Thursday, April 3, 2014

Book Review: To Die For by Sandra Byrd


To Die For by Sandra Byrd
Howard Books, 09 August 2011


To Die For, is the story of Meg Wyatt, pledged forever as the best friend to Anne Boleyn since their childhoods on neighboring manors in Kent. When Anne’s star begins to ascend, of course she takes her best friend Meg along for the ride. Life in the court of Henry VIII is thrilling at first, but as Anne’s favor rises and falls, so does Meg’s. And though she’s pledged her loyalty to Anne no matter what the test, Meg just might lose her greatest love—and her own life—because of it. 

Meg's childhood flirtation with a boy on a neighboring estate turns to true love early on. When he is called to follow the Lord and be a priest she turns her back on both the man and his God. Slowly, though, both woo her back through the heady times of the English reformation. In the midst of it, Meg finds her place in history, her own calling to the Lord that she must follow, too, with consequences of her own. Each character in the book is tested to figure out what love really means, and what, in this life, is worth dying for.

Though much of Meg’s story is fictionalized, it is drawn from known facts. The Wyatt family and the Boleyn family were neighbors and friends, and perhaps even distant cousins. Meg’s brother, Thomas Wyatt, wooed Anne Boleyn and ultimately came very close to the axe blade for it. Two Wyatt sisters attended Anne at her death, and at her death, she gave one of them her jeweled prayer book—Meg.

I started my foray into historical fiction with novels set in the middle ages, because I've always loved that era of history and have been fascinated with the English monarchy of the time. As a present to myself when I finished my last exam at university, I marched straight to the book shop and bought Kings and Queens of England by Antonia Fraser.  Yes, that was my way of celebrating the end of a Computer Science degree. 

But it's been some time since I read a medieval/renaissance setting due to having moved in preference from secular fiction to Christian fiction.

So when I saw a Christian fiction book about Anne Boleyn, I had to have it.

What a refreshing and delightful view of the Tudor court - and Anne Boleyn, Sandra Byrd has presented.   While the heroine of To Die For is in fact Meg Wyatt, a lady in waiting of Anne, we are closely acquainted with Anne throughout the book and it was a pleasure to read a less sinister account of Henry VIII's most famous queen.

Meg Wyatt is the childhood friend of Anne, and is swept along with her into the court of Henry VIII.  She is torn away from her love, Will Ogilvy, and has to rediscover God and His will for her in her life in service to Anne.

Sandra has carefully written her story to portray the evils of the day while sparing us of the debaucherous details so strongly present - and largely, required - of other novels written of the same period.  For this I am very grateful, because Sandra has provided me with a gorgeous story of an era I love, that I can enjoy without discomfort.

Anne's ending is heart wrenching, but Meg's is tearfully joyous.  To Die For had me utterly lost in the character's world and I couldn't put this book down.

Thank you Sandra - I will definitely be seeking out your other books!



Helen's favourite genre is historical fiction with a strong romantic element.  She also enjoys contemporary romance, chick-lit and YA.  She's not caught up in the spell of fantasy fiction, despite The Faraway Tree series being a strong influence in her childhood.

Helen is currently working on her first book, a Christian young adult novel set between two opposite but equally fascinating places in Australia.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Book Review: A Match Made in Texas by Karen Witemeyer, Mary Connealy, Regina Jennings, Carol Cox

 A Match Made in Texas by Karen Witemeyer, Mary Connealy, Regina Jennings, Carol Cox.

Bethany House Publishers, December 24, 2013

There's a secret matchmaker at work in frontier Texas!
In the small town of Dry Gulch, Texas, a good-hearted busybody just can't keep herself from surreptitiously trying to match up women in dire straits with men of good character she hopes can help them. How is she to know she's also giving each couple a little nudge toward love? 


A Cowboy Unmatched
Neill isn't sure who hired him to repair Clara's roof--he only knows Clara desperately needs his help. Can he convince this stubborn widow to let down her guard and take another chance on love?


