Downton Abbey/Upstairs Downstairs Fans Rejoice

governess of highland hall

I am a fan of books set in the era (early 1900s) and have come across one or two great Christian fiction books that do the time period justice. Now I have another author to add to my list of those who did it right.

In The Governess of Highland Hall, Julia Foster has just returned from living in the mission field in India with her parents for twelve years because of her father’s failing health. Determined to help her parents out, she applies for a position as a governess at a manor near her parents. She will be caring for Sir William Ramsey’s two children as well as his two older nieces. Sir William has recently inherited Highland Hall to find that the finances aren’t there to pay the death taxes and he is struggling with hurt from his past.

Both Julia and William are fighting to save their families. Julia’s steadfastness and patience with those around her wins several members of Highland Hall right away but there are others who aren’t so sure about her. Sir William is trying desperately to find a solution to keep his family at Highland Hall and not have to uproot everyone.

I loved this book. My only complaint is that it ended too abruptly. I was relieved to see that this seems to be the first book in what is hopefully going to be a series. Carrie Turansky did a wonderful job of sharing the lives of the servants as well as the Highland Hall family so readers get a peak behind both worlds. And while there were some pretty predictable things in the story, it was an engaging and uplifting story.

*****Waterbrook Multnomah provided me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review. I was not compensated in any way for either a negative or positive review.

Amazing, Engaging Read

chasing hope cover

Seven years ago I signed up for my first marathon. While training for this marathon, I found a lot of correlation between a Christian walk and training. You can plan for something to go one way (in life or a training run) but once you get there, it may be completely different. Will you give up or push through. I will never forget our first ten mile training run. Every Saturday we had a group run but three of us came an hour after the rest of the team because of a scheduling issue with one of us. Our ten mile run was at the end of July or first of August in Tennessee and we decided that instead of doing an out and back course we were going to park a second car at the ten mile point and run a point to point run. We got out and started the run and things went pretty well for the first half of the run but then we got out of the shade and into the direct sunlight. Because we were running a point to point, after mile 5 we also lost our water stops. It was a tough second five miles. We were all struggling but we pushed through and we made it. Then we got to the car that we had parked and found the keys had been locked inside (thankfully we had someone who had an extra set of keys who could come let us in). Yes life gets rough but are you going to throw in the towel and quit or are you going to press towards the finish line and meeting your goals.

In Chasing Hope, author Kathryn Cushman uses one of her main character’s shattered dreams as a platform for overcoming disappointment. Sabrina Rice knew at a young age that her goal in life was to be a runner and for six years she did exactly that. Then a life changing health problem made it impossible for her to run. Ten years later, as Sabrina is finishing her final year of college, she sees Brandy Phillip running away from a security officer on campus. She hasn’t seen anyone run like that in a while. Through a series of circumstances, Sabrina is asked to coach Brandy who has a history of problems. Sabrina doesn’t want to do and is certain that Brandy will disappoint her.

Chasing Hope is a story of second chances. It’s the story of letting go of the past and looking to God for His future plans for you. It’s a story of redemption and a story of friendship. It’s a story of finishing what you started no matter how you may falter along the way. I had tears in my eyes during parts of this book but they were good tears. I highly recommend this beautiful book.

I would give this book 4.5 out 5 stars

****Bethany House Publishers provided me with a free eCopy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review. I was not compensated in any way for either a positive or a negative review

Quirky but Average Read

harriet beamer cover

When I was growing up, we always lived at least two states away from both sets of my grandparents so I never had the relationship with them that some of my cousins have had. Joyce Magnin’s main character, Harriet Beamer, seems like the type of grandmother that every child should have. She’s quirky, a little bit silly and values her friends and family (and of course her Basset Hound, Humphrey).

In Harriet Beamer Strikes Gold, Harriet is feeling a little left out after her move across the country to live with her son and daughter-in-law. When Harriet is visiting a local café and runs into a teenage girl who tells her about a gold mine her father is looking for an investor for, Harriet feels this could be something she can call her own. She also finds out that she is getting a new Grammy Suite to call her own (with room for her collection of salt and pepper shakers), her best friend is coming to visit from Pennsylvania and she is going to become a grandmother for the first time (to twins). With all of this excitement in her life, will Harriet be able to see the truth behind the gold mine? Will she learn where the true treasure lies in her life?

The story was engaging and moved a long pretty well because there was so much going on but I just couldn’t get past the fact that the main character seemed to ignore so many warning signs. I was also a little bothered by the fact that when the characters said they would pray, I never read any prayers, just conversation between characters. Yes the conversation was often about God but I would have liked to have seen some prayer written into the book.

Over all, I would give the book three stars out of five

****Zondervan Publishing provided me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review. I was not compensated in any way for either a negative or positive review.

Great Debut Novel

made to last cover

So, if you haven’t figured it out yet, I love to read. I have always got a book with me and am on the lookout for authors that I might like. Melissa Tagg is definitely going on the list. Her debut novel, Made to Last is humorous and engaging with a good message.

Miranda Woodruff’s passion is her home improvement show. She loves working with tools and with wood. The only problem is she hasn’t been truthful with her audience in three seasons. You see, she has alluded to her husband often on the show. The only problem is, she doesn’t have a husband. When she first auditioned, life was good and she was on her way to having a husband and the network executives liked that angle so the story stuck. Now her show in in jeopardy and in order to save her show, her manager and producer decide it’s time to introduce her husband to the world. Matthew Knox has been knocked down in his career as a reporter. He has made some mistakes and is trying to overcome them. When he is given the opportunity to shadow Miranda and do a blog series about her, he agrees (mainly because he doesn’t want to disappoint his niece). Will Miranda and Matthew be able to let go of their past hurts or will the fear of being hurt again keep them from finding their identities in God? Will it keep them from finding true love?

Tagg does a wonderful job of keeping the story engaging and moving along. The characters are lovable and well-rounded. At first I was wondering if this may have been a second book in a series (by the way, I would love to hear Jase and Izzy’s story!!) but when I looked up the author, I found this is a debut novel. Great read for fans of Christian fiction (romance/chick lit).

I would give the book five out of five stars.

*****Bethany House Publishing provided me with a free eCopy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review. I was not compensated in any way for either a negative or a positive review.

Unequal Affections: A Pride and Prejudice Retelling

A re-telling of “Pride and Prejudice” examines the question of what would have happened between Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy if she had accepted that first proposal at Rosings. Darcy knew that he loved Elizabeth at that time, Elizabeth knew that she did not love Darcy. Would they both come to realize their errors, their own arrogance and pride? Would each of them be willing to change who they were for the other?

This year I have been reading a lot of takes on “P&P”, books from Darcy’s perspective, book about what would have happened had Darcy and Elizabeth not met again after that first proposal and I really enjoyed “The Lizzie Bennet Diaries” vlogs that were done online this past year. This rendition of P&P was well done and in the end, everything you loved about the original was brought back, just in a different way.

Due out in October 2013, Unequal Affections is a good read for any Austenites out there.

*****W.W. Norton provided me with a free eCopy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review. I was not compensated in any way for either a negative or positive review