Monday, January 28, 2013

Hometown Cinderella by Ruth Axtell Morren, ©2012
By page 33, before finishing Chapter 2, I was ready for Mara to shake off those mourning clothes and marry her neighbor! What a delightful daughter he has. So sweet and earnest. Then having to go home to crabby Mrs. Blackstone. Ugh. Mara Keller's father and husband have passed away and she has been given half ownership in her father's home. Only... it includes his widow who is far from congenial.

Mara Keller has a young son who is eager to be doted on by Mr. Jakeman. Oh, I haven't introduced everyone to you. It is autumn of 1884, in the countryside of Eagle's Bay, Maine, a small coastal community. Mara meets the neighbors on her first Sunday at church, Gideon Jakeman and his fourteen year old daughter, Lizzie. Lizzie's mother died when she was young and she and her father farm near Mrs. Blackstone and Mara's property. Mara's little son, Dietrich, is six. He was sitting between Gideon and Mara and was a little more wiggly than Mrs. Blackstone liked. Gideon makes a paper bird for him and after church tells Mara that Dietrich is welcome to his farm anytime to spread his legs and energy. Upon returning home, Mrs. Blackstone reminds Mara that she is newly widowed and doesn't need gossip to upset her (Mrs. B's) life!

On Monday, walking back from town after looking for employment, Mara is met by the Jakemans returning from town and they invite her to ride with them in their wagon. Mrs. Blackstone is not agreeable to Mara taking her buggy without taking Mrs. Blackstone as well. To his befuddlement, Mara asks to be dropped off before arriving at her home. Socially acceptable behavior ~ for Mrs. Blackstone's prying, that would be!

So here we are, not yet out of Chapter 2, and I am wanting her life to change immediately! This is the first story I have read by Ruth Axtell and it is like being right there with them. So well written and clear. I am anxious to get back to the story to discover their journey! I hope it doesn't take too long to find each other. I want to meld these two families together. So much to give each other in hope, acceptance, and love.

Seasons change as they go from cider pressing, putting up cranberries, to surviving winter storms. This is a beautiful story. I have missed author Leisha Kelly who passed away two years ago in January. Her last published work was The House on Malcolm Street. Reading Hometown Cinderella reminded me of her writings. So genuine as families grow together, parent with child, and those near them. I would love to read a sequel to Hometown Cinderella as their lives continue to unfold. As I mentioned, I really liked Lizzie Jakeman, Gideon's daughter. He has loved her well. His concern for others gives life.

Also, so apparent is criticism. Are we aware of our words? Crushing, or uplifting? Mrs. Blackstone is drowning in her bitterness. Thankfully, Mara Keller looks to the Lord for direction for herself and her son.

I give this story a five-plus rating! Highly recommend.


Love Inspired Historical, Hometown Cinderella
Small Town, Big Dreams
After years traveling in Europe with her musician husband, all that widow Mara Keller wants is security for her son. A half-share in her father’s Maine farmhouse is the only refuge she has left, even if her resentful stepmother treats Mara as little more than a servant. But there is one bright spot: the unexpected kindness of neighbor Gideon Jakeman.
A widowed farmer with a teenage daughter, Gideon hardly pictures himself as anyone’s Prince Charming. Especially a woman of Mara’s refinement. Yet his quiet, rugged strength makes her feel as though she’s found her rightful place by his side, if they can find faith enough to forge their own happy ending.


Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
Before Carina could reprimand him for scuffing it, Dietrich suddenly leaned forward, reaching for his mug of milk. Mr. Jakeman rose a fraction from his seat, as if to grab the boy’s plate from his knee. Instead, his own cup fell from its saucer and hit the edge of the table.
Mara watched in horror, extending a hand as if she could stop the fall, but instead, hearing the shatter of porcelain.
She rose and rushed to the sofa, seeing the puddle of tea against the floorboards and three large pieces of porcelain scattered about.
Not hearing the sounds of voices around her—“I’m sorry,” “Mama, Mr. Jakeman broke your cup—”, “I’ll get a rag—” Mara knelt down, crowded between Dietrich’s legs and the edge of the table. She picked up the largest piece of broken cup. It was true what Lizzie had said, it was like an eggshell.
The next moment, she felt the table being moved away from the sofa and Mr. Jakeman crouched down opposite her. “I’m awfully sorry, ma’am.”
Before she could think what to say, Carina stood behind him, craning to see what had broken. She broke out into a cackle. “One of the crown jewels! Serves you right!” She addressed Mr. Jakeman, “She was so proud of that set, carting it around everywhere, packing it up so carefully.” She sniffed. “Pride goeth before a fall!”
“Carina!” She shot her stepmother a look of mortification.
“That’s a shame,” Mr. Jakeman said softly. “I was clumsy.”
“Please think nothing of it. It wasn’t your fault.” She focused on the pieces on the floor. Mr. Jakeman’s large hands began to pick up the remaining pieces, making more evident how fragile they were.
“That’s all right, I can do that.”
“It didn’t break in too many pieces. Maybe you can glue it back together.”
She met his sorrow-filled eyes, not having the heart to disagree. Instead she smiled, trying to put a good face on things. “Yes. I can do that and use it as an ornament on my shelf.”
He nodded. “That’s a good idea.” He looked so hopeful her irritation and disappointment melted.


