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

Review: Sweetbriar Cottage – Denise Hunter

Denise Hunter. Sweetbriar Cottage. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2017.

Some authors are known for writing series, while others consistently write stand-alone novels.  Over the last year, a few authors have tried to attempt writing the opposite of their normal, with surprisingly positive results.

Acclaimed contemporary Christian fiction author, Denise Hunter, developed Sweetbriar Cottage as a stand-alone novel.  The story concentrates on the relationship of Noah and Josephine Mitchell, a young couple who unexpectedly discover that the paperwork for their divorce was never finalized by the judge.  In the midst of trying to rectify the final paperwork, Josephine finds herself stranded at Noah’s mountainside horse ranch in a historic blizzard.  After avoiding one another for months, Noah and Josephine are faced with an extended period of time in each other’s company.  When an emergency arises on the ranch, they must both head out into the storm, where they face nature’s wrath and risk their survival trying to return to the ranch.  In the midst of the storm, Josephine finally admits her painful history and the tragedy that eventually led to their divorce.  When faced with the real possibility of death, both must decide whether to love and forgive or finally give up on their relationship altogether.

In this story of unconditional love and forgiveness, Ms. Hunter writes a gripping tale of Josephine and Noah’s relationship.  Set in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Georgia, Sweetbriar Cottage offers an intense winter story with a Southern spin.

Overall, I appreciated the chance to read Sweetbriar Cottage.  While I’m not typically a huge fan of stories focused on broken marriages, Ms. Hunter’s books are of a consistently high caliber to try reading.  Using a series of flashback scenes throughout the novel, Ms. Hunter expertly intersperses the intense winter survival story with past moments of Josephine and Noah’s history.  Readers will find Josephine’s story to be particularly heartbreaking and intense, especially within a work of Christian fiction.  However, Josephine’s tragic past provides a significant and compelling springboard for Ms. Hunter to develop the rest of her plotline.   While some readers may not be comfortable with elements of this story, many will see the worth of this story as one of ultimate love and redemption.

Fans of Ms. Hunter’s past works will definitely want to read Sweetbriar Cottage.  While elements of this story may seem familiar to readers, Ms. Hunter’s storytelling ability shines through and illustrates why she may be one of only a limited number of authors capable of tackling this challenging story.

Ms. Hunter will kick off a new series with Blue Ridge Sunrise in November 2017!

Special thanks to NetGalley and Thomas Nelson for the advanced copy of Sweetbriar Cottage!

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Amazon – Sweetbriar Cottage

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

Review: Where Two Hearts Meet – Liz Johnson

Liz Johnson. Where Two Hearts Meet. Grand Rapids, MI: Revell, 2016.

After reading dozens of books over the last year, I still can’t decide if I enjoy the beginning of a series or the continuation of one more.  This week’s review features the second novel in a series first introduced in March of this year.  In this case, I can honestly say that I prefer the sequel to the first book in the set. :)

Ms. Johnson continues her Prince Edward Island Dreams series with Where Two Hearts Meet.  Following the events of The Red Door Inn, Caden Holt thrives as the executive chef of Seth and Marie Sloane’s inn on Prince Edward Island.  However, the Inn faces financial challenges without the necessary marketing to bring in new visitors.  Fortunately, a travel writer arrives on the Inn’s doorstep!  Marie insists that Caden show off the Island to their newest guest, in spite of Caden’s hesitancy to leave the safe world of her kitchen.  Adam Jacobs left behind his position as a journalist after his international story led to tragic results.  On a sabbatical, Adam needs the calm atmosphere of Prince Edward Island to regain perspective and hopefully rediscover his passion for writing.  In a case of mistaken identity, Adam finds himself as the subject of Caden and Marie’s marketing pitch for the Island, even as he finds the atmosphere of Caden’s kitchen to be the most effective form of recuperation.  Together, Adam and Caden must overcome their fears to find a way to save the Red Door Inn.

Where Two Hearts Meet offers a heartwarming continuation of Ms. Johnson’s Prince Edward Island Dreams.  In the novel, Ms. Johnson comes into her own as an author of contemporary Christian fiction.

