My Review & GIVEAWAY! – The Patriot & the Loyalist

My Review The Patriot & the Loyalist
about-the-book-2

The Patriot & the Loyalist is the second book in the Hearts at War series by Angela K. Couch. (My review of the first book, The Scarlet Coat, may be read HERE.)

Completing his three years in the Continental Army, Daniel Reid still has no desire to return home—not after losing the woman he loves to a British Captain—so he volunteers to ride south through enemy lines and deliver a message to Colonel Francis Marion, the Swamp Fox. With his temper needing a release and a dark haired beauty finding her way into his broken heart, Daniel decides to join the Swamp Fox’s efforts against the British. Little does he know the British still have the upper hand.

Lydia Reynolds has learned that love comes at a price, and she refuses to pay. Better to close her heart to everything and everyone. When her brother-in-law won’t grant her passage to England, where she hopes to hide from her pain, New Englander, Daniel Reid, becomes her only hope—if she can induce him to give her information about the notorious Swamp Fox and his troops. When the British grow impatient and Daniel evades her questions, Lydia must decide how far to take her charade. The poor man, already gutted by love, hasn’t grown as wise as she. Or so she supposes…

Until the truth is known, the muskets are loaded…and it is time to decide where true loyalties lie.

Why This Book:

The hero of this book, Daniel Reid, was a secondary character in The Scarlet Coat and left quite an impression on me. Thus I was very interested to see where the author would take his story.

Opening Line(s):

South Carolina, November 1780

Daniel Reid slowed his horse and sucked air into his lungs as he reined to the road’s grassy edge. Blood pulsated behind his ears but in no way drowned out the pounding hooves of the approaching soldiers, the green of their coats almost deceptive. 

First Impressions:

This book wastes no time throwing its readers straight into the action. From the first page, the hero’s life is in danger and that tension never lets go. Our heroine enters on page 6 and it is clear from the first that we have two very strong-willed, intelligent, passionate characters whose goals are at odds in a very real and dangerous way. Shortly thereafter, we realize that our heroine, too, is playing at a very perilous game – one that could cost her her life.

The Patriot & The Loyalist - Quote Image 1

Characters:

If you’ve read, The Scarlet Coat, you know that Daniel Reid has trouble controlling his temper. To say the least. While the consequences of his actions in the previous book continue to haunt him in The Patriot and the Loyalist, and his temper is far from gone, Daniel is certainly a changed man. Like many of us, he is aware of his character flaws but still struggles to overcome them. He is also plagued with self-doubt in the area of women which only serves to complicate matters in his relationship with Lydia.

Lydia Reynolds is nearly the last survivor of her family which has seen more than its share of tragic loss over the years. This loss has left her fearful of emotional attachment and desperate to flee the memories which haunt her home in Georgetown. Though a highly astute and intelligent woman, her desperation has set her on a one-way track and pushes her to make decisions without always fully considering the consequences.

Gabe Marion & Colonel Francis Marion – Gabe is Francis’ nephew. Both are actual figures from history, and members of the rebel army. It is interesting to see them brought to life through the author’s skillful writing.

As always, there are a few more characters I could mention here, but I don’t wish to reveal their unexpected importance to the story.

Emotional Engagement & Pacing of the Story:

Confession:  I lost several hours of sleep to this book!

If you’ve ever read a book where the suspense is so great you cannot put it down, yet the writing is so well-done – every word so important to the story – that you don’t even consider skipping a single word to hurry ahead, then you’ll understand the powerful read that is this book. There is no urge to skip ahead because there is never a moment where something important isn’t happening.

The Patriot & The Loyalist - Quote Image 2

Elements I especially liked/disliked:

It is extremely evident that this author has done her research! Every detail was so rich and realistic, I felt I now knew what it might have been like living in Georgetown during the revolutionary war. Every movement of either army which was relevant to the story was relayed in such a way as to feel organic and easily understandable. Never once did I sense a notorious “info dump” or get the slightest impression of a history lesson. Yet, I still feel as though I learned something about the war which birthed our country.

I also very much enjoyed the true historical characters involved in the story and seeing their lives play out as a thread woven into the lives of the fictional characters. Again, it felt natural to have this bit of actual history included. They were written so well, that had I not known they were true historical figures, I would not have been able to separate them from the fictional characters.

BONUS: Although the Lydia in this novel is entirely fictional, did you know there was a real revolutionary war spy named Lydia?

Themes:

The Patriot and the Loyalist grapples with issues of truth, deceit, trust and, of course, loyalty. In a setting where right and wrong can seem blurry, these characters are not cookie-cutter people. They face authentic, difficult choices and don’t always make the best decisions. In fact, they often make poor ones, which naturally lends itself to the topic of forgiveness and the struggles involved with moving on after being hurt or hurting others.

Ending:

When the book was over I was disappointed not because the ending wasn’t satisfying (it was!) but because I didn’t want to leave Daniel and Lydia’s world. All the important threads were tied up, and those which shouldn’t realistically be tied were left undone (i.e. the war continued). I felt joy and satisfaction in this ending and couldn’t wait to tell others about the book. There isn’t much more you can ask from a novel.

Additional Thoughts:

As I mentioned, I was reluctant to leave Daniel and Lydia’s world. So, I am so excited to note that this is not the end of the Hearts at War series! Angela K. Couch has another book in the series, The Tory’s Daughter, coming out soon!

Overall Rating:

5 out of 5 stars

Be sure to check back on Monday, May 1st to catch my upcoming interview with Angela K. Couch! 

Have you read any of Angela K. Couch’s books? Which part of this novel most appeals to you?

