Monday, September 24, 2012

Featured Book: Beside Two Rivers by Rita Gerlach

It all started when I saw this picture on my Facebook friend and fellow writer, Rita Gerlach's, wall:

Attention grabbing, isn't it? Rita said if she could cast her favorite choices for portraying her characters in a movie or a dream-come-true Masterpiece Theater series, she'd choose these two actors (Dan Stevens and Imogen Poots).

Her book, Beside Two Rivers, Book Two in the Daughter's of the Potomac series, just released from Abingdon Press.

Gorgeous cover! Here's a bit more about the book:
From the banks of the Potomac to the misty moors of England, comes a tale of love won and love lost, and the faith to find it again. 

Vaguely can Darcy Morgan recall the day her father returned home from fighting in the American Revolution. When he discovers his unfaithful wife had borne a child in his absence, the marriage is broken, and Darcy’s quiet childhood along the two rivers was changed forever. She grows up believing her mother dead and that her father journeyed west to the lands beyond the Blue Ridge. Her indulging Uncle Will, excitable Aunt Mari, and her five female cousins, cannot shield her from thinking of the mother she loved and the father she barely knew, nor can she escape the fleeting images in her memory of the babe Ilene and Ilene’s surrogate mother, Sarah, or the grandmotherly servant, Fiona Goodall. 

In this dramatic saga that began with Before the Scarlet Dawn, Darcy seeks to unravel a lifetime of memories unaware that the young Englishman who loves her holds the answers. Her search takes her far from her beloved home along the Potomac, to a manor house in faraway England. Soon the secrets of the past slowly rise to the surface. Will she be reunited with the most important people in her life? Will Hayward and Eliza find peace and reconciliation? Will Darcy's faith sustain her to make the difficult choices, and will the love she and Ethan share endure? 

I'm hooked! I haven't read the book yet, but here's what others are saying: 

"Beside Two Rivers stirred me like no other book has. Rita Gerlach has an epic style to her writing that is guaranteed to sweep you away to another place and time. With a deeply emotional storyline, characters of uncommon depth, heart-throbbing romance, and the boundless love of family lost and regained, this is truly a magnificent novel!" - MaryLu Tyndall, author of the Surrender to Destiny Series and Veil of Pearls 

"Beside Two Rivers is much more than the sequel to Rita Gerlach’s popular Before the Scarlet Dawn. It’s the heart-rending story of true love threatened by secrets and deceit, of family torn apart by tragedy, and most of all, of the redeeming power of love and faith. Filled with vivid descriptions of life along the Potomac and rural England during the late 18th century, this is a story that will linger in readers’ memories." - Amanda Cabot, author of Summer of Promise and Christmas Roses 

"What do you get when you combine authentic history, picturesque settings, dynamic characters and a feels-like-you're-there storyline? You get a Rita Gerlach novel, and in Beside Two Rivers, book two in her Daughters of the Potomac series, she delivers all that and more. My advice to readers: Make room for this one on your 'keepers shelf.' My advice to Rita: save space on your 'awards wall,' because this tale is sure to earn a bunch!" - Loree Lough, best-selling author of more than 85 award-winning books, including Honor Redeemed, book two in the First Responders series 

BONUS: Go here to read the opening chapters!

(print version)            (e-book version)

Monday, September 17, 2012

With Every Letter by Sarah Sundin

Welcome to the blog tour for With Every Letter. What romance lover can resist a novel about a couple whose love grows through exchanging anonymous letters? Love that premise! Read on for my review of the first book in Sarah Sundin's new series, Wings of the Nightingale.

Let’s begin with the overview:

Lt. Mellie Blake is a nurse serving in the 802nd Medical Squadron, Air Evacuation, Transport. As part of a morale building program, she reluctantly enters into an anonymous correspondence with Lt. Tom MacGilliver, an officer in the 908th Engineer Aviation Battalion in North Africa. 

As their letters crisscross the Atlantic, Tom and Mellie develop a unique friendship despite not knowing the other's true identity. When both are transferred to Algeria, the two are poised to meet face to face for the first time. Will they overcome their fears and reveal who they are, or will their future be held hostage to their past? And can they learn to trust God and embrace the gift of love he offers them? 

