May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight,
O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer. ~Ps 19:14 (NIV)

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

A Beauty So Rare by Tamera Alexander ~ Sharing My Review

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About the book~
Eleanor Braddock--plain, practical, no stunning Southern beauty--knows she will never marry. But with a dying soldier's last whisper, she believes her life can still have meaning and determines to find his widow. Impoverished and struggling to care for her ailing father, Eleanor arrives at Belmont Mansion, home of her aunt, Adelicia Acklen, the richest woman in America--and possibly the most demanding, as well. Adelicia insists on finding her niece a husband, but a simple act of kindness leads Eleanor down a far different path--building a home for destitute widows and fatherless children from the Civil War. While Eleanor knows her own heart, she also knows her aunt will never approve of this endeavor. 

Archduke Marcus Gottfried has come to Nashville from Austria in search of a life he determines, instead of one determined for him. Hiding his royal heritage, Marcus longs to combine his passion for nature with his expertise in architecture, but his plans to incorporate natural beauty into the design of the widows' and children's home run contrary to Eleanor's wishes. As work on the home draws them closer together, Marcus and Eleanor find common ground--and a love neither of them expects. 

But Marcus is not the man Adelicia has chosen for Eleanor, and even if he were, someone who knows his secrets is about to reveal them all.

Sharing My Review~

Archduke Marcus Gottfried escaped the pressures of his royal heritage by moving to America. In Nashville, he finds anonymity in restoring old buildings and grafting plants, but he knows it's only a temporary reprieve. Next year, he must return to Austria and resume his...commitments. Eleanor Braddock, intelligent, but not pretty, is pushing thirty, and her dream of marriage and family has long since wilted.

There was wisdom in knowing when to let go of a dream, and even more, in knowing when it had let go of you.

With her finances dwindling and her father requiring special care, Eleanor moves in with her philanthropic aunt, who intends to honor a promise to Eleanor's father by arranging a marriage that will secure her niece's future.

Both Marcus and Eleanor have shameful family secrets, and both are being pushed into destinies not of their choosing. It surprised me to see who pushed back first, and up until 85% into the book, I still wasn't sure how the story would end. As an avid reader who can usually anticipate endings, this kept me turning pages and more than made up for the beginning, which slowed from too much introspection and not enough dialogue.

In my opinion, the spiritual thread could have been beefier. That said, a resounding theme permeated the book, that beauty is more than surface level and means something different to each person. I also 
appreciate that the author didn't wrap the broken family relationships in a neat, easy bow at the end. Family dynamics are tenuous and some relationships are not easily fixed, which the author portrayed well and true to life's sometimes harsh realities. While A Beauty So Rare packs more pages than I typically read, I thoroughly enjoyed the complex plot and three dimensional characters, and highly recommend it.

Disclaimer: Sending a big thank you to Bethany House Publishers and NetGalley for allowing me the privilege of reviewing A Beauty So Rare and for the free copy I received in exchange for my fair and unbiased review. This opinion is my own, and I received no compensation.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Annoying or Divine? You choose...

It's been a crazy couple of weeks. I just wrapped up my Christmas novella, Christmas in the Rink, and behold! Edits for two other books, Beck's Peace and Burk's Surrender, arrived in my inbox within seconds of each other. 

I expected Beck's Peace, but I was rather surprised to receive both books. Since I'm fairly single-minded, I don't usually bounce back and forth between books, especially when they feature identical twin heroes, Beck and Burk. Hello! Anybody see a problem here? Although these twin heroes, polar opposites, were so much fun to write, it was torture keeping them straight. I was afraid that somewhere along the way Burk would end up romancing Beck's heroine or vice versa.

Typically, I stop whatever I'm working on to dig into edits, but last weekend, we expected our house to be bursting-at-the-seams with family. My parents were coming, and it was the last opportunity to visit with them before they made the trek back to AK for the summer. Also, several of  our male family members were excited about heading to the NASCAR race in Martinsville, and our house made the perfect landing spot for all.

So what to do? Clean and shop for a full house or work on edits for two books?

For me, the decision wasn't too hard. Family takes precedence, and I had ten days to turn in the edits. But what if I was backed up against a tight deadline and losing a couple days in my schedule really mattered? 

Well, don't you know that very same weekend our awesome pastor preached on...divine interruptions. Kinda timely, don't you think? I won't go into details of the message, but later that week God really hammered me with this particular passage (and it wasn't even part of the sermon!). 
Do I consider the interruptions in my daily work schedule as God-appointed? Or am I more exasperated that I'm not reaching my word count goal? Ouch.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying schedules and daily goals are a bad thing. After all, God prefers organization over chaos. (1 Cor 14:33) But, since God sees the big forever picture, His plans for my day might be a bit different than mine, and if I'm praying for God to direct my path, shouldn't I be open to the opportunities he plants in front of me? 

You know how amazing God is? He stretched my time as only He can do, allowing me to accomplish all the tasks, and my editor received the edits way ahead of schedule.

What about you? Do you tend to get frustrated or annoyed with interruptions? Or do you treat them as the divine encounters they might be?

God, help me to acknowledge that You order my day, not me, and to recognize these interruptions as divine appointments. Fill me with Your joy, and allow me to be a beacon for You.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Tide and Tempest by Elizabeth Ludwig ~ My Review

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About the book~
Edge of Freedom ~ Book #3

Dreaming of a better life, Tillie McGrath leaves Ireland behind and, with her beloved fiance by her side, sets sail for America. But when illness robs her of the man she holds dear, she's left alone with only a handful of tattered memories. While forging on proves difficult, Tillie soon finds some new friends at her New York boardinghouse, and begins pursuing a new dream--to open a home for orphaned children.

Despite two years passing, Captain Keondric Morgan has never forgotten the lass who left his ship so heartbroken. When a crewman's deathbed confession reveals her fiance's demise was the result of murder, the captain knows he must try to contact her. But his attention draws the notice of others as well--dangerous men who believe Tillie has in her possession something that could expose their crimes. And to their way of thinking, the best way to prevent such an outcome is to seize the evidence and then hand Tillie the same fate as her naive fiance.

Sharing my review~
I enjoyed Dark Road Home, the first book in the Edge of Freedom series, so I was especially excited to dig into Tide and Tempest. The opening scenes flowed fast, and again I found myself immersed back in 19th century New York, becoming reacquainted with Tillie McGrath and getting to know Captain Morgan. The Celt is back, along with the Irish Fenians, and the complicated plot around a special ring chugs ahead, full steam. 

A couple years before, Tillie had sailed with her fiance from Ireland on Captain Morgan's ship. When her fiance died onboard, she felt that she deserved God's punishment. She worked as a milliner by day, and volunteered at a shelter most nights, trying to earn God's favor. I appreciated the underlying message, a subtle thread throughout the book, that grace and forgiveness is a gift, not to be worked off or earned. Captain Morgan had never been able to get Tillie off his mind, and commits to protect her until they discover her fiance's killer. Tillie and Morgan were totally lovable, even with their occasional rash actions. 

As I noted in my review of Dark Road Home, I definitely recommend reading the first book in the Edge of Freedom series, No Safe Harbor before picking up the next two books. The plot and most of the characters played out through the entire series. If you love historical romantic suspense, you'll want to include all three books in your personal library.

Disclaimer: Sending a big thank you to Elizabeth Ludwig and Bethany House Publishers for providing me with an advance review copy of Tide and Tempest. The opinions expressed in this review are my own, and I received no monetary compensation.
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