Review: The Promise of Breeze Hill – Pam Hillman

Pam Hillman. The Promise of Breeze Hill. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2017.

I always enjoy trying new author, new series, and stories that explore new places and historical periods.  Fortunately, Pam Hillman’s latest release fits all of these criteria.

The Promise of Breeze Hill begins Ms. Hillman’s Natchez Trace series, set in Natchez, Mississippi, in the late eighteenth century.  Connor O’Shea intends to indenture himself and his skills as a carpenter to bring his brothers to America from Ireland.  Without the necessary skilled labor to rebuild her father’s plantation, Isabella Bartholomew purchases Connor’s indenture, counting on a successful harvest to provide the necessary funds to carry out her side of the agreement.  Together, Isabella and Connor work toward rebuilding Breeze Hill Plantation in the face of an unknown threat that has led to the loss of Isabella’s brother, the destruction of part of the plantation house, and left her father severely injured.  As the threats continue, Isabella must choose between marrying a wealthy neighbor or following her heart, as she hopes that one path may lead to the peace and reassurance that she has been looking for all of along.

Set in the late eighteenth century, The Promise of Breeze Hill offers a fascinating plot unique to its location and period.  Ms. Hillman presents a compelling beginning to her Natchez Trace series.

Overall, I quite enjoyed reading The Promise of Breeze Hill.  Although I am otherwise unfamiliar with Ms. Hillman’s work, this story set itself apart from many other concepts frequently found in the historical Christian fiction genre.  I would have liked to see a little more context, possibly in the form of an author’s note at the beginning of the book, to explain more about the place and period of the book, as I could see quite a few readers being completely unfamiliar with this setting.  However, readers will find that it is well worth reading the book, especially to learn about the mixture of cultures and influences in the Netchez area during the late eighteenth century.  Additionally, I really enjoyed seeing a significant Christian component in this novel.  In general, I thought the book (at least in its ARC form) would have benefited from some additional editing, but I’m sure that a significant amount of those errors would have been fixed by the time of the novel’s official release.  Based on the unique storyline and characters of this novel, I am looking forward to seeing where Ms. Hillman takes this series next.

Fans of Ms. Hillman’s previous works will likely enjoy reading The Promise of Breeze Hill.  Additionally, readers who appreciate unique examples of historical Christian fiction will find this story to be well worth reading.

Special thanks to NetGalley and Tyndale House Publishers for an advanced copy of The Promise of Breeze Hill!

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Review: To Wager Her Heart – Tamera Alexander

Tamera Alexander. To Wager Her Heart. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2017.

When I was young, my dad would take the family to various museums and other locations to see trains.  They always seemed immense and captivating, especially to a tiny kid.  Even now, I have an odd fascination with trains and found this novel’s inclusion of detailed descriptions of nineteenth-century railroads to be an odd highlight of the story. :)

To Wager Her Heart, the third book of Ms. Alexander’s Belle Meade Plantation series, returns readers to post-Civil War Nashville, Tennessee.  Alexandra Jamison escapes an arranged marriage, forcing her to look elsewhere for a job to support herself.  With teaching skills acquired from her deceased fiancé, Alexandra finds a position as a teacher at Fisk University, a freedmen’s university in Nashville.  Unfortunately, the position comes with few perks and a tiny salary, resulting in her accepting a tutoring position with Sylas Rutledge.  Originally from Colorado, Sy readily admits that Southern manners leave him perplexed.  With a chance of a lifetime to partner on a venture with General William Giles Harding of Belle Meade Plantation, Sy must impress the General and Nashville society to ensure the success of his Northeast Line Railroad.  Sharing unorthodox opinions about education and society, Sy and Alexandra soon find themselves risking everything to stand up for their beliefs.  However, a tragic train accident that connects them may be the one thing keeping them apart.

Ms. Alexander returns for the final volume of her fascinating Belle Meade Plantation series.  Fans of her work will applaud her development of this story, as it bridges intriguing historical events and people found in the region’s history.

