’s financial support for his proposed five-and-ten-cent stores. Yet he hesitates to bargain with a widow who mistrusts him for no apparent reason…until he meets a charming little girl at the train station who awaits the arrival of a prince. Will a betrayal in Phoebe’s past and Spence’s unraveling business plans derail their hope for happiness and keep a child’s fairy tale from coming true? (Historical Romance from Corner Room Books)

Hope’s Highest Mountain by Misty M. Beller — Ingrid Chastain travels readily with her father to deliver vaccines to a mining town in the Montana Territory. But after a tragic accident leaves her alone and injured, Ingrid finds rescue in the form of a mysterious mountain man who tends her wounds. Micah Bradley gave up his own medical career after unintentionally bringing home the smallpox disease that killed his wife and daughter. With Ingrid dead set on trekking through the mountains to deliver the medicine as soon as she’s well enough, he has no choice but to accompany her through the treacherous, snow-covered Rocky Mountains. The risk-laden journey ahead will change their lives more than they could have known. (Historical Romance from Bethany House [Baker])

Aiming for Love by Mary Connealy — Josephine Nordegren is one of three sisters who grew up nearly wild in southwestern Colorado. She has the archery skills of Robin Hood and the curiosity of the Little Mermaid, fascinated by but locked away from the forbidden outside world–a world she’s been raised to believe killed her parents. When David Warden, a rancher, brings in a herd much too close to the girls’ secret home, her older sister especially is frightened, but Jo is too interested to stay away. David’s parents follow soon on his heels, escaping bandits at their ranch. David’s father is wounded and needs shelter. Josephine and her sisters have the only cabin on the mountain. Do they risk stepping into the world to help those in need? Or do they remain separated but safe in the peaks of Hope Mountain? (Historical Romance from Bethany House [Baker])

Lessons on Love by Susanne Dietze, Rita Gerlach, Kathleen L. Maher, and Carrie Fancett Pagels — Step back into the classroom alongside four new teachers who face unexpected tests. In 1840 New York, Gilda’s religious beliefs are challenged. In 1870 Kansas, Mary helps ostracized immigrant children. In 1894 Michigan, Jesse discovers an unlikely friendship. And in 1904 Virginia, Margaret wants to make controversial changes. Will these tests teach the teachers about faith and love? (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)

Mystery:

The Silver Lode by Suzanne J Bratcher — A dying child and a seventy-year-old cold case draw historian Paul Russell and antiques expert Marty Greenlaw into a desperate search for the silver lode, a rich deposit of silver and gold one person considers worth murdering to keep. (Mystery from Mantle Rock Publishing)

Romantic Suspense:

Deadly Commitment by Kathy Harris — When Danielle Kemp walks out of her downtown Nashville condominium, she gets the eerie feeling that someone is watching her. She’s convinced that the homeless man outside her building is stalking her. But after learning the real identity of the intimidating stranger, she faces something even more threatening?the truth about her fiancé. (Romantic Suspense from New Hope Publishing)

Cold Pursuit by Gayla K. Hiss — A December tour of Yellowstone National Park sounded like the perfect escape from Faith Chandler’s problems at home—until she discovers her tour guide is her jilted childhood sweetheart, Jake Mitchell. (Romantic Suspense from Mountain Brook Ink)

Legacy Restored by Robin Patchen — She’s a new Christian working to take down an art thief and murderer. He’s a grieving artist who refuses to let another woman die needlessly. When their desires clash, will it lead to hostility… or fireworks? (Romantic Suspense, Independently Published)

Young Adult:
Heart of a Royal by Hannah Currie — Brought to the palace as a newborn, the royal life bestowed upon Mackenna Sparrow was never meant to last forever. With Princess Alina engaged to be married, Mackenna’s presence as companion is no longer required and, like it or not, she must return to the birthright which should have been hers – that of a commoner. But not everyone at the palace wants her gone. When the truths she’s based her life on start crumbling as fast as her future, will she find the courage to trust, both herself and the prince she’s fallen in love with? (Young Adult from WhiteFire Publishing)

A Rumored Fortune by Joanna Davidson Politano

A Rumored Fortune by Joanna Davidson Politano

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If you’ve not read Joanna Davidson Politano, YOU HAVE TO READ HER. LIKE NOW. GO!

