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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Liar’s Winter, by Cindy Sproles

book coverPublisher’s Overview:

Lochiel Ogle was born with a red-wine birthmark–and it put her life in jeopardy from the moment she entered the world. Mountain folks called it “the mark of the devil,” and for all the evil that has plagued her nineteen-year existence, Lochiel is ready to believe that is true. And the evil surely took control of the mind of the boy who stole her as an infant, bringing her home for his mother to raise.

Abused and abandoned by the only people she knows as family, Lochiel is rescued by a peddler and given the first glimpse of love she has ever known. The truth of her past is gradually revealed as is the fact that she is still hunted by a brother driven to see her dead. Unsure if there’s anyone she can truly trust, Lochiel is faced with a series of choices: Will she continue to run for escape or will she face her past and accept the heartbreaking secrets it reveals? Which will truly free her?

Set in the wild and beautiful Appalachian Mountains of nineteenth-century East Tennessee, Liar’s Winter is an unflinching yet inspirational exploration of prejudice and choice. 

First Thoughts:

This novel sounds like it’ll be difficult to read. But I read Sprole’s debut novel a couple of years ago and it turned out to be amazing.

My Take:

When I read Cindy Sproles’ debut novel a couple of years ago I found it easy to give it five stars. Second novels are either equally as brilliant or fall flat in comparison. I wasn’t sure which I’d get with the next of Sproles’ Appalachian novels, but I’m happy to say I was not disappointed. Lochiel (pronounced Low-Kill) has encountered very few people in her 19 years, having been kept hidden away by her adoptive parents. She thinks their treatment of her is normal and, therefore, something she should expect from others; that’s if they don’t run screaming from her first. When she’s rescued by strangers – and continues to be helped by them – she wonders what they want in return. Instead, they introduce her to a loving and trustworthy God, one she’ll turn to when all seems lost.

Liar’s Winter was an engrossing read from the beginning. It’s written in the first person, and Lochiel’s ‘voice’ came through clearly. She was heartbreakingly ignorant of the world around her and I recognized a form of Stockholm Syndrome every time she said that the Ogle family had treated her well and that she felt guilty for “leaving them.” There were moments in this book that left me momentarily stunned, breathless with the turn the narrative had taken. The tears were streaming down my cheeks as I finished the final page.

Thank you to Kregel for my complimentary copy of Liar’s Winter, which I received in exchange for my honest review.

Have you read Liar’s Winter? Do you plan to read it? Let me know your thoughts.

Excerpt

Publisher: Kregel Publications

Publication Date: 27 June 2017

Page Count: 264

Read more on:   Cindy Sproles’ Website   Kregel’s Website

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

The Great Chattanooga Bicycle Race, by Michael H. Mizrahi

book coverPublisher’s Overview:

Chattanooga society goes on tilt as a young woman has the audacity to ride a bicycle—in bloomers!

It’s 1895 and Anna Gaines struggles to get past her insecurities and discover her calling in life. When she’s drawn to the new sport of bicycling, a scandalous activity for a proper southern young woman, she faces opposition, misunderstanding, and scorn. Southern women just did not engage in activities meant for men.

To determine if women will share the same rights as men, Anna must race the president of the cycle club. But more is at stake than the outcome of a race.

  • Will Anna make the right decisions about her life?
  • Will true love find a way?
  • Will Anna choose to live a quiet, traditional life as a housewife and mother? Or will she pursue college and become one of the “new women” emerging into the 20th century? 

Faith, patience, and courage in adversity help a young woman become the person she was meant to be. 

First Thoughts:

Something about this book’s description appealed to me. Perhaps it’s because I’m often to be found watching my husband compete in bike races.

My Take:

Did you know the first dedicated bicycle path in the United States opened in Brooklyn, New York, in 1895? This was new information to me as I read the opening pages of The Great Chattanooga Bicycle Race. This is the location where Anna develops her love of cycling, which she then takes home with her to Chattanooga, Tennessee. She decides to continue her love affair and is aided by various family members and friends, but there is opposition from both men and other women. Not everyone is as they seem, however, and some people oppose for reasons which have nothing to do with her personally.

The Great Chattanooga Bicycle Race Mike MizrahiThe actual bike race of the title doesn’t take place until the final 30 pages of the novel. It wasn’t quite what I expected when I first picked up the book, but that might have been due to my personal experiences of bicycle racing. The majority of the novel focuses on Anna’s experiences in her home town, the opposition she faces, the way her life changes, and the town meetings leading up to the race. We also see inside the lives of people who support and oppose her, including one woman you want to immensely dislike but instead find yourself feeling sorry for her.

Although the bicycle is the main focus of the book, I preferred a secondary story involving a former slave woman and her family. It’s 30 years since the end of the Civil War, but Reconstruction has come and gone. Anna befriends Hattie Washington and learns that her husband had disappeared while looking for work in a neighboring state. Peter Sawyer, local businessman and president of the Cycling Club, gets involved and the resulting storyline is an eye-opening one about how former slaves were often treated in the south after the policies of Reconstruction ended. This is definitely an historical novel about how the south had to face change, in more ways than one.

Thank you to Litfuse Publicity and Redemption Press for my complimentary copy of The Great Chattanooga Bicycle Race, which I received in exchange for my honest review.

This review is part of a Litfuse Publicity Book Tour  

Have you read The Great Chattanooga Bicycle Race? Do you plan to read it? Let me know your thoughts.

Excerpt

Publisher: Redemption Press

Publication Date: 10 April 2017

Page Count: 344

Read more on:   Mike H. Mizrahi’s Website   Redemption Press’s Website

Purchase on:   Amazon   Barnes & Noble   Books-a-million