Overall, I really enjoyed reading To Wager Her Heart!  Ms. Alexander expertly develops her characters, drawing in the reader from the very first chapter.  The novel includes an unexpected thread focused on the Fisk University Jubilee Singers and their attempts to save the university from insolvency.  While music, education, and railroads seem like an odd combination within a story, Ms. Alexander somehow makes it a perfect fit!  The level of research to pull together such diverse topics, while developing a wonderful sense of place throughout the novel is exceptionally impressive.  Additionally, this novel shows Ms. Alexander’s further growth as a writer, as this and her last several books have started to have an even smoother writing style, better pacing, and tighter storylines.  While I have always enjoyed Ms. Alexander’s novels, I am looking forward to her future work even more as a result of this growth.

Fans of Ms. Alexander’s previous novels, especially those in the Belle Meade Plantation series, will definitely want to read To Wager Her Heart!  Likewise, readers who appreciate great Christian historical fiction with a focus on the post-Civil War era South will also find this novel to be well worth reading.

Ms. Alexander kicks off a new series with her release of Christmas at Carnton: A Novella this October!

Special thanks to NetGalley and Zondervan for the advanced copy of To Wager Her Heart!

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Review: High as the Heavens – Kate Breslin

Kate Breslin. High as the Heavens. Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 2017.

The last couple of months have been a little out of the ordinary, as some of you probably noticed the Blog’s brief hiatus in May.  With the addition of our newest (and littlest) member of the Blog team, time is definitely at a premium.  In the midst of the insanity, reviewing this novel ended up being slightly delayed, so I am very happy to finally post this review!

In High as the Heavens, Evelyn Marche grew up in Britain to a Belgian family.  After losing her husband during the early days of World War I, Evelyn returns to her family’s hometown, landing herself directly in the path of the German army.  She soon finds herself leading the nurses of a German hospital in Brussels, while serving as part of the Belgian resistance.  When British Captain Simon Forrester’s plane crashes in the middle of the city, Evelyn risks everything to preserve his identity and top-secret papers.  With the Germans intent on proving Simon to be a spy, he is forced to trust Evelyn with his survival and finding a way out of Brussels.  Together, they look forward to the day that they might dare to return to the dreams they once had before the war.

Ms. Breslin shares this intriguing story of World War I spycraft, delving into the fascinating perspective of the Belgian resistance and their work with the British Secret Service.  Fans of World War I-era stories will definitely want to check out this fascinating novel!

Overall, I found High as the Heavens to be a very unique novel.  Previous to reading this book, I had not encountered one focused on the Belgian perspective during World War I.  Personally, I would have greatly appreciated some additional context, as I was quite unfamiliar with the locations, people, and events described in the novel.  Even some additional description in an author’s note would have been very helpful to provide this kind of information.  While the characters were interesting and relatively well developed, I thought that the writing style and pacing of the story dragged at points, especially toward the beginning.  However, I’m sure that someone more familiar with this period and geography would have been much more comfortable moving more quickly through the story.

Fans of Kate Breslin’s other novels would definitely enjoy reading High as the Heavens.  Likewise, those with a particular interest in World War I would also find this to be well worth reading.

Special thanks to NetGalley and Bethany House for the promotional copy of High as the Heavens!

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Review: A Name Unknown – Roseanna White

Roseanna M. White. A Name Unknown. Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 2017.

Reading a new series is always a risk.  Even for a much-loved author, a new series offers an entirely different set of characters, settings, and situations that may be more or less appealing than their other stories.  However, I also find it to be a great opportunity to see an author’s growth as a writer.

Ms. White releases the first novel of her new Shadows Over England series with A Name Unknown.  In the months before World War I, Peter Holstein faces suspicion due to his German heritage.  As the British monarchy considers changing their family name to something less German, Peter must also prove his loyalty to England.  In an effort to justify his land holdings and citizenship, he hires Rosemary Gresham to find the family documents in his chaotic and disorderly library.  Unbeknownst to Peter, Rosemary arrives on his doorstep with ulterior motives.  She has been hired as a known thief to masquerade as a librarian to determine Peter’s allegiance to either England or Germany.  As Peter and Rosemary work together to find the family’s history, Peter’s activities behind locked doors raise suspicion.  However, the truth of his past and present activities may just be the key to his and Rosemary’s future.

