With You Always By Jody Hedlund

After losing both her parents, German immigrant Elise Neumann, finds herself homeless and sole provider for her 2 younger sisters and 2 motherless orphans. In the late 1850’s life was harsh for women in poverty and alone. She is only 19 years old but very mature and courageous from all the suffering and adversities she has faced in her young life. They find themselves living on the streets and in dire straits. Miss Pendleton, a wealthy, Christian woman who has sold all to open a mission in the slums of lower Manhattan, invites them to live there. While the mission is better than the streets, it has not been renovated yet and is filled with filth and vermin. No matter, Elise and her sisters are grateful.
Miss Pendleton’s purpose for her ministry is to help prostitutes get off the streets and earn and honest living. She hires them as seamstresses to do work for local business. This is Elise’s trade and she begins work. Not long after, the city finds itself in severe financial straits and the work ends.
With a broken heart she is forced to leave her sisters there while she goes west to work in a new town being developed along the railroad. Little does she know the new town she is going to be employed in is part of a challenge between Thornton Quincey and his twin brother to prove who is worthy to inherit the family business from their dying father. Thornton Quincy, wealthy New York socialite, is completely at the other end of the social scale from Elise. Here their paths cross again (you have to read the book to find out how they met). She was proof you don’t’ have to be wealthy to be confident and he confirmed you don’t have to be poor to be meek. I totally enjoyed their interactions and sense of humor. Despite the vast ocean of class that divides them a seed of romance is planted.
The story is a touching example that true love knows no boundaries, and God’s plans are not limited by circumstances. While since her parent’s death and one setback after another, Elise feels God has abandoned her. Through her adversities she grows to see He has always been there. I was reminded of Romans 8:28 “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”
Being a huge fan of historical Christian novels, I appreciated the author’s thorough research. Being based on a true incident, Ms. Hedlund did a skillful job of fleshing out the story and characters. I had heard a lot about the orphan trains but was unaware of plight poverty-stricken women during this era. It shocked me to realize so many had to leave their children to work in the Midwest to provide for them. It seemed they jumped out of the frying pan into the fire as the employers exploited and abused them. I cannot imagine going through what these women did. An outstanding book! Can’t wait for a sequel!
I received this book from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for an honest review. The opinions stated are my own.

A Love So True By Melissa Jagears

This is my first book to read of Ms. Jagears and I was very impressed. Her subject was unique to most novels; prostitution in the early 1900’s. It was as destructive a lifestyle then as now.
Evelyn Wisely had a heart for those affected by it, not only the women but also the children born as a result and the men who paid for the services. You would think she would be applauded by the people of her town but most people during that era were quick to judge and reject the sinner than to help. She faced great opposition. This did not deter her from pursuing the ministry she felt called to.
David Kingsman, a business man, joins her by allowing the women to earn honest money by cleaning his factory after hours. He is also attacked in his efforts by his employees. Both are strong Christians and determined to help no matter what the cost. To say the obstacles they face are formidable is putting it mildly.
The conditions the women and children lived in was tragic and even more so knowing the same things are happening in our day and time. Morality and Christianity, during that era held very high standards but tended to be snobbish and repulsed by those living in sin. There was definitely a “holier than thou attitude.” They failed to hate the sin and love the sinner.
David truly impressed me and I enjoyed him. Even though he exuded wealth and good looks his humility and respect for the prostitutes and children was a beautiful testimony. I love how at ease he was with them and did everything to make them feel comfortable.
I also admired Evelyn and David because the each was struggling with difficult and painful personal issues but that did not deter them from giving 100% of themselves. Most people go inward with self-pity and selfishness rather than looking outward. A great story with a strong Christian message. It brought to my mind Philippians 2:3. “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.”
I received this book from Bethany Publishers in exchange for an honest review. The opinions stated are my own.

