Posted in Christian Fiction, Christian Romance, Historical Christian Fiction, Inspirational

Lost in Darkness (2021)

About the Book

BookLost in Darkness

Author: Michelle Griep

Release Date: November 1, 2021

Genre: Regency-Era Gothic Romance

Even if there be monsters, there is none so fierce as that which resides in man’s own heart.

Enchanting Regency-Era Gothic Romance Intertwined with Inspiration from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein  
Travel writer Amelia Balfour’s dream of touring Egypt is halted when she receives news of a revolutionary new surgery for her grotesquely disfigured brother. This could change everything, and it does. . .in the worst possible way.
Surgeon Graham Lambert has suspicions about the doctor he’s gone into practice with, but he can’t stop him from operating on Amelia’s brother. Will he be too late to prevent the man’s death? Or to reveal his true feelings for Amelia before she sails to Cairo?

Click HERE to purchase your copy!

My Thoughts

Frankenstein is my #2 most favorite book in the whole world. I adore Shelley and her novel more than words can say. So, as soon as I saw that Michelle Griep was publishing a Frankensteinesque novel I knew I had to have a copy of this book. I am SO glad I read Lost in Darkness — it is EXCELLENT. I love all the nods to Frankenstein; original character names used throughout for secondary characters in this book, a letter from Mr. Walton to Amelia, the fact that a young Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley (before she was Shelley) takes tea with Amelia, Colin’s monstrous form, a mad doctor, etc. OH! It was so fun to read. I love when modern-day writers extrapolate meaningful, timeless themes from works that came before and create new and outstanding pieces of literature, yet humbly give credence and recognition to those remarkable authors of the past. I find it to be a sign of respect, and Michelle Griep does this perfectly in Lost in Darkness. Griep also perfectly tells a unique story all her own. Lost in Darkness is an excellent read. The pacing is superb. The storyline is mesmerizing. The characters are excellently crafted. My heart hurt for Colin, I fully related to Graham’s innate need to do right but not fully knowing how, and I loved watching Amelia journey from “modern” woman needing no one to “modern” woman realizing she needs to pay attention to her heart’s yearnings. Then there are all the timely and thought-provoking themes that Griep addresses. There are so many quality things to discuss — this book would make an excellent book club read! Truly, Lost in Darkness is an unputdownable book, one I just cannot recommend enough.

You know what frustrates me the most about being a follower of Jesus? All those moments I think I’m doing things right only to realize I’ve totally stepped off His path. When Jesus says in Matthew 7 that the path to Him is narrow and only a few traverse it, He ain’t kidding. So, there is this scene in Lost in Darkness where Amelia steps out of her church and looks across the street to where a small street girl is desperately attempting to sell flowers. Almost every person walking out of the church ignores this girl, but for some reason, she calls to Amelia’s heart. As she contemplates how to help, Amelia accidentally walks into Mr. Lambert — so wrapped up in getting to the girl she just doesn’t see his handsome form before her. While they are gathering themselves and engaging in another round of romantically charged chit-chat, a very Pharisaical church-goer screams at the young girl to get out of his way and pushes her to the ground where she is at the mercy of his horses’ hooves as he has pushed her under his carriage. Mr. Lambert rushes to the rescue — he is the hero of this story in more ways than one for sure. Unbidden, as I was reading this moment, a thought popped into my brain: Jesus would never have gone into that church. He would have stayed outside with the people the church members didn’t even recognize as human. WHOA! For a second I had to pause. Clearly, Jesus needed me to see that image of Him refusing to go into a church. Then I got God-bumps — you know, those goosebumps that come when it’s super clear God is talking to you? Yeah, those bumps. I started to get really sad. I was then reminded of Matthew 8:20 where Jesus says that “the Son of Man has no place to lay His head.” Then I got to thinking about myself. Am I the “good” girl who goes to church every Sabbath, but then treats people like garbage the rest of the week? Am I the Pharisee in this scene? Do I value life or only my own? Would Jesus want to come to me or would He realize that I am not one of His kids? Would He find a place to rest His head with me? What about you, dear reader? Would Jesus find a place to rest His head with you, or are you guilty of Pharisaical moments too? What a wonderful story to get the reader to contemplate such important and profound questions!!!

Lost in Darkness is a FANTASTIC story that I won’t soon forget. There is something truly special about this book. Please, purchase yourself a copy today. You will not regret spending your hard-earned money on this gem.

I received a review copy of this novel in eBook form from the publisher, Barbour Fiction, via NetGalley. In no way has this influenced my review. The opinions expressed in this review are my own.

Posted in Christian Fiction, Christian Romance, Inspirational, Suspense

Trust Me (2022)

About the Book

Book: Trust Me

Author: Kelly Irvin

Release Date: February 8, 2022

Genre: Christian Mystery and Suspense

When Delaney Broward finds her best friend stabbed to death a decade after her brother suffered the same fate, she must confront her painful past in order unmask a killer who isn’t done yet.

How can this be happening again?

Delaney Broward has spent the last ten years rebuilding her life after finding her brother brutally stabbed to death in his art studio, leaving her without a single living family member. His death even took away her boyfriend, Hunter Nash, who was convicted of the murder. Convinced it’s too dangerous to trust her heart to anyone again, Delaney lives alone. She pours herself into her frame shop in the historic art district in San Antonio. She doesn’t have the husband and children she once dreamed of, but her heart is safe.

Until she walks into her best friend Ellie’s shop and finds she has suffered the same fate. Once again Delaney’s life is shattered by violence, tragedy, and loss.

Hunter Nash leaves prison a free man that same day. He’s determined to prove his innocence, win Delaney back, and restore her faith in God.

Delaney’s mission is to bring Ellie’s murder to justice while protecting her heart. They forge an uneasy alliance, both certain the truth will win out. Both are willing to accept the outcome—if they survive.

Click HERE to purchase your copy!

My Thoughts

Trust Me by Kelly Irvin is the first novel I’ve read by this author, but it will not be my last. Having never read a story by Irvin before I really didn’t know what to expect. What I got was one crazy ride! The first thing that drew me to this book is its cover. The slash marks through the title and author name, the spooky colors, and the blurry solitary figure all combine to create an image that really captures a reader’s eye. Then I read the premise and I knew I had to get my hands on a copy of this book. For me, I found the story highly engaging and quite unputdownable. I will admit to guessing the villain pretty quickly, but that did not ruin my enjoyment of the book. In fact, this book reminds me of classic Greek literature. Take Oedipus Rex by Sophocles for example. Everyone goes into that story knowing poor Oedipus’s background and his horrible demise. In the grand scheme of things, none of that really matters. What matters is the journey to his end. It’s the same here with Trust Me. Yes, I figured out who-done-it pretty quickly, but I didn’t care because the journey is FANTASTIC. The twists, the turns, the action, the suspense, the clues that emerge — it’s all such fun reading. And, I love how this story is a character journey as much as it is a murder mystery. Hunter and Delaney are excellent protagonists. They’re both older, wiser, more cynical, and dealing with some serious traumas and heartbreaks. I love Hunter’s dogged determination and his steadfast faith in God. No matter how bad things get he turns to God for help — he knows turning to God is the best response in any situation. Delaney’s story is heartbreaking. Man, the bad just keeps pummeling her. It’s like she is a human punching bag, so I really appreciate how she uses boxing as a way to channel her anger and fear and frustration and loneliness. She takes what life viciously throws at her and she throws a few punches back. I enjoyed how Hunter and Delaney’s relationship progresses over the course of this story. Is this novel the greatest love story every told? Is the passion fierce? No. BUT, this isn’t really a story about romantic passion. Trust Me is about rebuilding trust and friendship after all of that has been lost. I feel that Hunter and Delaney’s relationship progresses exactly as it should considering their crazy past. All in all, Trust Me is an outstanding Romantic Suspense story that I HIGHLY recommend. This is a book that should go to the top of your TBR pile.

