Category Archives: Historical Fiction

The Message in a Bottle Romance Collection

Book Review: The Message in a Bottle Romance Collection

Authors: Joanne Bischof, Amanda Dykes, Heather Day Gilbert,

Jocelyn Green, Maureen Lang

Review by Grace Olson

The Story

Back Cover from Amazon of The Message in a Bottle Romance Collection:

Join the journey as one word etched in Latin on an ancient bronze bottle travels through the centuries to reach five young women who are struggling to maintain their faith in God and love. An Irish princess, a Scottish story weaver, a Post-Colonial nurse, a cotton mill worker, and a maid who nearly drowned each receive a message from the bottle just when they need their hope restored. But will the bottle also bring them each to a man whose love will endure?

The Distant Tide by Heather Day Gilbert

1170: County Kerry, Ireland

When a Viking bent on revenge mistakenly raids the castle of a bookish Irish princess, will she cast her fears aside to befriend the enemy, finally realizing God’s plan for her life?

A Song in the Night by Amanda Dykes

1717: Scotland and England

When a Scottish story-weaver loses her family in a clan war, she finds herself aided by a handsome, secretive bagpiper in a race against time to reunite with someone she never dared hope she’d see again.

The Forgotten Hope by Maureen Lang

1798: New York

As a champion of the sick, a young New Yorker never doubted her worth until a new doctor arrives to work with her father, one who believes her to be nothing more than a social butterfly. Can she gain his respect—and his love?

A River Between Us by Jocelyn Green

1864: Roswell, Georgia

When a Georgian cotton mill worker is arrested and sent North, the Union officer who tries to protect her is the last person she wants to forgive—and the only man who can bring hope and healing to her heart.

The Swelling Sea by Joanne Bischof

1890: Coronado Island, California

After washing ashore on the California coastline, a young woman’s yearning to discover her past leads her to the courageous oarsman who helps her find the key.

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            The Distant Tide: So, I really enjoyed this story. Why? Easy: Viking heroes, courageous princesses, and a missionary heart. I loved the two main characters and their diversity. Heather’s writing style and word choice were also a delight to read. I really appreciated that the two main characters had attraction, but that Britta knew that love was a choice. I felt that was expressed very well.

A Song in the Night: I didn’t want this story to end! I loved the Scottish brogue coming through, with just enough to add color, but not too much to make it impossible to read. They were intriguing, colorful characters. I loved how Dykes wove this story of hope. Duncan’s story was a surprise to me, and it was such a sweet, beautiful ending, with twists and turns to the end.

The Forgotten Hope: I loved how Abigail had to figure out how to maneuver the tensions of societal and familial expectations and what she believed God had created her to do. Reading how she walked that line was sometimes humorous, though it annoyed me how often Cal misunderstood who she was and discounted her for it. A sweet story set in a favorite time-period for me.

A River Between Us: I had already figured out that I love Jocelyn’s books, and this story continued to confirm that for me. The issues and odds that these two characters have to overcome are enormous, but as each experience healing from God, they grow closer together. Both of the characters are tenacious and become more so as they experience true hope.

The Swelling Sea: This story fascinated me, both the premise and the characters, as Rosie is a very unique character with difficult challenges she has to deal with daily. Jonas is so sweet and understanding, and his own determination was inspiring. Their story is sweet and explores a place, a time period, and some personal issues that I had not read before.

About the Authors

Biography from Amazon’s website: A Carol Award and three-time Christy Award-finalist, Joanne Bischof writes deeply layered fiction that tugs at the reader’s heartstrings. She lives in the mountains of Southern California with her three children.

Amanda Dykes is the author of Bespoke: A Tiny Christmas Tale, the critically-acclaimed bicycle story that invited readers together to fund bicycles for missionaries in Asia. A former English teacher, she has a soft spot for classic literature and happy endings. She is a drinker of tea, a dweller of Truth, and a spinner of hope-filled tales, grateful for the grace of a God who loves extravagantly.

HEATHER DAY GILBERT, a Grace Award winner and bestselling author, writes novels that capture life in all its messy, bittersweet, hope-filled glory. Born and raised in the West Virginia mountains, generational story-telling runs in her blood. Heather writes Viking historicals and Appalachian mystery/suspense.

