Love Held Captive, by Shelley Shepard Gray

book coverPublisher’s Overview:

After the War Between the States, a Confederate officer longs to heal the heart of a beautiful woman—but first he’ll have to right the wrongs that were done to her.

Major Ethan Kelly has never been able to absolve himself of the guilt he feels for raiding a woman’s home shortly before he was taken prisoner during the Civil War. He is struggling to get through each day until he once again crosses paths with Lizbeth Barclay—the very woman he is trying to forget.

Life after the war is not much different for former Captain Devin Monroe until he meets Julianne VanFleet. He knows she is the woman he’s been waiting for, but he struggles to come to terms with the sacrifices she made to survive the war.

When Ethan and Devin discover that their former colonel, Adam Bushnell, is responsible for both Lizbeth’s and Julianne’s pain, they call on their former fellow soldiers to hunt him down. As the men band together to earn the trust of the women they love, Lizbeth and Julianne seek the justice they deserve in a country longing to heal.

First Thoughts:

I’ve read the previous two books about this group of Civil War veterans, so why not finish the series?

My Take:

The final installment of the Lone Star Heroes series begins somewhat confusingly. We’re told that the prologue is set at the Johnson’s Island POW camp in Ohio in 1865, but the events that unfold in it are clearly set in a different place and time. The reason for the discrepancy is eventually made clear, but not before I’d re-read a couple of pages thinking I’d missed something.

The focus of Love Held Captive is how the war changed people. Sometimes they changed for the better, but not always. The former prisoners have been altered by their time on the battlefield and in the prison camp; now they’re trying to find where they fit in this post-war America. When we think of war we tend to think mostly of the men who fought in them, but Lizbeth and Julianne’s brutal experiences remind us that people at home suffered as well. Parts of this book aren’t pretty and veer on the disturbing side as well. I didn’t like the proposed plan the men formed to deal with Bushnell, and I hoped there would be a change of heart before the end. I could understand why they thought they had to do what they did, but I couldn’t agree with it.

If the book had ended with the culmination of their plan I’d have to give low marks to Love Held Captive. Thankfully, the concluding pages redeem it. The actual end takes the reader back to 1865 and the end of the war. The men are questioning why they had to endure such nightmare experiences, much as many of us question why bad things happen. One of them realizes that they, like us, will have to rest in the knowledge that we’ll get all our answers in heaven.

Thank you to Zondervan for my complimentary electronic copy of Love Held Captive, which I downloaded for my honest review.

Have you read Love Held Captive? Do you plan to read it? Let me know your thoughts.

Excerpt

Publisher: Zondervan (a division of HarperCollins Christian)

Publication Date: 10 October 2017

Page Count: 320

Read more on:   Zondervan’s Website   Shelley Shepard Gray’s Website

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

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Christmas at Carnton, by Tamera Alexander

book coverPublisher’s Overview:

Amid war and the fading dream of the Confederacy, a wounded soldier and a destitute widow discover the true meaning of Christmas—and sacrificial love.

Recently widowed, Aletta Prescott struggles to hold life together for herself and her six-year-old son. With the bank threatening to evict them, she discovers an advertisement for the Women’s Relief Society auction and applies for a position—only to discover it’s been filled. Then a chance meeting with a wounded soldier offers another opportunity—and friendship. But can Aletta trust this man?

Captain Jake Winston, a revered Confederate sharpshooter, suffered a head wound at the Battle of Chickamauga. When doctors deliver their diagnosis, Jake fears losing not only his greatest skill but his very identity. As he heals, Jake is ordered to assist with a local Women’s Relief Society auction. He respectfully objects. Kowtowing to a bunch of “crinolines” isn’t his idea of soldiering. But orders are orders, and he soon discovers this group of ladies—one, in particular—is far more than he bargained for.

Set against the backdrop and history of the Carnton Plantation in Franklin, Tennessee, Christmas at Carnton is a story of hope renewed and faith restored at Christmas.

First Thoughts:

I was excited to receive this historical fiction selection from The Fiction Guild. I visited Franklin, the setting for this novella, several years ago but didn’t have the time to visit Carnton. While the city has plenty of modern development, there has been a recent effort to return some of it to the way it looked at the time of the Battle of Franklin.