At the end of the story in the Q+A section, there is one question that really caught my attention and I would like to address it here in this review. The question does not pose any threat of spoiling the storyline because all the info in the question is learned at the very beginning of the book. But if you would rather not know the details, you can skip this paragraph and go purchase a copy of Trust Me for yourself, or you can read after the italicized/bold question. In no way will I spoil the story in my response. Here is the question: Delaney lost her parents in a car accident as a child, then her grandparents, and years later her brother was murdered. The man she loved was convicted of his murder. She lost her faith in God. As Christians what should we say to those who suffer about God’s plan, where God’s goodness is, and what the reasons might be for their suffering? This is a great question that can really elicit some deep responses. All of them well-meaning. As a woman who has been through some serious trauma and recently lost three very close, very important people in her life one right after the other, I can say with great authority that the best thing you can do in this situation is say nothing at all. When you have a hurting friend or loved one who is struggling with his/her relationship with God because of the many, many traumas that seem to keep happening the best thing to do is say nothing. Nine times out of ten, the words that come out of well-meaning people’s mouths are the absolute wrong things to say to someone shrouded in grief. The worst question ever is, “How do you feel?” Don’t ask it! I once heard a pastor who was discussing Job say, “The best thing Job’s friends did was sit with him for one week and say nothing. The worst thing they did was start talking when that week was up.” Truth!!! The thing is it’s not anyone’s place to proselytize or assert some kind of “God does all things for the good of those who love Him” message when someone is in the throes of devastating and debilitating grief. It just makes the person angry and makes them more strongly turn from God. It’s an assault and an insult to be told that God killed off your loved one for a good purpose. I have to say that I appreciate HOW Irvin deals with this topic in her novel. Hunter is a fantastic model of what to do when someone you love has moved away from God because of trauma. He’s patient, he prays, and he NEVER pushes. He gives Delaney space and lets her take the wheel so to speak. When she is ready, he is there for her. But in the meantime he prays and he prays and he prays. This is the way it should be always. God will show the way when it is actually the right time to broach with your loved one the subjects of trauma, loss, and getting back into a relationship with Him. All you need to do in the meantime is just be present in whatever way the loved one needs. They’re the boss in this situation, not you!

There is a lot more that I could say about Trust Me. This book is excellent and my review can’t do this story justice. Add this book to your TBR pile now, pre-order yourself a copy, and read it ASAP when it comes out in February. You will love it!

I received a review copy of this novel in eBook form from the publisher, Thomas Nelson, via NetGalley. In no way has this influenced my review. The opinions expressed in this review are my own.

Posted in Christian Fiction, Christian Romance, Contemporary Christian Fiction, Inspirational

Riverbend Gap (2021)

About the Book

Book: Riverbend Gap

Author: Denise Hunter

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Release Date: October 19, 2021

She came in search of the family she’d always wanted—and found the kind of love she’d never dared to imagine.

When Katelyn Loveland’s car veered off a winding Appalachian Mountain road, she thought she was done for. That is until Cooper Robinson, local sheriff’s deputy, came to her rescue. And though Katie narrowly escaped her brush with death, she still fell. Hard.

She wasn’t the only one. But soon Cooper learns that the woman he’s more attracted to than any he’s ever met is his brother’s new girlfriend—and therefore unquestionably off limits. Yet, despite his best efforts, Cooper and Katie can’t seem to avoid running into each other. Or ignore the undeniable chemistry between them.

As they grow closer, Katie shares the secrets of her past and the real reason she moved to their small North Carolina town. She also wins over Cooper’s welcoming and bighearted family. But they don’t know that her feelings for Cooper keep growing—all while she’s dating his brother. Soon the stakes of their emotional connection become higher than either of them could have imagined. Katie stands to lose the first family she’s ever had, and a scandal could doom Cooper’s campaign for sheriff’s office. Suddenly they find themselves on the edge of another precipice—and they’re forced to make a decision that could change their lives forever.

Click HERE to purchase your copy!

My Thoughts

Denise Hunter writes the BEST stories. Riverbend Gap is FANTASTIC. I loved every second with this story and I am so sad my time with these characters is over. This story is so engaging I read it well past my bedtime. It is an unputdownable book! If you know me, you know I’m not a fan of the love-triangle trope. Riverbend Gap is a love-triangle story, BUT it works so well. It’s a testament to Hunter’s masterful storytelling skills. In fact, I don’t think this story would work as well if it didn’t have the love triangle. The love-triangle in this story lends to the perfect blend of angst and tension between the protagonists, Katie and Cooper. I love how respectful Katie and Cooper work to be towards the third character in their triangle. They do everything in their power to refrain from feeling the chemistry and love towards one another in order to not hurt the feelings of someone else. This restraint, this romantic tension, is what kept me turning pages well into the night. I needed to know how Katie and Cooper would get to their happily ever after.

I loved two things about this story. Well, I loved more than two things, but for the sake of this review, I will limit myself to only two. First, I love that this story revolves around unique family blends. There is Katie who was part of a loving and nurturing foster family. Then there is Cooper who grew up in a step-family situation. What I LOVE about this is that both childhoods illustrate healthy love and respect and nurturing relationships. The stereotype that blended families and foster families are somehow less than or filled with violence has always bugged me. I come from a blended family and my step-dad was the BEST father a girl could have ever wanted. So I do take it personally when step-families are shown as being less than or ugly. In Riverbend Gap, Hunter does an excellent job of illustrating just how blessed a child can be in families that look different or are structured uniquely than what is typical.

The second aspect to this story that I loved is the discussion on blessing. There is a moment in this story where Cooper is having a man-to-man with his stepfather and Cooper tells his stepfather that he knows God blessed him in the family department. Yeah, Cooper would have loved it if his biological father never ran out on him, his brother, and his mother, BUT he recognizes that God used that bad and turned it into good because it brought Cooper’s stepfather and sister into his life. God turned a broken situation into one that could become something that produced a beautiful family. If this isn’t a blessing, I don’t know what it. Not only does this remind me of my own blessings where God brought my stepfather, stepsister, and stepbrother into my life, but it also reminded me of Genesis 50:20 — “You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good.” There are so many “bad” moments in life that God uses to turn to good, to abundant blessings. The issue is one of perspective. Are we looking back and recognizing all of God’s blessings in our lives? Or are we choosing to only see the bad? What a great set of questions for us all to consider today.

Riverbend Gap is another home run by Denise Hunter. I loved this book so much and HIGHLY recommend it. Make sure to put this book on your To-Be-Read list and grab a copy as soon as it releases on the 19th. You will not want to miss this story!