Jocelyn Green is a former journalist who puts her investigative skills to work in writing both nonfiction and historical fiction to inspire faith and courage. Her books have finaled in the Christy Awards and Inspirational Readers Choice Awards, and have won gold from the Military Writers Society of America and the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association.

Maureen Lang has been writing stories since the age of ten, when she figured out a way to write the stories she feels like reading. Since then she’s become the award-winning author of over a dozen published novels. In the last ten years her faith has directed her to write stories that reflect Christian hope and traditional values. She’s also been an active member of the disability community since her oldest son was diagnosed with Fragile X Syndrome, a genetic form of mental retardation. Maureen loves going on research trips to get a feel for the settings of her novels, and lives in the Chicago area with her husband, children, and lovable Labrador Retriever.

I was provided a copy of this book from the publisher. The opinions expressed are my own.

The Lost Girl of Astor Street

Book Review: The Lost Girl of Astor Street

Author: Stephanie Morrill

Review by Grace Olson

The Story

Back Cover from Amazon’s website of The Lost Girl of Astor Street:

When her best friend vanishes without so much as a good-bye, eighteen-year-old Piper Sail takes on the role of amateur sleuth in an attempt to solve the mystery of Lydia’s disappearance. Given that Piper’s tendency has always been to butt heads with high-society’s expectations of her, it’s no surprise that she doesn’t give a second thought to searching for answers to Lydia’s abduction from their privileged neighborhood.

As Piper discovers that those answers might stem from the corruption strangling 1924 Chicago—and quite possibly lead back to the doors of her affluent neighborhood—she must decide how deep she’s willing to dig, how much she should reveal, and if she’s willing to risk her life of privilege for the sake of the truth.

Perfect for fans of Libba Bray and Anna Godbersen, Stephanie Morrill’s atmospheric jazz-age mystery will take readers from the glitzy homes of the elite to the dark underbelly of 1920s Chicago.

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            Stephanie’s other books are also written for teen girls, but are contemporary novels and I have enjoyed reading those. But I LOVED the Lost Girl of Astor Street. This book is gritty and real, and deals with emotions, life issues, and tragedy in a genuine, honest way. The twists and turns are many and most I didn’t expect. There’s adventure, suspense, mystery, history, and romance in this book, all skillfully woven together and appropriately done for this audience. I didn’t want to put this one down, not until I discovered with Piper whodunit, and what effect that would have on Piper and her family. I would love to see more from Stephanie revolving around Piper and this era, so here’s hoping!

As many have found, the young adult genre is also a great area for adult readers as well, and this is one of those that both older and younger readers would enjoy.

About the Author

Biography from Amazon’s website: Stephanie Morrill is the author of several young adult novels, including the 1920’s mystery, The Lost Girl of Astor Street (February 2017, Blink/HarperCollins). Despite loving cloche hats and drop-waist dresses, Stephanie would have been a terrible flapper because she can’t do the Charleston and looks awful with bobbed hair. She and her near-constant ponytail live in Kansas City with her husband and three kids. You can learn more about her on her author site: StephanieMorrill.com

I was provided a copy of this book from the publisher. The opinions expressed are my own.

The Mark of the King

51fame39xnl-_sx322_bo1204203200_Book Review: The Mark of the King

Author: Jocelyn Green

Review by Grace Olson

The Story

Back Cover from Bethany House’s website of The Mark of the King:

Life in This New World Requires More Strength Than She Ever Imagined

After the death of her client, midwife Julianne Chevalier is imprisoned and branded, marking her as a criminal beyond redemption. Hoping to reunite with her brother, a soldier, she trades her life sentence for exile to the fledgling French colony of Louisiana. The price of her transport, however, is a forced marriage to a fellow convict.

New Orleans is nothing like Julianne expects. The settlement is steeped in mud and mosquitoes, and there is no news of her brother, Benjamin. When tragedy strikes, she turns to military officer Marc-Paul Girard for help, but does he know more about her brother than he will admit?

With her dreams shattered, Julianne must find her way in this dangerous land, where only grace–and love–can overcome the stigma of the king’s mark upon her shoulder.

