Review: Messenger by Moonlight – Stephanie Grace Whitson

Stephanie Grace Whitson. Messenger by Moonlight. New York, NY: FaithWords, 2016.

It’s been a particularly busy week around the Books and Biscuits Blog as more books for the summer months have just arrived. However, I made to make the time to read Stephanie Grace Whitson’s newest release, Messenger by Moonlight.

Annie Paxton and her brothers are forced to leave their childhood home after their father’s death.  They head to St. Joseph, Missouri, in the hopes of settling down in the city and finding worthwhile jobs for all three of them.  However, the Pony Express is searching for young and daring riders, an opportunity that the Paxton brothers cannot pass up.  Soon, the Paxtons are on their way to a remote Pony Express station in the Nebraska Territory.  While the Paxton brothers are racing horses across hundreds of miles of barely-settled territory, Annie cooks and cares for the guests of the Pony Express station, with the help of its surly owner, George Morgan.  In comparison, the officers of Fort Kearny seem like gentleman.  When the nation turns to war and the Pony Express encounters its own set of challenges, Annie must finally choose between the relative safety she has always known and embracing the real-life adventure of the Pony Express.

Ms. Whitson continues to focus her recent novels on unique female characters during the mid-nineteenth century.  Messenger by Moonlight tells the story of the Pony Express, while presenting a fascinating perspective of the women who helped to keep the stations running and fed.

Overall, I really enjoyed Messenger by Moonlight.  Ms. Whitson always writes thoroughly-researched, yet surprisingly accessible stories about the western frontiers.  This novel fits well with A Captain for Laura Rose and Daughter of the Regiment, in that it focuses on the unique perspective of women placed in extraordinary situations during times of political and familiar struggle.  From a historical perspective, I would highly recommend that reader’s pay attention to Ms. Whitson’s author’s notes, as she clearly indicate just how little historical resources are available to support the primary concept of the novel.  In general, I thought she did an excellent job of remaining close to the general details of the period, even without having exceptional amounts of primary or secondary documentation focused on the women’s perspective of the Pony Express stations.  In the end, I thought that Ms. Whitson’s resulting novel was masterfully accomplished and a convincing, yet exciting, interpretation of the Pony Express.

Readers who enjoy Ms. Whitson’s other novels will definitely want to read Messenger by Moonlight.  Fans of mid-nineteenth century historical Christian fiction, especially focusing on the nation’s western migration, will find the novel to present a particularly fascinating perspective not often found in other books.  With moderate pacing and an accessible writing style, the novel makes for a relatively fast read, even at 327 pages.

Looking for this book? Support the Books and Biscuits blog, while shopping at:
Amazon – Messenger by Moonlight

Review: The Ringmaster’s Wife – Kristy Cambron

Kristy Cambron. The Ringmaster’s Wife. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2016.

June continues to be an incredible month for Christian fiction.  I am thrilled to feature yet another 5-star review this month, this time for Kristy Cambron’s latest release.

The Ringmaster’s Wife balances two storylines, both revealing the power of courage and love experienced by two young women separated by a generation.  Mable leaves her family’s farm to experience a world of dreams at the Chicago World’s Fair.  Her experience leads her to a chance meeting with John Ringling.  In the 1920s, Lady Rosamund Easling dares to leave behind her predictable life to become a bareback rider for the Ringling Brothers’ circus.  There, she meets Mable Ringling and a fascinating cast of circus performers, who live a nomadic existence traveling across the United States each year.  Soon, Rosamund finds her own successes under the Big Top, even as she must choose between the comforts of her former life and chasing new dreams.

Ms. Cambron exhibits a new height in her writing, as she moves away from the World War II-era storylines of her previous novels.  Instead, The Ringmaster’s Wife captures the Jazz Age and the glitter of early-twentieth-century show businesses.

Overall, I was absolutely delighted with The Ringmaster’s Wife and the new direction of Ms. Cambron’s books.  While her previous work on The Butterfly and the Violin and A Sparrow in Terezin must be applauded, their subject matter regarding World War II concentration camps could be seen as admittedly depressing by readers.  In comparison, The Ringmaster’s Wife presents itself as a fantastic and glamorous story, filled with fascinating characters.  The novel is a wonderfully engrossing, in part due to the relative uniqueness of its characters and overall story development.  Ms. Cambron masterfully juggles two intertwined storylines, while remaining firmly in their respective historical periods.  After reading her previous books, I was thrilled to see Ms. Cambron’s growth as a writer, especially in her ability to utilize the two storylines and broader cast of characters to develop a stronger overall plotline.  Additionally, she brings her keen eye for artistic detail to the pages of her novel, utilizing her writing style to fully capture the sparkle of circus life and the Ringling’s home in Sarasota, Florida.  Based on the incredible caliber of The Ringmaster’s Wife, I am very eager to read Ms. Cambron’s future novels, including The Illusionist’s Apprentice, which will be released in March 2017!

Fans of Ms. Cambron’s Hidden Masterpieces series, including The Butterfly and the Violin and A Sparrow in Terezin, will definitely want to read The Ringmaster’s Wife.  However, the relative uniqueness of the storyline and the novel’s focus on the Ringling Brothers’ Circus definitely sets it apart from many other novels in the Christian historical fiction genre.  Honestly, the novel must be appreciated in its own right and I would highly encourage fans of great historical fiction to add it to the very top of their must-read piles.

Special thanks to NetGalley and Thomas Nelson for the advanced copy of The Ringmaster’s Wife!