I received a review copy of this novel in eBook form from the publisher, Thomas Nelson, via NetGalley. In no way has this influenced my review. The opinions expressed in this review are my own.

Posted in Christian Fiction, Christian Romance, Historical Christian Fiction, Inspirational

Crossed Lines (2021)

About the Book

Book: Crossed Lines

Author: Jennifer Delamere

Publisher: Bethany House Publishers

Release Date: August 31, 2021

Genre: Historical Romance

Emma Sutton knows she should be satisfied with her position at London’s Central Telegraph Office. But ever since she was orphaned young, she’s longed for a family of her own. Things look up when a handsome engineer is thrown into her orbit and he sends Emma the love note of her dreams.

Mitchell Harris’s sharp wit and facility with a pen have enabled him to thrive despite serious obstacles. That the woman of his dreams works just one floor above his should make life perfect. But a childhood accident has left Mitchell convinced he’ll never draw a woman like Emma Sutton’s attention. When his best friend–who once saved his life–falls in love with Emma, too, and asks for help writing her love letters, Mitchell is torn between desire and loyalty.

Believing the writer of the letters is the answer to her prayers, but confused over her growing attraction to Mitchell, Emma’s heart must decide where to call home.

Click HERE to purchase your copy!

My Thoughts

Writing this review is a bit of a struggle for me. I am not a fan of love-triangle tropes and I really don’t like Cyrano de Bergerac. Because of this, Crossed Lines by Jennifer Delamere took me two weeks to read. I want to be crystal clear — Crossed Lines is a very well-written and engaging story. The plot is well paced and the action throughout is constant. In no way is this story boring. I found the characters well crafted, unique, and endearing. Mitchell’s feelings in regards to his deformity are extremely relatable and very realistic. Emma’s desire to be loved and her want for a permanent, loving, stable home is the stuff of most every girl’s dreams. And, Christopher’s infatuation with the pretty girl is quite typical of early romantic feelings. The various conflicts each character deals with in this story are all relatable and realistic. Overall, Crossed Lines is a great Historical Romance that I wholeheartedly recommend. To me, Crossed Lines is a must-read sequel in what is a very excellent series.

My issue with the love-triangle trope is the lack of depth to the lovers’ romance. Because authors have to give time to each pairing (boy #1 + girl and boy #2 + girl), and typically their books are roughly 300 pages in length, there is not enough “time” for real feelings to develop in a believable manner. Generally, it’s just lusty chemistry rather than deep, true love. There are some ways around this. For example, one of the couplings, say boy#1 + girl, have been good friends for most of their lives. Establishing a preexisting relationship in the love triangle helps make romantic feelings a little more believable. In Crossed Lines, Emma has not known either Mitchell or Christopher for any real length of time. For me, the brief time of knowing two very unique men ruins believability when it comes to a love match. It’s more a lust match or a relationship-of-convenience match. Yes, there is such a thing as love at first sight, but that doesn’t really work when there are two men to get to know in a 300-page book. This is just my opinion. I know a lot of people love the love-triangle trope.

My issue with Cyrano de Bergerac has always been with the shallowness of the characters and the lying they’re OK with doing. When I was six years old, my parents took me and my brothers to the drive in. I loved going to the drive in. That particular night was a two-for one special. The first movie was some kiddie movie that I can’t remember, but the second movie was Roxanne starring Steve Martin and Daryl Hannah. I was supposed to be sleeping during the second movie cause that was the rule. Kids get the first movie, then we go to sleep in the car for the second. Well, I didn’t sleep. I watched the “adult” movie instead. I can remember being very disturbed by the film. The girl only liked the pretty boy because he was handsome. I was totally offended that she couldn’t see how dumb the pretty boy was. I also hated how she made the star of the movie, the real love interest, a second choice. I was offended for this man. I was disappointed that he was OK with being the girl’s seconds. And, I really hated the lying. Nothing good comes from lying no matter how you spin it, especially when it’s lying during the brand-new, baby stages of a relationship. I just did not like the themes of the story. When I was older I had to read Cyrano de Bergerac for a class. I had no idea Roxanne was based on this play. I started to read the play and images of Roxanne came rushing to my brain. I tried really hard to like the play, but I just couldn’t. I felt the same as I did when I was six. In Crossed Lines, I struggled the same as I did with Roxanne and Cyrano de Bergerac. I will say that Delamere does a great job addressing the lying issue, and she even acknowledges the 2nd-choice problem. In Crossed Lines, the best man for Emma wins her hand and it doesn’t feel like she is resigning herself to a second-best option. I appreciate that Delamere rectified these issues in her story.

Jennifer Delamere did an excellent job taking the Cyrano de Bergerac storyline and making it her own. Crossed Lines is a good book; one I do highly recommend. If you are a fan of well-written, engaging Historical Romances, if you appreciate the love-triangle trope, or if you love stories with happy endings then Crossed Lines is the book for you!

I received a copy of this novel in eBook form from Bethany House Publishers via NetGalley in order to review. In no way has this influenced my review. The opinions expressed in this review are my own.

Posted in Christian Fiction, Christian Romance, Historical Christian Fiction, Inspirational, RomCom, Suspense, TBR Challenge

The Mistletoe Countess (2021)

About the Book

Book: The Mistletoe Countess

Author: Pepper Basham

Genre: Historical Fiction, Historical Romance, Suspense, Christmas Lit, Historical Rom-Com

Release Date: September 1, 2021

Will the magic of Christmas bring these two newlyweds closer together, or will the ghosts of the past lead them into a destructive discovery from which not even a Dickens’s Christmas can save them?

Mistletoe is beautiful and dangerous, much like the woman from Lord Frederick Percy’s past, so when he turns over a new leaf and arranges to marry for his estate, instead of his heart, he never expects the wrong bride to be the right choice. Gracelynn Ferguson never expected to take her elder sister’s place as a Christmas bride, but when she’s thrust into the choice, she will trust in her faithful novels and overactive imagination to help her not only win Frederick’s heart but also to solve the murder mystery of Havensbrook Hall before the ghosts from Frederick’s past ruin her fairytale future.

Click HERE to purchase your copy!

My Thoughts

The Mistletoe Countess by Pepper Basham is a wonderfully delightful story. This book has everything a reader could love: a fast-paced and highly engaging plot, realistic and endearing characters, excellent literary allusions and mentions, tons of romantic chemistry, and intrigue and suspense. This story is also hilarious. There are so many moments I chuckled out loud. The Mistletoe Countess is a story the reader will not want to put down. I hated it when pesky chores and sleep got in the way of my reading, so you will definitely want to make sure you secure plenty of reading space in your schedule in order to enjoy and devour this lovely read.

He tipped his head toward her, breathing in the life she brought into these dead rooms. ‘You think I’m strong enough for this?’

‘Of course I do, but not only I. God doesn’t go about placing people haphazardly into their stories. He must think you are strong enough too.’

