21 July 2016

Review: No Other Will Do by Karen Witemeyer

Great Premise


I enjoy reading historical fiction, especially historical romance. But (and this is going to sound a little odd) I don’t like it to be too historically accurate. Well, I do and I don’t. I want the facts and figures to be accurate. I don’t want anachronisms, like references to certain inventions in a novel set ten years before the thing was actually invented. I want an accurate picture of life in that time and place.

But I don’t want it too accurate. Let’s face it, the world has come a long way in the last two hundred years, particularly in the area of rights for women, people of colour … anyone who isn’t white and male. The list of things women couldn’t do in nineteenth century America or England is longer than the list of what they could do. Many women were abused, physically, emotionally and spiritually (and the physical abuse was often a side-effect of the spiritual abuse).

I don’t want to read about that. If I wanted to read about abuse, I’d be reading non-fiction or serious women’s fiction, not light-hearted historical romance. I want my historical romance heroes to be men who treat women as equal but different, and I want my historical romance heroines to be intelligent women who aren’t afraid to stand up for themselves. And, yes, I realise that’s probably not historically accurate. And I don’t care.

Anyway, that all serves as background to what I especially enjoyed about No Other Will Do: a community owned by and run by women, a refuge. Yes, that’s historically inaccurate but this is fiction and I don’t care because it’s a great idea and history would have had a lot less conflict if the women had been in charge. But, predictably, the women have to defend their rights of ownership against men who want the town for its assets (men, always spoiling for a fight. See above).

A lot of novels, especially Westerns, feature financial difficulties—families at risk because they are behind on their payments. No Other Will Do takes this scenario from the other side, the point of view of the (female) banker, who has a responsibility to be a good steward of her inheritance:

Banking is stewardship. We can’t give to everyone who asks or we risk losing the ability to give to any. We must seek God’s wisdom and direction, then work hard not only to protect but also to increase what has been entrusted to us.

Hmm. Worth thinking about.


But Emma also has the physical threat of violence, and her desire to keep Harper’s Station as a refuge for those women with nowhere else to go.

No Other Will Do is written in Karen Witemeyer’s trademark witty style, but perhaps goes deeper into issues of equality and Christian sisterhood (and brotherhood) than her earlier novels. It’s good to see.

There were a couple of things I didn’t like: the weird dialogue descriptions, like Tori declared and Emma quipped and Tori chided. It makes me feel like I’m eight years old and reading Enid Blyton. It’s something I’ve seen in several books recently and I don’t know if it’s bad writing/editing or the start of a general trend. If it’s a trend, it’s one that doesn’t work for me. It also didn't feel right for the uneducated (or self-educated) Mal to be familiar with concepts such as feminism before the term was part of everyday English. The idea was understood (and ridiculed), the word is more modern.

The other thing was that this is supposed to be a women's colony: no men. Yet at the first sign of trouble, Emma calls in a man to help. And it ends up being the men who save the day. That irked me. On the plus side, there was no mansplaining--the hero (and other male characters. Well, except for the evildoer) did actually treat the women like the intelligent humans they were.

Thanks to Bethany House and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review. You can find out more about Karen Witemeyer at her website, and you can read the opening to No Other Will Do below.

19 July 2016

Review: When Mountains Move by Julie Cantrell

Unexpectedly Brilliant


I admit it: I didn’t read Julie Cantrell’s award-winning debut novel, Into the Free, mostly because there were faults in the review copy I downloaded which rendered it unreadable (my copy was missing all the c’s and all the h’s, which meant there would be references to a “fres at of fis” instead of a fresh catch of fish. It’s hard to get into a novel when you find yourself having to sound out words like a six-year-old.

I also didn’t request the sequel to Into the Free when it released the following year, because I tend not to enjoy sequels if I haven’t read the first book in the series. So why did I request When Mountains Move … which is that same sequel, only from a new publisher? Because I somehow missed the fact it was a book I elected not to read two years ago, but requested on the strength of the good things I’d heard about the author’s writing.

And they are all true. Even though When Mountains Move is a sequel, it’s not necessary to have read Into the Free in order to understand or appreciate this.

When Mountains Move is not an easy read: it starts with Millie, our heroine, having a dream/flashback to her rape six weeks earlier. She’s now marrying Bump (Kenneth Anderson, and that’s probably the only thing I never understood: where he got such a ridiculous nickname), and they are leaving Mississippi for Colorado, where Bump has a job managing a run-down ranch.

While the ranch is the main setting, ranch life isn’t the core of the plot or theme. Rather, the story is about Millie coping with the attack and the after affects, and the strain this puts on her marriage. It’s a story of love and trust and mistrust, the story of a marriage, and it’s riveting.

