Wednesday, March 30, 2016

America's First Daughter by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie

In a compelling, richly researched novel that draws from thousands of letters and original sources, bestselling authors Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie tell the fascinating, untold story of Thomas Jefferson’s eldest daughter, Martha “Patsy” Jefferson Randolph—a woman who kept the secrets of our most enigmatic founding father and shaped an American legacy.
From her earliest days, Patsy Jefferson knows that though her father loves his family dearly, his devotion to his country runs deeper still. As Thomas Jefferson’s oldest daughter, she becomes his helpmate, protector, and constant companion in the wake of her mother’s death, traveling with him when he becomes American minister to France.
It is in Paris, at the glittering court and among the first tumultuous days of revolution, that fifteen-year-old Patsy learns about her father’s troubling liaison with Sally Hemings, a slave girl her own age. Meanwhile, Patsy has fallen in love—with her father’s protégé William Short, a staunch abolitionist and ambitious diplomat. Torn between love, principles, and the bonds of family, Patsy questions whether she can choose a life as William’s wife and still be a devoted daughter.
Her choice will follow her in the years to come, to Virginia farmland, Monticello, and even the White House. And as scandal, tragedy, and poverty threaten her family, Patsy must decide how much she will sacrifice to protect her father's reputation, in the process defining not just his political legacy, but that of the nation he founded.

I cannot stop raving about this book. Not only is it well-researched, it is filled with conflict, scandal, and secrets. As slave ownership was swiftly falling out of favor, Thomas Jefferson and his daughter Patsy did everything they could to keep their family darkest scandals secret! Troubles always haunted this family, making this a terrific page turner. Coupled with gorgeously beautiful prose, I must say that this is one of the best books I have ever read! It is nothing short of brilliant! Get it! Get it now! You won't be sorry!

Thank you to the author and publisher. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thank you for visiting my blog, http://greathistoricals.blogspot.ca and http://www.historyandwomen.com, where women's stories and the greatest historical fiction novels are reviewed!



Thursday, March 24, 2016

Wolfsangel by Liza Perrat


Seven decades after German troops march into her village, Céleste Roussel is still unable to assuage her guilt.

1943. German soldiers occupy provincial Lucie-sur-Vionne, and as the villagers pursue treacherous schemes to deceive and swindle the enemy, Céleste embarks on her own perilous mission as her passion for a Reich officer flourishes. When her loved ones are deported to concentration camps, Céleste is drawn into the vortex of this monumental conflict, and the adventure and danger of French Resistance collaboration. As she confronts the harrowing truths of the Second World War’s darkest years, Céleste is forced to choose: pursue her love for the German officer, or answer General de Gaulle’s call to fight for France. Her fate suspended on the fraying thread of her will, Celeste gains strength from the angel talisman bequeathed to her through her lineage of healer kinswomen. But the decision she makes will shadow the remainder of her days. A woman’s unforgettable journey to help liberate Occupied France, Wolfsangel is a stirring portrayal of the courage and resilience of the human mind, body and spirit. 


Review:

Admidst the death and destruction of World War II, the tiny village of Lucie-sur-Vionne, finds itself occupied by the German army. They have pillaged, seized, or requisitioned homes, farms, animals, and food. Celeste's family is adversely affected when her father is sent to a work camp. When she stumbles upon a Jewish family, she hides them in her home. Bit by bit, she is drawn in by the secretive French Resistance, and handsome young German officer who falls in love with her. But in a world where no one can be trusted, does he truly love her or is he merely using her as a means to gather intelligence on the resistance. Celeste begins to walk a fine line - where one mistake can mean someone's death. 

This is book two in the Bone Angel trilogy, and what a fabulous book. Like the first book in the series, I was deeply engrossed in the story, gripped by it, and unable to put it down. I can't rave enough about this novel. And that's saying a lot because I tend to avoid World War II stories as it is not my favourite genre. This book is a must read! Lush prose, beautiful descriptions, tension filled life and death situations, and overwhelming loss color each page of this compelling book. 

