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: 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: A Matter of Trust – Susan May Warren

Susan May Warren. A Matter of Trust. Grand Rapids, MI: Revell, 2017.

Happy Fourth of July!  With the holiday landing on a Tuesday this year, the Books and Biscuits Blog is featuring an excellent new novel about some of America’s local heroes, search and rescue.

A Matter of Trust serves as the third novel of Ms. Warren’s acclaimed Montana Rescue series.  Gage Watson fills an integral role in the PEAK Rescue team, while also specializing in mountain rescues for the local ski resorts.  However, his career once revolved around his talents as a champion backcountry snowboarder before a tragic accident and a devastating lawsuit forced him to rebuild his life in a different direction.  Years ago, Ella Blair thought she might have a future with Gage, having bonded over a shared love of snowboarding.  However, her friend’s accidental death led to her involvement as one of the attorneys in the case against Gage ended their relationship for good.  Ella now holds the evidence that could have saved Gage’s reputation and career.  She reluctantly returns to Gage’s life, in order to save her brother when he attempts a nearly impossible trek through Glacier National Park.   Together, Ella and Gage must figure out how to trust one another to pull off a nearly impossible rescue attempt in the face of blizzards, avalanches, and deadly terrain.

Ms. Warren returns to her Montana Rescue series and the PEAK Rescue team in A Matter of Trust.  Filled with fascinating details of competitive snowboarding and mountain rescues, fans of the series will be fascinated with the continuation of the team’s story.

Overall, I really enjoyed reading A Matter of Trust.  The entire Montana Rescue series builds around the PEAK Rescue team, developing the characters and their stories across multiple volumes.  In addition to Gage and Ella’s story, the novel continues to add to the backstories of the other characters, while building up a storyline that Ms. Warren indicates with be continued in the final novel of the series.  A Matter of Trust stands apart from the other novels of the series based on its focus on Gage as a former competitive snowboarder and his work on the ski patrol and related rescues.  As someone generally unfamiliar with the sport of backcountry snowboarding, I found Ms. Warren’s detailed descriptions of Gage’s work to be unexpectedly fascinating, yet easy to follow.  Additionally, I enjoyed seeing the development of Ella’s character, as she offered new insights into Gage’s background and fills a vital role in the general storyline of the series.  Based on the buildup of the story across the series, I am excited to read the conclusion in the upcoming release, Troubled Waters.

Fans of Ms. Warren’s previous work, especially the other books of the Montana Rescue series, will definitely want to read this novel.  Additionally, readers who enjoy books focused on winter sports and contemporary Christian fiction may also find this novel to be worthwhile.

Ms. Warren releases the fourth book of the Montana Rescue series, Troubled Waters, in January 2018!

Special thanks to NetGalley and Revell for the advanced copy of A Matter of Trust!

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Amazon – A Matter of Trust

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