Out of the Ordinary by Jen Turano

Miss Gertrude Cadwalader hoped her position as the paid companion to Mrs. Davenport would be easy. But as she becomes acquainted with her employer, she realizes the wealthy Mrs. Davenport has a strange tendency to be a bit light-fingered with other people’s trinkets. Gertrude is relieved when Mrs. Davenport decides to have a quiet summer away from the social scene–until the woman changes her mind in order to help a young socialite launch into society.

When Gertrude is caught in the act of trying to return one of the trinkets by Mrs. Sinclair, the mother of shipping magnate Harrison Sinclair, the woman jumps to an unfortunate conclusion. Harrison is determined to mend fences with Miss Cadwalader, but he’s unprepared for the escapades a friendship with her will entail. – from author’s website

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I was constantly laughing and loved the dialogue and the characters. There were many misunderstandings between the characters which were sweet and innocent and provided for a bunch of laughs. Harrison was adorable with his blunders with women and yet he was very sweet even though he claimed to not understand women. Gertrude was relatable with thinking she was ordinary and that she thought she had too much extra weight. I found the whole cast of characters to be a delight and I’m looking forward to the next book in the series.

This book was provided by Bethany House in exchange for an honest review.


Christmas at Carnton by Tamera Alexander

Amid war and the fading dream of the Confederacy, a wounded soldier and a destitute widow discover the true meaning of Christmas—and of 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, 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. – from author’s website.

This was a cute little romance set during the time of the American civil war. It showed the devastating effects of the war on the women and families who were left behind. At times I felt like the romance between Aletta and Jake was happening fairly quickly especially since it hadn’t been too long before that Aletta had received word that her husband had died in battle, but I know it was a different time and that her circumstances would have played a factor in it. I also like knowing that the place in the book exists in real life which Alexander does in most of her books. It gives an added dimension to the book and authenticity.

Where We Belong by Lynn Austin

In the city of Chicago in 1892, the rules for Victorian women are strict, their roles limited. But sisters Rebecca and Flora Hawes are not typical Victorian ladies. Their love of adventure and their desire to use their God-given talents has brought them to the Sinai Desert–and into a sandstorm.

Accompanied by Soren Petersen, their somber young butler, and Kate Rafferty, a street urchin who is learning to be their ladies’ maid, the two women are on a quest to find an important biblical manuscript. As the journey becomes more dangerous and uncertain, the four travelers sift through memories of their past, recalling the events that shaped them and the circumstances that brought them to this time and place. – from author’s website

Normally, I like Lynn Austin’s books but I found this one dragged along too much. It was very slow moving and I got about a quarter of the way through the book and I still had no idea what was really going on. A lot of it was flashbacks. I understand that it was to give depth to the characters and insight into how they were raised and who they were but I actually found it harder to get into the characters and follow the story. In complete honesty, I didn’t actually finish the book because I wasn’t enjoying it so it may have gotten better further into the book.

High as the Heavens by Kate Breslin

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. – from author’s webiste

This book had a slightly darker tone than I’m used to in the historical books I read because of the setting and storyline. It was a different take on World War I than what I’ve read before with the heroine of the story already being married yet not being with her husband. I liked the few flashbacks of Simon & Evelyn’s love story. It made me root for them that much more. I also liked that the ending wasn’t completely happy because it made it more realistic and still maintained the overall tone of the book. The ending still brought a close to Simon & Evelyn’s story just with not everything resolved as the war hadn’t ended. It is an excellent book for those who enjoy war stories and prefer some darker or more melancholy themes.

“Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.”

The Writing Desk by Rachel Hauck

Tenley Roth’s first book was a runaway bestseller. Now that her second book is due, she’s locked in fear. Can she repeat her earlier success or is she a fraud who has run out of inspiration?

With pressure mounting from her publisher, Tenley is weighted with writer’s block. But when her estranged mother calls asking Tenley to help her through chemotherapy, she packs up for Florida where she meets handsome furniture designer Jonas Sullivan and discovers the story her heart’s been missing.

A century earlier, another woman wrote at the same desk with hopes and fears of her own. Born during the Gilded Age, Birdie Shehorn is the daughter of the old money Knickerbockers. Under the strict control of her mother, her every move is decided ahead of time, even whom she’ll marry. But Birdie has dreams she doesn’t know how to realize. She wants to tell stories, write novels, make an impact on the world. When she discovers her mother has taken extreme measures to manipulate her future, she must choose between submission and security or forging a brand new way all on her own.

Tenley and Birdie are from two very different worlds, but fate has bound them together in a way time cannot erase. – from author’s website

I liked the story set in the past better than the one in the present. The one in present day didn’t interest me much. The romance between Tenley and Jonas didn’t seem as genuine to me. Tenley was almost a little too eccentric for me. The only way I related to her was the writing aspect and her doubts about her writing ability. I enjoyed Birdie and Eli’s story – how they loved each other, yet because of their families, they weren’t allowed to let it go anywhere. I also liked how Birdie wanted to be a writer despite all the obstacles in her way relevant to the time period she lived in. I really liked how Eli supported and encouraged her from the beginning.

To Wager Her Heart by Tamera Alexander

With fates bound by a shared tragedy, a reformed gambler from the Colorado Territory and a Southern Belle bent on breaking free from society’s expectations must work together to achieve their dreams—provided the truth doesn’t tear them apart first.

