Swept Away

I’ve read a lot of inspirational historical romances over the years. I started with Janette Oke’s books when I was in my early teens and have read most other popular authors since then. I’d guess it’s a typical rite of passage for teens raised in conservative Christian families. They’re mostly the same and I’ve enjoyed them for the most part, as a pleasant way to pass the time, if nothing epic. So I really wasn’t expecting much different when I picked up Swept Away by Mary Connealy. But I am pleased to report I was pleasantly surprised!

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Blurb: Swept away when her wagon train attempts a difficult river crossing, Ruthy MacNeil isn’t all that upset at being separated from the family who raised her. All they’ve ever done is work her to the bone. She prayed for a chance to get away, and then came the raging flood. Alive but disoriented, she’s rescued by Luke Stone…so unfortunately, there are more chances to die in her immediate future.

Luke is heading home to reclaim the ranch stolen from his family. But the men who killed his father are working hard to ensure Luke doesn’t make it alive. He has no choice but to keep moving. Still, he can’t just abandon Ruthy, so she’ll have to come along.

His friends–a ragtag group of former Civil War soldiers–take a fast interest in the pretty gal. Luke thinks that’s rather rude–he’s the one who found her. And the more time he spends around the hard-working young woman who is a mighty good cook, the more he finds himself thinking beyond revenge and toward a different future. For the first time in a long time, Luke is tempted to turn from his destructive path and be swept away by love.

Swept Away is cute, funny, witty, nail-biting – and full of references to an aspect of the civil war that I knew little about. I was impressed because the entire book felt essential – no silly extra scenes, no time wasted – it was constant movement. And they kissed – a lot! And implied more! O_O the scandal!! (But not too detailed or excessive and the later was within the bounds of marriage – it is clean inspirational romance after all.) And Mary Connealy’s women have spunk! Something I have a complete abhorrence for, and the reason I no longer read certain authors, is spunkless women. Also, the story quickly becomes about much more than merely getting Luke’s ranch back – it added the tricky dynamic of saving a woman and her children from an abusive situation. I liked that the reasons for the conflict of the story became more external and less selfishly motivated.

I had to research Camp Andersonville afterwards and found it simultaneously fascinating & horrifying. I’m sad Andersonville was halfway between where I attended college and my home as a teen and yet I never knew to stop by there on the commute. While Swept Away is the first in a series, it is a spin-off from a previous series. I’m excited to read more and see what happens with side-characters that I enjoyed.

Do you enjoy books that highlight a unique historical event?

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book by Bethany House Publishers in exchange for a fair and honest review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.


Glass Girl

Glass Girl

Blurb:“The ice cold fear I’d felt, not knowing if Wyatt was alive, pressed into the wall with other girls and surrounded by guys who were unspeakably brave, hit my body again in a wave.

“This was trauma – the gift that keeps on giving.”

When Meg Kavanagh finds herself in the unthinkable role of grieving sister, she discovers some harsh truths–parents aren’t perfect, life’s not always sweet, and the dead don’t write back. Her famous artist mom grieves by slowly disappearing, and her dad copes by moving them to a small town in Wyoming.

What she finds in Wyoming blindsides her.

His name is Henry Whitmire and he’s a rancher’s son who pulls Meg into his larger-than-life world and shows her that the best things in life – like falling in love and finding mercy – require uncommon courage. 

The only way to describe Glass Girl by Laura Anderson Kurk is using words like powerful or impactful or — you get the picture. When I turned the last page and set the book down, I was unsettled. This is the kind of journey that requires days to digest. Yes, it was that good.

