Book Review: Searching For You

Searching For You – Jody Hedlund – Orphan Train #3 – Bethany House Publishers – 4 December 2018

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Synopsis

Despite years on the run, Sophie Neumann is determined to care for two young children. She won’t abandon them the way she thinks her older sisters abandoned her. But times are growing desperate, and when she falls in with the wrong crowd and witnesses a crime, she realizes fleeing 1850s New York is her only option.

Disappearing with her two young charges into a group of orphans heading west by train, Sophie hopes to find safety and a happy life. When the train stops in Illinois for the first placement of orphans, Sophie faces the most difficult choice of her life.

Reinhold Weiss has finally purchased his own small farm. With mounting debts, a harvest to bring in, and past scars that haunt him, he’s in no position to give his heart away . . . but can he say no when his long-lost friend shows up on a nearby train pleading for his help?

My thoughts

Searching For You is the third book in the delightful Orphan Train series. This historical Christian series is absolutely delightful, combing heartfelt stories of challenges overcome with the love and bond of sisters, as well as amazing (swoon-worthy) romance.

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Book Review: Together Forever

Together Forever – Jody Hedlund – Orphan Train #2 – Bethany House Publishers – Published 1 May 2018

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Synopsis

Determined to find her lost younger sister, Marianne Neumann takes a job as a placing agent with the Children’s Aid Society in 1858 New York. She not only hopes to offer children a better life, but prays she’ll be able to discover whether Sophie ended up leaving the city on an orphan train so they can finally be reunited.

Andrew Brady, her fellow agent on her first placing-out trip, is a former schoolteacher who has an easy way with children, firm but tender and friendly. Underneath his charm and handsome looks, though, seems to linger a grief that won’t go away–and a secret from his past that he keeps hidden.

As the two team up, placing orphans in the small railroad towns of Illinois, they find themselves growing ever closer . . . until a shocking tragedy threatens to upend all their work and change one of their lives forever.

My thoughts

Together Forever is the second book in the Orphan Train series. It picks up where book one left off, but this time telling the story of the second-eldest Neumann sister, Marianne. Marianne grieves the loss of her younger sister, who ran away. Marianne blames herself and is determined to do everything she can to find Sophie. Marianne joins the Children’s Aid Society as a placing agent on the Orphan trains, hoping to use their records to find Sophie. On her first journey, Marianne is drawn to her fellow agent, outgoing and charming Drew Brady. But with a romance forbidden between agents and with each of them with a past that is holding them captive, any future between them seems unlikely.

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Book Review: With You Always

With You Always – Jody Hedlund – Orphan Train #1 – Bethany House – Published 6 June 2017

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Synopsis

One of the many immigrants struggling to survive in 1850s New York, Elise Neumann knows she must take action to care for her younger sisters. She finds a glimmer of hope when the New York Children’s Aid Society starts sending skilled workers to burgeoning towns out west. But the promise of the society’s orphan trains is not all that it seems.

Born into elite New York society, Thornton Quincy possesses everything except the ability to step out from his brother’s shadow. When their ailing father puts forth a unique challenge to determine who will inherit his railroad-building empire, Thornton finally sees his chance. The conditions to win? Be the first to build a sustainable community along the Illinois Central Railroad and find a suitable wife.

Thrown together against all odds, Elise and Thornton couldn’t be from more different worlds. The spark that ignites between them is undeniable, but how can they let it grow when that means forfeiting everything they’ve been working toward?

My thoughts

I was fortunate to have the opportunity to read all three books in the Orphan Train series all together (one benefit of waiting for an entire series to be published before starting book one). And I am so glad that I could, because as soon as I started the first book in the series I knew I wanted more of this charming family facing such difficulties. More of swoon-worthy romance. More challenges overcome through faith, love and community. As soon as I finished each book I eagerly picked up the next. While each of the three titles in the Orphan Train series could be read as a standalone, I believe that it is much better to read them as a series, better to understand the depth of each of the characters, their relationships and their journeys, separate at times and yet each interconnected.

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Book Review: The Secrets of Paper and Ink

The Secrets of Paper and Ink – Lindsay Harrel – Thomas Nelson – Published 26 February 2019

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Synopsis

A year after the death of her abusive fiancé, domestic violence counselor Sophia Barrett finds returning to work too painful. She escapes to Cornwall, England–a place she’s learned to love through the words of her favorite author–and finds a place to stay with the requirement that she help out in the bookstore underneath the room she’s renting. Given her love of all things literary, it seems like the perfect place to find peace.

Ginny Rose is an American living in Cornwall, sure that if she saves the bookstore she co-owns with her husband then she can save her marriage as well. Fighting to keep the first place she feels like she belongs, she brainstorms with her brother-in-law, William, and Sophia to try to keep the charming bookstore afloat.

Two hundred years before, governess Emily Fairfax knew two things for certain: she wanted to be a published author, and she was in love with her childhood best friend. But he was a wealthy heir and well out of her league. Sophia discovers Emily’s journals, and she and William embark on a mission to find out more about this mysterious and determined woman, all the while getting closer to each other as they get closer to the truth.