This is the third Liza Perrat novel I have read and she is fast becoming a favourite, an author who I can depend on to write a terrific story.    

Thank you to the author and publisher. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.


Thank you for visiting my blog, http://greathistoricals.blogspot.ca, where the greatest historical fiction is reviewed!


Blood Rose Angel by Liza Perrat


1348. A bone-sculpted angel and the woman who wears it––heretic, Devil’s servant, saint. 


Midwife Héloïse has always known that her bastard status threatens her standing in the French village of Lucie-sur-Vionne. Yet her midwifery and healing skills have gained the people’s respect, and she has won the heart of the handsome Raoul Stonemason. The future looks hopeful. Until the Black Death sweeps into France. 



Terrified that Héloïse will bring the pestilence into their cottage, Raoul forbids her to treat its victims. Amidst the grief and hysteria, the villagers searching for a scapegoat, Héloïse must choose: preserve her marriage, or honour the oath she swore on her dead mother’s soul? And even as she places her faith in the protective powers of her angel talisman, she must prove she’s no Devil’s servant, her talisman no evil charm. 



Héloïse, with all her tragedies and triumphs, celebrates the birth of modern medicine, midwifery and thinking in late medieval times.

Review: 

I can't begin to describe how much I enjoyed reading this novel. It caught my attention from the very first page and held me in its grip until the fabulous ending. 

A plague is raging through the French town of Lucie-sur-Vionne leaving death and destruction in its wake. Heloise, the illegitimate daughter of a midwife, is learning midwifery from her aunt Isa after her mother's death. She wears a leather thong upon which hangs an angel carved from bone. This talisman has been passed hand to hand from midwife to midwife down her family line. Heloise's dedication to her craft is so strong, she is one of the few people brave enough to tend the those dying of the plague. But not everyone is grateful, some are angry, even suspicious of her knowledge to heal, and she soon faces the wrath of the town. 

If you like tales with strong, determined, and moral women at the helm, then this tale is sure to please. There is never a dull moment as the story unfolds and I can honestly say that it is unputdownable. This is a must read for those who love medieval historical fiction. You won't be disappointed. 


Thank you to the author and publisher. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Kindle Editions


Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Before Fallen Timbers by NM Jarrell

1786 October A crisp autumn day. The “river of hawks” flows above a sunlit field… Lazy smudges of smoke rise from the stone chimney of a small cabin where three young children play while their parents lay fence. The eldest sister stacks rails in the woods. She wishes she was spending the lovely day anywhere else. The cabin lies just off “The War Path,” an ancient trail soaked with the blood of Shawnee and Iroquois who once both lay claim to this land. The Iroquois are long gone, but Shawnee are plentiful, and they continue to wage the late war of their British Fathers. They raid the homes of those who encroach on their territory, or lure them to watery deaths on the Ohio River. More than 3000 settlers in the Ohio River Valley have been carried into captivity since 1783, when the war officially ended with The Treaty of Paris. The Shawnee are left on the side of the losers. For safety’s sake, the Flynn family and others have been staying at a nearby fort. But they must return to their land to build a fence, to make “an improvement” desired by the young US government through provisions of the Northwest Ordinance. This improvement makes the Flynns eligible for hundreds of additional acres. They race against the approach of winter. And Shawnee raiders. At the gobbling of wild turkeys, the Flynns halt in their tasks. A moment later, blasts from Indian rifles blow their world apart. Nothing will ever be the same.

Review:

Author NM Jarrell has captured her ancestry in a well researched novel that takes place during the 18th century in the aftermath of the American War of Independence. 

With his wife and children, John Flynne is a farmer, working hard so that he can be rewarded with an extra 400 acres in a grant by the Kentucky government. Their lives are drastically altered when a band of native people massacre the town and capture several others as slaves. What follows is a heart-wrenching tale of survival, perseverance, and the search to rescue the stolen family members. 

