Journey into the Blue Ridge Mountains of 1918 where Laurel McAdams endures the challenges of a hard life while dreaming things can eventually improve. But trouble arrives in the form of an outsider. Having failed his British father again, Jonathan Taylor joins is uncle’s missionary endeavors as a teacher in a two-room schoolhouse. Laurel feels compelled to protect the tenderhearted teacher from the harsh realities of Appalachian life, even while his stories of life outside the mountains pull at Laurel’s imagination. Faced with angry parents over teaching methods, Laurel’s father’s drunken rages, and bad news from England, will Jonathan leave and never return, or will he stay and let love bloom?
A tale of determination, compassion, loyalty, and new beginnings wrapped in the beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Everything about this novel grabbed my heart, enthralled my senses, and wrapped me up in the beauty and trials of life in the Blue Ridge.
From the first page, I fell in love with the plucky heroine, Laurel, who had dreams bigger than the life she led, yet didn’t allow her desires to overcome her integrity. In fact, even her dreams weren’t about her. Laurel’s whole being vibrated with a love and compassion for others without crossing the line into too-perfect-to-be-real. Laurel certainly had her weaknesses, but the love in her heart outshined them all. It was no wonder the hero, Jonathan Taylor didn’t take long to recognize what a special woman she was. Still, their budding friendship faced many obstacles on its way to love.
Jonathan arrived in Maple Springs hoping for a chance at redemption — a way to prove his worth to his father and himself despite the physical limitations which prevented him from following his brothers into war and drove him from his home in England. Despite his uncle’s letters, he didn’t fully understand the cultural differences he’d face in Maple Springs and how significant they would be to his role as their new teacher. Jonathan faced an uphill battle if he wanted to become an accepted member of the Maple Springs community. As the reader, I loved taking on that battle with Jonathan through Pepper Basham’s well-written story.
Packed full of surprises that will keep you turning the page, this novel is more than a romance between a man and a woman. It’s a story of our Creator’s love, the ties that bind families and communities together, and the sins that threaten to tear them apart. I highly recommend this story to anyone hoping for an emotional journey that leaves them cheering in the end.
Overall Rating: 5 of 5 stars!
P.S. It’s no secret that I am a fan of Pepper’s writing, but this may be my favorite of all her stories. She really outdid herself. If you haven’t read anything by Pepper Basham yet (gasp!) this is a fantastic place to start!
P.P.S. For anyone wondering: I purchased my own copy of this book. Go get yours!
As a first-year law associate, Sydney Batson knows she will be updating her resume by New Year’s if she loses her current case. So when her grandmother gets inexplicably ill while she’s in court, Sydney arranges for a cab to get her to the clinic.
The last thing cab driver Finn Parrish wants is to be saddled with a wheelchair-bound old lady with dementia. But because Miss Callie reminds him of his own mother, whom he failed miserably in her last days, he can’t say no when she keeps calling him for rides. Once a successful gourmet chef, Finn’s biggest concern now is paying his rent, but half the time Callie doesn’t remember to pay him. And as she starts to feel better, she leads him on wild-goose chases to find a Christmas date for her granddaughter.
When Finn meets Sydney, he’s quite sure she’s never needed help finding a date. Does Miss Callie have an ulterior motive, or is this just a mission driven by delusions? He’s willing to do whatever he can to help fulfill Callie’s Christmas wish. He just never expected to be a vital part of it.
A hilarious romp through small-town America, this story will keep you reading just to see what craziness happens next.
If you were ever a fan of the Gilmore Girls and remember the character, Luke Danes — the cranky-but-lovable cafe owner — you’ll have a fair idea of the hero’s personality in Terri Blackstock’s Catching Christmas. Picture Gilmore Girls‘ Luke as a taxi driver stuck with the sweetest — if a bit mischievous — little old lady suffering from severe memory difficulties and a tendency to nod off in the backseat without telling him where he is supposed to take her next, and you have a fair idea of the comedy involved. Terri’s hero, Finn, just wants to do his job, talk as little as possible, and pay his rent on time. No muss, no fuss. But his softy-heart and a guilty conscience just won’t let him push kind-hearted Miss Callie into the “somebody else’s problem” category. At one point likening the sweet old woman to a parasite that won’t leave his mind alone, Finn finds himself driving Miss Callie all over town while Miss Callie’s granddaughter fights to save the job that is footing Miss Callie’s bills. When the hero and the heroine finally get together, their mutual concern for Miss Callie’s welfare cause both an immediate clash and a common bond. Following along as Miss Callie leads them to a Christmas they’ll never forget, was such a pleasure, this book deserves a place on every reader’s bookshelf.
