Book Review: My Heart Belongs in Niagara Falls, NY by Amanda Barratt

My Heart Belongs in Niagara Falls, NYMy Heart Belongs in Niagara Falls, New York: Adele’s Journey

Author: Amanda Barratt

Series: My Heart Belongs

Publisher: Barbour

Published: January 1, 2018

Journey to Niagara Falls, New York, 1870

She avoids danger at all costs. He makes his living by rushing headlong into it.

Outwardly, Adele Linley’s trip to visit her American cousins is nothing more than a summer vacation. In reality, she’s the daughter of an English aristocrat with barely a penny to her name seeking a rich American husband.

Having grown up in an overcrowded orphanage, Drew Dawson is determined to make a name for himself. He’ll take any honest job to provide for his sister—even crossing Niagara Falls by tightrope.

On a sightseeing trip to the Falls, Adele meets several eligible suitors. Incredibly wealthy and pompous, Franklin Conway takes an immediate fancy to her. But Adele would truly like to marry for love. When she encounters the mysterious Drew in the garden, Adele is confused by her feelings for someone who is everything she is NOT looking for. Will they both stay the course they have chosen for themselves?

AMAZON GOODREADS BARNES & NOBLE


REVIEW

A story of faith and romance set among the pounding water of Niagara Falls delivers heartfelt lessons in award-winning author Amanda Barratt’s latest historical tale. Journey back to a time when class distinctions often inhibited the chasing of dreams and hard work wasn’t always rewarded–but when those barriers were broken, the results were all the sweeter.

My Heart Belongs in Niagara Falls, New York is a delightful story penned by an author whose love of history emanates through her words. Details of times gone by in Buffalo and Niagara Falls, NY paint pictures of the perks of high society and challenges of lower-class living that bring this story to life. From a flower-filled estate in England to refuse-filled Canal Street; from Adele Linley’s beautiful dresses to Drew Dawson’s sparse living accommodations and everything in between, I envisioned it all as I turned the pages of this entry into the My Heart Belongs series.

A small cast of characters fills the pages of this moderately paced story. Heroine Adele Linley and hero Drew Dawson come from opposing sides of life; however, their desires to protect the ones they love and their selflessness to do what they think will make their loved ones happy demonstrate that who people are has very little to do with material possessions. Of the two main characters, I identified with both but felt a much stronger connection with Drew. His compelling backstory and desire to take care of his disabled younger sister made for strong characterization. Adele’s story, while moving, didn’t impact me as much because I felt like a wall removed any sort of emotional connection I could have made with her. Supporting characters Hope and Delany endeared themselves to my heart by the end of the story. I’d love to see a sequel starring these two.

With a solid start to her full-length novel writing career, Amanda Barratt has penned a  romance colored with heartfelt truths–both in faith and in historical accuracy–brimming with details that readers who wish for times gone by will savor. I enjoyed My Heart Belongs in Niagara Falls and hope to see another novel from this author very soon.

RATING: 3.5 stars


Amanda BarrattECPA bestselling author Amanda Barratt fell in love with writing in grade school when she wrote her first story – a spinoff of Jane Eyre. Now, Amanda writes inspirational historical romance, penning stories that transport readers to a variety of locales – from the sweeping coastline of Newport, Rhode Island, to the rugged landscape of Central Texas. Her novella, The Truest Heart, was a finalist in the 2017 FHL Reader’s Choice Awards.

A member of American Christian Fiction Writers, she lives in the woods of Michigan with her fabulous family, who kindly put up with the invisible people she calls characters.

These days, Amanda can be found reading way too many books, watching an eclectic mix of BBC dramas and romantic chick flicks, and trying to figure out a way to get on the first possible flight to England.

Contact Amanda: FACEBOOKTWITTERWEBSITE

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Book Review: To Die For by Sandra Byrd

To Die ForTo Die For: A Novel of Ann Boelyn (Ladies in Waiting #1)

Author: Sandra Byrd

Publisher: Howard Books

Published: August 9, 2011

award-todieforTo Die For is the story of Meg Wyatt, pledged forever as the best friend to Anne Boleyn since their childhoods on neighboring manors in Kent. When Anne’s star begins to ascend, of course she takes her best friend Meg along for the ride. Life in the court of Henry VIII is thrilling at first, but as Anne’s favor rises and falls, so does Meg’s. And though she’s pledged her loyalty to Anne no matter what the test, Meg just might lose her greatest love—and her own life—because of it.

