Summer Reading Roundup 2017 +GIVEAWAY!

Summer Reading Roundup 2017 +Giveaway

Hey everybody! Guess what today is? My birthday! So I thought I’d celebrate by sharing the list of books I’ll be reading this summer and giving away a book to one of you awesome readers! (Read through to the bottom for giveaway details.)

Since I will be traveling to China for an adoption next month, I won’t have as much free time to read this summer as I normally would. Therefore, this year’s list is somewhat limited, but here are the books I am hoping to get to:

Love Held Captive

Love Held Captive by Shelley Shepard Gray

Why:  I requested a free copy of this book from NetGalley to review because the premise intrigued me. Then I opened it to read the first line for an FLF post and couldn’t put it down! I made myself stop after 3 chapters because I have other books to finish first, but I can’t wait to get back to this one.

About the Book: 

After the War Between the States, a Confederate officer longs to heal the heart of a beautiful woman—but first he’ll have to right the wrongs that were done to her.

Major Ethan Kelly has never been able to absolve himself of the guilt he feels for raiding a woman’s home shortly before he was taken prisoner during the Civil War. He is struggling to get through each day until he once again crosses paths with Lizbeth Barclay—the very woman he is trying to forget.

Life after the war is not much different for former Captain Devin Monroe until he meets Julianne VanFleet. He knows she is the woman he’s been waiting for, but he struggles to come to terms with the sacrifices she made to survive the war.

When Ethan and Devin discover that their former colonel, Adam Bushnell, is responsible for both Lizbeth’s and Julianne’s pain, they call on their former fellow soldiers to hunt him down. As the men band together to earn the trust of the women they love, Lizbeth and Julianne seek the justice they deserve in a country longing to heal.

The Lady and the Lionheart

The Lady and the Lionheart by Joanne Bischof

Why:  This one has made several rounds to rave reviews on the book blogger circuit, which got it on my TBR pile. Then I discovered the author is a fellow member of the San Diego Christian Writer’s Guild and met some of her friends at the SoCal Christian Writers’ Conference last month. That made me curious enough to open it and read the first few pages. What I read moved it toward the top of my TBR pile. 🙂 I’m really looking forward to this one!

About the Book: 

Virginia, 1890

Raised amid the fame and mystique of the Big Top, Charlie Lionheart holds the audience in the palm of his hand. But while his act captivates thousands, it’s away from the spotlight where his true heart lies. Here he humbly cares for his pride of lions as if they were his brothers, a skill of bravery and strength that has prepared him for his most challenging feat yet—freeing an orphaned infant from the dark bondage of a sideshow. A trade so costly, it requires his life in exchange for hers, leaving him tarnished by the price of that choice.

As the circus tents are raised on the outskirts of Roanoke, nurse Ella Beckley arrives to tend to this Gypsy girl. All under the watchful eye of a guardian who not only bears a striking resemblance to the child, but who protects the baby with a love that wraps around Ella’s own tragic past, awakening a hope that goodness may yet reign. When their forbidden friendship deepens, Charlie dares to ask for her heart, bringing her behind the curtain of his secret world to reveal the sacrifice that gave hope to one little girl—boldly showing Ella that while her tattered faith is deeply scarred, the only marks that need be permanent are his own.

Finders Keepers and All of You by Sarah Monzon

Why:  I loved her debut novel, The Isaac Project, so when I was offered the opportunity to be part of an upcoming tour for All of You, I jumped on it! Of course, I much prefer reading series books in order (even if they can be read as stand alones), so I am going to try to read Finders Keepers first. The fact that Finders Keepers won the 2017 SELAH award for contemporary romance, is just added assurance that this will be time well spent.

About the Books: 

Finders Keepers

Three lives. Three hundred years. One ship that ties them together.

Florida, Present Day
Summer Arnet will go anywhere to capture the perfect shot that will get her marine photography noticed by the prestigious nature magazine, Our World–even diving in waters haunted by great white sharks. When a treasure hunter with a ladies’-man reputation approaches her about a sunken ship at one of her dive locations, it may be the chance she’s been looking for to launch her career…if his charming smile doesn’t derail her first.