My thoughts

The Secrets of Paper and Ink is a charming story, combing the stories of three very strong women as they face the challenges of love, family, heartbreak, and following their dreams.

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Book Review: The Heirloom

The Heirloom: Four Holiday Novellas of Love Through the Generations – Karen Witemeyer, Kristi Ann Hunter, Sarah Loudin Thomas, Becky Wade – Bethany House Published – Published 2 October 2018

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Synopsis

In Kristi Ann Hunter’s “Legacy of Love,” Sarah Gooding never suspected returning a brooch to an elderly woman would lead to a job . . . and introduce her to the woman’s grandson, a man far above her station.

In Karen Witemeyer’s “Gift of the Heart,” widow Ruth Albright uses the family brooch as collateral for a loan from the local banker. But the more she comes to know the man behind the stern businessman, the more she hopes for a second chance at love.

In Sarah Loudin Thomas’s “A Shot at Love,” Fleeta Brady’s rough-and-tumble childhood means she prefers hunting to more feminine activities. She never expected her family’s brooch might be how a fellow hunter turns her attention from competition to romance.

In Becky Wade’s “Because of You,” Maddie Winslow has spent years in love with a man whose heart was already spoken for. When a church Christmas project brings them together and she stumbles upon an old family brooch, might it finally be her turn for love?

My thoughts

The Heirloom is a collection of four delightful novellas. While each are set during Christmas, there is nothing to stop you enjoying this collection all year round. From a story set during the Georgian era to contemporary story, these four novellas span many generations of women following their dreams and their hearts.

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Book Review: The Reluctant Warrior

The Reluctant Warrior – Mary Connealy – High Sierra Sweethearts #2 – Bethany House Publishers – Published 2 October 2018

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Synopsis

Union army officer Cameron Scott is used to being obeyed, but nothing about this journey to Lake Tahoe has gone as expected. He’s come to fetch his daughter and nephew, and seek revenge on the people who killed his brother. Instead he finds himself trapped by a blizzard with two children who are terrified of him and stubborn but beautiful Gwen Harkness, who he worries may be trying to keep the children.

When danger descends on the cabin where they’re huddled, Cam is hurt trying to protect everyone and now finds Gwen caring for him too. He soon realizes why the kids love her so much and wonders if it might be best for him to move on without them. When she sees his broken heart, Gwen decides to help him win back their affection–and in the process he might just win her heart as well.

My thoughts

The Reluctant Warrior returns readers to the story and characters first discovered in The Accidental Guardian. The Reluctant Warrior is the second book in the High Sierra Sweethearts series and it is a series I have come to really enjoy. With the harsh but glorious surrounds of the Sierra Nevada Mountains as backdrop, these stories combine sweet romance that develops out of the toughest situations and tense thrills and heart-pounding suspense as the characters fight for their lives and for justice.

Cameron Scott, now retired from the Union army, only wishes to retrieve his daughter and nephew and take them to his new home – a parcel of land marked to become a thriving ranch. But the children are terrified of him and instead cling to the woman who has cared for them in the past months. When a determined killer once again trains his sights on the small group huddled together in the wild winter, Cam must extend his time with the annoying Gwen Harkness. Yet the threat of danger and the chance to get to know and love his children give him an opportunity to learn more about Gwen, and Cam finds she just might be the answer to his troubles.

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Book Review: Sons of Blackbird Mountain

Sons of Blackbird Mountain – Joanne Bischof – Blackbird Mountain #1 – Thomas Nelson – Published 3 July 2018

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Synopsis

When Aven Norgaard leaves Norway to serve as housekeeper to her late husband’s cousins in Appalachia, she expects lads in need of care, not three grown men—each in need of a wife and bound by a powerful brotherhood. As the men carve out a living by brewing artisan liquor, young Haakon’s pursuit tempts Aven’s lonely spirit . . . but it is his deaf brother, Thor, whose silent strength shows her the depths of real love.

Unable to speak to any woman, Thor Norgaard never anticipates Aven will befriend him, let alone treat him as her safe harbor. Though hard cider is their livelihood and his greatest talent, he fights his way to sobriety with Haakon’s help, defying the bottle for Aven’s hand—only to face a battle of the heart that tests even the strongest bonds of brotherhood.

My thoughts

Sons of Blackbird Mountain is an utterly charming and beautiful historical novel. Set in the heart of the Appalachian mountains, it combines the complexity of brotherly relationships and finding a place to belong, with the sweet joy of finding a true love connection, despite many challenges.

Aven Norgaard has faced many challenges in her short life. Having escaped from the workhouse, her husband then died. Travelling from Norway across the oceans to Appalachia, America, Aven hopes to find a home with her late husband’s relatives. Upon arriving, Aven is surprised to discover that her cousins-in-law are not the boys she expected but grown men – each with their own demons and attractions. Thor Norgaard has loved Aven from a distance for years, but having her in his house is a new and unsettling feeling. Deaf, Thor is touched that Aven seems to truly hear him, yet his relationship with his brother Haakon -already strained – is stretched further and Thor’s own battle with alcohol addiction is a challenge he must overcome if he wants to court Aven.

