This book was chosen for my online Christian Historical Romance Book Club, and I just finished listening to the audiobook this weekend. First, I highly recommend the audiobook as the narrator did a wonderful job changing voices to match the characters. As for the story, I enjoyed it as well, although perhaps not in the same manner as I would a light-hearted novel. This story was ripe with emotions, family drama, and a touch of romance. If you have a family member who is dealing with PTSD or dementia, it can be a hard read or an enlightening read. It just depends on where you are in your personal life. For me, I loved the depth of character development and a glimpse into the challenges others face in their lives. The details of living through the fire were so gripping it felt as if I were there experiencing it with the characters. The mystery entwined with the story was well done and complex. While the ending was happy, it didn’t pretend the life-long effects of PTSD go away. You left the family knowing they would continue to face challenges but face them together with fortitude and faith.
I recommend this story for anyone who enjoys deep characters, tough issues, family drama, and a romance that stands true.
Genre: Historical Romance, Chicago Fire, 1871
Meg and Sylvie Townsend manage the family bookshop and care for their father, Stephen, a veteran still suffering in mind and spirit from his time as a POW during the Civil War. But when the Great Fire sweeps through Chicago’s business district, they lose much more than just their store.
The sisters become separated from their father and make a harrowing escape from the flames with the help of Chicago Tribune reporter Nate Pierce. Once the smoke clears away, they reunite with Stephen, only to learn soon after that their family friend was murdered on the night of the fire. Even more shocking, Stephen is charged with the crime and committed to the Cook County Insane Asylum.
Though homeless and suddenly unemployed, Meg must not only gather the pieces of her shattered life, but prove her father’s innocence before the asylum truly drives him mad.
What I loved: I think my favorite part was experiencing the fire with the characters. It brought to light a historical event I’d read about in ways which I’d never considered. It helped me to better relate to friends who have had to evacuate due to wildfires. The details were just so real I’ll never view that tragedy the same way again.
Favorite Character and Why: Stephen was a complex character who I loved and sympathized with. The poor man had endured so much during the Civil War and Andersonville, and yet he was forced to continually face it through PTSD. His grow arch was complex, believable, and heart-wrenching. Parts of his thought patterns reminded me of a dearly loved one and helped me to understand them just a bit better.
Rating and Why: Four and a half stars. The story was heavy, in a good way, but also in a way I’m not sure I am likely able to read again. I would recommend it to everyone, but it was an emotionally hard read for me.
I’m considering doing an every-other-month book club via my website and Facebook author page. Is this something you would be interested in?
I’ve always wanted to be part of a book club, but I’ve never had the joy of having local readers with similar tastes. I thought it would be great to get together with others who like reading Christian Historical Romance (like you!) and have our own online book club. I’m still trying to sort the idea out, but before I put too much effort into it, I wanted to have your feedback.
My current thought is to vote on a Christian Historical Romance novel, pick a day where we come together via Zoom (or just posts online) to discuss the book, play a game or two, and participate in a giveaway. I’d send discussion questions ahead of time because if you are like me, you need time to think and process. It would be an event you sign up for ahead of time and wouldn’t necessarily have to participate every time.
If I did it, I think the schedule would be January, March, May, July, September, and early November (to avoid holiday hassles).
The first one would be pretty short notice for this July, but the book options I’m thinking are:
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.
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
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?
Hello, friends! I’ve got another debut author to introduce. Meet Kaitlin Covel who reached out to me via my contact form. I had the privilege of reading her novel Atoning for Ashes a few weeks ago and that review will go live next Tuesday. For now, I’d love for you to get to know the woman behind the words.
Kaitlin Covel has a thirst for adventure much like the heroines of her stories. She is an old-fashioned romantic, and if she could time travel to any historical period, it would be the Regency Era. Here in the 21st century, she is a certified Nutritional Therapy Technician, but writing is her passion, whether it’s fiction or non-fiction. Her debut novel, Atoning for Ashes, releases on February 14th, 2019 from Deep River Books. She has honed her craft since childhood, benefiting from the insights of other writers through professional writing associations such as the Jerry Jenkins Writer’s Guild and Hope*writers. She lives with her family in Maine, where she enjoys teaching the teen Sunday school class at her church. Her favorite things are family, books, history, chocolate, music, the ocean, and strong cups of tea. Visit her at www.kaitlincovel.com.
