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
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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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
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.
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
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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QUESTION FOR YOU:
What books have you read that deal well with tough topics?
It is my great pleasure and honor to introduce to you Jennifer Deibel, one of the 2021 Christian fiction debut authors.
Jennifer Deibel is a middle school teacher whose work has appeared on (in)courage, on The Better Mom, in Missions Mosaic magazine, and others. With firsthand immersive experience abroad, Jennifer writes stories that help redefine home through the lens of culture, history, and family. After nearly a decade of living in Ireland and Austria, she now lives in Arizona with her husband and their three children. You can find her online at www.jenniferdeibel.com. Her debut novel, A Dance in Donegal, releases Feb. 2, 2021 from Revell and is available for pre-order wherever books are sold!
You can connect with her at Instagram, Facebook, Goodreads, or BookBub.
Now for the fun stuff! I have to admit I am partial to my Fast Five. 🙂 So settle in as I hit Jennifer with rapid-fire.
CC: Sweet or Unsweet Tea?
JD: Can I say both? LOL Honestly, though, in a pinch I’d probably go for dark!
CC: Absolutely you can say both. Good choice. 😉
CC: Print or E-book?
JD: Print! I love the feel, smell, the heft of it.
CC: I’m 100% with you!
CC: Cat or Dog person?
JD: Dog, for sure!!
CC: Who can resist a tail that wags every time they see you?
CC: Morning Person or Night Owl?
JD: Permanently Exhausted Pigeon. LOL
CC: Oh that’s hilarious! I’ve not heard that one, but it’s perfect!
CC: Spring, Summer, Fall, or Winter?
JD: Oh, fall, most definitely!
CC: It is so beautiful!
Thanks for sharing those fun things. Let’s dive right into talking about you.
How can we pray for you?
JD: I’m heading into edits for book 2—which I’m so very excited about! I absolutely love this story and can’t wait to get it into readers’ hands! But I’m also in the midst of grading middle school essays, and thinking of which story idea(s) I want to pursue next. So, I’d appreciate prayers for energy and strength, but also for wisdom and discernment. And divine inspiration. ☺
CC: Absolutely! Teaching is such a full-time and mentally draining job, I can’t imagine how you manage to balance both writing and teaching. You are definitely in our prayers!
What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?
JD: Being a teacher, I tend to write the bulk of my books during the summer. I try to balance good, big chunks of concentrated writing time with good, concentrated time with my kids—they are getting older, and won’t be home forever, so I want to be wise with my time. During the school year, I rotate evenings and weekends with writing, schoolwork/planning/grading, family time, etc.
CC: Bless you. You have so much to balance in your life. You completely amaze me. The mom guilt is hard and you definitely don’t want to miss those moments, but being called to write has its demands as well.
Now let’s dive into your debut novel, A Dance in Doengal!
After the loss of her Irish mother in the summer of 1920, Moira Doherty decides to fulfill her mother’s wish for her to leave Boston and teach in her mother’s home village of Ballymann in Donegal, Ireland. Though a few locals offer a warm welcome, others are distanced by superstition and suspicion. Rumors about a scandalous family reputation abound and threaten not only her new position but also her life.
Moira must rely on the kindness of a handful of unlikely friends including Sean, a handsome thatcher, to help her clear her family name before it’s too late. As she seeks to navigate her new life in Ireland, she may find that this is truly the life she was always meant to live.
CC: What was some of your favorite research you discovered while preparing for A Dance in Donegal?
JD: I really loved researching all the ancient traditions of Ireland. I’d experienced many of them firsthand when we lived there, but I wanted an even deeper understanding of why they do or say the things they do—things they’ve done and said for centuries, and still do to this day. I don’t want to give too much away, but there’s one major life event in particular that I just found absolutely fascinating the sheer number and depth of traditions involved in it. It’s like a well-choreographed dance, and everyone seems to automatically know their parts. Which, I loved, as it fits well with the dance theme that runs throughout the story. And it deepened my own appreciation and love for Ireland’s culture and traditions because I understood even more where they are coming from, and the rich meaning behind literally everything they do.
CC: Wow. I’m a little jealous you lived there. It’s definitely on my bucket list to go one day, but I’m glad I’ll get a glimpse of it by reading your book!
How did this story affect you as you wrote it? Did God teach you anything through the writing?
