Inspirational Stories of Love, Faith & Family Set in 19th Century America

Tag: 19th century fiction

Book Review, To Steal a Heart by Jen Turano

2020 has been a difficult year for most of us but I’m delighted to bring you my thoughts on the latest release from author Jen Turano. To Steal a Heart is book 1 in her new series, The Bleecker Street Inquiry Agency. And folks, this romp through the Gilded Age is just what my weary heart needed.

I hope my review inspires you to pick up a copy or two and gift them to your reader friends. Believe me, they’ll thank you especially if they are fans of clever, witty historical romance.

Here’s a little bit about the book before I share my review.


About the Book

Title: To Steal a Heart
Series Info: Bleecker Street Inquiry Agency, Book 1
Author: Jaime Jo Wright
Genre: Historical Romance

Book Info:  Bethany House Pubishers, November 17, 2020, 363 pages


Blurb

To Steal a Heart (The Bleecker Street Inquiry Agency Book #1) by [Jen Turano]

After a childhood as a street thief, Gabriella Goodhue thought she’d put her past behind her until a fellow resident at her boardinghouse is unjustly accused of theft. In the middle of breaking into a safe that holds the proof to prove her friend’s innocence, Gabriella is interrupted by Nicholas Quinn, the man she once considered her best friend–until he abandoned her.

After being taken under the wing of a professor who introduced him into society and named him as heir, Nicholas is living far removed from his childhood life of crime. As a favor to a friend, Nicholas agreed to help clear the name of an innocent woman, never imagining he’d be reunited with the girl he thought lost to him forever.

As Gabriella and Nicholas are thrown together into one intrigue after another, their childhood affection grows into more, but their newfound feelings are tested when truths about their past are revealed and danger follows their every step.

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My Thoughts

I was completely giddy about starting a new Jen Turano series and To Steal a Heart didn’t disappoint. The book grabbed me from the opening line: “It was becoming evident that she, Miss Gabriella Goodhue, might very well be arrested in the not-too-distant future, and all because she’d convinced herself that sneaking into a high-society costume ball would be a relatively easy feat, given her past life as a street thief.”

When Gabriella is reunited with childhood friend Nicholas, the chemistry between the pair is immediately evident. Although the romantic tension is palpable, both resist the attraction due primarily to their different positions in society. I love Gabriella. She is a smart, strong woman but learns that it’s okay to accept help on occasion. I think Nicholas maybe my favorite Turano hero yet. I loved how he used his wealth and position to help many of the people from Five Points. I gushed when he gut-punched one of the characters after he said disparaging things about Gabriella.

Set in the Gilded Age among the glitterati of the New York Four Hundred, Gabriella and the other women of the boardinghouse where she resides open the Bleecker Street Inquiry Agency. As the ladies investigate one mystery after another, hilarity abounds. The cast of characters adds to the humor and shenanigans in this story. My favorite secondary character was Daphne Beekman. She’s an author of mysteries who seems afraid of her own shadow and is always taking notes and thinking about her next story. However, the people were nearly upstaged by lovesick Wilson the pirate dog and a kleptomaniac parrot who can’t resist the urge to swipe shiny, sparkling objects.

Although Turano is known for her hilarious jaunts through the Gilded Age, the faith message in Gabriella’s story was not lost on me. Her childhood was rough, and she lived on the streets eventually ending up in an orphanage. She came to believe that God had forgotten all about her. As the circumstances of the story unfold, she realizes that God had provided for her all along and was an excellent reminder to me of how our loving Father is always working behind the scenes for our good.

To Steal a Heart is filled with love, laughter, intrigue, faith, romance, and plenty of antics to keep you turning the pages. Without a doubt, this is my favorite Jen Turano book yet!

I was a given a free copy of this book by the publisher but was not required to write a positive review. All opinions expressed are my own.


Favorite Quotes

“You’ve always been confident of who you are and what you want. Isn’t that how we should all be as children of the King?”

“God might not have abandon me after all but sent me to Rookwood to keep me safe.”


About the Author

Named One of the Funniest Voices in Inspirational Romance by Booklist, Jen Turano is a USA Today Best-Selling Author, known for penning quirky historical romances set in the Gilded Age. Her books have earned Publisher Weekly and Booklist starred reviews, top picks from Romantic Times, and praise from Library Journal. She’s been a finalist twice for the RT Reviewers’ Choice Awards and had two of her books listed in the top 100 romances of the past decade from Booklist. When she’s not writing, she spends her time outside of Denver, CO. She can be found on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/jenturanoauthor/ or visit her on the web at www.jenturano.com. She is represented by the Natasha Kern Literary Agency.