Overall, I quite enjoyed Where Two Hearts Meet.  While The Red Door Inn made for pleasant reading, I never completely lost myself in the characters.  In comparison, Where Two Hearts Meet was a much more interesting story, with a more compelling plotline and better pacing that will keep readers fascinated.  Ms. Johnson benefits from having established much of her setting and quite a few characters in her earlier novel.  However, this book offers a story and characters that are strong enough to stand alone.  The setting on Prince Edward Island also comes into its own in this novel, as the food, culture, and location are featured heavily based on the travel writing and foodie emphasis of the characters and story.  After reading a brief preview of the next novel in Ms. Johnson’s series, I look forward to continuing to review her future books!

Readers who enjoy relatively light contemporary Christian fiction will enjoy Where Two Hearts Meet, especially if they appreciated Ms. Johnson’s previous novel, The Red Door Inn.  Also, fans of Christian fiction that takes place in Canadian or seaside settings will also want to read this series.  With the novel’s PEI connection, fans of L.M. Montgomery may find this series to be worthwhile.  However, the modern-day PEI and Ms. Johnson’s writing style are significantly different from Ms. Montgomery’s tales.

Ms Johnson will release the next novel in the Prince Edward Island Dreams series in the summer of 2017!

Special thanks to Revell Reads Blog Tour for the advanced copy of Where Two Hearts Meet!

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Amazon – Where Two Hearts Meet

Review: Waves of Mercy – Lynn Austin

Lynn Austin. Waves of Mercy. Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 2016.

As someone who lives in the great state of Michigan (I admit, I’m biased), I am always excited to find authors and books that are based in the state.  Fortunately, Michigan-based Christian author, Lynn Austin, just released a wonderful book that takes place in Holland, a unique town in western Michigan.

Waves of Mercy tells the story of two women, separated by generations, who experience the joys and pitfalls of their faith.  Anna Nicholson breaks up her engagement when her fiancé refused to allow her to attend a different church from their Chicago-based socialite crowd.  Anna and her mother retreat to Hotel Ottawa, allowing them the chance to step away from social expectations and, instead, enjoy Lake Michigan and the unique town of Holland.  At the hotel, Anna regularly encounters Derk Vander Veen, a young hotel worker who is studying for the ministry.  As he learns more about Anna’s newfound faith and fears, he is reminded of his elderly neighbor, Geesje de Jorge.  Geesje experienced her own challenges as a young woman immigrating from the Netherlands as part of the generation that established the town.  When Anna must choose between returning to her fiancé or pursuing a different path, Geesje’s story becomes a beacon of hope in an ocean of uncertainty.

Ms. Austin writes a compelling story of faith over the generations, while painting a gorgeous picture of the western Michigan landscape.  Fans of great Christian historical fiction will be absolutely thrilled with this riveting story and its exceptionally realistic characters.

Overall, I was absolutely fascinated by Waves of Mercy.  Ms. Austin masterfully develops a storyline that draws together the narratives of two very different generations through the universal experiences of growing faith and love.  As a huge fan of A Woman’s Place, I was very excited to see Ms. Austin once again combine the unique stories of such different characters, resulting in an incredible historical tale that functions independently of the classic romance plotlines.  In addition, Ms. Austin’s focus on her home state of Michigan incorporates incredible historical and local details that remind fellow Michiganders of home, while revealing its hidden treasures to a national audience.  Altogether, Waves of Mercy may be one of the year’s most impressive historical novels, as it sets itself apart in terms of historical research, compelling characters, and the exceptional quality of Ms. Austin’s writing.

Fans of Ms. Austin and her previous novels will absolutely want to read Waves of Mercy.  Likewise, readers who enjoy excellent Christian historical fiction should definitely read this novel, as well as Ms. Austin’s other works.

Special thanks to Bethany House Publishers for the advanced copy of Waves of Mercy!

Looking for this book? Support the Books and Biscuits blog, while shopping at:
Amazon – Waves of Mercy