Ruth has loved regencies ever since she read Pride and Prejudice and discovered Georgette Heyer in her high school years. Everything from the wit of the dialogue, the formality of the courtship and the variety of hero types draws her to this genre of romance. She will have a single title regency out in March 2013 for Baker/Revell Books and an Americana historical for Moody Publishers. Her books have been translated into Dutch, Italian, Polish, Czech and Afrikaans. She was a Golden Heart finalist in 1994. Her second published book, Wild Rose, was a Booklist “Top Ten Christian Fiction” selection in 2005. She is a member of ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers), RWA (Romance Writers of America), HisWriters and Maine RWA. Ruth studied comparative literature at Smith College with a concentration in French and English literature, and spent her junior year in Paris. Since then she has lived in the Netherlands and the Canary Islands. Shortly after college, she committed her life to Christ. Fourteen years later, she committed her writing to Him. Currently, Ruth lives on the down east coast of Maine with her three children and two cats. She enjoys the challenge of vegetable and flower gardening in a cool, foggy climate, long walks, reading, watching British period dramas like Downton Abbey, and doing historical research for her novels.Find out more about Ruth at her website ruthaxtell[dot]com.

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Thank you to author Ruth Axtell for sending me a copy of her book, Hometown Cinderella, to read and review in my own words. I am delighted to be introduced to this fine author! I think I would have titled this book, "A Way of the Heart," because of the beautiful way their pure hearts are discovered. Such joy and happiness await them. Their children will be fine friends as their story emerges.

slide-2 Coming March 2013!

Lady Celine Wexham seems the model British subject. French by birth but enjoying life in 1813 as a widowed English countess, she is in the unique position of being able to help those in need–or to spy for the notorious Napoleon Bonaparte. When Rees Phillips of the British Foreign Office is sent to pose as the countess’s butler and discover where her true loyalties lie, he is confident he will uncover the truth. But the longer he is in her fashionable townhouse in London’s West End, the more his staunch loyalty to the Crown begins to waver as he falls under Lady Wexham’s spell. Will he find the proof he needs? And if she is a spy after all, will he do the right thing?

Sunday, January 27, 2013

DVD Review and a Giveaway Copy: Abel's Field

Photo: Our official poster is here!!!
Left motherless by tragedy and  abandoned by his father, high school senior Seth McArdle (Samuel Davis) faces enormous pressure as he strives to support his younger twin sisters. At school, he endures the daily bullying from members of the football team. At work, he struggles to earn enough money to make ends meet. At home, he has no one to turn to.
_images/_gallery/_thumbs/image5.jpg    When Seth fights back, he's singled out for punishment and assigned to an after-school work detail under the supervision of the reserved groundskeeper, Abel (Soul Surfer's Kevin Sorbo). Seth is surprised to discover that Abel understands his struggles … and his dreams. Abel encourages Seth to ask out popular Katie and even steps in to babysit so Seth can go out on the date. Yet as dark circumstances lure Seth toward a desperate decision, a reluctant Abel could be the one person who points him back toward the light.

Abel's Field 
Kevin Sorbo, Samuel Davis

Sometimes the heroes are on the sidelines.

 Available Now: DVD and Digital January 22, 2013
Rating: PG for thematic elements, brief violence, and a smoking image
How do you know the right way? (Seth)
It's usually the hardest. (Abel)
DVDMy Review:
“If I've learned one thing, it's you have to be honest when you're talking to God. Otherwise you're just going through the motions.” --Abel ~ Abel's Field
Get the popcorn ready and settle in! This hometown can be changed by one person who decides not "to treat everyone alike." For not everyone is alike.
   Put another senior boy in Seth's place. Fix supper, help two little sisters with homework, work two jobs to put that supper on the table, heat the house and keep the lights and water on. Listen to the little sisters ~ keep those pretty little smiles on their faces. Laundry. Senior paper. Grieve for your mother. Long for your father.
   Let's add all the senior boys. For one day. Take turns for the month. What if this was your hometown? Would you see Seth?

Okay. Let's watch the movie. The scenery is wonderful, the townspeople real. You are swept up in this moving story of survival and obedience. Doing what you know to do; doing what you have to do. Seth and Abel are two unlikely friends meeting under unusual circumstances. Both being in the same place at the same time, doing what needs to be done. Mentors ~ for each other. Seth is working so hard at staying together with his little sisters. They are joyful. He is doing a good job. Against all odds, he is staying alert and following through. This movie storyline is deep and could actually be happening. Seventeen years old. Decisions to be made. Choose life.

This movie is very well made. The story is like watching life all day consistently moving. Marveling at Seth in high school, wondering how he gets everything done. A story to share; a story to treasure.

Abel's Field (Official Soundtrack) itunes
Facebook: Abel's Field movie
Cast & Crew: abelsfield

Kevin Sorbo (right) and Samuel Davis play Abel and Seth, the two
lead characters who strike up an unlikely friendship in Abel's Field.
Kevin Sorbo got his big break as Hercules, a widely-watched TV show.
Samuel Davis is an up-and-coming actor and a student at the University of Texas in Austin.

The home where Seth and his younger twin sisters live. Seth has to raise his sisters and work two jobs while in school.

The automotive garage where Seth works.

~*~ ~*~
A great film with a great message is a great way to engage your church's youth ministry. Ideal for a High School Movie Night or a Family Movie Night, Abel's Field will remind teens of the importance of making the right choices and having an adult they can trust to talk to.

