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

Tag: Book Review

Book Review, Serving Up Love

About the Book


Title: Serving Up Love: A Four-in-One Harvey House Brides Collection
Author: Various, see below
Genre: Historical Romance

Book Info: (Bethany House Publisher, November 5, 2019, 384 pages)

Tag Line

On the Menu for These Ladies?
Adventure, Independence, and a Big Serving of Romance!

 


Blurb

A storied part of American history, Harvey Houses offered women a unique chance to gain independence and see amazing parts of this great country. Celebrated historical romance writers Tracie Peterson, Karen Witemeyer, Regina Jennings, and Jen Turano offer four fun, romantic tales of Harvey girls whose western adventures lead to love.

Tracie Peterson – 
A Flood of Love
Returning home to New Mexico for the first time in years to fill in at the Harvey House, Gretchen Gottsacker is sure the past is behind her. But nothing can be that simple. When the man she loved long ago steps back into her life–with a daughter, no less–will she ever be the same?

Karen Witemeyer – More Than a Pretty Face
Rosalind Kemp becomes a Harvey Girl, clinging to the promise of one day transferring even farther west, someplace her youthful indiscretion won’t catch up to her. But the past is hard to escape, and when the worst occurs, will anyone stand up for her?

Regina Jennings – Intrigue a la Mode
When Willow Kentworth is warned that strange things are happening in the railyard after dark, she never intends to get involved. That is, until a handsome new employee at the Harvey House–who has secrets of his own–needs her assistance.

Jen Turano – 
A Grand Encounter
After her fiancé abandons her, Miss Myrtle Schermerhorn flees New York’s pity for a position at the El Tovar Hotel on the rim of the Grand Canyon. She’s determined to hold fast to her life of independence–but a rugged, frequent guest of the hotel makes that vow difficult to uphold.


My Thoughts

I tend to be a bit  hard on novellas. Often times, the plots are too grand and the author is left to tie up all the loose ends too quickly for my satisfaction. Happily, that is not the case for Serving Up Love which earns five stars across the board. Each novella was filled with just the right amount of captivating characters and swoon-worthy heroes mixed with a dash of adventure to leave this historical romance junkie’s heart satiated.

Harvey Girl Uniform, photo courtesy of Jot Powers

Harvey Girl Uniform, Photo by Jot Powers

As a big history lovin’ nerd girl, I was tickled pink to learn of this novella collection centering around Harvey Girls. I’d first heard about Harvey Girls on a vacation through Missouri, Kansas, and Colorado a few years ago. Fred Harvey was an American entrepreneur who opened a series of cafes and restaurants aligned with railroad stations in the western United States. He provided high quality food in a timely manner. Train travelers new to expect great food and excellent service in any of his establishments. Harvey Girls were the women who provided that outstanding service. Each one had to be single and of impeccable character. Housing was provided above the restaurants for these women who were not allowed to fraternize with the customers, at least not in the cafes themselves. Once a woman was engaged, her employment would be terminated.

There was so much to love about each of these stories — the railway setting, life as a Harvey Girl, and handsome customers just to name a few. In Peterson’s A Flood of Love, spunky child character, Katieann, captures the readers heart from the get go and not long after, Gretchen’s as well. I’d never read Tracie Peterson before but she penned a delightful story and I’ll be seeking more by this author. I loved the humor weaved into Intrigue a la Mode and Grand Encounter. Regina Jennings developed an intriguing plot involving smugglers along the railroad that kept me turning the pages. Jen Turano doesn’t disappoint readers used to the hilarious shenanigan’s of her characters and the author’s quippy dialogue like “Mr. Tall, Dark, and –need I say Delicious is here again and sitting in your section.” I just about spit out my tea! But I’d have to say it was Witemeyer’s, More Than a Pretty Face, that stole my heart. Rosalind, the heroine, is running from a mistake in her past, something we can all relate to. When it blows up BIG in her face, her sweetheart, friends, and co-workers all rally behind her, and Witemeyer weaves in a beautiful lesson about the power of forgiveness and the desire we all have to create a future not defined by past transgressions.

