The First Love by Beverly Lewis (review by Kristi)

the first love

About the bookIt’s the summer of 1951, and Maggie Esh is in need of some hope. Sweet-spirited and uncommonly pretty despite struggling with chronic illness, she is used to being treated kindly by the young men of her Old Order Amish church district. Yet Maggie wishes she were more like other courting-age girls so she could live a normal, healthy life.

To make matters more complicated, Dat has recently remarried, less than a year after her mother died. And while her stepmother is kind, Rachel is much younger than Mamm, and she simply doesn’t understand Maggie or her illness the way Mamm did.

When tent revival meetings come to the area, Maggie is curious, and the words of the Mennonite preacher challenge her to reconsider what she knows about faith. Can she learn to trust God even when hope seems a distant dream?

Publication Date:  September 4, 2018

Publisher:  Bethany House Publishers

Genre:  Amish Fiction

 

My thoughts:  A longtime fan of Beverly Lewis, I am always excited when she has a new book out. Since she doesn’t release books as often as other authors I always see her books as a treat and can’t wait to start reading them. However, The First Love proved a bit of a difficult read for me.

There are several characters in this book and I found trying to keep who was who straightened out in my head a bit difficult. Not only is there Maggie and her family to get to know but then there are her aunt, cousins, and the tent revival preacher and family and it was just a bit too much. I did like Maggie and felt sorry for her due to her health issues. The author wrote of her issues in a respectful and realistic way which was nice.

I feel like there was a bit much going on in the story too. Not only is there Maggie and her attending the tent meetings but there is also the storyline of the family trying to get used to their new stepmother. These two storylines worked ok together but it seems like they could have been integrated better.

The thing that bothered me the most about the story was the slow pace. One of the reasons I like Amish fiction is the slower pace of their lives but this story just moved too slowly for the first half. During the second half the pace picked up slightly and I found it much quicker to read. I would have like to have had more scenes with Maggie and Jimmy, too.

All in all this is an ok read but not my favorite from this author. If you are a fan of Beverly Lewis you will probably like the story but if you aren’t already a fan I would choose a different title from her to start with.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley and was not required to write a review. All opinions are mine.

 

About the authorBeverly Lewis, raised in Pennsylvania Amish country and both a schoolteacher and an accomplished musician, has been an award-winning author for over a dozen years. Her acclaimed novel, The Preacher’s Daughter, was a 2006 Quill Book Award finalist in the romance category. Her books have appeared on numerous bestseller lists, including USA Today and The New York Times. She and her husband, David, live in Colorado.

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The Solace of Water by Elizabeth Byler Younts (review by Kristi)

The Solace of Water

About the book:   After the loss of her young son, Carver, an African-American preacher’s wife named Delilah Evans moves with her family from Montgomery, Alabama, to Sinking Creek, Pennsylvania, for a fresh start. The last thing she could have imagined was becoming friends with Emma Mullet, a reclusive Amish woman.

Emma is fighting personal battles of her own and feels estranged from her small Amish community. The secrets that have kept her isolated from her own community serve to unite her in an unlikely friendship with Delilah.

Sparrow, Delilah’s eldest daughter, knows she is responsible for the death of her little brother. When tensions at home become unbearable, she seeks solace at Emma’s house, becoming the surrogate daughter Emma has always wanted. Sparrow, however, is hiding secrets of her own, secrets that could sever all ties to her safe refuge.

Life for these three gets harder when church and social issues confront them, causing rifts within Sinking Creek’s three distinct communities: whites, blacks, and Amish. When their carefully protected secrets come to light, there seems to be little hope for friendship, restoration, or even forgiveness. But when the unthinkable happens, Delilah and Emma find themselves looking into the mirror of their own self-deceptions and are forced to make a choice that will set the way of their future.

Publication Date:  June 5, 2018

Publisher:  Thomas Nelson

Genre:  Fiction

 

My thoughtsIf you are looking for a lighthearted read then skip over this book. If you are looking for a book that is an emotional read and full of substance then look no further than The Solace of Water. This book is what I would call a heavy read because there are serious topics discussed and this book is thought-provoking.

Told in the voices of Delilah, Sparrow, and Emma, this book tells the story of a Negro family who, after the death of one of the children, moves from Montgomery, Alabama to Sinking Creek, Pennsylvania for a new beginning. An unlikely friendship forms between Emma and Delilah and Sparrow. Through this friendship, a reluctant one at times between Emma and Delilah, we learn of the secrets these women have. I thought the author did a great job of giving a unique voice to each of the main characters. It was easy to understand each person’s feelings and really have empathy for them. Even though at times I thought Delilah’s treatment of Sparrow was harsh I could understand her feelings and why she treated her in such a way. It was also easy to feel Sparrow’s guilt and need for love and Emma’s shame due to her husband and the secret she is keeping from him.