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About the Author
Terri Blackstock has sold over seven million books worldwide and is a New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author. She is the award-winning author of Intervention, Vicious Cycle, and Downfall, as well as such series as Cape Refuge, Newpointe 911, the SunCoast Chronicles, and the Restoration Series. Catching Christmas is her first Christmas romance. Visit her website at www.terriblackstock.com Facebook: tblackstock Twitter: @terriblackstock
From Terri Blackstock
Enjoy this premium excerpt from Catching Christmas
This review was originally published almost 3 years ago, but some things are worth repeating. In light of Pepper Basham’s upcoming historical romance release, My Heart Belongs in the Blue Ridge – Laurel’s Dream, I thought it timely to recall her first historical romance (the one that made me an instant fan).
English born, American raised, nurse Ashleigh has plans to return to her home country and serve in a hospital treating wounded soldiers in war ravaged England. Already harboring a soul-crushing secret, she suffers personal loss and heartbreaking betrayal before setting off across the Atlantic on the doomed Lusitania.
Much to her consternation, she is joined on this journey by her best friend, Sam Miller, who is traveling to England to reunite with his fiancé, Ashleigh’s sister. “As they travel across the Atlantic, neither is prepared for the life-altering and heart-breaking journey of their friendship.”
When Ashleigh’s secret is thrown into the light, she is forced to deal with the aftermath and struggles to find her hope in God.
Most of you will be familiar with the famous poem about God carrying us through our darkest times. As the reader, I could truly see this happening for Ashleigh. The spiritual aspect of this novel is completely organic and seamlessly woven into the story. Wonderfully written, this book has an almost poetic feel to it. The characters are so rich and the setting so real you’ll question whether you’ve actually lived through these significant events in history.
Having said that, I do feel compelled to issue one warning: If you have a history of abuse, please be aware this book may contain triggers for you.
Whether you’re looking for a true love story, a strong character arc, a page-turning plot, a taste of history, spiritual encouragement, or a sensory feast, The Thorn Bearer has what you’re looking for. I highly recommend this book!
I give this book 5 out of 5 stars!
As if reading a fantastic book isn’t awesome enough, I was blessed to win an Advance Reading Copy of the upcoming sequel, The Thorn Keeper!
Materials Note: I purchased my own copy of this book, for my own reading pleasure.
An unexpected mother-to-be
A romance-leery composer
And a forgotten melody from the past that holds the keys to their futures
When Julia Jenkins’ great aunt dies and leaves her a Victorian mansion with decades of secrets, Julia never expects to unearth a World War 2 espionage mystery. Struggling with her own past since an assault left her pregnant, her future as a solo parent leaves her dreams uncertain. The inheritance from her great aunt gives Julia the ability to take a step back into her future, but also sends her into the discovery of a love story she’d never anticipated. As she goes through her aunt’s treasured possessions, Julia uncovers some oddly written piano music with a musical code she can’t decipher on her own. Not to worry, introverted Englishman and composer, Henry Wright, is thrust on the scene by a pair of homespun matchmakers who know the ‘right’ man for Julia’s wounded heart.
Henry arrives in Pleasant Gap with the task of composing the soundtrack for his best mate’s newest film. The Jenkins’ family’s southern welcome and gregarious personalities set his reticent nature on edge, but he’s inexplicably drawn to his gentle and music-loving hostess, Julia. Uncertain how to build a friendship with the wounded woman, and rather hopeless in communicating well through words, the bond of music becomes a bridge between her uncertainty and his awkwardness.
But her broken past and his families’ expectations build a wall much greater than the cultures that separate them. As they work together to solve a musical mystery from the grave, will an unlikely romance from the past inspire their hearts to trust in a God who’s written the perfect melody for their lives?
