My Review – The Story Raider

My Review - The Story Raider

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Deceiving an empire is a treacherous game. 

Tanwen and the Corsyth weavers race to collect the strands of an ancient cure that might save Gryfelle. But Tanwen has a secret: Gryfelle isn’t the only one afflicted by the weaver’s curse.

As Queen Braith struggles to assert her rule, a new arrival throws her tenuous claim to the Tirian throne into question. Braith’s heart is turned upside down, and she’s not sure she can trust anyone—least of all herself.

The puppet master behind Gareth’s rise to power has designs on the story weavers and will stop at nothing to reclaim the throne. A plot to incite the angry peasants of Tir takes shape, and those dearest to Tanwen will be caught in the crossfire. As the fight for Tir consumes the realm, no one can remain innocent.

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Why This Book:

The second I read the final page of The Story Peddler, I knew I would be reading the next book in this series. (See my review HERE.) Then my two eldest boys (13 & 11) read The Story Peddler and loved it as well. We all agreed that we would preorder the next book as soon as it was available to do so. So we did. Then I came across the opportunity to join Lindsay Franklin’s launch team. Um yeah. I signed up in a blink.

So I now have a digital ARC (Advanced Reader’s Copy) and a printed purchased copy of The Story Raider (the printed copy has been claimed by my boys). Best yet, because I pre-ordered the printed version, Lindsay sent my boys some fun swag that included a personalized and signed bookplate which now lives happily in the front of their book. (This swag was offered to anyone who pre-ordered The Story Raider and submitted their information to Lindsay before the release date.) (BTW – My boys will be recording and sharing their own video review of this book in the near future.) All of this said, my review will (as always) be 100% sincere and 100% my own.

Opening Lines:

Chapter 1:

Naith Bo-Offriad hurried down the main thoroughfare of Afon. Of all places.

How had it come to this?

First Impressions:

I was immediately drawn back into the action, troubles, and world of the story I’d left behind in The Story Peddler. And I was happy to be there–eager to see what would happen next.

Book Quote - The Story Raider

SPOILER WARNING!!! – If you have not read The Story Peddler, skip down to my section on THEME and continue reading from there.

Main Characters:

Naith Bo-Offriad–  The High Priest of the Tirian Empire now in a degraded situation he never dreamed of facing and determined not to remain there.

Tanwen En-Yestin – The heroine of the story facing a mysterious, progressive, life-threatening illness. The wonderfully gifted Storyteller we readers are rooting for. She is complex, with both selfless and selfish moments that I think most readers will relate to. She struggles with the emotional consequences of the events taking place around her and navigating her complicated relationships–especially with her father, Brac, and Mor.

Braith En-Gareth a.k.a. Queen Braith – As the new Queen of Tir, she struggles with the ramifications of the recent coup which placed her on the throne, her father in the dungeon, and her mother on the run–not to mention it left her former suitor behind bars and probably awaiting execution for his crimes. Meanwhile, the unrest and rioting of the peasants of Tir leave her a virtual prisoner in her own castle. And in case all of that isn’t enough, a surprise arrival threatens the legitimacy of her claim to the throne. Poor Braith. Good thing she’s such a strong, intelligent woman with a compassionate heart and admirable integrity.

Cameria En-Benatti – Trusted friend, confidant and personal servant to Queen Braith. She helps keep Braith sane among the chaos.

Brac Bo-Bradwir– Tanwen’s childhood friend, her unwanted/accidental fiance, and a generally nice (if a bit naive) guy who finds himself in too deep before he even knows what’s happening.

Mor Bo-Lidere– The hero of the story (IMO) who is a gifted Storyteller like Tanwen. His relationship with Tanwen grows even more complicated in this book than in the first book, and I’m not always a fan of the choices he makes, but overall, I definitely like the guy and want to see him succeed. Also, in his defense, he has a lot to deal with emotionally and in regard to the events of the story. There is a lot of weight on this poor guy’s shoulders, which makes the less-than-positive choices he sometimes chooses very relatable.

Yestin Bo-Arthio – Former First General of Tir, loving father of Tanwen, and man of many, many talents, skills, and secrets. This man continues to surprise throughout the story and it is delightful to wonder what he will reveal or do next.

Emotional Engagement & Pacing of the Story:

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. There was a continuous tension that kept me turning pages, but also brief moments of slowing down that allowed me just enough time to catch my breath and process what was happening (as opposed to some of those action movies where everything happens so fast, the next battle has begun before you even realize the first one is over). I was always reluctant to set this book aside in order to fulfill those annoying things called “responsibilities.” (Don’t they know they should just disappear while I’m in the middle of a great read?)

