Review: Before We Were Yours – Lisa Wingate

Lisa Wingate. Before We Were Yours. New York, NY: Ballantine Books, 2017.

For many of the novels that I review here on the Books and Biscuits Blog, I can honestly recommend them to anyone.  However, some books have more appropriate audiences than others.  This week’s book is an incredible and poignant read, but I would not recommend it to those people (including some in my own family) who are easily bothered by stories in which parents and/or children are hurt or lost.

Before We Were Yours is based on the true story of the cruel operations of Georgia Tann and her adoption agency that used its connections to adopt poor children from Tennessee to the wealthy, leading to one of the greatest scandals of its kind in American history.  The novel presents two interconnected stories, one set in Depression-era Tennessee and the other based in the present day.  As a federal prosecutor in Maryland, Avery Stafford has made a name for herself, separate from her family’s connections and father’s career as a senator.  When her father receives a cancer diagnosis, Avery returns home to South Carolina to assist him with his campaign, leading her to encounter a mysterious family history that she never knew.  During the Great Depression, Rill Foss and her siblings were kidnapped from their home on a Mississippi River shantyboat.  Their experience living at an orphanage run by the Tennessee Children’s Home Society ripped apart their family and changed their lives forever.  Bridging past and present, Rill’s story reveals her attempts to reunite her family and the powers at work trying to keep the truth hidden.

Acclaimed author, Lisa Wingate, writes a compelling story about the secrets of a past generation and the tragic story of the Tennessee Children’s Home Society orphanage.  Her characters jump off the page, making this incredible tale come to life.

Overall, I was very impressed with Before We Were Yours.  Although it’s not released by the Christian publishers that I normally read and review, I depended on the fact that Ms. Wingate is a long-time author within the genre.  The novel does not have any outright Christian themes, but remains relatively clean in terms of language and theme.  The story itself would not be considered G or PG rated, although I was impressed at how Ms. Wingate did write it in such a way to leave much to the imagination, without any graphic scenes or descriptions.  From a historical perspective, the novel is absolutely fascinating and very well researched, with Ms. Wingate utilizing her characters to add an emotional depth to the facts behind the Tennessee Children’s Home Society scandal.  While I am not typically a person to read a book about children placed in a cruel situation, the novel provides enough resolution to that storyline through its contemporary plotline to leave the reader well satisfied with the novel overall.

Fans of Ms. Wingate’s previous work may find Before We Were Yours to be well worth reading.  Additionally, those who appreciate the split historical/contemporary storyline format may also enjoy this novel.

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Review: An Inconvenient Beauty – Kristi Ann Hunter

Kristi Ann Hunter. An Inconvenient Beauty. Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 2017.

I hope that all of you had a fun and relaxing Labor Day weekend!  September kicks off a great batch of fall releases from Christian publishers and I am very excited to share them with you.

An Inconvenient Beauty serves as the much-anticipated conclusion of Ms. Hunter’s Hawthorne House series.  Griffith, the Duke of Riverton, is the last of the Hawthorne family to be left unmarried.  He has spent his life cultivating a serious and logical persona, along with an equally logical plan to choose a bride.  However, he soon discovers that love and logic do not mix.  Isabella Breckenridge delayed her debut in order to help save her family’s farm.  As a last effort, she promises to help her conniving uncle to fulfill his political ambitions during London’s social season, in exchange for helping to relieve her family’s debts.  However, she never expected to attract the attentions of a duke.  In spite of their plans, Griffith and Isabella soon find themselves as unintentional partners in several unplanned adventures, defying anything one would expect of an overly-logical duke’s pursuit.

Fans of Ms. Hunter’s Hawthorne House series will be delighted with the conclusion of An Inconvenient Beauty.  She creates a fitting novel to encapsulate one of the series’ most anticipated love stories.

Overall, I was absolutely thrilled with An Inconvenient Beauty.  While reading the Hawthorne House series, I always wondered how Ms. Hunter would manage to write a fitting love story for Griffith, in part due to his logical and fatherly personality.  Somehow, Ms. Hunter manages to far exceed this reader’s expectations for the story, while contributing her unique brand of humor and light writing style to the novels.  Altogether, the series has been a wonderful set of books to read, with a highly accessible style that makes it appealing to a wide audience.  With such a successful series under Ms. Hunter’s belt, I very much look forward to seeing what she manages to write next, even as she promises that the next series will build off of at least one of this series’ favorite characters.

Readers who enjoy An Inconvenient Beauty will definitely want to read Ms. Hunter’s other stories in the Hawthorne House series.  Fans of Julie Klassen, Lori Wick, and Carolyn Miller, as well as other Christian Regency-era fiction, will also find Ms. Hunter’s novels to be a worthwhile read.

Special thanks to NetGalley and Bethany House Publishers for the advanced copy of An Inconvenient Beauty!

