Review of “The Lost Lieutenant” (Serendipity & Secrets #1) by Erica Vetsch

Vetsch, Erica. The Lost Lieutenant. Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 2020.

ISBN-13: 978-082544617 (paperback/978-0825476006 | $15.99 USD (paperback)/$9.99 USD (ebook) | 304 pages | Regency Romance/Christian Fiction

Blurb

He’s doing what he can to save the Prince Regent’s life . . . but can he save his new marriage as well? Evan Eldridge never meant to be a war hero–he just wanted to fight Napoleon for the future of his country. And he certainly didn’t think that saving the life of a peer would mean being made the Earl of Whitelock. But when the life you save is dear to the Prince Regent, things can change in a hurry.

Now Evan has a new title, a manor house in shambles, and a stranger for a bride, all thrust upon him by a grateful ruler. What he doesn’t have are all his memories. Traumatized as a result of his wounds and bravery on the battlefield, Evan knows there’s something he can’t quite remember. It’s important, dangerous–and if he doesn’t recall it in time, will jeopardize not only his marriage but someone’s very life.

Readers who enjoy Julie Klassen, Carolyn Miller, and Kristi Ann Hunter will love diving into this brand-new Regency series filled with suspense, aristocratic struggles, and a firm foundation of faith. 

Review

3.5 stars

I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

The Lost Lieutenant drew my interest due to having read and enjoyed a previous novella by Erica Vetsch, and wanted to try more of her work. And while this book was a bit of a slow start for me, I ended up enjoying once I got to the second half.

There were a lot of questions for me about the setup, since there’s a gap in Evan’s memory from his time abroad serving in the army. But I enjoyed how it all came together in the end, with it tying into the situation that Diana is in taking care of the child her sister died giving birth to.

One of the things I admired immediately was Diana’s devotion to her sister and doing right by her memory. Even though her father and brother behave less than honorably at various points throughout the book, I like how she was determined to see to the child’s welfare, despite the fact that it could jeopardize her own future.

Evan is also a likable character, thrust into a situation he did not expect nor want due to his heroics: being awarded a title and being married off to a woman whose father is set against him due to the Prince Regent’s endorsement.

However, the pacing resulted in my interest flagging at points. Once things started wrapping up, I kept wondering when it would end, instead of letting myself enjoy the admittedly cute, but drwn out ending. This is mostly a “me” thing, especially as I found myself more interested in other things and having to keep promising myself I would pick this back up.

This is objectively a good book, but it was perhaps not the best time for me to read it. I do think if you like a sweet Regency romance with a suspense plot, you will enjoy this.

Author Bio

Best-selling, award-winning author Erica Vetsch loves Jesus, history, romance, and sports. She’s a transplanted Kansan now living in Minnesota, and she married her total opposite and soul mate! When she’s not writing fiction, she’s planning her next trip to a history museum and cheering on her Kansas Jayhawks and New Zealand All Blacks. You can connect with her at her website, www.ericavetsch.com where you can read about her books and sign up for her newsletter, and you can find her online at https://www.facebook.com/EricaVetschA… where she spends way too much time! 

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Review of “The House at the End of the Moor” by Michelle Griep

Griep, Michelle. The House at the End of the Moor. Uhrichville, OH: Shiloh Run Press, 2020.

eBook | $10.49 USD | 978-1643525754 | 304 pages | Christian Fiction/Victorian Romance 

Blurb

What Can a London Opera Star and an Escaped Dartmoor Prisoner Have in Common?
 
Opera star Maggie Lee escapes her opulent lifestyle when threatened by a powerful politician who aims to ruin her life. She runs off to the wilds of the moors to live in anonymity. All that changes the day she discovers a half-dead man near her house. Escaped convict Oliver Ward is on the run to prove his innocence, until he gets hurt and is taken in by Maggie. He discovers some jewels in her possession—the very same jewels that got him convicted. Together they hatch a plan to return the jewels, clearing Oliver’s name and hopefully maintaining Maggie’s anonymity.

Review

3 stars

I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

While I didn’t find my first experience with Michelle Griep’s writing all that memorable, I was still intrigued by The House at the End of the Moor, due to the Gothic feel and Griep’s mention that this was an homage of sorts to Jane Eyre. And while I still don’t think Michelle Griep’s books are for me and may be more hesitant in the future to pick one up, I still feel it does a good job for what it is. 