The author has delved deep into her research, garnering a strong understanding of the native people, and life in the early settlements. Steeped in historical accuracy, it is a raw tale of the hardships our pioneer forefathers endured in the creation of America. Nicely done!

Thank you to the author and publisher. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, March 21, 2016

The Queen of the Night by Alexander Chee

Lilliet Berne is a sensation of the Paris Opera, a legendary soprano with every accolade except an original role, every singer’s chance at immortality. When one is finally offered to her, she realizes with alarm that the libretto is based on a hidden piece of her past. Only four could have betrayed her: one is dead, one loves her, one wants to own her. And one, she hopes, never thinks of her at all. 
 
As she mines her memories for clues, she recalls her life as an orphan who left the American frontier for Europe and was swept up into the glitzy, gritty world of Second Empire Paris. In order to survive, she transformed herself from hippodrome rider to courtesan, from empress’s maid to debut singer, all the while weaving a complicated web of romance, obligation, and political intrigue.  
 
Featuring a cast of characters drawn from history, The Queen of the Night follows Lilliet as she moves ever closer to the truth behind the mysterious opera and the role that could secure her reputation -- or destroy her with the secrets it reveals.

Review:

Lilliet Berne is a popular opera singer with a secret past - one she does not wish anyone to know about. But that is exatcly what will happen if an opera is written about her life by someone who has discovered her secret. From circus performer, to prostitute, to singer, Lilliet has a lot to lose. 

What follows is a clever plot that takes many turns. It is very much a statement about women in a stringent historical period where it was difficult to maintain one's independence. 

If you are an opera lover, then you will find the story highly entertaining for its many links and subplots related to famous operas, and Lilliet's story runs parallel to some of these themes. Many famous historical characters have cameo appearances in the story - Brahms, Verdi, and Empress Eugenie to name a few. 

It is obvious the author did intensive research into the period which shows in the many vivid descriptions of clothing and operas. And of course there is a lovely growing romance between Lilliet and a composer, one in which truly touched me. A very good, long book. 

Thank you to the author and publisher. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

The Captain and the Countess by Rosemary Morris


Why does heart-rending pain lurk in the back of the wealthy Countess of Sinclair’s eyes? Captain Howard’s life changes forever from the moment he meets Kate, the intriguing Countess, and resolves to banish her pain. Although the air sizzles when widowed Kate, victim of an abusive marriage, meets Edward Howard, a captain in Queen Anne’s navy, she has no intention of ever marrying again. However, when Kate becomes better acquainted with the Captain she realises he is the only man who understands her grief and can help her to untangle her past.

Review:

One of the things I always desire when reading historical romances are underlying themes that are enduring and that help give hope to readers who may be struggling with problems of their own. In The Captain and the Countess, this is splendidly done with the theme of escaping domestic abuse and the power of motherhood as the heroine seeks to escape her painful and abusive past and searches for the children stripped from her care. 

Poignant and riddled with tension, I enjoyed this story very much. As all her novels, Rosemary Morris has sprinkled her powerful tale with vibrant characters, lush descriptions, and a heart-wrenching storyline. She is one of my favourite historical romance writers! A truly lovely tale!

Thank you to the author and publisher. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.


Far Beyond Rubies by Rosemary Morris


Set in 1706 in England during Queen Anne Stuart’s reign, Far Beyond Rubies begins when William, Baron Kemp, Juliana’s half-brother, claims she and her young sister, Henrietta, are bastards. Spirited Juliana is determined to prove the allegation is false, and that she is the rightful heiress to Riverside, a great estate.

On his way to deliver a letter to William, Gervaise Seymour sees Juliana for the first time on the grounds of her family home. The sight of her draws him back to India. When “her form changed to one he knew intimately—but not in this lifetime,” Gervaise knows he would do everything in his power to protect her.