There were so many aspects about Glass Girl I enjoyed. Initially, what enticed me to the story is that most of it takes place in Wyoming. Having married a Wyoming boy and lived there for five years, I was excited to read a book that took place in an all-too-often-overlooked state and read the viewpoint of a transplant like myself. And I had no trouble slipping into the setting – I pictured the small town of Buffalo, WY until the book clarified that they were closer to the Worland/Thermopolis area. Slightly different scenery but same Wyomingite vibe.   In fact, the only inconsistency I found was a scene where Meg experiences hot springs for the first time. Speaking from my own first encounter, there is no way she would not have noticed and commented on the heavy sulfur smell. Believe me, it’s a shock when you aren’t expecting it!!  ;)

If I step back and analyze the book critically, I didn’t love the romance.  If I was a teen perhaps I would feel differently but as a mother… Henry was sweet and kind and, frankly, a little too perfect. My biggest issue was how the two of them were constantly completely alone, one of those times she actually sat on his lap while wearing a bathing suit, and they went on an overnight trip (albeit with semi-competent adult supervision). Meg was foolish at times and exposed herself to several dangerous situations but they were realistic teen scenarios and I don’t think she really had a Christian faith to fall back on at those points in the story. But Henry did and so I found his deliberately exposing the two of them to constant physical temptation disconcerting mainly because he seemed to have no qualms over it.

But the true gem of the story is Meg’s journey in learning grace, mercy, forgiveness and love. In applying them to her classmates, her family, and ultimately herself. It’s difficult to explain but the entire subject-matter is handled so thoughtfully and deeply. It’s powerful and woven throughout the entire book in a growing theme. I think a reader would be challenged to experience Glass Girl and not emerge a better person – a Christian with a deeper faith.

Do you enjoy introspective books?

Disclosure of Material Connection: I won a copy from lisagodfrees.com in a giveaway. I was not required to write a positive review (or any review at all). The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Stealing The Preacher


Blurb:  On his way to interview for a position at a church in the Piney Woods of Texas, Crockett Archer can scarcely believe it when he’s forced off the train by a retired outlaw and presented to the man’s daughter as the minister she requested for her birthday. Worried this unfortunate detour will ruin his chances of finally serving a congregation of his own, Crockett is determined to escape. But when he finally gets away, he’s haunted

For months, Joanna Robbins prayed for a preacher. 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. A man to help her discover answers to the questions that have been on her heart for so long. But just when it seems God has answered her prayers, 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 to stay in her little backwoods community? And does the attraction between them have any chance of blossoming when Joanna’s outlaw father is dead set against his daughter courting a preacher?by the memory of the young woman he left behind–a woman whose dreams now hinge on him.

Stealing the Preacher by Karen Witemeyer is a cute, light-hearted, fun romance. I found the situation of an ex-outlaw father kidnapping a preacher as a birthday present for his daughter too funny and the bewilderment both Crockett and Joanna faced was even more amusing. Their relationship developed believably and sweetly and I really enjoyed the elements of faith throughout the story – these are characters who live with their faith permeating their lives and it came across realistically and not preachy. There was a dash of nail-biting tension at the climax that had me ridiculously worried considering I knew there was no way the book could not have a happy ending. ;) The historical details about painting and artistic-style were really interesting.  Also, I didn’t realize this was second in a series until after I’d finished it and I’m looking forward to reading the others!

What amusing situations have you enjoyed in a book?

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received an advanced reader copy from BethanyHouse in a giveaway. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Storm Siren


Blurb:    “I raise my chin as the buyers stare. Yes. Look. You don’t want me. Because, eventually, accidentally, I will destroy you.”

In a world at war, a slave girl’s lethal curse could become one kingdom’s weapon of salvation. If the curse—and the girl—can be controlled.

As a slave in the war-weary kingdom of Faelen, seventeen-year-old Nym isn’t merely devoid of rights, her Elemental kind are only born male and always killed at birth — meaning, she shouldn’t even exist.

Standing on the auction block beneath smoke-drenched mountains, Nym faces her fifteenth sell. But when her hood is removed and her storm-summoning killing curse revealed, Nym is snatched up by a court advisor and given a choice: be trained as the weapon Faelen needs to win the war, or be killed.