Movie License Required for Public Showings
A license is required for any group showing outside of personal home use, whether admission is charged or not. Abel's Field is not covered under any umbrella license program (such as CVLI).
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*** Thank you to Flyby Promotions Blogger Network for sending me a DVD copy of the movie, Abel's Field. I received this product for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. 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." ***

Giveaway of one copy of this movie:

When commenting below, please include an e-mail address ~ name[at]address[dot]com ~ for contact after the drawing of the name for the free DVD copy. The faith based movie, Abel's Field, will be sent from the Marketing office after I have contacted the winner, forwarding their address.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Unglued Devotional: 60 Days of Imperfect Progress by Lysa TerKeurst, ©2012

Lysa TerKeurst admits that she, like most women, has experiences where others bump into her happy and she comes emotionally unglued. We stuff, we explode, or react somewhere in between.
   What do we do with these raw emotions? Is it really possible to make emotions work for us instead of against us? Yes, and in her usual inspiring and practical way, Lysa will show you how.

Unglued Making Wise Choices in the Midst of Raw EmotionsFilled with personal examples and Biblical teaching, Unglued will equip you to:

* Know with confidence how to resolve conflict in your important relationships.
* Find peace in your most difficult relationships as you learn to be honest but kind when offended.
* Identify what type of reactor you are and how to significantly improve your communication.
* Respond with no regrets by managing your tendencies to stuff, explode or react somewhere in between.
* Gain a deep sense of calm by responding.

Day 41
The Underbelly
"This will result in your being witnesses to them.
But make up your mind not to worry beforehand
how you will defend yourselves. For I will give you
words and wisdom that none of your adversaries
will be able to resist or contradict."
(LUKE 21:13-15)
Thought for the Day: "Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is
necessary. It fulfills the same function as pain in the human body. It
calls attention to an unhealthy state of things."
Criticism stinks. That's usually my first thought when someone makes it clear they don't like something I've done or said.
   My pride says, "How dare you!"
   My heart says, "I want a chance to explain."
   My soul says, "Jesus, am I off base?"
   My mind says, "Why do I open myself up like this?"
   My feelings say, "Ouch."

   Sometimes criticism is fair. Maybe I messed up and it would serve me well to reconsider. Other times criticism is nothing but rotten spew. And boy, does it stink. But if I get stuck in the stink, it serves no good purpose.
   Might there be another way to look at harsh criticism? To get past the hurt to see if it has an underbelly I should consider?
   The other day I Googled the word underbelly and stumbled on an article about the armadillo lizard. This fascinating creature has hard and pointy scales that have "Don't mess with me" written all over them. But, like all tough creatures, this lizard has a vulnerable place.
   The armadillo lizard's tough exterior wraps around its back but softens at the underbelly. When threatened, the lizard grabs its tail and displays a prickly, intimidating posture to keep other creatures away. At this point, the rest of its body serves only one purpose--to hide and protect its most vulnerable part.
   So what does a strange desert creature have to do with criticism?
   In an effort to protect my underbelly, I sometimes get all wrapped up in myself and tragically forget the underbelly of my critic--the place they are vulnerable and the things they might be hiding and protecting beneath the harsh words and prickly exterior. This is a place they may never let me see. It's the storage place for their hurts and disappointments. It holds the root cause of their skepticism and the anger that probably has very little to do with me. Remember, "the mouth speaks what the heart is full of" (Matthew 12:34). And from the overflow of their underbelly, they spewed.
   If I forget the other person's underbelly, I am tempted to start storing up my own hurt, skepticism, anger, and disappointments. If I remember this underbelly, I have a much greater chance to keep it all in perspective. I can let my reaction be a good example to this other person just as Luke 21:13-15 reminds us: "This will result in you being witnesses to them. But make up your mind not to worry beforehand how you will defend yourselves. For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict." Yes, I must make up my mind not to worry about defending myself. Then I uncoil. And I see the opportunity to witness.
Dear Lord, thank You for this challenge to think about the
other person's underbelly before I react to criticism. I know it's
a simple step, but it's so hard to live out. Help me to put this
truth into practice and to walk in the wisdom You have already
given. In Jesus' name. Amen.
Lysa TerKeurstLysa TerKeurst is a New York Times bestselling author and speaker who helps everyday women live an adventure of faith through following Jesus Christ. As president of Proverbs 31 Ministries, Lysa has led thousands to make their walk with God an invigorating journey. For over 15 years, her message has enabled women to:

Make the Bible come alive whenever you read it.
Discover how to develop inner peace and security in any situation.
Replace doubt, regret, and envy with truth, confidence, and praise.
Stop unhealthy cycles of striving and learn to love who you are.
Sense God responding to your prayers.

Lysa’s personal adventure of following God captured national media attention when she and her husband adopted two teenage boys from a war-torn orphanage in Liberia, Africa. They never imagined their decision would start a chain reaction within their community, which inspired other families to adopt over 45 children from the same orphanage! Lysa’s amazing story led to appearances on The Oprah Winfrey Show, Good Morning America, The 700 Club, USA Today newspaper, Woman’s Day magazine, and Focus on the Family radio.

Today, Lysa and her ministry team at Proverbs 31 encourage 500,000 women through their daily online devotional. In addition, she co-hosts a 1-minute inspirational radio program aired on more than 1,200 stations around the world. Lysa’s blog averages over 80,000 avid readers per month. Plus, she touches hearts through their monthly magazine, P31 Woman.