I have been a fan of Pepper Basham’s writing since I read her debut novel, The Thornbearer and have read every book she has written since then.
Julia Jenkins was a glass-half-full person.
Well, most of the time.
The character of Julia immediately intrigued me (although I have to disagree with her assessment of baths & pregnancy – I couldn’t have survived my pregnancies without those long soaks!) and I wanted to know more about her. I wanted to know how she’d gotten into her situation and how she was going to handle it now that she was there.
Julia Jenkins – As I mentioned, Julia intrigued me at the start and she continued to hold my interest throughout the book. This is a woman with a quiet strength. The type of person you might not notice when you first enter a room, but whose strength and courage will astound you in times of trial. Most importantly, her faith is a thing of incredible beauty.
Henry Wright – Oh how I love the chuckle Pepper gave me by giving Julia a “Mr. Wright.” Name aside, however, the character of Henry had to grow on me a bit. It wasn’t that I initially disliked him — I liked him right away — but he is so unique and his introversion is expressed in such an unusual manner that it did take some getting used to. In the end, my heart was completely won over by this one-of-a-kind, heart-meltingly loyal, and inspiringly selfless man.
Amelia Dawn aka Aunt Millie – Julia’s recently deceased aunt is a source of mystery. A recluse in her old age, Amelia’s life before settling near Pleasant Gap is mostly unknown, despite Julia’s close relationship with her in recent years. Throughout the novel, Julia and Henry attempt to uncover Amelia’s secrets and I have to tell you, what they find is worth the search.
Eisley Jenkins – Heroine of the first book in this series, Eisley is one of Julia’s sisters and longtime girlfriend of Wes Harrison (see below). Her role is important, but not large in this book, although she does get a couple scenes as the Point of View character. (For anyone not familiar with that term, it means the scene is written as if the reader is in her head, hearing her thoughts, seeing what she sees, etc.)
Wes Harrison – Hero of the first book in this series, Wes is back in this book as the longtime boyfriend of Eisley and best friend of Henry. As with Eisley, his role is important, but not large in this book.
Nate Jenkins – Father of Julia Jenkins, he is naturally protective of his daughter – even more so given her recent experiences – and he provokes some very entertaining and also very touching scenes in this novel. Fair warning: one of his scenes had me wiping moisture from my eyes and swallowing a lump in my throat. While not perfect, in many ways, he’s what dads should be.
Emotional Engagement & Pacing of the Story:
As I stated above, I was immediately engaged by the character Julia and eventually loved the character of Henry. The story maintained a comfortable tension throughout, with the expected increase of intensity growing toward the climax, so of course, I kept reading.
Not only were the hero and heroine of this book engaging, but the secondary characters were equally so. Pepper has done an excellent job developing the Jenkins family and I am looking forward to reading more stories featuring them. Henry’s family was refreshingly dysfunctional and I loved the surprising and compassionate way in which Pepper portrayed them. This book made me laugh out loud, shake my head, and wipe away pesky tears.
Elements I especially liked/disliked:
I’ll begin by stating that this story captured first my interest and then my heart. However, I admit to not being as big of a fan of the big duet scene between the two main characters which I have read other reviewers rave about. To be clear: I didn’t dislike the scene. I just didn’t love it. I think my lack of enthusiasm can be attributed to my general lack of passion for the lingo of music. While I love listening to it, I am neither a player nor a student of that particular art. Therefore, I think some of the subtler nuances of that side of the story – the various musical vocabulary and phrasing sprinkled throughout the story – may have escaped me. Nonetheless, I never felt that I was in any way lost or confused about what was going on.
Furthermore, there were many, many other things to delight me in this story. I completely related to many of the experiences Julia had in regards to her pregnancy, and, in some ways, I could relate to Henry’s need for moments of solitude. The love which grows between the two main characters is something I couldn’t help but feel in a very real way. The unexpected twists Pepper created in this story kept me very happy as a reader, and as always, her literary gift with words was a music all its own.
God is our source of purpose, courage, and healing.
Wonderful and full of small twists you didn’t see coming. This ending is sure to leave you grinning.