Meg’s childhood flirtation with a boy on a neighboring estate turns to true love early on. When he is called to follow the Lord and be a priest she turns her back on both the man and his God. Slowly, though, both woo her back through the heady times of the English reformation. In the midst of it, Meg finds her place in history, her own calling to the Lord that she must follow, too, with consequences of her own. Each character in the book is tested to figure out what love really means, and what, in this life, is worth dying for.

AMAZON GOODREADS BARNES & NOBLE


REVIEW

Journey back to fifteenth century England in the first novel of the Ladies in Waiting series written by prolific author Sandra Byrd. Told from the perspective of Meg Wyatt, one of Anne Boleyn’s ladies in waiting and dear friends, To Die For is a story of enduring friendship, terrifying trial, and cutthroat determination set during a captivating time in England’s history.

As an avid Anglophile who is fascinated by the Tudor period, I could not contain my excitement when I discovered the Ladies in Waiting series. Many fiction and non-fiction books cover the various subjects within this time period, but Byrd’s series was the first of Christian fiction I found that set itself during the time of Henry VIII’s reign. Knowing I would experience the romance, horrors, societal commentary, and history of this time while still reading a story grounded within the expectations of Christian fiction gladdened my heart. For that alone, I thank Byrd as well as Howard Publishers for readers and lovers of the Tudor period this series.

To Die For is the perfect beginning to the Ladies in Waiting series as Anne Boleyn’s story is well known, well loved, and exceedingly emotional. While the stringent part of me would have liked to have Katherine of Aragon’s story told first (as Henry VIII’s first wife), undoubtedly Anne Boleyn’s tragic romance with the Tudor king made for the better beginning of the series. Byrd’s take on Anne’s is both heart-wrenching and fresh. As familiar as I was with the fate that befell this queen, while reading To Die For I turned the pages as if I didn’t know Anne would meet her death on the scaffold. I wanted a different outcome for her because through Byrd’s story I had a different perspective on the unique situation, extraordinary qualities, and ultimately heartbreaking ending of Queen Anne.

I loved seeing Anne’s story unfold through the eyes of Meg Wyatt. Not only did I learn of Tudor history–pertaining both to Anne and Henry’s romance but outside of the court as well–through the fictionalized story of an admirable woman, Meg’s steadfast friendship, bravery, challenges, and successes brought To Die For to life. I walked alongside this heroine through the hallways of Hampton Court, in the field of Hever Castle, and at the scaffold of the Tower of London. I watched Anne win Henry’s heart, travail through childbirths, and lose her life. Meg could not have been a better heroine to lead Queen Anne’s story.

The first in the Ladies in the Waiting will remain far from being so in the number of times I read this book. Fortunately, the other two books are already holding court on my bookshelf, waiting to be read.

4 stars


The Ladies in Waiting Series by Sandra Byrd

A rich alchemy of fact and fiction, the Ladies in Waiting series chronicles the glittering court lives of three Tudor Queens and the women chosen to be their closest friends and companions. Each book envelops the reader in sweeping romance, heartwarming and heartbreaking circumstances, and heroines who choose lives worth risking all for.

Ladies-In-Waiting


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sandra ByrdBestselling author Sandra Byrd has published more than fifty books over an editing and writing career spanning twenty-five years.

Sandra’s series of historically sound Gothic romances launched with the best-selling Mist of Midnight, which earned a coveted Editor’s Choice award from the Historical Novel Society. The second book, Bride of a Distant Isle, has been selected by Romantic Times as a Top Pick. The third in the series, A Lady in Disguise, published in 2017 and was named by the American Library Association’s Booklist as one of the Top Ten Inspirational Fiction books of the year.

Her contemporary adult fiction debut, Let Them Eat Cake, which was a Christy Award finalist, as was her first historical novel, To Die For: A Novel of Anne Boleyn. To Die For was also named a Library Journal Best Books Pick for 2011, and The Secret Keeper: A Novel of Kateryn Parr was named a Library Journal Best Books Pick for 2012.