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            I have found an amazing new author! Ok, so no, I did not ‘find’ her. She’s been around for a while. But the delight that I felt when I started reading The Mark of the King was similar to finding something new and exciting.

Julianne’s struggles begin from the first pages of this novel. I was pulled in by this story and felt as if I were stepping into history itself. I can’t imagine the horrors that the colonists experienced as they were forced into marriages and then left in a new world with few provisions. The lines are not clear in the new world, friend and foe aren’t easily discernible. Julianne suffers so many heartaches, and yet continues to live with a courage that is amazing. The stigma she suffers under becomes an opportunity to see the freedom and redemption that are in Christ. And though her life isn’t easy, there is peace and grace in it when she realizes that.

The characters in this book are multi-faceted and compelling. I didn’t want to put it down but had to at times just to absorb the world that Jocelyn had created. Julianne goes through incredible hardships, trials that real people had to overcome in that time period.

This book deals with real, difficult issues, but Jocelyn handles those well. I really enjoyed The Mark of the King, and I’m sure that fans of Lori Benton or Laura Frantz would fall in love with it too.

About the Author

Biography from Bethany House’s website: Jocelyn Green inspires faith and courage as the award-winning author of ten books to date, including Wedded to War, a Christy Award finalist in 2013; Widow of Gettysburg; Yankee in Atlanta; and The 5 Love Languages Military Edition, which she coauthored with bestselling author Dr. Gary Chapman. A former military wife herself, her passion for military families informs all of her writing as well as her numerous speaking opportunities. Jocelyn graduated from Taylor University with a BA in English and now lives with her husband and two children in Iowa. Visit her at www.jocelyngreen.com.

I was provided a copy of this book from the publisher. The opinions expressed are my own.

For the Record

51wbqyysdll-_sx322_bo1204203200_Book Review: For the Record

Author: Regina Jennings

Review by Grace Olson

The Story

Back Cover from Bethany House’s website of For the Record:

Rather Than Wait for a Hero, She Decided to Create One

Betsy Huckabee has big-city dreams, but nobody outside of tiny Pine Gap, Missouri, seems interested in the articles she writes for her uncle’s newspaper. Her hopes for independence may be crushed, until the best idea she’s ever had comes riding into town.

Deputy Joel Puckett didn’t want to leave Texas, but unfair circumstances have made moving to Pine Gap his only shot at keeping a badge. Worse, this small town has big problems, and masked marauders have become too comfortable taking justice into their own hands. He needs to make clear that he’s the law in this town–and that job is made more difficult with a nosy reporter who seems to follow him everywhere he goes.

The hero Betsy creates to be the star in a serial for the ladies’ pages is based on the dashing deputy, but he’s definitely fictional. And since the pieces run only in newspapers far away, no one will ever know. But the more time she spends with Deputy Puckett, the more she appreciates the real hero–and the more she realizes what her ambition could cost him.

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            Regina Jennings outdoes herself in For the Record. This novel is full of wit, romance, and some mystery. I absolutely loved Betsy! Her quirkiness is unlike many heroines I’ve read about in that time period, and I was a big fan. Every time you think she will follow the normal pattern, she deviates, throwing the reader – and Joel – for a loop. Which brings me to Joel. *Sigh* He also broke the mold, Betsy’s mold in particular. He refused to be a gentleman when she needs him to be — for story’s purpose, of course.

The romance angle in this book – trademark Regina Jennings. For those who don’t know what that is, think similar to Karen Witemeyer or Melissa Jagears. She never disappoints, and For the Record is right up there with some of my favorite of her novels. Forgiveness and redemption play a part in this story. Regina writes great fiction, but she combines it with spiritual themes that go beyond entertainment and remind us of who God is and what He’s done for us.

If you’re looking for a quality historical fiction read, with great romance, a meaningful spiritual theme, and hilarity, then you must pick up For the Record.

About the Author

Biography from Bethany House’s website: Regina Jennings is a graduate of Oklahoma Baptist University with a degree in English and a history minor. She is the author of A Most Inconvenient Marriage, Sixty Acres and a Bride, and Caught in the Middle, and contributed a novella to A Match Made in Texas. Regina has worked at the Mustang News and First Baptist Church of Mustang, along with time at the Oklahoma National Stockyards and various livestock shows. She now lives outside Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, with her husband and four children and can be found online at www.reginajennings.com.

