Serving Up Love: A Harvey House Brides Collection consists of four stories from four great authors. The perfect book to cozy up with on a cold November day. As a member of Karen Witemeyer's launch team, I obviously dug into her contribution, More Than A Pretty Face, first.
More Than A Pretty Face is the third book in Witemeyer's wonderful A Patchwork Family series, and follows Rosalind Kemp, whom readers were introduced to in the second book in the series, More Than Words Can Say. Rosalind leaves her hometown in Texas, trying to put a past indiscretion behind her. She becomes a Harvey Girl, working hard while keeping her head down, hoping one day to earn enough seniority to transfer west to California, far away enough to start a fresh life. Alas, Rosalind finds herself transferred back to Texas. She finds it increasingly hard to go unnoticed, especially when a good looking, very determined lawyer takes a special interest in her.
Caleb Durrington's mother is determined to marry him off to a nice, upstanding, young woman that she has picked out for him, but Caleb has other plans. He's been fascinated by Rosalind Kemp ever since he first laid eyes on her at the Harvey House. There's just one hitch, his charm doesn't seem to have the slightest effect on her, so he tries a different approach. He appeals to her mind. But just when things seem to be warming nicely between the two, Rosalind's past comes back to haunt her.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading Rosalind's story and getting to see how she, with the help of Caleb and other friends, confronts her past head on. This is a beautiful story of redemption and unconditional love. A must read for fans of Witemeyer's books, and readers looking for a good, clean, enjoyable story with a beautiful message woven throughout it.
I give it a 7/10.
*Note: I was given an Advanced Reader's Copy by the publisher for an honest review, which I've given. It's always a pleasure to read Karen Witemeyer's books!
This is a book that has been sitting on my shelf, waiting to be read since it released in 2017. It happens, something makes you buy the book with every intention of reading it immediately, but then you don't get to it and it's placed on a shelf, waiting until you find it again. I finally picked it up again recently, this time to read it!
There was a great deal of buzz and interest in Sarah Miller's Caroline, due to its appeal to fans of Laura Ingalls Wilder and the Little House books. The book is a sort of retelling of Wilder's Little House on the Prairie through the point of view of Caroline Ingalls (aka Ma in the Little House books). It's an interesting concept that opens the Little House world up to a broader audience, drawing in adults who may not have been able to relate to Wilder's children's books.
Being a longtime Little House and LIW fan, I was excited when I heard about Caroline's release and was quick to grab a copy for myself, even if I ended up not being quick with the reading of it. Flash forward 2 years later, I finally got around to reading it. I found Caroline an enjoyable read, helped by the fact that I was already familiar with the characters through LIW's Little House on the Prairie. It was interesting to see the story unfold through an adult's perspective and helped round out the original story.
As I said above, Caroline was an enjoyable read, though I will say it was a bit long on prose and spent a little too much time in the character's (Caroline) mind, rather than the story surrounding her. There were sections dedicated to particular activities and such that I felt were over done, drawn out, and took up a great deal of room that could have been devoted to other, more interesting details.
Miller seemed to zero in and focus on the act of Caroline breastfeeding the baby (Carrie) multiple times for long stretches. To be clear, I have absolutely no issue with breastfeeding, it is a beautiful act of feeding and nurturing your child, but in this case, it weighed the book down a great deal, so much so, it runs the risk of turning the reader off from the overall story. In fact, it seemed that the author had an odd interest in Caroline's breasts and body as a whole, to the point where there were sections of the book that I had to just skim over because it just got to be too much to wade through.
The only other big issue is that I would imagine it would be harder to get into this book if you were not already familiar with the characters originally created by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Part of this book's charm and selling point is the fact that it plays off of LIW's books, it's geared toward her fans. Miller doesn't spend a whole lot of time developing the characters herself, obviously relying on the fact that most readers have already read LIW's books, but that is indeed a dangerous tactic, for it can alienate new readers who have never read the original Little House books. To them, I would imagine the characters would seem a bit underdeveloped.
All in all, though, I would say that Caroline was a fairly enjoyable read, one for Little House fans to add to their reading repertoire, if not their shelves.
I give it a 5/10.
Karen Witemeyer's second novel in her wonderful Patchwork Family series, More Than Words Can Say, releases June 4th, and you will not want to miss it!
I was privileged to work on Karen's promo team for both More Than Meets The Eye (the 1st book in the series) and More Than Words Can Say, and have greatly enjoyed the experience and the books. Though I received this book in advance and am on Karen's team, it was with the understanding that I would give an HONEST review of the book. I am in no way obligated to give a good review if I don't feel it deserves one. Thankfully for me, Karen never disappoints with her stories. She continues to produce superbly woven tales with earthy characters, interesting plots, and a beautiful message weaved throughout the story.
