Monday, September 30, 2013

The Nurse's Secret Suitor Book Review





ABOUT THE BOOK

A Strong-Willed Heart Trauma nurse Kate Dalton can handle any challenge—except love. The combat veteran dreams of settling down, but heartbreak is one risk she won't take. Then a chance encounter opens her heart to a masked stranger…who might not be a stranger after all! Caleb Landis, the army medic behind the disguise, has always admired Kate, even though she only saw him as her best friend's brother. What will it take for Kate to discard her fears and discover the man she's always hoped to unmask? Eagle Point Emergency: Saving lives—and losing their hearts— in a small Illinois town

If you would like to read the first chapter of The Nurse's Secret Suitor, go HERE.



My Review
This book takes a unique twist of a modern day mystery romance. I have read many historical novels that portray the male character to be hidden behind a mask but never a contemporary novel. Anyway Kate is swept away by this mystery man and then discovers someone else. Feeling confused between the two she figures she needs to put away her feelings for an unknown man.
It's a fun idea, but I give this book three stars. It's too easy to figure out and didn't draw me into the story line after the first couple of chapters.
In any case, I know there are many Love Inspired fans who would love this book!

 "I received this book from CFBA for free in exchange for an honest review."






This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
The Nurse's Secret Suitor
Love Inspired (October 1, 2013)
by
Cheryl Wyatt


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Not even Cheryl Wyatt’s closest friends would dream that this sweet, shy intercessor plots mayhem during announcements at church. She is a Registered Nurse turned stay-at-home-mom, wife and writer who loves Jesus with all of her heart.

Joyful chaos rules her home, and she delights in the stealth moments God gives her to write. She stays active in her church and in her laundry room. She is convinced that having been born on a Naval base on Valentines Day destined her to write Inspirational Military Romance.

Cheryl loves to laugh and to make others laugh, so she often plans comedic moments for her defenseless characters in spite of their grumbling. She says it’s payback for when they refuse to obey the plots she’s set out before them.

Prior to publication, six of Cheryl’s manuscripts placed in ten RWA Contests. Two of Cheryl’s stories also placed First in ACFW’s Noble Theme Contest 2005 (Contemporary Romance Category), as well as ACFW‘s Genesis Contest 2006 (Mystery/Suspense/Thriller Category).

She currently writes for Love Inspired. Her Wings of Refuge Series, about a team of USAF Pararescue Jumpers and the ladies who capture their hearts, can be purchased anywhere books are sold.

Friday, September 27, 2013

The Total Money Makeover Book Review

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About the Book

Build up your money muscles with America’s favorite finance coach. Okay, folks, do you want to turn those fat and flabby expenses into a well-toned budget? Do you want to transform your sad and skinny little bank account into a bulked-up cash machine? Then get with the program, people. There’s one sure way to whip your finances into shape, and that’s with The Total Money Makeover: Classic Edition. By now, you’ve heard all the nutty get-rich-quick schemes, the fiscal diet fads that leave you with a lot of kooky ideas but not a penny in your pocket. Hey, if you’re tired of the lies and sick of the false promises, take a look at this—it’s the simplest, most straightforward game plan for completely making over your money habits. And it’s based on results, not pie-in-the-sky fantasies. 

With The Total Money Makeover: Classic Edition, you’ll be able to:
 •Design a sure-fire plan for paying off all debt—meaning cars, houses, everything •Recognize the 10 most dangerous money myths (these will kill you) •Secure a big, fat nest egg for emergencies and retirement! (Booksneeze)


 My Review
I am a huge fan of Dave Ramsey. I first learned about him when we did a financial class in my youth group years ago. I have now incorporated more of his ideas into our family budget and am always wanting to read more of his ideas. While his ideas are not earth shattering or complicated(it's simple which is why people do it!)-it helps when someone can explain a budget and give you examples on how it should look. From his personal experience he gives great advice on everything from retirement to cutting down the credit card debt. This book is organized in an easy to read format and I like it better than the other editions. 

 "I received this book from Booksneeze for free in exchange for an honest review."

Before the Dawn and Sweet September Two Book Review



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About the Book
Charlotte Stevenson's world is turned upside down by the death of her daughter Denise. Denise ran away from home as a teenager and Charlotte has never forgiven herself. Now, Denise's three children are coming to live on Heather Creek Farm. Is this Charlotte's chance to make things right?

The three kids arrive on the farm: Sam fiercely protective of his younger siblings; Emily, desperately missing her friends; and young Christopher, a sweet soul who wants to fit in. While Charlotte helps the grandchildren she barely knows adjust to their new life, she also wrestles with her own grief. Well-meaning friends offer heartfelt advice but what if Charlotte makes the same mistakes this time around?

But small joys remind Charlotte that God gives grace freely, even in trying times, when Emily discovers her mother's horse in the midst of a difficult birth, the whole family comes together to save the animal that Denise loved. The miracle of new life, along with God's healing touch, reminds all of them that it's always darkest just before the dawn. (Goodreads)



My Review

I was excited about this book because my husband is a farmer and the cover is beautiful. Sometimes Guidepost books can be a bit bland but this one was very good. Charlotte's guilt from her past of her daughter running away pulls up into the present as she is raising Denise's children. Not until recently had I ever thought about how many grandparents are ending up parenting their grandchildren and what it would be like. I can't imagine what it would be like to be raising little ones when your body is wore out-huge life change. 
Anyway, this topic is a huge part of the story line. Grandparents raising kids on the farm and the difficulties it brings. These kids are from the city and can't believe there is no phone service, they learn to ride horses, and many other life experiences. 
I love how real this story is to real life and the characters are created beautifully. I highly recommend for a good solid read.

"I received this book from Litfuse for free in exchange for an honest review."




My Review

As the sequel to Before the Dawn I was interested to see where the rest of the story would go. I enjoyed this book, though I like the first book better. This takes you to after the children having been living with their grandparents awhile and the difficulties that ensue with a new school and community. While some are doing good in school some are messing around and it is almost too much for grandma to handle. 
This gives a great glimpse into life after much conflict but a lot more day to day real life antics. 

