Review: Where We Belong – Lynn Austin

Lynn Austin. Where We Belong. Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 2017.

With the holiday season already upon us, I can’t help but think of what great books I would recommend from the past year.  Fortunately, Lynn Austin’s most recent release would definitely make the list!

In Where We Belong, Rebecca and Flora Hawes find themselves in the Sinai Desert on the hunt for Biblical manuscripts.  However, a sandstorm and other unexpected events delay through journey, providing them the time and opportunity to reflect back on their lifetimes and the situations that led them to this point.  As unorthodox Victorian women, Rebecca and Flora have clung to their faith and family, even as they have chosen lives dedicated to scholarly efforts and philanthropic ventures that significantly impact their hometown of Chicago.  They have also brought along their young butler and ladies’ maid, both of whom have been saved from tragic circumstances by the sisters.  Together, their band of unlikely travelers eventually reach their destination and make incredible discoveries along the way.

Ms. Austin writes a compelling tale of two sisters and their faith-filled journey of Biblical discovery.  Based on a true story, Ms. Austin’s fictionalized version of the sisters’ adventures will become a much-beloved novel by fans and new readers alike.

Overall, I absolutely loved reading Where We Belong!  While I was a bit unsure about the concept initially, Ms. Austin’s writing pulled me in from the first few pages.  Rebecca and Flora’s accomplishments as independent women are incredibly impressive, while their faith shines throughout the story.  I particularly appreciated Ms. Austin’s focus on their work as Biblical scholars, who travelled to the historical sites and made their own share of discoveries that impacted the historical evidence of Biblical texts.  The novel is told from the perspective of the two sisters, as well as their two young servants, who experience their own faith journey from their first encounters with the Hawes sisters.  The story has something for everyone, with plenty of adventure, romance, drama, and conflict to keep the reader interested.  Personally, I found elements of Where We Belong to remind me of some of Ms. Austin’s earliest stories, bringing to mind the reasons why I consistently read her books to this day.

Fans of Ms. Austin’s previous works will definitely want to read Where We Belong!  Additionally, those readers with an interest in Biblical history and archaeology, as well as fans of books like The Case for Christ, will find this novel to be well worth the time.

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Review: Out of the Ordinary – Jen Turano

Jen Turano. Out of the Ordinary. Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 2017.

 Sometimes, I find myself needing a fun read.  These books are light and enjoyable, in spite of the craziness of my everyday life.  Jen Turano consistently provides this type of escape in her novels.

Out of the Ordinary continues Ms. Turano’s Apart from the Crowd series.  Gertrude Cadwalader has long established herself as one of the wallflowers (featured in earlier parts of the series), becoming good friends with the other characters of the series.  Along the way, her name has become tied to Harrison Sinclair, a particularly eccentric shipping magnate.  During her friends’ engagement party, Gertrude loses track of her long-time companion, the wealthy Mrs. Davenport.  With a proclivity toward stealing trinkets, Mrs. Davenport’s light-fingered ways soon land Gertrude in particular trouble with Harrison’s mother and sisters.  Gertrude and Harrison’s attempts to right the situation soon sets them on a trajectory that impacts more lives than their own.

Fans of Ms. Turano’s Apart from the Crowd will be delighted with this newest novel.  Gertrude and Harrison are particularly lighthearted and quirky characters that will leave readers tickled pink with their adventures.

Overall, I really enjoyed reading Out of the Ordinary.  The book never tries to be too serious, which makes for an excellent, light-hearted escape.  Added to that, Ms. Turano always makes sure to include Christian elements in her works.  With a quick pace and very accessible writing style, this novel would be appropriate for anyone, including relatively young readers of Christian historical fiction.  Ms. Turano focuses a surprising portion of the storyline on the engagement party that Gertrude and Harrison attend.  However, these events spur on the rest of the novel, which makes her decision to focus so much of the novel on the initial setting quite understandable.  Personally, I find myself wanting to know more about the characters and eagerly anticipate the next novel in the series.

Fans of Ms. Turano’s works, especially the Apart from the Crowd series, will definitely want to read Out of the Ordinary!  Additionally, readers who appreciate light-hearted and relatively humorous Christian historical fiction will also be thrilled with this particular book.

Special thanks to NetGalley and Bethany House Publishing for the advanced copy of Out of the Ordinary!

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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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Review: The Captain’s Daughter – Jennifer Delamere

Jennifer Delamere. The Captain’s Daughter. Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 2017.

When reading a new book, it’s always fun to discover a surprising detail in the plot or setting that truly sets the story apart from others.  These details can make or break a novel, or at least completely captivate the right reader, who shares the author’s fascination with that topic.

