The Queen’s Secret: A Novel of England’s World War II Queen by Karen Harper

About the book: 1939. As the wife of the King George VI and the mother of the future queen, Elizabeth—“the queen mother”—shows a warm, smiling face to the world. But it’s no surprise that Hitler himself calls her the “Most Dangerous Woman in Europe.” For behind that soft voice and kindly demeanor is a will of steel.

Two years earlier, George was thrust onto the throne when his brother Edward abdicated, determined to marry his divorced, American mistress Mrs. Simpson. Vowing to do whatever it takes to make her husband’s reign a success, Elizabeth endears herself to the British people, and prevents the former king and his brazen bride from ever again setting foot in Buckingham Palace.

Elizabeth holds many powerful cards, she’s also hiding damaging secrets about her past and her provenance that could prove to be her undoing.

In this riveting novel of royal secrets and intrigue, Karen Harper lifts the veil on one of the world’s most fascinating families, and how its “secret weapon” of a matriarch maneuvered her way through one of the most dangerous chapters of the century.

My review: I’ll admit I’m a bit obsessed with all things royal. So when the opportunity came about to read this book I jumped on it. And I am so glad I did. I learned so many things about “the queen mother” and in such an entertaining way.

It is obvious from the start that the author did an immense amount of research for this book. The attention she paid to historical details shows in her writing. I enjoyed learning about her relationship with her husband, daughters, and Winston Churchill. The author made the characters come alive on the page and she brought history to life.

This book was well researched, well written, and the story is told in a way that keeps the reader’s interest. A book worth reading for fans of the royal family or WWII. Definitely one for the keeper shelf.

Publication Date: May 19, 2020

Publisher: William Morrow

About the author: A New York Times and USA Today bestselling author, Karen Harper is a former college English instructor (The Ohio State University) and high school literature and writing teacher. A lifelong Ohioan, Karen and her husband Don divide their time between the midwest and the southeast, both locations she has used in her books. Besides her American settings, Karen loves the British Isles, where her Scottish and English roots run deep, and where she has set many of her historical Tudor-era mysteries and her historical novels about real and dynamic British women. Karen’s books have been published in many foreign languages and she won the Mary Higgins Clark Award for 2005. Karen has given numerous talks to readers and writers across the county. Her most recent books include THE SOUTH SHORES TRILOGY (CHASING SHADOWS, DROWNING TIDES and FALLING DARKNESS.) Her latest historical is THE ROYAL NANNY.

The German Heiress by Anika Scott

When a publicist at Harper Collins sent me an email asking if I’d like to read and review this book I immediately said yes. The cover appealed to me and World War II jumped out of the description making this book a must-read for me.

As soon as I began reading the book I was hooked. The main character, Clara Falkenberg, is complex. There is a mix of hardness to her and vulnerability. I found myself intrigued by her and throughout the course of the book felt myself understanding more and more her and the choices she made.

As for the other characters in the book, I thought Jakob was the perfect balance for Clara. He’s her opposite in so many ways yet there are similarities too which made them a great match. I wasn’t overly fond of Clara’s mother, Anne. The author did a great job of creating different personalities for these characters and making them enjoyable and not so enjoyable.

The author does a fantastic job of telling Clara’s story and keeps the story moving at a pace that kept my attention from beginning to end. I was shocked when I reached the end and discovered this was the author’s debut novel. This book was written as if the author had several books under her pen. I liked her writing style and will definitely book on the lookout for future books by her.

If you are a fan of World War II novels then don’t pass up this book. Well developed characters, a good story, and excellent writing made this book an enjoyable read. Happy reading!!

An Amish Christmas Kitchen by Leslie Gould, Jan Drexler and Kate Lloyd

About the book: As the weather grows cold and the nights grow long, the cheer and warmth of the Christmas season is one thing all readers can find comfort in. This collection from bestselling Amish fiction novelists Leslie Gould, Jan Drexler, and Kate Lloyd finds the beating heart at the center of the holiday and offers three novellas that celebrate family, faith, and especially the sights and smells of a bustling holiday kitchen.

Leslie Gould tells the story of how, in the wake of a heartbreaking loss, a young Amish woman finds unexpected comfort and hope in a yearly baking tradition surrounding the local Lancaster Christmas market. Jan Drexler offers a sweet tale of a shy Amish woman who decides to use her gift for sweets to woo a local Amish boy with her beloved Christmas cookies. And Kate Lloyd offers a heartwarming tale of a woman’s unexpected discovery about the truth of her past, and the warm and welcoming Amish family table she finds herself invited to on Christmas.

Publication Date: September 3, 2019

Publisher: Bethany House Publishers

Genre: Amish fiction

My thoughts: I’m always saying I’m not a huge fan of novellas and that remains true today. However, I enjoyed reading these three stories by popular Amish fiction authors. These holiday-themed stories were well-written and complete stories. The stories never felt rushed or lacking in any way.