"I received this book from Litfuse for free in exchange for an honest review."






Guideposts Books is thrilled to announce their brand new series, Home to Heather Creek, by Kathleen Bauer. The first two books, Before the Dawn and Sweet September, launch this month and Guideposts Books is celebrating with a Paperwhite Kindle Giveaway!


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One winner will receive:
  • A Paperwhite Kindle
  • Before the Dawn and Sweet September by Kathleen Bauer
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on October 5th. All winners will be announced October 7th HERE.

Don't miss a moment of the fun; enter today and be sure to visit the Litfuse blog on the 7th to see if you won! (Or better yet, subscribe to their blog [enter your email in the blog sidebar] and have the winner announcement delivered to your inbox!)

Fired Up Book Review


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About the Book
Dare Riker is a doctor who saves lives, but someone seems determined to end his. It may have something to do with the traitors he dealt with during the Civil War, or it might be related to the recent incident with Flint Greer and the ranch. Whoever the culprit is, he or she seems really fired up, and Dare can't let his guard down for a moment, which is a challenge, since right now he's trying to win the heart of the recently widowed Glynna.

Glynna Greer came west as a mail-order bride and ended up in a bad situation. Now her husband, Flint, is dead, and she's determined to care for her son and daughter on her own. She wants to believe Dare Riker is as decent as he seems, but she's terrified to lock herself into another marriage. She plans to support her small family by opening a diner—never mind that cooking is not her greatest talent. The men in Broken Wheel, Texas, are so desperate for home cooking that they seem willing to overlook dried-out beef and blackened biscuits.

Glynna can't help but notice that danger follows Dare wherever he goes. There's the avalanche. And then the fire. But things really get out of hand when someone plunges a knife from Glynna's diner into Dare's back. Are Flint's cronies still plotting revenge? Is Glynna's son engaged in a misguided attempt to protect his mother? Is a shadowy outsider still enraged over past injustices? And can Dare survive long enough to convince Glynna to take another chance on love?(Goodreads)


My Review
Fired Up is the second book in the Trouble in Texas Series by Mary Connealy. You do not have to read the first book in the series to understand what is going on but it does give a background into the other characters and Glynna's past.
I think the first book is much better than this one.There is some old west adventure and romance but for me the story drug on for awhile. I couldn't really relate to the characters, it's very predictable, but Connealy does include her humor. The author does do a good job of putting the reader where the characters are, such as riding on the trail or helping the wounded.
For a humorous old western romance read, you will enjoy this. For those looking for a deeper story line, you probably won't enjoy this book as much.  

"I received this book from Litfuse for free in exchange for an honest review."













Mary Connealy is back with the second book, Fired Up, in her Trouble in Texas series, and she's celebrating with a Kindle Fire giveaway and a LIVE author chat party on October 8th.

Fired-Up-rafflecopter

  One winner will receive:
  • A Kindle Fire HD
  • Swept Away  and Fired Up by Mary Connealy
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on October 8th. Winner will be announced at the "Fired Up" Live Webcast Event on October 8th. Connect with Mary for an evening of book chat, trivia, laughter, and more! Mary will also be taking questions from the audience and giving away books and fun gift certificates throughout the evening.

So grab your copy of Fired Up and join Mary and friends on the evening of October 8th for a chance to connect and make some new friends. (If you haven't read the book, don't let that stop you from coming!)

Don't miss a moment of the fun; RSVP today by signing up for a reminder. Tell your friends via FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning. Hope to see you on the 8th!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Invention of Sarah Cummings Book Review




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About the Book
Sarah Cummings has one goal in life--to break into Chicago's high society. Desperate to stop serving dinner and to start eating at society tables, Sarah alters cast-off gowns from the wealthy Banning women to create lustrous, flattering dresses of her own. On a whim at a chance meeting, she presents herself as Serena Cuthbert, weaving a fictitious past to go with her fictitious name. But as she gets closer to Simon Tewell, the director of St. Andrew's Orphanage, Sarah finds that she must choose between the life she has and the life she dreams of. Will she sacrifice love to continue her pretense? Or can Simon show her that sometimes you don't have to pretend for dreams to come true?
Olivia Newport brings us back to Prairie Avenue to explore the place where class, social expectations, and romance come together. Readers will enjoy following the intrepid Sarah as she searches for true love in a world of illusions. (Goodreads)




My Review
I had not read the first two books in this series Avenue of Dreams by Olivia Newport. The covers to all the books are stunning and I love the time period of the late eighteen hundreds. I enjoyed reading the twist to this story as Sarah creates a new identify for herself, Serena Cuthbert. While she is lying to everyone she knows, she is determined to break into the high society and prove to them she has what it takes to wine and dine instead of being a parlor maid. 
I really enjoyed the setting, Sarah got on my nerves because after awhile she didn't think she was doing anything wrong. The male characters did not stand out to me in this book so the love story was minimal. I did enjoy the entire point of the storyline with Sarah's growth and self acceptance. 
I rate it four stars, historical fiction lovers will enjoy. 

"I received this book from Revell for free in exchange for an honest review."


For Olivia Newport’s website, facebook or twitter visit



“Available August 2013 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.”






Made to Last CFBA Book Review Tour


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About the Book

Miranda Woodruff has it all. At least, that's how it looks when she's starring in her homebuilding television show, From the Ground Up. So when her network begins to talk about making cuts, she'll do anything to boost ratings and save her show--even if it means pretending to be married to a man who's definitely not the fiance who ran out on her three years ago.

When a handsome reporter starts shadowing Miranda's every move, all his digging into her personal life brings him a little too close to the truth--and to her. Can the girl whose entire identity is wrapped up in her on-screen persona finally find the nerve to set the record straight? And if she does, will the life she's built come crashing down just as she's found a love to last?

If you'd like to read the first chapter of Made to Last, go HERE.


My Review



Contemporary romance novels are not my first pick when it comes to a book to read. But sometimes a good one comes along that is full of humor that I simply enjoy. 
Made to Last just made it onto that list. I really enjoyed the characters and the twist of Miranda's profession running her own TV show. When she hires a husband the ending seems predictable but the author throws a reporter into the mix who is not what I expected. 
Obviously her lie about her fake husband comes to an end and her personal struggle creates the storyline. For a sweet love story and a humorous setting readers will enjoy this easy read!

