Sunday, November 5, 2017

Where We Belong by Lynn Austin

The back cover promo for this book says: "Join two Incomparable Sisters on Adventures That Span the Decades And Cross the Globe."

The blurb continues: “In the city of Chicago in 1892, the rules for Victorian women are strict, their roles limited. But sisters Rebecca and Flora Hawes are not typical Victorian ladies. Their love of adventure and their desire to use their God-given talents has brought them to the Sinai Desert--and into a sandstorm." The story switches settings from Sinai to Chicago numerous times.

Lynn Austin often takes her inspiration for her novels from historical characters or events. The main characters, Flora and Rebecca Hawes, were inspired by Scottish sisters, Agnes and Margaret Smith. The Smith sisters were self-educated. In 1892, they discovered a copy of an ancient Biblical  text, an early version of the Gospels, in a monastery in Sinai. Flora and Rebecca were wealthy socialites in Chicago. Though wealthy, they were more interested in adventures and education than in the requirements of genteel society. 

Austin’s story begins with the sisters on their trip to Sinai in 1890. They were accompanied by Soren Peterson, their butler whom they had rescued from an orphanage and jail, plus Kate Rafferty, another orphan they were training to be a ladies’ maid. While coping with the dangers of the desert journey, the main characters have flashbacks of how they ended up in this situation. The book is lengthy, 470 pages, and I felt that the story was off to a slow start. At first, I couldn't keep up with the flashbacks, but, as I became more familiar with the characters, the flashbacks made sense. I admire the way Austin resolved the conflicts between the characters and engineered happy endings for all the characters.

I recommend this book to anyone interested in historical fiction, the Victorian era, and the role of women in society during that time.

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

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Cherished Mercy by Tracie Peterson

This third book in the Heart of the Frontier series is just as good as the rest of them.
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Mercy Flanagan is one of three sisters who survived the infamous Whitman Massacrewhere Marcus Whitman and his wife Narcissa, along with eleven others, were killed by Cayuse Indians in Oregon territory. The oldest sister, Grace, has married and has children. Hope, who was raped by a Cayuse, has married a former Army officer. She still deals with the trauma of having a baby by her rapist, although she gave the baby girl up for adoption.

Mercy, the youngest, was not physically harmed by the raiders, but she witnessed horrors that no child should ever have to face. True to her name, Mercy harbors no resentment toward all Indians. In fact, she wants to find a way to help whites and natives make peace.

Eletta and Isaac, the couple who adopted Hope's daughter Faith, live in another settlement and send word that they need someone to help them. Eletta is not well and needs help caring for Faith. Since there's some news of warring tribes in the area, everyone expresses concerns about Mercy going there. But, she goes anyway. She meets Isaac's brother Adam, who wants to be a missionary to the Indians. He had attended Harvard and was engaged to the sister of one of his classmates---until it was revealed that he had Indian blood. The engagement was called off, and Adam left Harvard, coming west to help his brother at his mission. He likes Mercy, but he's reluctant to encourage her to like him.

The conflict between the whites and Indians gets worse, and Mercy ends up in a siege situation along with Adam and some others at the mission. It's a great story of faith, love, and forgiveness. Through faith, Mercy conquers her fear and anger over the massacre. She relies on God to guide her in difficult situations. Adam is the perfect partner for her, and she helps guide Hope to accepting Faith into the family.

I never heard of the Whitman massacre before I read this series. These books have made me want to know more about the relations between settlers and natives. So many mistakes on both sides. Again, I recommend this book and the other two in the series.

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

Sunday, September 10, 2017

These Healing Hills by Ann H. Gabhart

Set in rural eastern Kentucky mountains after WWII, this is a heartwarming story of a city girl who came to the hills to learn to be a nurse-midwife. That's not the only reason she fled to the hills, though. Francine (Fran), a Frontier Nursing Service trainee, was running away from an overbearing mother and a former sweetheart, Seth. He went off to war and came back with a British girlfriend.

Among the mountain families the nurses served was the family of Ben Locke, home from war and wondering what the future holds for a battlefield medic. His father died while he was off to war, and he felt an obligation to stay and take care of the family. But, he wanted to go to college on the GI Bill, too.

Francine met Ben under embarrassing circumstances, but they both felt the spark of attraction. The both thought they had little in common. Fran went home for a visit and found her mother as overbearing as ever and the old boyfriend jilted by the British woman. He wanted to get back together with Fran, but she couldn't wait to get back to the hills and the people she came to love.

Gabhart is a master of bringing the setting and characters to life. The mountain people in this story are colorful yet not stereotyped. I particularly liked Granny Em, the mountain healer, who took a liking to Fran in spite of herself. The Frontier Nursing Service still exists today. Take a look at https//frontier.edu if you are interested.

Do Ben and Fran get together in the end? I'll never tell. Read it for yourself and find out.

#TheseHealingHills

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

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Beloved Hope by Tracie Peterson



This is the second in the Heart of the Frontier series by Tracie Peterson
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Hope Flanagan is one of three sisters who survived the infamous Whitman Massacre where Marcus Whitman and his wife Narcissa, along with eleven others, were killed in Oregon territory by Cayuse Indians. Of the three sisters, Hope was the most scarred by the experience, because she was raped. She became pregnant by her rapist and considered abortion. But she gave the child up for adoption by a family who moved away from the area. Now she's living in Oregon City with her now-married older sister and near the uncle who took all the girls in after the massacre. She's resigned herself to that fact that she will never marry, that no man would want to marry her after what happened. She spends her time tending sheep and weaving.