In More Than Words Can Say, the reader gets a front row seat to Zacharias "Zach" Hamilton's deeper story. We first met Zach in More Than Meets The Eye, but he was on the fringes, the dark, mysterious character within the story. More Than Words Can Say brings him front and center and really helps the readers that have been following this series gain a fuller understanding of his past and what drives him.
I found Zach such an interesting character right from the beginning when we met him in the Prologue of More Than Meets The Eye as a 13 year old boy on an orphan train, on through to the end as a full grown man who has done the best he could in raising his adoptive siblings and keeping them safe, albeit making mistakes and a few questionable decisions along the way. Those very mistakes and decisions haunt him like ghosts on through to More Than Words Can Say. The question is: Will he be able to come to terms with them and accept the forgiveness that God has already given him?
More Than Words Can Say also introduces a set of new characters and a new town, though Evangeline, Seth (Zach's siblings), and Logan (Evie's husband and a reminder of Zach's greatest ghost) all make a brief appearance as well. The heroine of this story is Abigail Kemp, owner of the town's bakery. Faced with losing the bakery, which is Abigail's means to provide a home and future for her sister and herself, she turns to drastic measures to hold onto her beloved business. But will she succeed? And more importantly, will she find something more important to her than her business?
I love the way Karen weaves her stories, creating characters that are earthy, real, and flawed. In More Than Words Can Say, we have a man who is far out of his depth with communication, particularly when it comes to how he feels, and a woman who see's herself as fat and undesirable, rather than a "fearfully and wonderfully" made young woman who deserves love and admiration. Witemeyer gives the reader the enjoyable experience of watching these two learn and grow, while banding together to help one another. And Spoil Alert! There is a happy ending. ;)
I'd highly recommend this book. It's well written, keeps you interested until the very end, and is a joy to read. Karen never disappoints.
I give it an 8/10.
Once again, Linda Ellen has crafted a wonderful piece of writing. Creating delightfully realistic, loveable characters and a plot that will keep you turning the page, Linda expertly weaves a tale worth savoring in A Bride for Sam. In a genre that often produces quick reads that tend to follow the same old formula over and over again, Linda Ellen breezes in with her refreshingly creative plots. Come for the superb story, stay to drool over Sam the lumberjack.
A Bride for Sam is a standout in the Proxy Brides series. It is a tale filled with gallantry and romance, featuring a hunky lumberjack, a daring escape, devoted friends, and a happily ever after all wrapped into one delightful package. This is a sweet read you won't want to miss, out just in time for Valentine's Day! ;)
Grab the book here.
Regina Jennings recently released her latest installment in her highly praised Fort Reno series, The Lieutenant's Bargain. I am a part of her influencer team and therefore received the book from the publisher. I was very excited for this book, which is the third in the series, because the Fort Reno series seems to get better and better with each book. The Lieutenant's Bargain did not disappoint.
Lieutenant Jack Hennessey is the perfect hero, one that will have no trouble winning the readers over with his bookish ways and his sweet, thoughtful nature. He's been pinning over his childhood classmate, Hattie Walker, for years now, though she didn't really know he was alive. She never seemed to notice him, even though he did everything to gain her attention and was as helpful as he could be. Flash forward to Indian Territory 1885, Jack is a strong, respected officer in the Cavalry, and Hattie is a young woman on a mission to become a recognized painter. Trouble waylays Hattie's trip to Denver and lands her in a sticky situation in which she finds herself in need of a rescuer.....
Hattie Walker is a relatable character. Too often Historical fiction novels will lean towards a very feministic female, to the point where it really isn't believable in pre-1900s setting. The female tends to come off annoying and selfish. (Note: I'm not against feminism, just when it's not realistic). This is one of the few instances where the character struggles to find a balance between being independent/going after her dreams and accepting a more traditional role.
Hattie dreams of finding recognition as a painter. She has the skills, they just need some honing. She soon learns that she's a bit selfish and really needs to grow up. This is refreshing and makes her more likable. It's fun to see the growth of the character throughout the book and refreshing to see how she manages to strike a balance between still pursuing her painting, while also becoming a wife and sacrificing for her husband's career. I also liked that Jack saw areas where he needed to change and grow. It all worked beautifully.
In my opinion, it seems like Regina Jennings just keeps getting stronger and better with every book she releases. I think this is her best novel yet and I'm loving this series. This book was so good that, after having my Best of 2018 book list all finished and ready to publish, I ended up changing it! I had to push one book off the list and add The Lieutenant's Bargain to the list, because it was that good. I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was the perfect book to round out my list. Grab yourselves a copy.
I give it an 8/10.