Choosing the former, Nym is unleashed into a world of politics, bizarre parties, and rumors of an evil more sinister than she’s being prepared to fight . . . not to mention the handsome trainer whose dark secrets lie behind a mysterious ability to calm every lightning strike she summons.

But what if she doesn’t want to be the weapon they’ve all been waiting for?

Set in a beautifully eclectic world of suspicion, super abilities, and monsters, Storm Siren is a story of power. And whoever controls that power will win.

Storm Siren by Mary Weber grabbed my attention from the first page and I couldn’t put it down after that. Or at least, I didn’t want to. I started reading it aloud to my husband at first but eventually it reached the point where I couldn’t wait for him to return home from work. So while I’ve finished the book, he is stuck about 1/4 of the way through. ;)

I loved the world-building and the mythos of Storm Siren. Everything is familiar enough to not feel too alien but unique enough to make you uncomfortably aware you are definitely not in Kansas anymore. Bolcranes and giant wolves and the definitely unique horses (which totally freaked hubby out, btw! lol)

Nym herself is an engaging character. Her sarcasm and attitude instantly endeared her to me, along with her highly sympathetic circumstances. She’s sunk deep into a self-loathing and despair that is understandable, even while the reader chafes for her to move on. And to me, that was the biggest point of the story. The plot may revolve around Nym learning to control her abilities and deciding how she wants to fit in to her war-torn world but the true crux of the story is her internal journey. And that’s where the incredibly subtle Christian elements come into play. I suspect Nym’s journey may be helpful to young ladies struggling with self-harm and other issues. Or it could be a trigger. The book doesn’t shy away from violence, even while it doesn’t revel in it. I’ll have to get my husband’s feedback on that one (he’s a counselor) as we progress through the story.

I hesitate to delve too deeply into the plot. I think the story has much more impact from the mysteries that surrounds everything (and I do mean everything). But that being said, there were maybe 3 big twists throughout the plot and I saw two of them coming from a mile away and the middle-one I guessed about halfway after the first foreshadowing. I was proud of myself for guessing the first one but after the other two I was a bit disappointed. (Although we’ve passed where I guessed the first twist and my husband is still blissfully unaware so maybe my exposure to makjang Korean dramas has ruined me to suspect such things.)

I also found the romance, if you could call it that, very flat. There is instant connection and chemistry, except we are told about it and I never actually felt it. The fixation on his attractiveness got repetitive and their romantic progress was about as unromantic as you can get. If I were reading just for the romance, I probably wouldn’t finish the series. I found myself more smitten with the secondary not-quite-love-triangle-material guy.

I was warned ahead of time about the cliff-hanger ending and it does indeed end in a place that will make most people rage. But the next book in the series comes out in a few months and frankly, this is the kind of book that takes a few weeks to digest anyway, so don’t let the cliff-hanger hold you back. Share our pain. ;D

How do you feel about cliff-hangers?

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free through Goodreads First Reads. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

The Healer’s Apprentice

The Healer’s Apprentice by Melanie Dickerson is one of those rare and special books that promises to be amazing the moment you set eyes on them and then follows through in spades!


Blurb:  Two Hearts. One Hope. 

Rose has been appointed as a healer’s apprentice at Hagenheim Castle, a rare opportunity for a woodcutter’s daughter like her. While she often feels uneasy at the sight of blood, Rose is determined to prove herself capable. Failure will mean returning home to marry the aging bachelor her mother has chosen for her—a bloated, disgusting merchant who makes Rose feel ill. 

When Lord Hamlin, the future duke, is injured, it is Rose who must tend to him. As she works to heal his wound, she begins to understand emotions she’s never felt before and wonders if he feels the same. But falling in love is forbidden, as Lord Hamlin is betrothed to a mysterious young woman in hiding. As Rose’s life spins toward confusion, she must take the first steps on a journey to discover her own destiny. 