"I received this book from CFBA for free in exchange for an honest review."
This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Made to Last
Bethany House Publishers (September 15, 2013)
by
Melissa Tagg


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

A Word From The Author:

I’m a former reporter turned author who loves all things funny and romancey. My debut novel, a romantic comedy titled Made to Last, releases from Bethany House in September 2013. In addition to my nonprofit day job, I’m also the marketing/events coordinator for My Book Therapy, a craft and coaching community for novelists.

It all started when my dad, at the ripe old age of sixteen, picked up my mom up for their first date. She was thirteen. Thirteen!* Dad drove a cherry red car up the lane to my grandparents big ol’ green house and honked his horn…whereupon Mom jumped out of the apple tree she’d been waiting in and off they went…fishing. True story. (I’d give more details, but I’m saving it for a novella I plan to entitle Two Leaves. Mom, I really hope you read this.)

Four years of college, a few trips abroad and a stint as a reporter later, that dream is soon to be a reality. My debut novel, a romantic comedy titled Made to Last, is now out from Bethany House. Book two, Here to Stay, comes out on May 1, 2014.

In between writing and staring out the window brainstorming, I also work as a grant-writer at one of Iowa’s largest private nonprofits and serve as the marketing/events coordinator for My Book Therapy, a craft and coaching community for novelists founded by Susan May Warren.

And I love, love, love talking about finding our purpose and identity in Christ. (And well, okay, food, old movies, boots and scarves, my awesome nephew Ollie, and, fine, Tim Tebow, too.)

Renovating Your Marriage Room By Room



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About the Book

When considering building a home, couples look for the right architect, right builder, and the right decorator to make their dream house a reality. They work with these people to sketch out plans for the structure of the house; determine what materials to use in building the house; and which decorations to use how to make the house warm and cozy. Accomplishing their goal and making sure they get exactly what they are paying for is in part due to everyone working off of the same set of blueprints and plan while they are exercising their unique talents and skills in getting the house completed. With the same care and even more, couples should invest in building their marital houses. Making sure they are working from the same plan, laying a solid foundation in the process and doing the work needed to keep their house intact and standing strong. In Renovating Your Marriage, Dr. Johnny Parker speaks to you and your spouse about building a house of togetherness brick by brick from the foundation up. He encourages you to consider the two possible foundations upon which marriages are built; then walks you through an inspection of your marital house, room by room. Is your marital house standing on a firm foundation or has it been shaken? Are you in need of a marriage renovation? Dr. Parker wants to help you answer these questions and make the changes necessary to give your love a new look. 


My Review

 I really enjoyed this book. Some marriage books are not helpful or interesting but this book is set up in a way that kept my interest and I think the author has has some great advice and insight from his personal experience. I enjoyed how he broke different topics down by house like, The Bathroom: The Shower of Forgiveness. I would call this a highlighter book because there is a ton of good stuff in here that I had to underline or highlight. 
Great marriage book, I highly recommend to couples!  

"I received this book from Moody Publishers for free in exchange for an honest review." 






Knowing God by Name Book Review

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 About the Book
In ancient times, names held power and significance, representing a person’s future or personality. Throughout Scripture, God reveals His complex character by identifying Himself by different names—names that shed light on who He is and how we should relate to Him. In this engaging book, the popular Girlfriends in God devotional team introduces you to forty of those names, each of which invites you to glory in a different aspect of our amazing God. In each day’s reading you’ll encounter personal, inspiring stories and biblical truths that lead you to a deeper understanding of who God is and what He does on your behalf. You’ll be fed with Scripture that you can apply to your unique circumstances. And most important, as you come to know Him by name, you’ll draw closer to God and learn to trust Him more fully. Each of the eight weeks concludes with a reflective study and action steps to encourage further prayer and dialogue between you and God—and also with your girlfriends, prayer partners, or small group. Special features include journaling pages and a pronunciation guide for God’s Hebrew and Greek names. Begin today with Knowing God by Name—and grow closer to the One who knows you by name. 


My Review


 This book was not at all what I expected-it was better! This book is organized into an 8 week Bible study about the names of God. Each day studies one name and at the end of the week there is a review over the past week and places to write notes. This looks like a normal book, I had no idea it would be so in depth for a great study! I have been in search for a Bible study and I love this one! My favorite day is The Jealous God- El Kannah. It's difficult to think of God as being a jealous God but how blessed are we that He loves us that much? Great insight. I highly recommend.

 "I received this book from WaterBrook Multnomah for free in exchange for an honest review."

Hop over to this website to learn more about this book and the authors!

Please rate my review.
 

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Raw Edges CFBA Book Review Tour








 
 
 
ABOUT THE BOOK

Grayson McDonough has no use for teal ribbons, 5k runs, or ovarian cancer support groups now that his beautiful wife Jenna is gone. But their nine-year-old daughter Sadie seems to need the connection. When Annabelle Curtis, the beautiful cancer survivor organizing the memory quilt project for the Ovacome support group, begins to bring out the silly and fun side of his precious daughter again, Gray must set aside his own grief to support the healing of Sadie’s young heart. But is there hope for Gray’s heart too along the way?

If you would like to read the first chapter of Raw Edge, go HERE.

 
My Review
I have enjoyed the Quilts of Love stories and this one has a great story line. Some parts to the story dragged on a bit for me but the main background is good. A woman dies from ovarian cancer and leaves her young daughter and husband behind after her death. This story reveals their struggles after this tragedy and how Gray and Sadie grow together and a part of a strong community. Gray is a very main character in this book and it is rare to have a male character's side for the main story line. I really did enjoy this book, and I learned a lot. 
 
"I received this book from CFBA for free in exchange for an honest review."
 
 
 
 
This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Raw Edge
Abingdon Press (September 17, 2013)
by
Sandra D. Bricker


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

For more than a decade, Sandra D. Bricker lived in Los Angeles. While honing her chosen craft of screenwriting in every spare moment, she worked as a personal assistant and publicist to some of daytime television's hottest stars. When her mother became ill in Florida, she walked away from that segment of her life and moved across the country to take on a new role: Caregiver.

