Book Review: Whose Waves These Are

Whose Waves These Are – Amanda Dykes – Whose Waves These Are #1 – Bethany House Publishers – Published 30 April 2019

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Synopsis

In the wake of WWII, a grieving fisherman submits a poem to a local newspaper asking readers to send rocks in honor of loved ones to create something life-giving but the building halts when tragedy strikes. Decades later, Annie returns to the coastal Maine town where stone ruins spark her curiosity and her search for answers faces a battle against time.

My thoughts

Simply stunning. Whose Waves These Are, with its beautifully descriptive and emotive writing style, characters who are brave, relatable, and so very loveable and story of family, love, loss and miraculous reunions, drew me in and refused to let go. Heartbreaking and heartwarming at the same time, Whose Waves These Are is so very beautiful and a book that is simply a delight to read.

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Book Review: The Unexpected Champion

The Unexpected Champion – Mary Connealy – High Sierra Sweethearts #3 – Bethany House – Published 5 March 2019

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Synopsis

City dweller John McCall never expected to be out in the High Sierras of 1868 on a wild-goose chase to find the Chiltons’ supposedly lost grandson. But now that he’s out here, things have gotten even more complicated, mostly due to wildcat Penny Scott. She’s not like any woman he’s ever met–comfortable in the woods, with a horse, and with a gun.

When Penny and John are taken against their will by a shadowy figure looking for evidence they don’t have, both realize they’ve stumbled into something dangerous and complicated. With their friends and family desperately searching for them, Penny and John must make a daring escape.

When they emerge back into the real world, they are confronted with a kidnapper who just won’t stop. They must bring a powerful, ruthless man to justice, even as this city man and country woman fight a very inconvenient attraction to each other.

My thoughts

The Unexpected Champion is the third book in the High Sierra Sweethearts series and it concludes this trilogy with fast-paced action, mystery, kidnapping, wilderness survival, sleuthing, disguises and -of course- romance.

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Book Review: Daughters of Northern Shores

Daughters of Northern Shores – Joanne Bischof – Blackbird Mountain #2 – Thomas Nelson – Published 12 March 2019

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Synopsis

Aven Norgaard understands courage. Orphaned within an Irish workhouse, then widowed at just nineteen, she voyaged to America where she was wooed and wed by Thor Norgaard, a Deaf man in rural Appalachia. That the Lord saw her along the winding journey and that Aven now carries Thor’s child are blessings beyond measure. Yet while Thor holds her heart, it is his younger brother and rival who haunts her memories. Haakon—whose selfish choices shattered her trust in him.

Having fled the farm after trying to take Aven as his own, Haakon sails on the North Atlantic ice trade where his soul is plagued with regrets that distance cannot heal. Not even the beautiful Norwegian woman he’s pursued can ease the torment. When the winds bear him home after four years away, Haakon finds the family on the brink of tragedy. A decades-old feud with the neighboring farm has wrenched them into the fiercest confrontation on Blackbird Mountain since the Civil War. Haakon’s cunning and strength hold the power to seal many fates, including Thor’s which is already at stake through a grave illness brought to him as the first prick of warfare.

Now Haakon faces the hardest choice of his life. One that shapes a battlefield where pride must be broken enough to be restored, and where a prodigal son may finally know the healing peace of surrender and the boundless gift of forgiveness. And when it comes to the woman he left behind in Norway, he just might discover that while his heart belongs to a daughter of the north, she’s been awaiting him on shores more distant than the land he’s fighting for.

My thoughts

It was such a pleasure to return to the Norgaard family in Daughters of Northern Shores, the second book of the Sons of Blackbird Mountain series. I fell in love with Thor, Haakon and Jorgan, their close friends and the women they love in that first book. My heart had also broken a little with the tearing of both friendship, trust and brotherly bonds, so it was with relief that I could continue this wonderful story, return to this little group – some now married, others with children and more on the way – and all with healing, justice and a future to live out.

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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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