Sandra is passionate about helping writers develop their talents and their work through coaching and developmental editing and has been a working editor for more than two decades. She mentored hundreds of writers through the Christian Writers Guild and continues to guide developing authors toward success each year as a writing coach and in-depth editor. For testimonials about her editing and coaching, please visit novelcoaching.com or visit sandrabyrd.com to learn more about her books.

Novel Review: All This Time by Melissa Tagg

All This TimeAll This Time (Walker Family Book 4)

Author: Melissa Tagg

Publisher: Larkspur Press

Published: September 28, 2017

Bear McKinley’s past refuses to let go.

Ten years ago, Bear gave up everything—his freedom and his reputation—for his mess of a family. But after years of distance and too many attempts at starting over, he finally has a new life doing noble work in Brazil . . . until his past catches up to him once again. Suddenly he finds himself back in Maple Valley, charged with the care of his missing brother’s children, convinced he’s out of second chances to make his life count. And yet, with every day that passes, these kids, this quirky town and the woman he never stopped missing help patch the holes in his heart. Maybe this is the fresh start he’s been longing for all along. But as his newfound hope grows, so does the mystery surrounding his brother’s activities—and when the threat reaches into the lives of those he loves, it’s clear he can’t run away this time.

Fear holds Raegan’s future captive.

Raegan Walker is fine. She’s happy working a slew of part-time jobs, still living in her childhood bedroom and rarely venturing from her hometown. At least, that’s what she tells everyone . . . and herself. But she can’t help wondering what might’ve happened if she hadn’t abandoned her art so many years ago—and if Bear McKinley had never left. When Bear returns and she’s commissioned for a painting that just might revive her artistic ambition all in one week, it’s time to finally reach for more than fine. But doing so means facing the fears that have held her back all this time, including admitting the secret she’s kept from Bear and her family. With her dream and her heart on the line, how much will Raegan have to risk to finally chase her happy ending?

AMAZON GOODREADS BARNES & NOBLE


REVIEW

What a beautifully moving book. All This Time by Melissa Tagg exemplifies Christian contemporary romance at its finest. With themes of redemption, grace, love, and faithfulness, Tagg spins a story that is equally reminiscent of her trademark writing style of which so many of us discovered her novels and her newfound freedom in writing books for the independent market. Humor abounds in heroine Raegan Walker, whose love for the artistic is embedded in everything she does and is. Deep and wounded hero Bear McKinley is the hero all female readers love to love. Where Tagg stands out in All This Time is delving deep into the painful and heart-wrenching stories these two characters have lived–and all too often, what readers experience in our day-to-day lives. With freedom to explore these deeper and heart-wrenching subjects that CBA publishing houses typically restrict, Tagg is able to fully gift her readers with God’s truth, grace, and love. This book will speak to readers long after they close its final page.


Melissa TaggABOUT THE AUTHOR

Award-winning author Melissa Tagg is a former reporter, current nonprofit grant-writer and total Iowa girl. The second book in her popular Walker Family series, Like Never Before, was named to one of Publisher’s Weekly’s Spring 2016 Top Ten lists. Her most recent releases include Keep Holding On (Sept 2016) and One Enchanted Eve (Nov 2016). Melissa has taught at multiple national writing conferences, as well as workshops and women’s retreats. When she’s not writing, she can be found hanging out with the coolest family ever–not that she’s biased–watching old movies, and daydreaming about her next book. Melissa loves connecting with readers at her website and on Facebook and Instagram.

Novel Review: The Sea Before Us by Sarah Sundin

The Sea Before UsThe Sea Before Us (Sunrise at Normandy)

Author: Sarah Sundin

Publisher: Revell

Released: February 6, 2018

Betrayal as deep . . .

Love as mysterious . . .

As the sea before them.

In 1944, American naval officer Lt. Wyatt Paxton arrives in London to prepare for the Allied invasion of France. He works closely with Dorothy Fairfax, a “Wren” in the Women’s Royal Naval Service. Dorothy pieces together reconnaissance photographs with thousands of holiday snapshots of France—including those of her family’s summer home—in order to create accurate maps of Normandy. Maps that Wyatt will turn into naval bombardment plans.