There are a lot of serious topics covered in this book from alcoholism to segregation and the author is nothing but respectful in the way she includes these topics in the story. Since the story takes place in the 1950s and I came into the world after that I didn’t deal with segregation first-hand. However, through her descriptions, I feel like I was seeing it through Delilah’s and Sparrow’s eyes.

This is a well-written story and I highly recommend it. It is a book that you will want to rush through to see how it ends but at the same time read slowly to soak up every detail. This is my first book by this author and won’t be my last. I like her writing style and her ability to tell a story that I felt like I was experiencing and not just reading. This book is definitely going on my keeper shelf.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher and was not required to write a review. All opinions are mine.

 

About the author:  Elizabeth Byler Younts writes women’s fiction for Harper Collins/Thomas Nelson. She is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers. She gained a worldwide audience through her first book Seasons: A Real Story of an Amish Girl and is a RITA nominated writer. She is also the author of The Promise of Sunrise series. She has consulted on Amish lifestyle and the Pennsylvania Dutch dialect for two award-winning television shows. Elizabeth lives in Central Pennsylvania with her husband, two daughters, and a cockapoo named Fable.

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When Through Deep Waters by Rachelle Dekker (review by Cathy)

When Through Deep Waters

About the book:

Alicen McCaffrey finally has the life her mother always dreamed for her: beautiful home in Santa Monica, successful husband, adorable daughter. Then tragedy blows her carefully assembled facade to pieces. Worse yet–Alicen feels solely responsible. At rock bottom, she decides to accompany a childhood friend back to Red Lodge, Montana, where they spent summers together as kids.

The peaceful mountain landscape, accented with lush forests and small-town charm, brings back happy memories of time spent with her beloved, eccentric Grandma Josephine. Alicen begins to hope that perhaps things could be different here. Perhaps the oppressive guilt will lift–if only for a moment.

But when Alicen starts hearing voices and seeing mysterious figures near the river in the woods, she begins to fear she’s completely lost her sanity, as it’s rumored her grandmother did. Or might there be more to Red Lodge than meets the eye? Could the voices and visions be real–and her only means of finding the healing she so desperately needs? Or will they prove to be her final undoing?

My thoughts:

I didn’t know what to think of this book when I first started reading it and I actually put it aside and had to start reading it from the beginning when I got back to it a few weeks later. I’m glad that I started reading it again from the beginning because the story of Alicen McCaffrey is one that I liked far more than I thought I would.

Alicen seemed to have it all, until her world is shaken by a tragic event that she is almost incapable of dealing with. This broke my heart and I couldn’t imagine living with that pain every day. As she deals with her loss, she’s helped by her childhood friend when they visit the place they spent their summers as kids.

What happens and what journey Alicen goes on when they reach Red Lodge is emotional and frightening. There were times when I thought the pace was too slow and that may be intentional due to the storyline. This is the first book that I’ve read by Ms. Dekker, so I’m unfamiliar with her writing style.

Overall, it’s a worthwhile read with a unique storyline to enjoy as summer winds down.

I received a copy from the publisher and was under no obligation to give a review. All opinions are my own.

A Worthy Rebel (An Uncertain Choice, #5) by Jody Hedlund (review by Kristi)

a worthy rebel

About the bookA desperate noblewoman, a rebellious peasant, and a forbidden love.

While fleeing an arranged betrothal to a heartless lord, Lady Isabelle becomes injured and lost. Rescued by a young peasant man, she hides her identity as a noblewoman for fear of reprisal from the peasants who are bitter and angry toward the nobility.

Cole Warwick cannot turn his back on a person in need and soon finds himself falling for Izzy, the gentle and beautiful runaway who is mending in his cottage. As the leader of an imminent uprising against the nobility, he tries to resist his growing feelings for Izzy to protect her from the dangerous life he’s chosen. But the longer she stays, the more he hopes she’ll never leave.

When Izzy’s true identity is revealed, Cole feels betrayed. With the rebellion underway, can Cole forgive Izzy and find a way to save her from an unhappy marriage? Or will he and his peasant army be destroyed before he has the chance to fight for the people and the woman he loves?

Publication Date:  September 4, 2018

Publisher:  Northern Lights Press

Genre:  Young, Adult, Historical Fiction

Series:  An Uncertain Choice

 

My thoughts:  As a longtime fan of Jody Hedlund’s books, I had never read any of her young adult books. A Worthy Rebel sounded like an intriguing story so I thought I’d give it a try. I’m glad I did. This book was everything I’ve come to expect from her with interesting characters, good storylines, and wonderful descriptions that made me feel as if I were there with the characters.