(none of the links in this review are affiliate links)

TWEETABLES:

Confession:  I lost several hours of sleep to this book! ~ @KathleenDenly #bookreview 

“And I would hardly mistake you for a gentleman.”  #bookreview @KathleenDenly

Richly written & thoroughly researched, this historical romance has it all! ~ @KathleenDenly #bookreview 

Spies! Battles! Love! A can’t miss read! #bookreview ~ @KathleenDenly

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

giveaway-5

As a special thank you to our readers, Angela and I have decided to offer a giveaway!

The winner will receive BOTH of the Hearts at War books!:

  • 1 digital copy of The Scarlet Coat by Angela K. Couch
  • 1 digital copy of The Patriot & The Loyalist by Angela K. Couch

Already own The Scarlet Coat? Not to worry! The winner’s copy of The Scarlet Coat will be emailed in gift card form, so that if you already own it, you can exchange it (btw Angela has another book out) or regift it to a friend who hasn’t read it yet.

HOW TO ENTER:

  1. Sign up to become a member of Kathleen’s Readers’ Club HERE. (Which automatically makes you eligible for my exclusive KRC giveaways!)
  2. Sign up to receive Angela’s newsletter for information on new releases HERE.
  3. Comment on this post with the answer to this question:  Which part of The Patriot & The Loyalist most appeals to you?

Make sure to use an email address you check frequently. If you win, I will use the email address you provided when signing up for my KRC to contact you and send you your prizes.

All 3 of the above steps must be completed to count as your ONE original entry.

BONUS ENTRIES:  If you share this giveaway on any social media, reply to your original comment with the link to your post/tweet and it will count as an extra entry – but ONLY if you have already completed the first 3 steps. Each share will count as an extra entry. IMPORTANT: We don’t want to spam your friends, so you may only share to each social media site once per day!

The Rules:

You MUST complete ALL 3 STEPS to enter. Multiple entries are allowed, providing they fulfill the above entry requirements. All entries must be complete by 11:59pm PST on Tuesday, May 2nd, 2017. Winner will be announced Wednesday, May 3rd, 2017 on http://www.KathleenDenly.com and contacted directly within 24 hours via the email address they used to sign up for Kathleen’s Readers’ Club. Winner must acknowledge the congratulatory email within 48 hours, otherwise an alternate winner will be chosen. I’m excited to say that since this giveaway involves no shipping, it is open to both U.S. AND International entries. Void where prohibited.

How it works:

I will assign a number to each entry (1 number per original comment, plus 1 number for each bonus entry).  I will then enter those numbers into Random.org‘s Random Sequence Generator. Whichever number comes up at the top of the list will be the winner. I will then verify that that person has completed all 3 steps and that the links provided in their bonus entries are valid. If they have not completed all 3 steps or their links are invalid, they will be disqualified and the process will be repeated until a valid winner is found.

Remember: Check back May 3rd to see who won! Or just subscribe to receive my blog updates by email and have the announcement delivered to your inbox! 

IMPORTANT UPDATE!!!!!

Update 4/28/17:  Hi everyone! Please remember that in order to complete Steps 1 & 2 you must CONFIRM YOUR EMAIL by going to your email and clicking on the link in the confirmation email sent to you at sign up. I haven’t checked with Angela yet, but I’m noticing a lot of comments by people who seem to have entered, but whose emails are not in my list of KRC Members. I would hate for you to miss out because of this tiny but important step!!!

My Review – Such A Hope

My Review Such A Hopeabout-the-book-2

Such A Hope is the first book in Sondra Kraak‘s Paths of Grace Series.

Washington Territory, 1871

Anna Warren grew up on the seat of a wagon, the daughter of Seattle’s busiest freighter. After her father’s death—a tragedy away from home—she returns to their cabin on the outskirts of Seattle, seeking the sense of belonging that eluded her childhood. But will her desire to pray for miraculous healing for the sick and wounded endear or alienate her to the community? Her most aggravating challenger is also her staunchest defender and has brown hair and eyes, stands six feet tall, and farms with unchecked tenacity. Tristan Porter. This farmer her father had befriended holds more secrets than Yesler’s Mill holds logs.

When ugly rumors arise about her spiritual gift and her property, Anna fears her quest to find belonging will be thwarted.

Tristan holds the truth to set her free, but revealing it will require him to face the disappointments of his past and surrender his plans for the future—a sacrifice he’s not sure he can make.

Why This Book:

I first discovered Sondra’s writing when I happened upon her debut novel, One Plus One Equals Trouble. It turned out to be the first in her Love That Counts series and I eagerly awaited the next installment. After reading Two Ways Home, the second book in her Love That Counts series, I knew I’d found a new favorite author. So when I learned that Such A Hope would be releasing soon as part of a new series, I immediately added it to my TBR (to be read) list.

Then I attended the Asheville Christian Writer’s Conference and met someone who ACTUALLY KNEW SONDRA!!! I totally fangirled out! And if that wasn’t bad enough, you should have seen my silly grin the first time Sondra contacted me directly! Not only is Sondra a wonderful writer, she is a wonderful person whom I am honored to be getting to know.

I am so super excited to announce that my interview with Sondra will be next Monday’s post! If you haven’t already, be sure to subscribe to my blog so you won’t miss it!

All of that said, the following review is my sincere and honest opinion. Also, for the record, I purchased my own copy of this book.

Opening Line:

Seattle, Washington Territory
September 1871

Anna Warren breathed the crisp air that hinted of salt.

First Impressions:

Such A Hope began with a sensory-filled description of Anna’s return to Seattle that pulled me back in time to the swiftly growing bayside city of 1871. Like a warm fire on a cold winter’s day, Sondra welcomed me into Anna’s world, letting me know exactly who this young woman was and what she hoped to achieve with her return. Things seemed to be moving along smoothly until Anna discovered a surprise waiting in her old cabin.