Although Juliana and Gervaise are attracted to each other, they have not been formally introduced and assume they will never meet again. However, when Juliana flees from home, and is on her way to London, she encounters quixotic Gervaise at an inn. Circumstances force Juliana to accept his kind help. After Juliana’s life becomes irrevocably tangled with his, she discovers all is not as it seems. Yet, she cannot believe ill of him for, despite his exotic background, he behaves with scrupulous propriety, while trying to help her find evidence to prove she and her sister are legitimate.

Review:

Whenever I open a book written by author Rosemary Morris, it truly feels as if I'm entering a fascinating period in history that is so real, that I can clearly envision everything. That's because the author truly knows her English history and knows how to skilfully weave it into a story filled with romance and mystery with a touch of humor. 

In Far Beyond Rubies, we are swept into England's Queen Anne era where our heroine, Juliana, is at the mercy of her heartless brother and his cold wife as they manipulate her fortune and ownership of Riverside House. Claiming that Juliana and her younger sisters are their father's bastard children, he plans to marry Juliana off to a scoundrel and ship Henrietta off to school. 

Enter the dashing Gervaise Seymour, a mysterious widower who has just returned from India after having made his fortune there. He is drawn to Juliana and her plight, determined to ascertain the truth and free Juliana from the clutches of her greedy half brother.

This lovely, sweet historical romance is not only touching, it is ripe with fascinating characters, an intricate plot, and wonderful descriptions that help you visualize the fashions and architectures of the time. If you are a fan of English Historical Romance, definitely pick up one of this author's books today! You won't be disappointed.

Thank you to the author and publisher. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.


Monday, March 14, 2016

The Vatican Princess by Christopher Gortner

For fans of Philippa Gregory and Alison Weir, bestselling author C. W. Gortner effortlessly weaves history and drama in this captivating novel about one of the world’s most notorious families. Glamorous and predatory, the Borgias fascinated and terrorized fifteenth-century Italy, and Lucrezia Borgia, beloved daughter of the pope, was at the center of the dynasty’s ambitions. Slandered as a heartless seductress who lured men to their doom, was she in fact the villainess of legend, or was she trapped in a familial web, forced to choose between loyalty and survival? With the ascension of the Spaniard Rodrigo Borgia as Pope Alexander VI, a new era has dawned in Rome. Benefitting from their father’s elevation are the new pope’s illegitimate children—his rival sons, Cesare and Juan, and beautiful young daughter Lucrezia—each of whom assumes an exalted position in the papal court. Privileged and adored, Lucrezia yearns to escape her childhood and play a part in her family’s fortunes. But Rome is seductive and dangerous: Alliances shift at a moment’s notice as Italy’s ruling dynasties strive to keep rivals at bay. As Lucrezia’s father faces challenges from all sides, the threat of a French invasion forces him to marry her off to a powerful adversary. But when she discovers the brutal truth behind her alliance, Lucrezia is plunged into a perilous gambit that will require all her wits, cunning, and guile. Escaping her marriage offers the chance of happiness with a passionate prince of Naples, yet as scandalous accusations of murder and incest build against her, menacing those she loves, Lucrezia must risk everything to overcome the lethal fate imposed upon her by her Borgia blood. Beautifully wrought, rich with fascinating historical detail, The Vatican Princess is the first novel to describe Lucrezia’s coming-of-age in her own voice. What results is a dramatic, vivid tale set in an era of savagery and unparalleled splendor, where enemies and allies can be one and the same, and where loyalty to family can ultimately be a curse.