An Unforeseen Match
Hoping to earn an honest wage on his way to the land rush, Clayton ends up on Grace's doorstep, lured by a classified ad. He may have signed on for more than he expected though--and he may have found the one woman who can keep him from moving on. 


No Match for Love
Andrew can't fathom how refined Lucy ended up as the caretaker to his dotty aunt, and somehow her arrival has prompted even more bizarre occurrences around the ranch. When they join forces to unearth the truth, will the attraction between Andrew and Lucy develop into more?


Meeting Her Match
When the tables are turned and a tenderhearted meddler becomes the beneficiary of a matchmaking scheme, her world is turned upside down. As her entire life changes, will she finally be able to tell the banker's son how much she cares for him?


I truly love a good novella and a Match Made in Texas was great! I found the four book entertaining, funny and well written. I was able to get involved with the characters and their journeys as much as possible in the constraints of a novella length.  All the stories were good but my favourite was the last one Meeting Her Match - I laughed so hard in it!

This book was pure joy to read! Well done ladies!

Thank you to NetGalley for a copy of this novel for review.  I was in no way obliged to give a positive review.


Jess' favourite genre is contemporary women's fiction and contemporary romance fiction. She also enjoys historical fiction with a focus on romance. She loves books set in country towns or farms with a cowboy featured in either historical or contemporary settings.

She is currently writing her first novel, a contemporary women's fiction/romance set in a small country town.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Book Review: Smitten Book Club by Denise Hunter, Colleen Coble, Diann Hunt and Kristin Billerbeck

Smitten Book Club by Denise Hunter, Colleen Coble, Diann Hunt and Kristin Billerbeck.

Thomas Nelson, January 14, 2014

"Consider that your beau is like a coveted novel whose compelling first lines you’ve just begun to read.” —A Gentlewoman's Guide to Love and Courtship

At a rummage sale, Heather, a member of the Fireside Book Club, discovers a turn-of-the-century romantic advice book written by a once-famous Smitten, Vermont, resident. When she shares the precious volume with her friends in the club, they find clues about a hidden treasure rumored to be buried in their tiny town.

As Heather, Abby, Lia, and Molly take turns reading the book, each projects onto it her own literary tastes. Heather sees it as a mystery. Abby discovers delicious dashes of Jane Austen. Lia sees in it the idealism of a bygone day. And Molly just wishes they'd made the book into a movie!

One by one, each of the women finds romantic love—often in spite of the historic book’s advice. And in searching for the legendary gold, the friends discover the best kind of treasure. The kind that brings hope and healing to each of their hearts.

This last edition of the Smitten series by author friends, Coble, Hunter, Hunt and Billerbeck brings the world of Smitten back to their readers. Really I'd love to live in such a beautiful place as Smitten if it was real. It's a charming town and I like small towns. As much as I love the fictional town, I couldn't get into this last book. No one story stood out for me and I was confused a lot between who was who as some characters from the first book appear - it's been a while since I read it and thus was confused.

This confusion combined with stories I couldn't get into led me to like it less than I wanted to. The first Smitten book was great and perhaps this has remained my benchmark and so the others don't hold as much sway with me. I don't know, but I am happy to have read the series and been introduced to the people of Smitten!

 Thank you to NetGalley for a copy of this novel for review.  I was in no way obliged to give a positive review.
 


Jess' favourite genre is contemporary women's fiction and contemporary romance fiction. She also enjoys historical fiction with a focus on romance. She loves books set in country towns or farms with a cowboy featured in either historical or contemporary settings.

She is currently writing her first novel, a contemporary women's fiction/romance set in a small country town.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Book Review: Dancing With Fireflies by Denise Hunter

Dancing With Fireflies by Denise Hunter
Thomas Nelson, March 11th 2014

Jade returns home to Chapel Springs after years of protecting her fragile heart. Then along comes Daniel, making her long to dance again.