Lysa is the New York Times bestselling author of 16 books, her most recent releases, Made to Crave and Unglued, have remained on the best sellers list for over 40 weeks combined.

Unglued Making Wise Choices in the Midst of Raw EmotionsMade to Crave Bundle - Book, Participants Guide and DVD

*** Thank you to Zondervan's Linked to Lit for providing me a copy of Unglued Devotional: 60 Days of Imperfect Progress to review. No other compensation was received. ***

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Fixing My Eyes on Jesus: Daily Moments in His Word by Anne Graham Lotz, ©2012

   Getting up early in the morning to fix my eyes on Jesus through prayer and reading His Word is like setting my spiritual compass. Because no matter what faces me during the day, or how "lost" and confused I can become, or how many decisions and choices I'm confronted with, my heart and my thoughts always turn toward Him. And He invariably leads me on the right path.
   My prayer is that the devotions in this small volume will help you fix your eyes on Jesus every day, so that you, too, can set your spiritual compass. --Anne Graham Lotz

From award-winning author Anne Graham Lotz comes this 366-day devotional to encourage, uplift, renew, and challenge you on your spiritual walk with Jesus each day of the year. Fixing My Eyes on Jesus is a new compilation of Anne's favorite messages from her most beloved books.

For this reason, since the day we heard about you,
we have not stopped praying for you and asking God
to fill you with the knowledge of his will through
all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And we pray
this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord
and may please him in every way: bearing fruit
in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God.

   What sin is preventing the Holy Spirit from filling your life?
   God's Word commands us to "be filled with the Spirit" (Ephesians 5:18). That means making sure you keep short accounts with the Lord where sin is concerned, every day confessing by name the sin you are conscious of having committed that day and asking God for cleansing so you will maintain sweet fellowship with Him.
   Are you thinking, "That's too much trouble. Besides, the sin in my life is so small, it can't make that much difference" or "I could never quit that. I enjoy it too much"? Whatever your excuse, is it worth the trade-off? Is it worth losing out on an intimate relationship with God as the price for clinging to your sin?
   Jesus said, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind" (Matthew 22:37). Love Him more than your sin. That's a command!

Anne Graham Lotz, daughter of Billy and Ruth Graham, is the president and CEO of AnGeL Ministries, a nonprofit organization that undergirds her efforts to draw people into a life-changing relationship with God through His Word. Anne launched her revival ministry in 2000 and has spoken on seven continents, in more than twenty foreign countries, proclaiming the Word of God in arenas, churches, seminaries, and prisons. She is also the award-winning author of ten books, including her most recent, The Magnificent Obsession.

Anne and her husband Danny Lotz have three grown children and three grandchildren. She is the founder and president of AnGeL Ministries.

*** Thank you to Zondervan's Linked to Lit for sending me a copy of Fixing My Eyes on Jesus: Daily Moments in His Word by Anne Graham Lotz to review in my own words. ***

Cheaper, Better, Faster: Over 2,000 Tips and Tricks to Save You Time and Money Every Day by Mary Hunt, ©2013

1.  Automobiles
2.  Cleaning
3.  Clothing and Accessories
4.  Food and Cooking
5.  Gifts
6.  Health and Beauty
7.  Holidays and Special Occasions
8.  Home
9.  Kids and Babies
10. Laundry
11. Money and Finances
12. Outdoors and Garden
13. Pets
14. Repairs and Maintenance
15. Shopping
16.  Travel and Entertainment

Mary Hunt is the award-winning and bestselling author of several books, including 7 Money Rules for Life, as well as a sought-after motivational speaker who helps men and women battle debt. She is founder and publisher of Debt-Proof Living, which features financial tools, resources, and information for her online members. Her books have sold more than a million copies, and her daily syndicated newspaper column, Everyday Cheapskate, is enjoyed by hundreds of thousands of readers nationwide. Hunt speaks widely on personal finance and has appeared on shows such as Good Morning America, Oprah, Dr. Phil, and Focus on the Family. She and her husband live in California.

Cover Art

Makeup--Blush Color: To find the right shade of blush, check the color of your skin after exercising and try to match that color. Blush should add a healthy glow, not introduce a foreign color.

Eggs--substitute: Out of eggs? Use 2 tablespoons of mayonnaise for each egg required in your baking recipe.

Hotels--group security: When checking into a hotel, get a hotel business card for each family member to carry in case of accidental separation.

Boating--floating keys: Tie a couple of corks to your key ring when you go boating. If you accidentally drop  your keys overboard, they won't sink.