As for emotional engagement, it was definitely there. I cared about what happened to these characters and I had decided opinions on which path I thought their stories should take them. I didn’t always get what I wanted, but I was always content (or happy, depending on the moment) with what I got.

Elements I especially liked/disliked:

Getting to better know Yestin Bo-Arthio was particularly fun for reasons mentioned in his description. Which actually brings to mind the other thing I liked: many surprises. This story was anything but predictable. In both big and small ways, the author made choices that surprised me and kept the story feeling fresh at each step of the journey.

I also liked the travel and adventure side of the story. The descriptions were wonderful. From the big action scenes to the intimate moments, I could vividly see in my mind’s eye exactly what was happening. By the end of the book, I felt I’d traveled the character’s world with them.

Book Quote - The Story Raider - Someone Watching Over You

THEME:

I found that two themes stuck out for me in this novel. The first was this:

The choices we make are rarely simple or black and white, and always have consequences–often beyond what we expect.

The other theme was epitomized in this quote:

Wherever you were, it seemed you could really only understand your own troubles and the trials of your little spot on the world.

Ending:

Umm. WOW! Yes, there is a clear ending in one sense (regarding the cure), but in another sense there is a very obvious cliff-hanger. And I have just one thing to say about that:

I WANT THE NEXT BOOK NOW!!! 🙂

Overall Rating:

5 out of 5 stars

Amazon

Psst! Feel free to borrow any of the photos above for sharing on social media and remember to tag me @KathleenDenly ! (Also look for Click-to-Tweet quotes at the bottom of this post!)


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About the Author

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Lindsay A. Franklin is a best-selling author, freelance editor, and homeschooling mom of three. She would wear pajama pants all the time if it were socially acceptable. Lindsay lives in her native San Diego with her scruffy-looking nerf-herder husband, their precious geeklings, three demanding thunder pillows (a.k.a. cats), and a stuffed wombat with his own Instagram following. You can find Lindsay on social media, too, if Wombatman hasn’t hijacked all her accounts. She’s @LinzyAFranklin on Instagram and Twitter, and she Facebooks at www.facebook.com/LindsayAFranklin.

More from Lindsay

I often get asked how I came up with the idea for The Story Peddler, book 1 in The Weaver Trilogy. It’s a dangerous thing to dig too deep into a fantasy novelist’s imagination (it’s pretty weird in here, you guys), but the short answer is I was sitting in a workshop at a writers’ conference, and an acquisitions editor made a comment—something like: “I have to peddle your stories to executives. At the end of the day, I’m just a story peddler.” When I heard that phrase, my imagination exploded. I thought of what a “story peddler” might look like if we added a little wonder and a sprinkling of fairy dust to the equation. Then Tanwen emerged as a character who might be a fun vehicle for this story-peddling process, and I imagined a story that would suit her. The Story Peddler was born.
But someone recently asked me why I visualized the supernatural art of storytelling in the way I did—as strands of color, light, fabric, or glitter coming out of the hands of the person telling the story, then crystallizing into a solid object for her to sell. And I have no real answer for that, except, again, “It’s pretty weird in here, you guys.” The Weaver Trilogy is a celebration of creativity and art, and that gave me reason to think about what other types of strand-weavers in this story world might look like.
If you’re new to the series, here’s a primer on the weavers you’ll find in these books.
Storytellers: Strands pour from their hands as they tell stories. When they reach the moral or ending of the story, the strands come together to form a crystallized sculpture. A story peddler then sells the sculptures to make her living.
Songspinners: Strands are lighter, airier, and come from their mouths instead of their hands as they sing. Songspinner strands are emotive and speak to the hearts of the hearers. Once the song is over, the strands disappear.
Colormasters: Strands are like streams of paint, ribbons of fire, or jets of water. When they hit a solid object, they create an image on the object. Colormasters seek to reflect the beauty of their surroundings, capturing the physical world exactly as it is or simply as it feels.
Stoneshapers: Their hands light up as they manipulate rock and stone with their fingertips. They create beauty by molding something that already exists and releasing the art trapped inside.
If that sounds like fun, welcome to my weirdness! Tanwen can’t wait to weave a sparkling adventure for you.

Giveaway

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To celebrate her tour, Lindsay is giving away a grand prize package of a $25 Amazon gift card, The Corsyth custom Story Peddler candle from Novelly Yours, The Cethorelle custom Story Raider candle from Novelly Yours, choice of two tea tins from the Adagio Story Peddler Tea Shoppe, “Hedgenibblers, fluffhoppers, mountainbeasts, oh my!” mug
Story Peddler book sleeve, Story Raider enamel pin, and assorted bookmarks, stickers, and art prints.
Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter.
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Let’s chat!

