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The Broken Road by Amanda Johnston

I have read this novel three times now and still have no idea how to express how much I enjoyed reading it.  The first time I read The Broken Road in 2012, I was simply reading for pleasure and out of curiosity because I know the author.  After I started writing book reviews, I decided to read it again and write a review, but the draft sat there for months, maybe even a year.  I decided to read it again in June of this year and began another review as soon as I finished reading, but obviously I never finished that review either.  

The Broken Road is Amanda Johnston’s debut novel, but she has been writing stories for many years, so this beautiful work of historical fiction reads like the work of a seasoned author.  I am impressed with the amount of research she did to make sure she accurately portrayed life in Colorado in 1882.  Johnston included the correct kitchen items, tools, etc., but she also captured the language and manners of the area and time period.  Her fictional town and boarding school are the perfect backdrop for the story that unfolds.  

The information from the back cover offers a good summary, so I won’t attempt to write my own. 

In 1882 Colorado, Lydia Ghering has successfully kept her boarding school open during the year following her husband’s unexpected death. Self-reliant and determined, Lydia takes pride in her ability to carry on, but her resilience comes at a price. Ethan McKinley is journeying across the country to fulfill his life’s ambition of captaining a ship when he finds himself stranded in the Colorado foothills after a train wreck. His arrival at Lydia’s doorstep looking for temporary work kindles a friendship that causes him to question the destiny he has always pursued. As their friendship deepens, Lydia must confront secrets from her past, while Ethan must decide his future. Both must seek their answers from the one who offers all they need.

I don’t want to share any more of Lydia’s or Ethan’s stories because I want you to read it yourself.  The Broken Road is a moving novel of love and loss, devastation and determination.  While reading this inspirational romance, I was moved to tears, but I also laughed several times.  The dialogue between the characters is fascinating and made me smile frequently.  The characters are well-developed and relatable because their struggles are similar to ours today.  I know I haven’t done justice to Johnston’s grand tale, but believe me when I say it’s a wonderful story that will move you beyond words. 

I must warn you that The Broken Road ends in suspense.  Johnston has written a sequel to her epic debut novel, but it has not been published yet.  I am eagerly waiting to read more of Lydia’s and Ethan’s stories.  

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Honor Redeemed by Christine Johnson

If you are a reader who judges books by their covers, you will be in for a surprise when you read Honor Redeemed, which is actually a historical romance set in the 1850’s despite the cover model’s modern appearance.  This second book in Christine Johnson’s Keys of Promise series takes a unique look at the army, the medical profession, and honor with Key West as the beautiful locale.

Prosperity Jones seeks to reunite with her betrothed after her parents’ death, but unexpected and unexplainable circumstances leave her penniless and heartbroken.  Thanks to the kindness and generosity of strangers, Prosperity is able to find employment and a temporary home. 

Lieutenant David Latham finds himself in a difficult situation that he believes he deserves due to his regrettable actions.  Once he realizes the truth, he acts as a true gentleman and refuses to disparage another even though his heart and his honor are at stake.

Honor Redeemed is one of those rare books that completely immerses you in another time and place, makes you understand the prevalent thinking of the era, and causes you to feel the angst of the characters as they struggle to make things right.  I fell in love with these characters and understood their actions even as I felt frustration with them for being so honorable.

Christine Johnson’s latest novel takes you to an exotic island and gives you a glimpse into another time and another place.  The story was as lovely as the setting.  


I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.  These thoughts and opinions are my own.  

Irish Meadows by Susan Anne Mason

My mother and I share a love for reading, and our tastes in books are extremely similar, so we often pass books back and forth.  My mom requested Irish Meadows by Susan Ann Mason from Bethany House, but then she didn’t have time to read it, so she passed it to me, thinking I would read it and write a review on it more quickly than she could.  I read it soon after, and I wrote one sentence of a review back in November, but that was as far as I got.  I have only really struggled this much to write a review one other time, and the two books are similar in how they affected me and in how lovely I thought the stories were.  I will (once again) attempt to put into words my feelings about the characters and plot in Irish Meadows

This historical fiction novel is set in 1911 in New York and revolves around the O’Leary family, who owns a horse farm on Long Island.  Gilbert Whelan grew up on the farm where his widowed mother worked as the O’Leary’s housekeeper until her early death, which left him to be raised with the O’Leary children.  Gil is ambitious, hard-working, handsome, and a gentleman, which makes him the perfect leading man and hero.  However, his position in the family but not of the family creates a desperate situation when he and one of the O’Leary girls share a mutual attraction.  Gil’s efforts to resist temptation and honor the O’Leary family are admirable and noble.  

Many of the problems in this novel stem from James O’Leary, the father of Brianna and Colleen and the owner of Irish Meadows farm, who has high expectations and an unyielding temperament.   James is an Irish immigrant who has worked hard to build his horse farm into a thriving business, but business has been poor lately, and James begins to look for ways to form alliances with families who have wealth as a means of saving his farm.  Nothing good can come from placing financial gain ahead of family members and their feelings. 

The O’Leary daughters are old enough to marry, but Colleen is extremely selective about whom she will tie herself, but she has no qualms about flirting with any handsome and wealthy bachelor.  Brianna, in contrast, flirts with no one and only has eyes for one man.  These two strong-willed women are forced to make decisions that will affect their family and their future.

Setting this novel on a horse farm provided ample opportunities for the characters to exhibit their true personalities.  The descriptions of strong and beautiful horses only added to the appeal of the lovely setting.  

