A Return of Devotion (Haven Manor #2) – Review

devotioncover by Kristi Ann Hunter

Series: Haven Manor (Book 2)
Paperback: 400 pages
Publisher: Bethany House Publishers (February 5, 2019)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 076423076X
ISBN-13: 978-0764230769

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Daphne Blakemoor was perfectly happy living in her own secluded world for twelve years. She had everything she needed—loved ones, a true home, and time to indulge her imagination. But when ownership of the estate where she works as a housekeeper passes on, and the new marquis has an undeniable connection to her past, everything she’s come to rely upon is threatened.

William, Marquis of Chemsford’s main goal in life is to be the exact opposite of his father. Starting a new life in the peace and quiet of the country sounds perfect until his housekeeper turns his life upside down.

They’ve spent their lives hiding from the past. Can they find the courage to face their deepest wounds and, perhaps, find a new path for the future together?


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A Return of Devotion brings us back to Haven Manor and the characters we have come to love in A Search for Refuge and A Defense of Honor. The book can be read as a standalone but is better appreciated if read after the previous two. A Search for Refuge is available for free on Amazon.

Haven Manor was created 12 years ago after Daphne Blakemoor had her son Benedict as a single woman. The haven was created to help children who were the result of similar situations. After William, Marquis of Chemsford, inherits the estate will Daphne lose the haven she loves so much?

Daphne has always looked on the bright side and after she has turned to God for repentance, she tries to find something good that can come out of it by caring for children like her son, Benedict.

I am glad Benedict has a story now. I have been interested in him from the beginning. I can’t imagine what Daphne has gone through not being able to tell him that she’s his mother. Though I know that in that time the alternative was usually that she would have to give him up and never know him. Benedict is very strong and talented for someone who is still just a boy.

I like Daphne’s thoughts on raising up the next generation like Moses but also not being allowed to enter the Promised Land because of her sin. While our sins can be forgiven, there is often a result from our sins.  Daphne forgives others and teaches the children that God loves everyone, but she doesn’t really feel forgiven or worthy of His love.

William is confused because he wants to act the part of a peer and not associate with servants, but he also wants to not be like his selfish father. He lives his life trying to do the absolute opposite of what his father had done.

Daphne has always been a dreamer. She is constantly imagining scenarios in her head and missing entire conversations. It was funny when William started daydreaming and missing parts of conversations which he hadn’t done before Daphne.

William and Benedict meeting for the first time was even more intense than I thought it was going to be. I felt so bad for what little Benedict was going through while trying to be grown up.

There were a lot of serious moments but there were some lighthearted moments as well. The readers are also given a very real and beautiful romance between William and Daphne.

“How very different they were and how glorious it was.”

It is not just a fairy tale. They have to go through a lot and they come out better for it in the end.

The Bible teaches that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”.

“The past can be the stone that weighs you down or the foundation you build upon.”

Like Daphne, we need to learn that after bringing our sin to God and repenting, we need to learn to forgive ourselves.

“There’s life after forgiveness.”

The Lieutenant’s Bargain – Review

bargaincover by Regina Jennings

Series: The Fort Reno Series (Book 2)
Paperback: 336 pages
Publisher: Bethany House Publishers (December 4, 2018)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0764218948
ISBN-13: 978-0764218941

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Hattie Walker dreams of becoming a painter, while her parents want her to settle down. As a compromise, they give her two months to head to Denver and place her works in an exhibition or give up the dream forever. Her journey is derailed when a gunman attacks her stagecoach, leaving her to be rescued by a group of Arapaho . . . but she’s too terrified to recognize them as friendly.

Confirmed bachelor Lieutenant Jack Hennessey has long worked with the tribe and is tasked with trying to convince them that the mission school at Fort Reno can help their children. When a message arrives about a recovered survivor, Jack heads out to take her home–and plead his case once more.

He’s stunned to run into Hattie Walker, the girl who shattered his heart–but quickly realizes he has a chance to impress her. When his plan gets tangled through translation, Jack and Hattie end up in a mess that puts her dreams in peril–and tests Jack’s resolve to remain single.


