Book Recommendation ~ Unnoticed by Amanda Deed

Book Description:

Plain Jane O’Reilly is good at being unnoticed. Detested by her stepmother and teased by her stepsisters, Jane has learned the art of avoiding attention. That is until Price Moreland, an American with big dreams, arrives in her small town.

Does she dare to hope someone might notice her?

However, Price Moreland may not be the prince that the whole town thinks him to be. Was his desire to be a missionary a God-given call, or just a good excuse to run from his past?

Complete with an evil stepmother, a missing shoe and a grand ball, Unnoticed takes the time-old Cinderella fairy tale and gives it an Australian twist.

Narelle’s Thoughts:

I’m a fan of the Cinderella romance trope and enjoyed reading Unnoticed. The story is set in the 1870’s in Hay, a small Australian town in the western Riverina region of NSW.

Jane O’Reilly is your classic Cinderella heroine. She lost her beloved mother when she was young and her father remarried a woman with two daughters. Jane’s stepmother has no qualms about treating Jane as if she is a second class citizen and her personal slave. Jane’s father seems to turn a blind eye to his wife’s blatant favouritism of her own daughters over Jane.

Jane has very low self esteem that’s reinforced by the horrible treatment she receives from her stepmother and stepsisters. Her Aunt Ruby, who is their cook and her stepmother’s sister, is one of the few people who treats Jane with respect and dignity.

Forced by her stepmother to dress in old and ugly clothing, the townsfolk of Hay call her ‘Plain Jane’ and treat her as if she’s the town joke. Jane believes she’s ugly and feels powerless to change her life circumstances.

Price Moreland is an American who recently moved to Hay. He sets up a Barber and Dental Surgery in town but his main goal is to share the gospel with the unchurched townsfolk in Hay.  He has a complicated relationship with his wealthy rancher father and is troubled by his experiences of living in the south during the American Civil War.

Price meets Jane when she turns up at his dental surgery with an infected tooth. He’s the prince charming who is intrigued by Jane and sees both her inner and outer beauty. Jane struggles to believe she can be worthy of Price. They become friends and a sweet romance develops between them as they overcome many obstacles in the story.

Their spiritual journeys are explored and the faith element in the story is both overt and compelling. Price and Jane are challenged on a spiritual level and draw on Biblical truths to resolve their faith issues.

The story addresses social issues of inequality and racism in both Australia and the USA. My husband has Chinese ancestors who migrated to Australia during the 1850’s Gold Rush and lived in the Riverina region of NSW.  My personal connection to the setting added to my interest in the social class dynamics in the story.

I recommend Unnoticed to readers who like historical Christian romances set in Australia.

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Book Recommendation ~ Looking Glass Lies by Varina Denman

Book Description:

A poignant and relatable novel, Looking Glass Lies captures the war women wage against themselves, and the struggle to see beauty reflected in a mirror not distorted by society’s unrelenting expectations.

For most of her adult life, Cecily Ross has compared herself to other women—and come up short. After a painful divorce from her emotionally abusive husband, Cecily returns to her hometown of Canyon, Texas, looking to heal.

But coming home isn’t what she expects. In a town as small as Canyon, her pain is difficult to escape—especially with her model-perfect ex–sister-in-law working at the town’s popular coffee-shop hangout. With help from her father, a support group, and an old friend who guides her to see her own strengths, Cecily may have a shot at overcoming her insecurities and learning to love again.

The true test comes when tragedy strikes, opening Cecily’s eyes to the harmfulness of her distorted views on beauty—and giving her the perfect opportunity to find peace at last.

Narelle’s Thoughts:

Wow. That’s what I thought when I finished reading, and I read the book fast, within twenty-four hours. I’ve been a fan of Varina Denman’s writing since I read her debut novel, Jaded, and Looking Glass Lies didn’t disappoint.