The novel is told entirely in first person present tense from Millie’s point of view, which is an interesting literary choice for a historical novel—most tend to be third person and past tense. First person seems to be reserved for young adult and new adult novels, and in a way that fits: When Mountains Move is an extension of the coming of age novel, and seventeen-year-old Millie is certainly in the right age bracket to attract YA/NA readers.

I like first person because gives us a deep insight into Millie and her problems. It also demonstrates the strength of Cantrell’s writing in that I still understood a lot of Bump’s thoughts and problems, even when Millie seemed not to.

I get that the combination of an edgy topic and first person writing won’t appeal to everyone. But if you can get past that—as I did—I’m sure you’ll find When Mountains Move to be excellent. Even if you haven’t read Into the Free.

Thanks to Thomas Nelson for providing a free ebook for review. You can find out more about Julie Cantrell at her website, and you can read the beginning of When Mountains Move below:

18 July 2016

Featuring the 2016 Clash of The Titles Laurel Award Winner




2016 

LAUREL AWARD WINNER!

This year, At First Sight took home Clash of the Titles's sixth annual Laurel Award. Over the course of six weeks, the novel's first chapters were read and judged by avid readers of Christian fiction who determined At First Sight to be the worthiest to receive the 2016 Laurel Award.




Clash of the Titles extends a heartfelt congratulations to author Delia Latham for her exemplary writing. We wish God's richest blessings on her future work.




About At First Sight :



Reagan Massey has gone through a great deal of trouble to make her cousin irresistible to the visiting single minister but things get a little sticky when Reagan falls in love with Cord Phillips herself… 

Cord doesn’t believe in marital bliss after seeing the mockery his parents made of their vows. He’s promised himself he’ll live as the Apostle Paul lived, dedicating himself solely to God. When his heart turns traitor, Cord has to completely rethink his position on love. 

Things around Riverbend House of Worship take on some humorous, heart-touching, soul-stirring twists and turns, with Reagan and Cord so busy getting in God’s way that they can’t see the path He has laid out for them to travel…together.

At First Sight is part of the Pure Amore bundle of 12 novels that celebrate purity. Use the code Laurel2016 to receive the bundle at 50% OFF. (expires 31 July 2016)


PURCHASE YOUR BUNDLE TODAY

LISTEN TO A RADIO INTERVIEW WITH THE AUTHOR!

Delia in her own words:



A born-and-bred California gal, I grew up in a little community called Weedpatch. Nope, that's not a typo. It's a few miles southeast of Bakersfield, and in the...well, I won't say how many years since I left there...Weedpatch has even found its way onto a map or two.

Writing has been my passion since third grade, when I won an essay writing contest and took home the coveted prize: a beautiful bed doll with an overstuffed pink, quilted satin skirt. Remember them? Huge, padded skirts, some (like mine) with flat cardboard bottoms to accommodate display. The doll's feet were hidden away somewhere in all that finery, never again to see the light of day.  These fancy ladies
were most often used as centerpieces for beds, and that's where mine went - smack in the middle of my unimposing bed in my unmatched, Salvation Army-furnished bedroom. It was the most elegant item I had ever owned, and I was one proud little lassie.  (Ahem ... surely someone  else remembers those dollies?)​

Winning that contest made a profound impact on my young psyche - enough so that I never stopped writing. From those first little songs and poems and (very bad) short stories, I graduated to Staff Writer for a large daily newspaper; freelanced for an upper-scale regional magazine; and finally began writing fiction...which was my goal all along. 

Connect with Delia online:

http://www.delialatham.net/

http://www.facebook.com/delialatham 

http://www.twitter.com/delialatham




15 July 2016

Cover Reveal: Aboard Providence by Keely Brooke Keith

Today I'm thrilled to help Keely Brooke Keith with the cover reveal of her next release, Aboard Providence. This is the prequel to her Uncharted series, all of which I read and reviewed and enjoyed:

The Land Uncharted
Uncharted Redemption
Uncharted Inheritance
Christmas with the Colburns

A voyage aboard Providence changes Jonah’s plans, but can it change his heart?


In November 1860, Jonah Ashton is determined to finish his studies at Penn’s Medical School before rumors of Southern rebellion erupt into all-out war. When he learns his father has joined a group of Virginia families planning to sail from America to form a new settlement elsewhere, he travels to his family’s estate intent on saying goodbye. However, when an accident leaves his father in need of a physician, Jonah agrees to serve as ship’s doctor, but he resolves to return to medical school as quickly as possible.

While aboard the Providence, Jonah falls in love with former classmate Marian Foster. Despite their love for each other, Marian has no desire to return to America with him.

After an arduous voyage, Providence runs aground on an uncharted land in the South Atlantic Ocean. While the rest of the settlers celebrate finding the land they wanted, Jonah takes off to explore the island and he soon discovers a startling truth that changes everything, but can it change his heart?