My favorite genre is Historical Fiction and this book is a prime example of the reason why. Not only am I getting wonderful characters and a very unique plot concept from Regina Jennings, but due to her research I am also learning things from this time period that I never knew. With her excellent descriptions, I can even picture being at Fort Reno and the nearby reservations.

The characters are realistic and endearing. I always love when characters know each other as children, and the descriptions of Jack’s gawky childhood and cluelessness around women are perfect. He feels more comfortable in his house with books crowded all around him and believes that others should feel the same. Though he has a wonderful sense of humor.

I have always been amazed at people who could paint and Hattie makes use of her gift of painting in a wonderful way.

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I have read the previous books (Holding the Fort and Bound and Determined) in the Fort Reno series, and this book continues with the previous story-lines and characters. Willis even makes a subtle comment about camels which anyone who has read Bound and Determined will understand.

There is so much historical information packed in this book. I loved learning more about the Arapaho school and Fort Reno.

Some of my favorite scenes included Jack trying to impress Hattie at the reservation, many of the scenes at the Arapaho school, and the continuation of Daniel and Louisa’s story.

Jack’s book clutter reminds me of how much I love my kindle. With reading over 200 books a year, the books would take over if so many weren’t digital. I completely recommend adding this book to your collection, though I recommend getting this book in paperback. Every side of it is so pretty!

The Making of Mrs. Hale – Review

halecoverby Carolyn Miller

Series: Regency Brides: A Promise of Hope (Book 3)
Paperback: 336 pages
Publisher: Kregel Publications (November 27, 2018)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0825445353
ISBN-13: 978-0825445354

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Marry in haste, repent in leisure–Mrs. Hale is about to find out how painful that repentance can truly be.

Julia Hale ran off to be married in Gretna Green, following romance instead of common sense. But her tale isn’t turning into a happily ever after. Her new husband is gone and she doesn’t know where–or if he’s ever coming back. Julia has no option but to head home to the family she betrayed by eloping and to hope they’ll forgive her. Especially now that she might be carrying a baby from her brief marriage.


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The Making of Mrs Hale is the third in the Regency Brides: A Promise of Hope Series. Julia appears in the first book, Winning Miss Winthrop. I suggest reading that and Miss Serena’s Secret before reading this book. There are a number of characters that have appeared in previous books. Some characters are even from Carolyn Miller’s other series Regency Brides: A Legacy of Grace. I loved The Elusive Miss Ellison and really enjoyed seeing those characters again.

This book is more raw and serious than most books I tend to read. This is a story about forgiving others and forgiving yourself. And most importantly we need to seek forgiveness from God.

I often have a hard time sympathizing with heroes in the rake to redemption story-lines. Especially if they continue to struggle with their problems. While reading this story I was wishing that Julia’s brother Jon would have a talk with his friend Nicholas to get a better perspective. I understand Jon wanting to protect his sister, but he really needed to adjust his attitude to be more Christian like. This reminded me that I needed to work on my attitude on forgiving people as well.

I liked seeing the different stages of Christianity. Nicholas seemed to be very strong in his faith and able to help others. Julia and Thomas were still learning their way. Thomas’ father had a mindset that turned people away from God. He was a preacher yet he was always telling people what they did wrong in a very unloving way and telling them that they would never be good enough.

Sections of the book switched between the present and the past. There were a lot of unexpected elements and I liked that I didn’t know what was coming next. Though it did seem like everyone wanted to kick Thomas while he was down.

There are often stories that involve a character running off to get married at Gretna Green but we don’t often get to hear what happens after the marriage. While I enjoy reading a light-hearted funny story, I think it is also important to read stories like this. I feel that by reading about the person behind the sin it helps us to be more forgiving and understanding.

The Christmas Heirloom: Four Holiday Novellas of Love through the Generations – Review

heirloomcoverby Kristi Ann Hunter, Karen Witemeyer, Sarah Loudin Thomas, and Becky Wade

Paperback: 384 pages
Publisher: Bethany House Publishers (October 2, 2018)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 9780764230783
ISBN-13: 978-0764230783

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In Kristi Ann Hunter’s “Legacy of Love,” Sarah Gooding never suspected returning a brooch to an elderly woman would lead to a job . . . and introduce her to the woman’s grandson, a man far above her station.