Review:

Lucrezia Borgia continues to fascinate readers centuries after the Italian Renaissance. The scandals, sexual escapades, incest, failed marriages, murders, and intrigues from all members of the Borgia family and those closest to them seems almost too crazy to believe. How much is truth and how much is legend? Were they victims of slander by their enemies? Only the Borgias will ever truly know. As the doted upon bastard child of Pope Alexander VI, and younger sister to Cesare and Juan Borgia, and because of her great beauty, she easily became prey to the political aspirations of her male relatives. In the recently released novel, THE VATICAN PRINCESS, author Christopher Gortner writes a rich first person narrative about Lucrezia’s life whereby he truly brings to vibrant life all the colors of the Italian Renaissance. In Gortner’s version of Lucrezia and her family, we read a tamer version of the legendary events that framed her life. He strongly portrays her as a good, much maligned heroine while painting the her father and brothers in a very dark light. His novel ends before Lucrezia’s third marriage to Alfonso d’Este, the Duke of Ferrara. Even though the book does not encompass her entire life and cover all the intrigues that swirled about her and her family, I did enjoy Gornter’s version of her life. Lovely, flowing, first person prose with vivid descriptions of fashion and surrounds held my fascination to the end. Not my favourite novel about Lucrezia’s life, but a very good one! 


Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Black Rabbit Hall by Eve Chase

For fans of Kate Morton and Sarah Waters, here’s a magnetic debut novel of wrenching family secrets, forbidden love, and heartbreaking loss housed within the grand gothic manor of Black Rabbit Hall.

Ghosts are everywhere, not just the ghost of Momma in the woods, but ghosts of us too, what we used to be like in those long summers . . .


Amber Alton knows that the hours pass differently at Black Rabbit Hall, her London family’s country estate, where no two clocks read the same. Summers there are perfect, timeless. Not much ever happens. Until, of course, it does. 

More than three decades later, Lorna is determined to be married within the grand, ivy-covered walls of Pencraw Hall, known as Black Rabbit Hall among the locals. But as she’s drawn deeper into the overgrown grounds, half-buried memories of her mother begin to surface and Lorna soon finds herself ensnared within the manor’s labyrinthine history, overcome with an insatiable need for answers about her own past and that of the once-happy family whose memory still haunts the estate.

Stunning and atmospheric, this debut novel is a thrilling spiral into the hearts of two women separated by decades but inescapably linked by the dark and tangled secrets of Black Rabbit Hall.

My Review:
BLACK RABBIT HALL is a unique kind of novel. Part Gothic, part psychological thriller, part romance, it is set in an old manor house in Cornwall England. In the 1960's Amber and her family spend their summers at Black Rabbit Hall. One such summer, tragedy strikes, and her mother dies in a horse accident. Unable to fully care for Amber and her siblings, her father soon remarries an old flame. At first, her new stepmother tries hard to fit in, but the children never warm up to her cool aloofness and hoighty attitude. 

Thirty years later, Lorna and her fiance are eager to find a hall to host their wedding. Lorna is drawn to Black Rabbit Hall, an old run down home that has seen better days. She meets with the matriarch of the home and spends some time at the hall planning the wedding and reception. Little does she know that soon, secrets begin to unravel and she finds a link in her past that ties her to the once beautiful home. 

Recently there have been a surge of novels released that pertain to old buildings that shift from the historical past to the contemporary present. This is one such book. I really was impressed with this book. Each character fascinated me because they each had faults. There was something always a little off or mysterious about them, and I liked that. Next, I loved how the old house and it's history was depicted. A lot of thought and creativity went into creating the backstory. And lastly, I loved the cold matriarch and how all the secrets were slowly released until the final climax. It was all very well done. Just my kind of book. I read it in two sittings. Highly recommended.

Thank you to the author and publisher. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.


Tuesday, March 8, 2016

The Cavendon Women by Barbara Taylor Bradford

From blockbuster bestselling author Barbara Taylor Bradford comes a stunning saga of love and loyalty set in early twentieth-century England. Cavendon Hall is home to the aristocratic Inghams and the Swanns who serve them. But after the Great War, the fate of these two families will never be the same...

It all begins on a summer weekend in July of 1926 when, for the first time in years, the Earl has planned a family weekend. Everyone is intrigued by the invitation, and everyone has their own reasons for accepting it. As the family members come together, secrets, problems, joys, and sorrows are revealed. And as old enemies come out of the shadows and the Swanns' loyalty to the Inghams gets tested in ways none of them could have predicted, it is up to the Cavendon women to band together and bring their family into a new decade-and a new way of life.