Quotes about the book:
“A delightful adventure reminiscent of Swiss Family Robinson, Aboard Providence is one of those novels that will stick with me because I feel I’ve lived it. A captivating, well-researched, and deftly written tale I can confidently recommend to a wide range of readers.” –Heather Day Gilbert, author of Amazon Norse bestseller God’s Daughter

“With vivid settings and multi-layered characters, Keely Brooke Keith whisks her readers off on a page-turning journey, not just across the ocean, but within the heart. You won’t be able to put Aboard Providence down until the final word is read and then you will long for more.” –Brenda S. Anderson, author of the Coming Home series

“A blend of history and romance with a compelling inspirational message, Keith expertly weaves an intriguing tale. Fans of the Uncharted Series won’t want to miss this journey.” –Heidi McCahan, author of Unraveled

“Keely Brooke Keith is a master storyteller, weaving adventure, love, and wonderful characters into a vivid story that will take readers on an unforgettable voyage to a new place. Full of inspirational messages and tales of God’s love, readers will find themselves longing for more. Keely’s story teaches all of us that the journey is just the beginning!” –Christina Yother, author of the Hollow Hearts series


Author Info:

Author Bio:
Keely Brooke Keith is the author of the Uncharted series (Edenbrooke Press) and Aboard Providence (CrossRiver Media). Her novels are known for blending genres in surprising ways. When she isn’t writing stories, Keely enjoys playing bass guitar, preparing homeschool lessons, and collecting antique textbooks. Originally from St. Joseph, Missouri, Keely resides with her husband and their daughter on a hilltop south of Nashville where she dreams up stories, hoping to encourage, comfort, and inspire readers. She is a member of ACFW.

Keely has also been my Friday Fifteen guest so you can read more about her and the books she enjoys here: Friday Fifteen

Social Media Links:

Find Keely’s books online:


Giveaway Info

Enter here for your chance to win an autographed copy of Aboard Providence.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

14 July 2016

Review: A Loyal Heart by Shelley Gray

Not Gray's Best


Amazon Description


Robert came to Galveston to fulfill his promise to a dying man and look after his widow. He didn’t expect to find love in the unlikeliest of places.

Robert Truax, former Second Lieutenant and Confederate officer in the Civil War, made a promise to his comrade Phillip Markham. If anything happened to Phillip, Robert would look after his beloved wife, Miranda. She was his life, his world, his everything.

After the war, Robert is left to pick up the pieces and fulfill his pact. When he arrives at Miranda's home in Galveston, Texas, things are worse than he imagined. Phillip's name has been dragged through the mud, everyone in town believes him to be a traitor, and his widow is treated as an outcast. Even more disturbing is her emotional well-being. Miranda seems hopeless, lost, and so very alone.

Robert had thought his duty would be simple. He would help Miranda as quickly as possible in order to honor a promise. But the moment Robert laid eyes on her, his plans changed. He's mesmerized by her beauty and yearns to help her in any way he can.

He makes it his duty to protect Miranda, turn her reputation around, and to find some way to help her smile again. But it doesn't prove to be an easy task—Robert knows something about Phillip that could shake Miranda to the core and alter her view of the man she thought she knew so well.

My Review

Shelley Shephard Gray writes Amish fiction under her full name, and historical romance with a touch of suspense as Shelley Gray. I’m not a fan of Amish fiction so haven’t read any of those, but I’ve read several of her previous historical romance novels and been impressed. I watch out for her new Shelley Gray releases, and was pleased to be given the opportunity to review A Loyal Heart.

But I have to say it wasn’t up to the standard I have come to expect from Shelley Gray (or from her publisher, Zondervan). The plot was an excellent combination of romance and suspense, but I was underwhelmed by the plot twist which revealed who was behind the threatening letters widow Miranda Markham had been receiving for the last year, and that meant the novel ended with less than a bang.

I also wasn’t impressed by the editing. There were spelling mistakes, a couple of irritating anachronisms (especially strange, as Gray’s books are usually well researched), and lots of annoying dialogue tags—which perhaps shouldn’t have distracted me, but they did. I was left wondering if I was reading a pre-proofed review copy (which I sometimes do get, but which are usually marked as such). If not, are the spelling and writing errors the fault of the author, or of the editor and publisher?

So while the plot and writing weren't up to the high standard I expect from the author and publisher, the characters were excellent. Miranda Markham blossomed as she got to know Lt Robert Truax, who was a true hero and proved that there is more than being a gentleman than being born into money and influence. I found the growing romance between the two as interesting as the suspense plot, but the romance had a better and more believable resolution.

Thanks to Zondervan and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review.