©picture by scribbles (Marye McKenney)

Thursday, July 27, 2017

12 Days at Bleakly Manor

Michelle Griep is an author I've always enjoyed ever since I found her.  12 Days at Bleakly Manor is a rollicking read that takes place over Christmas. A random group of people have been invited to spend the twelve days of Christmas at Bleakly Manor.  A skeleton staff has been left to see to the needs of the guests.  What the guests don't really know is that they are being watched.

This book reminds me of those parties where the guests play characters in a murder mystery and the job of each one is to find out "who-dunit."  Clara Chapman and Benjamin Lane are two of the guests.  A year ago, they were supposed to be married, but Ben stood Clara up at the altar, or so she thought.

While the rest of the guests are having to find what is missing in their lives, Clara and Ben are having to find what they've lost.

This is one of the most compelling books I've read in a while.  I give it five stars, two thumbs up, and a stay at a manor house.

My thanks to Shiloh Run Press for allowing me to read and review this book.

A Plain and Sweet Christmas Romance Collection

As I began reading this book, I felt like I was visiting an old friend.  As a matter of fact I was.  On August 8, 2016, I published a review of the same book.  My opinions haven't changed, and I still believe everything I said.

This title says it all, it's about plain men and women finding romance, whether they are Amish, Quaker, Mennonite, or from Amana Colonies. The sweetness is all there too. The women are sweet, what they cook is sweet. The novellas are overloaded with sweetness, but at the same time, quite a number of the women are strong-willed and not all of them can cook. It's a neat thing to see these women with foibles, even in their plain lifestyles.  
The nine novellas are written by respected, experienced authors who put out nothing but quality. These are of the same quality as their full length novels--which I think is a harder thing to pull off because a whole plot has to be condensed into a little over 100 pages. Definite Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and your favorite Christmas cookie recipe. 
My thanks to Barbour Publishing for allowing me to read and review this olio.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

My Heart Belongs in Shenandoah Valley: Lily's Dilemma

I didn't hate this book, but I didn't really like it either. It reminded me too much of the melodrama plays put on by the students in the school where my mother used to teach. In those melodramas, there are heroines who are very likable, heroes who have to overcome significant obstacles to achieve the love of the heroine. and dastardly ne'er-do-wells who try to take advantage of the heroines.

Lily is the heroine who is about to lose her family home.

Mac is the hero who is the unwitting pawn of the bad guy.

Mr. Everett (I think is his name, but I can't be sure), is the bad guy, and his description type cast him into the role.

I've read several other books by Andrea Boeshaar and found her writing style to be compelling, but this book reads rather formulaic.  I am sure I have read books that are like this but I enjoyed the book anyway because it took place some place I've lived. I am sure readers from the Shenandoah Valley will find something to connect to in the book, but I can give the book only two stars.

My thanks to Barbour Books for allowing me to read and review this book.

Brides of Montana

Cathy Marie Hake is an author with a significant humorous streak to her writing.  I have loved her stuff for many years.  Kelly Eileen Hake is Cathy Marie's daughter and writes in the same genre and for a long time, I felt she needed to grow to be as good as her mother.  With the three novellas in the collection, Brides of Montana, Kelly has grown up.  These are the best offerings she has produced. 

Using the passage from Ecclesiastes 3, she uses a single theme for each novella, and each novella covers a generation of a group of families who all moved to Montana together.  Taking place in the years 1864, 1886, and 1916, the families all face different challenges that make the stories come together.  The repetition of characters throughout the novels allows for significant development.  

Delana and Dustin move through misunderstandings before they get their act together.  Rosalinnd wants adventure and the coming of the railroad brings the opportunities for those adventures.  Nessa and Isaac have been paired together by their families ever since they were born.  It takes a new family coming to town to show them what true love is. 

This is a five-star book, two thumbs up, and a homestead in Montana. 

My thanks to Barbour books for allowing me to read and review this book. 

Friday, July 21, 2017

Love Held Captive

Ethan and Devin both served for the Confederacy and were both taken captive and held at Johnson's Island POW camp.  Both of them have some rather harsh memories of their time of service.

Lizbeth and Julianne both lived through the war but came out scarred and in great pain, and the scars for both women were inflicted by the same man.