Combining excellent research and attention to detail with a flair for romance, Sarah Sundin brings to life the perilous challenges of WWII aviation, nursing, and true love.

And now, my review:

Good fiction is life-changing. That’s the promise of every Sarah Sundin novel. 

I can say that from experience because I still remember how one-line nuggets from her earlier books, as well as this one, have affected me. 

Books or movies centered on writing letters interest me, especially if those letters are exchanged anonymously, like in The Shop Around the Corner or more recently, You’ve Got Mail. The story references the former movie as the catalyst for the letter-writing campaign that connects these two characters. Loved the compassionate tie-in these two strangers had. (You'll have to read to see what I mean.)

Some of the themes in this novel included friendship and forgiveness. She used the symbolism of the hero’s engineering work of bridge building along with those themes. Very well done. Sarah's topics always have such depth. In this novel, she dives into what friendship looks like, how someone who grew up as a loner could learn as an adult how to be a good friend, how no one’s perfect and there are deep hurts possible in extending ourselves to friendship, and yet it’s worth it.

She also explores genuineness. The hero is hiding from his infamous father's violent reputation by wearing a fake smile. He doesn't allow himself to express true human emotions because he's too busy putting on his facade. Such a believable dilemma. Made me sympathize with him as he worked through his own lies.

One final theme I'd like to mention—Mellie sees herself as odd, since she’s of a different ethnicity than people around her, most of the time. She believes lies about herself. For example, she doesn’t like her own smile—thinks she looks like a monkey. But when love comes around, she learns her own self-perceptions don't match other people's perceptions of her, and that she's lovable despite self-deception.

Great book. Highly recommended! Looking forward to Sarah’s next novel! 

Available September 2012 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

(print version)      (e-book)

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Love's Reckoning by Laura Frantz

Welcome to the blog tour for Laura Frantz’s latest novel, Love’s Reckoning! I hadn’t read Laura’s novels before, though I’ve heard a lot of buzz about them. When one of my good friends couldn't stop raving, I knew I had to read her latest book. 

Let’s begin with the summary:

On a bitter December day in 1785, Silas Ballantyne arrives at the door of master blacksmith Liege Lee in York, Pennsylvania. Just months from becoming a master blacksmith himself, Silas is determined to finish his apprenticeship and move west. But Liege soon discovers that Silas is a prodigious worker and craftsman and endeavors to keep him in Lancaster. Silas becomes interested in both of Liege's daughters, the gentle and faith-filled Eden and the clever and high-spirited Elspeth. When he chooses one, will the other's jealousy destroy their love? 

In this sweeping family saga set in western Pennsylvania, one man's choices in love and work, in friends and enemies, set the stage for generations to come. Love's Reckoning is the first entry in The Ballantyne Legacy, a rich, multi-layered historical quartet from talented writer Laura Frantz, beginning in the late 1700s and following the Ballantyne family through the end of the Civil War. 

And now, my review:

Laura’s prose was delicious. She has a way with characterization and storytelling. She’s especially adept at penning romance. The romance between Silas and our heroine was intense. Fresh. Well done! 

This author knows how to keep readers engaged with just the right amount of conflict. And the plot kept me guessing. Just when I figured I knew where the story was going, the plot veered in a whole new direction, making this original story even more delicious. 

I also liked the symbolism she employed on more than a few occasions, even the parallels to how God loves us. And I loved the references to the Song of Songs.  

The only slight downside was that the last 20 percent or so of the story moved slowly for me. I read this novel on my Kindle, so I only knew by percentages (no idea the print book was 429 pages until I checked on Amazon). But there was a certain point where I was ready for the story to wind down but it didn’t. After finishing the novel, I can see how the heroine had some growing left to do and her character arc is satisfied by the end of the book. But the events of the end didn’t have the impact I’d hoped for earlier. I did like seeing the heroine grow. There were times earlier in the story I lost patience with her passivity, lack of courage, and victim lifestyle. 

Having said all that, I must say this is one of my favorite reads this year. I read a lot—for a living, actually—but reading this book was a true pleasure. 

Available September 2012 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

(print version)           (e-book version)