Monday, July 30, 2018

Sons of Blackbird Mountain by Joanne Bischof

After finding Joanne’s The Lady and the Lionheart novel interesting, I was curious to read her latest book. 

Let’s begin with the summary:

A Tale of Family, Brotherhood, and the Healing Power of Love

After the tragic death of her husband, Aven Norgaard is beckoned to give up her life in Norway to become a housekeeper in the rugged hills of nineteenth-century Appalachia. Upon arrival, she finds herself in the home of her late husband’s cousins—three brothers who make a living by brewing hard cider on their three-hundred-acre farm. Yet even as a stranger in a foreign land, Aven has hope to build a new life in this tight-knit family.

But her unassuming beauty disrupts the bond between the brothers. The youngest two both desire her hand, and Aven is caught in the middle, unsure where—and whether—to offer her affection. While Haakon is bold and passionate, it is Thor who casts the greatest spell upon her. Though Deaf, mute, and dependent on hard drink to cope with his silent pain, Thor possesses a sobering strength.

As autumn ushers in the apple harvest, the rift between Thor and Haakon deepens and Aven faces a choice that risks hearts. Will two brothers’ longing for her quiet spirit tear apart a family? Can she find a tender belonging in this remote, rugged, and unfamiliar world?

A haunting tale of struggle and redemption, Sons of Blackbird Mountain is a portrait of grace in a world where the broken may find new life through the healing mercy of love.

And now, my review:

We get a taste of Norwegian culture in this novel, which is a nice spin on a novel set in nineteenth-century America. I love the element of Thor being a deaf mute, especially when he tries to overcome for Aven. He has to watch her mouth when she speaks in order to communicate with her, which is a wonderful element in this romance. The symbolism of Aven focusing on really “hearing” and truly seeing him was beautiful.

As with Joanne’s previous novel, her prose is a highlight of her writing. I loved Thor’s heart and his relationship with his brothers. They looked out for him, even though their relationships were complicated. Joanne offers us layered characters and a layered story world. 

Their lives are complicated by alcoholism and the violence of racism. The author doesn’t pull back on these tough topics, and we respect her for it. 

The story sweeps you up, and you care for these characters. Joanne’s attention to the detail of this deaf character was well done. She offers concepts for us to consider: like Thor being unaware of how loud his movements are. And she shows his other heightened senses in perfect ways.

A great book! I hope there are more novels to come in this series.

Highly recommended!

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

The Love Letter by Rachel Hauck

The Love Letter by Rachel Hauck

Rachel is one of my favorite authors. I enjoy reading her work and following her writing career.

Let’s begin with the summary:

Romance has never been actress Chloe Daschle’s forte—in life or on screen. But everyone knows whom to call for a convincing death scene . . . and it might be killing her career.

When Chloe is given a peek at the script for an epic love story, she decides to take her destiny into her own hands and request an audition for the lead female role, Esther Kingsley. The compelling tale, inspired by family lore and a one-page letter from the colonial ancestor of scriptwriter Jesse Gates, just might break her out of this career-crippling rut. Jesse would rather write about romance than live through it after his past relationship ended in disaster. 

But once on set together, the chemistry between Jesse and his leading lady is hard to deny.
Centuries earlier, in the heart of the Revolutionary War, Hamilton Lightfoot and Esther Longfellow wrote their saga off the silver screen. Esther’s Loyalist father opposes any relationship with Hamilton, but Esther must face her beloved father’s disapproval and the dangers of war in order to convince Hamilton of their future together. Hamilton has loved Esther for years, and on the eve of battle pens the love letter she’s always wanted—something straight from the heart.
Set in stunning upcountry South Carolina, The Love Letter is a beautifully-crafted story of the courage it takes to face down fear and chase after love, even in the darkest of times. And just maybe, all these generations later, love can come home in a way not even Hollywood could imagine.

And now, my review:

As with Rachel’s other time-slip (genre) novels, this one gives us both an historical romance and a modern-day romance. This novel contains intricate details, and is at times, difficult to follow. (The author’s note mentions she had some trouble with this too and that her editor had to read it several times.) I feel I could benefit from reading this a second time. Still, the story lines kept me hooked. I cared about these characters.

There were some secular elements in the novel that sometimes made it feel a bit raw. When I read Rachel’s work, I watch for inclusion of people in her life, like band members. The narrative included a Chip Mac, a Tony, and a Rachel Hayes. Those were fun names to find.

I loved the Hollywood elements, especially since Rachel’s Once Upon a Prince was just released as a Hallmark movie and Rachel traveled to Vancouver (Hallmark’s Hollywood, at least as far as where they film many of their movies) to visit the set and make a cameo in the film with her husband. 

There were strong spiritual elements. I enjoy watching for Jesus to appear in her novels, and she didn’t disappoint. 

The historical story line centers on the Revolutionary War and includes mention of genealogy, a fun element that readers who are doing their own family research will enjoy. I highlighted a few lines full of wisdom in the advanced reader copy (ARC) that I read. 

Highly recommended! 

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Thomas Nelson through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.