With You Always, by Jody Hedlund

book coverPublisher’s Overview:

Could Following the Opportunity of a Lifetime Cost Them the Love of Their Lives?

One of the many immigrants struggling to survive in 1850s New York, Elise Neumann knows she must take action to care for her younger sisters. She finds a glimmer of hope when the New York Children’s Aid Society starts sending skilled workers to burgeoning towns out west. But the promise of the society’s orphan trains is not all that it seems.

Born into elite New York society, Thornton Quincy possesses everything except the ability to step out from his brother’s shadow. When their ailing father puts forth a unique challenge to determine who will inherit his railroad-building empire, Thornton finally sees his chance. The conditions to win? Be the first to build a sustainable community along the Illinois Central Railroad and find a suitable wife.

Thrown together against all odds, Elise and Thornton couldn’t be from more different worlds. The spark that ignites between them is undeniable, but how can they let it grow when that means forfeiting everything they’ve been working toward?

First Thoughts:

Jody Hedlund is a solid go-to author. I rarely hesitate to read one of her books.

My Take:

What was it like to live in New York City’s Five Points neighborhood at the height of its notoriety? What would it be like to move from there to a brand new town ‘out west’ with fresh air as opposed to a permanent smog? Jody Hedlund explores these thoughts in the first novel of her new series. With You Always focuses on German immigrant Elise who exists in a New York tenement with her sisters. In desperation, they turn to a mission housed in an old brewery where there’s food and work to be found. But it can’t keep out a financial panic and Elise must leave her family in order to provide for them. She gets work in a town being developed by none other than the man who rescues her during the Dead Rabbits Riot.

In With You Always, Hedlund has given readers an engaging tale with fascinating descriptions and great characters. We can understand the poverty of life in New York tenements and the desperation of those with limited options. We can see the contrasting progress of the new railroad towns. I found it difficult to put this book down, only doing so when tiredness overtook me. I wasn’t surprised there was a villain in the piece and I did figure out the connection between that person and another major character. The romance is satisfying: I appreciated that, after the initial misunderstandings, Elise and Thorton were honest with each other. Elise, in particular, didn’t hide anything when she told him how to win the contest.

This is the first novel in the Orphan Train series, but there is a prequel novella. An Awakened Heart focuses on the beginnings of the mission featured in With You Always, but it does introduce Elise and her sisters. I began reading this book immediately after reading the prequel and it felt like one continuous story. I don’t think it’s absolutely necessary to have read the prequel first, but I would recommend it. It’s available for most electronic readers and is the grand price of free, so why wouldn’t you want to read it?

Thank you to Bethany House for my complimentary copy of With You Always, which I received in exchange for my honest review.

Have you read With You Always? 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: 06 June 2017

Page Count: 368

Read more on:   Jody Hedlund’s Website   Bethany House’s Website

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

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Behind the Scenes, by Jen Turano

book cover Behind the ScenesPublisher’s Overview:

After spending the last six years banished to the wallflower section of the ballroom, Miss Permilia Griswold has finally figured out a way to pass the time at all the New York high-society events she attends. Under the pseudonym “Miss Quill,” she is the author of society gossip columns filled with tidbits only an insider in society–albeit one on the fringes–would know. 

When she overhears a threat against Mr. Asher Rutherford, the owner of one of the most up-and-coming department stores in the city, she’s determined to warn him. But the irritatingly handsome man doesn’t believe her, leaving her no choice but to take matters into her own hands. What she doesn’t anticipate is that she’ll end up putting herself at risk in the process–or that she and Mr. Rutherford, a man with secrets of his own, just might end up joining forces after all.

First Thoughts:

I’ve enjoyed every book I’ve read by Jen Turano. It was a no-brainer, therefore, to request to review this title when Bethany House made it available. Plus, I’d already read the free prequel novella.