My Take:

It’s November 1863, and the country is torn apart by war. The south is reeling from defeats at Gettysburg and Vicksburg, and Franklin, Tennessee, has recently been occupied by Federal troops. It’s been barely one month since Aletta learned of her husband’s death on a distant battlefield: work is hard to come by and the bank is getting impatient. She’s at the point of wishing the war would just end, regardless of the outcome, and she’s not alone in her thinking. The war has taken too much from everyone.

Christmas at Carnton is classified as a novella, but it read more as a novel. Alexander looks in depth at how the war impacted home life, from receiving word of a loved one’s death to holding fundraisers to boost morale. Little is said about the reasons for the war, although slavery looms large in the figure of Carnton’s cook, Tempy. Mostly, this is a look at war weary people doing the best they can and, occasionally, seeing others in different lights. The brightness comes in the form of a sweet and hesitant romance, and also Aletta’s son Andrew.

This is the prequel to a new series of novels set around Carnton Plantation. The first full length novel, With This Pledge, will be set in the aftermath of the Battle of Franklin in 1864. It’s scheduled for release in November 2018.

Thank you to Thomas Nelson and The Fiction Guild for my complimentary copy of Christmas at Carnton, which I received for my honest review.

Have you read Christmas at Carnton? Do you plan to read it? Let me know your thoughts.

Excerpt

Publisher: Thomas Nelson (a division of HarperCollins Christian)

Publication Date: 03 October 2017

Page Count: 256

Read more on:   Thomas Nelson’s Website   Tamera Alexander’s Website   Battle of Franklin Trust

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

Out of the Ordinary, by Jen Turano

book coverPublisher’s Overview:

Working as a paid companion may be quite commonplace, but Miss Gertrude Cadwalader’s eccentric employer makes her job unpredictable, to say the least. She finds herself carrying out an array of highly unusual tasks, including wearing peculiar outfits and returning items the woman pilfered. But when the wealthy Mrs. Sinclair catches Gertrude sneaking around the Sinclair yacht with some of the missing items in her possession, she immediately jumps to the wrong conclusion.

Shipping magnate Harrison Sinclair is caught in the middle of a misunderstanding between his mother and Gertrude, but he can’t help coming to his friend’s defense. Even as he hopes their friendship might become something more, Harrison is unprepared for the outlandish escapades that seem to follow the lovely, anything-but-ordinary Gertrude at every turn.

First Thoughts:

I jump at any Jen Turano book. They’re almost always a fun read!

My Take:

I almost always enjoy a novel by Jen Turano. You know what you’re going to get: a lighthearted book that might include a difficult subject, which contains subtle humour, quirky characters, and an even subtler social commentary on the Gilded Age. Out of the Ordinary continues the series about social “wallflowers” Permilia, Gertrude, and Temperance. These women aren’t really welcome at social events, but are still expected to attend due to family and other connections. Everything is explained in the first book in the Apart From the Crowd series, Behind the Scenes, so I do suggest you read that. That was Permilia’s story, and now the focus has switched to Gertrude.

To be honest, there’s little I can say about Out of the Ordinary that I’ve not said about Jen Turano’s other novels. Yes, there’s a slight formulaic feel to them but “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” as the saying goes. If Turano was to change her style, I’d probably be one of many fans who’d be disappointed. Harrison’s sisters were a welcome addition and I’d love to see them star in their own series. Turano’s writing is also clever: she manages to sneak in a Star Wars reference without it sounding at all anachronistic. There is a plot resolution that feels slightly contrived, but everybody deserves a happy ending, so why not?

If you love fun historical novels that aren’t full of romantic cliché (this one even has references to those sorts of books!), then I heartily recommend any of Jen Turano’s books including this one. But do read them in order, including any prequels, so that you can maximize your enjoyment of this singular author.

Thank you to Bethany House for my complimentary copy of Out of the Ordinary, which I received for my honest review.

Have you read Out of the Ordinary? 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: 07 November 2017

Page Count: 352

Read more on:   Bethany House’s Website   Jen Turano’s Website   Coney Island’s Manhattan Beach Resort

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