The Wedding Shop, by Rachel Hauck

book coverPublisher’s Overview:

Two women separated by decades. Both set out to help others find their dreams when their own have crumbled.

It’s the early 1930s, but Cora Scott is walking in stride as a career woman after having inherited her great aunt’s wedding shop in Heart’s Bend, Tennessee, where brides come from as far away as Birmingham to experience her famed bridal treatment. Meanwhile, Cora is counting down the days until her own true love returns from the river to make her his bride. But days turn into months and months to years. All the while, Birch Good continues to woo Cora and try to show her that while he is solid and dependable, he can sweep her off her feet.

More than eighty years later, former Air Force Captain Haley Morgan has returned home to Heart’s Bend after finishing her commitment to military service. After the devastating death of her best friend, Tammy, and discovering the truth about the man she loved, Haley is searching for her place in life.

When Haley decides to reopen the romantic but abandoned wedding shop where she and Tammy played and dreamed as children, she begins a journey of courage, mystery, and love.

As Cora’s and Haley’s stories intertwine through time in the shadow of the beloved wedding shop, they both discover the power of their own dreams and the magic of everyday love.

My Take:

I always look forward to a new Rachel Hauck book so it was a delight to get my hands on a copy of The Wedding Shop. This is the third in the Wedding Series, following The Wedding Dress and The Wedding Chapel. As with the other two books it is a considered a standalone, but I highly recommend reading those first as this is the book that ties them together. The Wedding Shop takes place in Heart’s Bend, Tennessee, location of The Wedding Chapel and Charlotte and the dress from the first book also make an appearance or two. Readers of Hauck’s Royal Wedding series might also see a small connection.

The Wedding Shop opens with a nostalgic scene of two young friends playing pretend in a deserted store front, and it gives a small hint of things to come. Ten years later, Haley is determined to follow through on a promise made that day and recruits Tammy’s former fiancé, Cole, to assist her. But Tammy’s shadow hangs over them…

Haley’s story alternates with that of Cora’s and, as the narrative moves forward, we learn that they’ve been through comparable circumstances. There are a couple of twists I didn’t expect and a development that led me, briefly, in the wrong direction. The combined stories follow the set up Hauck established in The Wedding Dress of looking at the past and present and then pulling all the strands together.

As I said, I look forward to Rachel Hauck’s books and I’m happy that The Wedding Shop didn’t disappoint. They’re easy reading, but they’re enjoyable to read. I’m delighted to recommend Rachel Hauck to anyone who asks.

Thank you to TNZFiction and Celebrate Lit for my complimentary copy of The Wedding Shop, which I received in exchange for my honest review.

This review is part of a Celebrate Lit blog tour

Enter to win copies of The Wedding Series. Click the image for information.

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Have you read The Wedding Shop? Do you plan to read it? Let me know your thoughts.

Excerpt

Publisher: Zondervan (a division of HarperCollins Christian)

Publication Date: 16 August 2016

Page Count: 384

Read more on:   Rachel Hauck’s Website   TNZFiction’s Website

Purchase on:   Amazon   Barnes & Noble   Books-a-million   Christianbook.com

Fates and Traitors, by Jennifer Chiaverini

book coverPublisher’s Overview:

John Wilkes Booth, the mercurial son of an acclaimed British stage actor and a Covent Garden flower girl, committed one of the most notorious acts in American history—the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln.

 The subject of more than a century of scholarship, speculation, and even obsession, Booth is often portrayed as a shadowy figure, a violent loner whose single murderous act made him the most hated man in America. Lost to history until now is the story of the four women whom he loved and who loved him in return: Mary Ann, the steadfast matriarch of the Booth family; Asia, his loyal sister and confidante; Lucy Lambert Hale, the senator’s daughter who adored Booth yet tragically misunderstood the intensity of his wrath; and Mary Surratt, the Confederate widow entrusted with the secrets of his vengeful plot.

 Fates and Traitors brings to life pivotal actors—some willing, others unwitting—who made an indelible mark on the history of our nation. Chiaverini portrays not just a soul in turmoil but a country at the precipice of immense change.

My Take:

There have been many books written about the events surrounding Lincoln’s assassination over the years, but have there been many novels that focused on the women in the life of the assassin? Jennifer Chiaverini continues her unofficial series about Civil War era characters with an excellently researched look at four very different women who knew John Wilkes Booth and how his actions impacted their lives.