Hope's "peace" is shattered when she's asked to testify against the Cayuse men being tried for the massacre. The stress of the trial drives her to attempt to murder her rapist. But, she's stopped by an Army officer in town to help keep the peace during the trial. Lt. Lance Kenner, touched by her suffering, befriends her. She insists they're just friends, but does she want more? Lance is determined to be her friend, but he definitely wants more.

The story sometimes moves slowly, but healing takes time. Misunderstandings between Lance and Hope endanger the budding romance. An interesting side story crops us when Lance realizes he has a past connection to Hope's brother-in-law, and it's not good. Can Lance get along with her brother-in-law? Can he win Hope over? I'll never tell. I encourage lovers of historical fiction to read this book. I learned a lot about frontier life in the Great Northwest, all the while enjoying a great story of persistence, forgiveness, and healing.


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

Image source: http://bakerpublishinggroup.com/books/beloved-hope/354660

Sunday, May 28, 2017

The Most Misused Stories in the Bible by Eric J. Bargerhuff



Subtitle: Surprising Ways Popular Bible Stories Are Misunderstood, Bethany House, 2017.

Is it possible that we misunderstand the message of familiar Bible stories like David and Goliath or Jonah and the whale? Sure it is. This author takes the most popular Bible stories/situations and clarifies their intended message.

Besides those already mentioned, he addresses Gideon and the fleece, Cain and Abel, the three wise men, and several more. In each chapter, he begins with a Bible verse from the story. He presents how the story is commonly used and proceeds to show another perspective. For example, in David and Goliath, we often think of it as a motivational story to encourage us to "face our giants." But, the author maintains that it is about David's determination to fight for God's people. He points out that David was totally without fear, because he knew that God was his backup.

It is an interesting book, easy to read and understand. The chapters are short and could be used for daily Bible study. In my opinion, it is not meant for academics but for "regular people." I think I'm going to check out his other book, The Most Misused Verses in the Bible: Surprising Ways God’s Word Is Misunderstood.

Dr.Bargerhuff is a professor at Trinity College of Florida. He is director of the Honors Program and Associate Professor of Bible and Theology.

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

Image source: Bethany House

Monday, April 24, 2017

The Amish Widower by Virginia Smith



Seth Hostetler is an Amish man who has lost two wives, one in childbirth and the other in a buggy accident. Did I mention the second wife was pregnant when she died? Feeling that the accident was at least partly his fault, Seth vows never to marry again. He feels like an outsider in his own family because he is not married and never intends to be. Amish men are supposed to marry and get a place of their own. He befriends an Englisch (not Amish) man who offers his services to drive Seth or his family members to places that are too far to go in a buggy. He becomes interested in making pottery under the tutelage of an Amish man whose granddaughter works in the pottery shop. She has rejected Amish ways, but her grandparents hope that she will return to the fold someday.

This is different from any books I've read by Virginia Smith. The main theme is forgiveness. Seth needed to forgive himself for whatever role he had in his wife's death. He did not know who the rowdy teenagers were who whooshed by his buggy, causing the horse to panic and overturn the buggy. He need to forgive them, too. He is at odds with his family and his faith as he struggles with his emotions. Leah, the potter's granddaughter, plays a role in his healing, but I won't give away her method. She has an incident in her past that requires forgiveness, too.

If you like Amish fiction, you'll enjoy this. It is set in modern times, whereas most of the Amish fiction I've read was historical. Never read Amish fiction? Give this one a try. The story moves slowly at first, but I became more interested as I read.

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

Monday, March 27, 2017

Treasured Grace by Tracie Peterson




Imagine being in a wagon train headed west on the Oregon Trail in the mid-1800s. Then, imagine yourself in Grace Martindale's position. She's a "healer" recently widowed and has responsibility for her two younger sisters. Grace married her minister husband because he had to have a wife in order to go west to Oregon territory to evangelize the natives.

The reverend dies en route, and Grace intends to go on to Oregon City, where her uncle lives. However, since the uncle is away on business, she decides to leave the wagon train at the Whitman Mission, where Dr. Marcus Whitman and his wife welcome travelers needing respite from the journey and shelter for the winter. They also minister to the local tribes, the Nez Perce and the Cayuse.

While Grace and her sisters are wintering at the mission, a measles outbreak creates havoc among the mission residents as well as the neighboring communities. Many people die from the disease¸ despite the best efforts of Dr. Whitman and Grace.

Misunderstandings about the extent of Dr. Whitman's healing efforts in the Cayuse community leads to the Whitman Massacre, where a number of the mission residents are killed. Dr. Whitman and his wife are among the dead. Others are held hostage for weeks. Grace is absent when the massacre happens. She had gone with Alex Armistead, a local trapper, to help sick people in another location. Her sisters, Hope and Mercy, ae hostages and are traumatized by the experience.

This is the first in the Heart of the Frontier series by multi-published author, Tracie Peterson. If you enjoy historical fiction, you'll like this book. There is a romance simmering between Grace and Alex, but it is not the primary focus of the story. Alex's best friend is a Nez Perce trapper who helps us understand the point of view of the Native Americans in the story. Grace is conflicted between her responsibility for her sisters and her budding love for Alex. The uncle from Oregon City takes the women in when he comes back from his business trip. I encourage you to read the book and get to know Grace and her sisters. I'm looking forward to the future books in the series, which will be about the sisters, Hope and Mercy.

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

Photo source: http://bakerpublishinggroup.com/books/treasured-grace/354650