Such A Hope Quote 1

Characters:

Anna – Despite the official blurb for this book, I don’t think it is exactly true to say that Anna “desires” to pray for healing. In fact, she spends much of the book almost dreading the next urge to do so. Not because she wishes people to remain ill, but because she dreads the reactions others will have to the miracle God may perform. Anna is clearly called to pray and she has an earnest heart to obey God and bless others, but she struggles with the worldly consequences of following God on a path few understand. Her sincere desire is for God’s glory, but obeying His call is far from easy for her and even interferes with some of her own goals for her life.

Tristan – Tristan’s traumatic past has clearly shaped much of who he is and what he does. It’s difficult to comment on his character without giving away too much. He is definitely an interesting hero with a unique character arc. Watching his choices and seeing how he grows was one of my favorite parts of the novel.

Emotional Engagement & Pacing of the Story:

Such a Hope is not a wild ride. There are definitely no gun fights, no fisticuffs, and no wild chases through the countryside. This just isn’t that kind of book and it doesn’t pretend to be. Yet there is danger. There are riled up crowds, abuses of power, and severe illness and injury. At its core, though, this book is all about the characters. As such, its true power is in the emotional depths to which it takes you. It is raw and it is real in ways few other books dare to be. Such a Hope made me cry, laugh out loud, and sigh in contentment.

Elements I especially liked/disliked:

I admire a novel which dares to include any sensitive topic which other books rarely include. Sondra Kraak does exactly this in Such a Hope by boldly creating a heroine who feels the calling to pray for healing. That said, I admit that even as a HUGE Sondra Kraak fan, I was rather nervous to read this book for exactly the reason that I admire it.

The topics of intercessory prayer and miraculous healing are not black and white issues, and are topics which can be quite divisive within the Christian community. I wasn’t sure how Sondra would handle these issues. Still, I was determined to give her a chance and I’m glad I did. Sondra doesn’t back away from this divisiveness but tackles it head on in her story in a way which I found refreshing.

These topics are not handled in a way which feels at all preachy. They are handled in a way that feels very personal and real to Anna and Tristan. Nor are they topics added in for the sake of themselves, but instead they are intrinsic to the story itself and to the internal journeys of both the main characters.

Themes:

Such a Hope asks the reader to define true community. What does it mean to be part of a community and how should Christians behave in relation to one another, particularly with regard to theological differences or things we don’t completely understand? Such a Hope also addresses faith in the face of tragedy and suffering, as well as the struggles of discerning God’s purpose for our lives.

Ending:

I thoroughly enjoyed the conclusion to Such a Hope. Unlike many other novels, the trouble doesn’t all come to a swift and tidy end, with every problem resolving at once. (Not that, when done well, those types of conclusions aren’t also enjoyable.) In Such a Hope, Sondra trickles in solutions here and there over the course of time, steadily moving everything along to the end of the story. That which can plausibly be wrapped up, is, but that which would realistically take more time to work out, is left to do so without the reader feeling at all unsatisfied. I especially loved the realistic denouement of the romance between Tristan and Anna.

Additional Thoughts:

Sondra has clearly done a ton of research in preparation for this novel and it shows in the details she sprinkles throughout the story.

Overall Rating:

5 out of 5 stars

Have you read any of Sondra Kraak’s books? What do you think of authors handling such sensitive topics?

(none of the links in this review are affiliate links)

TWEETABLES:

Can this outsider find her place in the community? #bookreview @KathleenDenly @SondraKraak – Click to Tweet!

Her most aggravating challenger is also her staunchest defender. #bookreview @KathleenDenly @SondraKraak – Click to Tweet!

Like a warm fire on a cold winter’s day, @SondraKraak welcomed me into Anna’s world… #bookreview @KathleenDenly – Click to Tweet!

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

My Review – Long Time Gone

My Review Long Time Gone

about-the-book-2

Long Time Gone is officially book number two in the Cimarron Legacy series by Mary Connealy. However, the story begins with a prequel novella, The Boden Birthright before moving on to the first full-length novel in the series, No Way Up.

Here’s the back cover description for Long Time Gone:

Someone will stop at nothing to claim the Boden homestead!

The Boden clan thought their problems had ended with the death of a dangerous enemy, but have they truly uncovered the real plot to take their New Mexico ranch? Rancher Justin Boden is now in charge. He is normally an unshakable and rugged man, but with his brother, Cole, shot and in mortal danger, even a tough man faces doubts. And it doesn’t help that Angie DuPree, the assistant to the doctor trying to save Cole, is as distracting a woman as Justin ever laid eyes on.

With her and the doc’s timely skills, Cole looks to be on the mend, and Justin and the rest of the Bodens can turn their attention back to the dangers facing them. It’s clear now that everything that’s occurred is part of a much bigger plot that could date back to a decades-old secret. Can they uncover all the pieces before danger closes in on them, or is the threat to the ranch even bigger than any of the Bodens could imagine?

Why This Book:

I love Mary Connealy’s writing! Plain and simple. Any time I start a book by Mary Connealy, I know I’m in for a good read with plenty of adventure, romance, and laughter along the way. That said, I did get a copy of Long Time Gone for free from Bethany House in exchange for an honest review. However, I had already read the first two books in this series (well, 1.5 since the first one is a novella) and had planned to purchase this book anyway. So requesting to review this book was really a no-brainer.

Opening Line:

Skull Gulch, New Mexico Territory
November 1880

“Abandoning his sister to save his brother, Justin Boden felt as gutshot as Cole.”