The Ebb Tide By Beverly Lewis

Beverly Lewis is a classic writer! Her books always give me spiritual and scriptural inspiration. I truly enjoy reading them.
Twenty year old Sallie Riehl is at that point in her life where she must choose to make a lifetime commitment to the Amish church by joining and being baptized. She even has a beau courting her, Perry, whom she has no attraction to. Sallie is invited by a wealthy family to spend the summer as their nanny at the beach in New Jersey. Her parents agree to let her go but with great reservations. Her strong desire to travel and see the world is a constant conflict with the Amish beliefs. Reasoning that this trip will get it out of her system she more than happily agrees to go.
What fun it was to experience the trip, the ocean and the beach through her eyes! Such a fresh view of so much we take for granted. As if all there was to see and do are not enough she gets a taste of freedom she never before had. Her weekends are open to do as she pleases. On her grand adventure she meets Kevin. He is fun, interesting, shares her dreams to travel and she finds herself having strong feelings toward him.
Upon her return home the trip has not only failed to extinguish her passion for travel, but Sallie finds herself desiring it even more. Her eyes being opened she realizes she is not happy with her Amish life. She must now make the decision to disappoint her family and leave or stay forever living in discontent.
The book’s title was so meaningful to the story. The way time and circumstances pulls us forward into the future and back into the past. The book presents a strong testimony of seeking God’s will in the face of tough decisions; pleasing Him or others. An excellent book!
I received this book free from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for an honest review. The opinions stated are my own.

.

Treasured Grace By Tracie Peterson

Historical novels are always so exciting to me as I get to step into the past with characters and their lives the author has created. I live beside them and experience living and facing challenges during that era. The early American frontier was such a time of change and adventure. That’s why so many of us love westerns right? Reading about those times and entertaining ourselves with movies is far different than living during that era. This is something the author really brought to light for me. If you lost your family you were on your own and at the true mercy of others. You couldn’t run down to Walmart and buy medicine when you were sick or groceries and these are just a few difficulties they faced!
After losing her parents, Grace marries the bad-tempered Rev. Martindale so she could provide for her sisters and travel the Oregon Trail west. It was a marriage of convenience as he had to be married to serve as a missionary. Her plans were derailed when he suddenly dies along the way. She is left with nothing again.
Dr. Whitman of the Whitman Mission (of the infamous massacre) allows them to stay. Grace finds herself in conflict with the doctor/missionary because she is an herbalist. He does not want her treating anyone. This is ironic as she saved so many lives with her remedies on the wagon train. It reminded me of western medicine and holistic medicine conflicts today.
While Grace and her sisters have a roof over their head they are not out of danger. Unfortunately the wagon train brought an epidemic of measles and there are many deaths, especially among the Indians. The Cayuse Indians the doctor is treating are dying in large numbers. They believe his medicine is purposely killing them. Add to that the problem of the increasing population of white men taking the Indian’s land, and there is serious trouble. Hostilities are increasing and the mission is in danger of Indian attack.
A bright note in her life is handsome trapper Alex Armistead. Familiar with the ways of the Indians and the wilderness, he protects and watches out for Grace and her sisters.
There were so many things I liked about the book. First and foremost was the focus on scripture and the plan of salvation. So rare to find a novel that actually shares this. The author emphasized strongly the reliance on God and strong faith in any situation, not allowing compromises. The tragedies faced by the characters are heart-breaking.
I use natural remedies and oils regularly. I found it extremely interesting as to how Grace used and obtained her treatments. Once again a startling reminder of the hardships the people faced with injuries and illness.
Always a great author, Ms. Peterson did an extraordinary of capturing historical facts and bringing to life the raw emotions of those who lived through the events. A book you will want to read!
I received this book from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for an honest review. The opinions stated are my own.

The Captivating Lady Charlotte By Carolyn Miller

Charlotte was caught up in a time of gaiety and youth. She was being presented to society and the world was her oyster. She is beautiful, her father a marquess, and every handsome titled young man is competing for her attention. What young girls head wouldn’t be whirling?! In youth we have our dreams and plans, having no doubt they will come to pass simply because we want them to. As Lady Charlotte learns life does not always follow our script.
Her head is quickly turned by a dashingly handsome, charming friend of her brothers. She is sure he is “the one”. Her brother knows him and says no but his opinion doesn’t count. It’s her parents and they put an end to all of it believing the best match for her is a not so handsome, rather dull widower, ten years older than her. You can image how crushed and devastated she is. She cringes at the thought of a marriage without love in the name of money and social station.
Her chosen suitor, Duke William Hartington, is a godly man of integrity and faith. He has sadly been through great pain with his deceased wife’s infidelities. He is attracted to Charlotte but his former wife was younger too and he is afraid to trust any women, and certainly with his heart.
This a unique historical romance as you can already realize. It was beautiful to see Charlotte mature from a flighty young girl to a woman that sees the true values that should be present in marriage and that love isn’t just feelings but actions too.
William is an epitome of kindness, patience, and true love with her during this process. The story meant even more by its focus on trusting God for His plans in our lives. The scriptures mentioned and prayers by William truly make a spiritual impression. The book even includes a bit of mystery and danger.
I thoroughly enjoyed the detailed descriptions of the surroundings and social ways of the very wealthy during that era. Something I always look for in an historical novel! A book you will want to read.
I received this book from Kregel Publication in exchange for an honest review. The opinions I have stated are my own.