 

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words by LoRee Peery

I have new friend and fellow Pelican Book Group author, LoRee Peery, sharing how a dream, a weathered barn, and a love for cowboys inspired her latest release, Cowboy Just in Time.

LoRee has generously offered a print copy of one of her Indie titles, Repurposed. See the giveaway details at the bottom of this post.

Before we hear from LoRee, let’s learn more her time travel novel, Cowboy Just in Time.


About the Book

 

When event planner Amanda Totten falls through a barn trapdoor and finds herself in the arms of an 1890’s cowboy, she scrambles to find a way back to the future. She has a life and obligations—her fledgling business and her mother’s financial needs. But the less stressful lifestyle, and her deepening love for Gavin Medley, is calling to her heart and she is torn between past and future.

Has God given her a chance at love?

Gavin Medley has been working for years to regain his family homestead. As ranch foreman, he has nothing but a dream of a place and family of his own. But his love for Amanda is making him think that having his own ranch isn’t as important as having someone to love for the rest of his life.

Amanda returns to the future, and Gavin is shattered. He tries to go forward in time, but fails. Believing it’s God’s will, Gavin resigns himself to living without the love of his life.

But love transcends time, and Amanda and Gavin need each other. Can Amanda return to her cowboy?

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A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

 

Once upon a time I had a time travel dream. I rarely remember my dreams but this one stayed with me for a long time. I may have even dreamt it before I started writing for publication. In the dream, a woman (I think it’s me) walks upstairs in a country house and opens a door. Kapow! She steps into the old West. I never forgot it and it made me wonder if I could ever write anything historical.

Then I saw an old barn on an acreage where my brother once lived, and the seeds of Cowboy Just in Time took root. My forty words: An event planner falls through a barn loft floor and finds herself in 1890. The cowboy embodies the man of her dreams. He wants her to stay. She needs to leave. Is their love enough to span the ages?

Oh, boy. What do I know about writing a historical novel? Let me count the ways.

–I grew up on a farm that had been homesteaded (not by my family, but we owned it for 50 years) in Antelope County, Nebraska.

–I’m the oldest of seven and there was only one bedroom and no inside bathroom until I was ten (four kids at the time—we all slept in a full bed).

–I loved the pastures and often imagined buffalo grazing and cowboys galloping their horses across the land.

–I fell in love with romantic cowboys and Zane Grey books as a girl.

–Westerns were favored movies by my whole family.

I love to read cowboy historical novels, but could I really write one? Mary Connealy, I am not. The urge, the mind pictures, especially the barn, would not leave my head. So I started to pray and began the story way back in 2014.

The questions that came up, wow. What did Omaha look like before the 20th century? I knew the stockyards were a huge presence. When did the telephone come to the country? Would a ranch home have a pump with piped water on the porch?

Amanda, Gavin calls her Mandy, adapted to his time. There were skeptics. Why would a savvy business woman want to go back in time when life expectancy was so low? Why would a cowboy foreman who worked all his life for the homestead of his birth want to jump forward in time? God gives answers, in His time.

In Cowboy Just in Time Phoebe, the rancher’s daughter, is not a very likeable character. She has redeeming qualities and kept raising her hand to be heard. So Phoebe’s story is the sequel called Future of My Heart, where she comes forward in time, and releases in August.

Thank you, Kelly, you historian, you. It’s been a pleasure to join my little bit of history with your lovely blog.


About LoRee

 

Nebraska country girl LoRee Peery writes fiction that hopefully appeals to adult readers who enjoy stories written from a Christian perspective, focusing on the romance. These include novels and novellas for women and men in the Contemporary, Romance, Historical, Time Travel, and Mystery/Suspense categories. She writes of redeeming grace with a sense of place. Her Frivolities Series and the book based on her father’s unsolved homicide, Touches of Time, are available on Amazon. She is who she is by the grace of God: Christian, country girl, wife, mother, grandmother and great-, sister, friend, and author.

You can connect with LoRee on Twitter, Facebook, or on her Amazon author page or website.


Give Away Alert**

**This Giveaway is now CLOSED**

Congratulations to our winner, Sharon!

 

LoRee has generously offered a print copy of one of her Indie titles, Repurposed. To enter the drawing, please tell us below what would be the most difficult part of suddenly being transported to the 19th century.

**Giveaway ends midnight, September 2nd, 2020.**

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Author Interview with Ramona K. Cecil & a Giveaway

I’m excited to welcome fellow Pelican Book Group author, Ramona K Cecil to Romancing History. She is a multi-published and award-winning author of historical romances. Ramona’s recent release, The Time for Healing, is set in Shawnee territory in 1824 and released on August 7th.