Griep does a great job at creating the sinister atmosphere of the setting and creating realistic stakes for the characters. The antagonist also gets page time from his POV, so it helps to amp up the suspense. And while I did question the choice to write Maggie’s POV in first person present tense, and the men’s both in third person past tense, once I got into the story, it bothered me a lot less. 

However, I did not feel one hundred percent invested in Maggie and Oliver as a couple, an issue I had with Griep in the past, and I can’t help but wonder if the disjointed nature of those style choices played a role in making the story feel less cohesive. However, I did particularly enjoy Oliver as a character, as a convict out to prove his innocence and felt he was the better drawn of the two. 

I think this is a pretty good book in theory…I just don’t particularly gel with Michelle Griep’s style. I am glad I tried her again though, and am a little disappointed to have been left cold by an otherwise compelling premise. However, Griep does seem to have a good following, and maybe if you’re looking for a slightly edgier Christian romance, this is a good one to try to see if you like it more. 

Author Bio

Michelle Griep has been writing since she first discovered blank wall space and Crayolas. She is the Christy Award-winning author of historical romances: Once Upon a Dickens Christmas, The Noble Guardian, A Tale of Two Hearts, The Captured Bride, The Innkeeper’s Daughter, 12 Days at Bleakly Manor, The Captive Heart, Brentwood’s Ward, A Heart Deceived, and Gallimore; but also leaped the historical fence into the realm of the contemporary with the zany romantic mystery Out of the Frying Pan. If you’d like to keep up with her escapades, find her at www.michellegriep.com or stalk her on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. 

And guess what? She loves to hear from readers! Feel free to drop her a note at michellegriep@gmail.com

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Review of “The Chisholm Trail Bride” (The Daughters of the Mayflower #12) by Kathleen Y’Barbo

Y’Barbo, Kathleen. The Chisholm Trail Bride. Uhrichville, OH: Barbour Books, 2020.

eBook | $10.99 USD | ISBN-13: 978-1643522890 | 256 pages | Christian Fiction/Historical Romance/Western

 Blur

Stubborn Hearts Clash on a Cattle Drive

Eliza Gentry’s pursuit of marriage to the son of her family’s sworn enemy has cost her greatly. Furious at his daughter’s choices, her father sends her off with the cattle drive heading toward Fort Worth and the Barnhart ranch, but under the watchful eye of Wyatt Creed, a Pinkerton man he has hired to see to her safety. With danger at every turn—not the least of which to his heart—can Wyatt Creed keep his focus with Eliza Gentry around? Is the Chisholm Trail a place for falling in love or a place to die at the hands of cattle thieves?

Join the adventure as the Daughters of the Mayflower series continues with The Chisholm Trail Bride by Kathleen Y’Barbo

In the  series:
The Mayflower Bride by Kimberley Woodhouse – set 1620 Atlantic Ocean
The Pirate Bride by Kathleen Y’Barbo – set 1725 New Orleans
The Captured Bride by Michelle Griep – set 1760 during the French and Indian War
The Patriot Bride by Kimberley Woodhouse – set 1774 Philadelphia
The Cumberland Bride by Shannon McNear – set 1794 on the Wilderness Road
The Liberty Bride by MaryLu Tyndall – set 1814 Baltimore
The Alamo Bride by Kathleen Y’Barbo – set 1836 Texas
The Golden Bride by Kimberley Woodhouse – set 1849 San Francisco
The Express Bride by Kimberley Woodhouse – set 1860 Utah

The Rebel Bride by Shannon McNear – set 1863 Tennessee
The Blizzard Bride by Susanne Dietze – set 1888 Nebraska

Review

3 stars

I received an ARC via NetGalley in exchange for a honest review. All opinions are my own.

The Chisolm Trail Bride is the twelfth (and last?) in the Daughters of the Mayflower series, and the second I’ve read. And while I liked the previous book, this one felt more underwhelming, and it could be down to the fact that I gel with this author’s style less, although it is hard to make that call with just the one book.