The Big 5-OH! was released by Abingdon Press in the Spring of 2010, and the novel was very well-received, garnering a couple of nibbles from Hollywood.

Always the Baker, Never the Bride was released by Abingdon Press in September 2010. With its phenomenal reviews, the novel spawned a series of three more books based on the popular cast of characters at The Tanglewood Inn, a wedding destination hotel in historic Roswell, Georgia. The series cemented Sandie's spot in publishing as a flagship author of Laugh-Out-Loud romantic comedy for the inspirational market.

"Being allowed to combine my faith and my humor with my writing dream," says Bricker, "well, that's the best of all worlds, as far as I'm concerned!"


Watch the book trailer:

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Courier of Caswell Hall Book Review


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About the Book

An unlikely spy discovers freedom and love in the midst of the American Revolution.

As the British and Continental armies wage war in 1781, the daughter of a wealthy Virginia plantation owner feels conflict raging in her own heart. Lydia Caswell comes from a family of staunch Loyalists, but she wavers in her allegiance to the Crown.

On the night the British sail up the James River on a mission to destroy the new capital, Lydia discovers a wounded man on the riverbank near Caswell Hall. Fearing his identity but unwilling to leave him for dead, she secretly nurses him back to health. The man identifies himself as Nathan, a Patriot—and an enemy. But Lydia’s American sympathies grow, and when British officers return to the plantation, Lydia must help Nathan escape.

Privy to conversation among the officers at Caswell Hall, Lydia begins delivering secret messages to the Patriots in Williamsburg. When she overhears a plot to assassinate General Washington, she must risk her life to alert Nathan before it’s too late.( Goodreads)






My Review

I love any story that has to do with the Revolutionary War. I love the brave stories of people fighting for their freedom from the king and I enjoy reading both sides, Patriots and Loyalists. In any case as soon as I saw the cover to this book I was excited. There is a lot of history within the pages of this book which I enjoyed and the characters are realistic to the time. The horror of having your house set on fire by the opposing political power and living your daily life completely unsure about what to do next. Lydia is in a bad position because most of her family is loyalist and the other are considered rebels. What does she do? 
I love how the story plays out and reading about the spies, their plans, and their hiding places. There were some clever people who figured out how to be spies. 

Historical fiction lovers will enjoy this book, though at times it is a bit slow. 

"I received this book from Litfuse for free in exchange for an honest review."


Friday, September 20, 2013

Dangerous Passage Book Review



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About the Book
When two Jane Does are killed on the outskirts of Atlanta, Georgia, detective and behavioral specialist Avery North discovers they share something in common--a tattoo of a magnolia on their shoulders. Suspecting a serial killer, Avery joins forces with medical examiner Jackson Bryant to solve the crimes and prevent another murder. But it doesn't take long for them to realize that there is much more to the case than meets the eye. As they venture deep into a sinister world of human trafficking, Avery and Jackson are taken to the very edge of their abilities--and their hearts.
"Dangerous Passage "exposes a fully-realized and frightening world where every layer peeled back reveals more challenges ahead. Romantic suspense fans will be hooked from the start by Lisa Harris's first installment of the new Southern Crimes series.(Goodreads)




My Review
  Lisa Harris is a new author to me and I am very impressed! Dangerous Passage is the first book in the Southern Crimes Series. This book is fantastic! It kept my interest up, the characters were well developed, the love story was in there but not really what was most interesting. The nitty gritty of the murder mystery has a great message and I loved how the details were explained. 

I highly recommend to those who enjoy suspense!


"'I received this book from Revell for free in exchange for an honest review."

To connect with Lisa Harris be sure to visit her on her website, facebook or twitter

Beyond These Hills Book Review



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SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

In the romantic conclusion to the Smoky Mountain Dreams series, Sandra Robbins tells a story of love and loss. The government is purchasing property to establish the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and Laurel Jackson fears she’ll have to say goodbye to the only home she’s ever known. Can she find the strength to leave?

Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Series: Smoky Mountain Dreams (Book 3)
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers (September 1, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0736948880
ISBN-13: 978-0736948883



My Review
I love the cover of this book but have not read anything by this author. The setting is beautiful even amidst the difficult depression era. I learned a lot about the history of creating the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. I really enjoyed this book for the historical aspect more so than the love story. The love story is predictable and so is the rest of the book but for history lovers you will find this interesting. 
"I received this book from FIRST for free in exchange for an honest review."




It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!



Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:

Harvest House Publishers (September 1, 2013)

***Special thanks to Ginger Chen for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

In the romantic conclusion to the Smoky Mountain Dreams series, Sandra Robbins tells a story of love and loss. The government is purchasing property to establish the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and Laurel Jackson fears she’ll have to say goodbye to the only home she’s ever known. Can she find the strength to leave?

Visit the author's website.





Product Details:
List Price: $13.99
Series: Smoky Mountain Dreams (Book 3)
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers (September 1, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0736948880
ISBN-13: 978-0736948883


AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:

Cades Cove, Tennessee

June, 1935

  The needle on the pickup truck’s speedometer eased to thirty miles an hour. Laurel Jackson bit back a smile and glanced at her father. With his right hand on the steering wheel and his left elbow hanging out the open window, he reminded her of a little boy absorbed in the wonder of a new toy.

The wind ruffled his dark, silver-streaked hair, and a smile pulled at the corner of his mouth as the truck bounced along. His eyes held a faraway look that told her he was enjoying every minute of the drive along the new road that twisted through Cades Cove.

If truth be told, though, the truck with its dented fenders wasn’t all that new. He’d bought it a few months ago from Warren Hubbard, who’d cleaned out a few ditches in Cades Cove trying to bring the little Ford to a stop. Rumor had it he kept yelling Whoa! instead of pressing the brake. The good-natured ribbing of his neighbors had finally convinced Mr. Hubbard that he had no business behind the wheel of a truck.