Have you read either The Story Peddler or The Story Raider? Do you enjoy fantasy fiction? How do you feel about cliff-hanger endings?

TWEETABLES:

Surprising choices kept this novel feeling fresh at each step of the journey. #BookReview 

A fascinating adventure that will engage the emotions and imaginations of adults, adolescents, and teens alike! #BookReview 


Note: Although I did receive a free ARC of the digitial version of this book, I had previously preordered my own print copy of this book, and in any case, I was under no obligation to write a positive review. You may read my full disclosure of materials HERE.


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My Review – Where Dandelions Bloom

My Review - Where Dandelions Bloom

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Cassie Kendrick is on the run. Her abusive father arranged her marriage to a despicable man, but she’s discovered an escape. Disguised as a man, Cassie enlists in the Union army, taking the name Thomas Turner. On the battlefields of the Civil War, keeping her identity a secret is only the beginning of her problems, especially after she meets Gabriel Avery, a handsome young photographer.

Anxious to make his mark on the world and to erase the darkness and guilt lurking from his past, Gabriel works with renowned photographer Matthew Brady to capture images from the front lines of the war. As Gabriel forges friendships with many of the men he encounters, he wonders what the courageous, unpredictable Thomas Turner is hiding.

Battling betrayal, their own personal demons, and a country torn apart by war, can Cassie and Gabriel learn to forgive themselves and trust their futures to the God who births hope and healing in the darkest places?

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Why This Book:

I thoroughly enjoyed Tara Johnson’s debut novel Engraved on the Heart (click HERE to read my interview of Tara). So, of course, I wanted to read whatever she released next.

Opening Lines:

Prologue:

June 4, 1851
New York City

Gabriel Avery hit the unforgiving pavement with a grunt. Above him, the thin dirty faces of his foes looked down on him with sneers.

Chapter 1:

TEN YEARS LATER
April 12, 1861
Howell, Michigan

“Cassandra Kendrick! What have you done?”

Cassie cringed at the slurred, booming voice hovering just beyond the barn door.

Book Quote - Where Dandelions Bloom - Who We Want To Be

First Impressions:

My attention was engaged from line one of the prologue. I immediately wanted to figure out what was happening and once I did, I wanted to see how it played out. Gabriel Avery snared my heart from the first scene as a brave young man struggling to stand (literally and figuratively) in a harsh world he couldn’t control.

Main Characters:

Gabriel Avery–  A young man from humble beginnings shadowed by the guilt of youthful choices and a strong sense of duty to those who’ve blessed him. He sees the world in a unique way that provides a different lens through which the reader experiences the events of the story.

Cassandra “Cassie” Kendrick a.k.a. Thomas Turner – This young woman is made of sterner stuff than I, no question. The circumstances she overcomes and the experiences she endures take her on an incredible journey both physically and spiritually. Not without her faults and certainly not exempt from terrible errors in judgment, Cassie is a character you want to see succeed and won’t soon forget.

Book Quote - Where Dandelions Bloom - Hope Remains

Emotional Engagement & Pacing of the Story:

The pacing of this novel was spot on. Not a moment was dull. In fact, several places had me literally holding my breath, yet I was unwilling to skim a single word. I wanted to savor every second of the experience.

Easily one of the most moving novels I have read this year, this story had me running the gamut of choking back tears and giggling like a giddy school-girl. Long after I turned the last page, these characters and this world stayed with me, calling me back.

Elements I especially liked/disliked:

I especially loved the mistakes both the heroine and the hero made in the course of the story. It made them more relatable and real.

I’ll be the first to admit that Civil War stories are not usually my first choice. It just isn’t a period of time I typically enjoy dwelling on. However, I thoroughly appreciated the accuracy and realism of the war experience as portrayed in this novel. I truly felt I wasn’t just reading about these characters and what they went through–I was living through it alongside them. The horrifying, the heartwrenching, and the heart-lifting–every moment was well written and deeply felt.

Theme:

Withholding forgiveness doesn’t hurt the unforgiven–it hurts the one holding onto the anger.

Book Quote - Where Dandelions Bloom - Pain

Ending:

I do admit to having mixed feelings about the ending for one of the secondary characters, but I can’t argue against it logically.  It made sense, even if it wasn’t what I was hoping for, and it was handled perfectly by the author. Other than that minor issue, I found the ending to be refreshingly surprising, unique, and satisfying. After reading the last word, I spent several moments just sitting there, pondering the events of the story, revisiting the character’s world and imagining what might come next for them. It was definitely one of those books where I felt the story had come to its best conclusion and yet I was a little sad that it was over.