Seeking justice . . .

Sylas Rutledge, the new owner of the Northeast Line Railroad, invests everything he has into this venture, partly for the sake of the challenge. But mostly to clear his father’s name. One man holds the key to Sy’s success—General William Giles Harding of Nashville’s Belle Meade Plantation. But Harding is champagne and thoroughbreds, and Sy Rutledge is beer and bullocks. Sy needs someone to help him maneuver his way through Nashville’s society, and when he meets Alexandra Jamison, he quickly decides he’s found his tutor. Only, he soon discovers that the very train accident his father is blamed for causing is what killed Alexandra Jamison’s fiancé—and has broken her heart.

Struggling to restore honor . . .

Spurning an arranged marriage by her father, Alexandra instead pursues her passion for teaching at Fisk University, the first freedmen’s university in the United States. But family—and Nashville society—do not approve, and she soon finds herself cast out from both.

Through connections with the Harding family, Alexandra and Sy become unlikely allies. And despite her first impressions, Alexandra gradually finds herself coming to respect, and even care for this man. But how can she, when her heart is still spoken for? And when Sy’s roguish qualities and adventuresome spirit smack more of recklessness than responsibility and honor?

Sylas Rutledge will risk everything to win over the woman he loves. What he doesn’t count on is having to wager her heart to do it. – from author’s website

I thought this book was a sweet little romance in a setting with some difficult topics. The historical setting and society were well displayed and I could feel what society was like at that time with black people being freed but were still not accepted by most of the whites. I liked the first half of the book better as there was more conflict and it was more nuanced. I felt like the climax of the story wasn’t well displayed and couldn’t really tell you where it was. The climax wasn’t as clear cut as I like them to be but I still enjoyed the story.

A Name Unknown by Roseanna M. White

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. – from author’s website

I was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked this book. At the beginning of the book, I didn’t think I was going to like Rosemary. I found White did a fairly good job of making a thief the main character and making her believable and lovable at the same time. At times the book was a little slower in pace than I would have liked because there wasn’t as much dialogue because of Peter’s stuttering. I found Peter to be endearing and the stuttering made him more so. I liked the suspense aspect as a secondary feature in this story and how it was woven throughout the story so you didn’t forget that it was supposed to be part of the story. I also didn’t figure out who the bad guy was until it was revealed which I always like because it’s not super obvious.

The Captain’s Daughters by Jennifer Delamere

When a series of circumstances beyond her control leave Rosalyn Bernay alone and penniless in London, she chances upon a job backstage at a theater which is presenting the most popular show in London. A talented musician and singer, she feels immediately at home and soon becomes enthralled with the idea of pursuing a career on the stage.

An injury during a skirmish in India has forced Nate Moran out of the army until he recovers. Filling his time at a stable of horses for hire in London, he has also spent the past two months working nights as a stagehand, filling in for his injured brother. Although he’s glad he can help his family through a tough time, he is counting the days until he can rejoin his regiment. London holds bitter memories for him that he is anxious to escape. But then he meets the beautiful woman who has found a new lease on life in the very place Nate can’t wait to leave behind. – from author’s website

This book was decent. I did, however, find myself getting quite annoyed with Rosalyn. I get really frustrated when the heroines in books are flirted with or pursued by a man who obviously does not have good intentions and the heroine is absolutely taken in by it. It was quite frustrating with how naïve Rosalyn was in this regard. However, I really enjoyed Nate. His interactions with his family and his convictions endeared me to him. Honestly, if it wasn’t for Nate’s character I might have stopped reading the book because of how frustrated I was with Rosalyn.

Heart on the Line by Karen Witemeyer

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. – from author’s website

This was another delightful read from Karen Witemeyer. It was a little different than most of her books in that it followed the main romance but also had a side romance. The way Witemeyer did it was tasteful and still gave you the depth to her characters that you normally expect from her. I could relate to almost all of the characters in some manner and it made the story more enjoyable for me. I liked how Witemeyer took the modern online dating and put it in the past as two people talking over the wire using Morse code. I guess one negative thing I could say about the book was that I wished I could have fallen deeper into Helen’s story and have it as a separate book, but I guess that attests to how well I enjoy Witemeyer’s characters.

A Stranger at Fellsworth by Sarah E. Ladd

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, the home of her long-estranged aunt and uncle, where a teaching position awaits her. Working for a wage for the first time in her life forces Annabelle to adapt to often unpleasant situations as friendships and roles she’s taken for granted are called into question.

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 eventually purchase land that he can call his own. When a chance encounter introduces him to the lovely Annabelle Thorley, his steady life is shaken. For the first time since his wife’s tragic death, Owen begins to dream of 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.
– from author’s website

This was the first book of Sarah Ladd’s that I’ve read and I enjoyed it and may read more of hers in the future. This is the third book in the series but it can be read as a stand-alone. I don’t think the characters from the other books even appear in this one. I would have liked the suspense to be more consistent throughout the book, but I still enjoyed trying to reason through who the murderer was and why it happened. The romance between Owen and Annabelle was sweet and I really liked Owen’s daughter. I really enjoyed the scenes his daughter was in. They were probably my favorite.