One thing I did really enjoy is the Y’Barbo’s way of recreating the setting. Given she lives in Texas, I love that she’s introducing her home state to readers who live across the country (maybe even the world?) and educating them about its places and history. 

A lot is great in theory. the central conflict of father and daughter over her disobedience works. And the relationship between childhood friends Eliza and Wyatt is nice. I don’t find it particularly memorable, but it was a sweet relationship, and there’s decent stakes. 

But even though there was a great setup, I didn’t feel like it went anywhere interesting, especially with an attempt to add suspense to the narrative that wasn’t suspenseful and relied mostly on convenience.

This one was mostly not for me, but I do see why it would appeal to people more withbin the target demographic of more devoted Christian Fiction readers. If you love that genre and have an interest in Texas, I think this book may be right up your alley. 

Author Bio

Bestselling author Kathleen Y’Barbo is a multiple Carol Award and RITA nominee of more than eighty novels with almost two million copies in print in the US and abroad.

A tenth-generation Texan and certified paralegal, she has been nominated for a Career Achievement Award as well a Reader’s Choice Award and is the winner of the Inspirational Romance of the Year by Romantic Times magazine.

To connect with her through social media, check out the links on her website at www.kathleenybarbo.com.

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Review of “The Runaway Bride” (The Bride Ships #2) by Jody Hedlund

Hedlund, Jody. The Runaway Bride. Bloomington, MN: Bethany House, 2020.

EBook | $10.99 USD | ISBN-13: 978-1493422845 | 313 pages | Historical Romance/Christian Fiction

5 stars

I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

I loved Jody Hedlund’s previous series, and while I missed the first installment in her new Bride Ships series, I didn’t feel like I was missing anything going into The Runaway Bride. In fact, I found a pleasant surprise as this was yet another historical event I was not aware of, and while Hedlund described her mixed emotions in her author’s note, this resonated with me immediately due to its similarities with the Picture Brides, bringing women to America in a similar fashion during roughly the same time period.

I rooted for Arabella as she makes the choices she does to venture out, determined to not make the same poor choices in love again, as well as negotiating her place in society.

Pete was a great, complex hero, and one I really liked. He has made mistakes in his past, but has grown to “live with integrity and honor in the present.” And I really enjoyed how his values came into play as a source of contention between him and Drummond, a rival for Arabella’s hand, to the point of him even being imprisoned for his actions.

This book is wonderful, and one I recommend to fans of inspirational historical romance.

Buy it here: https://amzn.to/38uqVeB

Review of “Out of the Embers” (Mesquite Springs #1) by Amanda Cabot

Cabot, Amanda. Out of the Embers. Grand Rapids, MI: Revell, 2020.

eBook | $10.99 USD | ISBN-13: 978-1493420995 | 303 pages | Historical Romance/Christian Fiction

5 stars

I received an ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Having read one of Amanda Cabot’s books before (with another one buried in my TBR), I was excited to have the chance to review the first in her new series, Mesquite Springs, Out of the Embers, a title which caught my attention, especially once I saw its significance to one of the leads, Evelyn, and the orphan she takes under her wing, Molly, who are survivors of an orphanage fire.

There was also a compelling mystery surrounding Evelyn feeling she was being followed by what she refers to as a “Watcher,” and the suspense building up to the reveal was incredibly well done.

It was also cool how Wyatt running for mayor was incorporated into the story, especially at the end, when Cabot revealed her true intentions vs. what actually happened. By running for office, it demonstrates he’s planning to make Mesquite Springs a relatively permanent residence, whereas she initially planned something completely different. In that regard, it forms the perfect complement to Evelyn’s culinary business, and also shows an aspect of his character in the same way that does hers.

But I liked that the center of the story was about Evelyn and Molly establishing a new path as a family together, and the seamless way Wyatt came to fit in, both as a romantic interest for Evelyn and a father to Molly. The interactions between all of them are incredibly sweet and I finished the book feeling incredibly satisfied on that front.

This is a great book, and would make a great read for lovers of Christian historical romance.