Overall Rating:

5 out of 5 stars

(I’m telling you right now, Where Dandelions Bloom will be on my annual list of Top 10 Historical Romance Novels for 2019. Don’t just add this novel to your TBR. Read it!)

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Let’s chat!

Have you read either of Tara Johnson’s novels? Do you enjoy Civil War fiction? What are your thoughts on forgiveness?

TWEETABLES:

Don’t just add this novel to your TBR. Read it! #BookReview

Easily one of the most moving novels I have read this year. #BookReview

I was unwilling to skim a single word. I wanted to savor every second of the experience. #BookReview

Psst! Feel free to borrow any of the photos above for sharing on social media and remember to tag me @KathleenDenly !


Note: I purchased my own copy of this book and was under no obligation to anyone to write a review. You may read my full disclosure of materials HERE.

My Review – The Number of Love

My Review - The Number of Love

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Three years into the Great War, England’s greatest asset is their intelligence network–field agents risking their lives to gather information, and codebreakers able to crack every German telegram. Margot De Wilde thrives in the environment of the secretive Room 40, where she spends her days deciphering intercepted messages. But when her world is turned upside down by an unexpected loss, for the first time in her life numbers aren’t enough.

Drake Elton returns wounded from the field, followed by an enemy who just won’t give up. He’s smitten quickly by the intelligent Margot, but how can he convince a girl who lives entirely in her mind that sometimes life’s answers lie in the heart?

Amid biological warfare, encrypted letters, and a German spy who wants to destroy not just them but others they love, Margot and Drake will have to work together to save themselves from the very secrets that brought them together.

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Why This Book:

Roseanna M. White wrote it. I have yet to not enjoy anything she has written.

Opening Line:

Old Admiralty Building
London, England
25 September 1917

The numbers marched across the page in a glory all their own.

First Impressions:

I’m not such a fan of this opening line, actually. Maybe its because I’m not a numbers person, but I thought it was rather ho-hum. That being said, the next sentence gained my interest. By the bottom of the first page I could feel the tension in the room. By page 15 I was hooked.

In case you’re curious, here are the second, third and fourth sentences:

Margot De Wilde stared at them for a long moment, looked back at the German telegram sitting on her desk, and then scratched a new number onto the column. Almost there. Almost. 

Main Characters:

Margot De Wilde –  Yes! I LOVE Margot! I loved her when we first met her as Lukas De Wilde’s little sister in A Song Unheard and I adored getting to know her better as the heroine of this novel. There can be no debate that she is a character with an utterly unique personality and perspective on the world. I am extremely impressed with how well Roseanna pulled off writing this character. Margot never once acts or thinks in a way that doesn’t seem to fit her. She is consistent with who she is while also continuing to grow as a person over the course of the story. This is a heroine you won’t soon forget.

Book Quote - The Number of Love

Drake “Dragon” Elton – He has another name, but I won’t give it away here. 😉 He’s a very engaging character with a strong sense of right and wrong that is tested in ways only war can do. I love the way he responds to Margot’s unique personality and habits. He’s a hero you will love reading about.

Dorothea “Dot” Elton – Drake’s younger sister is another unique character I loved getting to know. Thanks to war-related trauma she has fears connected to leaving her home. Seeing how she handles these fears and how they impact her relationships adds depth to this story.

There are four or five other characters I’d like to name here, but since they aren’t introduced until later in the story, or are integral to twists in the plotline, naming them here could be perceived as spoilers. So I’ll simply add that the other main characters are equally well developed and you will enjoy reading about them.

Book Quote - The Number of Love - Babies

Emotional Engagement & Pacing of the Story:

This is definitely a suspenseful read that will keep you turning pages, but it doesn’t sacrifice emotion for action. As I mentioned above, the characters in this story are all so well-written that you can’t help but care about what happens to them. Roseanna even managed to evoke compassion for a villain that has done some truly horrifying things.

Elements I especially liked/disliked:

I love how many honestly unique characters Roseanna managed to fit into this novel without making any of them seem like gimmicks or cartoons. They each feel real and relatable despite their uniqueness that, at times, borders on the extreme.

Theme:

The balance of control between the head and the heart.

Ending:

Oh, I was grinning from ear to ear. I think I even gave a very delighted little giggle when certain events occurred near the end and the only reason I didn’t clap was that I was still holding the book and didn’t want to set it down until I’d read the very last word.

Overall Rating:

5 out of 5 stars

Amazon

Let’s chat!

