Wednesday, October 30, 2013

"Rebellious Heart" Review

Susanna Smith, a young woman living in Massachusetts in 1763, has almost everything she could ever want. The one thing lacking in her life is that she has been unable to receive as complete an education as her younger brother. Since she is a woman from a highly respected family, there is not much more expected from Susanna than to marry well.

Susanna has all but resigned herself to this fact when she is reacquainted with Benjamin Ross, a country lawyer who, despite his Harvard education, is lacking the wealth and status that Susanna’s mother requires in a match for her daughter. But the more time Susanna spends with Ben, the more she wonders if there could be more to a marriage relationship than just a societal match.

Before long, Susanna finds herself involved with Ben in much more than just a burgeoning friendship. Susanna discovers a runaway indentured servant and enlists Ben’s help in aiding the poor girl. In addition, Ben is outspoken about his beliefs over the rights and liberties of the colonists, and the British army is determined to discover who is behind the smuggling that is taking place all over Massachusetts – no matter the cost.

In these uncertain times, will Ben and Susanna have the strength to choose do what is right despite the obstacles that stand in the way of their freedom and of their love?

Based on the romantic relationship between John and Abigail Adams, Rebellious Heart is a rich description of the tumultuous times leading up to the American Revolution and those who had a part in the pursuit of American liberty.

As was true of Jody Hedlund’s other novels, Rebellious Heart immediately swept me into the story, both historically and with the characters. I could picture the landscape and feel the emotions of the characters as the story was told. This was especially true with the adventure of Susanna and Ben helping Dotty, the runaway indentured servant. I was breathless at times as they were being chased while trying to transport Dotty to safety.

Throughout this novel I marveled at how historically rich it was and how it seemed to be so realistic to the times. It was so interesting to see bits and pieces of the various things that led up to the American Revolution. I sometimes think of this as a shorter time period, but in reality, there were years and years of oppression by the king that led to the declaration of independence in 1776 and then finally to war. I thought it was fascinating to see these years fleshed out even more in a historical fiction novel.

While Susanna’s dilemma of having to obey her parents and marry well instead of for love is a much-used plotline in historical fiction, this one had more depth to it than some novels do.  There was more wrapped up in Susanna’s not being able to be with Ben than just her mother’s opposition. Susanna knew how much Ben was involved in the growing dissonance towards the king, and she had to decide for herself what she was willing to sacrifice to be with him.

Even though Ben and Susanna’s relationship had some interesting romantic obstacles and they shared some difficult circumstances, their romance wasn’t as interesting as I had hoped. Susanna longed for someone to see her as more than just a pretty face, and Ben did fulfill this role. But some of the descriptions of their times together were just too much for me. I got a bit bored with hearing once again how Ben took Susanna’s hand and kissed her wrist or how he longed to kiss her neck and her lips. I don’t mind these descriptions in a romance – after all, the main characters need to be attracted to each other. I just got tired of reading about it over and over and over in this novel. I just wasn’t as engaged in their romance for some reason. I kept wanting to get back to the other storylines.

I also thought that the mystery aspect of this novel, along with the story about the runaway indentured servant, was gruesome at times. While it did make the story more realistic, it was sometimes too much.

The message of this novel was something that came across very clear. Should we always submit to earthly authority? What about times when obeying God will cause us to defy that authority? Shouldn’t we oppose tyranny and live according to the laws of a holy God rather than imperfect man? This novel really makes you think about these situations and what the Bible says about it.

I will give Rebellious Heart ... 4 BookWorms.

Rebellious Heart
by Jody Hedlund
Bethany House Publishers
Publication date: September 15, 2013

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Bethany House Publishers. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this is accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Friday, October 25, 2013

"Perfectly Matched" Blog Tour

His life runs like clockwork. Hers is a spontaneous adventure.
But God's timing is always perfect.

Anna Olsen knows it's time to leave her sister's increasingly crowded house and start a life of her own. Following both sisters' examples, she becomes a mail-order bride, and after a short correspondence with clock maker and jeweler Edward Parker, she moves to Denver to become his wife.

 Almost immediately it's painfully apparent that Anna and Edward are very different. Anna is a free spirit who would rather be painting and enjoying the company of friends than cleaning house. Edward is a consummate perfectionist who, on their wedding day, hands Anna a list of chores that need to be done around the house daily.

Can this mismatched couple see past their differences to a harmonious future? Or will their disparate passions create obstacles neither is willing to surmount?