This would be a great collection to add to the shelves of Amish fiction readers. It would also be a great way to introduce someone to the genre.

I received a complimentary copy from the publisher and was not required to write a review. All opinions are mine.

Under Moonlit Skies by Cynthia Roemer

About the book: Her life was planned out ~ until he rode in ~ Illinois prairie ~ 1859

After four long years away, Esther Stanton returns to the prairie to care for her sister Charlotte’s family following the birth of her second child. The month-long stay seems much too short as Esther becomes acquainted with her brother-in-law’s new ranch hand, Stewart Brant. When obligations compel her to return to Cincinnati and to the man her overbearing mother intends her to wed, she loses hope of ever knowing true happiness.

Still reeling from a hurtful relationship, Stew is reluctant to open his heart to Esther. But when he faces a life-threatening injury with Esther tending him, their bond deepens. Heartbroken when she leaves, he sets out after her and inadvertently stumbles across an illegal slave-trade operation, the knowledge of which puts him, as well as Esther and her family, in jeopardy.

Publication Date: September 10, 2019

Publisher: Mantle Rock Publishing

Genre: Historical Fiction

Series: Prairie Sky #3

My thoughts: Sometimes reading a book isn’t about the ending but the journey to the end. What a journey this story was! From the prairie of Illinois to the bustling streets of Cincinnati this story grabbed my reader’s heart and didn’t let go!

First of all, I love the characters the author has created. Even though they are fictional I have come to care about them from the very first book in the series. The chemistry between Esther and Stew was palpable at times and made the book so fun to read. It was also great to see Charlotte and her growing family. Can’t say I was a fan of Lawrence Del Ray but this just goes to show how talented the author is in creating characters that readers can dislike as well as ones they can love.

The story was interesting and there were twists and turns that I didn’t expect. While it seemed very likely from the beginning that Esther and Stew would find their happily ever after it was all these twists and turns that made the story so good and kept my interest. The pace of the story is excellent and the author has a way of writing that made me feel part of the story. Her writing reminds me so much of that of Janette Oke

I highly recommend this book. While it can be read as a standalone I would read the series in order to get to know the characters better. This is a book for fans of historical fiction, especially American historical fiction. This book is not to be missed and is definitely one for the keeper shelf!

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the author and was not required to write a review. All opinions are mine.

About the author: Cynthia Roemer is an award-winning inspirational writer with a heart for scattering seeds of hope into the lives of readers. Raised in the cornfields of rural Illinois, Cynthia enjoys spinning tales set in the backdrop of the 1800s prairie. She writes from her family farm in central Illinois where she resides with her husband and their two college-aged sons.

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Love at First Bark by Dana Mentink

About the book:

There’s Just Something About Jackson

When Marcy Deveraux’s romance series catapults to the top of the New York Times bestseller list, no one is more surprised than Marcy herself. After all, she barely passed high school, flunked the driving test four times, and fell into a pool at her sister’s wedding.

Marcy is keen to continue her literary success, but she cannot think of a single idea for her next book. Hounded by her agent, family, and friends, she decides to sequester herself in a rustic cabin in the mountains. There, she finds herself face-to-snout with a surprise visitor—a rascally black dog who must have escaped from his owner at a nearby campground.

Enter hunky cowboy Jackson Parker, who runs the stables for the campground and helps Marcy survive the antics of the ill-behaved, zany dog. There’s something tender and gentle about this man, who could easily grace the cover of any romance novel. Soon Jackson has Marcy rethinking her own beliefs about what heroes are really made of…and what God intends for her life.

It’s cowboys, canines, and capers galore in this charming novella for animal lovers.

Publication Date: April 25, 2017

Publisher: Harvest House Publishers

Genre: Contemporary Romance

My review:  

If you are a fan of Dana Mentink’s Love Unleashed series you will love this novella. It has all of the elements of the full-length novels. Humor, romance, and a mischievous dog will make this a fun read and one that will have you smiling from ear to ear.

If you are looking for a quick read to make you smile and feel good this one is perfect!

About the author:   

Dana Mentink enjoys writing in many different capacities. She currently writes for Harlequin’s Love Inspired Suspense, Harlequin Heartwarming and Harvest House Publishers.

Dana is the recipient of a Romantic Times Reviewer’s Choice Award, two ACFW Carol Awards as well as a Holt Medallion.

The Dog Who Was There by Ron Marasco

About the book:  

No one expected Barley to have an encounter with the Messiah. He was homeless, hungry, and struggling to survive in first century Jerusalem. Most surprisingly, he was a dog. But through Barley’s eyes, the story of a teacher from Galilee comes alive in a way we’ve never experienced before.