What part of The Number of Love‘s premise intrigues you? What is your favorite era to read about? Do you enjoy math?

TWEETABLES:

A suspenseful read that doesn’t sacrifice emotion for action.

Twists you won’t see coming. Characters you won’t soon forget.

Psst! Feel free to borrow any of the photos above for sharing on social media and remember to tag me @KathleenDenly !


Note: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher, but was NOT required to write a positive review. You may read my full disclosure of materials HERE.

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My Review – Truly Yours, Thomas

My Review - Yours Truly Thomas

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For three years, Penny Ercanbeck has been opening other people’s mail. Dead ends are a reality for clerks at the Dead Letter Office. Still she dreams of something more–a bit of intrigue, a taste of romance, or at least a touch less loneliness. When a letter from a brokenhearted man to his one true love falls into her hands, Penny seizes this chance to do something heroic. It becomes her mission to place this lost letter into the hands of its intended recipient.

Thomas left his former life with no intention of ending up in Azure Springs, Iowa. He certainly didn’t expect a happy ending after what he had done. All he wanted to do was run and never look back. In a moment of desperation, he began to write, never really expecting a reply.

When Penny’s undertaking leads her to the intriguing man who touched her soul with his words, everything grows more complicated. She wants to find the rightful owner of the letter and yet she finds herself caring–perhaps too much–for the one who wrote it.

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Why This Book:

I absolutely LOVED Rachel Fordham’s debut novel, The Hope of Azure Springs. Deciding to make another visit to this lovely fictional town courtesy of such a talented author was a no-brainer.

Opening Lines from Chapter 1:

Washington DC, 1883

Dear Clara,

     I lied. 

First Impressions:

I fell in love with Penny Ercanbeck on page one of the prologue! Honestly, she is a delight to read about and from the very first page I wanted to know more about her journey. By the time I’d finished the first chapter, I was hooked. These characters and this story had my heart and my attention.

Book Quote - Yours Truly Thomas - Gift Just For You

Main Characters:

Penelope “Penny” Ercanbeck –  She reminds me just a bit of Anne Shirley in the sense that she is a hopeless romantic with an incredibly strong imagination and a heart that bleeds for others–even complete strangers. Which is exactly what gets this adventure started.

Thomas Connor – Perhaps it is because we first see Thomas through Penny’s eyes as she reads his letter, but from the first time I “met” Thomas, I just wanted to reach through the book and give him a hug. This poor man has had to learn life’s lesson in a very difficult way. Thankfully, we have an amazing Lord who works all things for the good of those who love Him.

Book Quote - Yours Truly Thomas - Dying Slowly

Margaret – The mildly eccentric owner of the Azure Springs boardinghouse. I remembered her from The Hope of Azure Springs and it was hilarious getting to know her better.

Dinah – A needed contrast to Penny’s dreamy outlook, Dinah is a very down-to-earth girl who pursues life on her own terms. She reminded me a bit of Jane Austen’s Charlotte, though I think Dinah is more fun.

Hugh – Another character I recognize from The Hope of Azure Springs, Hugh becomes Thomas’s closest friend. (Rachel, if you’re reading this, I think I’d enjoy reading more of his story in a novella. Just saying.)

Clara – The mysterious woman to whom Thomas writes those letters that wind up at the dead letter office.

And, of course, we get to see a bit of how life is going for the hero and heroine of The Hope of Azure Springs:  Em and Caleb. But I won’t give any of that away in case you haven’t read it yet. (But if you haven’t, what are you waiting for?! Get to it!)

Yours Truly Thomas - It will all be made right

Emotional Engagement & Pacing of the Story:

While this isn’t a suspense novel that keeps you on the edge of your seat, there is plenty of mystery and action to keep those pages turning. Really, though, it’s the relationship between Penny and Thomas that had me hooked. I really connected with these characters and I didn’t want to put the book down until I knew how their story was going to end. (Or begin, depending on how you look at it.)

Book Quote - Yours Truly Thomas - Never fit in

 

This story took me through the whole gamut of emotions. Some parts had me choked up, others made me want to smack certain characters around a little…or a lot (I know, I know violence isn’t the answer), and other parts had me belly-laughing.

As for the mystery, I must admit I did not see the answers coming. I expected something different entirely but when it all came out, it made perfect sense. Which is what any good mystery is supposed to do, right?

Elements I especially liked/disliked:

Learning how the dead letter office worked from the perspective of a clerk was fascinating. I felt as though I were right there in the room with the workers there.

And, as I mentioned above, I love revisiting this amazing little town “not on the way to anywhere” and getting to know its inhabitants better.