In Karen Witemeyer’s “Gift of the Heart,” widow Ruth Fulbright uses the family brooch as collateral for a loan from the local businessman. But the more she comes to know the man behind the stern businessman, the more she hopes for a second chance at love.

In Sarah Loudin Thomas’s “A Shot at Love,” Fleeta Brady’s rough-and-tumble childhood means she prefers hunting to more feminine activities. She never expected her family’s brooch might be how a fellow hunter turns her attention from competition to romance.

In Becky Wade’s “Because of You,” Maddie Winslow has spent years in love with a man whose heart was already spoken for. When a church Christmas project brings them together and she stumbles upon an old family brooch, might it finally be her turn for love?


I love the idea behind this book of an heirloom because passed through the generations. And what better time than Christmas? 🙂

 
Legacy of Love by Kristi Ann Hunter

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Having read all of Kristi Ann Hunter’s published works, I had a feeling I would love this one as well. She writes such interesting, unique, imperfect characters. Not only are they more realistic, but you really want to root for them to get their happy endings.

Randall Everard is a third son.  I never really considered a third son’s life during this time period. He is neither the heir nor the spare, and he is just trying to find his place.  There is no set path for him, which has both positives and negatives.

Sarah Gooding is seen before in the Haven Manor series. I love when stories are interconnected, though this book can be read as a stand alone.

I loved how much Christmas was in this story and how it fit together so well. I also loved the message that you should be able to live your life no matter what age you are.

The scene with Sarah playing the piano was hilarious and one of my favorites.

Though I would love to spend more time with the characters, it has the feel of a full length novel and doesn’t feel rushed.

 
Gift of the Heart by Karen Witemeyer

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Like Hunter, Witemeyer is another one of my favorite authors. As a member of her “Posse”, I love that she dedicated the story to us!

Karen Witemeyer also creates characters who are not perfect. She has the ability to make her characters strong while also being incredibly vulnerable.

I loved the Biblical connection to the Ruth and Boaz story.  Besides the names, there were so many little connections as well.

Beauregard “Bo” Azlin was one of those characters you feel an instant connection to.  The back story of Bo’s childhood where his mother considered him damaged goods is heart breaking.  Bo tried to be fair to everyone and not give special treatment but he also helped protect those in need. I liked the scene where Bo is holding the heirloom and vowing to keep it safe for Ruth. It was also sweet how he liked to keep the heirloom near his heart.

Witemeyer’s books always contain some funny moments.  When Bo calls the stray cat a miscreant, little Naomi mistakenly believes that the cat’s name is Miss Creant. Bo and Naomi have a number of sweet and funny conversations.

While this felt like a very complete story, I want it to continue. I’m not ready to leave these characters.

 
A Shot at Love by Sarah Loudin Thomas

It took me awhile to get into this story.  The beginning was inundated with hunting and gun talk. While I don’t have a problem with hunting for need, I don’t like the “sport” or bragging that was involved.  The second half of the book was a lot more enjoyable for me.

I liked that Fleeta was a different kind of character.  She wasn’t “girly” and she liked the same jobs and hobbies that were usually only thought of for men.

Jack the bird was a fun little character and I liked the cousins.

I have read a novella by this author that I enjoyed and I own a few other books that are on my TBR list that I look forward to reading.

 

 
Because of You by Becky Wade

I want to start out by saying that I read over 200 books a year and out of those 200, less than 5 are contemporary. And those contemporary ones are usually by favorite authors of mine.  I just tend to find issues with a lot of contemporary books.

In the first few pages, I began to be turned off by the usage of some “trendy” modern words but was still very open-minded. Then there was the character Maddie. Maddie has been pining for Leo for years, including the time he was married to her friend. She didn’t seem to find anything wrong with that.  Then after his wife dies and he is interested in Maddie, she suddenly feels like she is betraying her friend.