Barbara Taylor Bradford is one of my long-time favorite authors. She writes wonderful character driven family saga novels, bringing out the best and worst of the people in her stories. Cavendon Women is the sequel to Cavendon Hall; a tale of two families - the Swanns and the Inghams. This novel focuses on the aftermath of World War II and how adversely the aristocratic families were affected. 

There is plenty of intrigue and secrets, but they become stronger near the end. Because the book is character-driven rather than plot-driven, the plot unfolds at a slower pace. This is typical for all such novels. I found the characters extremely well developed, in fact, to describe them as larger than life would not be an understatement. Coupled with a great deal of historical detail and descriptions, I am very impressed with the story telling and the fascinating servants and aristocracy. The book has an engrossing climax and satisfying ending. 

I highly recommend this book for all readers who love the early 20th century and who adore family sagas and character driven stories! 

Thank you to the author and publisher. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, March 7, 2016

The Lion and the Cross by Joan Lesley Hamilton


The man who would become Ireland’s beloved patron saint confronts his destiny during the tumultuous Dark Ages in this vibrant, enthralling novel

In 410 CE, arrogant sixteen-year-old Magonus Sucatus Patricius denounces Christianity as a religion for cowards when the Roman legions withdraw, leaving Britain vulnerable to raiders from the west. Determined to wield a sword despite being the grandson of a priest, the affluent young man is taken captive by barbarians and sold into slavery to a cruel Irish king. On a mountaintop in Eire, a shepherd strips him of his grand Roman name and calls him Padraic, marking him a man of no consequence. Set against the magnificent backdrop of ancient Ireland and based on available historical facts, Saint Patrick's Confession, and Celtic myth, this gripping novel follows Patrick as he finds his faith while fighting to escape bondage in Eire. Friendship with a king, love for a queen, and enmity with the druids who fear his God will embroil him in a civil war in a land from which he will struggle to flee—only to be called to return.

Just in time for Saint Patrick's day, this is a great book to read! It is his life's story as he himself would narrate it. The book is written in such a way that as a reader, I neither liked nor disliked him. The spoiled son of a wealthy nobleman, Padraic often comes across as spoiled, arrogant, and full of himself. And that's what I liked most about this book - the characters were very real and not depicted too villainous or two beloved. 

In his early years, Padraic was an atheist. When barbarians arrived to destroy his village, he was taken as a slave. This sets him on the path of quite a spiritual and physical adventure. The pace of the novel is on the slow side, but I think this is necessary so the reader can get an accurate understanding of all he endured to arrive at his level of spiritualist. And although I could not find myself liking Padraic, I did find the book a clear reflection of the tumultuous times he lived in. At times, the prose was a little challenging, and at others it read smoothly. Most important of all, it is a good accounting of Saint Padraic's life and times.   

Thank you to the author and publisher. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.


Thursday, March 3, 2016

The Secrets of LIzzie Borden by Brandy Purdy

In her enthralling, richly imagined new novel, Brandy Purdy, author of The Ripper’s Wife, creates a compelling portrait of the real, complex woman behind an unthinkable crime.

Lizzie Borden should be one of the most fortunate young women in Fall River, Massachusetts. Her wealthy father could easily afford to provide his daughters with fashionable clothes, travel, and a rich, cultured life. Instead, haunted by the ghost of childhood poverty, he forces Lizzie and her sister, Emma, to live frugally, denying them the simplest modern conveniences. Suitors and socializing are discouraged, as her father views all gentleman callers as fortune hunters. 

Lonely and deeply unhappy, Lizzie stifles her frustration, dreaming of the freedom that will come with her eventual inheritance. But soon, even that chance of future independence seems about to be ripped away. And on a stifling August day in 1892, Lizzie’s long-simmering anger finally explodes…

Vividly written and thought-provoking, The Secrets of Lizzie Borden explores the fascinating events behind a crime that continues to grip the public imagination—a story of how thwarted desires and desperate rage could turn a dutiful daughter into a notorious killer.

