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: In Perfect Time by Sarah Sundin

In Perfect Time

Author Sarah Sundin completes her Wings of the Nightingale series with a dramatic finish in In Perfect Time, a novel of love and redemption between two unlikely characters who fight against all odds to find love during World War Two.

Through three years stationed in Italy, Lts. Kay Jobson and Roger Cooper have kept a steady cordial relationship. Kay, a beautiful flight nurse with a penchant for attracting attention, enjoys flirting and dancing, and dates many men for “fun.” Roger, a prankster pilot known for tardiness, is a former farm-boy who dislikes rules and regulations; he hopes to drum in a big-band after the war ends. With Kay’s flirtatious manner and Roger’s refusal to date, the two seem as likely to fall for each other as the Axis and Allies do of reaching a compromise. Nevertheless, Kay takes Roger’s rejection as a slight to her ability to get any man she wants. As Kay fights to understand what she has to do gain Roger’s attention, he struggles to trust himself with women—no easy task as Roger’s romantic past continually makes him question his decisions. Roger and Kay learn that it is only through God’s forgiveness and love that both of them can move forward from painful pasts. The timing of their potential relationship, however, is threatened by years of hurtful comments from family members that deepen minimal self-confidence in themselves and each other. Neither Kay nor Roger believes that they are good enough for God’s redemption or for the other person’s love. Dangerous missions across enemy territory thrust Kay and Roger into situations that grow their feelings for each other. The only question left is whether God’s forgiveness and the resulting redemption is enough for Kay and Roger to trust in His timing to bring them together.

Sundin is a master of World War Two historical romance novels. In Perfect Time is no exception to this statement—in fact, this novel may be her best yet as it spans multiple settings, utilizes a completely new plot line rarely discussed in World War Two novels, and threads in characters from her previous stories through the current characters’ experiences. From Italy, India, and France to the home-front across the United States, Sundin takes her readers to the front lines, behind enemy territory, through fields and towns with partisans, to USO tours. No setting is left untouched, and her vivid descriptions make it seem as if the war is currently taking place. Sundin’s attention to detail—especially to dialog, cultural standards, and heritage—display her love for World War Two history and her desire to bring love to light as a way of honoring those who valiantly fought abroad and at home during the war. One of Sundin’s tools for achieving this genuine love of the time period is her characters. In Perfect Time is filled with all the characters for a compelling story: the flirtatious vixen out to master men, the prankster running to escape his past, the brave boy fighting for his country, the sweet nurse awaiting her love…and many others who serve to complete the story of Kay and Roger’s love. Each character is one that readers can easily see amongst the streets and battlefields of World War Two. Sundin’s characters are completely and wholly human—relatable in a way that makes readers feel as if they could be the Roger, Kay, Georgie, Mellie, Vera, Mike, or Enrico of their own World War Two story.

I bought Sundin’s Wings of Glory series as a whole; I pre-ordered the first two novels of the Wings of the Nightingale series; and had I not received In Perfect Time as an ARC I would have been the first person to my local Family Christian store to buy the novel. Sundin is one of my favorite authors, and I will continually anxiously await her future novels. In Perfect Time wins five-out-of-five stars for a stellar plot and relatable, loveable characters that readers will cheer for their deserved happy ending.

Stars: 5 of 5

Book Review of Through the Deep Waters by Kim Vogel Sawyer

Through the Deep WatersIn late 1800s Kansas, redemption, compassion, love, and trust challenge characters in Kim Vogel Sawyer’s Through the Deep Waters to meet God in unprecedented ways as they discover who they are truly meant to be and how they are to live in their lives.

Veteran historical-fiction author Sawyer, a native of Kansas, brings readers to the Clifton Hotel in her latest novel. Through the Deep Waters begins in Chicago, as seventeen-year-old Dinah Hubley struggles to break free of the bonds of being born-and-raised in the brothel that employed her mother for Dinah’s entire life. Shortly before her mother’s death, Dinah is forced to make a decision that ultimately impacts her future both positively and negatively. Believing that making a new life for herself as Harvey girl—a celebrated waitress for a wealthy businessman that operates hotels and restaurants along major train lines—she relocates to Kansas to build a new life. In her search to find the respectability she lacked growing up at the brothel, Dinah realizes over time that the acceptance and compassion she so longs for can only come through God’s loving grace and redemption.

Amos Ackerman’s life is forever changed with Dinah Hubley’s arrival in Florence Kansas. A hard-working chicken farmer dedicated to making a successful life for himself, Amos and Dinah form an unlikely friendship through a mutual understanding that compassion and kindness are often the only offerings needed to be given to make a connection with another person. Amos’ greatest desire—to support and grow a loving family—is heightened by Dinah’s arrival because he believes that God’s plan for him involves Amos’ taking Dinah for a wife. However, as his plans frustratingly become more and more sidetracked, Amos has to consider that his wants and desires may not be what God has in mind for him.

Through the Deep Waters is an excellent novel for many reasons, but Sawyer excels most in her inspirational teachings of compassion, redemption, mercy, and God’s plans for His children. From the blunt yet gentle reminder of prostitution’s harsh realities to God’s simple and unfailing love for each person who gives their lives to Him, Sawyer could not make it any plainer in Through the Deep Waters that people do not need to be good to deserve God’s love. Dinah and Amos experience devastating circumstances and do not come to peaceful lives easily. Yet through their painful situations and subsequent lessons learned, readers find gentle Scriptural teachings that show not just the verses that explain God’s love but how to go about asking and receiving His mercy and redemption. Minor characters who offer unlimited support of friendship and Christian teachings make the lessons and questions believable as they share God’s Word with Dinah and Amos. Sawyer’s two main characters are wholly real because they constantly question, become frustrated and angry and passionate, and question what is going on in their lives as they thought they had situations—and God—figured out.

Amos, Dinah, and minor character Ruthie—who, although minor, actually plays a rather significant role in the novel—are loveable and challenging characters whom readers will instantly connect with in Through the Deep Waters because all of them are flawed but good people. Readers will hurt with Dinah for her painful past but hope for her to overcome the negative emotions to succeed as a potential Harvey girl. Dinah’s emotions are valid, but her refusal to connect with others becomes grating at later points in the novel. At some point it becomes wearisome to wonder whether Dinah will always hold onto her past…but the questioning is worth it come the ending of the novel. Amos is the quintessential hero who does not know how valuable he is as a friend and potential beau. A prince among men, readers will cheer for Amos as he tirelessly works to build up his chicken farm in preparation to take a wife and support a family. His frustration with romantic adventures will make readers cringe in disappointment as Amos struggles to find his way between who God wants him to love and the girl is actually the one for him. Dinah’s roommate and friend, Ruthie, is the friend that everyone has in their lifetime: the one who comforts, who supports, and who shares their family unconditionally…but who also becomes jealous at times and becomes frustrated when it seems that the other friend has all the blessings. Dinah and Ruthie’s friendship is one that all readers are blessed to share with another and with the characters of the novel.

Through the Deep Waters is an inspirational story of love, mercy, and redemption whose lessons will stay with readers long after the novel is finished being read. Sawyer’s writing is flawless—full sentences are used through the book, which doesn’t always happen in Christian fiction and is much appreciated by readers who prefer well-written prose over simplicity. The Christian lessons and Scripture verses are incorporated seamlessly into the plot and are easy to both understand within the content of the story and within personal lives. Sawyer’s choice of a setting—the Harvey girls’ hotel stories—is commendable because the history is not well-known. If readers are not previously known to Sawyer’s stories, Through the Deep Waters will have them hooked and wanting to read the author’s other novels.

Stars: 4.5/5