Sweet or Unsweet Tea?
Kaitlin:I know sweet tea is a big deal to everyone down south, but I prefer mine unsweetened!
Beach Vacation or Mountain Getaway?
Kaitlin: Definitely a beach vacation for me! Perhaps on Prince Edward Island!
Homebody or Love to Travel?
Kaitlin: I really love to travel. If I ever inherited a fortune like the heroines of novels, I would spend the first cent on a plane ticket to the first place on my bucket list: Paris, France!
Morning Person or Night Owl?
Kaitlin: I’m a night owl for sure!
Bookmark or Dog-ear Pages?
Kaitlin: I love bookmarks!
Writing, Life, and God
As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?
Kaitlin: My dream job as a child was to be a published author and see my books on a library shelf. I thank God for making my dream come true!
Crystal: I love when God makes the desires of our heart a reality.
What is your favorite Bible verse? Why?
Kaitlin: Proverbs 3:5-6: Trust in the Lord with all thine heart and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, for he shall direct thy path.
I love this verse because it is a daily reminder to trust the Lord and rely upon Him in all circumstances. Life is complicated, but I know the Lord will direct my path if I acknowledge him in all my ways.
Crystal: That is a great one. Although, I confess every time I read that one, I do the little song with it that I used to teach it to my Sunday School kiddos.
What was the best advice someone ever gave you about writing, life, or anything that strikes your fancy?
Kaitlin: One of the greatest pieces of writing advice I ever received was to write until I was confident enough of my writing skills to share them with the world. I wrote short stories and several novels to practice my skills. I engaged in writing memberships and contests to polish my craft until I knew I was ready to attempt publication. This journey has taken me almost ten years, but I have loved every moment of it. I look forward to the next chapter of my publishing journey and all the new experiences that await me. I know I am doing what I was born to do!
Crystal: Very sound advice and we are excited to see where this journey brings you.
Josie Chadwick dreams of marrying for love in Cornwall, England, but with her father’s debt threatening to destroy all she holds dear, her romantic options are dwindling. When her elder sister Delia is disowned, Josie finds herself heiress of Chadwick Park, torn between dreams and duty. After sacrificing her heart to atone for Delia’s sin, Josie clings to the hope she will learn to love a distant husband, whom she fears is incapable of requiting her affection.
Atoning for Ashes
How did this story affect you as you wrote it? Did God teach you anything through the writing?
Kaitlin: God taught me so much through writing this story that I don’t even know where to begin… I think the biggest lesson God taught me in writing Atoning for Ashes was the unconditional nature of His love. I’d never really meditated on this aspect of our God, but because several main characters in my book struggle with a crisis of identity, I reflected on the unconditional nature of my God’s love and grace more than I ever had before.
Crystal: That unconditional nature is just so mindboggling to our human minds.
How do you come up with the names of your characters?
Kaitlin: I like to look at the census for the year my story is set if it is available. I’m always taking note of unusual period names when I’m watching period dramas or reading classic literature/biographies/memoirs. For surnames, I do a lot of research based on the setting, and I have fun exploring historical documents from the time period. It is a struggle, but I persevere until I’m satisfied with the ring of each characters’ full name!
Crystal: That is very cool. I love period- accurate names and am so glad you take the time to find them.
What was your hardest scene to write?
Kaitlin: Hmmm… I’ll try not to give any spoilers! There were several scenes that were fairly difficult to write, but the hardest scene of all was the scene where Josie and Charles eat dinner in their hotel room in Paris. It is quite an emotionally charged scene, and the climax in the dialogue occurs when Charles confesses a dark secret of his past.
Crystal: I can see where that would be a very difficult scene to write.
Fun, Zaney Question of the Day
What are the top three things on your bucket list?
Kaitlin: A trip to Paris, swimming with dolphins, and I’d love to go on a missions trip sometime!
Crystal: I hope those are things you get to enjoy at some point!
Readers, tell us what your top three things are on your bucket list, and be sure to check out Kaitlin’s debut book, Atoning for Ashes at Amazon or Barnes and Noble!