As the two spend concentrated time together in the pressure cooker of war, their deepening friendship threatens to turn to love. Dorothy must resist its pull. Her bereaved father depends on her, and her heart already belongs to another man. Wyatt too has much to lose. The closer he gets to Dorothy, the more he fears his efforts to win the war will destroy everything she has ever loved.

The tense days leading up to the monumental D-Day landing blaze to life in this powerful new series.

 

AMAZON GOODREADS BARNES & NOBLE


REVIEW

In a story of intrigue, bravery, development, and faith, historical fiction author Sarah Sundin once again brings to life a beautiful story of World War Two heroes and heroines. The Sea Before Usthe first novel of Sundin’s “Sunrise at Normandy” series, is a thrilling beginning to a trilogy set around D-Day. My most anticipated novel of 2018, The Sea Before Us exemplifies why Sundin is a favorite of World War Two novel readers–she is a master of blending historical details, strong plots, and authentic emotions into the stories of the brave men and women who fought during the world’s most troubling time.

In a series reminiscent of Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk–depicting a World War Two battle through the lenses of soldiers fighting from the sea, sky, and land–The Sea Before Us opens the series from the perspective of naval officer Lieutenant Wyatt Paxton and WREN Dorothy Fairfax. Series typically are written with stories in chronological order, but the Sunrise at Normandy series stories will be told simultaneously, with each Paxton brother depicting his story from his particular perspective of the battle. I am so excited to read a series written in this order and found Wyatt’s perspective–from the sea–a engaging one that opened D-Day and its preceding and following events in a way that has me eagerly awaiting the next story. With such a captivating tale of the sea battle, I can just imagine how well written the stories from the land and air will be.

The Sea Before Us centers upon two characters who struggle with love–familial, romantic, and for and by God. Wyatt Paxton and Dorothy Fairfax’s stories deeply touched me because Sundin’s talent for writing emotionally compelling characters drew this hero and heroine off of the page. While the circumstances surrounding Dorothy and Wyatt’s respective stories were out of my realm of understanding–and therefore kept me from wholly identifying with them–I never once questioned these characters’ feelings. Of the two main characters, Wyatt’s steadiness, loyalty, protectiveness, and determination to do right by his family endeared him to my heart. I never found Dorothy, however, more than passably likable because her character development came across as shallow. She did, though, make strides in this development toward the end of the book, which I was happy to read because her story was so touching.

While The Sea Before Us was my most anticipated book of 2018, this novel is not my favorite of Sundin’s for a few reasons. Names of numerous side characters as well as the various titles of the military men and women who crossed paths with Wyatt and Dorothy overtook scenes, and I found myself frequently pulled out of the story as I tried to place ranks with duties, abbreviations, and branches of the military. Wyatt and Dorothy’s romance, while sweet, felt flat in its execution despite how often they were together on the pages. I knew why and how they came together but never truly felt their feelings for each other. I also would have preferred more showing in Sundin’s writing technique rather than the telling that seemed to overtake her prose.

Sundin’s passion for World War Two history and her subsequent mastery of transferring that passion and knowledge onto the pages of the story took the moderate pace of The Sea Before Us to an engaging one. This author’s ability to infuse the stories of men and women with the details, dangers, and bravery of this time period is second-to-none. By contrast of the slower pace with which I turned the pages of most of this book, when the D-Day invasion approached, I couldn’t get enough of The Sea Before Us. I was absolutely transfixed by what I saw of the invasion through Wyatt’s eyes. One piece of the scene that involved sailors and soldiers communicating in an unexpected way brought even more admiration and respect for the Greatest Generation that I already had–the mark of a truly talented author.

RATING: 3.5 stars

 


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sarah-Sundin-pink-5Sarah Sundin is the author of Through Waters DeepAnchor in the Storm, and When Tides Turn in the Waves of Freedom series, as well as Wings of the Nightingale and the Wings of Glory series. Her novels have received starred reviews from Booklist and Library Journal. Her popular Through Waters Deep was a Carol Award finalist and named to Booklist‘s “101 Best Romance Novels of the Last 10 Years.” A graduate of UC San Francisco School of Pharmacy, she works on-call as a hospital pharmacist. Sarah lives in California. Visit her website  for more information.