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

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To Wager Her Heart, by Tamera Alexander

book coverPublisher’s Overview:

Set against the real history of Nashville’s Belle Meade Plantation and the original Fisk University Jubilee Singers ensemble, To Wager Her Heart is a stirring love story about seeking justice and restoring honor at a time in American history when both were tenuous and hard-won.

With fates bound by a shared tragedy, a reformed gambler from the Colorado Territory and a Southern Belle bent on breaking free from society’s expectations must work together to achieve their dreams—provided the truth doesn’t tear them apart first.

Sylas Rutledge, new owner of the Northeast Line Railroad, invests everything he has into this new venture, partly for the sake of the challenge. But mostly to clear his father’s name. One man holds the key to Sy’s success—General William Giles Harding of Nashville’s Belle Meade Plantation. But Harding is champagne and thoroughbreds, and Sy Rutledge is beer and bullocks.

Sy needs someone to help him maneuver through Nashville’s society, and when he meets Alexandra Jamison, he quickly decides he’s found his tutor. But he soon discovers that the very train accident his father is blamed for causing is what killed Alexandra’s fiancé and shattered her world.

Spurning an arranged marriage by her father, Alexandra instead pursues her passion for teaching at Fisk University, the first freedmen’s university in the United States. But family—and Nashville society—do not approve, and she soon finds herself cast out from both.

Through connections with the Harding family, Alexandra and Sy become unlikely allies. And despite first impressions, Alexandra gradually finds herself coming to respect and even care for this man. But how can she, when her heart is still spoken for?

Sy is willing to risk everything to win over the woman he loves. What he doesn’t count on is having to wager her heart to do it.

First Thoughts:

I love historical novels that mix fiction with real people and events. I haven’t read the complete Belle Meade series, but I received this book from the Fiction Guild based on my set preferences.

My Take:

It’s 1871. The Civil War is over and Nashville is slowly rebuilding. Railroads are becoming big business and competition is fierce. It is into this environment that Tamera Alexander has written a wonderful story that tugs at the heartstrings. Here is a tale of wealthy plantation owners and former slaves, and of new ideas and old ways that refuse to die. Alexandra initially meets Sy through her lawyer father, but their paths keep crossing and the inevitable (for this is an historical romance novel) soon happens.

This is a story where fiction meets fact. General Harding was a known Confederate who had a railroad line brought out to his plantation. Fisk University was founded in 1866 and housed in former military barracks, and they did have a group of singers who embarked on a tour to raise funds for the school. One of the more well-known singers, Ella Sheppard, becomes Alexandra’s room-mate in the book. Alexandra does take a few liberties in her writing: the Ashtabula River Railroad Disaster mentioned in the book (which has a local connection to where I live in New York) actually took place in 1876, which means she cuts short the life of one famous person featured by some five years. What struck me most about the novel was the racism the singers endured on their tour. While we might expect problems to arise in the south, one scene describes how a hotel in Ohio refused to honor their reservation. It wasn’t the only one to do so and more than one night was passed on a railroad station platform.

To Wager Her Heart is a book that held my attention from start to finish. I loved the simple faith that many of the characters had, “Give me Jesus,” which came from one of the songs the choir sang. Give me Jesus and everything will be all right for He’s all I need.

Thank you to Zondervan and Fiction Guild for my complimentary copy of To Wager Her Heart, which I received in exchange for my honest review.

Have you read To Wager Her Heart? Do you plan to read it? Let me know your thoughts.

Excerpt

Truth or Fiction

Publisher: Zondervan (a division of HarperCollins Christian Publishing)

Publication Date: 08 August 2017

Page Count: 384

Read more on:   Zondervan’s Website   Tamera Alexander’s Website   Belle Meade Plantation

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

The Illusionist’s Apprentice, by Kristy Cambron

book coverPublisher’s Overview:

Wren Lockhart, apprentice to master illusionist Harry Houdini, uses life on a vaudeville stage to escape the pain of her past. She continues her career of illusion after her mentor’s death, intent on burying her true identity.

But when a rival performer’s act goes tragically wrong, the newly formed FBI calls on Wren to speak the truth—and reveal her real name to the world. She transfers her skills for misdirection from the stage to the back halls of vaudeville, as she finds herself the unlikely partner in the FBI’s investigation. All the while Houdini’s words echo in her mind: Whatever occurs, the crowd must believe it’s what you meant to happen. She knows that if anyone digs too deep, secrets long kept hidden may find their way to the surface—and shatter her carefully controlled world.

 

First Thoughts:

As a member of Fiction Guild, I received a copy of The Illusionist’s Apprentice for review. Not that I minded, because I have enjoyed Kristy Cambron’s previous books.

My Take:

The Illusionist’s Apprentice starts with a bizarre scene at a cemetery outside Boston. What happens there sets in motion an FBI investigation in which Wren Lockhart becomes a person of interest. Further mysteries develop when the reader is introduced to Wren’s family through flashback chapters. While the murder investigation is what brings Wren into the life of Agent Elliot Matthews, he is equally determined to break down her walls and discover the truth of her past. This is a romance novel as well as one of tragedy and suspense.

I adored this book. I had trouble putting it down and probably wouldn’t have done so if not for life getting in the way! I became involved with even the characters and my heart sunk when an unexpected twist involved one of them. I thought it was interesting that Wren made a distinction between illusion and magic, and there’s a strong theme of light overcoming darkness. Everything in the narrative built to a breathtaking climax followed by a beautiful denouement. Although Wren and Elliot are fictional characters, I love how Cambron wove in the real and the imagined. Harry Houdini would often debunk spiritualism and attempts to contact the dead, and that part of his career is the focus of this novel.

The Illusionist’s Apprentice was published in March but, if you’re looking for a good summer read I heartily recommend picking it up. I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I did.

Thank you to Thomas Nelson, BookLook Bloggers, and Fiction Guild for my complimentary copy of The Illusionist’s Apprentice, which I received in exchange for my honest review.

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

Excerpt

Publisher: Thomas Nelson (a division of HarperCollins Christian)

Publication Date: 07 March 2017

Page Count: 368

Read more on:   Kristy Cambron’s Website   Thomas Nelson’s Website

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