Fates and Traitors is divided into six extremely long chapters, which each start with a Shakespearian quote. There’s a relatively short prologue set at the Garrett farm when Booth dies, and then the book goes back in time to when his parents met in London. The first two chapters read more like biographies than fiction. There’s so much information about the Booth family history that portions are left out, while what’s included isn’t written about in great detail. While I enjoy reading biographies, these chapters felt dull and monotonous. They did, however, make me feel strangely sympathetic towards Booth and his mother while his father was portrayed as a philandering drunkard. They also show how Booth possibly came to be the infamous killer we know. The next two chapters – about Mary Surratt and Lucy Hale – read more like a novel and I preferred those.

The title of the book, Fates and Traitors, comes from a line in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, which is highlighted in a conversation between Booth and his sister. Was Brutus a patriot or a traitor for his part in Julius Caesar’s assassination? Asia is horrified by her brother’s interpretation of the role, as he suggests that one person’s traitor can be another man’s patriot and that George Washington was probably considered to be a traitor by George III. This exchange also hints as to how Booth could have seen his killing of Lincoln a patriotic duty.

Those with interest in the Lincoln assassination will find no new information here. We know the fates of the main players and Chiaverini cites various sources, including some written by those included in the story or by their descendants. The angle here is that it’s a book about the women in Booth’s life, rather than focusing only on the man. Chiaverini has created realistic representations of these historic ladies; human enough that the reader can get to know them and form opinions accordingly. I experienced such a dislike of Mary Surratt early on in her narrative that I was indifferent to her ultimate fate. On the other hand, I felt bad for the Booth family after the assassination: the reputation their father had created was ruined and the equally famous brothers – Edwin and Junius – were briefly imprisoned under suspicion of conspiracy.

Thank you to Dutton for my complimentary electronic advance uncorrected proof of Fates and Traitors, which I downloaded from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

Have you read Fates and Traitors? Do you plan to read it? Let me know your thoughts.

Publisher: Dutton (an imprint of Penguin Random House)

Publication Date: 13 September 2016

Page Count: 400

Read more on:   Jennifer Chiaverini’s Website   Dutton’s Website

Purchase on:   Amazon   Barnes & Noble   Books-a-million   Christianbook.com

The Artisan’s Wife, by Judith Miller

book coverPublisher’s Overview:

As Ainslee McKay reluctantly leaves all she’s known, the beauty of forgiveness and new beginnings comes to light in a West Virginian town with hidden depths.

Ainslee McKay’s world is upended when her twin sister secretly elopes and leaves Ainslee alone to move to Weston, West Virginia, to fulfill their obligation at the McKay family’s new tile works. While her brother, Ewan, agrees to travel with her and help her learn the ropes, she still intends to sell this business she no longer wants if a buyer can be found. 

When the talented Levi Judson arrives to show Ainslee his designs for new tiles, she’s impressed at his skill and passion for the business but feels she must keep her true plans for the business a secret from him. And though Levi hopes for a long, successful career at McKay Tile Works, he’s hiding his true reason for coming to Weston. Can the growing feelings between them survive if the truth comes to light–or is a future together as untenable as the future of the tile works itself?

My Take:

The first book in Judith Miller’s Refined by Love series focused on Ewan McKay, who’d come to America in search of a better life for his sisters back in Ireland. Eight years later, in the final book in the series, Ewan is married and his sisters are now in America and forging their own paths. Twins Ainslee and Adaira have differing personalities; Adaira is adventurous while Ainslee doesn’t like to step out of her comfort zone. Even though plans change, however, the McKay family doesn’t go back on its word and so Ainslee must take a step of faith. At the same time, she needs to find a way to forgive her sister for bailing on her. It’s a lesson Ewan will also have to learn regarding another family member later on.

Obviously, nothing ever goes smoothly in fiction. Ainslee’s pride and stubbornness results in her having to rely on her newest employee who, thankfully, knows almost all there is to know about running a tile works. But he has other things on his mind, which is how the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum comes to play a large part in this novel. Now a haven for ghost hunters, the hospital was once considered at the forefront of psychiatric treatment and Judith Miller explores how patients were looked after in her writing. I found this to be one of the most interesting aspects of the book.

If you’ve enjoyed the previous two books in the series, you’ll enjoy The Artisan’s Wife as well. The characters are engaging, and the detail about the tile making is informative but not tedious. This novel can be read as a standalone, but you probably want to read the other two books first. They’re individual stories about the McKay family, but there is a sense of continuity running through them.

Thank you to Bethany House for my complimentary copy of The Artisan’s Wife, which I received in exchange for my honest review.

Have you read The Artisan’s Wife? Do you plan to read it? Let me know your thoughts.

Excerpt

Author Q and A

Publisher: Bethany House (a division of Baker Publishing)

Publication Date: 02 August 2016

Page Count: 336

Read more on:   Judith Miller’s Website   Bethany House’s Website

Purchase on:   Amazon   Barnes & Noble   Books-a-million   Christianbook.com