A past tragedy has left a hole in Trent Carrington’s life–a hole he’s tried to fill with women, money, and adventure. Could the feisty marine photographer be the missing piece, or will Trent finally accept that the treasure he seeks can’t be found where rust and moths destroy?

Spain, 1689
The same evil that stole her mother’s life stalks Isabella Castellano. Afraid for her safety, Isabella disguises herself as a cabin boy and hires on to one of His Majesty’s treasure fleet vessels. But has her flight from a known threat only led her to be ensnared in a sea of dangers?

All of You

Maryland, Present Day

Jacquelyn Rogers can rebuild anything…except the shambles of her past. A restorer of vintage planes, she’s worked hard to earn the reputation of being one of the guys. The last thing she needs is a former Navy pilot fighting his own inner demons stepping in to defend her from dangers she thought she’d outrun long ago. Some battles must be fought alone.

After a freak accident severs Lieutenant Michael “Finch” Carrington’s dreams, as well as two limbs, he’s left with nothing but a fragile faith and a duty-bound promise to watch out for his friend’s baby sister. A promise she insists is as unnecessary as it is unappreciated. But when she turns the tables and begins to weld together the broken parts of his life, it may be his heart that is in need of protection.

England, 1944

With the world at war yet again, Alice Galloway rejects her father’s traditional expectations and offers her piloting expertise to the Air Transport Auxiliary. She may be a woman in a man’s world, but when she overhears key intelligence, she must find the strength to transcend boundaries and her own fears. Or countless people may die.

Sometimes the past reaches forward to bring hope to the future.

Carolina Dream

Carolina Dream by Regina Rudd Merrick

Why:  I recently won a free copy of this book from the God Is Love blog. It’s a debut novel (I love reading new authors), the premise sounds interesting, the reviews so far have been positive, and the first few pages read well.

About the Book: 

Sarah Crawford wants more from life than to attend the wedding of her ex-fiancée. An unexpected inheritance in South Carolina comes at the perfect time, just as Sarah is willing to use any excuse to get out of town.

When she meets potential business partner Jared Benton and discovers that a house is part of the inheritance, she is sure that God has been preparing her for this time through a recurring dream. But will a dream about an antebellum mansion, many rooms to be explored, and a man with dark brown eyes give her the confidence to take a leap of faith, leaving friends, family, and her job behind?

The Captive Brides Collection

The Captive Brides Collection by Jennifer AlLee, Angela Breidenbach, Susan Page Davis, Darlene Franklin, Patty Smith Hall, Cynthia Hicky, Carrie Fancett Pagels, Lucy Thompson, and Gina Welborn

Why:  I was perusing NetGalley for books to request for review and found the premise for this novella collection to be intriguing. I am also fairly sure I haven’t read anything by any of these authors before, so it will be a good way to know whether I should be looking for more of their work in the future. Plus, a novella collection might be just the thing to fit between appointments near the end of summer.

About the Book: 

Love Brings Freedom in 9 Historical Romances

Journey along as nine historical women are about to make their escape from some of life’s greatest challenges. Can their captive hearts be freed to dream, to dare, to love?

Love’s Labour’s Found by Jennifer AlLee – Montserrat, West Indies, 1655
Temperance Simms only wanted a better life. Instead, she finds herself labeled a criminal and sold as an indentured servant. After a kind man saves her life, can Temperance trust that God will turn her sorrow into something beautiful?

His Indentured Bride by Angela Breidenbach – Pennsylvania, 1770-1775
Leaving Scotland for a short indenture with her betrothed, Maire Gree’s contract is sold when disaster strikes her kindly owner, and then extended through cruel circumstances. Can Kirk Lachlan’s service in the American Revolution save her or will she lose love and freedom forever?

