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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A Stranger at Fellsworth, by Sarah E. Ladd

book coverPublisher’s Overview:

Could losing everything be the best thing to happen to Annabelle Thorley?

In the fallout of her deceased father’s financial ruin, Annabelle’s prospects are looking bleak. Her fiancé has called off their betrothal, and now she remains at the mercy of her controlling and often cruel brother. Annabelle soon faces the fact that her only hope for a better life is to do the unthinkable and run away to Fellsworth, where her estranged uncle serves as the school’s superintendent. Upon arrival, Annabelle learns that she must shed her life of high society and work for her wages for the first time in her life.

Owen Locke is unswerving in his commitments. As a widower and father, he is fiercely protective of his only daughter. As an industrious gamekeeper, he is intent on keeping poachers at bay even though his ambition has always been to purchase land he can call his own. When a chance encounter introduces him to Annabelle Thorley, his steady life is shaken. For the first time since his wife’s death, Owen begins to consider a second chance at love.

As Owen and Annabelle grow closer, ominous forces threaten the peace they thought they’d found. Poachers, mysterious strangers, and murderers converge at Fellsworth, forcing Annabelle and Owen to a test of fortitude and bravery to stop the shadow of the past from ruining their hopes for the future.

First Thoughts:

This is the third in the Treasures of Surrey series. But why does the character’s background sound familiar?

My Take:

I feel that, lately, I’ve come across a couple of books where the female lead character has been abandoned after by her fiancé after her family has lost its fortune. Before starting A Stranger at Fellsworth I was certain I’d read about Annabelle before in one of Sarah Ladd’s novels. A quick search revealed that it was similar to what happened to minor character Penelope Gilchrist in The Curiosity Keeper, book one of Ladd’s current series. In this third novel, we also get a glimpse of a more desperate existence when Annabelle discovers a former family friend in similar financial difficulties.

Determined to avoid an unenviable fate, Annabelle schemes with a stranger to get away from London to start a new life at her uncle’s school. Her maid accompanies her, but she soon learns she will need to do without the girl who is given a new position. Annabelle must now fend for herself, which she seems to do very easily. But throughout the pages, it’s apparent that she feels inadequate to her assignment. How can she teach the practical skills her students need when she doesn’t herself possess them?

Much of the novel portrays Annabelle’s adjustment to her new role and her budding relationship with Owen. But you know something is building, especially when all the main characters come together in one place. The great thing was not knowing or expecting how Annabelle’s situation would ultimately be resolved. While there is a happy ending for our lovebirds, however, I did wonder what would happen to the book’s ‘bad guys.’

A Stranger at Fellsworth concludes Sarah Ladd’s second trilogy. While the series is called Treasures of Surrey, the only connection between the three books is Fellsworth School. As a result, the Superintendent of the school, Annabelle’s uncle, is the only common character. Each book in this enjoyable series, therefore, can be enjoyed without having to read the other two.

Thank you to Thomas Nelson and BookLook Bloggers for my complimentary copy of A Stranger at Fellsworth, which I received in exchange for my honest review.

Have you read A Stranger at Fellsworth? Do you plan to read it? Let me know your thoughts.

Excerpt

Publisher: Thomas Nelson (a division of HarperCollins Christian)

Publication Date: 16 May 2017

Page Count: 336

Read more on:   Sarah Ladd’s Website   Thomas Nelson’s Website

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