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.

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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.

Novel Review: A Name Unknown by Roseanna M. White

NameUnknown_mck.inddA Name Unknown (Shadows Over England)

Author: Roseanna M. White

Publisher: Bethany House Publishers

Released: July 4, 2017

She’s out to steal his name.
Will he steal her heart instead?

Rosemary Gresham has no family beyond the band of former urchins that helped her survive as a girl in the mean streets of London. Grown now, they are no longer pickpockets—now they focus on high value items and have learned how to blend into upper-class society. Rosemary’s challenge of a lifetime comes when she’s assigned to determine whether a certain wealthy gentleman is loyal to Britain or to Germany. How does one steal a family’s history, their very name?

Rumors swirl around Peter Holstein. Awkward and solitary, but with access to the king, many fear his influence. But Peter can’t help his German last name and wants to prove his loyalty to the crown—so he can go back to anonymously writing a series of popular adventure novels. When Rosemary arrives on his doorstop pretending to be a well- credentialed historian, Peter believes she’s the right person to help him dig through his family’s past.

Anger and danger continue to mount, though, and both realize they’re in a race against time to discover the truth—about Peter’s past and about the undeniable attraction kindling between them.

AMAZON GOODREADS BARNES & NOBLE


REVIEW

A Name Unknown is a book after my own heart for so many reasons. A writer hero; a librarian heroine; an English setting; a cover with books on the front; a wartime background; and two leading characters who are beautifully broken and redeemed by Christ’s love and each other. I could not have asked for a more perfect book, and once again Roseanna White has proven why her stories remain among my favorites.

White’s books are ones I read regardless of whether or not I know what the story will be about, but as I was familiar with the blurb for this story, I was called foremost to it because of its complexity. Each of the three previous stories I’ve read by this author were complex–one of the many reasons I enjoy her books so much–but A Name Unknown upped the ante in how White tied mystery, history, intrigue, romance, and faith into one plot so well. Every piece of backstory, every nuance described in the moment, every thought the characters had to themselves came together to show redemption, solve a mystery, and help the characters grow. I prefer novels that are longer and in-depth, so for A Name Unknown  to be a lengthier story for these reasons pleased me to no end.

My favorite aspect of A Name Unknown is the soft blending of history and romance. I’m an Anglophile, so I was thrilled to come across actual people and historical instances of British history in this book–especially in one scene where the Prince of Wales and hero Peter have a humorous moment with the heroine. I loved being immersed in the fiction world while experiencing through Peter and Rosemary what it must have been like to be in the throes of pre-World War One Britain. As for the romance, I’d yet to read a novel with such a slow burn of attraction and relationship-building until I read A Name Unknown. This romance was beautifully written, and oh how that build up in the scene where the characters experienced their first kiss. That was a perfect example of how a chaste relationship can still be full of attraction and how just a subtle nod to the physical can be satisfactory on the page or screen.

RATING: 4.5 stars


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Roseanna WhiteRoseanna M. White pens her novels beneath her Betsy Ross flag, with her Jane Austen action figure watching over her. When not writing fiction, she’s homeschooling her two children, editing and designing, and pretending her house will clean itself. Roseanna’s fiction ranges from biblical fiction to American-set romances to her new British series. She lives with her family in West Virginia. Learn more at at her website.

Novel Review: The Esther Paradigm by Sarah Monzon

The Esther ParadigmThe Esther Paradigm

Author: Sarah Monzon

Publisher: Radiant Publications

Published: November 2, 2017

​The daughter of missionaries, Hannah Pratt dreams of starting a school for the Bedouin clan with whom she spent her childhood. After completing her education in the United States, she returns to the desert to pursue that dream—only to learn her parents have been receiving threats from within the community they serve. As the danger escalates, Hannah must decide how far she’ll go to stay faithful to a calling that could cost her everything.

As sheikh, Karim Al-Amir feels the weight of responsibility as the leader of his people. When a mysterious illness ravages the clan’s flocks and threatens to destroy their centuries-old way of life, some of his people believe the American doctors and their daughter, his childhood friend, are to blame. Karim must do something to keep Hannah and her parents safe—even if the only solution is to be found within marriage vows.