The Suspect Bride by Susan Page Davis – Oregon, 1890s
Verity Ames cooks at the restaurant where shy lawyer Jack Whitwell eats lunch daily. As Jack works up courage to ask her for a date, the sheriff walks into the restaurant and arrests her for murder.

His Golden Treasure by Darlene Franklin – Barbary Coast, San Francisco, CA, 1873
Goldie Hatfield grows up on in the Barbary Coast until her guardian demands she pay the cost of her upbringing—or work at her brothel. How far will Pastor Joshua Kerr go to set Goldie free?

Through Stormy Waters by Patty Smith Hall – Atlantic Ocean, 1755
Deported to the British colonies for her father’s crimes, Charlotte Singleton helps Captain Andrew Randell when an epidemic breaks out on the ship. Can two battered hearts find love in the midst of a storm?

Moira’s Quest by Cynthia Hickey – New York, 1869
A quest for revenge ends in a marriage of convenience and a feisty Irish lass discovers that not everything is as it seems as family secrets are revealed. An Irish cop, bent on saving the fallen women of Five Points, New York, finds himself thrust into the role of husband with a woman determined to break down a notorious crime boss. Can these two pull together and find a love bigger than they are?

Love’s Escape by Carrie Fancett Pagels – Virginia, 1850
With her life in peril, Lettie seeks escape from slavery. When Nathan offers to “conduct” her North via an unusual segment on the Underground Railroad, will his efforts help or do them both harm?

Waltzing Matilda by Lucy Thompson – Sydney, Australia, 1821
Henry didn’t plan on a runaway convict masquerading as a shepherd. Or on the woman’s baby. Keeping them safe will cost him his freedom—or will it?

A Score to Settle by Gina Welborn – On the Missouri River, 1870
For JoJo the kiss was a means to an end—she wanted his wallet. For Cyrus her kiss changed everything. He vows to help her escape the snake oil salesman she works for, but exposing the man’s lies may mean settling a score at a cost neither JoJo nor Cyrus can pay.

Finding Love At the Oregon Coast

Finding Love at the Oregon Coast – a novella collection by Angela Ruth Strong, Christina Coryell, Heather Whoodhaven,  and Lisa Phillips

Why:  When I was researching the small publishing company, Mountain Brook Ink, in preparation for attending the SoCal Christian Writers’ Conference where the owner would be available for appointments, I discovered this collection with a novella by Christina Coryell. I recognized Coryell’s name as the author of one of my favorite stories (Mowed Over) from the Love at First Laugh novella collection.  So I bought this one because I liked one of the authors (I don’t recognize the others).

About the Book: 

When a wedding is cancelled, three bridesmaids and a runaway bride contemplate the true meaning of love in four related romance novellas.

By Heather Woodhaven–Finding Love in Lincoln City: Liz feels stuck at her little beach magazine until a handsome rival sparks more than just friendly competition.

By Lisa Phillips–Finding Love in Oceanside: Anabeth is looking to get out of her rut when a fender bender and a bizarre date with a former marine leads her to a life of love she could never have imagined.

By Christina Coryell–Finding Love in Cannon Beach: Kadence feels the pressure to write a perfect love song, but an unexpected meeting with a musician will have her living one instead.

By Angela Ruth Strong–Finding Love in Seaside: Christina plans to spend her honeymoon alone, but when the bed and breakfast owner offers her a position as cook, she starts to feel at home in his kitchen…and in his arms.

 

One Thousand White Women

One Thousand White Women by Jim Fergus

Why:  I stumbled across this one purely by chance on Amazon and found the premise positively fascinating.

About the Book:

One Thousand White Women is the story of May Dodd and a colorful assembly of pioneer women who, under the auspices of the U.S. government, travel to the western prairies in 1875 to intermarry among the Cheyenne Indians. The covert and controversial “Brides for Indians” program, launched by the administration of Ulysses S. Grant, is intended to help assimilate the Indians into the white man’s world. Toward that end May and her friends embark upon the adventure of their lifetime. Jim Fergus has so vividly depicted the American West that it is as if these diaries are a capsule in time.

