Tag Archives: Historical Fiction

From This Moment by Elizabeth Camden

fromthismomentcamdenDespite the fact that it took me FOREVER to finish this book, I really, really loved it. (I can be a super lazy reader, which is basically because it’s a lot easier to binge watch Royal Pains on Netflix than it is to hold a book . . . ). It was my third Elizabeth Camden novel (you can read my review of one of the others here), and it’s my favorite one.

Camden has a special talent for creating living, breathing characters that are just so human. I felt so conflicted while I read because the main characters both had significant character flaws that just rubbed me the wrong way, but I loved them anyway. It made for a complex emotional experience that left me cheering at the end of the book. (How cheesy does that sound? It’s pretty much how it went down, though. Sorry.)

Camden also knows how to weave a plot that keeps you guessing and makes you forget you’re reading Christian historical fiction (at least most of the time).

Looking for a good read? Start here. Excuse me while I go track down all of the other Elizabeth Camden books I didn’t realize existed . . .

5 stars—I loved it and will recommend it to everyone.
(Learn more about my star system here.)

Buy it here. 

I received a copy of this book from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for my honest review. The opinions are my own and were not influenced by the publisher or author.

The Painter’s Daughter by Julie Klassen

thepaintersdaughter

FIVE STARS

Nothing like kicking off 2016 with a fantastic read! I stayed up a little too late last night because I had already been reading for . . .  um . . . five hours, and I just had to finish it. I didn’t bother to look at the clock when I finished because I didn’t want to know, but I’m pretty sure it was at least two hours past my bedtime.

I always have a hard time writing reviews for the really good books, and this is one of those. There’s nothing to pick at, no suggestions to make. Just lots of exclamations about the great plot twists, complex characters, and compulsion to keep turning the pages. So pretty much you should stop reading this reveiw and just go find a copy of the book instead.

If that’s not enough to convince you to pick up a copy of The Painter’s Daughter, what about . . . ?

  • This is Klassen’s ninth book, and they’re ALL amazing (well, there is one I haven’t read yet, but I just got it for Christmas and I can’t wait to dig in).
  • The characters aren’t squeaky clean—they’re real and relatable.
  • BUT don’t worry, Jesus is in there, too.
  • Yes, it’s historical romance, but there’s a good bit of mystery mixed in.
  • Not into romance? What if I told you one of the main characters is a military captain and there’s a good war scene?

I have nothing bad to say about The Painter’s Daughter. Just read it so you can love it as much as I did.

I received a copy of this book from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for my honest review. The opinions are my own and were not influenced by the publisher or author.

Until the Harvest by Sarah Loudin Thomas

Sarah Loudin ThomasUntil the Harvest tells the story of Henry Phillips and Margaret Hoffman. Henry is home from college after the death of his father and is struggling through his grief. Poor judgement and the wrong crowd and lead him to regret choices he can’t even remember making.

Margaret spends her time taking care of her younger sister, Mayfair, who has diabetes and an unusual gift for healing people, and doing housework for Henry’s grandmother. But when Margaret’s mother gives her an ultimatum, she has to choose between her hopes and plans and her parents’ expectations.

Until the Harvest is Sarah Loudin Thomas’s second book in the Appalachian Blessings series. I reviewed her first book, Miracle in a Dry Season, last year.

Like Jody Hedlund, Elizabeth Ludwig, and Julie Klassen, Thomas isn’t afraid to let her characters get messy. They make bad decisions and have to deal with the consequences. Their journey out of those tight spots makes them strong and memorable characters. Their lives are a more accurate picture of what following Jesus looks like than you find in a lot of Christian fiction.

Mysterious gifts seem to be Thomas’ thing (Perla has an unusual gift in Miracle in a Dry Season), which I love because legitimate miracles aren’t very common in historical fiction, especially in the lives of ordinary people. That said, I would have liked to see a bit more solid discussion or explanation of Mayfair Hoffman’s healing gift. It plays a significant role in the story, but everyone’s understanding of it is fuzzy. Miracles are mysterious things to begin with, but there are a lot of questions surrounding her gift that go not only unanswered, but unaddressed.

Unfortunately, as with Thomas’s first book, the historical setting really tripped me up. The story takes place in West Virginia in the 70s, but with the prominent role of moonshine and illegal activities, it felt like prohibition-era fiction. But maybe that’s because I’m a Midwestern girl and don’t know much about moonshine or its history ;)

I enjoyed Until the Harvest, but not as much as Thomas’s debut novel. If you liked that one, read this one to learn about the legacy of the characters. If you haven’t read it yet, go do that first!

I received a copy of this book from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for my honest review. The opinions are my own and were not influenced by the publisher or author. 