The story opens with a prologue. We meet Cecily Ross when she’s curled up in the back of her closet in her LA home, hiding away from the world and her emotionally abusive husband. Brett is addicted to porn and has shattered Cecily completely by wanting a divorce.

Fast forward eleven months and Cecily has returned to her home town of Canyon, Texas. She stays in her childhood home with her dad who’s a widower and park ranger. Her father is worried about her and he asks the local therapist, Doctor Graham Harper, to call her.

Graham had a secret crush on Cecily in high school when she was dating her future husband, Brett Ross. Graham has overcome his teenage drug addiction and has a busy practice in town. He offers Cecily a receptionist job. Instead of providing counselling, he sets Cecily up in a women’s support group with married mom of four Shanty and college student Nina.

Cecily meets with Shanty and Nina at Midnight Oil, the local coffee shop owned by celebrity sports star Michael Divins. Cecily struggles to deal with her gorgeous and perfect looking ex-sister-in-law, Mirinda, who works at the cafe and is dating Michael.

Cecily learns that to become emotionally healthy she needs to confront and deal with issues from her past. Secrets are revealed that rock the small community of Canyon and challenge them to face the lies they believe. Body image issues are a core theme in the story, plus the devastating effects of porn addiction and other emotional issues.

The characters are realistic and they deal with real world problems in the story. Edgy issues that may be uncomfortable for some readers are addressed, and the story has a Christian worldview with only a few references to faith.

The sweet romance between Cecily and Graham is complicated. A hero who’s a therapist will, by definition, be cautious in his personal life. Cecily and Graham develop a friendship that is challenged by the events in the story.

I highly recommend Looking Glass Lies to readers who enjoy edgy and realistic Christian romance stories that deal with tough issues.

Looking Glass Lies releases on May 2, 2017. It’s available for pre-order in print and on Kindle, and will be available in Kindle Unlimited.

Many thanks to Waterfall Press and NetGalley for the Advanced Reader Copy.

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Book Recommendation ~ The Elusive Miss Ellison by Carolyn Miller

Book Description:

Handsome appearance counts for naught unless matched by good character and actions.

That’s the firm opinion of not-so-meek minister’s daughter Lavinia Ellison. So even though all the other villagers of St. Hampton Heath are swooning over the newly returned seventh Earl of Hawkesbury, she is not impressed. If a man won’t take his responsibilities seriously and help those who are supposed to be able to depend on him, he deserves no respect from her. In Lavinia’s pretty, gray eyes, Nicholas Stamford is just as arrogant and reckless as his brother–who stole the most important person in Livvie’s world.

Nicholas is weighed down by his own guilt and responsibility, by the pain his careless brother caused, and by the legacy of war he’s just left. This quick visit home to St. Hampton Heath will be just long enough to ease a small part of that burden. Asking him to bother with the lives of the villagers when there’s already a bailiff on the job is simply too much to expect.

That is, until the hoydenish, intelligent, and very opinionated Miss Ellison challenges him to see past his pain and pride. With her angelic voice in his head, he may even be beginning to care. But his isn’t the only heart that needs to change.

These two lonely hearts may each have something the other needs. But with society’s opposition, ancestral obligations, and a shocking family secret, there may be too many obstacles in their way.

Fans of Georgette Heyer, Lori Wick, and Julie Klassen will enjoy the spirited exchanges between the bluestocking minister’s daughter and the bruised war hero as they move past pride and presumption to a humbled appreciation of God’s grace and the true strength of love.

Narelle’s thoughts:

I really enjoyed reading The Elusive Miss Ellison, Book 1 in the Regency Brides series. The regency era is one of my favourite historical romance time periods, and it was a pleasure to read Carolyn Miller’s excellent debut novel.

Lavinia Ellison has a heart for the poor people who live in her village. Her faith inspires her to care for the poor and needy, even if there’s a personal cost to her own welfare. Lavinia has lived with the trauma from witnessing the accident that killed her mother when she was a young girl. She was raised by her church minster father and devoted aunt who encouraged her to pursue her love for music. 