In a society where the line is drawn between us and them, where Christianity is outlawed and foreigners suspect, will Karim and Hannah’s union heal wounds . . . or inflict a final, fatal blow?

Old Testament history meets Twenty-first Century tensions in this compassionate, tender inspirational romance.

AMAZON GOODREADS 


REVIEW

This book is unbelievably beautiful. As a wordsmith, I rarely find myself unable to express my thoughts through the written word, but The Esther Paradigm has proven there is a first time for everything. I picked up The Esther Paradigm while reading other books, and this story captivated me so much that I finished reading it quicker than other ones I was in the middle of and that I completely put those others aside so I could read Mozon’s story in its entirety. Putting aside those other books so I could read The Esther Paradigm with my entire focus on the book was worth the delay on the others.

The Esther Paradigm is quite simply one of the best novels–independently or traditionally published–that I have ever read. From her use of metaphors to her descriptive prose to her realism to her complex and unique story, Monzon used every writing technique to its best ability in this story. I was immersed in the Bedouin culture from the first page of The Esther Paradigm; one of my favorite aspects of this book, in fact, is that I became so interested in a culture and location that previously I knew nothing about. If I come across another story set in this culture or location, I’ll be much more open to reading it thanks to Monzon’s book. The Biblical aspect of The Esther Paradigm sold this book to me above all because I love connecting with and learning about my faith as much as I can when I read Christian fiction.

I have high hopes that this book will win awards next year, if only so that more readers will hear about The Esther Paradigm. Mozon has climbed her way to the top of my list of authors whose books I would buy without even reading the back cover. Well done, Ms. Monzon!


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sarah MonzonSarah Monzon is a Navy chaplain’s wife and a stay at home mom to the two cutest littles in the world. Playing pretend all day with them isn’t enough, she spends the evenings after their heads hit the pillow to create her own imaginary characters. When she isn’t in the world of make believe, she can be found in the pine forests of western Washington taking care of her family, fostering friendships, and enjoying all the adventures each day brings.

Sarah loves connecting with readers on Facebook,Twitter, and Instagram.

 

Book Review: Heart on the Line by Karen Witemeyer

Heart on the LineHeart on the Line (Ladies of Harper’s Station #2)

Author: Karen Witemeyer

Publisher: Bethany House

Published: June 6, 2017

Witemeyer Returns with Her Trademark Blend of Adventure, Romance, and Humor

Grace Mallory is tired of running, of hiding. But when an old friend sends an after-hours telegraph transmission warning Grace that the man who has hunted her for nearly a year has discovered her location, she fears she has no choice. She can’t let the villain she believes responsible for her father’s death release his wrath in Harper’s Station, the town that has sheltered her and blessed her with the dearest friends she’s ever known.

Amos Bledsoe prefers bicycles to horses and private conversations over the telegraph wire to social gatherings with young ladies who see him as nothing more than an oddity. His telegraph companion, the mysterious Miss G, listens eagerly to his ramblings every night and delights him with tales all her own. For months, their friendship–dare he believe, courtship?–has fed his hope that he has finally found the woman God intended for him. Yet when he takes the next step to meet her in person, he discovers her life is in peril, and Amos must decide if he can shed the cocoon of his quiet nature to become the hero Grace requires.

AMAZON GOODREADS BARNES & NOBLE


I absolutely loved Heart on the Line. I’ve enjoyed each of Witemeyer’s books I’ve read thus far, but this novel far exceeded my expectations so much so that I didn’t know what to do in regards to reading once I finished this story. My favorite novel of 2017, this book also has earned a spot on my “forever favorites” list. I felt an immediate connection with our heroine, Grace, and our hero, Amos–oh, how I wish more novels has heroes like this quirky, charming, academic, and brave man. Not only was the story filled with characters who are admirable, unique, funny, and original, Heart on the Line‘s plot is quirky and faith-filled just as is its hero. While historicals set in other genres tend to be my go-to books, novels like Heart on the Line continue to prove to me why reading outside our typical genres is one of the best things we can do. Witemeyer is the perfect example of how authors who are talented with their writing and creative with their stories open up new worlds for their readers.


karen-witemeyerChristy Award finalist and winner of the ACFW Carol Award, National Reader’s Choice Award, HOLT Medallion, and Inspirational Reader’s Choice Award, CBA bestselling author Karen Witemeyer writes Christian historical romance for Bethany House, believing the world needs more happily-ever-afters. She is an avid cross-stitcher and makes her home in Abilene, TX with her husband and three children.