The Mistletoe Countess

One of my most favorite topics of discussion in this story is the idea that we are all placed in the exact right story. God doesn’t make mistakes. If He places us somewhere that’s where He wants us. It’s reminiscent of Esther 4:14 — we are all where God wants us “for such as time as this.” The thing is though sometimes it feels like maybe we’re not cut out for the place God put us. Maybe we feel too cowardly or too small or too insignificant or too unqualified. Yes, we can accept that God put us where we’re at because He is God and we respect Him, but sometimes it takes a minute or two to understand why He put us where we’re at. Grace is an American who comes from New Money. She is the second daughter, so expectations for her are less stringent at the moment than they are for her beautiful elder sister. Her sister, Lillias, is engaged to Lord Frederick Percy. She appears to be the ideal woman for British Society — she is poised, elegant, and refined. She knows the latest fashions, has impeccable taste, and knows what to say and when to say it. All things considered, Lillias is perfect for Frederick. But, as life would have it, a hiccup happens and Grace finds herself taking her sister’s place and becoming Lady Astley. Grace is an awesome character. Her heart is golden and she is all compassion and kindness. She always considers the feelings of others and loves to bring the best out of them. But, she’s not 100% certain at first that she is qualified to be part of the British aristocracy or a good wife for Frederick, and she does wonder what God is doing especially since this is putting a wrench into her life plans. Grace, however, fully trusts that God has her where she belongs, but it is going to take her a moment to figure out her place in her new world. What I love so much about Grace is that she never doubts God. Never. She is an excellent example of what it looks like to trust God in every facet of one’s life — especially in those moments that don’t go according to our plans. I admit that The Mistletoe Countess came into my life at just the right time. One, I needed this reminder that God doesn’t make mistakes when He places us where He does. And, two, I really needed an illustration of what it looks like to trust God no matter what. I love when a book comes into your hands just when you need it most!

There are like 7,458 more reasons to love The Mistletoe Countess — it’s that chock full of awesomeness. I highly, highly recommend this novel. If you are in the mood for an excellent Historical Romance filled with great characters, tons of fun chemistry, and lots of suspense then you’ve got to put The Mistletoe Countess on the top of your TBR list today!

I received a copy of this novel in eBook form from the publisher, Barbour Fiction, via NetGalley in order to review. In no way has this influenced my review. The opinions expressed in this review are my own.

Posted in Celebrate Lit Tour, Christian Fiction, Christian Romance, Giveaways, Historical Christian Fiction, Inspirational

The Ice Swan (2021) — A Celebrate Lit Tour: A Guest Post, My Thoughts, and a Giveaway

About the Book

Book:  The Ice Swan

Author: J’nell Ciesielski

Genre: Historical Romance

Release date: July 6, 2021

Amid the violent last days of the glittering Russian court, a Russian princess on the run finds her heart where she least expects it.

1917, Petrograd. Fleeing the murderous flames of the Russian Revolution, princess Svetlana Dalsky hopes to find safety in Paris with her mother and sister. But the city is buckling under the weight of the Great War, and the Bolsheviks will not rest until they have erased every Russian aristocrat from memory.

Born the second son of a duke, the only title Wynn MacCallan cares for is that of surgeon. Putting his talents with a scalpel to good use in the hospitals in Paris, Wynn pushes the boundaries of medical science to give his patients the best care possible. While treating Svetlana for a minor injury, he is pulled into a world of decaying imperial glitter and underground Russian clubs where drink, culture, and questionable dealings collide on bubbles of vodka.

Out of money and options, Svetlana is forced into a marriage of convenience with Wynn, who will protect her and pay off her debts. It’s the right thing for a good man to do, but Wynn can’t help hoping the marriage will turn into one of true affection. As the Bolsheviks chase them to different corners of the earth, Wynn and Svetlana begin to see they will never be able to outrun the love they have for one another.

Click HERE to purchase your copy!

About the Author

With a passion for heart-stopping adventure and sweeping love stories, J’nell Ciesielski weaves fresh takes into romances of times gone by. When not creating dashing heroes and daring heroines, she can be found dreaming of Scotland, indulging in chocolate of any kind, or watching old black and white movies. Winner of the Romance Through the Ages Award and the Maggie Award, she is a Florida native who now lives in Virginia with her husband, daughter, and lazy beagle. Learn more at

More from J’nell

When we think of the Great War we often only think about events happening right on the battlefield of France, Belgium, and Germany. It was a time of great upheaval for so many people and countries, none more so than Russia. It was during the Great War that the Bolsheviks rose up against the monarchy, assassinated the tsar and his family, and plunged Russia into civil war. The country was in such chaos that they pulled out of the war to deal with their own revolution. The Russian Revolution was the result of centuries of oppression and imperialism that finally boiled over. As the Bolsheviks seized power, nobles and anyone associated or favorable to the monarchy were stripped of their privileges and homes, many killed, and still thousands of others fled in fear of their lives where they became the great wave of White emigres.

The stories of the ill-fated Anastasia and the evil Rasputin are legendary, but it wasn’t until recently when I watched a Russian miniseries called Road to Calvary that I became fascinated with the nobles and their struggle and from all that an idea sparked that would become my upcoming release, The Ice Swan. It’s about a Russian princess fleeing the Revolution to Paris in 1917 where she meets a handsome surgeon who is breaking new grounds in cardiology. We see the plight of the White emigres who have taken refuge in Paris and founded their own little Russia in the heart of the city, the exhausted City of Light after four years of war, the overflowing hospitals, and highly controversial advancements in surgery. Plus, a romance to prove that true love can overcome any difference and who doesn’t need a little more love these days?

My Thoughts

The Ice Swan by J’nell Ciesielski is an intense story — one that keeps the reader turning pages well into the night. This is an overwhelming story in that SO much happens (this is not a bad thing). A reader going into this 400-page story will need to have their wits about them or they might miss key details. In this story, Ciesielski does an impeccable job of capturing the horrors of war and the evils of Communism. As Svetlana and her mother and sister are forced to flee their beloved Russia in the middle of the night or else die at the tortuous, evil hands of the Bolsheviks, the reader is right there with them. I could feel the fear and tension coursing through Svetlana and her family members. I was terrified imaging all that they had to escape. And, just because they made it to France in one piece didn’t mean they could let their guard down. Nope, it was a constant looking over their shoulders because Bolsheviks came to France purposely searching for Russians who had escaped their wrath. There was never a minute to breathe! In fact, I was so tense reading this story I had to remind myself to breathe from time to time. The historical detail in this novel is AMAZING — I was transported to 1917-1919 Russia, France, and Scotland and I thoroughly loved every terrifying minute.