Important UPDATE Note:  While I was aware that One Thousand White Women was written for the general market, as opposed to a Christian audience, at the time this post was originally written,  I was unaware of its occasional use of profanity and reference to subjects which some Christians may find distasteful or offensive. Consider yourself warned.

Turtles in the Road

Turtles in the Road by Rhonda Rhea & Kaley Rhea

Why:  This one was highly recommended on a fellow FLF blog and sounds like a fun read with a sense of humor.

About the Book: 

Sometimes a detour takes you exactly where you need to be.

Piper Cope was so sure the Lord called her to be a pastor’s wife. So when her pastor/fiancé breaks it off, she’s every kind of puzzled. Does God even have a purpose for her anymore? On the road halfway between the bridges she’s burned and some kind of new start, she encounters the most unexpected detour. She swerves on a rainy road to miss a turtle and ends up in a ditch with an airbag to the face. Now stuck in this little town, she wonders how in the world she could’ve gotten her God-signals so very crossed. And how in the world is she supposed to know what He wants her to do now? In the meantime, at least the community center guy, Jay Marler, has her working a temporary job there. Problem is, somehow she’s coaching a children’s basketball team. She does not…basketball. And she certainly does not children.

Beneath the golden veil

Beneath a Golden Veil by Melanie Dobson

Why:  The connection to an lesser known part of California’s nineteenth century history will get me every time.

About the Book: 

As elegant as the Sacramento residence she operates, Isabelle Labrie keeps her past concealed, like the treasure she hides under the Golden Hotel. It’s 1853, the heyday of the California Gold Rush. Isabelle is full of hope, staking her claim on the city’s refined clientele and her future on a sweetheart’s promise to marry her when he returns from the gold fields. Then, unexpected guests—fugitive slaves seeking safe passage to the North—force her to confront her past and reconsider her path.

While Isabelle learns to trust God’s provisions, a law student in Virginia must confront his father’s cruelty and rescue a young slave from his family’s tobacco plantation. As the two escape to freedom, and Isabelle risks everything to harbor runaway slaves, the past and present are set on an inevitable collision course—one that reveals hidden treasures of the heart.

from this moment

From This Moment by Elizabeth Camden

Why:  I recently finished reading Against the Tide and want to read more of Elizabeth Camden’s work, plus I was able to snag this one on Audible which means I can listen to it while I do laundry or whatever brainless chore is taking me away from my precious books.

About the Book: 

Romulus White has tried for years to hire illustrator Stella West for his renowned scientific magazine. She is the missing piece he needs to propel his magazine to the forefront of the industry.

But Stella abruptly quit the art world and moved to Boston with a single purpose: to solve the mysterious death of her beloved sister. Romulus, a man with connections to high society and every important power circle in the city, could be her most valuable ally.

Sparks fly the instant Stella and Romulus join forces, and Romulus soon realizes the strong-willed and charismatic Stella could disrupt his hard-won independence. Can they continue to help each other when their efforts draw the wrong kind of attention from the powers-that-be and put all they’ve worked for at risk?

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Three Words and a Kiss by Sondra Kraak

Why: I loved the first two books in Sondra’s Love That Counts series!

About the Book:  Although a little birdy told me to expect this release near the end of summer, it isn’t even out for pre-order yet so I don’t know much about this one. I only know what Sondra shared in her interview with me:

In Three Words and a Kiss (this year’s release), my hero Cam experiences an identity crisis. His safe, routine life is turned upside down when the owner of his blacksmith shop, Samantha Klein, comes to town. Samantha’s nickname is Sam. I wanted their names to rhyme so that Cam feels like even something as fundamental as his name is being stripped from him (she doesn’t like how their names sound alike and asks him to change his. What?! He’s not going for that).