This is a wonderfully charming novella collection from an amazing set of historical romance authors. You’ll not only be “served up love,” but plenty of faith, humor, and warm fuzzies on the side.

***I received a complimentary copy from Bethany House on behalf of the authors and was under no obligation to write a favorable review. All opinions are my own.


Links for purchase

Amazon   Barnes & Noble   CBD


About the Authors

A recipient of the ACFW Lifetime Achievement Award, Tracie Peterson is well-known for her numerous award-winning, bestselling historical romances. She lives near Missoula, Montana. Visit her at www.traciepeterson.com.

Karen Witemeyer is a winner of multiple Carol Awards and has been a finalist for the RITA Award and National Readers’ Choice Award. She lives in Abilene, Texas. Visit her at www.karenwitemeyer.com.

Regina Jennings
 is the acclaimed author of The Fort Reno Series. She lives outside Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, with her husband and four children. Visit her at www.reginajennings.com.

Jen Turano
, the USA Today bestselling author of over a dozen books, lives in a suburb of Denver, Colorado. Visit her at www.jenturano.com.

 

Book Review — Daughters of Northern Shores

About the Book


Title: Daughters of Northern Shores
Series Info: Blackbird Mountain #2
Author: Joanne Bischof
Genre: Christian Historical Romance

Book Info: Paperback & ebook, 368 pages, released March 12, 2019 by Thomas Nelson


Heartache and regret, boldness and sacrifice. What will restoration cost the beloved Norgaard family?

Aven Norgaard understands courage. Orphaned within an Irish workhouse, then widowed at just nineteen, she voyaged to America where she was wooed and wed by Thor Norgaard, a Deaf man in rural Appalachia. That the Lord saw her along the winding journey and that Aven now carries Thor’s child are blessings beyond measure. Yet while Thor holds her heart, it is his younger brother and rival who haunts her memories. Haakon—whose selfish choices shattered her trust in him.Having fled the farm after trying to take Aven as his own, Haakon sails on the North Atlantic ice trade where his soul is plagued with regrets that distance cannot heal. Not even the beautiful Norwegian woman he’s pursued can ease the torment. When the winds bear him home after four years away, Haakon finds the family on the brink of tragedy. A decades-old feud with the neighboring farm has wrenched them into the fiercest confrontation on Blackbird Mountain since the Civil War. Haakon’s cunning and strength hold the power to seal many fates, including Thor’s which is already at stake through a grave illness brought to him as the first prick of warfare.

Now Haaken faces the hardest choice of his life. One that shapes a battlefield where pride must be broken enough to be restored, and where a prodigal son may finally know the healing peace of surrender and the boundless gift of forgiveness. And when it comes to the woman he left behind in Norway, he just might discover that while his heart belongs to a daughter of the north, she’s been awaiting him on shores more distant than the land he’s fighting for.

From Christy Award–winning author Joanne Bischof comes Daughters of Northern Shores: the highly anticipated sequel to her moving novel Sons of Blackbird Mountain.


My Thoughts

It’s been way too long since I’ve finished a book that has left me as satisfied as Daughters of Northern Shores or one that made my writers heart cry out to the Lord wishing I could weave words as well as the author whose story I’d just finished. Daughters of Northern Shores is all that and more.

I’ll begin by stating that just like my last review, I hadn’t read the first installment in the series, Sons of Blackbird Mountain. That is a tragedy I intend to soon rectify. While you can easily pick up and enjoy Daughters of Northern Shores as a stand alone, I don’t recommend it. Not because you won’t be able to understand the plot or will struggle to familiarize yourself with the characters, but because I’m positive you will have cheated yourself out of a profoundly amazing reading experience.