Ramona has graciously offered on eBook copy of The Time for Healing to one Romancing History. Make sure to comment below to enter the drawing!

Before we chat with Ramona, here’s a little bit about her book.


About the Book

Will their love be the last casualty of the Pigeon Roost Massacre?

Ginny Red Fawn McLain is determined to hold fast to her adoptive Shawnee culture despite her sudden reentry into her white birth family. She rejects their Christianity, fearing the tenets of the white man’s religion will prevent her from practicing as a Shawnee medicine woman. But her heart refuses to shun her uncle’s young friend and apprentice minister, Jeremiah Dunbar.

Jeremiah Dunbar has never doubted what he would do with his life—he’d follow in his father’s footsteps as a minister of the Gospel. But a mission trip west to the Native American tribes makes him begin to question his future plans. At the discovery of his fellow missionary’s long lost niece living among the Shawnee, Jeremiah is immediately smitten. But unless Ginny Red Fawn McLain joins Christ’s fold—something she adamantly resists—Jeremiah will have to choose between the woman he loves and the work God has called him to do.

Ginny and Jeremiah struggle to discern the will of God, the Great Spirit, for their lives, and if fitting their love into His plans is even possible. Dreams and cultures clash amid an atmosphere of contempt and distrust, threatening to make their love the last casualty of the Pigeon Roost Massacre.

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Author Interview

Fast Five

  1. Dogs or Cats? Cats. Don’t get me wrong, I do like dogs, but my mother was deathly afraid of dogs, so we had cats for pets growing up. Cats also take less care.
  2. Coffee or Tea? Coffee—extra light. I need at least a couple cups in the morning to get going. If coffee is offered it’s often my drink of choice.
  3. Mexican or Chinese Food? Mexican. I’ve never much cared for Asian cuisine, but offer me a plate of nachos or a beef burrito and I’m there.
  4. Night Owl or Early Bird? Definitely night owl. For years my husband worked a late second shift. We got used to getting up late—Hubby calls it “cruising into the day,” and not hitting the sack until midnight.
  5. I Love Lucy or Get Smart? I Love Lucy. It was a must-watch show in my childhood. Lucy and Ethyl Mertz, what a hoot!

Author Q&A

RH: Hi Ramona. Welcome to Romancing History. Please tell us a little bit about yourself.

RKC: I’ve been writing creatively since about the age of four when I began to compose poetry. Both my parents dabbled in writing poetry and my mother wrote two unpublished novels. I was the middle child of three and the only one of my siblings to get the writing bug. Between the mid 1980s and 1990s I sold over eighty of my verses to leading publisher of Christian gift items. I still get emails from fans of those verses. I now write historical romance novels/novellas for the Christian market. My stories are set in the 1800s and early 1900s. My first book, Larkspur, was published in 2006 as a result of winning first place in a contest sponsored by a publishing company. Since then, I’ve had fourteen more traditionally published novels/novellas. When I’m working on a project I set a goal of 1000 words a day. I always pray for guidance before I begin writing and I finish my prayer with “Give me this day my daily thousand words.”

RH: Wow, I had no idea you’d published fourteen novels or novellas. That’s a huge accomplishment. Now tell us something unusual about yourself. Something not in the typical back of the book author bio—something quirky.

RKC: I don’t think I’m especially picky in general, but I am picky about bread. I don’t like my bread squished. My husband won’t even handle a loaf of bread for fear of squishing it. He says he’d just as soon handle a hand grenade.

RH: That’s funny, but seriously, who wants squishy bread? Fans of romantic fiction love a cute meet. How did you and your significant other meet?

RKC: My husband and I knew each other in high school—he was a couple years ahead of me—but we never dated then. A couple years after I graduated high school we re-connected at a church ice cream social. He came to partake and I was taking the donations. He said “So you’re the money changer?” I wanted the ground beneath me to open up and drop me out of sight. After he enjoyed his ice cream he came back and asked for my phone number. We began dating and six months later we were married. That was forty-seven years ago.

RH: That’s a cute story. I love how people meet their spouses, usually during some mundane thing and they have no idea their life is about to change forever. And, 47 years! That’s wonderful! Which 3 words describe the type of fiction you write?

RKC:  Christian, historical, romance

RH: That is exactly the type of fiction I love to read—Christian historical romance! What has God taught you along your writing journey?

RKC: Patience, persistence, and handing everything over to Him. Years ago after a particularly tough rejection, I considered quitting writing (as if I could). While walking on my treadmill I prayed and asked God to let me know if I should continue to pursue a writing career. A moment later a strange sensation came over me. The best way I can describe it is the sensation of water pouring over me, but I didn’t get wet. I took that to mean God wanted me to keep going, so I did. About a year later my first book was published.