For more information, please click here.

Available October 2013 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.
Maggie Brendan is the bestselling author of several books, including the Heart of the West series and The Blue Willow Brides series. She was a 2013 finalist for the Published Maggie Award of Excellence, a 2013 finalist for the Heart of Excellence Readers' Choice Award, a 2012 finalist for Inspirational Reader's Choice award, and a recipient of the 2004 ACW Persistence Award in Atlanta. She is a member of the ACFW; Author's Guild; Romance Writers of America; Faith, Hope, and Love; and Georgia Romance Writers. When she's not writing, she enjoys reading, researching for her novels, and spending time with her family.

You can follow her at her website, her blog, and on Facebook and Twitter @MaggieBrendan.

My Take:

After reading the first two novels in this series, Deeply Devoted and Twice Promised, was expecting a cute, fun story of a mail order bride in Perfectly Matched, the conclusion to the series.

This was true of this novel, but it also had some things that I wasn’t expecting – some good, others not-so-good.

The portrayal of the “odd couple” in this novel was perfectly stereotypical – he as the rigid, wants-everything-to-be-perfect man and she as the flighty, unorganized girl. While this made for an interesting storyline and some nice setups for conflict, it seemed as if the resolutions that were presented were often one-sided. I got the impression that Edward was required to change more than Anna. He has to be less rigid and get rid of his lists and such, but she can continue to be flighty and completely thoughtless? I think Anna needed to do a little bit more growing as well, especially in her attitude towards her duties in her home.

Their relationship as the odd couple was further complicated by their extreme lack of communication, especially when they would just kiss and make up without really solving anything. The back and forth of their relationship made my head spin. Therefore, it was nice when closer to the end of the novel they were able to learn how to better communicate.

The ASPCA aspects of this book were interesting and unique and something that I was not expecting from the summary on the back of the book. I do not claim to be an animal lover, but I never want to see or hear of an animal being mistreated. I think Anna tended to throw herself into her missions at times when maybe she should have been spending time with her new husband and in her home, but I also think that she grew in this area somewhat over the course of the novel.

The spiritual part of this novel seemed a little glossed over to me. The characters prayed and claimed to have faith in God, but it wasn’t always clear and sometimes seemed to be an afterthought rather than Christ being at the center of their lives.

Finally, I feel I must mention something about this novel that concerned me. I read Christian fiction romances because I like the boy-meets-girl stories, but I prefer to avoid the sensuality that comes with most secular novels of that type. Since Anna and Edward in this story are newlyweds, I realize that there will be issues of a sexual nature that will arise, and I would not want Christian novels to shy away from this subject.

However, the endless descriptions of the couple’s passionate moments were way, way too much in this novel. There were no explicit descriptions of sex, but there was much written about the things leading up to it. Here is an example (and it is definitely PG-13):

“Anna could feel his warm, ragged breathing against her face as he kissed her brow. Finding her mouth again, he nipped at her bottom lip playfully. Her pulse quickened and she felt warm in places that were new to her as he lifted her onto his lap and held her in a tight embrace. No words were needed, just the exploring touch and feel of each other.” 

Warm in places that were new to her? Wow. And this sort of wording occurs over and over throughout the book.

Now, the book of Song of Solomon from the Bible is also brought up in this novel, and I will admit that that book could be considered similar in its descriptions. But the verses from the Bible feel sacred while these lines in a fiction book feel as if I am observing private things that I should not be observing. If these actions were taking place in a Christian film, I would feel the same way. I also feel as if that paragraph could have been taken from any number of secular romance novels out there, which does not set it apart as a Christian novel. As a married woman, this part of my relationship with my husband is very important, but what if I was a single woman reading this novel? Is reading this book a good way for a single woman to keep her thoughts pure? I don’t think so.

I always judge things like this by whether or not I would be embarrassed to have my grandmother read it, and this is one book that I will not be passing on to her.

While some things in this novel were unique and entertaining, there were just too many other things that kept me from enjoying this book completely.
I will give Perfectly Matched … 2 BookWorms.

Perfectly Matched
by Maggie Brendan
Blue Willow Brides #3
Revell Publishers
Publication date: October 1, 2013

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Revell Publishers. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this is accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

"Beloved" Review

When Diana travelled west as a child on an orphan train from Chicago, she was fortunate to be adopted by two loving parents who raised her in a modest but comfortable home. At the tender age of 17, Diana was swept off her feet by the dashing and wealthy Tyson Applegate, but their marriage turned out to be nothing at all like she thought it would be. Lured by adventure and a need to get out from under his father’s thumb, Tyson left Diana and his home in Idaho to see the world.