Theme:

The power of the written word (or Word as the case may be).

Ending:

As I mentioned above, the mystery was perfectly executed. As for the romance… it was beyond swoon-worthy. Honestly, I could not have asked for more from the ending of this novel. And I will even add that in the time since I finished reading it, I have found myself wanting to go back and revisit Fordham’s world. With so many exciting new novels to read, I rarely find time to reread any, but this is a novel I could definitely see myself rereading.

Overall Rating:

5 out of 5 stars

Your Truly, Thomas releases TOMORROW!!! Preorder your copy today! 

Amazon

Let’s chat!

Have you read the Hope of Azure Springs? Do you still mail handwritten letters?

TWEETABLES:

Characters that grab your heart and a perfectly crafted mystery will keep you turning the pages of this beautifully written historical romance!

Check out this 5-star review of Rachel Fordham’s novel, Yours Truly, Thomas

Psst! Feel free to borrow any of the photos above for sharing on social media and remember to tag me @KathleenDenly !


Note: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher, but was NOT required to write a positive review. You may read my full disclosure of materials HERE.

My Review – Ever Faithful

My Review - Ever Faithful

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Vibrant historic Yellowstone National Park comes to life in this romantic mystery about a man hiding the truth, braving the west to become something more–and the woman who must confront his deception.

A man who can’t read will never amount to anything–or so Nate Webber believes. But he takes a chance to help his family by signing up for the new Civilian Conservation Corps, skirting the truth about certain “requirements.” Nate exchanges the harsh Brooklyn streets for the wilds of Yellowstone National Park, curious if the Eden-like wonderland can transform him as well.

Elsie Brookes was proud to grow up as a ranger’s daughter, but she longs for a future of her own. After four years serving as a maid in the park’s hotels, she still hasn’t saved enough money for her college tuition. A second job, teaching a crowd of rowdy men in the CCC camp, might be the answer, but when Elsie discovers Nate’s secret, it puts his job as camp foreman in jeopardy. Tutoring leads to friendship and romance, until a string of suspicious fires casts a dark shadow over their relationship. Can they find answers before all of their dreams go up in smoke?

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Why This Book:

After reading Where the Fire Falls by Karen Barnett, I knew I would be reading more of her books. All of her “Vintage National Parks Novels” are entirely stand-alone novels, but they are tied together by the fact that they are all set in national parks. Each features its own cast of characters, its own romance, and its own mystery.

Opening Lines:

April, 1933
Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

Elsie closed her eyes for a moment and breathed in the steamy air, imagining she stood beside Grand Prismatic Spring instead of the massive laundry boiler in the back of the Mammoth Hot Springs Lodge.

First Impressions:

I hate to say it, but the beginning of this book did not grab me. In hindsight, I can see how it was setting the reader up for the rest of the novel, but it just didn’t snag my attention the way the author’s first two vintage novels did.

Main Characters:

Elsie Brookes–  A young woman haunted by a childhood tragedy struggles to forgive and open up to new relationships.

Nate Webber – A hard-working man of integrity whose efforts to do the right thing lands him in trouble through no fault of this own. The secret hinted at in the book’s description is also no fault of his own. He is a hero you can root for.

Ranger Vaughn – The newest ranger in the park who forms an immediate and intense emotional attachment to Elsie.

Mary – A friend of Elsie whose penchant for chasing boys stirs up more trouble than she bargains for.

Rose – A soft-hearted young woman, feeling lost after the loss of her long-time boyfriend.

Graham – The cousin Elsie would be happy never to see again.

Note about the characters:  Don’t let my sparse descriptions fool you. These characters are written in a well-rounded manner, but who each of them truly is, deep inside, is revealed so subtly and gradually throughout the story that to write more about them here would spoil part of the enjoyment of the story.

Book Quote - Ever Faithful - Blue Geyser

Emotional Engagement & Pacing of the Story:

This is not a forest-fire read. It is a slow and steady burn (pun fully intended). This is not a book to have you sitting on the edge of your seat (except toward the end). But that isn’t to say it’s boring. It’s just a different kind of read. It’s the kind of book you cuddle up with in a blanket next to a warm fire with a cup of cocoa and your fuzzy socks on. It’s the warm sun on your face as you lean out the car window and feel the wind rush by. Is there suspense? Yes. As with the first two novels, there is a definite element of suspense. But for most of the story, the suspense doesn’t feel like the focus in this novel as much as it did in the first two.