Nicholas Stamford never expected to become the seventh Earl of Hawkesbury, a title he inherited after the death of his irresponsible older brother. A former soldier, Nicholas is a handsome and honourable man who is adjusting to his new life and responsibilities. 

Lavinia is on a mission to convince the Earl that he needs to repair the dilapidated village homes. She is wary of him, knowing that his brother was involved in the accident that killed her mother. Lavinia is convinced that Nicholas’ questionable character, lack of faith, and higher social standing rule him out as a potential suitor. 

Nicholas is intrigued by Lavinia, charmed by her beauty, and appreciative of her sharp wit. His mother is scheming to match him with a lady of means who will add to the family fortune and maintain their social status. A delightful twist in the story changes everything, forcing both Nicholas and Lavinia to move in a different direction and question their long held values and beliefs.

The story is beautifully paced with lively banter and plot twists that raised the stakes and kept me turning the page. Nicholas and Lavinia develop a friendship and the rules of society dictate how they relate to each other. The faith element is a natural part of the story and we journey with Lavinia and Nicholas as they grow in their faith.     

I highly recommend The Elusive Miss Ellison to regency romance fans who enjoy a fast paced and entertaining Christian romance. Book 2, The Captivating Lady Charlotte, will release on June 27, 2017.

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Book Recommendation ~ Springtime of the Spirit by Maureen Lang

Book Description:

By the fall of 1918, the Great War has ended and the world is at peace, but there is little to celebrate in Germany. After four years of fighting for his homeland, Christophe Brecht returns to find there is little left of what he once called home. So when family friends ask him to travel to Munich to bring back their runaway daughter, Christophe agrees.

When he finally locates Annaliese Duray, he discovers she is far different from the girl he once knew. Headstrong, idealistic, and beautiful, she is on the front lines of the city’s political scene, fighting to give women and working-class citizens a voice in Germany’s new government.

As the political upheaval ignites in Munich, so does the attraction between Annaliese and Christophe. With an army from Berlin threatening to squash everything Annaliese has worked for, both she and Christophe are forced to choose between love and loyalty.

Narelle’s Thoughts:

Springtime of the Spirit is the third book in Maureen Lang’s The Great War series. A spirited and poignant love story set in Germany in 1918 during the politically turbulent months following the end of the First World War.

Annaliese Duray is from a wealthy family who live in a small town outside Munich, and her capitalist father has benefited financially from the war by building weapons in his factory. After the death of her beloved sister and Germany’s crushing defeat by the Allies, Annaliese runs away from her family. She disappears in Munich, determined to help create a better future for Germany.

The socialist revolution, arising during a time of high unemployment and food shortages, brings Eisner to power and Annaliese joins the socialist party. Within weeks she becomes a political voice for the rights of women. Keeping her privileged background a secret, she speaks passionately in the streets to the working class crowds, espousing socialist values of equality and the evils of capitalism.

Christophe Brecht is a disillusioned Major from the German Army who returns from France to discover his homeland has been changed by the war. He finds his family’s home abandoned and a note from his sister. His brother died fighting in the war, his parent’s are now deceased and his sister has moved to America.

Annaliese’s older sister, Giselle, was Christophe’s first love. After learning of Giselle’s death, he visits her heartbroken parents. They enlist his help in finding Annaliese in Munich and bringing her home before they leave Germany and move to America.

A fascinating story unfolds as Christophe finds Annaliese and tries to convince her to return home with him and reconcile with her parents. Annaliese has rejected her childhood faith and, as the political upheaval and danger intensifies around them, she is challenged by Christophe’s beliefs that are in conflict with her new socialist ideology.

Springtime of the Spirit is an amazing story of love and hope during a politically unstable time in Germany’s history. The characters are passionate in their political beliefs that also shape their decisions in their personal lives. The exciting political backdrop adds an extra element of danger and intrigue to the story. The heartache and desperation of a nation economically crippled by war is captured in the story and the character’s motivations and desire for change is realistically depicted. I recommend Springtime of the Spirit for those interested in political ideologies and looking for an exciting historical romance set during a time of significant social change.