After seven years, Tyson has not returned, and he is even believed to be dead – a victim of the fighting in Cuba. But on the eve of the day when Diana will be going through legal proceedings to declare her husband dead, Tyson shows up.
Diana is shocked to find that her husband is still alive, especially since she is planning to become engaged to Brook Calhoun as soon as the court declares her husband to be deceased. She is even more surprised to find out that Tyson wants to renew their relationship, that he claims to be a changed man, and that we wants her to stand by him as he makes a run for a Senate seat.

Diana agrees to these conditions as long as it takes for Tyson to campaign for the Senate. After that, she wants to be free from their marriage. Diana gave her heart to Tyson once, and she will not give it to him a second time just to have him break it again. Tyson agrees to Diana’s terms with one additional request – that she give him the chance to win her back.

Set in Idaho in 1900, Beloved is the third book in the “Where the Heart Is” series.

This book starts off with the startling revelation that Diana’s husband is in fact very much alive, which definitely was an interesting beginning. After that it sort of slows down a bit and settles into exploring the relationship (or lack thereof) between Diana and Tyson.

Most of the story is told from the perspective of Diana and Tyson, but occasionally the point of view shifts to another character in the story – Diana’s mom, Tyson’s dad, or Diana’s former beau, Brook. This way of telling the story was good, since the reader was able to know what was going on from every perspective. The scenes in this book seemed to be extremely short, however, which was a bit jarring at times.

One of the things that I liked so much about the first two books in this series was how the characters turned to Scripture and to prayer in all aspects of their lives. It might have been a bit preachy, but I really like how their faith permeated everything in their lives. This was also true in Beloved, but it didn’t come across as clearly as it did in the first two novels. The growth of the main characters is there, but it wasn’t related to Scripture or to prayer as much as in the previous books.

Even though it might not have come across as clearly in comparison to the other books in the series, the growth of the two main characters was still an integral part of the plot. Although the reader does not completely get to see Tyson’s salvation decision firsthand, it was so interesting to see the obvious differences between how he was before and how he was trying to live his life now. It was also neat to see how even though he was now following Christ and trying to live as a husband should, he still had areas in which he discovered he needed to grow. Diana’s growth over the course of the novel was inspiring as well, and I loved her compassion toward others.

Since the main characters in this novel were already married, the romance was a bit different than in other novels. However, I like this sort of storyline. It’s interesting when a husband is basically trying to court his wife, and it lends itself to many areas being explored in their relationship.

Even though this novel is the final of a series, and it does have a couple of tie-ins with the previous novels, it can still be read as a standalone. My favorite of the three novels is still the second one in the series – Betrayal – since it had so much depth, but Beloved is also an interesting and enjoyable read that is a satisfying conclusion to the series.

I will give Beloved ... 3½ BookWorms.

"Where the Hearts Is" #3
by Robin Lee Hatcher
Zondervan Publishers
Publication date: September 24, 2013

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Zondervan Publishers. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this is accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

"What Once Was Lost" Review

When Christina Willems and her father moved to Kansas to establish the Brambleville Asylum for the Poor, she never thought that one day she would be running it by herself. Since her father’s death, Christina is the one to whom these poor, misplaced individuals look for leadership and for friendship.

When a fire destroys part of the Asylum, Christina must find temporary shelter for the residents until it can be rebuilt. She is able to do so for all but one – an 11-year-old blind boy named Tommy. With nowhere else to go, Christina asks the reclusive mill owner, Levi Jonnson, to take Tommy. Levi reluctantly agrees, but then he is surprised at how quickly he becomes attached to the small boy.

As Christina works to rebuild the Asylum and to reunite her “family,” she begins to encounter obstacles at every turn. As each day passes – and as the residents begin to find homes and jobs away from the Asylum – Christina starts to question why God has seemingly taken away her ministry. And the more she deals with Levi Jonnson, the more interesting and attractive he becomes.

Will Christina ever be able to recover all that she seems to have lost?

The overall plot of this book is similar to another novel that I read recently, and I was concerned at first that it would be difficult to distinguish between the two. Although there were some things in parallel, this novel was still able to stand on its own.