The story of Lizzie Borden and the murder of her parents have fascinated generations. Did she or didn't she do it? This question circulates to this very day. Now, Brandy Purdy has stepped up and wrote a compelling biographical novel about Lizzie Borden, her life, and her dark motivations. Anyone who reads a novel by Brandy Purdy must be prepared for a grippingly well told story that often bend the facts to enhance the story. And that's what I love most about Brandy Purdy! She knows how to spin a tale and make it soar. She definitely did just that with The Secrets of Lizzie Borden.

By using a very person, first personal narrative, the author knows how to delve deep inside her protaganists thoughts and emotions to make them larger than life, and that's what stands out the most about this novel. Lizzie Borden became so real that I truly felt I understood her and why she did what she did. I instinctively knew that I was not supposed to like or hate her - rather to comprehend her motivations. 

This book definitely left me haunted, exposed to conflicting feelings of loathing and understanding. And that's the sign of a great book. For anyone who loves biographical murder mysteries and novels set in Victorian times, then this is a book you have to read. Compelling, engrossing, shocking! I loved it.

Thank you to the author and publisher. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Coal River by Ellen Marie Wiseman

In this vibrant new historical novel, the acclaimed author of The Plum Tree and What She Left Behind explores one young woman's determination to put an end to child labor in a Pennsylvania mining town. 

As a child, Emma Malloy left isolated Coal River, Pennsylvania, vowing never to return. Now, orphaned and penniless at nineteen, she accepts a train ticket from her aunt and uncle and travels back to the rough-hewn community. Treated like a servant by her relatives, Emma works for free in the company store. There, miners and their impoverished families must pay inflated prices for food, clothing, and tools, while those who owe money are turned away to starve. Most heartrending of all are the breaker boys Emma sees around the village--young children who toil all day sorting coal amid treacherous machinery. Their soot-stained faces remind Emma of the little brother she lost long ago, and she begins leaving stolen food on families' doorsteps, and marking the miners' bills as paid. 

Though Emma's actions draw ire from the mine owner and police captain, they lead to an alliance with a charismatic miner who offers to help her expose the truth. And as the lines blur between what is legal and what is just, Emma must risk everything to follow her conscience. 

An emotional, compelling novel that rings with authenticity--Coal River is a deft and honest portrait of resilience in the face of hardship, and of the simple acts of courage that can change everything.

From first page to last, I was kept thoroughly on edge by this captivating novel about child labor in Pennsylvania. After the death of her parents, Emma finds alone and without resources. She is compelled to travel back to Coal River, Pennsylvania to live with her aunt and uncle who, like the rest of the town, earn a living from the local coal mine. Immediately, her cold and unloving relatives put her to work around the house and the company store which they run on behalf of the coal mine owner. While the coal mine owners and her uncle get rich off the backs of the impoverished miners, Emma discovers "the breaker boys", young lands who are forced to work, some as young as 6 years old, in a most dangerous part of the mine. Emma is determined to fight for the lives of these boys and their extremely poor and abused families of Coal River. What transpires is a completely engrossing story with plenty of twists and turns. 

I adore books like this - that take a real human situation and show us all how the wrongs of the past were made right. Of course, there is a very strong determined heroine, and a very good man at the heart of the story. The two work together to fight for the coal miners and their families. I have to say that all the other characters in the story were intriguing because of their sometimes severe flaws, cruel intentions, and abuse. It kept me on edge throughout the story, and I loved that! The story and characters are ever evolving, capturing the reader's interest, while educating on the harsh realities and historical details of the not so distant past. 

The hauntingly beautiful cover drew me in, but the beautifully lush story was the true gem! This is a novel that will stay with you long after you close the book and put it away. 