I enjoy historicals and romantic adventures so, needless to say, this book was right up my alley.  It’s a realistic retelling, loosely based on (or should I say inspired by), a popular fairy tale but I wasn’t aware of that when I started reading and, even after I knew, it took me a good chunk of the book to figure out which story. I really liked that aspect – that it was such a unique take on the tale that I had no idea where it was going to go.

Almost all of the characters are likeable – even one who ends up being a cad was rather likeable on the surface. He reminded me of Willoughby from Sense & Sensibility – someone you pity because they had such potential. The romance was well-developed and it hit my absolute favorite trope when it comes to romance with simmering attraction that is always held back due to various obstacles.

While not a magical fantasy, it touched upon those spots by containing unique spiritual warfare. It’s a tricky subject and I appreciated the effort though I did have some frustrations with the way a few things went. HIDDEN SPOILERS BELOW, highlight to read – For those who have already read the book only: Namely, I do not believe Christians can be demon possessed and I believe the Holy Spirit protects us from such attacks. While Rose was never possessed or attacked outright (as it was more of a fear attack?), I had niggles over that whole situation. As for the big bad guy – whatever he sprinkled on Rose didn’t bother me too much. But I didn’t like that her prayers & the prayers of Frau Geruscha didn’t drive the demons from her room in the first place and then that she was so terrified that she couldn’t even pray later and Hamlin had to save the day. And why was Frau Geruscha telling him what to pray? Didn’t he already know? And why didn’t she just pray herself? The man’s gotta do it?

All in all, a highly recommended read! :)  What’s your favorite romantic trope?

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

A Brother’s Price


Blurb:   In a world where male children are rare, a man is a valuable commodity — to be sold to the highest bidder…

It isn’t easy being the oldest boy in a house run by women– especially for Jerin Whistler. The grandmothers of his clan are descended from soldiers, spies, and thieves–and their ruthless skills kept their family alive during their time in the wilderness. Jerin’s now afraid that he’ll have to marry the girls next door–a fate he’s convinced is worse than death. And it doesn’t help when, in the process of a daring rescue, he falls in love with a princess who’s as high above his station as it’s possible to be.

Ren knows that Jerin is too far below her class to be an appropriate match for her and her royal sisters. But then she hears rumors of a long-held Whistler family secret–one that might provide a way for them to finally be together. Unfortunately, she still has four sisters to convince. And that’s before Jerin even comes to the capital– where simmering political tensions will threaten not just their love but all their lives….

I’m a sucker for world-building and can be enticed to read almost anything if the culture intrigues me. So when I first heard about A Brother’s Price by Wen Spencer, about a world ruled by women because men are extremely rare, the “what-ifs” had me interested enough to get my hands on it asap. It’s a bit different than my normal type – secular adult fiction that is not mystery or SciFi/fantasy. And I was a bit worried the romantic aspects of the story would stray into romance novel territory. Instead I found myself hooked on a unique alternate-universe set in a western turn-of-the-century time period. The women are tough and carry pistols! Children are taught from a young age how to handle a rifle and do their part – not just with running the farm or ranch but also protecting the menfolk from raiders! And the men are sheltered and precious – raised to be good husbands and fathers, traded with another family when they are of age. (This aspect I found fairly realistic. I remember reading once about India having similar problems with not enough women to go around and many families only allowing their daughters to marry if their son can wed the other family’s daughter.)

As already mentioned, I really enjoyed the culture in this world. While a bit of a ridiculous idea, I felt like the author  took the premise and made it have solid potential. I also enjoyed the intrigue – I dislike political intrigue with a lot of doublespeak but this was more like spy/assassin intrigue and had me champing at the bit for the characters to figure it out. And the climactic ending was so action-packed I was wishing I could see it in a movie. It was the perfect cap on a nail-biting situation.

I did find the “he loved each girl with all his heart” bit to be total bunk. Maybe I could have bought it if we didn’t have the Bible detailing over and over again how marriages with multiple spouses never fail to suffer from jealousy and unhappiness. And while not a porny romance novel, you can’t have a story that revolves around marriage/breeding without constant references to the subject, although handled tactfully. There is also a sex scene or two, though handled without many details.