To me this book was very interesting and grounded at times and then at other times seemed to be all over the place. But I guess the overall feel does correlate to how Christina feels throughout the book – displaced and chaotic.

The story is told from four different points of view, which kind of took me by surprise at first. Because the reader sees every facet of the plot, there are not too many surprises. For the most part, I liked having all of this information and the different points of view, but it did contribute to the all-over-the-place feel that I mentioned earlier.

Even though these different points of view contributed a bit to the disjointed feel, I did like the stories that were told through Levi, Christina, Cora, and Tommy. I especially liked the perspective of Tommy, the blind child. I thought the author did a great job putting the reader in the mind and surroundings of a child who was blind, and the relationship between Tommy and Levi was fantastic.

The romance in this novel to me felt a bit rushed. Christina and Levi didn’t seem to spend much quality time together, and the romance kind of takes a back seat to all of the chaos that is going on with the residents.

The one thing that was grounded in this book was the spiritual aspect. I felt that it was clear, it was rooted in Christ and the Bible, and the characters experienced tremendous growth through the course of the novel. It was neat to see how God was at work the whole time through all of the situations. It was also a great reminder that those of us who profess to be Christians need to remember that we are sinners saved by grace and that we should reach out to others in love rather than condemn others in judgment.

All of the main characters experienced growth in the novel, but Christina’s came to the forefront. She had to come to the point where she asked herself if she was doing ministry for herself rather than for the glory of God. She couldn’t see God’s hand in her situation or in the lives of the others until she chose to trust in Him completely.

What Once Was Lost is a historical fiction novel that is a little light on the romance but does a good job of delivering a message of faith and trust in the God who directs our steps.
I will give What Once Was Lost ... 3 ½ BookWorms.

What Once Was Lost
by Kim Vogel Sawyer
WaterBrook Publishers
Publication date: September 17, 2013

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from WaterBrook Publishers. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this is accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

"A Home for My Heart" Review

Sadie Sillsby adores the children under her care as the assistant to the matron at the Raystown Home for Orphans and Friendless Children. When the current matron surprises everyone by announcing her engagement, Sadie is offered the job. The problem is that the matron is not allowed to be married, and Sadie has had her heart set on marrying her beau, Blaine, as soon as he is able to own his own farm.

As someone who was raised at the Home, Sadie feels a special connection to the children, and she doesn’t want to abandon them. But marrying Blaine and having a home and children of her own is a dream that Sadie doesn’t want to abandon either.

As Sadie is faced with these tough choices – and even bigger issues related to the financial future of the Home – she must decide which path to take. Will it be with Blaine or with the children she has come to love?

And when the decision is made, will her heart ever be able to find a home?

When I started reading A Home for My Heart, what struck me first was how easy to read it was. As I read the first few chapters, I felt as if I was transported into the novel and that I was able to feel the love that Sadie had for the children at the Home.

As I kept reading, I got more and more immersed in Sadie’s story and in her compassion for the children under her care. I loved how she was able to take her tragic past and focus it not into bitterness and hatred towards the world but towards a love and acceptance of these children that was the same as she had been shown as a child. Since this novel is told in first person by Sadie, you really get to know her character and are able to become engrossed in her view of the story. This was a nice change of pace from what I usually read, although it made it harder to connect with the other characters in the story.

The entire plot of this novel revolves around the Raystown Home for Orphans and Friendless Children and Sadie’s choice to be the matron there. (Don’t worry – I didn’t give a spoiler there. Even though I didn’t mention it in the summary, Sadie makes this decision very early on in the book!) From there it expands to cover the financial difficulties that the Home is having as well as some subplots surrounding the children who live there. One of my favorite parts of the book was reading how the different things played out with these children who had been abandoned or had lost their parents. I was moved to tears several times as their stories were told and as I read about the compassion of the people who took them in or did things to keep the Home open.

Even though the romantic situation between Sadie and Blaine was a major plot point of the book, it didn’t quite feel as if it had enough tension to last throughout. There were a couple of other wrenches that were thrown into their relationship, but I never once questioned what would happen between them or even how it might come about. Since I felt so immersed in the other parts of the story, it felt abrupt when the romantic aspect wasn’t quite as well-formed.

As I said earlier, I really became immersed in this story. I felt like I was there experiencing all of these things with Sadie. As her agitation over the financial troubles of the home increased, my anxiety increased as well. From a writing standpoint, this makes for a successful book, but for me, sometimes I had trouble reading about the money part because I would just get so worried and frustrated about it and about how Sadie was handling it.

