A Beauty so Rare, by Tamera Alexander

Product Details

Rating: ***– 3 Stars

GENRE: Historical Christian Fiction

BOOK SUMMARY:  Eleanor Braddock–plain, practical, no stunning Southern beauty–knows she will never marry. But with a dying soldier’s last whisper, she believes her life can still have meaning and determines to find his widow. Impoverished and struggling to care for her ailing father, Eleanor arrives at Belmont Mansion, home of her aunt, Adelicia Acklen, the richest woman in America–and possibly the most demanding, as well. Adelicia insists on finding her niece a husband, but a simple act of kindness leads Eleanor down a far different path–building a home for destitute widows and fatherless children from the Civil War. While Eleanor knows her own heart, she also knows her aunt will never approve of this endeavor.
Archduke Marcus Gottfried has come to Nashville from Austria in search of a life he determines, instead of one determined for him. Hiding his royal heritage, Marcus longs to combine his passion for nature with his expertise in architecture, but his plans to incorporate natural beauty into the design of the widows’ and children’s home run contrary to Eleanor’s wishes. As work on the home draws them closer together, Marcus and Eleanor find common ground–and a love neither of them expects.

REVIEWER COMMENTS:  A Beauty so Rare is the sequel to Tamera Alexander’s first novel in the Belmont Mansion series, A Lasting Impression,  but it can stand on its own. While I loved the first installment in the series, I was  a bit disappointed by this novel. The plot was not as interesting as I hoped, and found it hard to relate to Marcus botanical interests and Eleanor’s culinary passion. Their love story also progressed extremely slowly, and I got to a point where I felt  unimportant plot lines and details were filling the pages. And yet, I do love Alexander’s descriptive style and storytelling so I would still recommend this book for those who are looking for a well-written historical fiction story.

SEXUAL CONTENT: A few kisses

ADULT LANGUAGE: None

*Conclusion: A nice, clean, Christian fiction story. I am thankful to Bethany House Publishing for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Stealing the Preacher, by Karen Witemeyer

Rating: ****– 4 Stars

GENRE: Historical Christian Romance

BOOK SUMMARY:  A cowboy who wants to be a preacher. An outlaw’s daughter who wants to change his mind.
On his way to interview for a position at a church in the Piney Woods of Texas, Crockett Archer can’t believe it when he’s forced off the train by an outlaw and presented to the man’s daughter as the preacher she requested for her birthday. He’s determined to escape–which would be much easier if he could stop thinking about Joanna Robbins and her unexpected request.
For months, Joanna had prayed for a minister. A man to breathe life back into the abandoned church at the heart of her community. A man to assist her in fulfilling a promise to her dying mother. But just when it seems her prayers have been answered, it turns out the parson is there against his will and has dreams of his own calling him elsewhere. Is there any way she can convince Crockett he ended up right where he was supposed to be?

REVIEWER COMMENTS:  While this novel stands on its own, it is a sequel to “Short Straw Bride”(which I absolutely loved!!) where the main character, Crockett Archer, is first introduced. It is set in late 1800s Texas, and Crockett is now a parson who gets kidnapped by former train robber Silas Robbins as a birthday present to his only daughter Joanna. After getting past the initial awkwardness of their encounter, Crockett and Joanna are immediately attracted to each other, and God’s hands are clearly at work when circumstances bring Crockett and Joanna’s paths to cross again. As Crockett dives into his new ministry, his feelings for Joanna grow and their friendship turns into something more.  Unlike other romance novels where the main characters often overcome situations throughout the book and come together at the very end, these two find themselves in each other’s arms about half-way through the book, and then the story focuses on the deepening of their love, Silas’ road to redemption, and a few obstacles that they face before they can be together. Witemeyer is able to provide a passionate romantic tale with a solid Christian message that will endear any fan of this genre. Add to that well-developed characters, interesting story with a pinch of action and humor, and a lovely ending, and you have a wonderful read. Do not miss this sweet novel that will make your hear flutter, and will cause your faith to deepen.