Because this novel is so intense and in-depth, no review will ever be able to do it justice. The Ice Swan is a book that simply needs to be read. But, there is one idea discussed in this book that I really love. I’m not going to lie, Svetlana kind of drove me crazy. She is a BIG snob. I actually was offended for Wynn throughout a large portion of this novel … OK, like through most of the story. I get Svetlana’s need to put up a wall of protection around her heart. I get that she is a princess and grew up a very particular way. And, I get that war is scary and trusting others can be tricky. But when someone risks his own neck and saves your life and the lives of your family members time and time again, you do what you got to do to show respect and gratitude. It’s not that Svetlana doesn’t say, “Thank you.” She does. It’s that her actions don’t really say, “Thank you.” Some of her words to Wynn are downright mean and she is continually cutting him out of her life. The hardest quality though is her inability to show grace. Everyone has to be perfect and make the right choice, or Svetlana sees you as the villain. Who can live like that? Wynn does something in the story, he thinks out of love, but Svetlana blows it WAY out of proportion and almost destroys their relationship. I kept thinking to myself, “Man, Svetlana, you have got to learn grace or you are going to be one lonely gal.” But this leads to the message I LOVE. There is a lovely older Russian emigre who sets Svetlana to rights: “One time he let down, you cut him out … You have mistake. He have mistake. All us make mistake. Holding on to mistake is pride. Pride enemy to love.” It takes a moment for these wise words to sink in, but once they do, Svetlana sees the error of her ways. What a wise reminder. We are all human and we all make mistakes. As Paul writes in Romans 3:10, “none of us are righteous, no not one.” Because of this we must lend grace and forgiveness to others, not demand perfection. Life will be really disappointing if all we ever do is expect other humans to be perfect in all their interactions with us.

As I stated above, no review can do The Ice Swan justice. The story is just too big to be bound by one blog post. This is a novel I highly recommend devoting some serious quality time to. It’s a historical fiction tour de force you will not want to miss!

I received a review copy of this novel in eBook form from the author, J’nell Ciesielski, via Celebrate Lit through NetGalley. In no way has this influenced my review. The opinions expressed in this review are my own.


To celebrate her tour, J’nell is giving away the grand prize of a paperback copy of The Ice Swan.

Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway!

Click the link below to enter.

PromoSimple Link

Blog Stops

Rebecca Tews, July 19

Where Faith and Books Meet, July 19

Books and Everyday Life, July 19

Texas Book-aholic, July 19

Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations, July 20

Reflections From My Bookshelves, July 20

All-of-a-kind Mom, July 20

Babbling Becky L’s Book Impressions, July 21

She Lives To Read, July 21

The Write Escape, July 21

Lakesdielivingsite, July 22

Remembrancy, July 22

Inklings and notions, July 22

For Him and My Family, July 23

Happily Managing a Household of Boys, July 23

The Christian Fiction Girl, July 23

deb’s Book Review, July 24

Rachael’s Inkwell, July 24

To Everything There Is A Season, July 24

Life, love, writing, July 24

Locks, Hooks and Books, July 25

Life of Literature, July 25

Inside the Wong Mind, July 25

Betti Mace, July 26

Bliss, Books & Jewels, July 26

Older & Smarter?, July 26

Ashley’s Clean Book Reviews, July 27

Connect in Fiction, July 27

Mary Hake, July 27

Connie’s History Classroom, July 28

Back porch reads, July 28

Mypreciousbitsandmusings, July 28

A Modern Day Fairy Tale, July 29

Blossoms and Blessings, July 29

Genesis 5020, July 29

Musings of a Sassy Bookish Mama, July 30

Splashes of Joy, July 30

Simple Harvest Reads, July 30 (Guest Review from Mindy Houng)

Through the fire blogs, July 31

Pause for Tales, July 31

Just Your Average reviews, July 31

Truth and Grace Homeschool Academy, August 1

Labor Not in Vain, August 1

The Adventures of a Travelers Wife, August 1

Posted in Christian Fiction, Christian Romance, Contemporary Christian Fiction, Inspirational, TBR Challenge

Before I Called You Mine (2020)

About the Book

Book: Before I Called You Mine

Author: Nicole Deese

Genre: Contemporary Romance, Women’s Lit

Release Date: March 31, 2020

Lauren Bailey may be a romantic at heart, but after a decade of matchmaking schemes gone wrong, there’s only one match she’s committed to now–the one that will make her a mother. Lauren is a dedicated first grade teacher in Idaho, and her love for children has led her to the path of international adoption. To satisfy her adoption agency’s requirements, she gladly agreed to remain single for the foreseeable future; however, just as her long wait comes to an end, Lauren is blindsided by a complication she never saw coming: Joshua Avery.

Joshua may be a substitute teacher by day, but Lauren finds his passion for creating educational technology as fascinating as his antics in the classroom. Though she does her best to downplay the undeniable connection between them, his relentless pursuit of her heart puts her commitment to stay unattached to the test and causes her once-firm conviction to waver.

With an impossible decision looming, Lauren might very well find herself choosing between the two deepest desires of her heart . . . even if saying yes to one means letting go of the other.

Click HERE to purchase your copy!

My Thoughts

I do not have adequate words to do this book justice. Before I Called You Mine by Nicole Desse is absolutely amazing. I loved every minute with Lauren and Joshua and I am so sad my time with these characters is over. I can say with great sincerity, this is a story I will never forget.

There is SO much to love and appreciate about this story, but here are my top-three reasons this book should be read immediately (if you haven’t read it yet):

  • Lauren and Joshua’s relationship — I love everything about these two characters and their path to love. How they meet is super cute and super hilarious. Joshua is an excellent hero and I love how instantly attracted he is to Lauren. I love how he truly sees who she is right from the very beginning. Because of her standing with the international adoption agency, Lauren is not able to date. Joshua accepts and respects this, so he and Lauren become good friends. I’m talking really good friends. This may actually be my favorite aspect to their relationship. Yes, the chemistry between the two is fierce, but the foundation they create as friends is everything. It’s what gets them through some really tough moments and eventually allows them to get to their happily ever after. Lauren and Joshua’s relationship makes my heart so, so happy.
  • Motherhood (in God’s time) — Being a mom is hard. I mean really hard. The mom-guilt, the sleepless nights, the worry and anxiety, the constant second-guessing — and that’s just the emotional aspect. There’s also the physical aspect — working a full-time job all day then coming home to make dinner, checking homework, chauffeuring to practices, doctor appointments, and/or school events, and the whole bedtime routine. A 24-hour day can sometimes feel endless. But, it is all 100% worth it. I have wanted to be a mom since I was four-years old. It took me a long time to be a mom, and I often struggled in the waiting. There were many nights where I wrestled with God begging Him to make my dreams come true. Years would go by and still no husband and still no baby. I got to the point where I was ready to give up. Clearly, God didn’t want me to be a mom. Wouldn’t you know it, when I stopped trying to force the matter God put my husband into my life and then my daughter came several years later. What I appreciated, perhaps the most, about this story is Lauren’s impatience. I appreciate this because her impatience is SO relatable. Lauren wants to be a mom but it’s just not working out. The men she has been on dates with are NOT husband material. It’s been years and years of awful first dates that lead to nowhere. So, she applies for international adoption thinking that maybe she is meant to be a single mom, but even that is taking forever and seems to lead to a whole lot of nothing. In all the waiting — the constant waiting — Lauren sees moms everywhere and it hurts. Why can’t she have her dreams? Lauren wrestles with God (and His timing) and gets to a point where she kind of wants to give up. And then life happens BIG time and she has to make hard choices. What Lauren goes through is SO realistic it makes her a very life-like character who is super easy to root for and love. And, Lauren’s story proves that God’s timing truly is perfect.
  • Fangirling over a popular education guru — So this may be something only teachers get, but Lauren’s adoration for Joshua’s father (the educational guru) made me laugh out loud. There are several real-life education gurus I would love to meet, specifically Kelly Gallagher. How this man has informed my teaching over the years is incalculable. I know for a fact that if I ever met him I would be tongue tied. I know cause I got to meet two of my FAVORITE poets — Billy Collins and Seamus Heaney — and it was like my mouth and brain stopped functioning. Anyway, I love how passionate a teacher Lauren is because of the strong teachers who came before her. I love how Deese illustrates the good-heartedness and nerdiness of teachers. It was fun to see a representation of myself and so many teachers I know and love through Lauren’s character.