A Bride for Finn comes out tomorrow, November 15th, and is the 5th book in The Proxy Brides series. I was privileged to be a beta reader on this project and therefore, got to watch this book take form right from the start. I loved the process and Linda is a superb writer. I have yet to read any of the other books in this series, but if the rest of the books are half as good as Finn, then they're in good shape. ;)
Linda has once again created a wonderful story in which a reader would love to get lost in. She continues her creative streak with A Bride For Finn. Linda writes in a way that allows the reader to step into the story and live alongside its characters. The plot is fresh and original, the characters are well developed and relatable, and the writing flows like a gentle stream, allowing the reader to float along and enjoy the journey. I found Finn and Charise’s story quite unique, having never heard of the proxy bride concept before. I loved Finn and Charise’s love story. Too often Historical Romance books fall into the formulaic plotlines revolving around the main characters either having a misunderstanding and walking away from the relationship, only to come together in the end or enduring one calamity after another to the point of being laughable. I appreciate that Linda doesn’t fall into that pitfall and instead, creates characters that stick together through the rough patches.
A Bride For Finn is fresh, lovable, and sure to be a hit.
Grab your copy HERE!
I picked up The Christmas Heirloom, a collection of four novellas whose connecting thread is an heirloom brooch/pin, simply because it featured a novella by Karen Witemeyer. We all have those authors whose books we buy without needing to know anything about it, because we love everything they write. Karen Witemeyer is one of mine. Her novella, Gift of the Heart, is featured in this collection.
Gift of the Heart follows widow Ruth Albright and her daughter Naomi as they move to a new town for a fresh start in life. Due to low funds, Ruth ends up using the family brooch as collateral for a loan from the local banker, Bo Azlin. The more she gets to know the kind and generous man behind the stern business man, she hopes for a second chance at love.
I thoroughly enjoyed this novella. I loved the connection to the Biblical Ruth and Boaz story. I thought Bo's name, BO AZlin (emphasis mine), was a particularly clever touch. Karen's characters are always to relatable and down to earth, and I love that she often gives them flaws and quirks, either physical or personality wise, that makes them all the more believable and real.
This is a sweet and enjoyable story that's perfect for the holiday season. So pour yourself a cup of hot cocoa, cozy up with your favorite blanket, and enjoy this wonderful read.
I give it a 7/10.
I first heard about Becoming Mrs. Lewis through Anne Bogel's email newsletter. I had never read anything by Patti Callahan, but the title and premise interested me. I kept my eye on the book, which was released earlier this month, and ended up finding it on NetGalley and put in a request for an ARC. Thankfully I was granted one in return for my honest opinion. ;)
I was immediately drawn in from the beginning and couldn't put this book down. I read it in two sittings, putting it down only to sleep. Callahan's writing is superb. She writes as if she's sitting there with you, telling you a story. Though this is a fictional work, this novel captures both characters, Joy and Jack (C.S Lewis), perfectly. This novel is very realistic. The dialogue between the characters seems extremely believable and of course, an intellectual's dream come true.
As you read through Becoming Mrs. Lewis, you'll find yourself truly enjoying being able to be "present" for these excellent conversations and collaborations. C.S Lewis is such an interesting figure in Christianity's history and general history, but also fairly mysterious, especially when it came to his only wife, whom he married late in life. This novel aims to shine some light on some of the mystery and to help readers understand and get to know Joy Davidman.
This novel was written with the utmost respect for Joy and C.S Lewis, among the other people featured in the book. Each chapter opens with a poem, sonnet, or line that Joy Davidman wrote, mainly featuring sonnets Joy wrote to Jack aka C.S. Lewis. Callahan's descriptions of England made me want to visit and see the places for myself. I wanted to crawl into this book and live within its pages, never to leave. It is an excellent bit of fiction, one of the best books I've read this year. A must read for sure.
I give it a 9/10.
I had heard about a new book coming out that would act as a prequal to the beloved Anne of Green Gables series from Anne Bogel's email newsletter. It seemed that everyone was buzzing about this fabulous new book. So of course, I did what any self-respecting book nerd who runs a blog would do: I contacted the publisher to see about getting my hands on an advanced copy. Needless to say, I was extremely grateful to receive an advanced copy of Sarah McCoy's Marilla of Green Gables from HarperCollins Publishers and have been madly in love with it ever since.
I've lived with this book for over a month now and I still can't seem to let it go, place it on my "favorites" shelf, and move on to the next. I want to relive it over and over again, much like L.M. Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables series, to which I go back to often. Let me assure all the die-hard Anne fans out there, Sarah McCoy's latest novel is 100% good enough to share a shelf with the Anne books. It is the perfect companion to the series.