Summer TBR Pile

I love to read year-round, but summer is really my reading season. Call me lazy, or just un-athletic, but since I hate physical activity and can’t tolerate much heat, I enjoy the warmer weather by finding a shady spot and diving into a good book. Here are some of the books I’m hoping to read this spring/summer. If you’ve read any of them, I’d love to hear your thoughts (but no spoilers, please!).

Brentwood’s Ward by Michelle Griep

brentwoods-ward-cover-peek

Click on the image to see Brentwood’s Ward on Amazon.

Nicholas Brentwood’s sister’s health is failing and he’s desperate for funds to move her out of the city. His opportunity arrives when he’s asked to serve as guardian for Emily Payne, a fiery, independent woman who doesn’t like to follow instructions. He figures it’ll be easy money, but before long, two people are dead and he has to figure out why—while also caring for his ailing sister and sorting out his feelings about Miss Payne.

I really enjoyed Brentwood’s Ward. I love the grittyness of Michelle’s writing style. It’s not as fluffy and flowery as most of the Christian fiction out there. And her characters aren’t immune to unfortunate circumstances and they don’t always make it out of danger’s way. They could easily be real people.

And Brentwood’s Ward is just a great story. There’s a lot at stake—beyond the romance—to keep you turning the pages. If you’re a fan of historical fiction (and even if you’re not) this is a great read. Grab a copy, cozy up by the fire (or a candle), and sip some tea while you get sucked in to the story.

Through January 19, you can get it on sale at Amazon!
$4.99  Kindle edition
$10.83 Paperback

And if you’re in the Twin Cities area, head over to the Burnsville Lifeway next Saturday afternoon to meet Michelle and get your book signed!

Looking for Some Good Historical Fiction?

book on the beachIt’s that time of year when everyone starts panicking because summer is quickly coming to a close (I know, I shouldn’t even say it!). This week, that meant we spent our Saturday afternoon/evening reading on the beach, with a few quick dips in the lake to stay cool. I have no shortage of books to keep me occupied right now (I have at least four from Half Price books and six or seven from the library sitting on the shelf), but in case you don’t, here are some of my favorite historical fiction reads from the last few years.

historicalfiction

1. The Maid of Fairbourne Hall by Julie Klassen

2. Heiress by Susan May Warren

3. A Noble Groom by Jody Hedlund

4. A Heart Deceived by Michelle Griep

5. Tide and Tempest by Elizabeth Ludwig

Got any historical fiction recommendations for me? I’d love to know what you’re reading!

Miracle in a Dry Season by Sarah Loudin Thomas

Miracle in a Dry SeasonHave you ever finished a book completely shocked that so much story was packed inside?

That’s how I felt when I finished Miracle in a Dry Season, Sarah Loudin Thomas’ debut novel, last week. The story is about Perla Long, a single mother with a gift for making food that never runs out, and Casewell Phillips, a bachelor carpenter and church elder, and their town of Wise, West Virginia, as they all band together in the midst of a draught.

The only problem I had with the book was getting stuck on the historical setting. The story takes place in 1954, but because of the rural setting in small town West Virginia, I kept having to remind myself it wasn’t the late 1800s.

Beyond that, though, the story was rich with relational conflict and spiritual struggles I didn’t see coming. Thomas managed to address church corruption, forgiveness, terminal illness, faith in miracles, and judgment all in just 296 pages. And it’s not even one of those stories that spans decades!

When I put the book down, I found myself reflecting on those issues in my own life and sphere of influence. How do I respond when someone with well-known past sin becomes an integral part of my church community? What would I do if there was moral corruption and spiritual abuse taking place in my church on Sunday mornings, or during the week? Have I truly forgiven my parents for the ways they’ve unintentionally hurt me?

I wrestled with some of these things like I wrested with the idea of God’s grace after I finished Redeeming Love. I wouldn’t put Thomas on the same playing field as Francine Rivers (just yet), but based on this first novel, she could be on her way.

 *Thanks to Bethany House Publishers and Sarah Loudin Thomas, who provided me with a free copy of the book to blog about.

Unplugged (And Some Upcoming Book Reviews)

I’m not sure how we’re going to fit all our crap in my car, but once we figure it out, we’ll be off for a week of somewhat posh camping near Lake Superior. We’re borrowing a huge tent (Jonathan can stand up in it) and we bought a super comfy, memory foam-topped air mattress.