   What you have here is a revised and updated, fabulously fun collection of tips--short, to-the-point suggestions for ways to do things cheaper, better, and faster. Many of these tips are timeless; others we know were current and relevant five minutes ago, but who knows about next month!
   Some of the best tips you will read have completely unknown origins because they've been passed from generation to generation, and someone along the line sent them my way. Some tips were left out because they turned out to be nothing more than myths--legends people believe with all their hearts, but when put to the test, fail.
   --author Mary Hunt
*** Thank you to Revell Blog Tour Network Nonfiction for including me in this tour and sending a copy of Mary Hunt's Cheaper, Better, Faster to review. No other compensation was received. ***

Available January 2013 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

The Dilemma of Charlotte Farrow, Book 2 of the Avenue of Dreams series, by Olivia Newport, ©2013

Excerpt ~*~ The Dilemma of Charlotte Farrow, 15-17

   Sheets flapped in the wind above an empty basket, and Sarah was nowhere in sight. With a sigh, Charlotte reached for the first clothespin and began to pull the sheets off the line.
    Charlotte stilled her hands. Had she actually heard the hoarse whisper? That voice should not be on Banning property. Gasping in recognition, she spun around, a sheet draped over her shoulder. Out of the shadows against the courtyard wall stepped a middle-age woman holding a baby.
    “Mrs. Given! What are you doing here?”
    “I’ve been waiting for almost thirty minutes, hoping you would come out. He was sleeping, but now he’s awake and I don’t think I can keep him quiet. I was about to give up and knock at the back door.”
    Shock swelled through Charlotte as the little boy’s hands reached for her eagerly. Swiftly she wrestled out of the sheet across her shoulders, dumping it in the basket, and took the baby in her own arms. She cooed in a low voice to keep him quiet. Looking up again, she whispered, “Mrs. Given, what’s going on?”
    “I have to leave town.” The older woman stuffed the baby’s quilt and a small bundle in Charlotte’s arms. “I have to go right now.”
   “But what about Henry? I can’t keep him here. You know that.”
   Mrs. Given covered her eyes with one hand as her shoulders heaved once. “I have a family emergency. I truly have no choice. I can’t take him, and I have to go. You’ll have to work something out. I’m sorry I couldn’t bring more of his things, but it was too much to manage on the streetcar.”
   Charlotte held the child tightly, wrapping him in the quilt he loved—her grandmother’s quilt. He snuggled happily against her chest, tucking his head under her chin in his favorite way.
   “You know I cannot have him here!” Charlotte’s eyes moved from left to right, scanning the courtyard. “Mr. Penard will dismiss me if he discovers I have a child.” Without Lucy, Charlotte had no advocate. “What about your neighbor? Doesn’t she sometimes help you watch him?”
   “For an hour or two,” Mrs. Given answered, “but I can’t ask her to take on the care of a child when I don’t know when I’ll be back—or even if I’ll be able to return.”
   “Please, Mrs. Given—”
   The woman was resolute. “I’ve had two telegrams saying that I must come now. My sister wired the fare this morning. I’m sure St. Andrew’s will take the boy, but I don’t have time to see to that for you.”
   “You know I don’t want him at St. Andrew’s. That’s why he’s with you.”
   “I’m sorry. I have to be on the next train to Omaha.” Brushing a strand of gray hair out of her face, Mary Given softened. “He’s a lovely child, Charlotte, and you’re a devoted mother. You’ll always do what’s best for him.”
   Within a few seconds, Charlotte was left standing in the courtyard with a laundry basket at her feet and an eleven-month-old boy squirming in her arms. Suddenly feeling weak, she set her son in the basket and watched absently as he pulled a corner of the sheet over his head and giggled. Her knees trembled. Uncertain they would support her slight weight, Charlotte crouched next to the basket and laid her hand on the child’s feathery brown hair.
   A shadow crossed her vision. Sarah.
   “Where did that baby come from?” the girl demanded to know.
Olivia Newport Cover of The Dilemma of Charlotte Farrow
Book 2 of the Avenue of Dreams series
Revell, January 2013
The Dilemma of Charlotte Farrow
By Olivia Newport
Paperback 320 pages
Pub Date: January 2013

The whole world is coming to Chicago. Charlotte’s whole world is coming down around her. This compelling story of courage, strength, and tender romance captures the tension between the glittering wealthy class and the hardworking servants who made their lives comfortable.

Enter the world of Chicago’s wealthy class in 1893, from the vantage point of a servant. Charlotte Farrow is the maid for the prominent Banning family, and must make a difficult decision when a secret comes to light.

My Review:

And so begins Charlotte's new adventure. For almost a year now, Charlotte saw her son every Thursday and every other Sunday afternoon on her time off. Now what would become of them? Having a known child would put her out of her position with the Bannings. Fortunately, they are not home from their holiday at their lake house. It is August and the Bannings have taken most of their staff with them for their month away from the sweltering heat of the city. What is she going to do? She is to direct Sarah, the new girl, in kitchen duties before Mrs. Fletcher, the Cook, returns. Sarah has been leaving things half done; out of neglect or lack of understanding in the hurried few days she has been here? And Mr. Penard, the household butler, is the overseer of the staff. How will little Henry be explained to him?
   Sarah runs ahead to tell Penard that they have found a baby outside in the laundry basket. Upon the soon return of the Bannings, what is to become of this child? Will Charlotte confess he is her son, or will the family decide where to place him?
   The story is set with the background of the Chicago World Fair. Family members come to visit this 1893 spectacular World's Columbian Exposition so the house is bustling from within and without. Everyone on schedule; those serving and those being served. Tourists come to gawk at the opulent Prairie Avenue homes from the public sidewalk. Can you imagine being in your home and having people pointing and staring, hoping to see you exit? Still today, neighborhoods are toured without a thought that there are people inside.
The Banning house jutted out at angles that surrounded three sides, and a passage accommodating delivery carts. Clearly the brick used on this view of the house was less expensive than the stone walls facing Prairie Avenue, but Charlotte savored the enclosure. Something about it felt safe. The family spent little time outside. The winters were too cold, and in the summer they escaped to the lake house. Certain the Bannings would not step into the rear courtyard, Penard allowed the staff to set out pots of flowers and enjoy the lush patch of grass. Charlotte often lingered outside in the evening to inhale the night air before retiring to her stifling third-floor room.
    --The Dilemma of Charlotte Farrow, 14-15
   I read the entire book into the early morning, as Charlotte sorts this out. Having to watch her son being jostled from one person to another, as the Banning nursery floor is reopened. Having him called by another name, she dare not whisper his name aloud or give him extended eye contact. The depths love does to keep him safe.
   Charlotte goes to the fair to confront Henry's father, finding him at the feared Ferris wheel. I am with Charlotte. That makes me queasy too. Especially this original one, so different from the swaying seats of today. Look at the width of this glass-enclosed wheel. 
the Ferris wheel
   Charlotte had heard enough accounts in the last few months to know that the view from the top of the wheel was breathtaking. Passengers more courageous than she was enjoyed vistas of Lake Michigan along with surrounding states of Wisconsin, Indiana, and Michigan. Even on a cloudy day, much of the excitement was simply in the ride itself.
  Yet it terrified her. The thought of stepping into one of the cars, with plate glass windows all around, made Charlotte queasy--even without imagining the sensation of lifting off the ground and swaying in the air.
   --Ibid, 232
   By facing her past, Charlotte is able to be freed in her future. I have not read the first book in the series. I was able to follow this story as a stand-alone. I would like to read the first book.