RH: Writing is a tough business. I’m so glad you didn’t give up writing. I too have learned so much about perseverance, accepting criticism and rejection, and God’s faithfulness to the calling He has given me. What was the inspiration behind your recent novel?

RKC: The Pigeon Roost Massacre, a tragic event that happened in 1812 about thirty-five miles south of where I live. On a calm September afternoon in 1812, just before sunset, a little pioneer village in the southern part of Indiana Territory is set upon by hostile Shawnee. Twenty-four settlers including women and children were killed. It is said that two children were taken captive by the Shawnee. The story is told, though also refuted, that one of the captured children—a little girl—was found many years later west of the Mississippi River by her uncle who was a Christian missionary to the Indians. When I first read the story, my writer’s mind immediately went to “I wonder what would have happened if. . .” That was my “jumping off” point and the result became The Time for Healing.

RH: I’m quite the little history nerd and I love it when real events inspire fiction. If you were to pick a particular Scripture verse as the theme of your novel, what would it be? Why?

RKC: Ecclesiastes 3:3 (KJV) “A time to kill, and a time to heal; A time to break down and a time to build up” I think this verse fits the story to a T, especially the first phrase.

RH: Yes, based on what you shared above about the Pigeon Roost Massacre, I’d have to agree with you. Fans of historical fiction & romance love the details that your research provides. Was there anything particularly interesting that you learned while researching your book that you were able to use or not use in your story that you’d like to share?

RKC: My heroine, Ginny Red Fawn McLain, is a Shawnee medicine woman, so I learned a lot about the Shawnee culture. One research source I used was Kohkumthena’s Grandchildren The Shawnee, written by Dark Rain Thom, a Shawnee medicine woman and wife of author James Alexander Thom. Mr. and Mrs. Thom live a couple counties northeast of mine in southern Indiana. One interesting bit of Shawnee culture I learned about is the “woman’s button.” The woman’s button consisted of a smooth round rock encased in leather attached to a leather cord. A young woman carried the “button” on her waist belt. If a too-ardent suitor plied her with unwanted attention she’d whip out her “button” and bop him on the head to change his mind.

RH: I’ve never heard of the “woman’s button” before. How fascinating! I hope you were able to incorporate that into your story. Would you like to share something that didn’t make it into the final copy (deleted scene).

RKC: I wrote a prologue to the story, but later decided not to use it in order to make the story more active. I loved the prologue though, so I kept it on my computer. Here it is:

Scott County Indiana, September 3, 1812

“It’s time for you to feed the chickens and bring in the eggs, Ginny.”

Ginny blew out a long breath and dropped her rag and cornhusk doll to the floor. It was a good baby. No matter what she did with it, it never cried. She walked, but not too fast, across the room to the fireplace where Ma held out a bucket half full of shelled corn while bouncing Ginny’s squalling baby brother in her other arm. “Maybe if the house is quiet, I can finally get Joe to sleep.”

“Yes, Ma.” Ginny wanted to say that it was Joe making all the noise, not her. But the way Ma’s mouth was all puckered up liked she’d bit into a green persimmon told Ginny she was in no mood for sass.

Not wanting to risk a switching, Ginny kept quiet and took the bucket with both hands. The rope handle scratched her palms while the bucket’s weight pulled hard on her arms, making them burn. She wouldn’t complain. Feeding the chickens gave her a good excuse to get out of the house and away from Joe’s crying that made her ears hurt.

At least today she wouldn’t have to shell the corn. When she pushed the grain away from the soft red cobs, the rough, dry kernels always dug into the heels her hands, making them sting.

Before baby Joe came she had less work to do and more time to play. Ma seemed to know that Ginny wished Joe hadn’t come because she’d say things like “You’re a big sister now, all of six years old. ’Fore you know it, you’ll be growed.” As if that would make her like her brother better. It didn’t. Maybe she’d like him better when he got old enough to play with her, but right now she’d rather have her doll.

Ma followed Ginny to the cabin’s open door. “And don’t rip your dress or get it dirty” she said over Joe’s cries. “Uncle Zeb and Aunt Ruth are comin’ for supper.”

“Yes, Ma.” Nodding, Ginny lugged the bucket down the two stone steps and headed toward the pine trees where the chickens would roost for the night. She liked this time before supper when the sunshine poked through the pine grove around their cabin. It looked like melted butter the way it poured through the trees and settled in yellow puddles in the dirt. She liked the way things smelled this time of day, too. The pine needles smelled stronger, and she could even smell the creek water, fresh and cool beyond the trees where bullfrogs had already started their croaking. They sounded like they had a bad case of the hiccups, only deeper. She paid attention to things like that. Aunt Ruth said that was why Ginny would do well when she went to school.