My Take:

You always know what you’re going to get with a Jen Turano novel. It’s usually set in New York City during the Gilded Age (or, on occasion, Newport, Rhode Island) and includes a bunch of quirky characters of various ages and social status, sometimes interacting with real life figures of that era. There’s mystery and intrigue wrapped up in a comedy of errors and, of course, there’s romance. The writing is light but also contains semi-formal language. Turano’s characters are almost always introduced for the first time as either Miss or Mister. Polite society should always perform proper introductions, after all. Despite this apparent formula, however, Turano always delivers a fresh and delightful story.

Behind the Scenes starts at the notorious Vanderbilt costume ball of 1883, and over 100 pages of plot development are set there. Run a search for this event online and you’ll find plenty of photographs of society’s elite in various forms of fancy dress, some of which Turano describes. This was a time of excess and main character Permilia is often scolded in the book by her stepmother for her seemingly frugal ways. Despite the humor, incredulous costumes and hair-raising escapades through Central Park, however, there’s a serious note about the changing nature of celebrity gossip and how charming society columns became the front page exposes of today. Miss Quill’s writings harken back to a more innocent time.

Behind the Scenes kicks off Turano’s newest series, titled Apart From the Crowd. Early on in this novel, there’s a reference to events and characters in a series e-prequel novella. It’s worth reading if you can because it does introduce Permilia and Asher. It’s called At Your Request and I believe it’s permanently free. Meanwhile, I’m eagerly looking forward to the next release, which apparently features a wealthy society matron who appears to take a liking to other people’s property…

Thank you to Bethany House for my complimentary copy of Behind the Scenes, which I received in exchange for my honest review.

Have you read Behind the Scenes? Do you plan to read it? Let me know your thoughts.

Excerpt

Author Q & A

Publisher: Bethany House (a division of Baker Publishing)

Publication Date: 18 April 2017

Page Count: 352

Read more on:   Jen Turano’s Website   Bethany House’s Website

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

Snack Size Review: At Your Request, by Jen Turano

I’m introducing a new feature today: novella reviews. Authors and publishers will occasionally release a novella prequel to introduce a new series. These are usually in electronic format only, but most of the time they’re free to download. Prequel novellas are a great way to discover a new author, or maybe you’re just looking for a quick read.

book coverPublisher’s Overview:

After her father lost the family’s fortune, Wilhelmina was cast out of the fashionable set and banished to the wallflower section. Taking a position as a social secretary to help support her family, she’s mostly come to terms with her new status. But when her old friend Edgar returns to New York society for the first time since she rejected his marriage proposal, she’s newly ashamed at how far she’s fallen–and how hastily she dismissed him years ago. Her strategy is to avoid a face-to-face encounter at all costs, but he seems to have other plans. Will Edgar take advantage of their now reversed positions and make her regret her refusal, or is there still hope for a friendship between them–or something more?

At Your Request is an e-only novella that gives an exciting introduction to Jen Turano’s new Gilded Age historical romance series, Apart From the Crowd! Includes an extended excerpt of the first full-length novel in the series, Behind the Scenes.

My Take:

Jen Turano launches her Apart From the Crowd series with a novella set in New York City during the Gilded Age. This series takes a look at the women whose society debuts have bombed, but are still required to attend the various soirees held during the social season. These “wallflowers” are seldom asked to dance, and so spend the time sitting in silence. Apparently, it’s a rule: “Wallflowers did not converse with each other… ever.” Well, ouch!

Although it’s short, At Your Request is also sweet, and of Turano’s usual standard. There’s humor throughout, such as when Wilhelmina is so desperate to avoid Edgar that she has an unfortunate encounter with a chair. Turano has a charming writing style, her characters are delightful, and I can’t wait to read Behind the Scenes.

Have you read At Your Request? Do you plan to read it? Let me know your thoughts.

Publisher: Bethany House (a division of Baker Publishing)

Publication Date: 03 January 2017

Read more on:   Jen Turano’s Website   Bethany House’s Website

Purchase on:   Amazon   Barnes & Noble   Christianbook.com