SEXUAL/ADULT CONTENT: A few passionate kisses and some fighting scenes 

*Conclusion: A wonderful and uplifting romantic novel with a  solid redemptive Christian message. I absolutely love this author’s writing style and I would read anything written by her. My thanks to Bethany House Publishers for providing a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

A Bride of Honor, by Ruth Axtell Morren

Rating: ***– 3.5 Stars

GENRE: Regency Christian Romance

BOOK SUMMARY: It is a truth universally acknowledged that a lady of rank and distinction is no match for an impoverished preacher. Yet Damian Hathaway is entranced from the moment he spies Miss Lindsay Phillips entering his church. She doesn’t appear any different from the other pampered society ladies–and she’s betrothed to a gentleman of the ton. But Damian is determined to find the pure heart he’s sure exists underneath all the ruffles and lace. The unlikely friendship formed by Damian and Lindsay is a revelation to them both, but is frowned on by her parents–and Damian’s parishioners. Torn between two worlds, the pair must trust that their love can bridge the divide–and conquer all.

REVIEWER COMMENTS: A Bride of Honor is Ruth Axtell Morren’s  sequel to “The Making of a Gentleman”, but it is a stand on its own novel.  It is the romance which blossoms between a young lady of the ton, Lindsay, who is experiencing her first season in 1800 England, and a simple curate, Damian. The two have an instant attraction, and by circumstances often outside of their control, this unlikely couple finds itself “stuck” in an unplanned relationship, and has to overcome several obstacles until the very end. The romance is sweet, and there is a good amount of dialogues and narratives that have to do with matters of faith which I found enjoyable to read. The often impossible situations do get resolved at the end, and everyone lives happily ever after.

While Morren’s writing style is always a page turner for me, this novel is not without its flaws. SPOILERS ALERT: The main characters, as well as the story, were in many places unrealistic. I found Lindsay often childish, in particular at the beginning of the novel, and her personality was not always representative of a well bred woman of the English nobility of the time. Often she could not even finish a sentence, and appeared overly shy and insecure. The attraction between the two main characters develops right away, and too soon in my opinion. Why was Damien so attracted to Lindsay? Beyond her physical appearance and the fact that she was rich, I did not find much appealing about her at this point in the story. Throughout the novel, I found Damien not behaving as a pastor would: he often lies (when he takes his wedding vows or when he talks to the bishop, for example) with the excuse that “he was protecting her”. Mmmmm. Damian is also too easily persuaded to give up on his marriage to Lindsay, even after it is consummated. Again, there are reasons beyond his thinking, but what happened to “for better and for worse, until death”? And so on.

Overall, I throughout enjoyed reading this novel and toward the middle of the story, the characters really grew on me and I wanted to find out what happened to them, and how everything would be resolved. Even if I found many questionable events that often made me wonder, I would highly recommend this book if you are looking for a sweet historical romance with a Christian theme.

SEXUAL CONTENT and ADULT LANGUAGE: A few passionate kisses and references to some bedroom scenes between a married couple, but nothing described.

Winter is Past, by Ruth Axtell Morren

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Rating: ***– 3.5 Stars

GENRE: Regency Christian Romance

BOOK SUMMARY:  Simon Aguilar, a rising MP of Sephardic Jewish origin, falls in love with Althea Breton, a Methodist nurse who’s the illegitimate daughter of an aristocrat. Althea cares for Simon’s dying daughter and puts his household in order. Against the backdrop of the glittering ballrooms and the quiet parlors of Regency England comes a man’s remarkable journey of love and faith.

REVIEWER COMMENTS: Winter is Past is Ruth Axtell Morren’s first novel in the Regency Series, and yet, it is a sequel to her second, Dawn in my Heart, so I would suggest reading that one before this one, in order to have some background on the main character, Althea, her brother, Tertius, and his wife Gillian. Morren manages to write regency at its best. From the very beginning of this book, the reader is transported to 1800 London through the narrative, the dialogues, and the detailed description that fill the pages. Althea is a devoted Christian nurse who is employed by Jewish widowed Simon to take care of his ill daughter. The story of how their relationship blossoms is paced masterfully, and the romance is well developed, sweet, and will keep the reader turning the pages. Simon and Althea seem the least likely couple to fall in love, but by the power of faith and persistence, and overall, prayer, their romance blossoms into a story that fills their hearts, but most importantly, heals their souls. I found Simon a complex individual, with struggles that seemed impossible to overcome due to his religious upbringing, and his overall disdain for matters of faith. And yet, he eventually comes around, due to Althea’s steady prayer and devotion, which will eventually become his saving grace. In some places, I found Althea a tad preachy, the Christian tone a little overpowering, and the story to drag, but overall, Morren’s masterful writing style kept me interested until the end, and I would highly recommend this book to lovers of this genre.