I’m sorry it took me so long to get to this book, but I am seriously glad I did finally read this lovely story. Before I Called You Mine is an exceptional story that made me laugh and cry and cheer. I’m leaving this story filled with heartwarming hope. If you haven’t read this book yet, I highly recommend you do ASAP. Before I Called You Mine is a story you will not want to miss.

I received a copy of this novel in eBook form from the publisher, Bethany House Publishing, via NetGalley in order to review. In no way has this influenced my review. The opinions expressed in this review are my own.

Posted in Celebrate Lit Tour, Christian Fiction, Christian Romance, Giveaways, Historical Christian Fiction, Inspirational

A Lady in Attendance (2021) — A Celebrate Lit Tour: A Guest Post, My Thoughts, and a Giveaway

About the Book

Book:  A Lady in Attendance

Author: Rachel Fordham

Genre: Christian Historical

Release date: June 1, 2021

Rachel Fordham’s historical novels have received high praise for their warm and engaging story lines filled with romance, adventure, and happy endings. In A Lady in Attendance, Fordham beautifully blends these same great features in a novel about overcoming obstacles in the past to make room for a better future.

Ada, Mi.

Will the Past Destroy Her Future?

After spending the last five years in a New York state reformatory, Hazel is desperate to begin life anew, but she knows that a tarnished name could ruin her chances. She accepts a job as Doctor Gilbert Watts’ lady in attendance but does so under an alias so she can hide her shameful past.

Dr. Watts has come to enjoy the pleasant chatter of his new dental assistant, but he senses her sadness and wonders if there is more to her story than she’s shared with him. As their friendship deepens, Hazel must grapple with her desire to trust him.

Can Dr. Watts and Hazel’s friends help expunge her record? And can Hazel possibly find hope and love along the way?

Click HERE to purchase your copy!

About the Author

Rachel Fordham is the author of The Hope of Azure Springs, Yours Truly, Thomas, and A Life Once Dreamed. Fans expect stories with heart, and she delivers, diving deep into the human experience and tugging at reader emotions. She loves connecting with people, traveling to new places, and daydreaming about future projects that will have sigh-worthy endings and memorable characters. She is a busy mom, raising both biological and foster children (a cause she feels passionate about). She lives with her husband and children on an island in the state of Washington.

More from Rachel

Ten behind the scenes extras from A Lady in Attendance:

  1. This book takes place in Amherst and Buffalo New York, places I lived for four years. Buffalo has had some rough years but if you ever visit the area you will see gorgeous old buildings, beautiful parks and cemeteries and understand why it was once a booming and prosperous city (and why I love it still). Gilbert and Hazel both grew up in the area (though, they did not know each other until the story begins). Two of my children were born in Buffalo and though they aren’t being raised there, I tell them stories.
  2. Hazel spent five years in a New York State reformatory. Reformatories were basically the first juvenile delinquent facilities (the ages of who could be sentenced there was different from today). Reformatories were a new idea. There were still a lot of people who believed in “bad blood” and that a criminal could never be anything but a criminal. There were some heroes who fought hard to convince the public, that people could change. Because of this book’s storyline, I could not go too deeply into this subject, but it is fascinating!
  3. Gilbert Watts is this book’s leading man. I gave up on being able to use the name Gilbert on one of my own kids and instead gave it to a character. I adore the name Gilbert and everything about this character, hope you do too!
  4. There is a joke at the end of the book about a graveyard (don’t worry, it’s not scary) and it’s a nod to my mom who used to use this joke on us every time we passed a cemetery. I really love sneaking in things into my stories that will make my kids, family, and friends smile when they read it. I often think of my books as love letters from me to others and the best kind of love letters are personal.
  5. My husband is a dentist and as a result, we tend to notice dentist in media. They are often portrayed as villains or comic relief. I decided it would be my goal to write a romantic dentist that would change the image in readers minds.
  6. Gilbert tells Hazel that being a dentist is really being an artist. When my husband was first trying to decide on a career path, he shadowed a dentist. He didn’t really think it would be for him, but he was open to exploring options. He came home and told me that the cool thing about dentistry was that you were essentially making art that was functional, every day. Little sculptures that helped people eat and smile better. Gilbert from the book is very different from my husband, but it was fun sneaking in little pieces of him in there.
  7. One of my favorite scenes from this book take place at a corn husking. There is a tradition that says, if a red ear of corn is found, the finder gets a kiss. Sigh, I love that scene!
  8. Without always meaning to, my books end up having messages woven into them. I believe one of the messages in A Lady in Attendance is forgiveness. In this case, it’s forgiving of one’s self. I believe this message is one that we all need at some point in our lives (or many points!).
  9. My books are coming out in a different order than they were written in. I actually wrote this book before Yours Truly, Thomas and after A Life Once Dreamed. This story has been waiting a long time to be in print! During that time, it has been reshaped in little ways. It gained a prologue and lost an epilogue, it was tamed down in places and intensified in others, but the heart of it has always been the same!
  10. One last piece of A Lady in Attendance trivia—several of my books have had their titles changed. It’s part of the writing process. The books get a working title and later a title that the rest of the world knows it by. The Hope of Azure Springs was originally just Azure SpringsYours Truly, Thomas was originally Dear, Azure SpringsA Life Once Dreamed was originally The Belle of PenanceA Lady in Attendance began as A Lady in Attendance and stayed A Lady in Attendance. Not only is this title fitting because dental assistants were known by this or as an attending lady, but also because Hazel wrestles with her worth. In a society that believes a mistake made once can leave a mark forever, it takes the right eyes and open heart to realize that there truly is a lady in attendance.

My Thoughts

A Lady in Attendance by Rachel Fordham is a really excellent read. I love Fordham’s writing style. Every time I’ve read one of her novels I’ve been immediately captivated. A Lady in Attendance is no exception. This book caught my attention from page one and didn’t let go until the very last page. Actually, when I got to the last page I was confused momentarily. “What?! It’s over?!” is what I asked myself internally. This is a story I could have easily sat for another hundred pages or so.