Once London’s top thief, Barclay Pearce has turned his back on his life of crime and now uses his skills for a nation at war. But not until he rescues a clockmaker’s daughter from a mugging does he begin to wonder what his future might hold.
Evelina Manning has constantly fought for independence but she certainly never meant for it to inspire her fiancé to end the engagement and enlist in the army. When the intriguing man who saved her returns to the Manning residence to study clockwork repair with her father, she can’t help being interested. But she soon learns that nothing with Barclay Pearce is as simple as it seems.
As 1915 England plunges ever deeper into war, the work of an ingenious clockmaker may give England an unbeatable military edge—and Germany realizes it as well. Evelina’s father soon finds his whole family in danger—and it may just take a reformed thief to steal the time they need to escape it.
I have been a fan of Roseanna M. White’s Shadows Over England series since I read book one, A Name Unknown.
Opening Line (from Chapter 1):
May 11, 1915
Poplar, London, England
Barclay Pearce shouldered his way through the mob, invisible.
Having gotten to know Barclay through the previous two books in the series, it didn’t take much to snag my attention with this opening, but that isn’t to say it wouldn’t have caught my attention otherwise. Well-written and intriguing, I immediately wanted to know more about where Barclay was and what he was doing. The backdrop of espionage, social unrest, and racial tensions in war-time England only added to the page-turning urge.
Barclay Pearce – Head of a group – or as they call themselves, “family” – of former street thieves turned government spies, Barclay serves as a sort of father figure/ elder brother figure to the other members of the “family.” He is loyal, intelligent, kind, and, of course, handsome. Fully worthy of his role as the lead in this story, Barclay isn’t without his faults. Which, of course, is why I loved him.
Mr. V – A mysterious man, Mr. V has served as the family’s contact with the government throughout the series. It is wonderful to get to know a tiny bit more about him in this book than in the previous two.
Cecil Manning – Something of a genius and a clockmaker (and toy maker, and inventor), Cecil is head of the Manning family although his relationship with his wife leaves that somewhat debatable. Beloved by his daughter and sought by his country’s government, Cecil is a character I loved rooting for.
Evelina Manning – Cecil’s daughter, Evelina is highly intelligent in her own right and nothing if not passionate. Her burning desire to change the wrong in the world around her makes her an easy character to love, despite some rather questionable behavior at one point in the book that made me want to shake her just a bit and give her a good-old-fashioned talking to.
Judith Manning – Cecil’s wife and Evelina’s mother, Judith is a complicated woman and not someone you immediately want to invite over to tea. That said, I enjoyed her role in this story – especially regarding the surprises.
Emotional Engagement & Pacing of the Story:
As I said, this book had me from page one and the tension ratcheted up seamlessly from there. At no point did I want to put the book down and more than once I experienced a strong emotional reaction to something a character said, did, or experienced. (See the character descriptions for just a teeny hint of that.)
Elements I especially liked/disliked:
As with the first two books, this story is set against the backdrop of World War I and I thoroughly enjoyed the additional true historical elements Roseanna was able to organically incorporate into this story. I truly felt as though I’d been there, experiencing the thrill and fear along with the characters.
I honestly can’t think of a single thing I disliked about this novel.
I think, even more than the previous two books, this novel really focused on what it means to be a family. It also presents the question of how far we are willing or even should go for love.
Other issues touched on include racism, prejudice, and identity.
Thoroughly satisfying and just the right length to wrap up all those little details fans of the series could hope for.
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About the Author
Roseanna M. White is a bestselling, Christy Award nominated author who has long claimed that words are the air she breathes. When not writing fiction, she’s homeschooling her two kids, editing, designing book covers, and pretending her house will clean itself. Roseanna is the author of a slew of historical novels that span several continents and thousands of years. Spies and war and mayhem always seem to find their way into her books…to offset her real life, which is blessedly ordinary. You can learn more about her and her stories at www.RoseannaMWhite.com.