All in all, I found A Brother’s Price well written and engaging. I also learned the author, Wen Spencer, writes popular science fiction and fantasy. My library only has book two for one of her series so I’ll have to order the books or just buy them myself. Either way, if they are anywhere near as good as this book was, I know I’ll enjoy them a lot!

What trope in a book always grabs your interest?

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Entertaining Angels

Entertaining Angels

Blurb: Madison Andrews can’t face her reflection in the mirror. All she sees is a big, fat nobody. Yet, deep inside she longs for something more, something that’s not skin deep. 

Along comes Zach, the new guy in school. He’s smoking hot and totally out of her league. She somehow catches his eye, and he makes her feel beautiful for once. But just as she gets close to Zach, her nerdy best friend, Chase, won’t let Madison doubt her true beauty, no matter how many meals she skips.

Even as Madison begins to realize that she is more than what she thinks, darker forces are at work, darker than the lies and mocking from her peers, stopping her from amounting to her full potential. Can Madison find true happiness in her own skin?

Entertaining Angels by Emerald Barnes is a tough book to categorize but I think calling it a spiritual-warfare-romance about covers it. I was expecting a clear-cut Christian YA romance so the spiritual-warfare aspect was an interesting surprise. My first thought after reading the above blurb was that Zach was playing some kind of mean trick on Madison. But once you start reading, it takes all of two seconds to combine the Entertaining Angels title with the fact that Zach runs around saying things like “your body is a temple of the Lord’s” and I don’t think it’s much of a spoiler to say Chase’s concerns regarding Zach are unfounded.

Despite being nearly 20 years older than Madison, I didn’t have much trouble identifying with her. Body-image is an insidious battle and something many girls struggle with off and on. I’ve never connected body-image with spiritual warfare before but it makes perfect sense and I appreciated the concept. Satan will latch on to anything to undermine or prevent our walk with Christ; weight can definitely be one of them. But regarding the rest of the spiritual warfare in the book I have mixed feelings.

I was raised Southern Baptist and while I know speaking in tongues is biblical, I am seriously skeptical about tongues being used without an interpreter; not to mention other, more pentacostal practices like being “slain in the spirit”. So when the book took a sharp veer into that territory I was caught off guard. That being said, I think the subject was handled fairly vaguely – mentioned in passing and then not really discussed again. Frankly, so was Madison’s salvation – rather than being preached at the reader, it’s glossed into a hazy experience and never defined as such.  It’s easy to overlook or debate theological differences in secular fantasy but I find myself more critical of books that are out-and-out Christian.

The romance was sweet and one of those “everyone knows what’s going on except the two involved” situations. But while clean, I don’t think they had the best habits regarding avoiding temptations. There’s a lot of hanging out alone in each other’s rooms, etc. Zach points this out once but it was never really followed up on. (Though my lasting thought after finishing the book is they were probably never tempted to go too far when they knew there was an invisible angelic presence always hanging around that just might pop out and say hi! lol)

Lastly, while a nice story, I never really bought the reasoning behind Zach appearing in the first place. Had he not come along, would things really have gone differently? Not to mention I don’t agree with the belief of personal guardian angels. And his actions toward her when she though he was a normal boy who might like her were awfully familiar and misleading – a lot of hugging, hand-holding, forehead kisses – which I felt were rather inappropriate when they were not in a relationship and very misleading when he had no intention to be. Not to mention Madison’s fixation with desiring to kiss him for the first half of the book…

So, overall, this was a simple spiritial-warfare/body-image story with cute romance aspects. I think it’s a good read for showing the spiritual side of the struggle and something most girls can relate to, but only if one is comfortable with more pentacostal Christianity.   (And I’ve already got a close friend clamoring to read it after previewing this review. ;)

How do you feel about body-image and spiritual warfare?

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the author. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.