Maddie spends a lot of time taking pictures for her Instagram. That in and of itself didn’t bother me. It was the fact that she would be in the middle of a conversation involving charity and she would have to stand up and take 50 shots trying to get the perfect photo of her salad and chips. Seriously? And I know some people like to look at food pictures for some reason, but a salad and chips? Then when Leo doesn’t understand, she calls him “quaint”.

There are a few conversations with Maddie and her grandmother Fleeta. Comparing Fleeta from the previous story, who is a strong, independent woman, with Maddie makes Maddie’s personality even more surprising. Maddie’s mother, Laura, also seems flaky. And it was sad how a sentimental heirloom that has been passed down since the 1700s was treated.

There were some positives.  I liked Leo.  He was sweet and adorably awkward but was also loyal to his wife and a good father. I like that adoption was included in the book but the fact that the girls had been adopted wasn’t dwelled upon. And I loved that Charlie picked out a Charlie Brown Christmas tree.

Because of You wasn’t for me. As I mentioned though, contemporary fiction isn’t really my favorite genre.

Miss Serena’s Secret (Regency Brides: A Promise of Hope #2) – Review

serenacoverby Carolyn Miller

Series: Regency Brides: A Promise of Hope (Book 2)

Paperback: 344 pages
Publisher: Kregel Publications (July 24, 2018)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0825445345
ISBN-13: 978-0825445347

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With devastating scars in her past, Serena Winthrop is sure no man can be trusted–especially not a man like the too-smooth Viscount Carmichael. His reputation as a flirt and a gambler is everything she despises. And the young artist makes sure that this disreputable heir to an earldom knows of her deep disapproval whenever they encounter one another.

Henry, Lord Carmichael, is perfectly aware of his charms. He’s gambled with plenty of ladies’ hearts as easily as he has with their husbands’ money. But lately he’s wondered if there’s more to life–and if his actions might prove unworthy of an admirable wife such as his friends have found.

When Serena’s guardian asks his best friend to protect his young ward, Henry promises to be on his best behavior and not to woo her. But the more he learns of her, the more he realizes she might be his best reason for changing his character.

Then the lady’s painting leads her to London infamy. Now Henry must choose between the life mapped out for him as the earl apparent and the love of his life. And Serena’s secret may mean the end of his titled family line.


If only I could function without sleep…

It was four in the morning before I finally forced myself to put the book down and the next day I was quick to pick it up and finish it.

This book was filled with an entire range of emotional moments that were: funny, romantic, tense, joyous… There were raw emotions, whether it was a child born into the world or a beloved character called home. I held my breath though a scene which is so unlike me and during another scene I literally dropped my jaw.  I was so glad no one was watching me while reading this book!

Carolyn Miller always has such interesting, dynamic characters. I love how she describes the scenery, and I can vividly picture it. As a landscape photographer I can relate with Serena seeing God’s work in His glorious creation and trying to capture it.

The parts with the children were some of my favorites. Like when Serena was trying to paint the bouncy children and they were asking her questions about Uncle Henry. I also liked the way Henry interacted with the children. Those scenes were so precious.

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Miss Serena’s Secret is not a story where things go perfectly, and that is one of the reasons why I recommend it. While it’s nice to read a story that is happy and positive all the time, it’s not very realistic. This book’s realistic scenarios remind us of how we all should live. Love endures all things. Bad things will happen but we must continue to love God and love others and see the good He provides us with.

At the end of Miss Serena’s Secret it shows a preview of Carolyn’s next book in the series The Making of Mrs. Hale. I am very much looking forward to it even more after reading that preview.

A Defense of Honor (Haven Manor #1) – Review

honorcoverby Kristi Ann Hunter

Series: Haven Manor (Book 1)

Paperback: 384 pages
Publisher: Bethany House Publishers (June 5, 2018)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0764230751
ISBN-13: 978-0764230752

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When Katherine “Kit” FitzGilbert turned her back on London society more than a decade ago, she determined never to set foot in a ballroom again. But when business takes her to London and she’s forced to run for her life, she stumbles upon not only a glamorous ballroom but also Graham, Lord Wharton. What should have been a chance encounter becomes much more as Graham embarks on a search for his friend’s missing sister and is convinced Kit knows more about the girl than she’s telling.