The Pursuit of Lucy Banning by Olivia Newport
The Pursuit of Lucy Banning
Book 1 of the Avenue of Dreams series
Revell Books, May 2012
   Lucy Banning may live on the exclusive Prairie Avenue among Chicago’s rich and famous, but her heart lies elsewhere. Expected to marry an up-and-coming banker, the son of family friends, Lucy fears she will be forced to abandon what matters to her most—her work at the orphanage and the classes she is secretly taking at the newly opened University of Chicago.
    When she meets Will Edwards, an unconventional young architect working on plans for the 1893 World’s Fair, Lucy imagines a life lived on her own terms. A new young maid brings her own secret to the Banning household, and Lucy must choose between deeply held values.
    Can Lucy find love and live out of her compassionate heart?

Author Olivia Newport 
"I love writing historical fiction because the stories themselves rise out of well-documented events and personalities. An urban setting like Chicago provides myriad historical trails to explore and opportunities to imagine how events in the newspapers of the time would have impacted the lives of ordinary people. I never get tired of it."
   --author Olivia Newport

   Before reading The Dilemma of Charlotte Farrow, I read information about this time period in Chicago and discovered I have been inside one of these buildings, several times.
Chicago's World's Fair: The Remains of the Day
"Although the Palace of Fine Arts had a plaster facade like the other buildings in the White City, it was the lone building with a brick underbelly. Consequently, it is the only White City building standing today. Housing first the Columbian Museum and then Chicago’s Field Museum, the Palace eventually became the home of Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry. Recast in limestone during the 1930′s, the museum continues to be one of Chicago’s premier attractions."
~*~ ~*~ ~*~ 
Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group, offers practical books that bring the Christian faith to everyday life. They publish resources from a variety of well-known brands and authors, including their partnership with MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) and Hungry Planet.
   Thank you to Revell Blog Tour Network Historical Fiction for inviting me to be part of this tour in exchange for a review in my own words. No other compensation was received. The Dilemma of Charlotte Farrow by author Olivia Newport is now available (January 2013) at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

Avenue of Dreams series, Book 3, The Invention of Sarah Cummings, releases in September, 2013!

Monday, January 21, 2013

©2012 Julie Klassen's Regency: The Tutor's Daughter!!

Cover Art
Riveting Regency From a Bestselling Author

The Tutor’s Daughter
by Julie Klassen
Among the first to pen Regency-set novels for the inspirational market, Julie Klassen is a leading voice in this exciting new genre. Her bestselling, award-winning novels are acclaimed by readers and critics alike.
   With a style that is elegant and absorbing—and reminiscent of Jane Austen herself—Klassen offers another noteworthy read with The Tutor’s Daughter. Filled with page-turning suspense, The Tutor’s Daughter takes readers to the windswept Cornwall coast—a place infamous for shipwrecks and superstitions—where danger lurks, faith is tested, and romance awaits.
   Emma Smallwood, determined to help her widowed father when his boarding school fails, accompanies him to the cliff-top manor of a baronet and his four sons. But soon after they arrive and begin tutoring the two younger boys, mysterious things begin to happen. Who does Emma hear playing the pianoforte at night, only to find the music room empty? And who begins sneaking into her bedchamber, leaving behind strange mementoes?
   The baronet's older sons, Phillip and Henry Weston, wrestle with problems--and secrets--of their own. They both remember the studious Miss Smallwood from their days at her father's academy. But now one of them finds himself unexpectedly drawn to her...
   When suspicious acts escalate, can Emma figure out which brother to blame and which to trust with her heart?