I was completely enthralled with Bischoff’s characters. From the hearing impaired, Thor, to his younger brother, Haakon, the prodigal who has returned home seeking forgiveness and a new start with the family he left behind. I’ve never read a story with a deaf main character and wondered how that would work since he had no spoken dialogue. I have to say, Thor captured my heart with his wisdom, spiritual strength, and devoted heart for Aven. I was immediately drawn to Haakon and his courage to return home and face the mistakes he’d made and right the wrongs he’d committed against his family members. Nothing like a bad boy who turns his life around to win this romance reader’s heart.

The women in this story don’t take a back seat either. Aven, Thor’s wife, is as gentle as they come, yet she possesses a determined spirit that serves her well as she faces many challenges, including a contagious illness that threatens her unborn child. Ida and Cora, freedwomen who live on the Norgaard property, display profound courage when monstrous evil returns and places everyone on the Norgaard’s farm in imminent danger. It is Cora’s deep faith and her willingness to speak boldly that steers Haakon back to his faith

Daughters of Northern Shores is so well-written that the Norgaard’s Appalachian farm comes to life with beautiful descriptions the reader can see and smell vividly. Filled with the type of rich historical details, my history-loving, nerd girl heart was filled to the brim. The author’s beautiful prose sing like the melody of a well-written symphony and will leave you desperately wanting more from this writer and the story world she has created for us.

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


Spiritual Takeaway

I loved that Daughters of Northern Shores explored themes of forgiveness and grace. The prodigal Haakon encounters the consequences of breaking his brothers trust when he returns. While surprised to see him again after four years with no word of his whereabouts, all are cautiously optimistic and hope his arrival signals Haakon’s willingness to restore bonds with the family, not merely to collect his inheritance, a small plot of land on the Norgaard farm.

I like that Bischoff didn’t make the family too eager to welcome Haakon into their good graces, but instead made him earn their trust. Forgiveness and trust are not one in the same. As believers we are encouraged to give forgiveness as freely as Christ has given it to us, whether or not the offender seeks it or changes their behavior. It is an act of obedience between the believer and God. Trust however is earned over time through altered behavior and a determination by the offender to change their attitude and actions. Bischoff writes a beautifully believable transformation in Haakon, one that both the family and the reader can embrace as authentic.


Links for Purchase

GoodreadsAmazonBarnes & NobleChristianBookTNZ Fiction


Other Books in the Series

Title: Sons of Blackbird Mountain
Series Info: Blackbird Mountain #1
Author: Joanne Bischof
Genre: Historical Romance

Book Info: Paperback & ebook, 339 pages, released July 3rd, 2018 by Thomas Nelson

From the bestselling award-winning author of The Lady and the Lionheart

“Beloved author Joanne Bischof doesn’t disappoint with her latest beautifully written, heartrending tale . . . a quick favorite for historical romance readers.” —Elizabeth Byler Younts, author of The Solace of Water

A Tale of Family, Brotherhood, and the Healing Power of Love

After the tragic death of her husband, Aven Norgaard is beckoned to give up her life in Norway to become a housekeeper in the rugged hills of Nineteenth-Century Appalachia. Upon arrival, she finds herself in the home of her late husband’s cousins—three brothers who make a living by brewing hard cider on their three-hundred acre farm. Yet even as a stranger in a foreign land, Aven has hope to build a new life in this tight-knit family.

But her unassuming beauty disrupts the bond between the brothers. The youngest two both desire her hand, and Aven is caught in the middle, unsure where—and whether—to offer her affection. While Haakon is bold and passionate, it is Thor who casts the greatest spell upon her. Though Deaf, mute, and dependent on hard drink to cope with his silent pain, Thor possesses a sobering strength.

As autumn ushers in the apple harvest, the rift between Thor and Haakon deepens and Aven faces a choice that risks hearts. Will two brothers’ longing for her quiet spirit tear apart a family? Can she find a tender belonging in this remote, rugged, and unfamiliar world?

A haunting tale of struggle and redemption, Sons of Blackbird Mountain is a portrait of grace in a world where the broken may find new life through the healing mercy of love.