SEXUAL CONTENT and ADULT LANGUAGE: A few passionate kisses and other thematic elements. Some references to an affair.

*Conclusion: A beautiful romance novel with a solid Christian message.

Dawn in my Heart, by Ruth Axtell Morren

 

Rating: ****– 4 Stars

GENRE: Regency Christian Romance

BOOK SUMMARY:  Called home to Regency London after his brother’s death, Tertius Pembroke, Earl of Skylar, must marry quickly and produce an heir. Lady Gillian Edwards seems the ideal bride: young, beautiful and innocent. But Sky is no ideal husband, having returned from the Indies gaunt, ill and plagued by a darkness that he dare not reveal — even to his betrothed.

Lady Gillian had promised Sky her hand in marriage but cannot give him her heart — not when she gave it to another man three years ago. Afraid of repudiation, Gillian buries her secret so deep inside herself, no one will ever know — or so she hopes.

Through lies and deceit, their marriage slowly unravels. Then Sky becomes deathly ill, and his newfound faith offers two virtual strangers a second chance at becoming husband and wife.

REVIEWER COMMENTS: This is one of those books that I could not put down. First, there is the writing style: as an avid fan of regency literature of the likings of Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte, the dialogues, characters, and storyline of this book transported me into the atmosphere that is captured by the British literature of that era. Second, the characters were both likable and complex. Tertius (or Sky) and Gillian are the perfect match on one end, both belonging to the ton and to very prestigious families who have conveniently arranged their engagement, but different in age, personality, and lifestyles. And yet, it works. Since the first pages of the book, their relationship is paced so exemplary, sparking the reader’s curiosity on what’s coming next. Lastly, this is very much not your classic Christian fiction novel. There is a remarkable difference in tone and direction of the story between the first and the second half of the book. The first half lacks any spiritual tone, and many traditional readers may find some of the content offensive or over their comfort zone. And then, things start changing after Tertius’ conversion, and there is such an extreme overturn that it is like reading a completely different book, with a definite Christian undertone. While a total believer of the changing power of the Holy Spirit, a more transitional pace would have been more fitting, making the story more connected and  believable. Throughout the book, however, the tension and emotions continue to be strong, and the complicated relationship between our couple ultimately becomes a powerful, passionate, and yet godly romance. This new Tertius is everything a woman would want a godly man to be, and Jillian, well, is ultimately smitten, as we would all be.

SEXUAL CONTENT and ADULT LANGUAGE: A few passionate kisses and other thematic elements. While the second half of the book is definitely Christian based, the book throughout explores themes of unfaithfulness within the marriage of the main characters, as well as other characters. No detailed description is provided, but this is definitely, in my opinion, a book for an adult audience.

*Conclusion: A compelling romance novel that transforms into a story of healing and redemption. Highly recommended!

A Home in Drayton Valley, by Kim Vogel Sawyer

Rating: ****– 4 Stars

GENRE: Historical Christian Fiction

BOOK SUMMARY:  Hoping to escape the poor conditions of 1880 New York, Tarsie Raines and her friends Joss and Mary Brubacher and their two children set off for Kansas aboard an unusual wagon train. But when tragedy strikes on the trip across the prairie, Tarsie is thrown into a partnership with Joss that leaves them both questioning God and their plans for the future.
As their funds dwindle and nothing goes as planned, will they give up and go their separate ways? Or will God use their time in Drayton Valley in a way they never expected?

REVIEWER COMMENTS: This is my second novel by this author, and even though I am still not a fan of her writing style, I did enjoy this novel more than the first.  Tragedy strikes Mary, a young wife and mother traveling with her family and best friend Tarsie from New York to Drayton Valley, Kansas. Tarsie and Mary’s husband Joss, are therefore thrown together and agree to a union of convenience for the sake of the children. While a little predictable, the story does unfold in a way that is interesting and unexpected in places, which kept me turning the pages. Tarsie learns to dwell in God to take upon a role that she did not ask for, and learns to view Joss through God’s eyes, which helps her develop her feelings for him. Josh, a selfish man with unhealthy habits at first, shows a progressive growth psychologically, spiritually, and emotionally that is well paced until the end. There are also several social subjects that are discussed here, from racism to prohibition, which I found interesting. 