Looking for more reading suggestions? Check out these post by fellow Christian Fiction lovers:

My Top 10 Anticipated Summer Reads & Why They Made the Cut by Chautona Havig

2017 Summer Reading List by Radiant Light

Summer Reading Roundup by Moments Dipped In Ink

Summer Reading List 2017 by A Baker’s Perspective

 

giveaway-5

How it works:

STEP 1 – Tweet or post (publicly) on Facebook the answer to this question & TAG ME @KathleenDenly :

  1. Which book would you like to win a copy of? (You may pick any book from this post OR any book which I have previously reviewed on this blog!)

(Your tweet/FB post could read:  I’m hoping to win BOOK TITLE HERE from @KathleenDenly!)

STEP 2 –  Leave a comment on this post with the answer to this question –

  1. Which of the books in my Summer Reading Roundup 2017 post sound the most appealing to you? (I will add the most popular book to my list of books to review here on the blog!)

RULES:

MUST complete both steps to enter. Shares and comments must be complete by midnight July 17th! Winner will be announced in a special post on this blog July 19th. Winner must contact me at writeKathleenDenly@gmail.com within 24 hours of the announcement and provide an email address for prize delivery.

WINNER WILL RECEIVE:  1 digital copy of their chosen book delivered to their email via Amazon.

SoCal Christian Writers’ Conference 2017

SoCal Christian Writers Conference 2017

If you have been following me on Twitter or Facebook, you know that I attended my 5th conference last week:  the first annual SoCal Christian Writers’ Conference. Here’s a little taste of what it was like:

Biola Campus SoCalCWC17

I arrived early on Wednesday to check in and get settled in my room.

Dorm Room Pillow SoCalCWC17

Headed to Registration SoCalCWC17

After registration, I ate dinner in the cafeteria and then hung out with these two wonderful ladies:

New Friends SoCalCWC17

The next morning we ate breakfast in the cafeteria before heading to the chapel for worship and morning announcements.

Morning Announcements SoCalCWC17

They also introduced about one-third of the faculty at this time. They continued these introductions each morning of the conference. I really liked this unique feature because it was helpful for matching names and faces to those whose appearance didn’t exactly match their bio photos, and it gave us a chance to get a peek into each faculty member’s personality.

Next up was a quick break followed by my first continuing session. I chose the Intermediate/Advanced Fiction session with Tosca Lee.

Tosca Lee SoCalCWC17

I admit to some hesitation in my choice since I had taken similarly titled classes at other conferences and walked away feeling like I’d gotten little more than a review. Tosca’s class was nothing like that. It was original, intense, and interactive. It felt as though I were in college again. She even gave us homework at the end of each class.

Next up was lunch at the cafeteria where I got to spend time chatting with my fellow conferees as well as faculty. Meal times quickly became one of my favorite parts of the conference because of the great conversations and connections I was able to make.

 

Breakfast SoCalCWC17
My new friend Kara Swanson just debuted her first novella, The Girl Who Could See! Check it out!

 

After lunch there were two workshop sessions with a break in between. I wound up entirely missing the first workshop I had wanted to attend because it happened that my first two appointments were both during that class.

I met with Erin Taylor Young and then Miralee Ferrell. Both conversations were very enlightening and the resulting conversations were just what I was hoping for from the appointments.

I did make it to my second workshop, given by Sandra Barela on Keys to A Successful Book Proposal where I realized I’d misunderstood what the agent was looking for in one section of the proposal the last (and first) time I had put one together.

Successful Book Proposal SoCalCWC17

After the afternoon workshops we had another break followed by a Publishing Panel where they passed microphones around the audience and we had a chance to ask questions of the publishing experts on stage.

Publishing Panel SoCalCWC17

After that was another break and dinner. Then we sang more worship and a Keynote was given by Karen Ball. I have to tell you, I felt as though this Keynote was the reason God had me at that conference. Not to discount the many other wonderful conversations and classes, but I truly felt as though God were speaking right through Karen to me. That doesn’t happen all that often for me, but for some reason lately, He seems to be getting my attention in exactly this way.

