The Maid of Ballymacool By Jennifer Deibel

I found this story very intriguing!  Brianna Kelly is a kitchen maid at the exclusive girl’s boarding school of Ballymacool House.  She is severely mistreated emotionally, verbally and physically by the head mistress and owner, Maureen Magee. There are no clues as to way she constantly spews her venom at Brianna.  She only remembers coming there to the care of Ms. Magee as a small child, and not as a boarder. It is the only life she has ever known.  The head mistress’s  abuse is not limited only to her servants but her students also suffer her wrath, yet no one to the degree Brianna does.

Michael Wray, son of a wealthy, elite family, is sent by his father to keep an eye on his rebellious young cousin to prevent her being expelled from the school.  He loathes the task.  He is immediately taken by Brianna, in sympathy seeing her horrible treatment and living conditions but also her beauty.  He begins to develop a friendship with her but it isn’t easy.  She is very shy and reluctant believing it isn’t appropriate given their stations in life.

Brianna won me over with her humility and sweet, gentle spirit in spite of her horrid situation.  Though she did not understand why Ms. Magee hated her so she committed to doing her job well and accepting the life she had.  I love the way she captured moments of joy in the simplest ways. 

I loved that Michael was not haughty and think himself better than others because of his life of privilege.  He was so kind and caring of everyone.  I really liked it when he stood up to the headmistress not being intimidated by her anger.  He did what I would have wanted to do!   I enjoyed watching his and Brianna’s romance grow in the most unexpected ways.

There were so many twists and turns, that I was constantly surprised!  I would think I had it figured out and BAM! Everything would change! I was sad when the story was completed but I loved the surprise ending. A book you will want to read! 

I received a copy of this book from Revell Publishing.  The opinions stated are my own.



Windswept Way By Irene Hannon

I love this series!  Hope Harbor is like a favorite vacation spot I can visit again and again in these books!  I can almost smell the ocean and feel the sand beneath my feet.  I always enjoy meeting the old characters again and seeing how the last ones are becoming part of the community.  My favorite one is Charlie the taco man and his sea gull sidekicks!

Needing a fresh start Ashley Scott decides to really step out of her comfort zone, travel 2500 miles (approximately, yes I checked) to purchase an historic Victorian mansion.  Her nerves are a little one frazzled after reading about the rumors the house is haunted and tales of spotting of an ethereal woman in white walking on the grounds.

Upon arriving as she starts to enter the gate a man in a mask carrying a chainsaw moves out of the hedge.  You know here her mind goes! (Mine went there too!) He passes the car, much to her relief, and walks away.  She finds out later this is Jon, the landscaper.  He is a war veteran deeply scarred both physically and emotionally. The owner of the home, eighty year old Rose Fitzgerald is also quite mysterious and a bit different.  She has locked herself away in this mansion for many years where she lives alone. 

Ashley finds that the purchasing the home comes with some unusual conditions. 

This story was constantly surprising me with unexpected circumstances that arose and most of all with Ashley peeling away the layers and discovering the most incredible secrets of Jon and Rose.  I did the “stay up too late and read” night because I couldn’t put it down!

It was beautiful to see how no matter how hurt a person is or misguided in their thinking about their previous life, they overcome it!  New life can begin no matter how difficult the past is.   Ashley being able to see past Jon’s disfigurement to who he truly was touched my heart.  Each character has their own ghosts from their past to deal with and courageously moves forward. I love how this unfolds! 

I received this book from Revell Publishing in exchange for an honest review.  The opinions stated are my own.

Second Time Around By Melody Carlson

Mallory Farrell finds herself divorced with grown children and rambling around her huge Victorian home she has remodeled to perfection.  She has an upscale thriving home decorating business but feels alone and left behind.  What does she do now?  Things begin to change when she receives notice that she has inherited her beloved grandmother’s tourist shop in Seaport, Oregon.

She packs up to go and prepare it to sell.  It holds so many happy memories of her childhood and her grandmother.  Seaport is no longer a tourist hub.  She is surprised the sad condition the little shop has fallen into and the town.  An old high school friend, Grayson Matthews, offers to buy it.  Mallory considers selling until she finds out he plans to tear it down along with many other shops to build a modern mall.  She is horrified and refuses.  Then her strong creativity and passion as an interior decorator is awakened!  She decides to remodel and open a new business, one the town has never seen; a home decorating store.  She envisions it inspiring business owners to revive their shops too.