The Captain’s Daughter is the first novel in the London Beginnings series by Jennifer Delamere.  Rosalyn Bernay grew up in a British orphanage before becoming the companion of a wealthy woman.  However, Rosalyn must flee her situation when the woman’s new husband accuses her of stealing priceless family items.  Stranded in London without her luggage, Rosalyn fortunately lands a job at a theater featuring Gilbert and Sullivan’s most recent comic opera.  Along the way, she encounters Nate Moran, a wounded veteran who splits his time between his own job at a local stable and working backstage at the theater to maintain his injured brother’s position.  Nate insists that his time in London is only temporary, as he plans to return to his military career in India, once his own battle wounds heal.  Together, Nate and Rosalyn navigate the ever-dramatic life of the theater, even as they discover new possibilities for their lives and careers.

Ms. Delamere brings a new voice to Christian historical fiction, building on an ever-expanding number of recently-released historical novels set in Britain.  Fans of stories set in the Victorian era will be thrilled to read this tale of life in Gilbert and Sullivan’s theater.

Overall, I quite enjoyed reading The Captain’s Daughter.  In general, Ms. Delamere develops a plotline that feels surprisingly different from many other recent historical novels set in Britain.  Her focus on Gilbert and Sullivan’s theater and the behind-the-scenes moments featuring their productions are a true highlight of this work.  Additionally, readers looking for pleasant Christian historical fiction will find that many of the characters remain true to the nature of the genre, although they may not be overly complex and developed.  Without providing any spoilers, I would have liked to see a stronger ending to the novel, as it felt somewhat truncated and underdeveloped in comparison to the rest of the story.  As this is the first novel in the London Beginnings series, I am curious to see how Ms. Delamere continues this set of novels and which characters she chooses to develop further.

Fans of Christian historical fiction works set in Victorian Britain may find The Captain’s Daughter to be well worth reading.  Additionally, readers with an interest in Gilbert and Sullivan’s comic operas may find particular enjoyment in this novel.

Special thanks to NetGalley and Bethany House Publishers for the advanced copy of The Captain’s Daughter!

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Review: To the Farthest Shores – Elizabeth Camden

Elizabeth Camden. To the Farthest Shores. Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 2017.

I’m particularly excited to share this week’s review, as it has been a long time in coming.  Due to a series of delays, my copy of Elizabeth Camden’s most recent novel just arrived, even though it was supposed to release in February.  Fortunately, I’m a fast reader and the Blog had an available slot this week to feature this excellent book!

Ms. Camden’s novels regularly feature a wide variety of historical settings and locations across the United States.  Her most recent book takes readers to the coast of California in the years bridging the turn of the twentieth century.  Jenny Bennett works as a nurse at Presidio Army Base, where she happens to meet an intriguing naval officer in the months prior to the Spanish-American War.  However, Lieutenant Ryan Gallagher’s illness set back his secret mission for the U.S. government and he must once again leave the country, in spite of his feelings for Jenny.  Without an explanation for Ryan’s departure, Jenny continues her nursing career for another six years before rumors of his return accompany his arrival on the base.  Ryan’s homecoming to the United States follows six years of regrets and heartache, even as it places a continuing military mission at risk.  While Ryan has a plan for the overseas mission to succeed, he will have to convince Jenny to assist him and finally admit the truth behind his abrupt departure so many years ago.

Ms. Camden once again brings her award-winning research and writing skills to this story of forgiveness and second chances.  To the Farthest Shores will delight readers with a new cast of fascinating characters that could only be created by the brilliant mind of Ms. Camden.

Overall, I really enjoyed reading To the Farthest Shores.  While most of Ms. Camden’s previous works have taken place on the eastern coast of the United States, this novel’s California-based setting presents a marked contrast to her other books.  However, fans of her other work will find themselves right at home with this new cast of characters, as Ms. Camden continues to build stories around unique and intelligent individuals who seem to step out of the pages of history.  This novel’s focus on early attempts at international military intelligence, as well as the scientific study of pearls, presents fascinating historical subject matter for consideration, even beyond the scope of the book’s plotline.  In comparison to Ms. Camden’s last couple of novels, I found this story to have a slightly slower pace and more serious tone.  However, To the Farthest Shores fit well within the overall canon of her work, as a captivating example of Christian historical fiction.

Fans of Ms. Camden will absolutely want to read To the Farthest Shores.  Likewise, readers who enjoy expertly-researched historical fiction, even beyond the scope of Christian fiction, will definitely want to explore this novel.

Ms. Camden will release her next novel, A Dangerous Legacy, in October of 2017!

Special thanks to Bethany House Publishers for the advanced copy of To the Farthest Shores!

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Amazon – To the Farthest Shores