Category Archives: Historical Fiction

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.

A Lady Unrivaled

LadyUnrivaled_mck.inddBook Review: A Lady Unrivaled

Author: Roseanna M. White

Review by Grace Olson

The Story

Back Cover from Bethany House’s website for A Lady Unrivaled:

Her future–and her heart–hang in the balance.

Amid the Unforgettable Cotswolds, the Final Grasp for the Fire Eyes Diamonds Could Threaten Them All

Lady Ella Myerston can always find a reason to smile–even if it’s just in hope that tomorrow will be better than today. All her life everyone has tried to protect her from the realities of the world, but Ella knows very well how the dangerous Fire Eyes diamonds have haunted her brother and their friends, and she won’t wait for peril to strike again. She intends to take action . . . and if that happens to involve an adventurous trip to the Cotswolds, then so much the better.

Lord James Cayton has already broken two hearts, including that of his first wife, who died before he could convince himself to love her. Now he’s determined to live a better life . . . but that proves complicated when old acquaintances pull Cayton into their desperate attempt to seize the jewels. He does his best to remove the intriguing Lady Ella from danger, but the stubborn girl won’t budge. How else can he redeem himself, though, but by saving her–and his daughter–from those intent on destroying them all?

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            I LOVED this last book in the Ladies of the Manor series. Ella always seemed an interesting character, but getting more to know her and her spunk and flare for life was so much fun. She is definitely one of my favorite heroines I’ve read about recently. Her tenacity, courage, and loyalty make her such a great character, yet not without her faults. I didn’t really like Cayton in the other books, but as I got to know him in this one, I couldn’t help but cheer him on. His inability to let go of his sinful past is something that so many struggle with, yet as he learned to accept God’s love for him, he was able to live in freedom. I also really enjoyed how Roseanna continued to have other character’s viewpoints in the book. Seeing some of their struggles really brought a well-rounded dynamic to the story. The climax of the Fire Eyes mystery kept me turning pages, holding my breath at times and then finally at the end letting out that satisfied sigh. No character is as he, or she, seems, and Roseanna always had a surprise waiting in the next few pages. I would highly recommend this whole series, not only because of the premise and how she carries it out, but because of the level of quality throughout all three books. Roseanna does a fantastic job, and not once was I bored while reading, or tempted to pick up some other book.

About the Author

Biography from Bethany House’s website: Roseanna M. White pens her novels beneath her Betsy Ross flag, with her Jane Austen action figure watching over her. When not writing fiction, she’s homeschooling her two children, editing and designing, and pretending her house will clean itself. Roseanna is the author of nine novels, ranging from biblical fiction to American-set romances to her new British series. Roseanna lives with her family in West Virginia. Learn more at www.RoseannaMWhite.com.

I was given a review copy of A Lady Unrivaled from the author. I received no monetary compensation for my review. The opinions expressed are my own.

Honor Redeemed

urlBook Review: Honor Redeemed

Author: Christine Johnson

Review by Grace Olson

The Story

Back Cover from Revell Publisher’s website for Honor Redeemed:

Her future–and her heart–hang in the balance.

Two years ago, Prosperity Jones waved farewell to her beloved David as the army sent him to faraway Key West. Now with her parents gone, she has but one prospect for the future: make the dangerous journey from Nantucket to Key West to reunite with David and secure a happier life.

But when Prosperity arrives penniless in the South, she is dismayed to find David has not been eagerly awaiting their reunion. In fact, he is married to someone else. Scrambling to survive and nursing a broken heart, Prosperity gains the friendship–and the affection–of a kind doctor. Could he be the answer to her loneliness? Or will her life be upended by circumstance yet again?

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            Christine Johnson’s second book in the Keys of Promise series focuses on new characters, but adds in some old ones that will be familiar to readers of the first book. I liked this book in some ways, but in others it fell short for me. I was frustrated multiple times by Prosperity. She would jump to conclusions that just didn’t seem logical. Obviously emotions were running high in the book, but it was still annoying for me. The story was interesting, and the side note of mystery with the supplies disappearing from the worksite was intriguing, so I enjoyed that. I also really enjoyed the setting of Key West, and the different spin the author put on the island by focusing on some of the hospital issues. However, along with that, the fever that comes into play at the end of this book seemed very similar in circumstances and results to that of the first book. The characters did have some emotions that seemed very real, but overall the characters didn’t seem overly authentic or unique to me. The whole issue with Oliver and the prejudices involved was intriguing, and the ending of the book was satisfying. Overall, not my favorite book, but I did enjoy some parts of it.

About the Author

Biography from Revell Publisher’s website: Christine Johnson is the author of several books for Steeple Hill and Love Inspired and has been twice named a finalist for Romance Writers of America’s Golden Heart® award. When not writing, she loves to hike and explore God’s majestic creation. These days, she and her husband, a Great Lakes ship pilot, split their time between northern Michigan and the Florida Keys.

I was given a review copy of Honor Redeemed from the publisher. I received no monetary compensation for my review. The opinions expressed are my own.