I was provided a copy of this book from the publisher. The opinions expressed are my own.

The Pattern Artist

29633315Book Review: The Pattern Artist

Author: Nancy Moser

Review by Grace Olson

The Story

Back Cover from Nancy Moser’s website of The Pattern Artist:

Born into a life of hard work, English housemaid Annie Wood arrives in New York City in 1911 with her wealthy mistress. Wide-eyed with the possibilities America has to offer, Annie wonders if there’s more for her than a life of service.

Annie chooses to risk everything, taps into courage she never knew she had, and goes off on her own, finding employment in the sewing department at Macy’s. While at Macy’s Annie catches the eye of a salesman at the Butterick Pattern Company. Through determination, hard work, and God’s leading, Annie discovers a hidden gift: she is a talented fashion designer—a pattern artist of the highest degree.

As she runs from ghosts of the past and focuses on the future, Annie enters a creative world that takes her to the fashion houses of Paris and into a life of adventure, purpose, and love.

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            I appreciate Nancy Moser’s desire to write about unique characters, and Annie Wood is certainly unique. However, for me, the story felt bogged down halfway through. The premise of the story is interesting, but it just didn’t hold my attention, unfortunately. If you want a look at the fashion industry of the twentieth century, this book will certainly be of interest.

About the Author

Biography from Nancy Moser’s website: Nancy Moser is the award-winning author of twenty-nine novels that focus on the characters discovering their unique purpose. Her genres include both contemporary and historical stories. Visit her at http://www.nancymoser.com/index.html .

I was provided a copy of this book from the publisher. The opinions expressed are my own.

Shadow of the Storm

ShadowoftheStorm_mck.inddBook Review: Shadow of the Storm

Author: Connilyn Cossette

Review by Grace Olson

The Story

Back Cover from Bethany House’s website for Shadow of the Storm:

In the darkness of the storm’s shadow, only truth can light her way.

Having escaped Egypt with the other Hebrews during the Exodus, Shira is now living in freedom at the foot of Mount Sinai. When the people rebel by worshipping a golden idol, the ensuing chaos gives Shira an unexpected opportunity to assist a midwife. When the experience awakens a new desire in her, she defies her mother’s wish for her to continue in the family weaving trade and pursues her heart’s calling as an apprentice midwife.

But when a delivery goes horribly wrong, Shira finds herself in an impossible situation and bound to a man who betrayed her. As contention between the Hebrew tribes and the foreigners fans the flames of another dangerous rebellion, Shira comes face to face with the long-hidden pain of her past. Can she let go of all that has defined her to embrace who she truly is and believe in a hopeful future?

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            I am beyond impressed by this book. I don’t generally venture into Biblical Fiction, because sometimes the facts are distorted or the liberties taken are too much. However, in Shadow of the Storm, Connilyn strikes a great balance. This book is rich in historical detail, but also takes a look at what some of the emotions of the people may have been. The account of what happened to the Israelites after they came out of Egypt does not have many details, so much of this story is just a guess at what it may have been like. However, Connilyn does this with respect towards what the Bible says, staying close to the text.

This is the second book in a series, so I didn’t have some of the background that was supposed to go with it, but that didn’t really hamper my enjoyment of the story. Connilyn’s writing style is easy to understand, but rich in word choice. Each page was a joy to experience. The themes in the book and the message that the characters learned also touched my heart. This was one of my favorite lines:

“‘There will always be storms, Shira. There will be loss in your life, sometimes devastating loss. But if you let the wind and the rain overcome you, then you will never fulfill the purpose for which you were born, the reasons Yahweh gave you breath and brought you to this time, to this place. There will be times when there is nothing you can do but survive, to place one foot after the other into the driving rain.’ Her thin lips flattened. ‘You can tuck your head under your wing for a while, Shira, and wait out this storm. But you will fly again.’”

This book deals with some difficult issues and mature themes in the lives of the characters, but Connilyn does it in a graceful way. I really enjoyed this book, and I highly recommend it. Even for those who aren’t always a fan of Biblical Fiction.