Praise for Sons of Blackbird Mountain:

“Sons of Blackbird Mountain is a quiet gem of a historical romance. Refreshingly real and honest in its depiction of flawed but lovable individuals, it introduces characters readers will want to meet again.” – CBA Market

“. . . the novel provides an interesting glimpse of the time period and some complex social issues among neighbors in an area still recovering from the Civil War.” – Historical Novels Review

“VERDICT Christy- and Carol Award-winning author Bischof (The Lady and the Lionheart) creates endearing characters and a heartwarming story line in this unforgettable novel about the power of family, love, and the true meaning of home. Fans of Kristy Cambron, Julie Klassen, and Susan Meissner will love this one.” – Library Journal

GoodreadsAmazonBarnes & NobleChristianBookTNZ Fiction


About the Author

Joanne Bischof is an ACFW Carol Award and ECPA Christy Award-winning author. She writes deeply layered fiction that tugs at the heartstrings. She was honored to receive the San Diego Christian Writers Guild Novel of the Year Award in 2014 and in 2015 was named Author of the Year by the Mount Hermon conference. Joanne’s 2016 novel, The Lady and the Lionheart, received an extraordinary 5 Star TOP PICK! from RT Book Reviews, among other critical acclaim. She lives in the mountains of Southern California with her three children.

Picture courtesy of https://joannebischof.com

WebsiteGoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterestYouTubeInstagram


Giveaway

One winner will receive a print copy of DAUGHTERS OF NORTHERN SHORES and a Thomas Nelson/Zondervan custom tote bag (book and bag shown are examples, not actual prize)

US only

Ends March 20, 2019

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Book Review: A Desperate Hope

About the Book

Title: A Desperate Hope
Series Info: Empire State #3
Author: Elizabeth Camden
Genre: Christian Historical Romance
Book Info: Paperback & eBook, Released February 5, 2019, 352 pages, Bethany House Publishers


Blurb

Eloise Drake’s prim demeanor hides the turbulent past she believes is finally behind her. A mathematical genius, she’s now a successful accountant for the largest engineering project in 1908 New York. But to her dismay, her new position puts her back in the path of the man responsible for her deepest heartbreak.

Alex Duval is the mayor of a town about to be wiped off the map. The state plans to flood the entire valley where his town sits in order to build a new reservoir, and Alex is stunned to discover the woman he once loved on the team charged with the demolition. With his world crumbling around him, Alex devises a risky plan to save his town–but he needs Eloise’s help to succeed.

Alex is determined to win back the woman he thought he’d lost forever, but even their combined ingenuity may not be enough to overcome the odds against them.


My Thoughts

What a fantastic introduction to new-to-me author, Elizabeth Camden. Camden’s voice is lovely. She paints scenes beautifully for the reader and her prose flow effortlessly through the novel carrying the reader on a delightful journey back in time.

Camden’s heroine, Eloise Drake, is smart, efficient and logical. Unfortunately for Eloise, the man who makes her heart pound, Alex Duval, is a romantic dreamer with a larger-than-life vision to save his beloved town of Duval Springs before its flooded to make a reservoir to provide water to New York City. Everything in Eloise’s play-it-safe, number crunching, CPA mind knows it’s an impossible task, but she longs to live an adventure like the ones she’s spent her whole life reading about. Of course this is exactly the kind of opposites-attract-chemistry that will leave the reader with great angst wondering when these two will finally mange to get together.

As a helpless romantic, I was drawn to Alex immediately. I loved his “nothing will keep me down” attitude. I thought Eloise was the perfect balance for Alex, providing just enough sense and responsibility to keep Alex on track to achieve his dream of saving the town—his perfect “ballast.” Just like any good couple, Alex’s risk-taking nature helped draw Eloise out of her protective shell and encouraged her to not only take a chance on his crazy scheme to relocate Duval Springs, but to risk her heart on Alex himself one more time.

I was mesmerized by the historical facts and technical details that Camden wove into the story. Everything from accounting details like evaluating the value of condemned properties and project costs to the mechanics of raising a building from its foundation. While Duval Springs is a fictional town, Camden was inspired by true life events that occurred in upstate New York at the turn of the twentieth century. Instead of allowing their towns to be flooded, residents painstakingly relocated their towns board by board, building by building to higher ground.