First Impressions:

This book picks up where the last book, No Way Up, left off. Which makes it tough to review without revealing spoilers. So if you haven’t read No Way Up, you may want to quit reading now and go read it first (you’re going to want to read it, anyway), although I will do my best to reveal as little as possible. That said, my first impression of this book was like stepping into my childhood home again. The characters were familiar and nothing had changed. It was warm and welcoming. Although, I’m glad I’ve never come home to a sibling being shot and on the verge of dying! Needless to say, I had no trouble getting drawn right into this story.

 Characters:

**WARNING!**There just isn’t any way to do this section justice without providing spoilers from No Way Up. So, again, if you haven’t read the first book, stop now and go read it! 🙂

Justin Boden – The most natural rancher of the three Boden children, Justin’s heart and soul is invested in the Cimarron Ranch, yet he recognizes that family trumps all and shows it in the decisions he makes. Surrounded by strong, independent women of the west, he’s frequently torn between protecting them and letting them use their skills to assist in the battle to save their home and family. He struggles to overcome his perceptions of who these women are, versus who they actually are and who they are capable of being.

Angie (Angelique) DuPree – A young widow, new to town, Angie has led a hard life full of verbal abuse and neglect by those who should have been protecting her. Used to deferring to the judgment and instructions of others, like a newborn colt wobbling to stand for the first time, Angie is struggling to stand on her own two feet and discover what it means to truly be strong.

Long Time Gone Quote Image 2

Cole Boden – The eldest of the Boden siblings, Cole has been shot and spends much of the book recuperating and grumbling about not being able to do more (much like his father). However, he is not a static character. His relationship with his siblings is maturing and his perception of those around him is keen.

Sadie (Boden) Kinkaid- Having married Heath Kinkaid at the end of No Way Up hasn’t changed Sadie one bit. She’s still an independent, restless woman, determined not to sit idly by and let the men do all the dangerous work. She’s got plans of her own.

Heath Kinkaid – On the other hand, marriage to Sadie does seem to have changed Heath just a bit. Or perhaps it’s just a natural result of what happened at the end of No Way Up. Either way, this man knows not to try to stop his wife from lending a hand, no matter the risk. His love and respect for Sadie practically drips off the pages and you just can’t help but sigh over their romance.

Chance Boden – The beginning of Chance’s story, with his meeting and marrying of Veronica is shared in the novella prequel, The Boden Birthright. In Long Time Gone, he spends most of his time lying in bed while recovering from a very serious broken leg which almost took his life in No Way Up. That said, he gets much more “screen time” in this book than he did in the last book and his character is by no means bored. (Can’t say more without sharing spoilers from LTG!)

Veronica Boden – a.k.a. “Ronnie” is Chance’s wife and mother to Cole, Justin, and Sadie. (Technically, she’s Cole’s stepmother, but she raised him since he was little.) She’s a no-nonsense woman with a backbone of iron and the hard-earned skills of a true western woman, yet retains her softer side and is disappointed to learn she has missed her daughter’s wedding.

And I just have to add that the romance between Chance and Veronica is still going strong.

Rosita – The Boden’s loyal housekeeper who’s mother was the Chastain/Boden housekeeper before her, so Rosita grew up on the Cimarron Ranch and is like a second mother to the younger Bodens.

Grandfather Chastain – Having died decades ago, he isn’t really a big character in this book, but he is mentioned several times. So I’ll just say that he is Veronica’s father and his story is primarily told in The Boden Birthright.

John Hightree – The foreman on the Cimarron Ranch and long time friend of the family. He is the only ranch hand never under suspicion.

Alonzo – The Cimarron Ranch ramrod, second in charge only to John Hightree, he has been working on the Cimarron Ranch for years and someone Justin completely trusted in No Way Up, but events at the conclusion of that book cause the Boden’s to question their trust in him throughout Long Time Gone.

Ramone – A character from The Boden Birthright, Ramone made a surprise reappearance at the end of No Way Up, and it was discovered that he was Alonzo’s father as well as Miss Maria’s brother. I won’t say more except that he has been under suspicion/mistrusted since The Boden Birthright and that hasn’t changed in Long Time Gone.

Miss Maria – Ramone’s sister and Alonzo’s aunt, she lives and volunteers at the orphanage where she grew close to Sadie who also volunteered there at the start of No Way Up. However, Maria has a very complicated and tragic history, which means that in this book, as in the last, the Boden’s aren’t certain whether or not to fully trust her.

Sister Margaret – a.k.a. “Aunt Margaret” She is a nun and Angie’s aunt. She runs the orphanage in town and cares deeply for her niece.

Mel (Melanie) Blake – Neighbor and longtime family friend of the Bodens, Mel played a small role in No Way Up. Although she gets a bit more time “on screen” in Long Time Gone, she still isn’t a major character here. Nevertheless, there is enough there that I am hoping she gets her time in the limelight in the next book… Perhaps time shared with Cole? 😉

As with other books I’ve reviewed, there are additional important characters, but naming them here would give away certain surprises.

Long Time Gone Quote Image 3

Emotional Engagement & Pacing of the Story:

Connealy did an excellent job of pulling me right in and getting the action going, but then letting me take a breath when I needed one. There was a steady rhythm to the pacing of the story that kept me reading without making me tense and tempted to skim ahead. I felt the thrill of anticipation but still enjoyed each step along the way. I never wanted to put the book down and didn’t. I finished this book in one sitting.

On the emotional side of things, I laughed, I cried (or at least choked up), and I cheered. These characters were fun and layered. They were spunky and teachable, tough and vulnerable, wise and foolish. The pacing of the story allowed me to enjoy these layers and care about the characters while still feeling the thrill of the action.

Elements I especially liked/disliked:

My favorite part of this book has to be the women. Man, I love these women! I just want to be their friends. And more importantly, I want them on my side in a fight!