Buy it here: https://amzn.to/2TxYxTv

Review of “Secrets of My Heart” (Williamette Brides #1) by Tracie Peterson

Peterson, Tracie. Secrets of My Heart. Bloomington, MN: Bethany House, 2020.

eBook | $10.99 USD | 978-1493422746 | 320 pages | Historical Romance

4 stars

I received an ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

I requested Secrets of My Heart in the interest of trying more Tracie Peterson and seeing which ones I like, so I’m not completely giving up on her after one bad series. . And while it’s still somewhat flawed, this might be my favorite I’ve read so far, given its overall focus on its central plot and the two main characters, giving me time to fully become invested in them, while also subtly introducing possible future leads.

I found both Nancy and Seth instantly sympathetic, and it helps that the story has one of my favorite tropes, friends to lovers, with some added complexities due to Seth’s profession. I enjoyed watching Nancy working to put her life together after her husband died, finding out the dark side of him he his in the process. I also enjoyed how Seth’s lingering affection for her came into play as a conflict to his own mission, as originally he has no idea the man he was investigating was married to his old friend.

There did seem to be an attempt at a suspense plot, and it for the most part was fairly solid, but I didn’t find that it had the most satifactory resolution, and I felt the book overall ended a bit too hastily.

There is, however, a lot of historical detail, and in it, I saw parallels in the conversations the characters were having in regards to the issues of slavery, abolition, and the equal rights, and some of the arguments, particularly in regard to the 14th Amendment, are quite chilling, in how that has continued to be an issue of discourse today.

This was more or less enjoyable, and I look forward to seeing what comes next for this series. If you like sweet historical romance with a Christian/inspirational center to the story, this is a great one.

Buy it here: https://amzn.to/2Ico1R8

Review of “Forever Hidden” (The Treasures of Nome #1) by Tracie Peterson and Kimberley Woodhouse

Peterson, Tracie, and Kimberley Woodhouse. Forever Hidden. Bloomington, MN: Bethany House, 2020.

Paperback | $15.99 USD | ISBN-13: 978-0764232480 | 359 pages | Historical Romance/Christian Fiction

4 stars

Note: I originally acquired an ARC via NetGalley, however was not able to review it at the time, due to a technical glitch andmy own ineptitude as I learned how to use the associated eReading/ARC sideloading technology and software. I have since acquired the print copy, but still thank the publisher for granting me the ARC and will belatedly provide my honest feedback.

I was nervous about trying more Tracie Peterson, but given I had experienced only one series of hers and heard others (especially with co-authors) have been better, I was excited about Forever Hidden, especially as the premise interested me as well. And finding out that some of the characters were based on real people Kimberley Woodhouse knows upon starting the book was a nice thing to start off the book with.

The characters, especially the sisters the series centers around, are such wonderful characters, each with their own distinct personalities, and I love that. This is in part Havyn’s romance, but she is able to share the “stage” well with Whitney and Maddy, and even her mother and grandfather. I really enjoyed the family dynamic with the grandfather wanting the best for them, especially with it being revealed that their father was a bit of a ne’er-do-well.

And while I wasn’t as sold on the romance Havyn has with John, as it felt a little underdone in comparison to the domestic drama (a complaint I had with other Peterson books), I did like the way he naturally fit in with the family, even though the others (particularly the opinionated Whitney) had some misgivings about his motives. But it helped to form a further juxtaposition of a positive male influence in their life, to contrast the failure that their father was.

Speaking of their father, I enjoyed the way his true whereabouts were handled, as it becomes a major plot point in the latter half. And given how tense things are by the end of this book, I’m curious to see how things stand going forward in the following books.

I definitely enjoyed this one more, and will be seeking out more of Peterson’s collaborations with Woodhouse (as well as some of Woodhouse’s work on her own). I recommend this to lovers of inspirational historical romance.

Buy it here: https://amzn.to/2SSj31L

Review of “Lady Jayne Disappears” by Joanna Davidson Politano

Politano, Joanna Davidson. Lady Jayne Disappears. Grand Rapids, MI: Revell, 2017.

eBook | $10.49 USD | 978-1493411108 | 339 pages | Historical Fiction/Christian Fiction

5 stars

Lady Jayne Disappears has been on my radar since its release, although I was never able to read it until now. It seemed to promise everything that I love: romance, mystery, and a bit of history. And given it’s also Politano’s debut, it’s wonderful, evoking a classic flair that feels reminiscent of real life Victorian novels, like Dickens or the Brontes.