Barley’s story begins in the home of a compassionate woodcarver and his wife who find Barley as an abandoned, nearly-drowned pup. Tales of a special teacher from Galilee are reaching their tiny village, but when life suddenly changes again for Barley, he carries the lessons of forgiveness and love out of the woodcarver’s home and through the dangerous roads of Roman occupied Judea.

On the outskirts of Jerusalem, Barley meets a homeless man and petty criminal named Samid. Together, Barley and his unlikely new master experience fresh struggles and new revelations. Soon Barley is swept up into the current of history, culminating in an unforgettable encounter with the truest master of all as he bears witness to the greatest story ever told.

Publication Date: January 31, 2017,

Publisher: Thomas Nelson

Genre: Biblical fiction

My review:

 I love dogs. I love books about dogs. With that being said I this isn’t a book I would have picked up to read on my own. A book about Jesus told from a dog’s perspective just didn’t sound like a book I would enjoy. How wrong I was!

I have to be completely honest though and say that at times I wanted to quit reading the book. The story wasn’t bad or anything it was just that Barley’s story was sad. From his earliest memories as a puppy to the life he lived as a stray, Barley often times had a rough life. There were happy times for Barley though and those moments kept me reading.

As to the part of the story that included Jesus, who is referred to as the Teacher or The Kind Man, well, I found that part of the story interesting, too. I found the way that the author told this story from Barley’s perspective was unique and entertaining. The author made the dog almost human in his ability to understand what was going on.

There was a nice surprise to the end of the book that made reading all of the sad parts worthwhile. I was pleased with the way the story ended and the fact that it brought a smile to my face. I would recommend this book to people looking for a different kind of read. I found it interesting and a quick read.

I received a free copy of this book from the Fiction Guild and was not required to write a positive review. All opinions are mine.

About the author:  

Ron Marasco is a professor in the College of Communication and Fine Arts at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. His first book, Notes to an Actor, was named by the American Library Association an “Outstanding Book of 2008.” For the past five years he has taught a very popular course on the subject of grief using film, theatre, literature and oral history as a way to study this often intimidating subject. He has acted extensively on TV―in everything from Lost to West Wing to Entourage -and appeared opposite screen legend Kirk Douglas in the movie Illusion, for which he also wrote the screenplay. He has a BA from Fordham at Lincoln Center and an MA and Ph. D. from UCLA. Brian Shuff is a writer from Mesa, Arizona, who now lives in Los Angeles where he is at work completing a book of short stories. His mother died when he was eight years old, giving him a life-long interest in the subject of grief. Along with Ron Marasco he has written a screenplay based on Louise Hay’s groundbreaking book, You Can Heal Your Life that will premiere in 2011. He and Marasco are also working on a dramatic adaptation of John McNulty’s book This Place on Third Avenue.

King’s Shadow by Angela Elwell Hunt

About the book: Two women occupy a place in Herod’s court. The first, Salome, is the king’s only sister, a resentful woman who has been told she is from an inferior race, a people God will never accept or approve. 

The second woman, Zara, is a lowly handmaid who serves Salome, but where Salome spies conspiracies and treachery, Zara sees hurting people in need of understanding and compassion. 

Powerful and powerless, Idumean and Jew, selfish and selfless–both women struggle to reach their goals and survive in Herod the Great’s tumultuous court, where no one is trustworthy and no one is safe.

Publication Date: August 6, 2019

Publisher: Bethany House Publishers

Genre: Biblical fiction, Historical Fiction

Series: The Silent Years #4

My thoughts: I didn’t realize when I agreed to review this book that it was the final book in the series. I don’t think I missed out on too much though as this story seemed to stand on its own. While I did find it an interesting read I did have a couple of issues with it.

My first issue was the names of the characters. So many were so similar to each other that I had a difficult time keeping the characters straight in my mind while reading. I found myself rereading paragraphs just to try to figure out what was going on and who was who. After a while, I gave up on this and decided I’d just figure it out as I went.

My other issue with this book was all of the detail provided. It seemed like the story got bogged down in the details and it caused the pace of the book to be off. I found myself putting the book down often because of all the descriptions and detail. While I do like the detail in stories I read too much can be just as bad as not enough. That was the case in this book.

As far as the characters my favorite was Zara. It was interesting to read about how she became the handmaid and what was required of her in her service to Salome. Salome was somewhat likable but I never really felt a connection to her. Herod was almost impossible for me to like as well as all of his children.

All in all, this wasn’t a bad story and fans of biblical fiction will most likely enjoy it. I’m not sure I would pick up the rest of the books in this series. It just wasn’t really my cup of tea.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher and was not required to write a review. All opinions are mine.

About the author: Christy-Award winner Angela Hunt writes for readers who expect the unexpected in novels. With over five million copies of her books sold worldwide, she is the best-selling author of more than 140 works ranging from picture books (The Tale of Three Trees) to non-fiction books, to novels.

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