SEXUAL CONTENT: One kiss

ADULT LANGUAGE: A couple of racial slurs

*Conclusion: A nice, clean, Christian fiction story. Kim Vogel Sawyer is not one for writing intense romantic novels. You will get 3/4 into the book, and the romance has not even blossomed yet. I do recommend this book, however, because the story is compelling, and the Christian message strong and inspiring. *Thank you Bethany House for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

A Noble Groom, by Jody Hedlund

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Rating: *** – 3.5 Stars

GENRE: Historical Christian Romance

BOOK SUMMARY:  Recently widowed Annalisa Werner has the feeling her husband was murdered but can’t prove it. Alone with her young daughter in 1881 Michigan, she has six months left to finish raising the money needed to pay back the land contract her husband purchased, and the land is difficult to toil by herself. She needs a husband. With unmarried men scarce, her father sends a letter to his brother in the Old Country, asking him to find Annalisa a groom.
For nobleman Carl von Reichert, the blade of the guillotine is his fate. He’s been accused and convicted of a serious crime he didn’t commit, and his only escape is to flee to a small German community in Michigan where he’ll be safe. He secures a job on Annalisa’s farm but bumbles through learning about farming and manual labor.
Annalisa senses that Karl is harboring a secret about his past, yet she finds herself drawn to him anyway. He’s gentle, kind, and romantic–unlike any of the men she’s ever known. He begins to restore her faith in the ability to love–but her true groom is still on his way. And time is running out on them all.

REVIEWER COMMENTS: While it took me a while to really get into the story, given the somewhat slow beginning, and a plot that was very predictable for me, I eventually started to look forward to reading this book each day and I finished it in a short amount of time. The story is told by both Annalisa and Carl’s point of view, however, it is Carl that takes center stage here, which I found different, and yet enjoyable. I liked his personality, his faith, and inner struggles, as opposed to Annalisa’s, who is portrayed as the submissive, weak character who is first subjected to her abusive husband, and then, to her family’s obligations. This is often the case in these types of books, and while  I understand that the writers are trying to portray an accurate view of women in the 1800’s, I find it redundant and unflattering, and therefore, not enjoyable to read. So, the fact that there was more of a focus on Carl’s inner thoughts and dialogues, actually made the book more enjoyable for me. Eventually, Annalisa does develop into a stronger character, and the relationship between the two of them progresses throughout the book into a believable, genuine love and care for one another, with the ultimate happy ending.

SEXUAL CONTENT: A few passionate kisses

ADULT LANGUAGE: None.

*Conclusion: A sweet, historical romance that I found very enjoyable to read over summer break. ***My thanks to Bethany House Publishers for providing a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

When Hope Blossoms by Kim Vogel Sawyer

Rating: **– 2 Stars

GENRE: Contemporary Christian Fiction

BOOK SUMMARY:  Amy Knackstedt hopes a new start in Weaverly, Kansas, will help heal the pain of losing her husband and provide a better future for her three children. But her new neighbor, Tim Roper, is not pleased to have an Old Order Mennonite family living next to his apple orchard. Tim left the Mennonite faith years ago and doesn’t want any reminders of his former life.
Yet when circumstances throw Amy and Tim together, they form a friendship that surprises them both. Will past hurts always be a barrier between them, or will this tentative relationship blossom into something more?

REVIEWER COMMENTS:  This is my very first novel by this author, and I must admit, I was disappointed. While the beginning of the story appeared to be promising, and the main male character, Tim, somewhat fascinating because of his background story and his conflicted personality, I just could not find Amy, her family, and the rest of the characters interesting. The story very much dragged (in some places, there were entire pages describing unimportant details) and the romantic element lacking. By the last chapter, I still could not understand why Tim and Amy fall in love: I did not sense much chemistry between the protagonists, and even the Christian element seemed somewhat forced. I am a very fast reader, but I had a very hard time finishing this book, and while I very much wanted to like it, I simply did not.

SEXUAL CONTENT: One chaste kiss

ADULT LANGUAGE: None

*Conclusion: A nice, clean, Christian fiction story. Not my cup of tea, but I am still thankful to Bethany House Publishing for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Short-Straw Bride by Karen Witemeyer

Short-Straw Bride

Rating: *****– 5 Stars

GENRE: Historical Christian Romance

BOOK SUMMARY: No one steps on Archer land. Not if they value their life. But when Meredith Hayes overhears a lethal plot to burn the Archer brothers off their ranch, a twelve-year-old debt compels her to take the risk.
Fourteen years of constant vigilance hardens a man. Yet when Travis Archer confronts a female trespasser with the same vivid blue eyes as the courageous young girl he once aided, he can’t bring himself to send her away. And when an act of sacrifice leaves her injured and her reputation in shreds, gratitude and guilt send him riding to her rescue once again.
Four brothers. Four straws. One bride. Despite the fact that Travis is no longer the gallant youth Meredith once dreamed about, she determines to stand by his side against the enemy that threatens them both. But will love ever be hers? Or will Travis always see her merely as a short-straw bride?