Politano masterfully creates a Gothic atmosphere with her prose, with mysterious characters, all of whom are suspects in the murder of Aurelie’s father, great sense of place, and a plot that kept me on my toes with the twists and turns, as the many questions mount, culminating in well foreshadowed, but incredibly satisfying, revelations at the end.

While Gothic stories frequently turn me off due to their inept heroines, I absolutely loved Aurelie. She’s incredibly kind, but not saintlike to the point of irritation. And as an aspiring writer myself, I could empathize at various points with her in that way, as well as appreciating the care she took with words in crafting her stories.

This a great book displaying the writing talents of a great up-and-coming author. I recommend this to anyone who loves an atmospheric historical mystery.

Buy it here: https://amzn.to/2SotaeI

Review of “The Blizzard Bride” (The Daughters of the Mayflower #11) by Susanne Dietze

Dietze, Susanne. The Blizzard Bride. Uhrichville, OH: Barbour Books, 2020.

eBook | $10.99 USD | ISBN-13: 978-1643522951 | 241 pages | Historical Romance/Christian Fiction

I received an ARC of this book via NetGalley. All opinions are my own.

The Blizzard Bride has a lot to recommend it, including that this is yet another book I’ve picked up that this is another book that provides insight into a historical event I previously new nothing about, this one taking place during Schoolhouse Blizzard in Nebraska. While I’ve never been through a similar experience, I enjoyed seeing it conveyed through the eyes of the heroine, Abby, and how it helped her grow in her faith.

That aspect makes up the latter half, and there’s also a compelling mystery element, where she’s hunting for her father’s killer, who is also involved in counterfeiting. This brings her back into contact with her former love interest, Dash, who is a Secret Service agent and concerned for her safety. The romance is rather sweet, and I enjoyed seeing them ultimately come together, especially given there were some issues that separated them in the first place.

And a quick note about the series itself: while this is book #11, it is very much a standalone, with this being Dietze’s first contribution to the multi-author series, and as my entry point, I was not lost, although they do bring up a few of their connections to their descent from Mayflower settlers, a plot point for the earliest book, and I’m interested in trying at least a couple of them based on the summaries.

This is a pretty good historical romance, bringing to light what was likely a life-changing historical event for many. I recommend this lovers of sweet historical romance.

Buy it here: https://amzn.to/36I0l0I

Review of “The Fifth Avenue Story Society” by Rachel Hauck

Hauck, Rachel. The Fifth Avenue Story Society. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2020.

eBook | $8.99 USD | ISBN-13: 978-0310350934 |400 pages | Contemporary/Christian Fiction

3 stars

I received an ARC through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

If I had not been a fan of Rachel Hauck already, the title, The Fifth Avenue story Society alone, with support from the blurb, would have attracted me: a group of people meet in an old library on Fifth Avenue, after receiving mysterious invitations? Cool!

And while it did not meet my expectations as a more plot driven reader, I did enjoy this. There’s a lot of time spent on each character’s life, and ultimately, what they gain out of coming to the society. Two characters, Jett and Lexa, are ex-spouses, and watching them spend time together again and question whether they ought to give their love another shot is great. On the flip side, we have Uber driver Chuck and wealthy Coral, both of whom are jaded by previous heartbreaks, and watching them grow closer is wonderful as well. And I really enjoyed Ed’s recollections of the love of his life, and him beginning to work on writing them down.

However, this focus on the characters in their relatively simple desires simultaneously moves a little too slowly and also feels like we don’t get enough time to fully invest in one story, as I feel like this could easily have been a few different novels, had it been fleshed out.

And it’s clear, given Jett’s connection to an author who was a character in a previous Hauck novel, that his story is ultimately the one that is meant to take over, at least from my perspective. However, I found it hard to fully invest in his doubt as he made revelations about his literary idol, given that all these revelations weren’t new to me, given those connections, even if the two books aren’t advertised as connected and don’t depend on one another to work.

While this is not my favorite Rachel Hauck, I think this book would work for a different type of reader. If you like slower paced, character focused stories, I would recommend this one.

Buy it here: https://amzn.to/319Y9xZ