After Ethan met Lizbeth and Devin met Julianne, all four began to believe that there could be a way out of the pain, but for the men, it means taking care of the man who caused it all.

Shelley Shephard Gray has used an interesting device in writing her novel Love Held Captive.  She uses flashbacks for the men and the things that happened at the prison camp.  The one thorn in Ethan's and Devin's sides is Adam Bushnell, a man who abuses women and threw his weight around the camp.  When Ethan and Devin find out just how depraved Adam is, they decide it's time to take matters into their own hands and deal with him once and for all.

While Shelley writes about Lizbeth's and Julianne's falling in love with Ethan and Devin, it seems the main focus of the story is the men's time in camp and how that changed them one way or another.

It was a thought-provoking read, but not necessarily compelling.  I thought it was good, but I was glad when it was done.  Four stars.

My thanks to Zondervan for allowing me to read and review this book.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Jane of Austin

Hillary Manton Lodge writes books that are a feast for the senses.  Jane of Austin takes tea drinking to a whole new level.  She also outshines me in the baking department too.  I keep wishing that Hillary would put out a cookbook so that all her recipes are in one place.  I would be first in line to buy it.

Jane, Celia, and Margot are sisters who lose their home when their father loses his job amid a scandal.  Celia loses her job soon after and Jane has to quit school for lack of money.  The only thing left to do is to start a tea room with baked goods to go with the teas.  When the landlords of the tea room decide to evict them, Celia and Jane decide to move to Austin, Texas, where they have a cousin willing to take them in.  Part of the deciding factor is Celia's breakup with her boyfriend.

On the road to Austin, the canopy blows off their truck and Sean Willis stops to help.  He catches Jane's eye just as Jane catches his.  I guess every book needs a Sean to counteract the goodness in Jane and her sisters. Sometimes the villains don't appear to be villains--looks can be deceiving.

Arriving in Austin about the same time as the sisters is Callum Becket, a dedicated Marine who lost a leg in the Mid-East and is coming home to figure out life.  They all stay with the sisters' cousin, Ian, a kind man with a welcoming family and lots of money.

Hillary has written this book in alternating first persons with Jane and Callum narrating the plot.  She has given an interesting look inside brewing tea to extrude the best flavors and matching teas to pastries with the best flavor profiles.  Like mixing the tea blends and the pastries, there is a lot of trial and error in mixing the people.  And in brewing the perfect cup of tea, there must be patience in getting the flavors of the characters to rise and bring their aromas to bear in the plot.

My one criticism is that the end of the book seems a bit rushed and too many things happen at once.  I would not have minded a longer book to more fully develop the denouement.  Still this is a five-star book, with two thumbs up, and a nicely brewed cup of tea.

My thanks to Waterbrook/Multnomah for allowing me to read and review this book.  And to Hillary Manton Lodge, keep the great books coming.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

An Amish Christmas Love

Four incredibly talented authors write some significant Amish fiction in this collection of novellas.  It is a Five Star, Two Thumbs Up, and a Christmas Cookie type olio.

Rather than take on each novella, I want to review my favorite one.  The Christmas Cat by Amy Clipston is not a typical romantic novel, but more of the reminiscences of an elderly lady who is sharing with four young people who came to bring her some cookies.  She tells the story of falling in love with her husband, and how their love grew through the years, even though their one wish was never fulfilled.  She tells of the struggles of their early years and trying to open a hardware store and not lose their house for lack of money.

These stories have a warmth to them that is lacking in a lot of stories that are published today.  These four ladies who put these novellas together do their due diligence in research and in creating believable stories for those who love Amish fiction.

My thanks to Thomas Nelson for allowing me to read and review this book.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Beloved Hope

Hope is one of the fictional survivors of the Whitman Massacre in the book by Tracie Peterson.  Hope and her sisters, Grace and Mercy are still recovering from the events of the massacre, Hope more than any of them.  She is mistrustful of all men and of the natives particularly.  When the instigators come to trial, Hope is afraid that she will be called on to testify against her particular attacker and it scares her spitless that she will have to face him in the courtroom.

There are several spiritual lessons to be learned in Beloved Hope, first to put your fears in God's hands--there will be no peace from them unless you do.  Second, forgive your tormentors, holding onto the hate only imprisons you.  Third, never take for granted any support God puts in your way.