McCoy weaves the tale of Marilla and Green Gables superbly. All the little burning questions that L.M. Montgomery left us about Marilla's past (particularly why she and John Blythe never married), and the backstory of Green Gables are answered within the pages of Marilla of Green Gables. The readers get a deeper look into not only Marilla's inner-workings, but also Matthew's, Rachel's, and the others. I found it so interesting to see a little bit of their adult personalities taking form throughout their youth, but also to see them more innocent, before the world had its way with them. You certainly gain a better understanding of why Marilla is the way she is in the Anne books.
This is clearly achieved through McCoy's superb writing abilities, extensive research, and her own admiration and love for the classic series. The reader can clearly tell that this novel was written with the greatest respect to the author who originally created the characters and the world they lived in. It reads as though McCoy worked alongside Montgomery, stepping into her world and her vision. It could easily be placed in the boxset with the original series, as though it was meant to be there all along.
Like the Anne books, you'll find yourself living beside these characters. You will laugh with them and cry with them, you will feel what they feel. I felt deeply for Marilla, especially towards the end (I'll give no spoilers). I felt for Matthew. Poor quiet, gentle Matthew. Though I was grateful to have him explained more thoroughly and to come out with a deeper understanding of the man. The reader can now see the depth of the similarities between Anne and Marilla, both in their personalities and their own histories, and how they intertwine.
Marilla of Green Gables serves to make the Anne books even sweeter, as it gives new meaning to Anne and Gilbert's relationship through that of Marilla and John's (Gil's father). History did not repeat itself, thankfully!
With beloved Aunts, tragedies and heartbreaks, fun and laughter, history unfolding with the coming of the US Civil War, Rebellion in Canada, the Underground Railroad, and more, this is a book you do not want to miss and won't want to put down. I highly recommend it. Guaranteed a place on 2018's Best Books list.
We've found another kindred spirit in Sarah McCoy and her Marilla.
I give it a 10/10.
Marilla of Green Gables releases Oct. 23rd. You can Pre-order the book on Amazon or anywhere else that books are sold.
The Which Way Tree by Elizabeth Crook has been described as a book in the same vain as True Grit and The Lonesome Dove. Though I have yet to read The Lonesome Dove, I have read and loved True Grit many times, and I have to say, though I see a small resemblance, The Which Way Tree doesn't hold a candle to True Grit, and I don't think it's right or fair to compare the two.
The Which Way Tree is a novel that takes place in the remote hill country of Texas and is narrated by 17 year old Benjamin Shreve, through his plain-spoken voice. It tells the story of Benjamin's enduring love for his half-sister, albeit begrudgingly at times, and Samantha aka Sam's unshakable resolve to kill the panther that killed her mother, told rather matter-of-factly by Ben himself.
Ever since a panther, rumored across the Rio Grande to be a demon, killed Sam's mother and maimed her face, she's been relentless and obsessed about stalking and killing it, much like Captain Ahab and Moby Dick. Sam wears the mark of that fateful day across her face from where the panther attacked her and when her mother sacrificed her life to save Sam's. She doesn't have a lot going for her according to Benjamin's testimony, calling her not much to look at, especially with the marked up face, with a down-right disagreeable disposition to match and to top it all off, she's mulatto, but she's also blood kin, though only half blood, sharing a father.
Ben spent most of his young years looking after his sister, making sure people didn't mistake her for a runaway slave, and keeping her out of trouble. But her obsession with tracking down the panther made it awfully hard. Soon they are joined by a Tejano outlaw and a compassionate preacher with an aging but relentless tracking dog... Will they ever find and kill that panther?
I found this story a bit perplexing. It starts out with Benjamin testifying in person in front of a grand jury and judge on a matter that doesn't have much to do with the panther at all, yet the story itself is about the panther. In fact 95% of the book is formatted through letters written by Benjamin, his drawn out testimony on the matter of crimes committed by a Clarence Hanlin. The trouble is, the book touches loosely on Hanlin, and mostly on the panther. I just find it odd that Crook would choose to build the story this way and feel that there had to have been a better way of going about it. The story is a bit dry and drags on too much in most places, but there is just enough intrigue to keep you reading, though some less dedicated would probably put it down fairly quickly. I will say, the ending was one of the most interesting parts of the book.
Overall, it's definitely not among the best westerns I've read. If you're looking for an excellent, true blue western, I'd recommend books by Elmer Kelton, Charles Portis, Alan Le May, or Louis L'Amour. The book just simply didn't interest me enough to have made it worth my while, and for that, I'm disappointed. I was truly hoping to find a great read in The Which Way Tree, but I didn't. That's not to say someone else shouldn't give it a try. I picked it up on a recommendation from a friend, they loved it. I guess I'm just pickier about my westerns.
I will note: If you are sensitive to graphic or gruesome scenes, I'd skip this one.
I give it a 5/10.
Liz Austin. Bibliophile. Writer. Book hoarder. I would rather be reading....