Themes:

The primary theme of Long Time Gone is questioning the definition of strength and courage. What do those things truly look like?

Ending:

While the ending is definitely an ending and not a cliffhanger, Connealy leaves enough clues throughout this book to let you know the trouble isn’t over. I had typed up more here, but I’ve deleted it because I don’t want to risk spoiling the ending for this book. Let’s just say I’m happy. I think if you read it, you’ll be happy. And we can wait eagerly for the next book together.

Additional Thoughts:

In case it isn’t already obvious, Long Time Gone is NOT a book I recommend reading as a stand alone. Although you will certainly enjoy it, there would be far too much nuance missed by someone who hasn’t read the first book, No Way Up. In fact, I highly recommend reading the prequel Novella, The Boden Birthright, first and making your way through the series from there. However, you could probably get away with starting at No Way Up.

(none of the links in this review are affiliate links)

Overall Rating:

5 out of 5 stars

Have you read any of Mary Connealy’s books? What do you think of her style of writing?

Long Time Gone Quote Image 1

TWEETABLES:

#BookReview: @MaryConnealy ‘s #LongTimeGone, book 2 in the Cimarron Legacy Series.

Looking for a #GreatRead with plenty of adventure, romance, & laughter along the way?

“He needed to get her away from him … just as soon as he wasn’t carrying her home on his lap.” @MaryConnealy #LongTimeGone 

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

My Review – A Lady In Disguise +GIVEAWAY!

My Review - A Lady In Disguise

Today’s review comes with a bonus GIVEAWAY! So be sure to read to the bottom and enter to win!

about-the-book-2

In this intriguing novel of romance, mystery, and clever disguise set in Victorian England, a young woman investigates the murder of her own father.

After the mysterious death of her father, Miss Gillian Young takes a new job as the principal costume designer at the renowned Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. But while she remembers her father as a kind, well-respected man of the Police Force, clues she uncovers indicate he’d been living a double life: a haunting photograph of a young woman; train stubs for secret trips just before his death; and a receipt for a large sum of money. Are these items evidence of her father’s guilty secrets? His longtime police partner thinks so.

Then Gillian meets the dashing Viscount Thomas Lockwood. Their attraction is instant and inescapable. As their romantic involvement grows, Gillian begins to suspect even Lockwood’s motives. Does Lord Lockwood truly love her? Or is his interest a front for the desire to own her newly inherited property? And what should she make of her friend’s suggestion that Lockwood or men like him were involved in the murder of her father?

Soon Gillian is convinced that her father has left evidence somewhere that can prove his innocence and reveal the guilty party. But someone wants to stop her from discovering it. The closer she comes to uncovering it, the more menacing her opposition grows. With her life on the line, Gillian takes on an ingenious disguise and takes on the role of a lifetime to reveal the true killer—before it’s too late both for her and for those that she loves.

Why This Book:

It is far too easy to allow oneself to become stuck in a reading rut, so I make it a point to read outside of my genre on occasion. Granted, A Lady In Disguise is not too far outside my genre – it is still historical fiction – but it is definitely beyond my usual choice in novels due to its heavy emphasis on the mystery portion of the plot, leaving the romance as a secondary part of the story.

Additionally, Sandra Byrd was not an author I had read in recent years and I had never read one of her historical novels, so when I saw the opportunity to be part of a group who would have the privilege of reading the book prior to its release, I applied and was accepted. I did receive a free copy of this book, but was under no obligation to review it favorably. As always, the review below is entirely my own and an honest opinion of the novel I read.

Opening Line:

“I stood, that bleak day, in the graveyard in the village near Winton Park. The chapel’s stone gargoyles, pitted and blinded by the elements, nonetheless mocked our mortality with their jeering grins.”

First Impressions:

I think I was tired when I started this book, because despite the well-done first line it failed to intrigue me. The other explanation might be that the romantic interest is only briefly (and unconvincingly) hinted at in the first chapter and then not seen or really even mentioned again until chapter seven. So perhaps the romantic in me was feeling a bit impatient. Either way, the first few chapters, though beautifully written and filled with a mystery which engaged my curiosity, failed to engage my emotions.

Additionally, the first few chapters left me a bit frustrated by the lack of clarity regarding Mrs. W’s role in Gillian’s life. However, this was clarified in later chapters.

Characters:

Miss Gillian Young – The heroine. She is a self-confident, brave young woman determined to not only provide for herself, but also for those close to her as well as for those in need. Her sense of reason and caution are strong enough to make her a believable character in this story without making her bolder choices outside the realm of plausibility.

Inspector Young – Miss Gillian’s father is deceased prior to the start of the novel, yet he remains a character through Miss Gillian’s memories; and certainly, the mystery surrounding his actions prior to his death are what drive most of the plot forward.

Mrs. W. – Though no title is given, that I recall, Mrs. W. is clearly a long-time employee of the family. Not quite a servant, but paid nonetheless, Mrs. W. has difficulty accepting Gillian’s transition from child to adult.

Viscount Thomas Lockwood – Neighbor to Miss Young’s newly inherited country estate, he is apparently eager to be of assistance to Miss Young, though his motivations are unclear throughout most of the novel.

Sergeant Roberts – The young policeman who’d been training with Inspector Young prior to his mysterious death, now claims to be investigating his mentor’s actions.

Inspector Collingsworth – A long-time colleague of Inspector Young and friend of the family, he is seemingly the head of the Chelsea Police Division.

Francis Collingsworth – Inspector Collingsworth’s son, he is following in his father’s footsteps as a police officer. He is a childhood friend of Gillian with hopes of becoming more. (As they were most frequently – and appropriately – referred to by their last names, I had trouble keeping Francis separate from his father until I noted that he was a constable while his father was an inspector.)