I immediately liked Lady Isabella, or Izzy as she’s also known in the story. Finding herself being forced to marry the evil Sir Thomas, Izzy runs away and finds shelter with Cole, Thea, and Posey. Cole and his family are peasants and they teach Izzy so much about the hard lives they lead. There is an attraction between Cole and Izzy that slowly builds into a budding romance that was so sweetly written that it was perfect. Cole and Izzy had great chemistry and it was easy to see them as real people instead of just characters in a book.

I don’t normally look for lessons or messages in stories I read as I just like to read a good story that can whisk me away to another time and place. However, the author includes a nice lesson in this story that is done in a way that isn’t overly preachy or too much. It is so well written into the story that it just becomes part of it. In fact, there are several lessons that can be learned from reading this book.

I recommend this book to young adult to not-so-young adult readers. It is an excellent story and if you are Jody Hedlund fan you are sure to enjoy meeting and getting to know these characters. I have not read the previous books in the series and thought this book stood fine on its own. I will be reading the previous books though as I’m interested in the stories of some of the secondary characters in this book. This book is a good, quick read.

I received a complimentary copy of this book and was not obligated to write a review. All opinions are mine.

 

About the authorWinner of the 2016 Christian Book Award for fiction and Christy Award for historical romance, best-selling author Jody Hedlund writes inspirational historical romances for both youth and adults.

Jody lives in central Michigan with her husband, five busy children, and five spoiled cats. Although Jody prefers to experience daring and dangerous adventures through her characters rather than in real life, she’s learned that a calm existence is simply not meant to be (at least in this phase of her life!).

When she’s not penning another of her page-turning stories, she loves to spend her time reading, especially when it also involves consuming coffee and chocolate.

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Her Fear (The Amish of Hart County #5) by Shelley Shepard Gray (review by Cathy)

Her Fear

About the book:

In New York Times bestselling author Shelley Shepard Gray’s latest novel of suspense in her Amish of Hart County series, an EMT falls for a woman with ties to an Amish community where people are dying similar, suspicious deaths

Sadie Detweiler never imagined she’d move to Kentucky, yet here she is: a pregnant, unmarried Amish girl banished by unforgiving parents to live with kin she barely knows. The men are gruff and her cousins are secretive. Worst of all, elderly matriarch Verba becomes mysteriously ill shortly after Sadie moves in. When EMT Noah Freeman arrives, Sadie immediately notices he’s unlike any other Amish man she’s met. Noah is warm, confident, and has an easy way with practically everyone in the community, both Amish and English. Though Sadie is drawn to him, she has little hope he will reciprocate her feelings once he learns she’s with child.

Noah can’t understand how a girl as sweet and lovely as Sadie ended up sleeping on a cot in Verba Stauffer’s kitchen. He also senses Sadie is terrified of something. Concerned, he checks up on her. Eventually they strike up a friendship and soon their attraction is undeniable. When Verba later dies at the hospital and her death is followed by two others, Noah’s boss wants him to dig around the Amish community for clues. He agrees—for Sadie’s sake—because only the truth will keep her safe and by his side.

My thoughts:

The thoroughly engaging story of Sadie Detweiler and her Kentucky family is by far my favorite in this series by Ms. Gray.   I was  caught up in the storyline and the characters lives from the first page.

Did I like the way Sadie’s parents and her boyfriend treated her?  No, I did not but that made me care about her, her unborn child and their future much more than I expected to.   It  broke my heart that she was sent to live with relatives she barely knew.   Especially since the relatives were involved in a rather shady and dangerous enterprise. They weren’t bad people, just a bit misguided which made them likeable to me.

There are twists and turns that held my interest throughout and the story flowed at a great pace.  If anyone is looking for a fast paced and well written book, this is the one you should read.

I received a complimentary copy from the publisher and was under no obligation to write a review.  All opinions are my own.

 

 

 

 

 

A Rumored Fortune by Joanna Davidson Politano (review by Cathy)

A Rumored Fortune

About the book:

Tressa Harlowe’s father did not trust banks, but neither did he trust his greedy extended family. He kept his vast fortune hidden somewhere on his estate in the south of England and died suddenly, without telling anyone where he had concealed it. Tressa and her ailing mother are left with a mansion and an immense vineyard and no money to run it. It doesn’t take long for a bevy of opportunists to flock to the estate under the guise of offering condolences. Tressa knows what they’re really up to. She’ll have to work with the rough and rusticated vineyard manager to keep the laborers content without pay and discover the key to finding her father’s fortune–before someone else finds it first.