There are very few authors (okay only two) whose books I will preorder without even knowing what the story is about, but Joanna is one of them. She has such depth of insight, such richness of story, character, and mystery that you are left pondering her book for years afterwards. Yes. Years.

When I went to write the review for her newest book Finding Lady Enderly, I realized I failed to let you know about A Rumored Fortune, which by the way is up for the 2019 Christy award. (Totally deserving of it.) So I decided to back track and do this one first.

*If you are an on-the-go person, I definitely recommend the audiobook. The narrator was perfect for the story. *

Because it has been over a year since I’ve read her book, I’m not going to follow my normal format, but I will tell you WHY you HAVE to read this book now.

The simple answer? A Rumored Fortune will leave you personally changed. Without even knowing how she did it, you are drawn closer to God and have a greater understanding of who you are in Him. You can’t read her books and NOT walk away changed.

On the plot level, it is an amazingly rich story in love, finding your worth, and enduring the hard seasons of pruning to become a fruitful branch of the vine. Woven with amazing details of vineyard care, you are drawn into a story of gentle romance where two people learn to grow toward God and toward each other. I simply adore the relationship between Tressa and Vance. He is a swoon-worthy hero who helps others and teaches Tressa a great deal about herself. He’s not perfect, but he is a hero worth loving.

The Blurb

Tressa Harlowe’s father did not trust banks, but neither did he trust his greedy extended family. He kept his vast fortune hidden somewhere on his estate in the south of England and died suddenly, without telling anyone where he had concealed it. Tressa and her ailing mother are left with a mansion and an immense vineyard and no money to run it. It doesn’t take long for a bevy of opportunists to flock to the estate under the guise of offering condolences. Tressa knows what they’re really up to. She’ll have to work with the rough and rusticated vineyard manager to keep the laborers content without pay and discover the key to finding her father’s fortune–before someone else finds it first.

Award-winning author Joanna Davidson Politano welcomes readers to Trevelyan Castle, home of the poorest heiress in Victorian England, for a treasure hunt they’ll not soon forget.

– Blurb from Amazon.com

Purchase this irresistible treat at:

Amazon.com     Barnes and Noble    Christianbook.com

Under Moonlit Skies by Cynthia Roemer

Under Moonlit Skies by Cynthia Roemer

The Prairie Skies series has been a pleasure to read and one I will read again, which for me is rare. There are few straight romances which I will read, let alone reread. Yet, Cynthia Roemer always seems to bring more to a story than just romance. Her characters and storylines have depth and and life truths. Under Moonlit Skies had the touch of danger for the last third of the book that I crave. Soooo good. Of course it doesn’t hurt that part of the story takes place in my region. 😉 You can read the reviews of the first two books in the series Under This Same Sky and Under Prairie Skies.

Genre: Historical Romance, 1850s

Plot Overview: 

Her life was planned out ~ until he rode in ~

Illinois prairie ~ 1859

After four long years away, Esther Stanton returns to the prairie to care for her sister Charlotte’s family following the birth of her second child. The month-long stay seems much too short as Esther becomes acquainted with her brother-in-law’s new ranch hand, Stewart Brant. When obligations compel her to return to Cincinnati and to the man her overbearing mother intends her to wed, she loses hope of ever knowing true happiness.

Still reeling from a hurtful relationship, Stew is reluctant to open his heart to Esther. But when he faces a life-threatening injury with Esther tending him, their bond deepens. Heartbroken when she leaves, he sets out after her and inadvertently stumbles across an illegal slave-trade operation, the knowledge of which puts him, as well as Esther and her family, in jeopardy.