The Tutor’s Daughter by Julie Klassen
Trade Paper ISBN: 978-0-7642-1069-3
416 pp.
Ebook ISBN: 978-1-4412-6109-0
Release Date: January 2013
Link to buy the book:   

My Review:

April 1817
Longstaple, Devonshire
Mr. Edward Sims leaves Smallwood Academy for the last time. In fact, he is the probable last pupil to leave. Mr. Smallwood is weary after the passing of his wife, and the dreariness of living in the household she no longer resides. He is ready for a change, but what?
   Miss Emma Smallwood has pupil-seeking plans of her own, but a return offer is not what she has expected for her father, nor herself. They are invited to come to Ebford, Cornwall, to Ebbington Manor, the estate of Sir Giles Weston, along the Cornwall coast. One year! Can she manage? She will not be joining her aunt, Miss Jane Smallwood, teaching young ladies at her boarding school next door, as she had envisioned possible.
On the same day her father agreed to the terms of the lease, they received a brief reply from Sir Giles, saying he was surprised but pleased the Smallwoods were willing to accept his offer, and that they were welcome to come at their convenience.
   --The Tutor's Daughter, page 25
(Why would you place an offer and then be surprised it is accepted? 'Tis likely that Sir Giles hasn't approached his wife with the plan for their sons to be tutored at home.)
Considering the cost to transport luggage, Emma realized that she and her father could reasonably take only one modest-sized trunk apiece. They would not be able to take all of their books. Not by far. She would need to select only her very favorites. With a  heavy heart, Emma began the difficult process of sorting and choosing. --Ibid, 25
A girl after my own heart!
Upon arriving in Cornwall, Emma and her father are not met. They hire a cart to be taken to Ebbington Manor.

Cornwall They are not expected. How strange. Finally, Sir Weston comes to the door and bids them come in, their rooms not readied, as he has forgotten to mention he has hired a tutor along with his daughter.
Settling in, they begin teaching the twins, Rowan and Julian. Rather Emma, supportive of her father, is at his side. The teenage sons are not invested in learning, so it is interesting. It is apparent they have not had much training ~ especially in attitude.

The two older sons, Phillip and Henry, arrive home. In their youth, they had been pupils at the Smallwood Academy run by Emma's father in Devonshire previous to his coming to Ebbington Manor.

Emma hears music in the night. Hearing Phillip playing the pianoforte doesn't sound quite the same. There are other peculiar happenings seemingly awry. A strange household. She is certain someone is entering her room, leaving strange objects. Is she the only one who hears sounds in the night? Her room is at the end of a hallway away from others in the house. Henry continually played tricks on her when the brothers were at their school. Could he not have grown out of it? Lady Weston has a young ward, Lizzy, Emma is becoming friends with. She says she doesn't play well. Is it so?

Your road led through the sea,
Your pathway through the mighty waters;
Your footprints were unseen and untraceable,
You led Your people...
    --Psalm 77:19-20

Developing friendships, Emma's life is being restored. Mrs. Weston may think Emma is just the tutor's daughter, but she is known differently. She is dynamic. She is alive. No station in life can hamper the heart!

The book cover has raised type. Running your hand along it, you could locate it in the dark! I really like how quotations are placed above the chapter headings, reflecting content.

The Cornish Peninsula ... that old death trap of sailing vessels, with its fringe of black cliffs and surge-swept reefs on which innumerable seamen have met their end.
   --Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

This family has hidden secrets of its own. Silent stiffness entertains worry of being observed.
It is against the sometimes shadowy backdrop of upper and middle class elegance that the real drama of life in Cornwall--red blooded, crude and vigorous--is enacted.
   --R. M. Barton, Life in Cornwall in the Early Nineteenth Century
Reading in this Regency period (early 19th century England), makes me want to open antiquated prose and sit out on the porch (howbeit, a little chilly these days!). Also as I read, I am wanting to know the man's story ~ the one both Emma and Lizzy meet on the rocky beach.


*** Special thank you to Litfuse Blog Tour for sending me a copy of Julie Klassen's The Tutor's Daughter in exchange for a review in my own words. No other compensation was given to me. ***

Julie is celebrating by giving away one of the new Paperwhite Kindles, Downton Abbey (season 3) and hosting a fun Author Chat Party on Facebook. (January 31st)


One fortunate winner will receive:
  • A Kindle Paperwhite
  • Downton Abbey, Season 3
  • A Julie Klassen library (The Tutor’s Daughter, The Maid of Fairbourne Hall, The Girl in the Gatehouse, and The Silent Governess)
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on January 30th. Winner will be announced at "The Tutor's Daughter Author Chat Party on January 31st. Connect with Julie, get a sneak peek of her next book, try your hand at the trivia contest, and chat with readers just like you. There will also be great giveaways - gift certificates, books and season 3 of Downton Abbey!

So grab your copy of The Tutor's Daughter and join Julie on the evening of the January 31st for a chance to connect with Julie and make some new friends. (If you haven't read the book - don't let that stop you from coming!)

Don't miss a moment of the fun, RSVP todayTell your friends via FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning. Hope to see you on the 31st!

Julie Klassen - I've only read one book of hers but I liked it a lot.

I have loved Julie Klassen's previous books. Each of her writings can be read as a stand-alone. You will enjoy each of these stories, as well: Lady of Milkweed Manor; The Apothecary's Daughter; The Silent Governess; The Girl in the Gatehouse; and The Maid of Fairbourne Hall.