Thank you to the author and publisher. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

The Abbess of Whitby by Jill Dalladay

Synopsis: The dramatic story of a seventh-century evangelist. Chosen as Eostre’s handmaid, Hild will serve the fertility goddess for a year before being wed. Her future is predictable―until King Edwin claims her as kin and she learns that her father was murdered.

Her first love is given a command in Edwin’s forces and vanishes from her life, wed to her sister. The court is baptized, ending the old religion and Hild’s role. Life looks bleak. She can’t stop wondering who killed her father.


Suspecting Edwin, she challenges him, only to be married off to safeguard his northern frontier. Struggling in a loveless marriage, she is intrigued by the Iona priests making pilgrimages to spread Christ’s love. When home and family are lost in Oswy’s sack of Edinburgh, she finds herself in enemy hands, but meets the charismatic Aidan. Inspired and guided by him, she builds communities to live and teach Christ’s love. She attracts followers. Even her old enemy, King Oswy, entrusts his child to her, gives her Whitby, and seeks her help to reconcile divisions in his kingdom. She never ceases battling against old superstitions resurrected by storm, plague, and solar eclipse, but at last she receives a bishop’s blessing―from a man she trained herself.

Writing about a woman in the Dark Ages, is no easy feat, as record keeping, especially when it came to women, was rare indeed. To recreate the path of a woman's life requires a painstaking piecing together of facts along with the author's imagination. In The Abbess of Whitby, the author has succeeding in blending fact with fiction to recreate Hild of Northumbria's life. With its stunning cover, Hild's story is a compelling one. As the daughter of the king's nephew, she is chosen as a handmaiden to the queen. She loses favor when she questions the king regarding whether he had a hand at poisoning and murdering her father. The king marries her off to a very difficult, hard man. Her life is miserable until she learns about Christ and becomes a Christian. 

This was an easy read, albeit a little slow at times, but this is typical for biograhical novels. The characters are based on real, colorful persons who lived the historical events described. I have never read a book set in the 7th century, so found it fascinating to learn about this era. More than anything else, this is the story of a fascinating woman who overcame the rigid rules and hardships women faced to gain respect and admiration from the people. A grand tale beautifully told!

Thank you to the author and publisher. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

The Lavender House in Meuse by Gail Noble-Sanderson

Do you want to read a compellingly beautiful story of love and healing? This is definitely a lovely, 5 stars read!

Synopsis: Marie Durant Chagall, the well-educated daughter of a wealthy shipping merchant, is living a privileged childhood with her half-sister, Solange, in Marseille when their cultured world is shocked into change with the chaos of World War I. Feeling restless and a desire to contribute, Marie volunteers as a nurse with the French Red Cross and quickly finds herself embroiled in the brutal, bloody battlefield of Verdun. Injured both mentally and physically and suffering a severe crise de tristesse sombre, a crisis of black melancholy, Marie eventually returns to life through the unexpected gift from her mother, who had died a few weeks after giving birth to Marie: a house among the lavender fields on the Meuse River, which Marie reluctantly opens up to care for fellow wounded souls. The Lavender House in Meuse presents an emotional, intriguing, and sensitive account of the crises of World War I and one woman's journey towards recovery and growth.

What an impressive story. Told through lovely lyrical prose, it is a story of a young woman of Jewish heritage who leaves her home to become a nurse on the war front during World War I. It is very much a tale of trauma and injury and healing.  

When Marie leaves her sister and father in their Marseille home for the front, she returns injured and emotionally harmed. The world has changed and her father and sister prepare to leave France for America. As she heals, she learns she has inherited her late mother's home in Meuse surrounded by fields of lavender, and decides to forego joining her father and sister to make a new life for herself.    

Alone for the first time in her life, she finds tranquility and healing there, despite accepting desperately wounded soldiers for nursing. Through Marie's point of view, the reader experiences her emotions and journey of healing. Wonderful descriptions of people and places really bring to life rural France
. This book is definitely worth reading - poignant, real, and historically fascinating! 

Thank you to the author and publisher. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.