Death in the Shadows By Paul McCusker

Father Gilbert finds himself involved in another murder mystery. Given his background as a policeman before becoming a priest, it seems quite natural. The priest travels to a religious meeting in another town. While eating his breakfast the next morning he opens the newspaper and reads of a local prostitute found dead. Before his meal is over he sees the spirit of the female victim floating in front of him. This spurs him on to solve the crime, leading him into many evil and dangerous places.
I applaud the author for addressing the social problem of sex trafficking. He does a wonderful job of tackling the problem without being graphic or coarse. It is a horrible reality of our times that most know little about. Mr. McCusker is a skilled mystery writer and can definitely keep your attention.
I was disappointed in the book because of the strong demonic, supernatural, thread that ran throughout. I found the book to be very disturbing. I definitely do not think it can qualify as Christian reading material.
I received a copy of this book from Kregel publications in exchange for an honest review. The opinions I have stated are my own.

The Cover Story By Deb Richardson-Moore

I so enjoyed Ms. Richardson-Moore’s first book, The Cantaloupe Thief, that I was excited to see another in this series! Branigan Powers is a journalist for a small town newspaper. Her intelligence, eye for detail, and being able to think outside the box once again finds her being more than just a reporter and working with the police on a murder investigation.
It is the Christmas holiday and a niece and a friend are returning home from college. Suddenly a mysterious vintage hearse appears, forcing them off the road and taking the life of the other girl and injuring her niece. Clues begin to appear, leading her to the possible involvement of the local sororities. While this is a beginning Branigan quickly finds the evidence brings more questions than answers! At several points I felt if I could speak to her I would be able to direct her to the murderer, and then the story would veer off in an unexpected direction ending my theory! I love all the surprises!
I liked the homeless man Malachi Martin being included in this book also. He can hear things and go places Ms. Powers cannot, always aiding her search for answers. Yes he has issues but he had a good heart and character. As with her previous book the homeless are a part of the story. It really opens your heart and eyes to their plight and all they deal with we know nothing about.
I appreciate the book deals with crime but without the graphic detail. One disappointment did arise for me with this book. Throughout different parts of the book there were curse words. Even the pastor cursed! Since I assumed this was a Christian mystery, I was a bit shocked. The author is a talented, entertaining writer that does not need to rely on this type of language to enhance or story. Without this the book would have been perfect!
I received a copy of this book from Kregel Publications in exchange for an honest review. The opinions I have stated are my own.

Murder on the Moor by Julianna Deering

I enjoy nothing more than a good clean mystery. Ms. Deering certainly delivered! I can’t wait to read more of her books this was my first! The married amateur detective duo of Drew and Madeline brought to mind the old classic movies of Nick and Nora, whose films were made in the 1930’s, the same era as the book’s setting.
The couple is called to an old school chums estate in the English Moors to help him solve 2 murders that there could possibly be no motive; the vicar and a poor elderly woman. Also because his bride of less than a year has been hearing things and feels she is being followed
His friend Beaky Bloodworth would be what you would call a geek or a nerd during their school days, the victim of constant bullying. Not only has Beaky done quite well for himself but is married to an absolutely beautiful woman, so much so her reasons for marrying look suspicious. Not to mention her attitude toward her husband, Definitely not that of a gushing newlywed.
The author’s descriptiveness of the characters, their personality and physical characteristics were so fantastic, I felt I had a snap shot of them in hand. Beaky’s name gave me a chuckle as it fit his thin, hawkish appearance. She beautifully captured the interactions between the individuals on all levels. I loved Drew and Madeline’s sweet and loving relationship. Not gushy but as a good, caring marriage would be. It didn’t stop there she painted a word picture of the homes, stores, pub, and especially the moors. I found the latter quite depressing, and gloomy. A perfect location for solving a crime!
The book kept me on edge. Lots of surprises. Every time I thought I had the murderer cornered in my mind another person would appear equally as guilty! It wasn’t until the very end the criminal is revealed and I wasn’t right on any counts! What a surprise! Just the way I like a whodunit! A book you will want to read!
I received a copy of this book from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for an honest review. The opinions I state are my own.