The focus of this book is the struggle within each character to do what is right or to follow their heart’s desire.  What seems like the right thing to do is often not what is best for a person, rather it is what is expected of that person by their parents, society, or others.  There are also instances when what would have been the right thing to do must change because the circumstances have changed.  This book is beautifully and thoughtfully written, alternating point of view from each of the main characters, so that the reader has insight into each character’s inner struggle.

My mom and I received this book for free from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for an honest review.  I hope I have done the book justice, and I apologize to the author and publisher for taking so long to write a review.  The second book in Susan Anne Mason’s Courage to Dream series has already been released, and the third is available for pre-order.  I am looking forward to reading A Worthy Heart (book 2) and Love’s Faithful Promise (book 3).

Until the Harvest by Sarah Loudin Thomas

  
About a year ago, I had the pleasure of reading the lovely novella Appalachian Serenade by Sarah Loudin Thomas in anticipation of reading her first full-length novel, Miracle in a Dry Seasonlater that summer.  I am pleased to announce that her next book has been released and is just as delightful as her first two stories.  Until the Harvest jumps ahead a generation, but there are appearances from many of the characters of the previous book.  I always enjoy reading about familiar characters and seeing how their story ends or continues.  I was disappointed at the early demise of a main character from the previous book, but his death served as the catalyst for much of the conflict in Until the Harvest. 

Henry Phillips is a college student who makes several foolish decisions following the death of his father.  He gets tangled up in a couple of serious situations before seeking wise council.  

Margaret enjoys working for Henry’s grandmother, but Margaret’s mother thinks the position is too menial for her daughter.  Margaret finds a way to leave home and take her little sister with her, away from her selfish, inattentive parents. 

Initially, Henry and Margaret dislike each other, but they have two common interests who continually draw them together:  Margaret’s sister Mayfair and Henry’s grandmother Emily.  Over time, Henry and Margaret find they have much more in common than family and friends.  

This story is set in the mid-1970’s, but some aspects seem further back in history due to the slower pace in Appalachia.  I enjoyed reading about life on the farm and women living independently.  I learned a few things while enjoying a good read.  

I received this book for free from Bethany House in exchange for an honest review.

Keepers of the Covenant by Lynn Austin

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This is the second book in Austin’s Restoration Chronicles series, which vividly portrays the fictional lives of several Jews and Gentiles based on the Old Testament books of Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther.  My father-in-law and I both read this book and were intrigued by the details and emotions that Austin captured in her retelling.  The fear and doubt, love and faith are evident throughout the book.  

Ezra is a scholar who is quickly thrust into a position of leadership for which he has no desire.  He learns many things about himself, about God, and about relating with others through his fervent studying of the Torah after Haman’s evil plan is set into motion.  The Jews pray for deliverance while the Gentiles torment them and plan their attack.  For several months, the Jews lived with anxious, heavy hearts because their future seemed hopeless.

Austin offers different perspectives by writing from several characters’ point of view.  She alternates between characters, so the reader must wait to find out what will happen next.  I was spellbound by the interwoven stories of the main characters.  This retelling of Old Testament information is rich and suspenseful.  Austin is a master story-teller, who is able to include romance and suspense in a book about God’s faithfulness to his people. 

This is a must-read for any Christian, but it would also appeal to those who love history and historical fiction.  I received this book free from Bethany House in exchange for an honest review. 

Love Unexpected by Jody Hedlund

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Love Unexpected is the first full-length novel in Jody Hedlund’s Beacons of Hope series, and it starts off with a bang. Pirates pillage the steamer Emma and her brother are traveling aboard. They are forced to abandon ship and swim in the frigid water of Lake Huron off the coast of Michigan until the light keeper is able to rescue them. But then they find themselves in a remote area with no money to pay for passage.

Having been poor and transient most of her life, all Emma has ever wanted is a home to call her own. Through divine providence (according to Holy Bill), Emma finds herself faced with the opportunity to have a home and a family if she will marry a complete stranger.

I appreciate a good romance, and Patrick and Emma’s story was sweet and realistic. Both characters struggle with insecurity and past mistakes, but they learn to find their strength in and forgiveness from God. They also struggle with expectations–one having absurdly low expectations from the other based on a previous relationship–and fear of the unknown. If they could get everything out in the open, healing could begin, but they must experience a lot of pain before realizing that the truth will set them free.

Love Unexpected can be read alone, but I would encourage you to read Hedlund’s novella Out of the Storm first because it introduces the series and relates a wonderful love story. There are references to the characters from the novella in this book, but the characters in Love Unexpected are unrelated to those from Out of the Storm.

I received this book for free from Bethany House in exchange for an honest review.

Out of the Storm by Jody Hedlund

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I received an email from Bethany House with a link for the free e-book, Out of the Storm: A Novella by Jody Hedlund, but it is also available on Amazon for free here. I read this short book in one morning and loved it. I am thrilled that I already have Love Unexpected, the first full book in Hedlund’s Beacons of Hope series, and I can’t wait to start reading it.

Out of the Storm is set in an isolated area on the shores of Lake Huron in Michigan in 1854. Isabelle Thornton lives in a small cottage with her father who is the lighthouse keeper. A deadly shipwreck spares one man’s life, and Isabelle learns to enjoy her life.

I read some reviews of this book online, and some reviewers thought there was too much passion for Christian fiction. Having read many other romance novels, I was only slightly surprised by the few moments of passion in Out of the Storm and not because I felt kissing was out of place in a Christian book but only because it seemed a little forward for the time period. I enjoy a good romance and love chemistry between the main characters. It makes the story more believable because real people face temptations and give in sometimes.