Laurel’s father didn’t have that problem. He took to driving like their old hound dog Buster took to trailing a raccoon. Neither gave up until they’d finished what they’d started. Mama often said she didn’t know which one’s stubborn ways vexed her more—Poppa’s or Buster’s. Of course her eyes always twinkled when she said it.

The truck was another matter entirely. Mama saw no earthly reason why they needed that contraption on their farm when they had a perfectly good wagon and buggy. To her, it was another reminder of how life in Cades Cove was changing. Laurel could imagine what her mother would say if she could see Poppa now as the speed-
ometer inched up to thirty-five. Land’s sakes, Matthew. If you don’t keep both hands on the wheel, you’re gonna end up killing us all.

But Mama wasn’t with them today to tell Poppa they weren’t in a race, and he was taking advantage of her absence to test the limits of the truck. At this rate they’d make it to Gatlinburg earlier than expected. When she was a little girl, the ride in their wagon over to the mountain village that had become a favorite of tourists had seemed to take forever. Now, it took them less than half the time to get there.

She glanced at her father again and arched an eyebrow. “You’d better be glad Mama stayed home.”

Her father chuckled. “Do you think she’d say I was driving too fast?”

Laurel tilted her head to one side and tried to narrow her eyes into a thoughtful pose. “I’m sure she wouldn’t hesitate to let you know exactly how she felt.”

A big smile creased her father’s face, and he nodded. “You’re right about that. Your mother may run a successful business from a valley in the middle of the Smoky Mountains, but she’d just as soon pass up all the modern conveniences the money she makes could provide her. Sometimes I think she’d be happier if we were still living in that one-room cabin we had when we first married.”

Laurel laughed and nodded. “I know. But I imagine she’ll be just as happy today to have us out of the way. She can unload her latest pottery from the kiln and get the lodge cleaned and ready for the tourists we have coming Monday.”

Her father’s right hand loosened on the steering wheel, and his left one pulled the brim of his hat lower on his forehead. “It looks like business is going to be good this year. We already have reservations for most of the summer, and our guests sure do like to take home some of her pieces from Mountain Laurel Pottery.”

Laurel frowned. There would be guests this summer, but what about next year and the year after that? A hot breeze blew through the open window, and she pulled a handkerchief from her pocket. She mopped at the perspiration on her forehead before she swiveled in her seat to face her father. “Having the lodge and the pottery business is kind of like a mixed blessing, isn’t it?”

He frowned but didn’t take his eyes off the road. “How do you mean?”

Laurel’s gaze swept over the mountains that ringed the valley where she’d lived all her life. Her love for the mist-covered hills in the distance swelled up in her, and she swallowed the lump that formed in her throat. “Well, I was just thinking that we get paid well by the folks who stay at our lodge while they fish and hike the mountain trails, and Mama makes a lot of money selling them her pottery. But is the money worth what we’ve lost?” She clasped her hands in her lap. “I miss the quiet life we had in the Cove when I was a little girl.”

Her father’s forehead wrinkled. “So do I, darling, but you’re all grown up now, and those days are long gone. Change has been happening for a long time, but our way of life officially ended twelve years ago with the plan for the Smokies to become a national park. Now most of the mountain land’s been bought up by the government, and there’s a park superintendent in place over at Gatlinburg. I guess we have to accept the fact that the park is a reality.”

A tremor ran through Laurel’s body. She clutched her fists tighter until her fingernails cut into her palms. “No matter what we’re doing or talking about, it always comes back to one question, doesn’t it?”

Her father glanced at her. “What’s that?”

“How long can we keep the government from taking our land?”

“Well, they don’t have it yet.” The lines in her father’s face deepened, and the muscle in his jaw twitched. “At the moment, all the land that borders our farm has been bought and is part of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. There aren’t many of us holding on in the Cove, but we’re not giving up without a fight. I have a meeting with our lawyer in Gatlinburg today to see how our court case is going. You can get your mama’s pottery delivered to Mr. Bryan’s store, can’t you?”

“I didn’t know you had a meeting with the lawyer. Don’t worry about the pottery. Willie and I can take care of that.”

A smile cracked her father’s moments-ago stony features at the mention of her younger brother, who was riding in the truck’s bed. “You make sure that boy helps you. He has a habit of disappearing every time I have a job for him. I sure wish he’d grow up and start taking on some responsibility around the farm.”

Laurel laughed. “Willie’s only twelve, Poppa. When he’s as old as Charlie or me, he’ll settle down.”

Her father shook his head. “I don’t know about that. He’s always gonna be your mother’s baby.”

Before she could respond, the truck hit a bump in the road and a yell from behind pierced her ears. Laughing, she turned and looked through the back window. Willie’s face stared back at her. “Do it again, Pa,” he yelled. “That was fun.”

Her father frowned, grabbed the steering wheel with both hands, and leaned over to call out the window. “Be still, Willie, before you fall out and land on your head.”

Willie stood up, grabbed the side of the open window, and leaned around the truck door to peer into the cab. “Won’t this thing go any faster?”

Her father’s foot eased up, and he frowned. “We’re going fast enough. Sit down, Willie.”

The wind whipped Willie’s dark hair in his eyes. He was grinning. “Jacob’s pa has a truck that’ll go fifty on a smooth stretch,” he yelled. “See what ours will do.”

The veins in her father’s neck stood out, and the speedometer needle dropped to twenty. “If you don’t sit down and stay put, I’m gonna stop and make you sit up here between your sister and me.”

“I’m just saying you ought to open this thing up and see what she’ll do.”

The muscle in her father’s jaw twitched again, and Laurel put her hand over her mouth to keep from laughing out loud. How many times had she seen her no-nonsense father and her fun-loving brother locked in a battle of wills? Her father took a deep breath and shook his head.

“Willie, for the last time…”

Willie leaned closer to the window, glanced at Laurel, and winked. “Okay. I’ll sit, but I still think we could go a little faster. Jacob’s gonna get to Gatlinburg way before we do.”

The truck slowed to a crawl. “Willie…”

A big grin covered Willie’s mouth. “Okay, okay. I’m just trying to help. I know Mr. Bryan is waitin’ for these crates of Mama’s pottery. I’d hate to get there after he’d closed the store.”