About the Author

Biography from Bethany House’s website: When she is not homeschooling her two sweet kids (with a full pot of coffee at hand), Connilyn Cossette is scribbling notes on spare paper, mumbling about her imaginary friends, and reading obscure, out-of-print history books. There is nothing she likes better than digging into the rich, ancient world of the Bible and uncovering buried gems of grace that point toward Jesus. Her novel Counted With the Stars won the 2013 Frasier Contest and was a semifinalist in the 2013 ACFW Genesis Contest. Although a Pacific Northwest native, she now lives near Dallas, Texas. Connect with her at www.connilyncossette.com

I was provided a copy of this book from the publisher. The opinions expressed are my own.

Child of the River

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Book Review: Child of the River

Author: Irma Joubert

Review by Grace Olson

The Story

Back Cover from Book Look Blogger’s website for Child of the River:

A compelling coming of age story with an unlikely and utterly memorable heroine, Child of the River is a timeless tale of heartbreak and triumph set in South Africa at the dawn of apartheid.

Persomi is young, white, and poor, born the middlea child of illiterate sharecroppers on the prosperous Fourie farm in the South African Bushveld. Persomi’s world is extraordinarily small. She has never been to the local village and spends her days absorbed in the rhythms of the natural world around her, escaping the brutality and squalor of her family home through the newspapers and books passed down to her from the main house and through her walks in the nearby mountains.

Persomi’s close relationship with her older brother Gerbrand and her fragile friendship with Boelie Fourie—heir to the Fourie farm and fortune—are her lifeline and her only connection to the outside world. When Gerbrand leaves the farm to fight on the side of the Anglos in WWII and Boelie joins an underground network of Boer nationalists, Persomi’s isolated world is blown wide open. But as her very small world falls apart, bigger dreams become open to her—dreams of an education, a profession, a native country that values justice and equality, and of love. As Persomi navigates the changing world around her—the tragedies of war and the devastating racial strife of her homeland—she finally discovers who she truly is, where she belongs, and why her life—and every life—matters.

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            This book was not what I expected. I definitely thought it would have more focus on World War II, but while that was not the case, I got sucked into this story in ways I didn’t expect.

Child of the River is a break from what I normally read. The story did not have a strong Christian story line. It does mention faith a few times, but reads more like a general market novel. This book is unique and seeks to challenge commonly held views. I can see why Ms. Joubert has had such success in publishing.

I had never read anything set in South Africa, let alone during this particular time period, so I loved being able to learn about that specific geographical and historical era. I’ve read many books set during WWII, but none dealing with what Ms. Joubert addresses. Persomi’s past is tragic, at best. And though the author dealt with the deep issues in Persomi’s family in a tactful way, it was still difficult to read about what her sister went through. Prejudice runs deep in this time period, in many different forms, and Ms. Joubert seeks to turn that on its head as Persomi views the world in a different way than many in her community. I couldn’t say that I agreed with her perspective on everything, but it was still intriguing to read about.

My heart broke for Persomi as she encountered success, then setback, over and over in her family life, social life, and love life. It really seemed like she would never reach that point of happiness, but in the end she did, without cutting any corners or cheating, which I have the highest respect for.

This book is thick, but it swept me away. I couldn’t tear myself away, which resulted in a few late nights, and sleep that this college student couldn’t afford to lose. 😉 Ms. Joubert writes with a talent that springs off the pages into the reader’s mind, and creates sweeping landscapes, raging emotions, and challenging viewpoints. If you’re a lover of history, of learning new things, and of fantastic writing (in the general market sense) then you need to at least think about picking up Child of the River. Now I just need to back track and read her first book published in the U.S., The Girl from the Train.

About the Author

Biography from Goodread’s website: International bestselling author Irma Joubert was a history teacher for 35 years before she began writing. Her stories are known for their deep insight into personal relationships and rich historical detail. She’s the author of eight novels and a regular fixture on bestseller lists in The Netherlands and in her native South Africa. She is the winner of the 2010 ATKV Prize for Romance Novels.

I was provided a copy of this book from the publisher. The opinions expressed are my own.