My Rapid Review – Unwrapping Hope

My RAPID Review - Unwrapping Love

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She chose the wrong man once. Can she trust her instincts now? 

Phoebe Crain, an accomplished pianist, lives in near poverty to protect her five-year-old daughter from scandal. When Phoebe receives a handcrafted cigar box by mistake, her desperation to give the child something special for Christmas drives her to suggest a trade with Spence Newland, a man she views as no more principled than her daughter’s late father. But the more time she spends with the department store heir, the more Phoebe struggles to keep up her guard against him.

Spence believes the cigar box will help him gain a reclusive investor’s financial support for his proposed five-and-ten-cent stores, demonstrating his ability to manage the family fortunes. Yet he hesitates to bargain with a widow who mistrusts him for no apparent reason…until he meets a charming little girl at the train station who awaits the arrival of a prince.

Will a betrayal in Phoebe’s past and Spence’s unraveling plans derail their hope for happiness and keep a child’s fairy tale from coming true?

My Thoughts

Unwrapping Hope by Sandra Ardoin is a touching novella that asks the question: When our own judgment betrays us, how can we learn to trust again? I think this is a theme all of us can relate to. It certainly gripped my heart and attention. I felt deeply for Phoebe’s plight as I watched her struggle not only with the ramifications of her first misjudgment, but also with the fear of repeating her mistake. Her love for her daughter and her servant’s heart make her a very likable heroine. Add to that an ambitious hero whose heart is to honor God, even if he doesn’t always make the right decisions, and you have a very compelling read. The vivid setting descriptions and relatable secondary characters are just icing on the cake. In fact, this novella is like the perfect serving of your favorite dessert. You’ll gobble it down in one sitting and feel completely satisfied. I know I did.

Unwrapping Hope is the prequel novella to Sandra Ardoin’s upcoming Widow’s Might novel series.

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Note: Although I did receive a free ARC of the digital version of this book, I was under no obligation to write a positive review. You may read my full disclosure of materials HERE.


Let’s chat!

Can you relate to the question this novella asks? Have you read any of Sandra’s other books? What do you think of the cover?

My Rapid Review – More Than Words Can Say

My RAPID Review - More Than Words Can Say

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After fulfilling a pledge to a dying friend, Zacharias Hamilton is finally free. No family entanglements. No disappointing those around him. Just the quiet bachelor existence he’s always craved. Until fate snatches his freedom away when the baker of his favorite breakfast bun is railroaded by the city council. Despite not wanting to get involved, he can’t turn a blind eye to her predicament . . . or her adorable dimples.

Abigail Kemp needs a man’s name on her bakery’s deed. A marriage of convenience seems the best solution . . . if it involves a man she can control. That person definitely isn’t the stoic lumberman who oozes silent confidence whenever he enters her shop. Control Zacharias Hamilton? She can’t even control her pulse when she’s around him.
When vows are spoken, Abigail’s troubles should be over. Yet threats to the bakery worsen, and darker dangers hound her sister. Can she put ever more trust in Zach without losing her dreams of independence?

My Thoughts

Karen Witemeyer has another delightful novel on her hands in More Than Words Can Say. Full of fun and laughs, this story doesn’t fail to reach the emotional depths fans have come to expect from her. With a heroine to make you cheer and a hero to make you swoon, this story holds the reader’s attention from the first page to the last. Well-developed secondary characters and a plot that holds more than one surprise makes this not just a good read, but a great one. I highly recommend this for anyone who enjoys historical Christian romance with a hefty dose of comedy.

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My Rapid Review – Mistress of Tall Acre

My RAPID Review - The Mistress of Tall Acre

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The American Revolution is finally over, and Sophie Menzies is starved for good news. When her nearest neighbor, General Seamus Ogilvy, finally comes home to Tall Acre, she hopes it is a sign of better days to come. But the general is now a widower with a small daughter in desperate need of a mother. Nearly destitute, Sophie agrees to marry Seamus and become the mistress of Tall Acre in what seems a safe, sensible arrangement. But when a woman from the general’s past returns without warning, the ties that bind this fledgling family together will be strained to the utmost. When all is said and done, who will be the rightful mistress of Tall Acre?

Triumph and tragedy, loyalty and betrayal–readers find it all in the rich pages of this newest historical novel from the talented pen of Laura Frantz. Her careful historical details immerse the reader in the story world, and her emotional writing and finely tuned characters never cease to enchant fans both old and new.

My Thoughts

The Mistress of Tall Acre is an excellent historical Christian romance with complex characters and a plot that keeps you turning pages. I felt deeply for these characters and know this story will stay with me for months to come. The romance between the hero and heroine is mature, admirable, and something I quietly rooted for as the reader. This novel provides the reader with a fresh and unique perspective on the aftermath of the Revolutionary War. I highly recommend it to those who enjoy this genre and time period.

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My Rapid Review – Flights of Fancy

My RAPID Review - Flights of Fancy

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Miss Isadora Delafield may be an heiress, but her life is far from carefree. When her mother begins pressuring her to marry an elderly and uncouth duke, she escapes from the high society world she’s always known and finds herself to be an unlikely candidate for a housekeeper position in rural Pennsylvania.