“He’s not going to close the store. Now for the last time, do as I say.”

“Okay, okay. I’m sittin’.”

Willie pushed away from the window and slid down into the bed of the truck. Her father straightened in the seat and shook his head. “I don’t know what I’m going to do with that boy. He’s gonna put me in my grave before I’m ready.”

Laurel laughed, leaned over, and kissed her father’s cheek. “How many times have I heard you say that? I think you love sparring with him. He reminds you of Mama.”

For the first time today, a deep laugh rumbled in her father’s throat. “That it does. That woman has kept me on my toes for twenty years now.” He glanced over his shoulder through the back glass toward Willie, who now sat hunkered down in the bed of the truck. “But I doubt if I’ll make it with that boy. He tests my patience every day.”

Laurel smiled as she reached up and retied the bow at the end of the long braid that hung over her shoulder and down the front of her dress. “I doubt that will happen. You have more patience than anybody I know. There aren’t many in our valley who’ve been able to stand up to the government and keep them from taking their land. Just you and Grandpa Martin and a few more. Everybody else has given up and sold out.”

There it was again. The ever-present shadow that hung over their lives. Cove residents were selling out and leaving. How long could they hang on?

“Seems like we’re losing all our friends, doesn’t it?” Her father shook his head and pointed straight ahead. “Like Pete and Laura Ferguson. We’re almost to their farm. I think I’ll stop for a minute. I promised Pete I’d keep an eye on the place after they moved, and I haven’t gotten over here in a few weeks.”

Ever since Laurel could remember there had been a bond between her father and the older Pete Ferguson. Each had always been there to lend a hand to the other, but now the Fergusons were gone. Their land sold to the United States government and their farm officially a part of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

She glanced at her father’s face, and she almost gasped aloud at the sorrow she saw. The court case he and Grandpa Martin had waged over the past year had taken its toll on him. He was only a few months away from turning fifty years old, and Grandpa would soon be sixty-five. They didn’t need the worry they’d lived under for the last twelve years. Why couldn’t the government just give up and allow them to remain on their farms in the mountain valley that had been their family’s home for generations? That was her prayer every night, but so far God hadn’t seen fit to answer.

Her father steered the truck onto the dirt path that ran to the Ferguson cabin. The wildflowers Mrs. Ferguson had always loved waved in the breeze beside the road as they rounded the corner and pulled to a stop in the yard.

Laurel’s eyes grew wide, and she stared, unbelieving, through the windshield to the spot where the Ferguson cabin had stood as long as she could remember. Her father groaned and climbed from the truck. For a moment he stood beside the vehicle’s open door, his hand resting on the handle. He shook his head as if he couldn’t believe what he saw. Then he closed the door and took a few steps forward.

Laurel reached for the leather bag that sat on the floorboard near her feet, unsnapped the top flap, and pulled out her Brownie box camera before jumping from the truck. She hurried to stand beside her father, who stood transfixed as he stared straight ahead. Willie, his face pale, climbed from the back of the truck and stopped next to their father. No one spoke for a moment.

Willie pulled his gaze away and stared up at their father. “Where’s the house, Pa?”

Their father took a deep breath. “I guess the park service tore it down, son.”

A sob caught in Laurel’s throat as they stared at the barren spot of land that had once been the site of a cabin, barn, and all the outbuildings needed to keep a farm productive. “But why would they do that, Poppa?”

Her father took a deep breath. “Because this land is now a part of the park, and they want it to return to its wild state.”

Willie inched closer to their father. “Are they gonna tear our house down too?”

Her father’s eyes darkened. “Not if I can help it.” He let his gaze wander over the place he had known so well before he took a deep breath and turned back to the truck. “Let’s get out of here. I shouldn’t have stopped today.”

Laurel raised the camera and stared down into the viewfinder. “Let me get a picture of this before we go.”

Her father gritted his teeth. “Take as many as you want. Somebody’s got to record the death of a community.”

None of them spoke as she snapped picture after picture of the empty spot that gave no hint a family had once been devoted to this piece of land. After she’d finished, the three of them returned to the truck and climbed in. When her father turned the truck and headed back to the road, Laurel glanced over her shoulder at the spot where the house had stood. She had always looked forward to visiting this home, but she didn’t know if she would be able to return. Too many of her friends were gone, scattered to the winds in different directions. The holdouts who still remained in the Cove lived each day with the threat that they too would soon be forced from the only homes they’d ever known. If her family had to leave, they would be like all the rest. They would go wherever they could find a home, and the ties forged by generations in the close society of their remote mountain valley would vanish forever.











Andrew Brady set his empty glass on the soda fountain counter and crossed his arms on its slick white surface. The young man who’d served him faced him behind the counter and smiled. “Can I get you somethin’ else, mister?”

Andrew shook his head. “No thanks. That cold drink helped to cool me down some. I didn’t expect it to be so hot in Gatlinburg. I thought it would be cooler here in the mountains.”

The young man grinned and reached up to scratch under the white hat he wore. “Most folks think that, but our days can be a bit warm in the summertime.” He glanced at several customers at the other end of the counter and, apparently satisfied they didn’t need any help at the moment, turned his attention back to Andrew. “Where you from?”

Andrew smiled. “Virginia. Up near Washington.”

The young man smiled and extended his hand. “Welcome to Gatlinburg. My name is Wayne Johnson. My uncle owns this drugstore, and I work for him.”

Andrew grasped his hand and shook it. “Andrew Brady.”

“How long you been here, Andrew?”

“I arrived Thursday.”

Wayne picked up a cloth and began to wipe the counter. He glanced up at Andrew. “You enjoying your vacation?”

Andrew shook his head. “I’m not in Gatlinburg on vacation. I’m here on business.”

Wayne shrugged. “I figured you for a tourist. Guess I was wrong. They come from all over now that the park’s opening up. I hear that we had about forty thousand people visit Gatlinburg last year. That’s a far cry from what it was like when I was a boy. We were just a wide spot in a dirt road back in those days. But I expect it’s only gonna get better.”