However, as ridiculous as it is that the campground has wifi, we’re unplugging for the whole trip—no computer, no phone (except GPS and trip-related research and maybe the long drive there and back), no work. That also means no blog posts because I’ve been so busy I didn’t plan ahead enough to have some extras scheduled while I’m gone. Sorry. I’ll repay you with beautiful pictures and some book reviews when I get back :)

One of my favorite parts of camping is reading by a campfire, and I fully intend to do that A LOT in the next week. To start with, I’m going to work on a few books I’m really excited about . . .

Camping Trip Reviews

I’ve already listened to an audio version of Packing Light, but I loved it so much I bought a copy to read. I can’t wait to tell you all about it.I haven’t read the others yet, but the first few pages seem pretty promising!

If you’re interested, you can get a 20% discount on Interrupted if you order through Tyndale by next Thursday, July 31. They’re currently out of stock online, but I spoke with a customer service representative who said they should be getting more in early next week. He also said you can call and reserve a copy over the phone to get the discount.

Tide and Tempest by Elizabeth Ludwig

tideandtempestTillie McGrath is a young Irish immigrant who works at a millinery and lives in a boarding house. She’s made a new life for herself in New York City after her fiancé, Braedon, died on the trip over from Ireland. When Keondric Morgan, the captain of the ship they traveled on, comes to visit her a few years later, he offers to take her back to Ireland. She refuses, but Captain Morgan knows Braedon’s death wasn’t an accident and feels responsible. His offer brings not only difficult memories of her past, but trouble neither of them saw coming. They soon discover Braedon’s death was just a small part of a bigger plot and their lives depend on sorting it out.

Tide and Tempest is the third book in Elizabeth Ludwig’s Edge of Freedom series. I read and reviewed the first book, No Safe Harbor, over the summer, and thought this one was the second in the series. It’s not, but I didn’t feel like I was missing important details, so it’s probably safe to read these books on their own. I did, however, spend the first five chapters trying to remember what happened in the first book. It was really distracting. That’s why I’d rather read an entire series straight through. (Or watch a TV show straight through. Downton Abbey, anyone? The year-long wait between seasons is killing me!)

Tide and Tempest is not the first great historical fiction novel from Bethany House, but it was a little different from most of the BHP books I’ve read. Yes, it has romance, but it read like a suspense novel. (Not that I know­­. I don’t really read suspense. But it was what I expect a suspense novel would be like—lots of unanswered questions, danger, running, and action-packed fight scenes.) From the first few pages, I didn’t know who I could trust. So I kept reading, and I wasn’t disappointed. All the gunshots and punches to the kidneys and knife fights—not gonna lie—put me on edge. I was so riled up after I finished last night that I wasn’t sure I’d be able to sleep. But I did. (Praise the Lord for Sleep Number beds!)

And the love story. It didn’t take long before I got to a just-kiss-her-already level of frustration. The characters are so stubborn! And why won’t they just talk to each other? Don’t they know how many of their problems could be solved if they’d just freakin’ communicate instead of shutting up when it really matters? Uggh!

If you like Bethany House’s historical fiction, romance, or just want a clean book that tells an engaging story, I’d recommend this one. Actually, go back and start with No Safe Harbor and keep going. I’m definitely going to track down a copy of Dark Road Home (book 2) so I can fill in the blanks.

*I received a copy of this book from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for my honest review. My opinion of this book is my own and was not influenced by the publisher or the author.

Gypsy Duke by Felicia Mires

Gypsy Duke

I was wrong. Good self-published novels exist. At least one does, anyway.

After going to school for professional writing and learning about traditional publishing when I interned at a publishing house, I tend to be pretty skeptical about self-published books. I’ve edited a few written by people I know, but I didn’t know this author, and I wasn’t sure what to expect.

In Gypsy Duke, the next Duke of Somerset is forced to flee his home and Kitty, his young betrothed, when his uncle takes control of the estate and threatens his life. His mother sends him to live with the gypsies until he is old enough to legally take over operation of his father’s holdings. But when the government needs his help, he stays away longer and Kitty, who is at home waiting for him, can wait no longer.

When the author asked me for a review, she mentioned it would be a good read for fans of Julie Klassen. She was right. Though I can’t vouch for the historical accuracy (I don’t know anything about gypsies), the multi-dimensional characters, romance, and intriguing plot made it a great story for those who enjoy Klassen’s page-turners.

Though I found a few minor errors and stylistic annoyances (like insure instead of ensure and the over-use of certain sentence structures), they weren’t distracting, and most readers wouldn’t even notice them.

So if you’re impatient for Klassen’s new book—The Dancing Master—to be released in January, read Gypsy Duke while you wait. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

*I reviewed this title at the request of author (previously unknown to me). I downloaded the book when it was available for free on Amazon. The opinions expressed are my own and were not influenced by the author.