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Amazon – An Inconvenient Beauty

Review: The Captivating Lady Charlotte – Carolyn Miller

Carolyn Miller. The Captivating Lady Charlotte. Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 2017.

With a busy summer of reading and reviewing, I’m still catching up on posting some of the books from earlier this summer.  Fortunately, they are well worth the wait. :)

Following the events and characters first introduced in The Elusive Miss Ellison, The Captivating Lady Charlotte focuses on Lady Charlotte Featherington, Lavinia Ellison’s cousin in London.  As the daughter of British nobility, Charlotte has significant social obligations, namely to marry an eligible young man.  While Charlotte hopes to marry for love and romance, her parents plan for her to marry a man with the proper social connections and rank.  As a widowed duke, William Hartwell’s past has left him leery of young women and their plotting parents, who only see him for his title.  However, he finds himself intrigued by Lady Charlotte, even as she seems disinterested in him personally.  When dangers arise, Charlotte must ultimately choose between romance or responsibility, even as she discovers that they may not be mutually exclusive.

The second novel of Ms. Miller’s Regency Brides: A Legacy of Grace series, The Captivating Lady Charlotte focuses on the Regency-era social scene of London.  Ms. Miller brings the period to life, while seamlessly interweaving strong Christian themes throughout the novel.

Overall, I really enjoyed reading The Captivating Lady Charlotte.  Ms. Miller writes an intriguing story, with characters that comfortably fit within their Regency-era setting.  Similar to novels by Lori Wick and Julie Klassen, Ms. Miller’s Regency Brides series interweave Christian themes within Regency settings and romantic plotlines.  Although I preferred the first novel of the series slightly over this one, The Captivating Lady Charlotte serves as a strong continuation of the series, building upon characters from the first novel and setting up for a fascinating final volume to be released later this year.  While this novel may serve as a stand-alone story, readers will appreciate the connections that Ms. Miller makes between this book and The Elusive Miss Ellison.  Personally, I really enjoyed seeing those characters continue to grow and change within the extended storyline of the series.

Fans of Ms. Miller’s previous novel, The Elusive Miss Ellison, will definitely want to read The Captivating Lady Charlotte.  Additionally, those who enjoy Christian historical fiction set in Regency-era England will also find this book to be well worth reading.

Ms. Miller will continue the Regency Brides: A Legacy of Grace series with The Dishonorable Miss DeLancey in October 2017!

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Amazon – The Captivating Lady Charlotte

Review: Freedom’s Ring – Heidi Chiavaroli

Heidi Chiavaroli. Freedom’s Ring. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2017.

Lately, several authors have written particularly impressive novels based on surprisingly recent events.  With the length and intensity of the publication process, I find their perspective on contemporary life to be worth exploring, just as much as their views of similar themes set in other historical periods.

In Freedom’s Ring, Annie David finds herself the victim of the Boston Marathon bombing.  While Annie escaped with few injuries, she feels guilty for placing her family members in danger, including her niece who lost a limb in the blast.  However, Annie clings to the memories and ring of her rescuer, who remains a mystery until she happens across his contact information several years later while visiting her niece.  In rediscovering one another, Annie and Brad are determined to piece together the mysterious history of his ring and the hope and strength that it inspires.  Their historical research brings them to the story of Liberty Caldwell, a young women who encounters love, loss, and hope in the period before the American Revolution.  In discovering the unexpected origins of the ring, Annie also finds the strength to overcome her own fears and once again run the race of her life.

Bridging historical and contemporary periods, Ms. Chiavaroli offers a thought-provoking perspective on faith, as it unites her characters across time and place.  Freedom’s Ring serves as a fascinating debut for this new and compelling author.

Overall, I found Freedom’s Ring to be quite an interesting read.  While several aspects of the novel’s plotline may seem familiar to readers of the genre, Ms. Chiavaroli adds elements and details that certainly present a fresh perspective on these themes.  Particularly, her inclusion of the Boston Marathon bombing and the viewpoints of survivors adds to the uniqueness of the novel.  Freedom’s Ring does include some plot points that may be considered inappropriate for some younger readers (sexual assault, war/military battles, and PTSD).  However, Ms. Chiavaroli does not include any graphic details, as she focuses the novel on Christian themes.  Additionally, readers who enjoy learning about the work of historians and genealogists may find this novel to be particularly interesting, based on the main characters’ research throughout the story.  While I found many aspects of their research journey to be delightfully convenient and simple, I appreciated Ms. Chiavaroli’s inclusion of this process as a significant component of her novel.

Fans of Christian fiction that includes both contemporary and historical timelines will likely enjoy reading Freedom’s Ring.  Additionally, those with a particular interest in the Revolutionary War and the Freedom Trail area will also find this story to be a worthwhile read.

Special thanks to NetGalley and Tyndale House Publishers for an advanced copy of Freedom’s Ring!

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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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Amazon – The Promise of Breeze Hill