Review: The House on Foster Hill – Jaime Jo Wright

Jaime Jo Wright. The House on Foster Hill. Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 2017.

I’m not the person to watch scary movies, but I oftentimes enjoy reading Christian fiction with mystery or suspense elements.  Somehow, these authors typically make the genre more accessible and I’m generally fine reading these stories.

In The House on Foster Hill, Kaine Prescott returns to her ancestral family’s hometown in Wisconsin to leave behind her tragic past in California.  She hopes by restoring a historical estate, she can finally grieve and recover from the murder of her husband and the impact that event had on her life.  She fears that her past career helping abused women had finally caught up with her in California.  Unfortunately, the house has its own past and is in terrible condition when Kaine arrives.  Ivy Thorpe had her own encounters in the house on Foster Hill a century before.  An unknown woman is found murdered on the property and it takes Ivy and a group of townspeople to solve the mystery of what happened within the house.  Placing their own lives at risk across the years, Kaine and Ivy discover the house’s secrets and find their lives will never be the same.

Bridging two periods within the town, The House on Foster Hill presents a high-stakes mystery that will delight fans of this genre of stories.  Ms. Wright’s debut novel offers plenty of suspense that ties together generations of people from a small Wisconsin town.

Overall, I thought The House on Foster Hill offered a different kind of story from what I typically read.  In seeing other reviews about the book, I was expecting an easy five-start review on my end.  However, I had several issues with the novel.  In reading the Kindle version, I expected the book to end at many different points, but I was rarely anywhere near the end of the book.  It could have used some significant editing, particularly in its plot development, even though the writing style of the author was pretty good.  Some of the characters were stronger than others, with Ivy Thorpe coming across as one of the best-developed in the novel.  Also, I was rather disappointed to see minimal historical detail in the historical sections of the book.  I would much prefer to see a stronger plot that is exclusively contemporary or historical, as very few authors can successfully pull off both within a single novel.  Lastly, I found this book to be much creepier than almost any other Christian mystery/suspense novel that I have previously read.  While I could see other readers really enjoying that aspect of the story, I found it somewhat off-putting and it made it a struggle to actually finish the book.

Fans of high-stakes mystery and suspense novels may find The House on Foster Hill to be worth reading.  While the book does have Christian elements, readers who identify more closely with other forms of Christian fiction (contemporary or historical) may find this book to be creepier than they prefer for light reading.

Special thanks to NetGalley and Bethany House Publishers for the advanced copy of The House on Foster Hill!

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Review: A Dangerous Legacy – Elizabeth Camden

Elizabeth Camden. A Dangerous Legacy. Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 2017.

Elizabeth Camden has taken a spot in my group of must-read authors from the release of her very first novel.  Her works consistently explore fascinating moments in history, with intriguing plots and complex characters.

In A Dangerous Legacy, Lucy Drake pursues justice for generations of her family, who have been plagued by an ongoing legal battle over her grandfather’s invention.  While her uncle’s family gains a fortune from over-pricing a water valve, Lucy hopes that one day the price will be lowered to allow it to be used to bring fresh water to the poor living in tenements.  Without a fortune to her name, Lucy works as a telegrapher for the Associated Press, where she puts her skills to the test to beat out the agency’s British rival.  Working only floors apart in a Manhattan skyscraper, the staff of the Associated Press and Reuters are constantly pitted against each other.  When Sir Colin Beckwith arrives at Reuters, he brings a particularly high-class approach to his work, even as it leads to conflict with Lucy’s work several floors away.  After Lucy and Colin learn each other’s secrets, they develop an alliance that just may place them both in more danger.  However, they may also be the key to unwinding a plot that could destroy the nation’s largest international undertaking.

Ms. Camden brings her particular flair to a story of international intrigue and charm.  Lucy and Colin’s exploits will delight readers, even as they reveal fascinating moments in the history of American politics and journalism.

Overall, I really enjoyed reading A Dangerous Legacy!  While I have appreciated some of Ms. Camden’s books more than others, this novel is definitely one of my favorite.  The setting of the novel and its focus on two famous news agencies at the beginning of the twentieth century offers a unique perspective on a topic that is not often explored in fictional works.  Likewise, the plot that Colin and Lucy uncover involves additional historical topics and situations that are lesser known in the genre.  I thought that Ms. Camden’s plot and development of this story were particularly well done, as they present an even pacing that will keep the reader captivated throughout the entire novel.   Likewise, I felt that the characters were among the top tier developed by Ms. Camden for her collection of novels.  After finishing A Dangerous Legacy, I was definitely left wanting to see what happens next with this particular set of characters, even though I would be equally excited to see what other unique concepts Ms. Camden explores in the future.

Fans of Ms. Camden will absolutely want to read A Dangerous Legacy.  Likewise, readers who enjoy expertly-researched historical fiction, even beyond the scope of Christian fiction, will definitely want to find a copy of this novel.

Special thanks to Bethany House Publishers for the advanced copy of A Dangerous Legacy!

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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: 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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Amazon – A Name Unknown