Naomi’s Hope by Jan Drexler

Naomi Schrock and her family decided to move west to Pleasant Plain. It is the 1840’s so wagons are the mode of transportation; difficult and with danger always lurking around the bend. On their journey they came across a horrendous scene. A family’s home had been utterly destroyed and the only survivor was a small boy, Davey. The family took him in and their daughter Naomi adopted him as her own. In this book they have arrived at their destination and have been there 3 years. At seven years of age Davey is a lively, high spirited boy that gives Naomi a run for her money!
The new Amish settlement is prospering and many other families are coming to make it their home also. One of those people was a widower Cap Stolzfus. Still grieving over the loss of his wife and baby he is resolved to make a fresh start. His farm is beside Naomi’s parents. Davey meets Cap in one of times of exploration and they become fast friends. The young boy longing for a Dad and family decides to make believe Cap his father. As little ones will, he brings Naomi, her family, and Cap together as they become dear friends. Romance begins to blossom but both have doubts and concerns, not to mention their disagreement in how Davey should be raised.
An old acquaintance of Cap’s arrives at the settlement wanting to become a second minister. He presents himself as a man of the cloth, but is a sheep in wolves clothing. Cap knows Shem Fischer will be trouble and that is exactly what he brings to the peaceful community, especially Naomi.
The book is very exciting and fast paced. Not your usual Amish novel with mild conflicts and struggles. I liked that it shows a different side of the Amish life especially during that era. Davey’s antics and escapades were spot for a rambunctious boy that age. My heart went out to Naomi for trying to deal with his nonstop mischief. I liked it that the author fleshed out many characters with their own outlooks and experiences, but it was not hard to keep them straight. It added to the realism and entertainment of the story. I appreciated the fact that the characters lived out their faith and biblical principles no matter what hardships or problems they faced. A read alone book from the 1st two in the trilogy, but you definitely want to read the others!
I received this book from Revell Publications in exchange for an honest review. The opinions I stated are my own.
.

Freedom’s Price By Christine Johnson

Imagine you are 23 years old, your mother has died and now your father. In the 1850’s there are not many options for you to support yourself, other than a life of drudgery or a marriage of convenience. This is what Catherine Haynes was facing. Neither had she wanted. With great courage and faith in God, she leaves her home in England and faces a difficult journey to America. There in Louisiana she plans to find her mother’s family and the plantation where she once lived. Even though they do not even know of her existence she hopes to claim her inheritance in the Black Oak Plantation. As if overwhelming grief and loss of all she held dear were not enough she finds herself shipwrecked. In this tragic situation, sailor Tom Worthington enters her life. Although their relationship mixes as well as oil and water, he becomes an important part of her life.
Upon her arrival she finds the plantation her mother shared such love of in a horrible state of deterioration and neglect. To make matters worse, it has fallen under the management of an evil, dishonest man and the family she hoped for is gone. She is appalled at the cruel and inhuman treatment of the slaves. This was Pre-Civil War era so her ideas of equality for all men were very foreign at that time. Catherine soon finds herself thrown in to danger and mystery.
This was a hard book to put down, a real page turner!!! There were times I realized I was tensed up wondering what would happen next! I loved the way the author showed the characters trust and reliance on God no matter how seemly impossible their circumstances were. The historical information was well researched and gave a clear picture of Louisiana in this era. I found this extremely interesting. An extremely captivating historical romance. Thank you Ms. Johnson for another very entertaining book!
I received this book from Revell Publishers in exchange for an honest review. The opinions stated are my own.

.