REVIEWER COMMENTS: I have to confess that I was a little hesitant when I first got this book: Short straw bride? It sounded a little silly. Boy, was I wrong!! I loved, loved, loved this book. Why? Well, let’s see:

Great plot: set in late 1800s Texas, it is the story of Meredith, a young orphan whose path crosses her childhood crush, secluded Travis. Because of circumstances, they find their lives entangled and learn to know each other, but also grow into some social and spiritual changes that, at the end, make them better for it.

Great characters: the protagonists, as well as their friends and members of their respective families, are all well written characters that are entertaining and endearing. I found myself completely drawn to Meredith, this wonderful woman of God who is strong and yet vulnerable, and to Travis, a tough and yet compassionate cowboy who will steal your heart!

Wonderful humor: you will find yourself laughing at several of the comical scenes that are so well described in this book: –look for when Meredith is delirious and describes her feeling for Travis, thinking he is just a dream… hilarious!

Amazing romance: innocent, and yet passionate! The two develop a deep love for each other that is greatly paced and will make your heart beat a little faster. Witemeyer masterfully describes the deep feelings that our protagonists experience for each other in a way that will keep you hooked to the end!

SEXUAL CONTENT: A few kisses.

ADULT LANGUAGE: A couple of mild racial slurs. Reference to the consummation of the wedding vows, but no scene described.

*Conclusion: A wonderful, funny, uplifting, romantic novel with a Christian undertone. I read this book twice in a week!! And I cannot wait to grab more of this amazing author. My thanks to Bethany House Publishers for providing a free copy of this delightful book in exchange for my honest opinion.

Sixty Acres and a Bride, by Regina Jennings

Sixty Acres and a Bride

Rating: ***– 3 Stars

GENRE: Historical Christian Romance

BOOK SUMMARY: With nothing to their names, young widow Rosa Garner and her mother-in-law return to Texas and the family ranch. Only now the county is demanding back taxes and the women have only three months to pay. Though facing eviction, Rosa can’t keep herself from falling in love with the countryside and the wonderful extended family who want only her best. Learning the American customs is not easy, however, and this beautiful young widow can’t help but catch wandering eyes. Where some offer help with dangerous strings attached, only one man seems honorable. But when Weston Garner, still grieving his own lost love, is unprepared to give his heart, to what lengths will Rosa go to save her future?

REVIEWER COMMENTS: While I love Christian fiction, I usually avoid books about bible stories turned into fiction: not that I disagree with the notion, but I personally do not like to mix the two. But I was already far into the book when I realized that this was a western retelling of the Bible story of Ruth, and since this novel had close to 5 star ratings on other sites, I decided to give it a try. At the end, while I would certainly not give it 5 stars, I was not totally disappointed either.

This is one of those books that I liked “in parts”. I thought the main characters, Rosa and Weston, were pleasant and interesting. Weston is a multifaceted individual, and his struggles felt real. Rosa is a Mexican young beauty who is a new Christian and is recently widowed. The mix worked, and I found it original. While the story and the romance moved along well for a while and the physical and emotional tension between the main characters was causing pages to easily turn, after about 200 pages, it started to fall flat. (SPOILER ALERT*) When Weston and Rosa find themselves trapped in a marriage of convenience, it seemed like the whole story, and the development accomplished until that point, had to reboot. And what followed, was not as interesting as the previous. In fact, I found it rather annoying. Rosa is constantly trying to put distance between her and her husband and to get away from the marriage, while Weston is gravely confused. While I understand the reasoning behind the uncertainties, after 150 pages of it, I just wanted it to end. And it did end well, but the good ending was way too short, and the redundancy, way too long.

SEXUAL CONTENT: A few kisses.

ADULT LANGUAGE: None

*Conclusion: This is  Regina Jennings’s first novel, and for that alone, I was impressed by the writing, the plot, and the characters. The romance is sweet, and the Christian message clear. I would suggest your try this clean historical fiction by a new promising author.