Andrew glanced around the drugstore with its well-stocked shelves and the soda fountain against the side wall. “It looks like this business is doing okay.” He shook his head and chuckled. “I don’t know what I expected, but I wouldn’t have thought there’d be so many shops here. Mountain crafts are for sale everywhere, and the whole town is lit up with electric lights. It looks like the park has put this town on the map.”

Wayne propped his hands on the counter and smiled. “I guess folks in the outside world thought we were just a bunch of ignorant hillbillies up here, but we been doing fine all these years. We’ve even had electricity since back in the twenties when Mr. Elijah Reagan harnessed the power on the Roaring Fork for his furniture factory. He supplied to everybody else too, but now they say we’re gonna have cheap electricity when TVA gets all their dams built.”

Andrew nodded. “I guess it’s a new day for the people in the mountains.”

“It sure is, and we’re enjoying every bit of it.” He picked up Andrew’s dirty glass and held it up. “You sure you don’t want a refill?”

Andrew shook his head. “No, I’d better be going. I have some things to do before I head out to Cades Cove tomorrow.”

Wayne cocked an eyebrow. “Only one reason I can think why you might be going out there. You must be joining up at the Civilian Conservation Corps.”

Andrew pulled some coins from his pocket to pay for his soda and laid them on the counter. “No, I’m not with the CCC. Just intend to visit with them a while.”

Wayne shrugged. “There’re a lot of CCC camps all over the mountains, and those boys are doing a good job. You can see part of it when you drive into the Cove. They built the new road there. It sure makes gettin’ in and out of there easier than it did in years past. I reckon Roosevelt did a good thing when he put that program in his New Deal.”

“Yeah, it’s giving a lot of young men a chance for employment.” Andrew smiled, picked up the hat that rested on the stool beside him, and set it on his head. “Thanks for the soda.”

Wayne studied Andrew for a moment. “You never did tell me exactly what your job is. What brought you to Gatlinburg from Washington?”

“I work with the Park Service. I’m here on a special assignment.”

Wayne’s eyes narrowed, and his gaze raked Andrew. “Special assignment, huh? Sounds important, and you look mighty young.”

Andrew’s face grew warm, and his pulse quickened. Even a soda jerk could figure out that a guy who looked like he’d barely been out of college for a year couldn’t have gotten this job on his own. But with his father being a United States congressman and a supporter of President Roosevelt’s New Deal, it hadn’t been hard for his father to arrange this appointment.

The worst part for him, though, had been his father’s command that Andrew had better not embarrass him on the job. He swallowed the nausea rising in his throat and tried to smile.

“I guess I’m just lucky they thought I was qualified.”

“Well, congratulations. Come in for another soda the next time you’re in town.”

“That I will.” Andrew turned and headed for the exit.

When he stepped outside the drugstore, he stopped and stared at the newly paved road that wound through the town. Before long that stretch of highway would wind and climb its way up the mountainsides all the way to Newfound Gap that divided the states of   Tennessee and North Carolina. He’d heard that spot mentioned several times as the ideal location for the dedication of the park, but the event was still some years away. His assignment here would be one of the factors that determined when it would take place.

Andrew took a deep breath of fresh mountain air and turned in the direction where he’d parked his car. Several tourists brushed past him, but it was the approach of a young man and woman who caught his attention. Obviously honeymooners, if the glow of happiness on their faces was any indication. Ignoring everybody they passed, they stared into each other’s eyes and smiled as if they had a secret no one else knew.

Andrew shook his head in sympathy as they walked past him and wondered how long it would take them to face up to the reality of what being married really meant. He’d seen how his friends had changed after marriage when they had to start worrying about taking care of a family. He’d decided a long time ago it wasn’t for him. He had too many things he wanted to do in life, and getting married ranked way below the bottom of his list. Convincing his father of the decision, though, was another matter. The congressman had already picked out the woman for his son’s wife. “The perfect choice,” his father often said, “to be by your side as you rise in politics.”

Andrew sighed and shook his head. Sometimes there was no reasoning with his father. He wished he could make him…

His gaze drifted across the street, and the frown on his face dissolved at the sight of a young woman standing at the back of a pickup truck. Her fisted hands rested on her hips, and she glared at the back of a young boy running down the street.

“Willie,” she yelled. “Come back here. We’re not through unloading yet.”

The boy scampered away without looking over his shoulder. She shook her head and stamped her foot. Irritation radiated from her stiff body, and his skin warmed as if she’d touched him.

As if some unknown force had suddenly inhabited his body, he eased off the sidewalk and moved across the street until he stood next to her. “Excuse me, ma’am. Is there anything I can do to help?”

She whirled toward him, and the long braid of black hair hanging over her right shoulder thumped against her chest. Sultry dark eyes shaded by long lashes stared up at him, and a small gasp escaped her lips. “Oh, you startled me.”

His chest constricted, and he inhaled to relieve the tightness. His gaze drifted to the long braid that reached nearly to her waist. He had a momentary desire to reach out and touch it. With a shake of his head, he curled his fingers into his palms and cleared his throat.

“I’m sorry. I heard you calling out to that boy, and I thought maybe I could help.”

Only then did her shoulders relax, and she smiled. Relief surged through his body, and his legs trembled. What was happening to him? A few minutes ago he was mentally reaffirming his commitment to bachelorhood, and now his mind wondered why he’d ever had such a ridiculous thought. All he could do was stare at the beautiful creature facing him.

She glanced in the direction the boy had disappeared and sighed. “That was my brother. He was supposed to help me move these crates into the store, but he ran off to find his friend.” She smiled again and held out her hand. “My name is Laurel.”

His hand engulfed hers, and a wobbly smile pulled at his lips. “I’m Andrew. I’d be glad to take these inside for you, Laurel.”

“Oh, no. If you could just get one end, I’ll hold the other.”

He studied the containers for a moment before he shook his head. “I think I can manage. If you’ll just open the door, I’ll have them inside in no time.”

She hesitated as if trying to decide, then nodded. “Okay. But be careful. These crates are filled with pottery. My mother will have a fit if one piece gets broken.”