“Chick, chick, chick,” she called.

Their wings flapping, the chickens appeared from the brambles and the shadows behind the trees. Ginny liked the colors of the chickens, some black and white speckled, some all snowy white, and some a reddish brown color that almost matched the color of Ginny’s hair. Their eggs were different colors, too. Some white and some brown. She was eager to see how many she might find in the thicket where the chickens had made their nests against the trunk of an old fallen tree. She’d have to be careful to get all the eggs and not leave any behind for the raccoons and other varmints to steal.

She grinned down at the plump birds as they strutted and clucked and pecked at the dirt. “Puck, puck, puck, puckaw!” Cocking their red-crowned heads sideways, they looked up at her with eyes like big black peppercorns and clucked louder, begging for the corn.

Ginny grabbed a handful of kernels from the bucket and scattered them over a patch of bare ground, too shaded for grass to grow. While the chickens pecked at the corn, Ginny jabbed the air with her finger, practicing her counting like Aunt Ruth had taught her.

“One, two, three. Stand still so I can count you. Four, five, six. Six hens and one, two roosters.” She especially liked the roosters. They stood taller than the hens and puffed out their big chests when they walked. The combs on their heads and the dangly things under their chins were bigger and brighter red than the ones on the hens, and they had sharp toenails on the backs of their legs that could scratch her if she wasn’t careful. But Ginny loved their brightly colored tail feathers that curled behind them and looked like little rainbows in the sunlight.

“That makes eight,” she said, proud of herself as she finished counting. At supper, she would show Aunt Ruth and Uncle Zeb how well she could count. Aunt Ruth would be proud of her, too. Ginny was glad Aunt Ruth was the school teacher. Even if Ma needed Ginny to stay home and help with chores and not go to school for another year or two, she would not get behind in her learning.

An owl hooted. It sounded close.

Ginny looked up into the pine boughs above her. She’d never heard an owl call while it was still this light. And Ginny paid attention to these things.

Another owl hooted, and then another. But the sound didn’t come from up in the trees. It came from near the ground over by the creek. Why would owls walk when they could fly? Pa said they liked to roost high in the trees and look down on everything.

Pa.

Pa should have been back from driving their cow, Sadie, home from the meadow where she liked to graze. The tallest pine tree’s shadow stretched across the yard and bent up against the cabin. Pa was always home before the shadow touched the cabin.

A scream came from inside the cabin, chilling Ginny like the time last winter when she fell into the creek. The sound froze her in place, and the bucket’s rope handle slipped from her fingers. Somehow she knew it was Ma that had screamed, but it didn’t sound like Ma. Joe wailed, but then he stopped right in the middle of his crying and everything got quiet. Joe had never stopped crying all of a sudden like that.

Ginny looked down where she’d dropped the bucket, spilling the corn in a yellow heap. She reached down to pick up the bucket, but someone grabbed her arm. She looked up and saw a man with red lines painted across his face standing over her. He didn’t have much hair, just a little in the back, and a large gray and white feather dangled from it. His chest was bare and large rings hung from his ears and nose.

She tried to scream like Ma had, but nothing came out.

RH: Wow, Ramona, that scene ended with a bang. Now I’m looking forward to reading The Time for Healing even more. Thanks for visiting with me and my readers this week.


About Ramona

Ramona K. Cecil is a poet at her core. She loves the Lord, her family, reading, writing, and

history, especially the history of her home state of Indiana. She’s a wife, mother, grandmother, poet, and author of fifteen historical romance novels for the Christian market. She and her husband of forty-seven years are empty-nesters with two grown daughters and three young-adult grandchildren. They make their home in Seymour, Indiana, the “small town” made famous in rocker John Mellencamp’s song of the same name. She began writing poetry at the age of four and has had over 80 of her inspirational verses published on a variety of gift items by a leading publisher of Christian gifts. In recent years her writing has shifted more to novels and novellas. With her love of Hoosier history, many of her stories are set in Indiana’s past.

You can connect with Ramona on GoodReads, Amazon, Twitter, Facebook or visit her website.


Giveaway**

This giveaway is now closed!

Congratulations to our winner, Judy Attebury!

Ramona is giving away one eBook copy of The Time for Healing. Ramona shared that one of her quirks is not liking “squishy” bread. To enter the drawing, please tell share one of your quirks in the comments below.

**Giveaway ends midnight, August 19th EST.**

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