Mr. Wilhelm – Miss Young’s employer at the Drury Lane Theater in London.

I did not wish to sound tediously repetitious. Otherwise, I could have added to literally every character listed (minus the heroine, of course): “his/her motivations are unclear throughout most of the novel.” For it seems that at one point or another each of the characters, outside of Miss Gillian Young herself, did or said something which might warrant suspicion.

There are additional important characters, but to mention them here would give away certain surprises, so I will end my list here.

A Lady In Disguise - Quote Photo

Emotional Engagement & Pacing of the Story:

As I mentioned, the first few chapters did not engage my emotions, although they did engage my curiosity. However, the book felt a bit like a snowball rolling downhill. The momentum gradually, but continuously built until it was at such a pace I could not make myself put the book down.

Elements I especially liked/disliked:

I enjoyed reading about life from the perspective of a primarily middle-class woman who had connections to nearly every level of the various classes in London 1883. I particularly enjoyed the glimpses into the lives of the pantomimes of the time. As a special bonus, there is an author’s note at the back of the book which shares some of the relative bits of history upon which the book is based, which I found fascinating.

I also enjoyed this references to Little Women sprinkled throughout the book.

Themes:

The primary themes are that no one is perfect, reputations are fragile, relationships are key to survival, and trust must be earned. Yet none of these themes are presented quite so clearly in the novel, which plays with these ideas in a way which causes you consider both sides of every story.

Ending:

Perhaps others saw the answers before I, but I will admit that this mystery kept me guessing until the very end. While the essence of the ending did not surprise me, how the author got us to it, did. Yet when it all concluded, everything made sense and fit together perfectly, as any well-written mystery should. I will also add for my fellow romance lovers, that in the end, I was quite satisfied with the conclusion of the romance portion of this novel.

Overall Rating:

3.75 out of 5 stars

(Although bigger mystery fans may rate it higher, this is a reflection of my own enjoyment of the novel.)

One last note:

While this is Book 3 in the Daughters of Hampshire series, I have not read either of the prior two and did not feel this impacted my enjoyment or understanding of this novel in any way. Therefore, I will say this book is clearly able to be read as a stand alone. The other two books in the series are:

Bride of a Distant IsleMist of Midnight

Have you read any of Sandra’s books? Are you a big mystery fan?

TWEETABLES:

“The momentum continuously built until I could not make myself put the book down.” 

Looking for a great mystery? Check out @KathleenDenly’s review of this historical fiction by @SandraByrd

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

A Lady In Disguise - Giveaway Image

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The short version

  1. Share this post on FB/Twitter & tag me!
  2. Comment with Twitter/FB account & favorite historical fiction novel.
  3. Follow the rules.
  4. Check back on Monday, March 27th to see who wins!

The long version

GIVEAWAY Instructions:

Okay, for those of you who enjoy a strong historical mystery with a little romance to sweeten the deal, here’s your chance to win a FREE copy of this book! I’m giving away my advance copy of A Lady In Disguise to one lucky reader! All you have to do to enter is:

  1. Share this post on either Twitter or Facebook and tag me in it using @KathleenDenly! (I’ve made it SUPER easy with those Tweetables above & the FB share button below.)
  2. THEN leave a comment on this post with the title of your favorite historical fiction novel and the Twitter/Facebook account you used to share this post. For example:  If I entered using my Twitter account, I would comment with, “Hey Kathleen! You write the best book reviews on the planet! My favorite historical fiction novel is ___. I shared this post on Twitter via @KathleenDenly“… or you know, something like that 😉

The Rules:

You MUST complete BOTH steps to enter. Only one entry per person is allowed. If you forget to add your Twitter/FB info in your original comment, just reply to your own comment and both your reply and original comment will count as one combined entry. All entries must be complete by midnight on Sunday, March 26th. Winner will be announced on http://www.KathleenDenly.com and contacted directly within 24 hours via the social media account (Twitter/Facebook) they used to share this post. Winner must email their shipping address to writeKathleenDenly@gmail.com within 48 hours, otherwise an alternate winner will be chosen. Unfortunately, due to the cost of international shipping, I must limit this contest to U.S. Residents ONLY. Void where prohibited.

How it works:

I will assign a number to each person who enters.  I will then enter those numbers into Random.org‘s Random Sequence Generator. Whichever number comes up at the top of the list will be the winner. I will then verify that that person has completed both steps and has not made multiple (rule-breaking) entries. If they have not completed both steps or have made multiple entries, they will be disqualified and the process will be repeated until a valid winner is found.

Remember: Check back March 27th to see who won! Or just subscribe to receive my blog updates by email and have the announcement delivered to your inbox! 

My Review – The Scarlet Coat

My Review - The Scarlet Coat

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Surrounded by the musket fire of the American Revolution, Rachel Garnet prays for her family to be safe. When the British invade the Mohawk Valley and her father and brother don’t return from the battle, she goes in pursuit of them. She finds her brother alive but her father has been killed at the hand of the enemy. Amidst the death, how can she ignore a cry for help? Rachel reluctantly takes in a badly wounded British officer. But how long can her sense of Christian duty repress her hatred for his scarlet coat?

Passages of Scripture and fleeting images of society are all Andrew Wyndham recalls after he awakens to the log walls of his gentle prison. Even his name eludes him. Rachel Garnet insists he is a captain in the British army. He mourns the loss of his memory, but how can he hope to remember war when his “enemy” is capturing his heart?

Andrew’s injuries are severe, his memory slow to return, and the secret of his existence too perilous to ignore. As Rachel nurses him back to health, his hidden scarlet coat threatens to expose the deeds of her merciful heart, and Andrew is forced to face a harrowing decision—Stay hidden and risk losing the woman he loves or turn himself in and risk losing his life.