So, what did I love so much about this book? Here is my list of likes:

  • Characters — Hazel and Gil and Ina are the BEST. Each character is unique, yet all are super relatable and endearing. Gil is an excellent hero because he is not your typical Romance hero. In fact, most people wouldn’t even notice Gil. He’s quiet and introverted. He doesn’t say much. But then he meets Hazel and his life is changed. He grows into a fantastic Romance hero who very much saves the day. I love how Hazel is the catalyst to bringing Gil’s true nature out into the open. And, because Gil is allowed to come out of his shell, so to speak, he then becomes the catalyst for Hazel to grow into the confident woman he knows she can be. I very much love how Gil and Hazel become a strong team and help each other become better people. And then there is Ina. Ina becomes Hazel’s best friend and I love everything about her. My favorite aspect of her character is how good of a friend she is to Hazel. When Hazel needs support, Ina is there. When Hazel needs truth, Ina is there. When Hazel needs a shoulder to cry on, Ina is there. Ina is the kind of friend we would all be lucky to have. And, I love that Fordham gives Ina a happily ever after in this story, too!
  • Team work — This story is a great illustration of decent, like-minded, compassionate people coming together to help one another out. There are countless moments in this story where the main cast of characters come together as a team to help. This may seem like an insignificant or boring thing to notice in a novel, but I found it super refreshing to read about people standing by each and supporting each other no matter the consequences. It was so nice to “see” people working together to build something up rather than take things apart. I’m so spiritually and emotionally exhausted by the utter insanity and chaos that’s in my real world that reading A Lady in Attendance was balm to my very soul.
  • Themes — this lovely story brings up such great talking points on topics such as forgiveness, redemption, Society and how it judges based on looks rather than heart, second chances, the ability to control how we act in situations, relying on God to see us through tough times, real romance vs. fictionalized romance, and true friendship. I believe this novel would make an exceptional book-club read. Of the many things discussed in this book, my favorite topic is in regards to our self-worth and how others see us. All too often, the world see us as nothing — as sinners, losers, mistake-makers, etc. — and it is very unforgiving. Today, it’s insane how poorly Society treats humans: did you make a mistake and post something dumb on SM ten years ago when you were 15? Did someone resurface that old social media post to show the world how dumb you used to be? Are you sorry you posted that? It doesn’t matter, you made a mistake one time and the world doesn’t forgive. Now, you are banned from Society cause Twitter or Instagram or Facebook says so. What’s really rough is that most people care deeply about what Society thinks about them. When they feel the harshness of Society’s inability to forgive and forget, they begin to internalize all the meanness hurled at them and believe they truly are worthless. In our day, Social Media rules with a heavy fist, but in Hazel’s day it was her uppity, wealthy, super-judgmental social class that deemed her unfit and worthless. It’s not until she is trapped in a reformatory, and later when she makes really good relationships with regular working-class people, that Hazel comes to realize what really matters and who she really is. The best lesson this story teaches is that we need to choose the right voices to listen to.

There is so much more good to say about A Lady in Attendance as it’s a really superior story. But, I don’t want this review to go on and on and on. Instead, I’d rather you just go buy a copy of this excellent story and experience for yourself what a great read this Historical Romance truly is.

I received a review copy of this novel in eBook form from the author, Rachel Fordham, via Celebrate Lit through NetGalley. In no way has this influenced my review. The opinions expressed in this review are my own.


To celebrate her tour, Rachel is giving away the grand prize package of a paperback copy of A Lady in Attendance as well as A Life Once Dreamed, a signed bookplate, book swag, and a $25 gift card to Barnes and Noble!

Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway!

Click the link below to enter.

PromoSimple Link

Blog Stops

Girls in White Dresses, June 30

The Sacred Line, June 30

Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations, June 30

lakesidelivingsite, July 1

Inklings and notions, July 1

For Him and My Family, July 2

Reflections From My Bookshelves, July 2

Mary Hake, July 2

deb’s Book Review, July 3

Remembrancy, July 3

Happily Managing a Household of Boys, July 4

Reviewingbooksplusmore, July 4

A Modern Day Fairy Tale, July 5

Breny and Books, July 5

Abba’s Prayer Warrior Princess, July 6

Locks, Hooks and Books, July 6

Mypreciousbitsandmusings, July 6

Ashley’s Clean Book Reviews, July 7

The Christian Fiction Girl, July 7

Musings of a Sassy Bookish Mama, July 8

Simple Harvest Reads, July 8 (Guest Review from Mindy Houng)

Jeanette’s Thoughts, July 8

Older & Smarter?, July 9

Truth and Grace Homeschool Academy, July 9

Connie’s History Classroom, July 10

For the Love of Literature, July 10

Pause for Tales, July 10

Splashes of Joy, July 11

Life of Literature, July 11

Daysong Reflections, July 12

Bliss, Books & Jewels, July 12

Labor Not in Vain, July 12

Through the fire blogs, July 13

Texas Book-aholic, July 13

Blossoms and Blessings, July 13

Posted in Christian Fiction, Christian Romance, Contemporary Christian Fiction, Historical Christian Fiction, Inspirational, Suspense

Come Back to Me (2021)

About the Book

Book: Come Back to Me

Series: Waters of Time #1

Author: Jody Hedlund

Release Date: June 1, 2021

Genre: Historical Romance, Contemporary Fiction, Time Travel, Inspirational

The ultimate cure that could heal any disease? Crazy.

That’s exactly what research scientist Marian Creighton has always believed about her father’s quest, even if it does stem from a desire to save her sister Ellen from the genetic disease that stole their mother from them. But when her father falls into a coma after drinking a vial of holy water believed to contain traces of residue from the Tree of Life, Marian must question all of her assumptions. He’s left behind tantalizing clues that suggest he’s crossed back in time. Insane. Until Marian tests his theories and finds herself in the Middle Ages during a dangerous peasant uprising.

William Durham, a valiant knight comes to Marian’s rescue and offers her protection . . . as his wife. The longer Marian stays in the past, the more she cares about William. Can she ever find her father and make it back to the present to heal her sister? And when the time comes to leave, will she want to?

Bestselling author Jody Hedlund is your guide down the twisting waters of time to a volatile era of superstition, revolts, and chivalry in this suspenseful story.

Click HERE to purchase your copy!

My Thoughts

When I pick up a Jody Hedlund novel, I know I’m not going to be disappointed. I do admit a little hesitancy when I first picked up Come Back to Me because I am not a sci-fi, fantasy, speculative-fiction kind of gal. These books are not the genres I gravitate to. But, I love Hedlund’s novels so I took a chance, and, boy, am I glad I did. Come Back to Me is a truly unique and highly satisfying read. This book has everything: a contemporary setting, current medical issues, time travel, suspense, and steamy romance. The characters are great, but my most favorite aspect to this story is how the modern heroine deals in the historical time setting.

I have always believed that God is incapable of making a mistake. So, if you were born in the 1380s it’s because He meant for you to be alive in the late 1300s. When I was in high school, I remember girls in history class saying things like, “I was born in the wrong time period. I wish I had been born in the 1400s.” I always found that desire to be odd because, again, God doesn’t make mistakes. So I would ask these girls why they felt this way and they would always respond that it was because of the clothes. They wanted to live in a time period because of the medieval clothing style. I’m not going to lie, I always felt sad for these girls. To feel like they were born “at the wrong time” because of clothes?! I would be blown away by this answer because in my mind, I saw all the ways life was REALLY difficult to be a female in the medieval age — very little power or control over her own life, her inherent vulnerability because she had no power or control, her monthly period, her inability to bathe whenever she wanted, massive disease, etc. Personally, I really appreciate my shower, my current clothes, my ability to make the money I need to pay bills, and my ability to make decisions for myself. What I love in Come Back to Me is how Hedlund illustrates Marian’s initial arrogance when she first arrives back in time to 1381 England. Before she left her time period, Marian utilizes the internet to do a basic search on Canterbury, England in 1381. She learns that there was a Peasant Revolt that ended very badly for the peasants. Cool, that’s the extent of her prep. She’s got this! Then she ends up in 1381 Canterbury and she is immediately schooled in just how ignorant she truly is about the medieval age. Her immediate lack of protection as a single, beautiful woman is apparent within minutes of “landing” in 1381. Then, there’s issues with money, control over her own life, abuse, clothing, food, assumptions made against her, her speech, etc. It really stood out to me this dichotomy between Marian’s modern assumptions of history versus her actual reality once she became a part of that time period. I also really liked how Marian grows as a woman during her time in the medieval setting. I appreciate how she assesses her truth — yes, there are things about the modern era that make life really comfortable, but there is a lot about the medieval time that allows life to be all the more full and vibrant. Marian’s assessment of herself made me consider my time period, the things I have that make me comfortable, how I interact with my loved ones today, and the things I can learn from history to make my relationships better today.