Creative and complicated, Jade McKinley felt like a weed in a rose garden growing up in Chapel Springs. When she left, she thought she’d never look back. But now, pregnant, alone, and broke, she has no other choice but to return.

The mayor of Chapel Springs, Daniel Dawson, has been an honorary member of the McKinley family for years. While his own home life was almost non-existent, Daniel fit right into the boisterous McKinley family. He’s loved Jade for years, but she always saw him as a big brother. Now that she’s back, his feelings are stronger than ever.

As Jade attempts to settle in, nothing feels right. God seems far away, she’s hiding secrets from her family, and she’s strangely attracted to the man who’s always called her “squirt." Finding her way home may prove more difficult than she imagined.

Denise Hunter's latest book in the Chapel Springs series is a page turner. There is a lot that happens in this book - some good and some bad and it makes for a different read for Hunter fans. I don't want to spoil anything, so I'm not going to mention plot details, but much of the stuff dealt with in this book has a serious tone to it and it was a little hard for me to read it at times.

Jade goes through an awful lot in this book to say the least and quite honestly how she found the space in her head for romance amazed me. She's a strong girl, but like all strong girls tends to carry too much on her own for far too long. Daniel, a man who might as well be her brother has loved Jade for years - so much so that he's willing to do an awful lot just to have her in his life.

Jade and Daniel work it out - there's a lot to work out here and Denise does her trademark first kiss scene brilliantly but this book didn't win me over. It felt a bit flat and it didn't truly address the issues the characters faced - especially Jade. Others might love this book and be really moved by it and I hope that is the case!

Will I read more Denise Hunter? Most assuredly! :)


 Thank you to NetGalley for a copy of this novel for review.  I was in no way obliged to give a positive review.
 
 
 






Jess' favourite genre is contemporary women's fiction and contemporary romance fiction. She also enjoys historical fiction with a focus on romance. She loves books set in country towns or farms with a cowboy featured in either historical or contemporary settings.

She is currently writing her first novel, a contemporary women's fiction/romance set in a small country town.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Book Review: Welcome to Last Chance by Cathleen Armstrong

Welcome to Last Chance by Cathleen Armstrong
Revell, August 1st, 2013

The red warning light on her car dashboard drove Lainie Davis to seek help in the tiny town of Last Chance, New Mexico. But as she encounters the people who make Last Chance their home, it's her heart that is flashing bright red warning lights. These people are entirely too nice, too accommodating, and too interested in her personal life for Lainie's comfort--especially since she's on the run and hoping to slip away unnoticed.

Yet in spite of herself, Lainie finds that she is increasingly drawn in to the dramas of small town life. An old church lady who always has room for a stranger. A handsome bartender with a secret life. A single mom running her diner and worrying over her teenage son. Could Lainie actually make a life in this little hick town? Or will the past catch up to her even here in the middle of nowhere?

Cathleen Armstrong pens a debut novel filled with complex, lovable characters making their way through life and relationships the best they can. Her evocative descriptions, observational humor, and talent at rendering romantic scenes will earn her many fans
.

Debut author Cathleen Armstrong gives readers a nice, interesting tale of a girl on the run from a bad guy and the town that steals her heart. I liked this book, but I wanted to like it more. What I liked mostly was the setting, I'm a sucker for small towns and this one is a beauty filled with lots of quirky characters. What I didn't like though was the small town. I know, you must think I'm crazy right now! Whilst the town was good, I felt that the author spent too much time on the town and it's folks rather than really delving deeply into the life of Lainie and her bartender beau. 

So this is a mostly enjoyable novel and I'll most likely read the next book in the series, as this was good enough for me to try this author out again, but I thought it could have been a bit better.

 Thank you to NetGalley for a copy of this novel for review.  I was in no way obliged to give a positive review.


 

Jess' favourite genre is contemporary women's fiction and contemporary romance fiction. She also enjoys historical fiction with a focus on romance. She loves books set in country towns or farms with a cowboy featured in either historical or contemporary settings.