Why This Book:

Last month I won a copy of this book over at Mary Manners & Friends. (Thank you, Mary & Angela!) There was no obligation to provide a review at all, but I was hooked from the first line and after reading the first chapter, I knew I had to share this book.

Opening Line:

“The last rays of sun faded into twilight, and the wind whispered through the trees, as if warning Rachel to turn back.”

First Impressions:

The entire first chapter of this book was compelling. Who am I kidding? The whole book was compelling! Reading the first chapter, though, I felt like a fish on a line being reeled in. And it just kept going. I did not want to put this book down.

Characters:

Rachel Garnet – This heroine has a quiet strength and realistic internal struggles which make her a pleasure to read about.

Joseph Garnet – Rachel’s brother isn’t just an ancillary character. He has depth and undergoes an emotional journey of his own.

Andrew Wyndham – The soldier spared from a slow, agonizing death by Rachel’s unexpected compassion has an interesting backstory which is revealed in pieces as he recovers. I dare not say more lest I reveal too much.

Daniel Reid – A neighbor and family friend whose loyalty is put to the test.

Fannie Reid – A neighbor and family friend just coming into womanhood and the interests that come with it.

Rodney Cowden – The neighbor most vocal about his hatred of the British.

Each of these characters are well-developed, as revealed by the believable choices they make in the circumstances that face them throughout the book.

The Scarlet Coat - Quote Image

Emotional Engagement & Pacing of the Story:

This story drew me in. I could clearly picture the world of these characters and I cared deeply about the choices they were making. The pacing was not so intense that I wanted to skim paragraphs in an eagerness to reach the next event, but it definitely kept me reading page after page. There were twists in the story which I did not see coming and that is always a great comment to be able to make about a book.

Elements I especially liked/disliked:

This book felt like a journey back in time. Instead of viewing the Revolutionary War from the distant, almost omniscient and impersonal perspective we were taught in school, this story takes us into the home and personal lives of just one family. We get a sense of what it might have been like to live through that time of war and be called upon at any moment to take up arms and fight. To know what it was like to kiss your loved ones goodbye, never knowing if they would return home alive or be carted home as a corpse in a wagon.

Themes:

The primary themes are compassion, forgiveness, loyalty, and the ethics of war from a biblical perspective.

Ending:

Just when you think it’s all over, there’s a twist. Rachel and Andrew are certainly sent through the wringer, but the ending the author creates is all the better for it. The Scarlet Coat provides a thoroughly satisfying conclusion, but I must admit I am eagerly anticipating the release of the second book in this series:

the patriot and the loyalist cover image

 The Patriot and The Loyalist, coming April 7, 2017.

(not an affiliate link)

Overall Rating:

5 out of 5 stars

Have you read any of Angela’s books? What do you think?

TWEETABLES:

“Just when you think it’s all over, there’s a twist.” Click to Tweet!

“Reading the first chapter, I felt like a fish on a line being reeled in. And it just kept going.” Click to Tweet!

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

My Review – The Thorn Healer

my-review-thorn-healer

about-the-book-2

Jessica Ross’ scars run much deeper than the wounds of war. Determined to escape the ghosts of her past and the German influence on her nightmares, she returns home to the sleepy Appalachian town of Hot Springs, NC, only to find the renowned Mountain Park Hotel has been converted into a ‘prison’ for displaced Germans. To Jessica’s dismay, her grandparents have befriended one of the treacherous internees.

August Reinhold has not only found kinship with Jessica’s grandparents but as they share their granddaughter’s letters from the Front, he discovers a surprising bond drawing him toward the independent and beautiful woman. Displaced by a war and a painful history, he finds Hot Springs and the intriguing Jessica Ross a tempting place to start over. Determined to scale the heights of her bitterness and show her the power of love, August faces more than just Jessica’s resistance but a more devious design to harm the civilian sailors housed in Hot Springs.

Will August’s tender pursuit bring Jessica the healing and hope she needs, or will bitterness force her into the hands of a “true” enemy waiting to destroy much more than her heart?

Why This Book:

Well, if you have read either of my reviews for the first two books in this series, you’ll know exactly why I wanted to read and review The Thorn Healer, the third installment in the Penned in Time series by the talented Pepper D. Basham.

Opening Line:

Wounded soldiers returned from war as heroes. Wounded nurses returned as old maids.

First Impressions:

I’ll be honest. While I love the opening line, the beginning of this book didn’t wow me nearly as much as the openings for the first two books did. I just didn’t feel hooked by the first chapter. That’s not to say the writing was dull by any means. It simply didn’t invoke the compulsion to turn pages which I have come to expect from a Pepper Basham novel.

Nevertheless, I kept reading because 1) the story truly was an interesting one and 2) I knew Pepper wouldn’t let me down. Sure enough, by the fifth chapter I was having trouble making myself put the book down to sleep at night.book-quotes-thorn-healer-empty-hand

Characters:

Jessica Ross has been a star on the sidelines in each of the first two books and it is wonderful to see her take center stage in this book. She is, of course, a well-rounded and compelling character who truly engages your heart as she struggles to overcome the wounds, both physical and emotional, which have followed her home from the war.

August Reinhold is a character new to the series. He is German and an internee in a camp in Jessica’s hometown nestled within the Blue Ridge Mountains. How he handles the challenges he faces as a German stuck in America during the first World War can’t help but endear him to the reader and you find yourself rooting for him.