Another thing that was good about the writing in this book was how well the spiritual aspect of the story was weaved into everything. It felt seamless, and it fit with the entire tone of the novel. Sadie experiences tremendous growth over the course of the book – so much so that sometimes she would go back and forth so much that my head would spin. But then this was a great reminder to me that I am often the same way. Sadie learned to trust God no matter her circumstances, and she made some decisions that took courage and grace that only Christ could supply.

Set in 1910 in small-town Pennsylvania, A Home for My Heart is a heartwarming tale of compassion, love, and learning to trust that God’s plan is best. It reminded me a lot of the writings of Janette Oke – maybe that’s why I liked it so much.

I will give A Home for My Heart ... 4 BookWorms.

A Home for My Heart
by Anne Mateer
Bethany House Publishers
Publication date: September 15, 2013

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Bethany House Publishers. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this is accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Saturday, October 5, 2013

"The Courier of Caswell Hall" Blog Tour

 An unlikely spy discovers freedom and love in the midst of the American Revolution.
As the British and Continental armies wage war in 1781, the daughter of a wealthy Virginia plantation owner feels conflict raging in her own heart. Lydia Caswell comes from a family of staunch Loyalists, but she cares only about peace. Her friend Sarah Hammond, however, longs to join the fight. Both women's families have already been divided by a costly war that sets father against son and neighbor against neighbor; a war that makes it impossible to guess who can be trusted.
One snowy night Lydia discovers a wounded man on the riverbank near Caswell Hall, and her decision to save him will change her life. Nathan introduces her to a secret network of spies, couriers, disguises, and coded messages---a network that may be the Patriots' only hope for winning the war. When British officers take over Caswell Hall and wreak havoc on neighboring plantations, Lydia will have to choose between loyalty and freedom; between her family's protection and her own heart's desires.
As both armies gather near Williamsburg for a pivotal battle, both Lydia and Sarah must decide how high a price they are willing to pay to help the men they love.
Part of the American Tapestries™ series: Each standalone novel in this line sets a heart-stirring love story against the backdrop of an epic moment in American history. This is the fifth book in the series.
Purchase a copy here:
About the author: Melanie Dobson is the author of twelve novels, and her writing has received numerous accolades including two Carol Awards. Melanie worked in public relations for fifteen years before she began writing fiction full-time. Born and raised in the Midwest, she now resides with her husband and two daughters in Oregon.
Connect with Melanie at: 
My Take:
I tend to not read too many historical novels that take place during a war. While they are usually well written, the war usually overshadows any other story that is taking place, and maybe rightly so.
However, the courier aspect of this novel intrigued me, and I decided to leap into a story of the American Revolution.
Overall this novel was very well done. It did tend to get a bit long and repetitive at times, but for the most part my attention was held. I usually get bogged down in the descriptions of battles and everything when I read stories that take place during a war, but since most of the story in this novel took place away from the fighting, I was able to enjoy it more.
I liked the characters in this novel, and I really felt as if I got to know them well. The affection that Nathan and Lydia felt for each other was understandable considering their circumstances, but they really didn't know each other well before they were confessing their love. (This seems to be happening quite a bit lately in the romance novels that I read...)
I actually liked the romance between Sarah (Lydia's friend) and Grayson (Lydia's brother) more so than the one between Nathan and Lydia. It was born of a very long friendship, and it was so valiant how one dared to save the other. I just wish that - SLIGHT SPOILER ALERT - that it had not ended so tragically.
The best part of the book was how intriguing it was to read about how spies and couriers helped the Patriots win the war for freedom from the British. I knew that this took place, but it was really neat to see how it all could have played out.
I will give The Courier of Caswell Hall ... 4 BookWorms.
Melanie Dobson's latest release, The Courier of Caswell Hall, is a riveting story you won't want to miss. The newest offering in the American Tapestries™ series, it follows an unlikely spy who discovers freedom and love in the midst of the American Revolution.

Enter to win 1 of 5 copies of the book!


  Five winners will receive:
  • The Courier of Caswell Hall by Melanie Dobson
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on October 5th. All winners will be announced October 7th at the Litfuse blog.

Don't miss a moment of the fun; enter today and be sure to visit the Litfuse blog on the 7th to see if you won one of the books!




Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Summerside Press through Litfuse Publicity. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this is accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."