As for emotional engagement, it’s definitely there. The first kiss between Nate and Elsie had me grinning like a silly fool and wanting to hug Elsie the way I would any friend who’d found such joy. By the time we reached the climax I was whipping through pages eager to see how it all worked out. And let me tell you about the ending…

Elements I especially liked/disliked:

What I especially liked was the opportunity to learn new things about Yellowstone and visit vicariously through Barnett’s characters. I haven’t been to Yellowstone since I was eleven and now I’m chomping at the bit to take my kids and experience more of our national treasure.

My absolute favorite part of the novel, though, was the incorporation of the California Conservation Corps. My first real job (not counting babysitting) was working for the Youth Conservation Corps at Joshua Tree National Park. It was an experience I’ll never forget and always be proud of. While mine was a vastly different situation than the original CCC members, I was blessed to have the opportunity to help improve one of our national treasures and it left me with a special fondness for the programs. Getting to read more about its history through the eyes of these fictional characters was a unique treat.

Theme:

Forgiveness is not earned, it’s bestowed.

Book Quote - Ever Faithful - Anger Rotting Tree

Ending:

Oh! I wish I could tell you about it! I did NOT see it coming until almost the last second. I was SO sure I knew what was going to happen–that I had it all figured out–and then the author surprised me with a completely different reveal that made perfect sense. LOVE IT!!!

Overall Rating:

3.75 out of 5 stars

Amazon

Let’s chat!

Have you read any of Karen’s Vintage National Parks novels? What are your thoughts on forgiveness?

TWEETABLES:

The kind of book you cuddle up with in a blanket next to a warm fire with a cup of cocoa and your fuzzy socks on.

Check out this review of @KarenMBarnett’s Ever Faithful!

Psst! Feel free to borrow any of the photos above for sharing on social media and remember to tag me @KathleenDenly !


Note: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher, but was NOT required to write a positive review. You may read my full disclosure of materials HERE.

My Review – The Noble Guardian

My Review - The Noble Guardian

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A Cross-Country Trip through Regency England Brings Intrigue, Rogues, and High Adventure

The must-read conclusion to Michelle Griep’s Bow Street Runners Trilogy: Life couldn’t be better for Abigail Gilbert—but it’s been a long time in coming. Having lived with a family who hated her, it’s finally her time for love. Abby sets off on a journey across England to marry one of the most prestigious gentlemen in the land—until highwaymen upset her plans and threaten her life.

Horse patrol captain Samuel Thatcher arrives just in time to save Abby. But she’s simply another victim in a job he’s come to despise. Tired of the dark side of humanity, he intends to buy land and retire.

Abby pleads with him to escort her for the rest of her journey. He refuses—until she offers him something he desperately needs to achieve his goal. . .money. Delivering her safely will give him more than enough to buy property.

So begins an impossible trek for the cynical lawman and the proper lady. Each will be indelibly changed by the time they reach her betrothed, if they don’t kill one another first—or fall in love.

Amazon

Why This Book (& my thoughts on the series):

I picked up The Noble Guardian because Michelle Griep wrote it and I’ve enjoyed every book I have read by her thus far. Discovering The Noble Guardian was part of a series that included The Innkeeper’s Daughter was a delightful surprise. There is no series title, nor any numbers on these books. I think this is because each of these books reads exactly like a stand-alone novel. The only reason I recognized these books as a series is that I recognized the side characters being mentioned. There are very subtle clues referring not only to The Innkeeper’s Daughter main characters, but also to a previous story. What?! I immediately went online and discovered that The Innkeeper’s Daughter was, in fact, the second book in this series (I had no idea at the time I read it). Of course, as soon as I finished The Nobel Guardian, I immediately read Brentwood’s Ward–the first book in this series. Let me emphasize: these books read entirely as stand-alone novels and there is absolutely no reason not to read one because you haven’t read another. I truly dislike reading series out of order, but in this case, I can honestly say that I don’t feel I missed out by accidentally reading them out of order.

Opening Lines:

Southampton, England, 1815

Was it wicked to say goodbye with a smile?

First Impressions:

I was immediately drawn in by the heroine’s self-doubts and intrigued by the questions the author raised in the first few paragraphs. I had to know more. The rest of the chapter did not disappoint, nor did the pace slow.

Main Characters:

Abigail Gilbert–  She is a young woman who has endured a heartbreaking childhood by clinging to the hope of a brighter future. The question of the story is whether that brighter future is as shiny as it seems. Despite her miserable upbringing, she has been sheltered from the ways of the wider world and is ill-prepared for the journey she embarks upon at the story’s outset.