Karen Ball Keynote SoCalCWC17

After Karen’s keynote, there was a break followed by a live blog radio broadcast by Parker J. Cole with interviews of faculty and conferees and a Story Tell-Off, where two authors went at it by trying to tell the best story.

I took advantage of the break to run back to my dorm room to retrieve something, and on my way back to the broadcast, I spotted Sandra Barela setting up her laptop in the lobby of the dorm. Since I had wanted an appointment with her, but she booked up before I could sign up, I took advantage of the opportunity to speak with her. (She had mentioned in her class earlier that afternoon that she would be available to talk that night in the lobby.) What I thought would be a quick 15-minute conversation turned into 70 minutes which only ended because another conferee showed up wanting to speak with her and I quickly excused myself. After all, I’d already taken over an hour of her time! But she was so easy to talk to and her genuine heart for writers and for God practically glowed from her. Although I was disappointed to miss the broadcast event, my talk with Sandra was definitely one of the highlights of the conference for me. Part of the result of that conversation is that I am now a member of the Celebrate Lit blogger team!

After my talk with Sandra, I headed to my room where I reviewed my notes on what was happening the next day and completed my homework for Tosca’s class before grabbing my Kindle and heading to bed.

The next two days went very much the same:  breakfast, morning announcements & worship, continuing session, lunch, afternoon workshops, and dinner.

Afternoon Workshop SoCalCWC17

Friday afternoon I missed most of the second workshop due to appointments with Karen Ball and Stephanie Alton. Both appointments were encouraging and enlightening. I was very grateful for the opportunity to speak with both of these women.

Kim Bangs Keynote SoCalCWC17

On Friday evening there was an agent panel followed by a Keynote by Kim Bangs and a concert given by Sally Klein O’Connor.

On Saturday evening there was an Awards and Autograph Party followed by a Keynote by Allen Arnold and the ceremony for the Excellence in Editing Award winners.

 

Biola Scripture Art SoCalCWC17
Ready to start the last day of #SoCalCWC17 and enjoying the various #scripture displayed around this beautiful campus. #writerslife

 

By the end of the conference, although incredibly grateful for the many blessings it had brought, I was ready to go home.

 

Dorm Bathroom SoCalCWC17
The glamorous life of a writer…trekking down the dorm hall to the shared bathroom in your bathrobe and flip flops. #youknowyourejealous #writerslife

 

I wistfully looked forward to sleeping in my own bed with a bathroom that was not down a very long, shared hallway and my brain was absolute mush. In fact, Saturday afternoon I had caught myself speaking to myself – a quirk I develop when I am very tired. So if you ever hear me saying things like, “Wait, where was I supposed to go next? Oh  right. … No wait, it’s this way. Where did I put that? … Oh here it is.” Well, you’ll know my brain has reached capacity and has no more room for thoughts so the overflow is just spilling out my mouth. I’m not crazy. Just overflowing with knowledge. Yeah. That’s it.

Below are some of my favorite quotes from the speakers and workshops at the conference. Please feel free to share them and don’t forget to tag me @KathleenDenly!

TWEETABLES:

“My identity isn’t being a writer. My identity is in Christ.” – Tosca Lee

“Make your marketing plan before you start writing. Update as necessary.” – Sandra Barela

“Stepping forward because the God of the universe whispered in your ear, ‘Write for Me.'” – Karen Ball

“Try to obey in a less worried way.” – Karen Ball

“Don’t get so focused on the destiny that you resent the journey.” – Karen Ball

“God has never called for shoddy work.” – Karen Ball

“Agents are like Yentas.” – Karen Ball

“The shortest path isn’t always the best route.” – Kim Bangs

“Take pride in how far you’ve come. Have faith in how far you can go. Don’t forget to enjoy the journey.” – Kim Bangs

“We’re not all broken the same way, but we are all broken. Broken crayons still color.” – Kim Bangs