He took a deep breath, leaned over the tailgate of the truck, and grabbed the largest crate with Mountain Laurel Pottery stamped on the top. Hoisting the container in his hands, he headed toward the store and the front door that she held open.

As they entered the building, a tall man with a pencil stuck behind his ear hurried from the back of the room. “Afternoon, Laurel. I wondered when you were going to get here.”

She smiled, and Andrew’s heart thumped harder. “We didn’t leave home as early as we’d planned.” Her smile changed to a scowl. “Willie was supposed to help me, but he ran off.” And just as quickly, her expression changed again to a dazzling smile. “Andrew was good enough to help me get the crates in.”

Mr. Bryan helped Andrew ease the crate to the floor and glanced up at him. “Any more in the truck?”

Andrew nodded. “One more, but it’s smaller. I don’t need any help getting it inside.”

“Then I’ll leave you two. I’m unboxing some supplies in the back.” Mr. Bryan turned to Laurel. “If anybody comes in, holler at me, Laurel.”

“I will.”

A need to distance himself from this woman who had his heart turning somersaults swept over Andrew, and he hurried out the door. Within minutes he was back with the second container, but he almost dropped it at the sight of Laurel kneeling on the floor beside the first one. She opened the top, reached inside, and pulled out one of the most beautiful clay pots he’d ever laid eyes on. Swirls of orange and black streaked the smoky surface of the piece. She held it up to the light, and her eyes sparkled as she turned it slowly in her hands and inspected it.

He set the second crate down and swallowed. “Did you make it?”

She laughed and shook her head. The braid swayed again, and he stood transfixed. “No, my mother is the potter. I help her sometimes, but I didn’t inherit her gift. This is one of her pit-fired pieces.”

She set the pot down and pulled another one out. She smiled and rubbed her hand over the surface. Her touch on the pottery sent a warm rush through his veins.

“Exquisite.” The word escaped his mouth before he realized it.

She cocked her head to one side and bit her lip. “Exquisite?” she murmured. She glanced up at him, and her long eyelashes fluttered. “I’ve searched for the right word for a long time to describe my mother’s work. I think you’ve just given it to me. They are exquisite.”

He swallowed and backed away. “Is there anything else I can do for you?”

She shook her head. “No, thank you. You’ve been a great help.”

“I’m glad I could be of service.” He searched his mind for something else to say, something to prolong his time with her, but his mind was blank. He took a deep breath. “I need to go. It was nice meeting you, Laurel.”

She smiled. “You too, Andrew. Goodbye, and thanks again.”

“Goodbye.” He slowly backed toward the door.

Outside in the fresh air he took a deep breath and pulled his hat off. He raked his sleeve across his perspiring brow and shook his head. What had just happened? He’d felt like he was back in high school and trying to impress the most popular girl in his class.

He closed his eyes for a moment, and the image of her holding the pottery in her hands returned. He clamped his teeth down on his bottom lip and shook his head. She’d misunderstood. It wasn’t the pottery he was describing when the word had slipped from his mouth.

Exquisite? The word didn’t do her justice.

And she had a beautiful name too. Laurel. He straightened, and his eyes widened. He hadn’t even asked her last name.

He whirled to go back inside the store but stopped before he had taken two steps. His father’s face and the words he’d spoken when Andrew left home flashed in his mind. Remember who you are and why you’re there. Don’t do anything foolish. People in Washington are watching. He exhaled and rubbed his hand across his eyes.

For a moment inside the store he’d been distracted. He was the son of Congressman Richard Brady, and his father had big plans for his only living son.

He glanced once more at the pickup truck that still sat in front of the store and pictured how Laurel had looked standing there. When he’d grasped her hand, he’d had the strange feeling that he’d known her all his life. How could a mountain girl he’d just met have such a strange effect on him?

He pulled his hat on, whirled, and strode in the opposite direction. Halfway down the block he stopped, turned slowly, and wrinkled his brow as he stared back at the truck. The words painted on the containers flashed in his mind, and he smiled.

It shouldn’t be too hard to find out her last name. For now he would just call her Mountain Laurel. His skin warmed at the thought. A perfect name for a beautiful mountain girl.

He jammed his hands in his pockets and whistled a jaunty tune as he sauntered down the street.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

A Talent for Trouble

 
 
 
 
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Picture Credit
 
About the Book
 
Miss Felicia Murdock firmly believed her destiny was to become a minister's wife. When the minister on whom she had set her sights marries another lady, Felicia is forced to take a close look at her life and comes to a few uncomfortable conclusions. Determined that something needs to change--and soon--Felicia discovers she is finally ready to spread her wings and embrace life the way she's always wanted.

Grayson Sumner--or Lord Sefton, as he's officially known--has had more than enough of spreading his wings and only hopes to settle into the life of a normal, respectable New York gentleman. Prompted by some well-meaning friends to lift the spirits of the disappointed-in-love Miss Murdock, he is surprised to encounter a young lady who seems to have become quite adventurous and quite determined to get herself into all sorts of troublesome situations.

Intent on remaining independent, Felicia is reluctant to accept Grayson's help, especially as she finds herself developing feelings for him. However, just as Grayson decides he's had quite enough of her antics, his past comes back to haunt him and his presence in her life has endangered Felicia. Will Grayson and Felicia decide they want to spend the rest of their lives keeping one another out of trouble?(Goodreads)
 
 
 
My Review
 
I am a huge fan of Jen Turano, her past two books have been excellent, so of course I was excited to read this one!
While I still think the first book is my favorite, this book is full of great humor, history, and fun characters. Talent for Trouble takes a historical romance out of the ordinary and helps land proper young women in jail, opium dens, pubs, and a dark past. I love how the author ties her stories together, while you don't have to read the books separately, it's recommended in order to understand the story fully. 
Felicia irritated me at first but I came to enjoy her character and Grayson is one of my favorite characters Jen has written about. 
 
In any case if you love a bit of humor and historical romance this is the book for you!!
 
"I received this book from Bethany House for free in exchange for an honest review." 
 
 
 Check out my reviews on the first two books: A Change of Fortune and A Most Peculiar Circumstance. 
 
 
 
 
Also visit the author's website. 
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