She is currently writing her first novel, a contemporary women's fiction/romance set in a small country town.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Book Review: A December Wedding, by Denise Hunter

A December Bride by Denise Hunter
Zondervan, November 26, 2013

A novella can be done badly and I've read a few that fall into that category recently. This one by Denise Hunter doesn't fall into that category though. A December Brides kicks off the series; A Year of Weddings Novella, where a different author writes a wedding novella. An author a month, a novella a month. Oh and if you like this cover, the others are just as gorgeous.

So this novella takes readers back to Chapel Springs where we first met Beckett; the hero of Barefoot Summer - Denise Hunter's first book in the Chapel Springs Series. This time here we get to see what happens with Beckett's sister Layla. Layla finds herself accidentally engaged to her ex-fiances best friend and what follows along is just lovely and sweet. This is a well written novella, where things move fast but characters are given as much time to grow and change as can happen in such a short amount of time.

I loved it because it made me smile, giggle and it kick started my reading for 2014 - always a good thing!

 Thank you to NetGalley for a copy of this novel for review.  I was in no way obliged to give a positive review


Jess' favourite genre is contemporary women's fiction and contemporary romance fiction. She also enjoys historical fiction with a focus on romance. She loves books set in country towns or farms with a cowboy featured in either historical or contemporary settings.

She is currently writing her first novel, a contemporary women's fiction/romance set in a small country town.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Book Review: Wildwood Creek by Lisa Wingate

Wildwood Creek by Lisa Wingate
Bethany House Publishers, 4th February 2014
 
Allie Kirkland has always heard the call of her father's unfinished destiny. When she's offered a production assistant's job on a docudrama filming in the hills near Moses Lake, Texas, the dream of following in her director-father's footsteps suddenly seems within reach. The reenactment of the legendary frontier settlement of Wildwood is a first step into the film industry. A summer on set in the wilderness is a small price to pay for a dream.

But in 1861, the real Wildwood held dangerous realities. Town founder Harland Delavan held helpless residents, including young Irish schoolteacher Bonnie Rose, in an iron grip. Mysterious disappearances led to myths and legends still retold in the region's folk songs. Eventually, the entire site was found abandoned.

When filming begins, strange connections surface between Allie and the teacher who disappeared over a century ago, and everyone in Wildwood--including Blake Fulton, Allie's handsome neighbor on the film set--seems to be hiding secrets. Allie doesn't know whom she can trust. If she can't find the answers in time, history may repeat itself...with the most unthinkable results. 


The concept of this book was awesome! Different and gripping. In Wildwood Creek, Lisa Wingate takes readers from the past to the present and does it in a really good way. Using a modern day reality show, where the actors work and live in the set designed town of Wildwood Creek and then taking the reader back to said place is great! I was riveted by the story of Bonnie Rose in the past and when moved into the present time, I was equally intrigued as to how Allie's story would pan out and how Bonni Rose's legacy still impacted the happenings of the novel.

Allie and Blake's relationship was so mysterious for much of the book. Mainly because Blake is a bit of a mystery himself and when you put everyone in their "roles" for the show, discovering who a person "is" gets a little harder. Essentially, this is also what Allie was trying to do for Bonnie Rose. Who was she? Why are there haunting songs featuring Bonnie Rose? These questions and the ones about Blake get answered and the mystery surrounding the town and the one surrounding the set of the reality show are not what the reader expects, but are well done.

Overall this was a really enjoyable book and so different, but done so well that this makes it a treasure!

Oh and the cover is just gorgeous!

 Thank you to NetGalley for a copy of this novel for review.  I was in no way obliged to give a positive review.

Jess' favourite genre is contemporary women's fiction and contemporary romance fiction. She also enjoys historical fiction with a focus on romance. She loves books set in country towns or farms with a cowboy featured in either historical or contemporary settings.

She is currently writing her first novel, a contemporary women's fiction/romance set in a small country town.

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