There is no way to adequately review this book. Come Back to Me needs to be experienced. I loved the highly engaging plot, the uniquely relatable characters, and the many excellent themes discussed. Come Back to Me is a great read and I highly recommend it. If you love suspense, romance, history, and/or time travel then you will absolutely love this story!

I purchased a copy of this novel in eBook form from on June 12, 2021, in order to review. In no way has this influenced my review. The opinions expressed in this review are my own.

Posted in Celebrate Lit Tour, Christian Fiction, Christian Romance, Giveaways, Historical Christian Fiction, Inspirational

The Songstress (2021) — A Celebrate Lit Tour: A Guest Post, My Thoughts, and a Giveaway

About the Book

Book:  The Songstress

Author: Lori Bates Wright

Genre: Christian Historical Romance

Release date: April 16, 2021

Rising opera star, Juliana Chamberlain, still has nightmares of the night she witnessed the assassination of the President of the United States from her spot on stage at Ford Theater. Recruited by The Pinkerton Detective Agency, Juliana was instrumental in bringing those responsible to justice.

Now, two years later, the Pinkertons ask her once again to join forces in exposing a corrupt political organization terrorizing her home in Texas.

Texas Ranger, Cade Matlock, has a job to do. He needs no help from a meddlesome diva with big ideas. However, he is a man of his word. He’s committed to partner with the lovely songstress to smoke out the mastermind of a dangerous clan who has proven he will stop at nothing to satisfy his thirst for vengeance.

Cade and Juliana soon discover their greatest strength is in working together until shadows of the past threaten to destroy their future.

Click HERE to purchase your copy!

About the Author

Lori Bates Wright is an award winning author with a love for history.

Raised in New Mexico, Lori now lives in Texas with her husband of 38 years. She has two grown kids and four adorable grand boys (who leap tall buildings in a single bound!) When she’s not writing, she’s heading up small group ministries with her husband. She enjoys speaking and interacting with women of all ages.

More from Lori

Growing up, my family loved to laugh.

Some of my favorite childhood memories are centered around my grandmother’s dining room table listening in while my parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles told amazing stories. Sometimes I laughed until I’d lose my breath. Sometimes I sat quietly, taking in the bravery and perseverance shown by those who’d gone before me.

History has been a passion ever since. Couple that with an insatiable love for story and there you have the heart of what inspires me to write.

So, when it came time to brain-storm for this brand new series, I decided to take a known historical event and think about it from every angle. Beyond the recognized players, to the “what if” characters that might have played a role. And, ultimately, how such an event would have changed the course of their lives.

Thus, a star was born.

In THE SONGSTRESS, Juliana Chamberlain witnessed the assassination from her place on the stage. Because I love a little mystery and intrigue, I decided that the leading detective agency of the day would have enlisted her help in identifying the accomplices. Allen Pinkerton had been known to hire a lady detective or two, so she would be trained by the best. Her investigative skills proved helpful in bringing a quick resolution to the case.

Fast forward four years and she’s still haunted by what she saw that night. When Pinkerton again approaches her about a case involving her family in Texas, she accepts.

Being from Texas, I was so happy she did. I’ve wanted to write a story based in the Lone Star State for quite awhile. I loved visiting Georgia and the shores of England in my last series, but I have to say it was good to bring this one home. With all the rugged charm of the post-Civil War era, this book has a little more local flavor than my last three. Al-in-all, I believe my readers are in for a treat. A new cast of fun, quirky characters as we revisit a significant time in our nation.

So, here’s to new beginnings! Or as we say in Texas, “Hang on, y’all are in for a wild ride!”

Happy reading!

My Thoughts

Reading The Songstress was the first time I’ve read a book by Lori Bates Wright. I didn’t really know what to expect from this author, but after reading the premise and seeing the beautiful cover, I knew I needed to be part of this blog tour. This story is all the things it promises to be: adventurous and romantic. I liked the way the author utilized the Lincoln assassination as the catalyst for getting her heroine, Juliana, to become a Pinkerton spy. I’ve never really studied the Pinkertons before, so to learn that females played a small, but integral, part in the organization was pretty cool. I also thought it clever to use Lincoln-assassination conspirators who got away the night Lincoln was shot as the bad guys for this storyline. The main characters did feel a tad too caricature for me, but they are wholesome and sweet overall. The author did a great job with the villains. The bad guys are pretty vile. They are the reason I kept turning pages — I needed to know how they were going to be defeated. The pacing of the story, for the most part, is good, but I did feel that the middle got a little slow. I did like several of the themes that were discussed throughout the story. My favorite topic is brought up by Dandy when he says, “See? He was broke” … “Broke critters just do the best they can to get by.” Truer words have never been spoken. Broken people do the best they can. Overall, I appreciated reading this story and feel like the audience who would love The Songstress best are those readers who love a good Hallmark-style Western.

I received a review copy of this novel in eBook form from the author, Lori Bates Wright, via Celebrate Lit. I also purchased a copy of this novel in eBook form from on April 27, 2021, in order to review. In no way has this influenced my review. The opinions expressed in this review are my own.


To celebrate her tour, Lori is giving away the grand prize package of a Texas Gift basket including a signed copy of THE SONGSTRESS and a $25 Amazon Gift Card!

Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway!

Click the link below to enter.

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Blog Stops

Musings of a Sassy Bookish Mama, June 11

Reflections From My Bookshelves, June 11

Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations, June 12

Connect in Fiction, June 12

Inklings and notions, June 13

Rebecca Tews, June 13

Texas Book-aholic, June 14

Happily Managing a Household of Boys, June 14

lakesidelivingsite, June 15

To Everything There Is A Season, June 15

A Modern Day Fairy Tale, June 15

For Him and My Family, June 16

Labor Not in Vain, June 16

deb’s Book Review, June 17

Genesis 5020, June 17

Locks, Hooks and Books, June 18

HookMeInABook, June 18

Abba’s Prayer Warrior Princess, June 19

Inside the Wong Mind, June 19

The Christian Fiction Girl, June 20

Connie’s History Classroom, June 20

A Baker’s Perspective, June 21

Ashley’s Clean Book Reviews, June 21

Blossoms and Blessings, June 22

Lis Loves Reading, June 22

Pause for Tales, June 23

A Good Book and Cup of Tea, June 23

Mary Hake, June 23

Truth and Grace Homeschool Academy, June 24

KarenSueHadley, June 24