Looking for this book? Support the Books and Biscuits blog, while shopping at:
Amazon – The Ringmaster’s Wife

Review: From This Moment – Elizabeth Camden

Elizabeth Camden. From This Moment. Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 2016.

June has already been a landmark month here at the Books and Biscuits Blog.  May had some extraordinary books and June just keeps getting better, with new releases by other award-winning Christian authors.

Elizabeth Camden’s newest release, From This Moment, builds on a group of characters first introduced in the “Summer of Dreams” novella. Romulus White and his cousin, Evelyn, rebuilt Scientific World from a floundering publication list to an internationally-acclaimed magazine.  As close as brother and sister, these cousins are determined to succeed in their business, even if their idiosyncrasies have gotten in the way of their personal lives.  In the hopes of further improving the magazine, Romulus has made it his mission to finally hire Stella West, an American artist living in London, to bring the best in color illustrations to his publication.  However, Stella has left her art career behind and arrived in Boston to solve the mystery of her sister’s sudden death.  After a chance encounter, these two forceful personalities come to an arrangement: Romulus’s political connections for Stella’s famed artistic talent.  Together, they finally have a chance to solve a mystery and take a chance on trusting someone else with their greatest secrets.

Ms. Camden creates yet another historical masterpiece with From This Moment.  The novel explores the riveting political battlegrounds of nineteenth-century Boston, even as it develops a riveting romantic plot that will leave readers sighing for more flawed, yet brilliant, characters.

Overall, I was absolutely thrilled with From This Moment.  Ms. Camden continues to expand and improve her ability to develop a dynamic story, even while creating compelling and intelligent characters.  This novel also involves a complex cast of powerful characters, with intriguing motivations and backstories of their own.  Ms. Camden masterfully interweaves vital historical details into the novel’s plot, bringing the age of scientific discovery and engineering marvel to life, including the building of Boston’s subway system.  Based on the storyline and character development of the “Summer of Dreams” novella and From This Moment, I would definitely recommend reading both stories.  While most novels and novellas can stand independently, I thought that much of the context required to understand the backstories of From This Moment’s main characters originates in “Summer of Dreams.”  Personally, I understand why Ms. Camden created a separate novella.  However, readers will much better appreciate From This Moment after reading the novella, too.

Fans of Ms. Camden’s previous novels will definitely want to read From This Moment.  Additionally, readers of 19th century-era historical fiction novels by Christian authors and publishers will find this book to be a fascinating read.  Ms. Camden has a slightly denser style than some other authors in the genre and oftentimes utilizes far more historical detail.  Additionally, she has made a name for herself in her development of highly intelligent characters, including actively-employed and brilliant women, who are oftentimes ahead of their time within the settings of her novels.

Special thanks to Bethany House Publishers for the advanced copy of From This Moment!

Looking for this book? Support the Books and Biscuits blog, while shopping at:
Amazon – From This Moment

Review: No Other Will Do – Karen Witemeyer

Karen Witemeyer. No Other Will Do. Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 2016.

It’s been another crazy week here at the Books and Biscuits Blog.  Fortunately, my copy of this week’s featured book arrived three weeks early!  As Ms. Witemeyer is one of my favorite authors, I’m thrilled to be able to share this review with all of you. :)

Karen Witemeyer releases No Other Will Do, with a different take on her traditional western-style romance.  As a child, Emma Chandler “rescued” Malachi Shaw, offering him a home away from the streets of his youth.  Years later, Mal has become a successful explosives expert for the railroad, working in the far reaches of Montana.  However, Emma sends an urgent message requesting his help.  Along with her suffragette aunts, Emma created a women’s colony in Harper’s Station, Texas.  The community offers a haven for women who are seeking a fresh start, oftentimes after being widowed or abused.  Unfortunately, not everyone agrees with Emma’s mission, as several strange men threaten the women harm if they remain in Harper’s Station.  Mal offers the perfect solution, as Emma knows she can trust him to defend the community.  Together, Emma and Mal renew their childhood partnership to ensure justice, even as they find that their feelings have greatly matured over the years.

Ms. Witemeyer writes a compelling and unique tale that will capture the hearts and imaginations of her readers.  With high stakes and a great cast of characters, No Other Will Do serves as a highlight of Ms. Witemeyer’s writing career.

Overall, I absolutely loved reading No Other Will Do!  Ms. Witemeyer is at her absolute best in this Western-style tale with a feminine twist.  This novel very much reminded me of Deeanne Gist’s Courting Trouble and Deep in the Heart of Trouble, with a tad bit of Elizabeth Camden’s strong female characters thrown in for good measure. :)  No Other Will Do proves once again what makes great Christian historical fiction: great characters, imaginative plots, and good, clean fun!  The town of Harper’s Station and the people who live there are among some of the book’s highlights.  As a result, I’m absolutely thrilled that Ms. Witemeyer is already writing her next book to also take place in the same town.

Fans of Ms. Witemeyer’s work will absolutely want to read No Other Will Do!  Likewise, fans of great Christian historical fiction will also want to read this book, especially fans of Deeanne Gist and Elizabeth Camden.  The novel’s Western/Texas setting and fun-filled story will definitely draw in readers.  Additionally, Ms. Witemeyer’s relatively light style and fast pace make it particularly approachable for a broad audience.

Special thanks to NetGalley and Bethany House Publishers for the advanced copy of No Other Will Do!

Looking for this book? Support the Books and Biscuits blog, while shopping at:
Amazon – No Other Will Do