JD: So much of this story was written during or shortly after major seasons of change and transition for our family. And, much like Moira, I often found myself questioning God’s plans, and whether or not He truly knew what He was doing…or if I’d misheard/misinterpreted His leading in some way. Walking this story alongside my characters helped strengthen my own faith that God does in fact know what He’s doing, and He is good, and He is for my good…even if the circumstances He chooses to use to do that are painful.
CC: Hugs. Those are the best and most painful lessons to learn, but I’m so glad you were able to process those changes through your characters.
How do you select the names of your characters?
JD: For some of the characters, the names just came to me—I just knew the main character’s name was Moira, for example. Others, I had to look up. I wanted names that were common in that time-period, and in that area of Ireland. But I also wanted the names to match the characters and their personalities. The meanings of names are hugely important to me in my own life, so I brought that to my characters as well. I also chose harsh-sounding names for the antagonists because they are caustic people, and I wanted their names to be consistent with that.
CC: I love how much thought went into all of that! Name meanings are so fun to look up and now you’re going to have me looking up the meanings of your characters.
Thank you so much for joining me today and providing all of us with a wonderful distraction. I have one last, fun question to give you.
Would you rather face 100 duck-sized horses or one horse-sized duck? Why?
JD: Oh, 100 duck-sized horses. No question. First of all, they sound completely adorable! Secondly, I feel like they might be more manageable…or at least less threatening than a horse-sized duck. I feel like one peck from that duck would be the end of me.
CC: I can just see the beak coming at you now. LoL
Thanks for spending time with me and my readers today. I am so excited to share your story with them. READERS: You can purchase Jennifer’s book at any of the following retailers or your favorite bookseller. The reviews are rolling in and they are great. I can’t wait to dig into my copy soon.
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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 (firstname.lastname@example.org). 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
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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Masquerade at Middlecrest Abbey
by Abigail Wilson
As many of you know, first-person perspectives are NOT my favorite. An author really has to engage me and make me forget I am in the first-person in order for me to really get through the story. That being said, I needed an audiobook to listen to on a road trip that would have a bit of mystery, danger, and romance. The blurb for this story intrigued me enough to make me willing to try and listen to a first-person point of view novel. (And I totally blame Erica Vetsch’s The Lost Lieutenant and The Gentleman Spy for sending me on a Regency binge.)
I was pleasantly surprised, enough so, that I am considering going back and listening to and/or reading the first two books in the series. Masquerade at Middlecrest Abbey is a standalone book, although it is connected to other stories. I am sure there are little antidotes I missed by reading out of order, but I still found the story engaging and believable. While not always able to suspend the thought of being in first-person, I loved the unusual marriage of convenience story. Elizabeth and Lord Torrington proved to be unique characters who drew me in. Lord Torrington especially was an unexpected kind of man. I struggled to make him out just as Elizabeth did, but found him a hero whose company I enjoyed.
If you like the first-person point of view, marriage-of-convenience stories, mysterious heroes, danger, and mystery, I highly recommend this Regency story.
Genre: Historical Romance, England, 1815
In this new Regency romance, a young unwed mother must protect her heart from the charms of her convenient new husband, Lord Torrington. She is not, however, prepared to protect her life.
When the widowed Lord Torrington agreed to spy for the crown, he never planned to impersonate a highwayman, let alone rob the wrong carriage. Stranded on the road with an unconscious young woman, he is forced to propose marriage to protect his identity and her reputation, as well as his dangerous mission.
Trapped not only by her duty to her country but also by her limited options as an unwed mother, Miss Elizabeth Cantrell and her infant son are whisked away to Middlecrest Abbey by none other than the elder brother of her son’s absent father. There she is met by Torrington’s beautiful grown daughters, a vicious murder, and an urgent hunt for the missing intelligence that could turn the war with France. Meanwhile, she must convince everyone that her marriage is a genuine love match if her new husband has any hope of uncovering the enemy.
Determined to keep her son’s true identity a secret, Elizabeth will need to remain one step ahead of her fragile heart, her uncertain future, and the relentless fiend bent on her new family’s ruin.
What I loved: The plot itself was incredibly fascinating. The dance of romance, family drama, and danger intrigued me and kept me on my toes. It was a delightful distraction from a long boring drive.
Favorite Character and Why: Lord Torrington was a puzzle. I truly enjoyed getting to know him. He was far from a perfect hero, but he was a man whom I could respect and grow to admire. The man’s soft heart was shown in some rather unexpected ways.
Rating and Why: Five Stars. I was pleasantly pleased that despite it being first-person, the story was fully engaging. I waited in my car for twenty minutes after I got home, just so I could finish the story.
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