Additional characters include:

Dr. and Mrs. Carter – Jessica’s grandparents

Cliff Carter – Jessica’s cousin and a guard at the camp

Eliza Larson – war widow, mother of 7-year-old Jude Larson, & pregnant

Jasper Little – a wounded newcomer who arrives in town with anger to spare

As well as several other townspeople who all add to the story in their own way. Including some important characters which I won’t name here or it would give away surprises. No one character blends into another. They each stand out as unique and authentic.

For those of you who have enjoyed the previous two books in the Penned In Time series, you’ll be pleased to know that some of the characters from those books make an appearance in this one and you do get updates on their lives.book-quotes-thorn-healer-steadfast

Emotional Engagement & Pacing of the Story:

Once this story got ahold of your heart, it didn’t let go. It made me laugh out loud, audibly gasp, and even cry. Real. Tears. I can’t remember the last time I actually cried over a book. Choked up? Sure. But I don’t remember actually crying. This book made me cry. I had to wipe my face because my tears were going to drip on my Kindle. And I loved it! I was crying because I was so wrapped up in what the characters were going through. It was so real.

Elements I especially liked/disliked:

This book had several elements which served as an introduction to the unique culture of the Blue Ridge Mountains during the first World War. I enjoyed feeling like a visitor with a backstage pass in the small, remote town of Hot Springs. The elements of history introduced by the author, whether Blue Ridge, World War, or medically related,  all felt very well researched and authentic.

The elements of history introduced by the author, whether Blue Ridge, World War, or medically related,  all felt very well researched and authentic.

Themes:

The primary themes are prejudice, forgiveness, and the cost of hate.

book-quotes-thorn-healer-thoughts-write-lettersEnding (mild spoiler):

If the idea that this book made me cry has you worried, do not fear. This book has the happy ending requisite of its genre. And it is perfect. I am completely satisfied with how the book ended. And yeah. I closed the book with a smile on my face.

Overall Rating:

4 out of 5 stars

Have you read any of Pepper’s books? What do you think?

TWEETABLES:

Once this story got ahold of your heart, it didn’t let go.#bookreview – Click to Tweet!

Check out this #bookreview of The Thorn Healer! – Click to Tweet!

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

My Review – From A Distance

My Review: From A Distance by Tamera Alexander at KathleenDenly.com

Having recently joined the Christian Fiction Devourers group on Goodreads, I was excited to discover that one of their choices for the Book of the Month Read Along was a Tamera Alexander novel. I’d had her on my list of new-to-me authors I want to try for a while, so I Googled the book title and discovered this book trailer:

After a trailer like that, how could I NOT read the book? So of course, I added it to my “Currently Reading” shelf, picked up a (FREE!) copy through Kindle Unlimited and started reading.

Opening Line:

“Elizabeth Garrett Westbrook stepped closer to the cliff’s edge, not the least intimidated by the chasm’s vast plunge.”

First Impressions:

The very first paragraph tells us so much about the main character:  her name, age, dreams, determination, courage… and that her time is limited.  In the first chapter, we learn that Elizabeth is a strong woman facing a life-threatening illness, yet she doesn’t let that stop her or even slow her down.  She dreams of becoming the first female staff photographer and journalist at the Washington Daily Chronicle, and she won’t let illness, the treacherous Rocky Mountains, or her father’s disapproval get in her way. However, we also see that her determination is balanced with heart in the way she treats the “Negro” man she has hired to assist her and in how she views the wildlife around her.

When we first meet Daniel Ranslett in Chapter Three, we learn that he is a patient tracker, a skilled hunter with a conscience, and a man of his word. We also learn that he is haunted by his past and still wrestles with the guilt of old choices. He prefers to keep to himself, but his reluctance is no match for Elizabeth’s determination once she learns he has the experience she needs to accomplish part of her goals.

Characters:

In addition to Elizabeth and Daniel, Tamera introduces us to a variety of well-developed characters including:

  • Josiah – a former slave, kind & competent employee, and loyal friend;
  • Sheriff James McPherson – whose current friendship with Daniel has been complicated and strained by past events;
  • Rachel Boyd – sister to the sheriff, mother, and recent widow;
  • The Tucker family – struggling to provide for their large brood, including  a young son with a severe illness;
  • Drayton Turner the local newspaper man;
  • Carnes the coroner;
  • Mr. Zachary manager of the local land and title office;
  • and too many more to list.

Despite the size of the cast in this story, Tamera has managed to give each character such a unique depth, and introduced them so skillfully, that there was never a moment where I lost track of who was who. Each character is as real and rich as the next.

Emotional Engagement & Pacing of the Story:

This is not an edge of your seat, flip the pages as fast as you can, style of story. However, Tamera has created just enough tension that you are always reluctant to set this book down. As I’ve already said, the characters are so real and their emotions so deeply felt by the reader that you cannot help but be pulled into their world and their struggles. You want to know what will happen next and whether or not each character will achieve their goals.

Elements I especially liked/disliked:

Something that sets this novel apart is its handling of the racial issues present in 1875 Colorado Territory. I appreciated how Tamera managed to portray this in a way that felt real, yet not garish. It was neither overdone for the sake of drama nor underplayed for the sake of current (2016) political views. I think it’s important to remember the shameful parts of our history as well as the moments of which we are proud. It’s how we learn and a reminder never to go back.

Themes:

The primary themes are accepting forgiveness and learning to adjust when your dreams don’t turn out to be what you imagined they were.

Ending:

I found the ending of this book mostly satisfying. I felt the romance was resolved a bit too subtly for my taste, but this is a nitpicky personal opinion. In regard to length, I would, perhaps, have liked just another page or two more to enjoy the afterglow of resolution, but this is more a sign of having enjoyed the book than a complaint against it. There is no hint of a cliffhanger. The romance plot and all the side plots are nicely concluded.

Overall Rating:

4.5 out of 5 stars