Support came for Hope in the person of Lance Kenner.  He was attached to the Army when Hope first met him, but he mustered out and stayed in the area where Hope was living, wanting to earn enough money to go back to his plantation in New Orleans.  The more time Lance spends with Hope, the more he feels something for her, but he has his own past, and people to forgive--and they teach each other the freedom of forgiveness.

Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and the freedom to forgive

My thanks to Bethany House for choosing Tracie Peterson as an author, and for allowing me to read and review this book.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

A Name Unknown

Roseanna M White is a talented author without a nom de plume, but she certainly does her name no shame. This newest offering by her outranks her previous novels by a mile.

Rosemary is part of a "family" of thieves who live by their wits and practiced abilities just to put food on the table.  Barclay is the head of the group, and with Rosemary, there are twelve of them in age from twenty down to about six.

There is a man called V who hires Rosemary to steal some information about Peter Holstein, a recluse who is thought to have the ear of the king. Peter owns a manor house and needs some help organizing his library.  Rosemary applies for the job, and Peter likes her on sight. Peter has some things he needs to hold onto his lands and mansion and he feels that Rosemary is just the person to find the documents.  Peter holds a couple of secrets--that he writes novels under a pen name, and that he still has holdings in Germany.

The political world is in a set of upheaval with Germany making noises of taking over Europe, feelings of distrust among some of the other European nations, and Britain trying to decide what to do about the whole situation.  People on the whole were not enamored with folks of German descent, even though they may be loyal to the crown.  All of this plays into the plot of Roseanna's novel.  Learning some about the history of World War I was quite interesting.  Learning to learn faith was inspiring.

This is a five star, two thumbs up novel with a nom de plume for your most secret writings.

My thanks to Bethany House for allowing me to read and review this book.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

The Promise of a Letter

When I was growing up, I went to a church that had three ways of joining--believer's baptism, the promise of a letter, or statement of faith.  When this title came up on my reading list, I thought it might have something to do with joining a church.  Boy, was I wrong!  This is one of the best Amish fiction books I've ever read.  One of the reasons I loved it was that the main character's name was Leanna--my daughter's name.  It's not a common name, but to me, it's a beautiful name.

Leanna works for Daniel as a mechanic on small engines.  She's part of the reason his business is so successful.  When Daniel's wife hears a two women from their church talking in the grocery store about Leanna and Daniel--accusing them of having an affair, it moves Daniel to fire her, but he gives her no explanation.

The same day that Daniel fires Leanna, Daniel's brother, Roman, comes back, at the request of their recently deceased grandmother.  She knows that there is a long-standing rift between Daniel and Roman and she knows that the only way for these two boys to heal from their upbringing is to heal their rift.

Kathleen Fuller writes truly engaging Amish fiction and this novel is no different. The Promise of a Letter is the promise of healing through Daniel's and Roman's grandmother's letters. I find that Kathleen's writing style is compelling and captivating.  She knows how to hook the readers in and keep them on her line until the book is finished. At least that's how it was for me.

Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and a repaired relationship to go along with the repaired engine.

My thanks to Thomas Nelson Publishing for allowing me to read and review this book.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Weddings at Promise Lodge

This is the third book in a series and the first book of the series that I've read. It can stand alone, but it would read better if the previous books had been in my reading list.

Three sisters have bought what used to be a church camp and a few other plain folk have bought land around it to make a new settlement.

Mattie and Christine are widowed sisters, and Rosette is older, but never married.  Mattie ties her knot first with Amos, one of the preachers.  Christine and Rosette both have beaux lined up for their own nuptials.  Christine is going to marry Munroe--the new bishop, and Rosette is going to marry Truman--a Mennonite.

The only problem is a couple of flies in the ointment--Leola thinks she's in love with Munroe, and Maria has known Truman for most of her life, and both women interrupt the road to true love for Christine and Rosette.

Charlotte Hubbard has put quite a bit of humor and misadventure in the Weddings at Promise Lodge. She uses the humor to keep the reader involved in the story and to keep the reader entertained, and she does it with aplomb.  I truly enjoyed this book and hated to see it end.  I wish now I'd read the previous ones.

Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and a wedding pie

My thanks to Kensington/Zebra publishing for allowing me to read and review this book.