Guest Post from Roseanna
Last year, as I finished up the writing of An Hour Unspent, my great-grandmother passed away at the age of 103. As I sat at her funeral service and listened to the heartfelt memorial raised up to her by her kids and grandkids, I realized anew that this woman had been a matriarch in the truest sense of the word. She’d taught my family for generations how to love the Lord and each other, how to serve the Lord and each other, and how to trust the Lord and each other. Grandma Seward was, in so many ways, the one who instilled in me my idea of what family really is.
That idea—that it’s those knit together by love more than blood, and that faith is the strongest foundation—is what I built my unusual family of thieves upon in the Shadows Over England series. And strange as it is to liken my twenty-something reformed-thief hero to my 103-year-old-grandmother, Barclay Pearce is very much to his family what Maxine Seward was to mine.
The founder. The caregiver. The leader.
I knew as I began the series that I would write about Barclay in book three, and as I got to know him better throughout the series, I grew so excited to share his story! This is a man who led his family first into and then out of a life a crime, always for the right reasons—so he could provide for the children under his care. All he ever wanted to do was give them what he himself had lost. To show them love. To prove to them that they were worth any sacrifice.
It was truly a blessing for me to get to write the story in which Barclay found someone to come alongside him, to appreciate and learn to understand him. To finally share what started him down this path. I loved the idea that only a reformed thief could steal the time another family needed to overcome their own trials.
There are many historical items in the book that were such fun to explore—watchmaking of the era, the suffrage movement in England, technological advancements of the war—but at the heart, this isn’t a story about any of those.
It’s a story about how far people should go for love. I hope you enjoy Barclay’s story as much as I did!
Title: Enchanting Nicholette Series: The Everstone Chronicles #5 Author: Dawn Crandall Publisher: Whitaker House Release Date: October 9, 2018 Genre: Historical Romance
In this captivating novella by Dawn Crandall, Nicholette Everstone is already a widow at the age of twenty-two: her husband was murdered on their wedding day. She has just returned to Boston after two years of mourning in Europe. Although her husband was loving, the marriage was an arranged one, and Nicholette would like to wed again–this time for love…and to someone safe.
As she acclimates to life in Back Bay again, Nicholette meets someone she can’t help but fall for. But when she learns of the danger and sacrifices Cal Hawthorne takes on for the safety of others, will her heart be strong enough to keep her fears of “what if” at bay?
I purchased this novella as part of the Timeless Love novella collection because it contained other stories written by authors I knew and enjoyed. This is the first work I have read by this author. (Only after reading the entire collection did I learn of the book tour for Enchanting Nicholette.)
Opening Line (from Chapter 1):
Saturday, June 3, 1893
“I suppose you have a new wardrobe ordered from Paris?”
I had only a fleeting moment of confusion in the first page or two of this novella. I felt a bit like I was playing catch up from a previous book and I had a tiny bit of trouble wrapping my brain around who the heroine was. However, by about the 4th page I had fully settled in. By the second scene I was hooked.
Nicholette Everstone – The widowed heroine whose marriage was arranged at such an early age she never even considered another man and consequently is quite at a loss when she finds herself widowed and, for the first time, having to navigate the 1893 singles’ social scene. How in the world is one meant to flirt?
Silvie Boutilier – William Everstone’s stepsister and a young woman quite adept at flirtation and more than eager to help Nicholette along to her next marriage.
William Everstone – Nicholette’s kind and loving deceased husband.
Cal Hawthorne– Nicholette’s distant cousin via her marriage to William. He’s a man who knows what he wants and isn’t afraid to go after it, but still puts the needs of others first.
Mabel Hawthorne – Cal’s younger sister and an impulsive, curious young woman with a good heart.
Emotional Engagement & Pacing of the Story:
The hero won my heart with the line, “I would have requested an introduction, but I didn’t think it prudent, considering you were spoken for … and my whole goal in being introduced would have been to court you.” Yes! It is so refreshing to have a man plainly state his interest in such a confident manner. From this point on I was rooting for Cal and Nicholette to figure things out and make it work. I never got bored or tempted to skim. There were certainly enough twists and turns in there to keep things fun and interesting.