Samuel Thatcher – He is a man determined to change the course of his life but waylaid at every step. He is, of course, noble–possibly to a fault–yet he is flawed as well. He takes too little regard for his own life and the suffering he has witnessed as a Bow Street Runner (law officer) has left his soul “burnt to a crisp”–his faith shaken.

Book Quote - The Noble Guardian - Promise Me

Emotional Engagement & Pacing of the Story:

Right from the start, I connected with both the hero and the heroine. Their plights engaged my emotions and I wanted to see where their stories would take them. Though I hoped for a happy outcome for both, I immediately knew the path to get there would be far from smooth (which delighted me as a reader).

The pacing of this story was brisk from page one. Each scene, each new twist, kept me turning pages until the very end. When life forced me away from reading, I found myself contemplating the world Griep had created and wondering what would happen next.

Elements I especially liked/disliked:

In hindsight, I can say that Griep did an excellent job of dropping hints throughout the story and staging things in such a way that the story’s conclusion felt entirely natural without being predictable.

Theme:

God’s plans may not be our plans, but they are always for the good of those who love Him.

Ending:

As satisfying as a perfect mouthful of the very food you’ve been craving for days.

Overall Rating:

5 out of 5 stars

Amazon

Let’s chat!

Have you read any of the books in the Pleasant Gap series? What do you think it means to be courageous?

TWEETABLES:

As satisfying as a perfect mouthful of the very food you’ve been craving for days.

This historical Christian romance has characters that engage your heart and suspense that keeps you turning pages!

Psst! Feel free to borrow any of the photos above for sharing on social media and remember to tag me @KathleenDenly !


Netgalley Image

Note: I received a free copy of this book via NetGalley, but was NOT required to write a positive review. You may read my full disclosure of materials HERE.

 

My Review – The Trail Boss’s Bride

My Review - The Trail Boss's Bride

about-the-book-2

From New York Times bestselling author Erica Vetsch comes a stirring western romance (part of the Journeys of the Heart anthology):

Steve Ketchum loves being a trail boss, almost as much as he hates river crossings. But it’s part of the job. As is moving an abandoned wagon out of the ford. But when he goes to haul it away, he’s stunned to see what’s inside.

Kitty Fareholm’s good-for-nothing husband picked a lousy time to die. How could he leave her stranded, birthing a baby in the middle of nowhere? She’d prayed for help to come, but did God honestly think a trail-worn cowboy was what she needed? What’s more, Steve’s trail crew is dead-set against having a woman join their camp. He promises the men he’ll leave her at the nearest town…but Kitty just might have other plans.

Amazon

Why This Book:

I have read and enjoyed Erica Vetsch’s writing before. Also, the premise intrigued me.

Opening Lines:

Steve Ketchum had heard it said that there were only two things on God’s green earth that cowboys were afraid of: being left afoot and a decent woman, and he believed it.

First Impressions:

The humorous opening line was amusing and within the first page to page and a half, I clearly understood how much depended on the success of this cattle drive. I immediately connected with the hero and wanted to see him succeed.

Main Characters:

Steve Ketchum –  A good man trying to do the right thing under more-than-challenging circumstances. His incredible patience and vulnerability combined with his determination and strength make him a fantastic hero.

Catherine “Kitty” Fareholm – A woman making the best of a nightmarish situation. Many women would fall to pieces when faced with Kitty’s circumstances, but not this woman. She not only keeps it together, she advocates for herself and her child without growing self-centered. Kitty’s emotional strength, intelligence, and kindness toward others make her a heroine to root for.

Emotional Engagement & Pacing of the Story:

I was engaged from page one and during the times when I reluctantly put it down to do those “adulting things,” I kept thinking about these characters. I couldn’t wait to get back to the story and find out what happened next.

Elements I especially liked/disliked:

Beyond the relationship between the hero and heroine, the reader gets to enjoy the unique dynamics of a bunch of cowboys thrown together at the last minute. There are sweethearts and troublemakers in the bunch. And then there’s the hero’s younger brother who has a chip on his shoulder and isn’t making life any easier for the hero.

Theme:

God’s plans are not always in line with our plans.

Ending:

Thoroughly satisfying and chock-full of laughs.

Overall Rating:

5 out of 5 stars

Amazon

Let’s chat!

Have you read any of the books in the Pleasant Gap series? What do you think it means to be courageous?

TWEETABLES:

You won’t want to “adult” when you have this book calling your name!

This sweet adventure romance will keep you turning the pages long past bedtime!

Psst! Feel free to borrow any of the photos above for sharing on social media and remember to tag me @KathleenDenly !


Note: I received a free copy of this book from the author, but was NOT required to write a positive review. You may read my full disclosure of materials HERE.