Award-winning author Joanna Davidson Politano welcomes readers to Trevelyan Castle, home of the poorest heiress in Victorian England, for a treasure hunt they’ll not soon forget.

My thoughts:

This is the first book that I’ve read by this author and I have to say that I truly enjoyed her writing. The storyline was interesting and flowed at a nice pace.  I thought the characters were well developed and were all key to the story.

Tressa was my favorite character because she wasn’t the typical Victorian Era young lady that needed a fainting couch and smelling salts when her life was in turmoil.  No, that wasn’t her style, instead when she was faced with being a poor heiress, she did what she had to do and started to look for her father’s hidden treasure on their estate.

A little mystery blended with a touch of romance and some twists that I didn’t see coming made, A Rumored Fortune an enjoyable read.

I received a complimentary copy from the publisher and was under no obligation to post a positive review. All opinions are my own.

 

 

 

The Patriot Bride (Daughters of the Mayflower #4) by Kimberley Woodhouse (review by Kristi)

The Patriot Bride

About the bookFaith Jackson and Matthew Weber are both working covertly to aid the Patriot cause. But will they be willing to sacrifice all for their fledgling country?
A brand new series for fans of all things related to history, romance, adventure, faith, and family trees.

Spies Work Together for the Patriot Cause
Faith Jackson is a wealthy widow, friend of George Washington, and staunch supporter of the Patriot cause. Matthew Weber is friends with both Ben Franklin and his son William, who increasingly differ in their political views; and Matthew finds himself privy to information on both sides of the conflict. When a message needs to get to a spy among the Loyalists, Faith bravely steps up and in turn meets Matthew Weber. Suddenly she believes she could love again. But someone else has his eye on the Faith she portrays in elite social circles. What will Matthew and Faith have to sacrifice for the sake of their fledgling country?

Publication Date:  August 1, 2018

Publisher:  Barbour Books

Genre:  Historical Fiction, Christian Fiction

Series:  Daughters of the Mayflower

 

My thoughts: First, I have to admit that while reading this book I had no idea that the author also wrote the first book in the series. That being said it’s no wonder I liked the writing style and the attention to historical detail throughout the book. Yes, the book isn’t totally accurate when it comes to the historical parts but the author admits this at the beginning and since I knew this going in it didn’t bother me in the least.

Faith is a character I couldn’t help but like. From her youth to adulthood I liked her independence and attitude. She was a strong girl/woman and could take care of herself and was a leader. She was a character I cared about and really, really enjoyed. Matthew Weber was the perfect leading man for Faith. He wasn’t a wimp or too strong as to be overshadowed or overshadow Faith. They were great as a team and I enjoyed their scenes together. There was a character that was a bit of a jerk and that was Andrew Jameson. Now, I have to admit that while this character was a real piece of work I didn’t totally hate him. I actually thought he brought a nice balance to the story and found some of his scenes to be a bit on the humorous side.

Now, in addition to Faith and Matthew, my favorite characters were George Washington and Ben Franklin. I know they weren’t as the author wrote them but I enjoyed getting to know these two founding fathers of our country. The author wrote these two in a way that was respectful and made me want to know more about them. I’ll be checking out those sources she listed at the end of the book so I can learn more about these two.

This story is fast-paced and easy to read. I highly recommend this book to fans of historical fiction. Although the fourth book in the series this story completely stands on its own. (I do recommend reading the first three books though because they are really good stories themselves.) Grab a drink, get comfy and spend some time with Faith, Matthew, George, and Ben. You won’t be disappointed. Happy reading!!

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley. I was not required to write a review and all opinions are mine.

 

About the authorKim is a devoted wife and mother, and a third generation Liszt student. She has passed down her love of the arts to hundreds of students over the years, recorded three albums, and appeared at over 700 venues.

Her quick wit, enthusiasm, and positive outlook through difficult circumstances have gained her audiences at conferences, retreats, churches, military functions, and seminars all over the country.

The Woodhouse family’s story has been on the front page of newspapers, in magazines, articles, medical journals, and most recently featured on ABC’s Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. They were also asked to share their story on The Montel Williams Show and Discovery Health Channel’s Mystery ER.

Kim has been writing seriously for fifteen years. Songs, plays, short stories, novels, picture books, articles, newsletters – you name it – she’s written it. It wasn’t until a dear friend challenged her to “do something with it”, that she pursued publication. She now has multiple books to her credit, with more on the way.

Kim lives, writes, and homeschools in Colorado with her husband and their two children in a truly “Extreme” home.