After meeting Graham, Kit finds herself wishing things could have been different for the first time in her life, but what she wants can’t matter. Long ago, she dedicated herself to helping women escape the same scorn that drove her from London and raising the innocent children caught in the crossfire. And as much as she desperately wishes to tell Graham everything, revealing the truth isn’t worth putting him and everyone she loves in danger.


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A Defense of Honor is a standalone book and can be read as such. However, the prequel A Search for Refuge really helps set the stage and it is free on Amazon.

This book had a unique and interesting plot, especially for the time period.  I have read a lot of stories set during this era and have never read anything like this.

It had a mix of very serious topics along with some funny moments. I loved the ongoing joke of how Kit FitzGilbert and Lord Graham Wharton met and their love of dancing with plants.

While this book is largely about the aristocracy it stills has a raw realness to it with feelings and situations that are seen today.

One of the themes of this book was learning to follow God’s will.  Also, needing to realize how blessed you are and that to be a good person you must help those who are less fortunate.

“A good man sees what he’s been given and does the best he can to earn it.”

I really enjoyed that this book was not predictable, had an interesting storyline, and there were a number of characters I want to know even more about in future books.

More Than Meets the Eye (Patchwork Family #1) – Review

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by Karen Witemeyer

Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: Bethany House Publishers (June 5, 2018)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0764212834
ISBN-13: 978-0764212833

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Many consider Evangeline Hamilton cursed. Orphaned at a young age and possessing a pair of mismatched eyes–one bright blue, the other dark brown–Eva has fought to find her way in a world that constantly rejects her. Yet the support of even one person can help overcome the world’s judgments, and Eva has two–Seth and Zach, two former orphans she now counts as brothers.

Seeking justice against the man who stole his birthright and destroyed his family, Logan Fowler arrives in 1880s Pecan Gap, Texas, to confront Zach Hamilton, the hardened criminal responsible for his father’s death. Only instead of finding a solitary ruthless gambler, he discovers a man not much older than himself with an unusual family. When Zach’s sister, Evangeline, insists on dousing Logan with sunshine every time their paths cross, Logan finds his quest completely derailed. Who is truly responsible for his lost legacy, and will restoring the past satisfy if it means forfeiting a future with Evangeline?


As a fan of Karen Witemeyer, I knew right away that I wanted to read More Than Meets the Eye. She is a master of dialogue and descriptions and her characters are always interesting and unique.

This book wasn’t just about Logan and Evangeline. It was about an entire patched together family and I felt invested in each character.

The prologue immediately pulls you in and is so incredibly emotional. I had heard it was a “tear jerker” and I thought I was prepared, but I wasn’t! It was that moving.

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This was one of my favorite quotes from the book and really pulled the characters and the entire story together.

Evangeline spent her entire life being judged for her different colored eyes. It was sad when she was a little four year old being bullied. It was even worse when “Christians” at her congregation judged her and were superstitious.

Logan is not only outwardly scarred, but he holds the scars of his past in his heart. He is intent on taking revenge on someone he feels wronged his family.

“Vengeance doesn’t heal pain, Logan. Love heals pain.”

Zach is a complex character who has a wide range of emotions. He is vulnerable and fiercely protective of his family, yet he puts on a hard exterior. I would love to see what his future holds after this book concludes.

Seth is asthmatic and Christie is deaf and was abused in her past. However, they find a kindred spirit in each other and have such a sweet relationship.

They are great characters on their own but even better when they are together as a family.

There was action and a mystery surrounding Christie that was interesting to follow throughout the book. There were also secrets between Evangeline and Logan. A lot of times secrets do not come out until the end of a book. I liked that they came out earlier and were addressed.

I also liked the lighthearted moments in the book. Evangeline had a unique pet named Hezekiah that made for some funny scenes. Logan also named his pet, Shamgar, a Biblical name.

More Than Meets the Eye had action, mystery, some comedic moments and a lot of heart. I highly recommend this book.

Some other favorite quotes:

“Go peddle your pessimism somewhere else, mister, I’m not buying.”

“I want honesty, even when the truth is less than palatable.”

“Love stayed. Even when things became messy and unpleasant, love stayed.”