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Book Recommendation: Secrets of the Heart by Jillian Kent

Book Description:

Madeline Whittington, daughter of the deceased Earl of Richfield, emerges from English society’s prescribed period of mourning in the winter of 1815. Madeline believes that she no longer belongs in a world of gossip and gowns; instead she wants to help the orphans living within the walls of Ashcroft Insane Asylum. Once there, she discovers a dark secret within the asylum walls.

Because of his elder brother’s unexpected death, Devlin Greyson becomes Earl of Ravensmoore and struggles between two worlds: one of affluence and privilege and one of poverty and disease. Torn between his desire to become a doctor and the numerous responsibilities of his title, he wrestles with God’s will for his future. Will he be able to honor this God-given gift and win the woman he falls in love with in a society that does not value gentlemen who work? And will Lady Madeline Whittington be able to honor her father’s memory when she is attracted to the one man who could destroy the promise she made to her father?

Narelle’s Thoughts:

Secrets of the Heart is Jillian Kent’s debut Regency romance and Book One in The Ravensmoore Chronicles. A compelling romance set in 1817, with elements of intrigue and suspense that delves into the darker side of life in Regency England.

Devlin Greyson inherits the title of Earl of Ravensmoore after the unexpected death of his father and elder brother. He continues studying medicine at a hospital in York, despite strong disapproval from society and his peers.

Lady Madeline Whittington is grieving the loss of her beloved father and younger siblings, and she is distressed by her mother’s attraction to the mysterious Lord Vale. Lord Vale claims to be an old friend of her father’s, and Madeline distrusts Lord Vale’s intentions toward her mother.

Lord Ravensmoore aka Doctor Greyson provides medical assistance to Madeline after her horse stumbles during a hunt. She is drawn to Devlin but later recalls that he was the attending trainee doctor at the hospital when her father died, and Madeline holds Devlin responsible for her father’s death.

Devlin is smitten with Lady Madeline, but he is holding his own secrets that jeopardise a potential match between them.

Madeline shows kindness to a disturbed girl she comes across in the woods, and who she later learns is an escapee from the nearby Ashcroft Lunatic Asylum where Lord Vale is a benefactor.

Secrets generating from Ashcroft Lunatic Asylum threaten to destroy both Devlin and Madeline’s lives. Danger lurks and their faith is challenged as they fight for what is right in a world where polite society would prefer to ignore the plight of the mentally ill.

Secrets of the Heart provides an insightful and honest look into life in a nineteenth century lunatic asylum. Human rights take second place to the agendas and greed of those in authority. The powerful story has engaging characters and exciting plot twists that will keep you turning the page until the very end. I highly recommend this book to those looking for a thought provoking regency romance that addresses the tough issue of mental illness.

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Book Recommendation ~ Jewel of Persia by Roseanna M. White

Book Description:

How can she love the king of kings without forsaking her Lord of lords?

Kasia grew up in a poor Jewish home with more siblings than luxuries. But when a chance encounter forces her to the palace of Xerxes, she becomes a concubine to the richest man in the world. She alone, of all Xerxes’ wives, loves the man beneath the crown. She alone, of all his wives, holds the heart of the king of kings.

Traveling with Xerxes through Europe as he mounts a war against Greece, Kasia knows enemies surround her, but they’re not the Spartans or Athenians. The threat lies with those close to the king who hate her people. She determines to put her trust in Jehovah–even if it costs her her marriage.

Years of prayers are answered when Kasia’s childhood friend arrives at the palace after the war, but even as she determines to see Esther crowned in place of the bloodthirsty former queen, she knows the true battle is far from over. How far will her enemies go to see her undone?

Combining the biblical account of Esther with Herodotus’s Histories, Jewel of Persia is the story of a love that nearly destroys an empire . . . and the friendship that saves a nation.