Book Review: High as the Heavens by Kate Breslin

High as the HeavensHigh as the Heavens

Author: Kate Breslin

Publisher: Bethany House

Published: June 6, 2017

About the Book

Page-Turning Intrigue and Romance from an Up-and-Coming Historical Romance Talent

In 1917, Evelyn Marche is just one of many women who has been widowed by the war. A British nurse trapped in German-occupied Brussels, she spends her days working at a hospital and her nights as a waitress in her aunt and uncle’s café. Eve also has a carefully guarded secret keeping her in constant danger: She’s a spy working for a Belgian resistance group in league with the British Secret Service.

When a British plane crashes in Brussels Park, Eve is the first to reach the downed plane and is shocked to discover she recognizes the badly injured pilot. British RFC Captain Simon Forrester is now a prisoner of war, and Eve knows he could be shot as a spy at any time. She risks her own life to hide him from the Germans, but as the danger mounts and the secrets between them grow, their chance of survival looks grim. And even if they do make it out alive, the truth of what lies between them may be more than any love can overcome.

AMAZON GOODREADS BARNES & NOBLE


REVIEW

Reading a book written by a beloved author and set during a favorite time period–a safe and pleasurable choice. Reading a book penned by a beloved author but set during a less familiar time period and written with skill comprised of plot twists and intricacies and talent with the written word–brave and dangerous rolled into one, for the reader is chancing to fall in love with everything that is both different and beautiful. As I finished High as the Heavens, I found myself firmly in the latter category because this novel is unlike anything I have read before (despite that I have read Breslin’s 2016 World War One novel Not by Sight). The differences between High as the Heavens and other works of Christian historical fiction and ABA (general market) fiction are precisely why I call this novel one of the best I have read; this book challenged me, taught me pieces of history I had not come across otherwise, and fully drew me into the horrors and beauty of wartime.

Breslin and Bethany House should be commended for High as the Heavens because this novel breaks the norm in three strong ways: the World War One time period, while becoming more popular in fiction, differentiates itself even further with a relatively untouched plot line; the Belgian setting takes readers out of the typical English location; and the hero and hero’s romance takes place primarily off the page due to wartime circumstances. I was immersed in High as the Heavens as Breslin brought me into a plot in which every time I thought I had figured out what was going to happen, I was wrong. I was drawn into High as the Heavens  as I yearned for Eve and Simon to overcome their personal challenges and find their way back to love. And I was captivated by High as the Heavens as I followed them both through the dangers of spies and secrets and bravery of wartime Belgium and France.

With her third novel, Breslin has confirmed her talent for writing deeply moving historical fiction that plunge the depths of human behavior. I cannot recommend High as the Heavens enough and am once again looking forward to reading more from this author.

RATING: 4.5 stars


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

KATE BRESLINA Florida girl who migrated to the beautiful Pacific Northwest, Kate Breslin lives with her guitarist husband, John, and a spoiled cat named Coco. Kate has written several travel articles, published award-winning poetry, and her first manuscript, a Scottish historical romance, was finalist in RWA’s Golden Heart Contest. These days, when she’s not writing inspirational fiction or spending time with her author friends, she’s reading books, watching anything Jane Austen on BBC, or following John’s musical career as his #1 fan. An avid  “tree-hugger” she often enjoys long walks in the forests or playing in the garden. Kate’s also a traveler–she and John have toured most of Washington state and many places in the U.S. And with her intrepid mom as traveling companion, Kate’s also been abroad–Paris, Munich, Rome, Pompeii, Athens, even a day trip to Turkey. She’s always looking for the next story idea!