“We have to know God more than we know our circumstances.” – Kim Bangs

“God’s never failed anyone and He’s not going to start with you!” – Kim Bangs

“In perseverance, you find your story.” – Kim Bangs

“Is protecting yourself keeping you from obeying God?” – Kim Bangs

“Are you more fearful or more faithful?” – Kim Bangs

“Secret #5:  Bestselling authors lead with their strengths & manage their weaknesses.” – Tosca Lee

“Even bestsellers get one-star reviews.” – Tosca Lee

“Allow room for mystery in the process.” – Tosca Lee

“You waste a lot of time. We all do.” – Lindsay Franklin

“Distractions are productivity killers!” – Lindsay Franklin

“Use humor to lighten the heavy moments.” – Renae Brumbaugh Green

Which quote is your favorite?

 

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

giveaway-5

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

about-the-book-2

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 !

Davis-Horton House Part 1

Davis-Horton House

Have you ever read a story so enthralling you wanted to step into the world of the characters? Perhaps you’ve imagined visiting Anne Shirley’s attic bedroom at Green Gables, munching your way through Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory, or wandering the forests of Narnia. For history buffs, visiting a genuine historical site is a bit like that.

In the course of doing research for my manuscript, Waltz With Me, I came across the names William Heath Davis and Alonzo E. Horton numerous times. After a while, it almost seemed as though I knew them. So when I had the opportunity to stop by the Davis-Horton House in the Gaslamp Quarter of San Diego’s Downtown, how could I pass it up?

Davis-Horton House Antique Crock Pot
The slow cooker in the kitchen is about the size of a small coffee table. Suddenly my 7 quart crock pot seems puny.

Davis was the first visionary to take steps toward creating what would eventually become Downtown San Diego.  After purchasing property southwest of what we now know as “Old Town” San Diego, Davis ordered pre-fabricated houses from Maine and set them up in his “New Town.” For reasons beyond Davis’ control, New Town was not a success and became known as “Davis’ Folly.”

Davis-Horton House Bathroom sink
Hygiene awareness increased in the 1860s after the typhoid death of Prince Albert in England, changing the look of bathrooms around the world. Among other changes, plumbing was purposely exposed for easy cleaning. Despite its fairly modern appearance, this sink dates to 1892.

Already the father of a town in Wisconsin, Horton came to San Diego to succeed where Davis had failed, and succeed he did. He began his town just south of where Davis had begun (where we now have the Gaslamp Quarter) and purchased 960 acres of land. He also purchased half-interest in, and lived in, the Davis-Horton House with his wife, Sarah.

Davis-Horton House Victrolla
The sign behind this beautiful Victrola reads “Davis House Oldest House In New San Diego Built By William Heath Davis in 1850.” See the blue curtain to the left? It’s hiding a secret room discovered after George Deyo passed away. Inside they found a working whiskey still and $5000 in gold!

In 1873 the house was purchased by Anna Scheper and moved a few blocks to its present location where it became the County Hospital. Anna Scheper earned $1.00 per patient per day.

Davis-Horton House Hospital Room
This room represents the County Hospital era of the house, depicting a pre-1900 hospital room. Rather homier than the hospital rooms we have today, isn’t it?

In the 1890s it became a boarding house. The owners of the boarding house adopted a 6 year old boy named George Deyo who, as an adult, began the efforts to preserve the house. This is one of my favorite parts of this house’s story.

You never know how a single choice may shape the future. Tweet this!

As an added bonus there is a traditional museum in the basement of the house, complete with a costume area where they encourage you to dress up and take selfies.

Davis-Horton House Playing Dress Up 1
What do you think? Would I pass? 😉
Davis-Horton House Playing Dress Up 2
Fresh face? Check. Long hair? Umm…. 😛

If you happen to be in the San Diego area, I highly recommend stopping in to visit the Davis-Horton House. As you can see, it’s loads of fun! 🙂 And don’t forget to tag me @KathleenDenly if you take any selfies so we can laugh together!

Pssst! Insider’s tip:  If you have a QR code reader on your phone, be sure to stop by the dog statues in the courtyard outside the house. They’ll talk to you!