Narelle’s Thoughts:

Jewel of Persia is Roseanna M. White’s exciting Biblical fiction novel set in Persia around 480 BC during the reign of King Xerxes. Historical events from the Book of Esther are included in the story.

Kasia, a young Jewess, is bathing her feet in the icy river water in Susa when she has an unexpected encounter with King Xerxes. She doesn’t recognise the charming King, and she is more concerned about protecting her young charge, the future Queen Esther, than hiding her own identity.

King Xerxes is captivated by Kasia’s beauty and, much to Kasia’s father’s displeasure, decides he wants Kasia as his wife. Kasia is moved to the palace, and her friends and family assume her disappearance is caused by drowning in the river.

Twelve year old Esther is devastated by the loss of her best friend, only a few years after her parents passed away and her cousin Mordecai became her guardian.

Kasia falls in love with the King, and her life is in jeopardy because she is the King’s favorite wife. Palace life in the harem is a culture shock for the young Jewess, and her faith is tested and strengthened during the story. Drawing on historical events, the love story between Kasia and King Xerxes unfolds and provides a fascinating insight into the danger, jealousy and intrigue of life in the Persian Palace.

Jewel of Persia is a compelling story about royalty, fidelity and love, in the context of a society that expects their King to have numerous wives and concubines. The differences between Jewish and Persian society create conflict between Kasia and King Xerxes, who are from different worlds and hold diverse values and religious beliefs. I recommend Jewel of Persia for those looking for a powerful and challenging Biblical fiction story.

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Book Recommendation ~ Whisper on the Wind by Maureen Lang


Book Description:

In Brussels at the height of WWI, a small, underground newspaper is the only thing offering the occupied city hope—and real news of the war. The paper may be a small whisper amid the shouts of the German army, but Edward Kirkland will do anything to keep it in print. Meanwhile, Isa Lassone, a Belgian-American socialite whose parents whisked her to safety at the start of the war, sneaks back into the country to rescue those dearest to her: Edward and his mother. But Edward refuses to go, and soon Isa is drawn into his secret life printing the newspaper . . . And into his heart.

Narelle’s Thoughts:

Whisper on the Wind is the second book in Maureen Lang’s The Great War series. A powerful and gripping love story set in Belgium during the First World War.

Isa Lassone, daughter of a Belgium father and American mother, is a wealthy socialite who escapes with her family to America before the German occupation of Belgium in 1914. She leaves behind Edward Kirkland, the boy she has always loved, and his mother, who looked after Isa when her parents were too busy with their own lives to worry about their daughter. In 1916 Isa makes the perilous trek back across the border with the financial means to rescue Edward and his family.

Edward survives a German work camp, is assumed dead, and uses different aliases in his pursuit to liberate Belgium. He is involved in an extensive secret network that prints and distributes the underground newspaper La Libre Belgique.

Edward refuses to leave Belgium and Isa reclaims her stately family home in Brussels which is now occupied by an injured German Major. Isa and Edward’s mother move into a separate part of the house and are forced to co-exist with the Major. Isa insists on helping Edward, despite the massive personal risks if her involvement is discovered by the Germans.

An exciting tale unfolds as danger lurks in unexpected places and no one can be trusted. The German Imperial Army is determined to close down the paper and punish those involved. Edward’s weak faith is challenged and his growing relationship with Isa seems impossible since they are from different worlds and living under dire circumstances.

Whisper on the Wind is a heart wrenching and beautiful story of love and hope. The courageous characters undertake enormous personal risks in their pursuit of freedom. Loyalties are tested, and the faith of characters on both sides of the war are challenged as they deal with injustice and are torn apart by loyalty to their country and loved ones. The brutality of war isn’t glossed over in this realistic portrayal of characters dealing with the poverty, desperation and hardship of war. I recommend Whisper on the Wind for those looking for an exciting and thought provoking historical romance.

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