A Name Unknown offers an intriguing storyline with a combination of romance, suspense, and humor that will delight fans of Christian historical fiction.  Rosemary, Peter, and the story’s other characters provide a fascinating perspective of the months leading up to the start of World War I.

Overall, I really enjoyed reading A Name Unknown!  While I had somewhat mixed feelings about Ms. White’s previous Ladies of the Manor series, this new release presents a significantly stronger example of her writing.  The concept behind this new series appears to be much more intriguing, capturing the imagination of the reader from the very beginning of the novel.  Additionally, A Name Unknown reveals a significant improvement from Ms. White’s previous series in terms of the quality of her historical research and ability to incorporate these details into the storyl.  With a strong plot, cast of characters, historical basis, and an unexpected sense of humor, this book serves as the whole package, presenting a new high for Ms. White’s work.  I look forward to seeing how she continues to build out this new series and her future novels, based on the level of excellence found in A Name Unknown.

Fans of Ms. White’s previous novels, including those found in her Ladies of the Manor, will definitely want to read A Name Unknown.  Additionally, readers who enjoy historical Christian fiction with a touch of mystery and intrigue will also find this novel to be well worth trying.

Ms. White continues the Shadows Over England series with her release of A Song Unheard in January 2018!

Special thanks to NetGalley and Bethany House Publishers for an advanced copy of A Name Unknown!

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Review: Heart on the Line – Karen Witemeyer

Karen Witemeyer. Heart on the Line. Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 2017.

The summer marathon of new book releases continues!  This week, I’m thrilled to feature Karen Witemeyer’s most recent release, Heart on the Line.

Heart on the Line builds upon a set of characters and events first introduced in Ms. Witemeyer’s No Other Will Do, based in the fictional women’s colony of Harper’s Station, Texas.  While all of the women of Harper’s Station have their own reason for escaping their previous lives, Grace Mallory faces a direct threat on her life if she is ever discovered by those who murdered her father.  However, she has finally found peace and built a life for herself as the town’s telegrapher.  After hours, when the telegraph lines have otherwise gone quiet, she communicates with a fellow Texas telegrapher, Amos Bledsoe.  During one of their Morse code-based conversations, a late-night message arrives warning Grace that her location has been discovered by those who seek her.  While Amos has led a quiet life as a talented telegrapher and bicycle enthusiast, he rushes to his anonymous friend’s aid.  After arriving in Harper’s Station, he soon discovers that his fellow telegrapher may be the one person who can overcome his quiet nature and turn him into a daring man of Texan-sized legend.

As the second book in Ms. Witemeyer’s Ladies of Harper’s Station series, fans will eagerly welcome the return of this bunch of quirky and loveable characters.  Grace and Amos’ story fits perfectly into the collection of Ms. Witemeyer’s heroes and heroines, even as their quieter personalities set them apart from so many others found in the genre.

Overall, I found myself absolutely loving Heart on the Line!  Ms. Witemeyer always writes with an engaging and humorous style.  However, she manages to reach a new high with Grace and Amos’ story, as she builds upon her previous novel that first introduced the town of Harper’s Station and the delightful characters who live in and around the town.  Without having to include extensive introduction of those elements, Ms. Witemeyer is able to create an incredibly tight and enjoyable storyline.  The backstory of Harper’s Station also provides the perfect setting for the unique relationship between Grace and Amos, as they serve as foils of other characters living in the town that played a greater role in the previous novel.  In addition, Heart on the Line features an equally compelling secondary storyline and set of characters that make the novel feel more complete and complex, yet approachable for all readers.

Fans of Ms. Witemeyer’s previous novels, especially No Other Will Do, will definitely want to read Heart on the Line.  Additionally, readers who particularly enjoy Christian historical fiction with humorous elements will also find this novel to be well worth adding to their must-read piles.

Special thanks to NetGalley and Bethany House Publishers for the advanced copy of Heart on the Line!

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Amazon –Heart on the Line