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Book Review: The Hope of Azure Springs

The Hope of Azure Springs – Rachel Fordham – Revell – Published 3 July 2018

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Synopsis

Seven years ago, orphaned and alone, Em finally arrived at a new home in Iowa after riding the orphan train. But secrets from her past haunt her, and her new life in the Western wilderness is a rough one. When her guardian is shot and killed, Em, now nineteen, finally has the chance to search for her long-lost sister, but she won’t be able to do it alone.

For Azure Springs Sheriff Caleb Reynolds, securing justice for the waifish and injured Em is just part of his job. He’s determined to solve every case put before him in order to impress his parents and make a name for himself. Caleb expects to succeed. What he doesn’t expect is the hold this strange young woman will have on his heart.

My thoughts

I do enjoy a good historical romance and I’m always on the lookout for new titles and authors. The Hope of Azure Springs is Rachel Fordham’s debut novel and she does a superb job of piecing together this inspiring story. It was exactly the book I needed and I loved sinking into it. Comforting, uplifting, joyful and heartwarming, The Hope of Azure Springs was a delight to read.

Seven years ago Em traveled west on an orphan train. After seven years of barely surviving, Em’s only goal is to find her sister. But when her guardian is murdered and Em is injured, she is taken to the town of Azure Springs. There, for the first time in so many years, she is fed, cared for and loved. Taken in by a kind family and protected by the town’s sherif, Caleb Reynolds, Em learns to dream again. But her heart remains focused on reuniting with her sister.

What a stunning and delightful story. At first a little bumpy in places, the tone and flow of the story soon became clear and I was loath to tear myself away from the heartwarming characters and their story of strength, resilience and love. The Hope of Azure Spring feels a little like one of the fairytales so often mentioned within its pages. This book carries a little magic with it and has a style all its own.

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Book Review: The Accidental Guardian

The Accidental Guardian – Mary Connealy – Bethany House Publishers – Published 3 April 2018

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Synopsis

When Trace Riley finds the smoldering ruins of a small wagon train, he recognizes an attack by the same group who left him as sole survivor years ago. Living off the wilderness since then, he’s finally carved out a home and started a herd–while serving as a self-appointed guardian of the trail. He’d hoped the days of driving off dangerous men were over, but the latest attack shows otherwise.

Deborah Harkness saved her younger sister and two toddlers during the attack, and now finds herself at the mercy of her rescuer. Trace becomes an accidental guardian when he offers the only shelter for miles around and agrees to take them in until they can safely continue their journey. His simple bachelor existence never anticipated kids and women in the picture and their arrival is unsettling–yet enticing.

Trace and Deborah find themselves drawing ever closer as they work together to bring justice to the trail and help the group survive the winter–but every day closer to spring means a day closer to leaving the mountains forever.

My thoughts

I have previously steered away from Mary Connealy’s titles after starting a few titles and finding that her writing style wasn’t for me. I know that there are many, many readers who would disagree with my opinion. However, The Accidental Guardian sounded fantastic and I thought it was high time that I gave Mary Connealy’s writing another go. I’m glad I did. I really enjoy the first half of The Accidental Guardian. I enjoyed the setting and the story of lost souls facing much hardship and then finding a family together.

Deb and Gwen Harkness are traveling west in a wagon train. When their group is attacked at night, Deb, Gwen and the children they are minding are lucky to escape with their lives, while everyone else is murdered and the wagons destroyed. Alone in the middle of nowhere with winter settling in, Deb and Gwen are shocked when they are discovered and rescued by Trace Riley. Trace knows the devastation of being the sole survivor of just such an attack. He takes the Harkness women and the children in their care to his ranch, determined to track down the killers and bring them to justice.

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Book Review: More Than Meets The Eye

More Than Meets The Eye – Karen Witemeyer – Patchwork Family #1 – Bethany House Publishers – Published 5 June 2018

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Synopsis

Seeking justice against the man who destroyed his family, Logan Fowler arrives in Pecan Gap, Texas, to confront the person responsible. But his quest is derailed when, instead of a hardened criminal, he finds an ordinary man with a sister named Evangeline–an unusual beauty with mismatched eyes and a sweet spirit that he finds utterly captivating.

My thoughts

More Than Meets The Eye is a delightful historical Christian romance, with a touch of mystery, plenty of suspense, and a warm heart that celebrates family and belonging. From the gorgeous cover to the heartwarming story where family is the people you choose, More Than Meets The Eye was wonderful from start to finish.

Evangeline Hamilton knows the cost of heartbreak. Yet she chooses to remain optimistic, celebrating the family God gave her and the simply joys in life. When a stranger purchases the land adjoining her brothers’ land, she intends to discover his true intentions, and if she shows him a little happiness and kindness along the way, all the better. Logan never intended to entwine Evie in his quest for revenge on her brother, but the Hamilton family is not what he expected. Evie and Logan must face the truth of the past and the dangers and mystery of the present if they are to have a future together.

Karen Witemeyer writes such excellent romance, and More Than Meets The Eye was certainly no exception. Logan and Evie’s connection is undeniable, tangible and so much fun to revel in. But Logan’s secrets and his plan for justice threaten the foundation of their growing friendship and romance.

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