Elements I especially liked/disliked:
On the upside, Nicholette and Cal were characters I cared about and rooted for. The story was fun without being fluff, and deep without being depressing. My second favorite scene involves a hidden entrance, but I will say no more. 😉
On the downside, there were a high number of named characters to keep track of for such a short story. I suspect this is because the novella fits into a larger series and I would most likely have already been introduced to many, if not all, of these characters had I previously read any of the books in The Everstone Chronicles.
Trusting our future, and those whom we love, in God’s hands.
The consequences of gossip.
I have to say that the final scene in this novella must be my favorite. There is such a wonderful and endearing dialogue within it that my romantic heart turned all to mush and I laughed and grinned and sighed with joy.
Dawn Crandall‘s debut Gilded Age Victorian romance, “The Hesitant Heiress,” was a 2015 ACFW Carol award finalist in the debut category and received the 2015 Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence, the 2015 Write Touch Reader’s Choice Award and the 2015 Romancing the Novel Reader’s Choice Award. Her follow-up novel, “The Bound Heart,” received the 2016 Laurel Award from Clash of the Titles. Dawn earned a BA in Christian Education from Taylor University. She’s been balancing books and babies lately as her two sons were both born as the four books of her Everstone Chronicles series were being released from Whitaker House from 2014 to 2016. Dawn lives with her husband and two young sons on a hobby farm in her hometown in northeast Indiana.
Enter via the Rafflecopter giveaway below. Giveaway will begin at midnight October 29, 2018 and lasts through 11:59pm November 12, 2018. Void where prohibited by law. US addresses only. Winners will be notified within a week of close of the giveaway and given 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen.
Louisa Bell never wanted to be a dance-hall singer, but dire circumstances force her hand. With a little help from her brother in the cavalry, she’s able to make ends meet, but lately he’s run afoul of his commanding officer, so she undertakes a visit to straighten him out.
Major Daniel Adams has his hands full at Fort Reno. He can barely control his rowdy troops, much less his two adolescent daughters. If Daniel doesn’t find someone respectable to guide his children, his mother-in-law insists she’ll take them.
When Louisa arrives with some reading materials, she’s mistaken for the governess who never appeared. Major Adams is skeptical. She bears little resemblance to his idea of a governess–they’re not supposed to be so blamed pretty–but he’s left without recourse. His mother-in-law must be satisfied, which leaves him turning a blind eye to his unconventional governess’s methods. Louisa’s never faced so important a performance. Can she keep her act together long enough?
Louisa Bell is tough, determined, creative, and resourceful. She is also loyal, loving, and incredibly vulnerable as a young woman with no family beyond her younger brother, Bradley Willis. Yet, she doesn’t hesitate to put her own future on the line to come to his aid. She didn’t intend to deceive anyone, but in the end, decides going along with the mistaken identity is in everyone’s best interests. As the reader, it is easy to understand how she winds up in the mess she finds herself in, and your heart is torn with hers regarding how to extricate herself with the least amount of damage.
Major Adams is an equally likable character as a widower concerned with the proper upbringing of his daughters yet not wanting to be separated from them. He is continuously harassed and second-guessed by his mother-in-law. And to top it all off, he doesn’t know what to make of the unusual governess who is far too attractive for his own good.
There are several moments of hilarity brought about by the bungled acts of deception, the antics of children, and the foolishness of pride. There are heartwarming scenes of chess games between the two main characters, bonding moments with the daughters, and loyalty between the heroine and her brother. Then there are the heartbreaking, heartstopping moments brought about by the dangers–both expected and unexpected– which originate from a variety of sources.
With well-developed characters, a plot line that grabs your heart and keeps you turning pages, humor that perfectly balances the heavier events, and descriptions that make you feel you’ve been there, Holding the Fort is yet another fantastic example of why I am such a huge a fan of Regina Jennings’s books.
Additional Reading: If you’ve already enjoyed Holding the Fort, you’ll also enjoy seeing Louisa’s brother, Private Bradley Willis, meet his match in Bound and Determined – available both individually and as part of the Hearts Entwined novella collection. (Pssst: the collection is great!!!) Also, the second full book in the Fort Reno series, The Lieutenant’s Bargain, is currently availabe for pre-order and scheduled to release December 4th.
Let’s Chat! Which of Regina’s books have you most enjoyed?