Alabaster, by Chris Aslan

book coverPublisher’s Overview:

Maryam is stuck in an abusive marriage, living with her in-laws in a conservative, toxically religious village. A few years back, her father was given a jar of priceless perfume by a dying leper and it seemed as if their fortunes would improve, but then Maryam’s father contracted leprosy and was exiled from the village. Maryam and her siblings, Eleazar and Marta, experience the shame and ostracism this brings. The precious jar that was meant to bring them freedom has only brought destruction. But rumors abound concerning a new doctor; perhaps hope is on the horizon…

First Thoughts:

This had such an intriguing description that I just had to read this debut work of fiction.

My Take:

Alabaster begins ominously with a young woman experiencing an earthquake and its aftermath. We learn immediately that she’s treated like a slave by her husband’s family, is a mere 15 years of age, and has an older sister who lives alone. While the earthquake has caused some damage in the village, and a nearby family has suffered a fatality, Maryam is relieved to find that her family’s most precious possession has survived. From there, the first person narrative goes back to the time when Maryam and her father came across a dying leper in their olive grove. Her father’s choice of grace over Mosaic Law came from a good heart, but when he paid for it later the family was plunged into shame. The story continues to go back and forth in time, which I found confusing until I realized that the tense changed with each switch.

Aslan’s debut work of fiction has some wonderful moments. When the sisters learn they’re to host an important visitor you can feel the excitement. When a woman is found guilty of adultery and the sentence is carried out you understand her mother’s pain. I had read three-quarters of the book when I came upon a scene I immediately recognized. I don’t want to give anything away, but at that point I realized who the sisters were and I looked at them differently from then on. Other familiar scenes followed. I read Alabaster during Holy Week and found it to be a very appropriate tale. Overall, I loved reading this novel, found it far too short, and am looking forward to its follow-up whenever it’s released.

Thank you to Kregel for my complimentary copy of Alabaster, which I received in exchange for my honest review.

Have you read Alabaster? Do you plan to read it? Let me know your thoughts.

Excerpt

Publisher: Kregel Publications

Publication Date: 27 March 2017

Page Count: 208

Read more on:   Chris Aslan’s Website   Kregel’s Website

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

My Heart Belongs in Fort Bliss, Texas, by Erica Vetsch

book coverPublisher’s Overview:

Journey now to Fort Bliss in West Texas of 1874, where…
A Battle Is About to be Waged Between Two Hearts.

Fashion artist Priscilla Hutchens has a grudge against the army that has ruined her family and taken the people she holds most dear. When her twin niece and nephew are left orphaned at Fort Bliss, Texas, she swoops down on Fort Bliss to gain custody of them immediately.

There is just one thing standing in the way—Post surgeon Major Elliot Ryder, who is also the twins uncle, also claims the children and thinks he knows what is best for them.

Priscilla and Elliot will cross swords, but each will have to lay down arms if they are to find a lasting peace on which to form the family both are longing for.  Who will win the battle? Or will a truce be called for the sake of love and family?

First Thoughts:

Sometimes, I just want to get lost in an historical romance…

My Take:

Barbour Publishing has started a new line of historical romance fiction called My Heart Belongs focusing on different locations in the USA.  In January, it started with Fort Bliss, Texas: Priscilla’s Reveille by Erica Vetsch. Priscilla is the ‘fish out of water’ stylish city woman who is completely unprepared for life on the frontier. She has one plan: to get to Fort Bliss, gain custody of her family, and then immediately take them home to civilization. The children might be loved at Fort Bliss but, as far as Priscilla is concerned, a military environment is no place for a child. Her plan takes a slight detour, however, when she’s attracted to the Major in the Military Corps who happens to be the children’s uncle.

My Heart Belongs in Fort Bliss, Texas is a cute story that’s easy to read. While it’s mostly light, there are serious times such as interactions with local Indian populations and the spread of disease throughout the fort. The physical descriptions were so good I could visualize everything. During the course of the novel, Priscilla must continuously step out of her comfort zone and, as she does so, she gradually comes to realize that home really is where the heart is.

Thank you to Barbour Publishing for my complimentary electronic copy of My Heart Belongs in Fort Bliss, Texas, which I downloaded from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

Have you read My Heart Belongs in Fort Bliss, Texas? Do you plan to read it? Let me know your thoughts.

Excerpt

Publisher: Barbour Publishing

Publication Date: 01 January 2017

Page Count: 256

Read more on:   Erica Vetsch’s Website   Barbour Publishing’s Website

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

A Note Yet Unsung, by Tamera Alexander

book coverPublisher’s Overview:

A master violinist trained in Vienna, Rebekah Carrington manages to wheedle her way into an audition with the maestro at the newly formed Nashville Philharmonic. But women are “far too fragile and frail” for the rigors of an orchestra, and Rebekah’s hopes are swiftly dashed because the conductor–determined to leave his mark on the world of classical music–bows to public opinion. To make matters worse, Adelicia Acklen Cheatham, mistress of Belmont Mansion and Rebekah’s new employer, agrees with him.

Nationally acclaimed conductor Nathaniel Tate Whitcomb is Nashville’s new orchestra leader. And despite a reluctant muse–and a strange buzzing and recurring pain in his head–he must finish composing his symphony before the grand opening of the city’s new opera hall. But far more pressing, he must finish it for the one who first inspired his love of music–his father, who is dying. As Tate’s ailment worsens, he believes Rebekah can help him finish his symphony. But how do you win back a woman’s trust when you’ve robbed her of her dream?

First Thoughts:

I’m looking forward to reading the final book in this series based around the historic Belmont Mansion in Nashville.

My Take:

Tamera Alexander concludes her Belmont Mansion series with perhaps my favorite novel of the trilogy. It’s 1871 and Nashville is a city recovering from the Civil War. Rebekah spent the war in Europe and is saddened by the damage wrought by the fighting, but she still wants to make Nashville her home again. Unfortunately, the money she had is gone and her biggest supporter is deceased. The last thing she wants is to become dependent on her step-father, with whom she has a bad history. Becoming a music teacher is the best she can hope for, but that position is for a limited time. What will she do after that?

A Note Yet Unsung is a lovely story with a mix of characters from all walks of life. Rebekah gets along with both her family’s main servant and Mrs. Cheatham. Tate’s family situation, however, is vastly different and several scenes take place in a cabin in the mountains of Tennessee, which is about as far removed from Belmont as you can get. These scenes were among my favorite in the book. A dark incident from Rebekah’s past is often mentioned. While it isn’t explicitly described, the reader can guess what happened and a near repeat takes place towards the end of the novel. Given that Belmont Mansion is the central location for this series it’s no surprise that the home’s owner (full name Adelicia Hayes Franklin Acklen Cheatham) also plays a major part in this novel. Other Nashville characters from the time are also included, such as portrait painted William Brown Cooper.

While this is the last of the Belmont Mansion series, Tamera Alexander does have one more book coming out this year set in Tennessee. To Wager Her Heart is the last of the Belle Meade Plantation novels set just southwest of Nashville. It releases in August and is available for pre-order.

Thank you to Bethany House for my complimentary copy of A Note Yet Unsung, which I received in exchange for my honest review.

Have you read A Note Yet Unsung? Do you plan to read it? Let me know your thoughts.

Excerpt

Publisher: Bethany House (a division of Baker Publishing)

Publication Date: 31 January 2017

Page Count: 432

Read more on:   Tamera Alexander’s Website   Bethany House’s Website

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