Mr. Ian MacKenzie is known for his savvy business sense and has built his reputation and fortune completely on his own merits. But when his adopted parents are in need of a new housekeeper and Isadora is thrown into his path, he’s unexpectedly charmed by her unconventional manner.

Neither Isadora nor Ian expected to find the other so intriguing, but when mysterious incidents on the farm and the truth of Isadora’s secret threaten those they love, they’ll have to set aside everything they thought they wanted for a chance at happy-ever-after.

My Thoughts

Flights of Fancy was my first book by Jen Turano and I am quite happy to say that her story more than lived up to its beautiful cover. I think I let this one sit on my TBR a bit longer because the sample I listened to on audible didn’t strongly intrigue me. What a mistake. If the sample had contained just a bit more of that scene, I’d have better understood just how compelling this story truly was. Before the very first scene was even finished, I was hooked. Despite numerous responsibilities demanding my time and attention, I contrived ways to squeeze this book in so that I finished in under three days. I just could not wait to discover what would happen next. If you have not already read this book, I highly recommend doing so!

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My Review – Four Dreams of You

My Review - Four Dreams of You

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Unfulfilled dreams have left Grace Thomas vowing not to let her imagination roam wild again. Resigning herself to the goal of owning a dress shop, she accepts a position as a housekeeper at Monaghan Lumber Camp in order to earn funds. The plan is simple, easy, and safe. But Torin Monaghan is not. The reclusive brother who seems indifferent to her presence is ironically the one stirring up her imagination.

Torin Monaghan will not be deterred from his passion to preserve the beauty of nature. Even if it appears as if he’s going against his family. Even if the quirky and wistful seamstress invading his space is proving a distraction. To his frustration, Grace Thomas is not easily dismissed, and neither are the ways she’s opening his eyes to a different sort of beauty.

When past threats bring new trouble to Pine Creek, Torin and Grace must become vulnerable—to each other and their community—and through risk, discover that reality is more fulfilling than their dreams.

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Why This Book:

I have been a fan of Sondra Kraak’s writing since I first read One Plus One Equals Trouble, the first book in this series. (If you haven’t read it, it is now available for FREE to anyone who joins Sondra’s newsletter list.)

Opening Lines:

Prologue:

Connecticut, April 1893

Failure meant death. Death meant judgment. And judgment meant facing his broken promises.

Chapter One:

Washington State, two weeks later

Yesterday, Grace Thomas had made the worst mistake of her life. This morning, she had one hour to reverse it.

First Impressions:

As you can tell from those first lines, the prologue is full of suspense that keeps the pages turning and the first scene of Chapter One is no slow read either. From the first introduction, I cared about these characters and wanted to see them succeed.

Book Quote - Four Dreams of You - Romance isn't

Main Characters:

Grace Thomas–  If you’ve read the previous books in this series, you’ll remember Grace and be happy to see her finally take center stage. She is beautiful, kind, intelligent, and incredibly gifted as a fabric artist–but she doesn’t see any of that. For many reasons, Grace’s self-image has been twisted to the point it doesn’t resemble her true self and this affects every decision she makes.

Torin Monaghan – A character new to the series, Torin is physically fit, highly intelligent, ambitious, determined (to a fault?), and noble. He’s a bit rough around the edges, though, when it comes to face-to-face human interaction. So, while he has generally good intentions, his choices often lead him in the opposite direction of his desired destination. Haunted by his past, he struggles with the idea of which path is right for him: leading his family or leading the nation.

Secondary Characters: There are a host of other interesting characters who add layers and depth to the story. Among these are: Torin’s three younger brothers, his sister-in law, his younger sister, and Grace’s family and friends. All are well-developed characters fully worthy of their places in the story.

Emotional Engagement & Pacing of the Story:

From the first page, this story had my attention and it kept hold of it through the very end. I lost no small amount of sleep trying to find out what would happen next.

The issues Grace and Torin struggle with throughout the book are issues I think most of us can relate to on some level. Combine this with Kraak’s incredible wordsmithing and this makes for a read that not only engages our hearts but also our minds.

Elements I especially liked/disliked:

It was fun getting a behind-the-scenes look at how a logging company was run in this era. There were also several tidbits of real history which were unique and a fun addition.

Book Quote - Four Dreams of You - God doesn't grow weary

THEME:

The theme can best be summarised in this quote from the book:

The path to joy goes through sorrow, not around it.

Ending:

The ending included some fun surprises, a few chuckles, and lots of satisfied grinning.

Overall Rating:

5 out of 5 stars

P.S. Today is release day!!! Don’t forget to grab your copy! 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!)


 

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:

“The path to joy goes through sorrow, not around it.” Read the #BookReview!

The ending included some fun surprises, a few chuckles, and lots of satisfied grinning. Read the #BookReview!


Note: Although I did receive a free ARC of the digital version of this book, I was under no obligation to write a positive review. You may read my full disclosure of materials HERE.


Enjoy Christian Romance?

Click HERE to follow my blog and make sure you don’t miss out on any of my upcoming reviews and other fun posts!

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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.

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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.

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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.


Enjoy Christian Romance?

Click HERE to follow my blog and make sure you don’t miss out on any of my upcoming reviews and other fun posts!

Are you a Kathleen’s Readers’ Club member? It’s free (of course) and KRC members receive exclusive content, are eligible for exclusive seasonal book giveaways, and more! Join Today!

 

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.