The author also wove many suspenseful elements into the story. I do not want to give any spoilers here but I must say that I was surprised as to the motives of those involved in sabotaging the town’s relocation efforts. Once the guilty culprits came to light, I realized the author had skillfully laid the trail of tiny bread crumbs leading me right where she wanted to me go, clues I hadn’t put together. I was delighted to not have figured out “the who and why” ahead of the story.

As for the setting, Duval Springs is the type of quintessential fictional town you’d like to be real. Like Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Walnut Grove or Jan Karon’s Mitford, Duval Springs leaps to life filled with secondary characters that become your friends and have you routing for them to overcome every obstacle that this seemingly impossible task presents. Of Duval Springs Camden writes, “…get to church on Sunday morning to thank God for the blessing of being born in a place like Duval Springs, where we laugh, work, and cry together.”

When I signed up to read A Desperate Hope as part of its tour with Prism Book Tours, I didn’t know it was third book in the Empire State series. In fact, I had read more than a hundred pages before I saw the advertisements in the back of the novel for the previous two books. The story flowed that well that I can highly recommend it as a stand alone.

I was given a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.


Spiritual Takeaway

Throughout the story, Camden’s characters trust in God and rely on His providence every time a new impediment to their progress occurs. Just as the title suggests, hope is the central spiritual theme of this book. Hope in God, His faithfulness, and also in the inspiration and the dreams He places in our hearts. Nothing is impossible with God.

My one criticism would be the handling of the premarital sexual encounter between Alex and Eloise that occurs off page and long before the story begins. My issues is not that the characters are flawed in this way. To the contrary, I think it makes them relatable to many modern readers. My issue is that Eloise seems more embarrassed by their past actions than sorry that she sinned. Although Alex does not come across as cavalier, he doesn’t seem to have any regrets either, except that he wished he’d married Eloise before her guardian whisked her away upon his discovery of their trysts. I recognize that the transgression mentioned occurred long ago, their reunion stirs up old memories and I can’t help but feel the author missed the opportunity to paint a beautiful picture of God’s grace and redemption for the reader.


Available for Purchase on

GoodreadsAmazonBarnes & NobleChristianBookiBooksKobo


Other Books in the Series


About the Author

Elizabeth Camden is the author of twelve historical novels and two historical novellas and has been honored with both the RITA Award and the Christy Award. With a master’s in history and a master’s in library science, she is a research librarian by day and scribbles away on her next novel by night. She lives with her husband in Florida.


Book Tour Giveaway

  • One Grand Prize winner will receive print copies of all three books in the Empire State series: A Dangerous LegacyA Daring Venture, and A Desperate Hope
  • Two additional winners will receive a print copy of A Desperate Hope
  • US only
  • Ends March 1 2019

Enter the Rafflecopeter giveaway here.



A Desperate Hope On Tour with Prism Book Tours


TOUR SCHEDULE
February 18th:
Launch
The Power of Words – Review
Kelly Goshorn @ Romancing History – Review
February 19th:
Remembrancy – Review
Labor Not in Vain – Review
February 20th:
Hearts & Scribbles – Excerpt
Locks, Hooks and Books – Review
Uplifting Reads – Excerpt
February 21st:
Books n Baubles – Review
The Barefoot Reader – Excerpt
February 22nd:
Among the Reads – Review (ebook)
Faithfully Bookish – Review
February 25th:
I’m Going on an Adventure – Review
Beauty in the Binding – Review
February 26th:
All-of-a-kind Mom – Review
Wishful Endings – Review
Kat’s Corner Books – Review (ebook)
February 27th:
Jorie Loves A Story – Review
Loraine D Nunley, Author – Review
February 28th:
Tell Tale Book Reviews – Review
Hallie Reads – Review
Splashes of Joy – Review
March 1st:
Heidi Reads… – Excerpt
Flowers of Quiet Happiness – Review (ebook)

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