©Ginger Murray Photography
Julie Klassen loves all things Jane--Jane Eyre and Jane Austen. A graduate of the University of Illinois, Julie worked in publishing for sixteen years and now writes full time. She has won the Christy Award: Historical Romance for The Silent Governess (2010) and The Girl in the Gatehouse (2011) which also won the 2010 Midwest Book Award for Genre Fiction. Julie and her husband have two sons and live in a suburb of St. Paul, Minnesota. For more information, visit

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Choices of the Heart by Laurie Alice Eakes, ©2013

Set in 1840’s Appalachia, meet Esther Cherrett who runs away from her training as a midwife to avoid scandal. Instead she is caught up in the middle of a bitter family feud. This is book 3 in The Midwives series, but can be enjoyed as a stand-alone.

Choices of the Heart
The Midwives, Book 3

She thought she had left her old life behind . . .
Cover ArtEsther Cherrett comes from a proud line of midwives and was trained by her mother to take over the family calling. But when a terrible scandal threatens all she holds dear, Esther flees, taking a position as a teacher in the wild western mountains of Virginia. But instead of the refuge she was seeking, Esther finds herself in the midst of a deadly family feud—and courted by two men on opposite sides of the conflict. All she wants is to run away again.

But could it be that her past holds the key to reconciliation—and love?

In this gripping story of trust, deception, and bittersweet loss, you’ll discover the true meaning of choices of the heart.

My Review 

There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus,
who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of
life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.
   --Romans 8:1-2
Seabourne, Virginia
April 1842

At least, Esther Phoebe Cherrett will be in Seabourne, her home, for a few hours more. She has accepted a position as teacher at Brooks Ridge, many days away from her home in the East. She travels on horseback with cousins from two opposing families. Siblings Griff and Bethann Tolliver, and Zach Brooks and his sister Hannah Gosnoll, have come to guide her higher to their Appalachian Mountains. Opposing, if you will, because of past wrongs that never seem to come to a close. Cousins Zach Brooks and Griff Tolliver have vowed before the itinerant preacher that they, as the oldest, will strive to stop the warring and bring, no ensure peace, between the families. But will it stop? The suspicion, the watchfulness?
   "Our father's people were here first," Zach explained.
   He already had said so along the way. His mother and Griff's mother were sisters whose families had resided in the mountains since the Revolution. The Tollivers were relative newcomers, having only been in Virginia's mountains for the past forty years or so. "They've been in America forever, though," Hannah had admitted reluctantly. "Maybe lived around your people once."
   --Choices of the Heart, 68-69
And Esther... how is she going to fit in? Her speech, however coveted, is different. She is to educate the children because of a strain of ore now being mined from the earth. Taught to read and write so they are not swindled in the future. What would it be like to come into a new area where, because of your skills at automatic doctoring ~ seeing a need and applying what you know ~ misplaces another's worth and recognition as their life trade? Your ways different, "more modern," unknown to those you have come to serve? Esther has a lot of learnin' of her own to come by. Not trying to make things right, that hamper instead?

But Esther Cherrett has arrived, and is offered a two-room wooden structure with glass windows and quilts hanging on the wall. Esther's room and schoolhouse ~ prepared just for her; does she think everyone lives this way? Set apart in reverence, keeping her from melding in. The set apart is to protect her. Wise woman, Mrs. Lizbeth Tolliver is. Besides teaching, it is expected that Esther will become the refined bride of one of the cousins to bring some culture into their lineage. The cousins have already informed her along the way.

Esther has already put a snag in the deciding. She has set God apart, questioned His authority and leading. This has put her at odds with one of the cousins, unknowingly. He is hoping she will keep it to herself and not indoctrinate the children in her way of thinking, but teach from the Word of God direct.

Laurie Alice Eakes' writings are so fluid. You are walking each footstep with them. As Esther tries to run to begin anew, she finds her tendencies lean to serving in what she knows. She is open and giving by nature; wrapped up by fear and unsteadiness from what she has left behind. Choices of the heart.
   Queasiness gripped Zach's stomach. He feared his sister was right. Females who looked and talked like Esther Cherrett and came from the kind of family she did didn't go to the mountains for work or husbands. Yet Miss Esther Cherrett, with her English father and American mother living in a quiet fishing village on the eastern shore, had answered an advertisement for a schoolma'am there in the Virginia mountains.
   Not for the first time, he questioned her honesty. She might be telling them the truth about most things. She was certainly good enough for the work they wanted from her--to teach the youngsters good English and reading and writing so they could be more than men and women trying to eke a living out of the unforgiving rock of these hills. But Esther was too pretty, too comfortably off, too confident in herself, to truly belong amidst the mountain folk. She was more like those people who had come to ask questions and watch them, write in little books, then go away and print things they thought were true, like they were writing about some new breed of animal. And she was a bit old to not be wed, especially as pretty as she was.
   --Ibid, 77

Laurie Alice Eakes

Laurie Alice Eakes is the author of Lady in the Mist, Heart's Safe Passage, A Necessary Deception, A Flight of Fancy, and several other novels. She won a National Readers Choice Award for Best Regency in 2007 for Family Guardian. Laurie Alice writes full-time from her home in Texas, where she lives with her husband and sundry dogs and cats.

Choices of the Heart
By Laurie Alice Eakes
400 pages
Pub Date: January 2013

Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group, offers practical books that bring the Christian faith to everyday life. They publish resources from a variety of well-known brands and authors, including their partnership with MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) and Hungry Planet.

Choices of the Heart: Available January 2013 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

*** Thank you to Revell Blog Tour Network Historical Fiction for inviting me to be a part of this tour and sending me a copy of Laurie Alice Eakes' Choices of the Heart to review in my own words. ***