Fully committed, she sells her home, finds someone to care of her clients at and moves to Seaport.  Making a dream come to life is not without obstacles.  Her journey is certainly filled with those.  Some of them crushing, but she doesn’t give up.

This book is so descriptive you will feel you are right there watching everything unfold.   Ms. Carlson is a master at using details to bring the story to life.  Her first glimpse of her grandmother’s shop made me think of some of the little shops we’d visit while on vacation in Galveston Island 40 years ago.  Trinket, shells, plastic toys, all dusty and reminders of the past.  Not much you’d want to buy but fun to look at.

I so enjoyed watching the shop turn into something amazing.  I could picture the beautiful things in her inventory as she arranged them.  It was very satisfying to be a part of it and not lift a finger! There are so many unexpected surprises along the way.

I felt her overwhelming disappointment with each problem that arose, but felt inspired as she pulled herself and faced them head on.  I saw a huge lesson in not judging people’s motives by appearances.  They may as with her are the very ones that are your true friends.  Also sometimes we have to put aside our pride and ask for help. This was such a fun read!  

I received this book from Revell Publishing in exchange for an honest review.  All the opinions stated are my own.

Be Held By Him Companion Guidebook, By Karen Brough

This guidebook/workbook knocks it out of the park!!!  Ms. Brough’s book is incredible in itself.  People can share their experiences when they write about their story, and others can relate to it finding help from their example but this Guidebook takes you well beyond that. She gives you the tools to work through your own personal challenges applying what you have learned from her testimony.

I was so impressed with her book, Be Held By Him and how Ms. Brough poured herself into it, but now this amazing guidebook!   It is truly a gift of love to help others not only overcome their painful trials, but also draw closer to the Lord, find comfort and peace in Him.

Each chapter is titled with a key name to focus on in your journey.  They are divided into seven different parts that encompass so much concerning the area.  1. Take Aways – Summarized main thoughts. 2. Questions to Ponder – These help you look within and apply what you have learned. 3. Journal Space. 4. Playlist – suggested songs to listen to. 5. Activations/ Applications – 8  different categories with suggestions of different ways to spend time with God. Musical, Visual, Logical, Kinesthetic/Bodily, Intrapersonal, Verbal, Interpersonal, and Naturalistic.  I have never seen anything like this before and it is very unique. 6. Blessing – Blessings that we receive from God and don’t even think about. Especially in the midst of great suffering. I am so impressed with the thoroughness and detailing of the author in writing to help the reader.  A book you will want and will use over and over. The possibilities are endless!

I received a copy of this book from the author through Eblast in exchange for an honest review. The opinions stated are my own.

Be Held By Him: Finding God When Life Knocks You Off Your Feet,  By Karen Brough

All I can say is, “Wow”!  I was facing a painful and difficult time in my life when I read this book. Although Ms. Brough’s experience and suffering is very intense, even heart breaking, her book is filled with hope and peace.  I found encouragement in her faith, her focus on God and sharing the very private moments where He spoke to her. Page after page I was inspired and encouraged. Her testimony of letting go and turning to God with each new challenge she faced is very special.  I was reminded anew of how He IS there for us even in the worst of times. If we will only draw close to Him and allow Him to comfort and guide us in ways we can never imagine and how much He loves me!  I saw I often focus on the trials rather than Him and I am missing out on so much He has to carry me through.  Not to mention learn what He is trying to teach me and spiritual growth.

This book was written out of pure love and praise for her Lord but also for her readers.  She was so open and transparent in her deepest thoughts, feelings and even in her failures, doubts and spiritual conflicts.  I cannot even imagine the courage it took to write her story. Every chapter has a scripture focus that goes with an area where God was working in her life. At the end of the chapter is two parts, one entitled “Father’s Heart”.  I especially liked “Father’s Heart” as she shares thoughts and words the Lord spoke to her.  I found so many of these spoke to me in a deeply special way.  The last part is a personal prayer. All of them very inspiring and uplifting. I will read it and keep it as a reference.  I have to keep myself from highlighting most of the chapters! Whether you are facing a major crisis or small difficulty, you will want to read this book and keep it in your library.  There is also a Companion to help you study and personalize your unique journey. 

I received a copy of this book from the author through Eblast in exchange for an honest review. The opinions stated are my own.