What I loved:  My favorite part is the danger and how Stew’s character really stands out in the midst of it. I don’t want to give anything away, but I will say it has to do with the fact Cincinnati was a hotbed of activity during the years leading up to the Civil War.

Favorite Character: I really loved Stew. He was an imperfect man with a strength of character which one cannot help but love. He is sweet and committed. Doing the right thing isn’t always easy, but he does it anyway.

Who would like this: Anyone who loves stories with characters who struggle with becoming their own person, gentle romance, and a touch of danger. Also, those who enjoy a glimpse into pre-Civil War life in an area where blacks were free but always in danger.

Rating and Why: I gave this a four and half star rating. It was a great conclusion to the series which was different from each of the preceding plots and there was a continued demonstration of great character development. I love getting to see characters struggle and change in ways I can relate to.

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from the author/publisher. The review above was influenced in no way by this and the above opinions are my own.

Join the discussion: If you had a decision to make that would greatly disappoint and hurt a parent’s feelings, would you choose what they wanted for you or what you wanted most for yourself?

Purchase Links

Amazon Barnes and Noble

Yours Truly, Thomas

Yours Truly, Thomas by Rachel Fordham

Reading has always been my escape, from the time I was young and read ALL the books in the children’s department (yes, ALL) to now. If you saw last week’s post, you know that I’ve been hit emotionally hard with rejection (in several forms) and then some things outside of the writing world which made me just want to escape, and escape big time. Thankfully, my TBR pile is always near at hand. At the top of my pile was Yours Truly, Thomas.

While technically not part of a series, Yours Truly, Thomas takes place in Azure Springs, the setting of The Hope of Azure Springs, and was as delightful as the first novel by Rachel Fordham. If you are a fan of Hallmark’s Sign, Sealed, and Delivered, then you will definitely want to check out this story as the heroine works in the dead letter office.

Genre: Historical Romance, 1883, Washington D.C. and Azure Springs, IA

Plot Overview: 

For three years, Penny Ercanbeck has been opening other people’s mail. Dead ends are a reality for clerks at the Dead Letter Office. Still she dreams of something more–a bit of intrigue, a taste of romance, or at least a touch less loneliness. When a letter from a brokenhearted man to his one true love falls into her hands, Penny seizes this chance to do something heroic. It becomes her mission to place this lost letter into the hands of its intended recipient.

Thomas left his former life with no intention of ending up in Azure Springs, Iowa. He certainly didn’t expect a happy ending after what he had done. All he wanted to do was run and never look back. In a moment of desperation, he began to write, never really expecting a reply.

When Penny’s undertaking leads her to the intriguing man who touched her soul with his words, everything grows more complicated. She wants to find the rightful owner of the letter and yet she finds herself caring–perhaps too much–for the one who wrote it.

What I loved: The concept of the story is one that has been done before, but the actual story was unique and enjoyable. It took you through all the emotions, and had a touch of danger to add a thrill to the read.

Favorite Character: Penny makes me smile. She tries to think things through, but also takes leaps without real clarity on where she will land. She is an emotional mess in some ways (which I can totally relate to right now), but had a deep compassion and love for strangers.

Who would like this: Fans of Hallmark’s Sign, Sealed, and Delivered, those who love stories where letters play a key role, sweet romance, and stories of leaps of faith.

Rating and Why: I gave this a four-star rating because I enjoyed the story and would recommend it to others.

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from the author/publisher. The review above was influenced in no way by this and the above opinions are my own.

Purchase Links:

Amazon Barnes and Noble Christianbook.com Target Walmart

About Rachel Fordham

A bookworm turned storyteller that loves all things historical but needs an editor for all things technical. A family first, love your life, laugh as you go kind of girl.

Connect with her on her website, Facebook, GoodReads, or BookBub.

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