In two world wars, intelligence and counterintelligence, prejudice, and self-sacrifice collide across two generations.
In 1942, Evie Farrow is used to life on Ocracoke Island, where every day is the same--until the German U-boats haunting their waters begin to wreak havoc. And when special agent Sterling Bertrand is washed ashore at Evie's inn, her life is turned upside down. While Sterling's injuries keep him inn-bound for weeks, making him even more anxious about the SS officer he's tracking, he becomes increasingly intrigued by Evie, who seems to be hiding secrets of her own.
Decades earlier, in 1914, Englishman Remington Culbreth arrives at the Ocracoke Inn for the summer, never expecting to fall in love with Louisa Adair, the innkeeper's daughter. But when war breaks out in Europe, their relationship is put in jeopardy and may not survive what lies ahead for them.
As the ripples from the Great War rock Evie and Sterling's lives in World War II, it seems yesterday's tides may sweep them all into danger again today.
First off, can we please stand for excellent Black and multiracial representation! I was so excited when I saw that this book centered on a Black/multiracial family in the two different eras presented. The author did a wonderful job of writing sensitively, especially since it’s a topic she has not encountered herself.
Second off, can we please stand for a beautiful time slip! I’m discovering how much I love time slip and this book is a reason why. When it would switch times, I was both disappointed to not figure out what happens to the first cast, but also excited to pick back up with the second cast—perfection. And the fact that I couldn’t see the complete picture of what was happening until the end—amazing.
The tension between characters was brilliant and kept me reading, waiting to see what drama might implode next. And Remington’s mother, if you’re out there, I will come and hunt you down. You are truly evil.
If any of you are Roseanna M. White fans, this book contains references to every one of her series, which is so fun and I had a blast finding and recognizing them all.
Yesterday’s Tides is a beautiful time slip that also sails perfectly into our time. Specifically the time that you will not regret using to read it.
After a summer of successful pirate-treasure hunting, Lady Emily Scofield and her friends must hide the unprecedented discoveries they've made, thanks to the betrayal of her own family. Horrified by her brother, who will stop at nothing to prove himself to their greedy father, Emily is forced to take a stand against her family--even if it means being cut off entirely.
Bram Sinclair, Earl of Telford, is fascinated with tales of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table--an interest he's kept mostly hidden for the last decade. But when a diary is unearthed on the islands that could lead to a secret artifact, Bram is the only one able to piece the legends together.
As Bram and Emily seek out the whereabouts of the hidden artifact, they must dodge her family and a team of archaeologists. In a race against time, it is up to them to decide what makes a hero worthy of legend. Is it fighting valiantly to claim the treasure . . . or sacrificing everything in the name of selfless love?
The thing I loved the most about this book was it’s handling of emotional abuse/trauma. At first, I wasn’t sure I was going to be pleased with it, especially since emotional abuse and trauma is a topic I’m passionate about.
The four trauma responses are fight, flight, freeze, and fawn. Emily displayed signs of the “fawn” trauma response, where she tries to get her abuser’s attention and may or may not submit to their demands in order to earn their approval.
At first, no one around her seemed to realize the problem with that. They simply praised Emily for having a good heart and for loving her enemies, instead of recognizing the situation was unsafe and that there were no healthy boundaries to protect her.
Throughout the story, however, that theory was debunked. Emily realized that she couldn’t save them, that she could only save herself. She could show mercy, but she also needed to protect herself. Her friends also seem to have gathered that. In some ways, I think that point could have been clearer, but overall, I think this book achieves that end beautifully.
The climax alone would have sold the entire book for me. It was an epic way to close both the book and this three-book treasure hunt on the isles.
The main character, Bram, has come so far from the beginning of Book 1. Take a look at my quote from my review of Book 2, To Treasure an Heiress.
“I’m very excited to see the dynamic between Telford and Emily play out, but especially between Emily and her family. It looks like it will be a golden opportunity to represent verbal and emotional abuse—a subject that is often not represented at all or represented very poorly making the survivors seem like wimps. And she did convince me to like Telford after how I hated him for how he treated Libby in the first book--I mean, he takes in stray animals and likes chocolate. There may be hope for him.”
All I can say is my hopes were fulfilled.
Worthy of Legend is worthy of your shelf. And your reading time. And your mind. And your heart.
When concert pianist Vivienne Mourdant's father dies, he leaves to her the care of an adult ward she knew nothing about. The woman is supposedly a patient at Hurstwell Asylum. The woman's portrait is shockingly familiar to Vivienne, so when the asylum claims she was never a patient there, Vivienne is compelled to discover what happened to the figure she remembers from childhood dreams.
The longer she lingers in the deep shadows and forgotten towers at Hurstwell, the fuzzier the line between sanity and madness becomes. She hears music no one else does, receives strange missives with rose petals between the pages, and untangles far more than is safe for her to know. But can she uncover the truth about the mysterious woman she seeks? And is there anyone at Hurstwell she can trust with her suspicions?
I have never had the privilege of reading a Joanna Davidson Politano book, but she’s been on my to-be-read list for a while. So when my library got this one in, I pounced on it immediately.
It was nothing at all like I’d imagined.
This book is a mind trip hidden in a pink flowery cover. The best comparison I’ve got is if you’ve seen the Marvel show Moon Knight, specifically episode four. I hit this certain point where I was like, Is she actually just making this all up and believing it’s true? Did any of this ever happen? Can I trust any of these people? Is this real? Am I real? That was the best thing about this book to me.
This is one of the most solid books I’ve read in Christian fiction when it comes to mental health, in the same category as Coral by Sara Ella. The author sensitively portrays a spectrum of mental illnesses, as well as the pros and cons of mental care in the Victorian era.
Round it out with a vibrant character voice, a unique writing style, the right dash of mystery, and a very subtle romance, and there you have The Lost Melody.
The Lost Melody may look pink and flowery, but there’s a lot more lost between those pages.
Aven Norgaard understands courage. Orphaned within an Irish workhouse, then widowed at just nineteen, she voyaged to America where she was wooed and wed by Thor Norgaard, a Deaf man in rural Appalachia. That the Lord saw her along the winding journey and that Aven now carries Thor’s child are blessings beyond measure. Yet while Thor holds her heart, it is his younger brother and rival who haunts her memories. Haakon—whose selfish choices shattered her trust in him.
Having fled the Norgaard orchard after trying to take Aven as his own, Haakon sails on the North Atlantic ice trade, where his soul is plagued with regrets that distance cannot heal. Not even the beautiful Norwegian woman he’s pursued can ease the torment. When the winds bear him home after four years away, Haakon finds the family on the brink of tragedy. A decades-old feud with the neighboring farm has wrenched them into the fiercest confrontation on Blackbird Mountain since the Civil War. Haakon’s cunning and strength hold the power to seal many fates, including Thor’s—which is already imperiled due to a grave illness brought to him at the first prick of warfare.
Now Haakon faces the hardest choice of his life. One that shapes a battlefield where pride must be broken enough to be restored, and where a prodigal son may finally know the healing peace of surrender and the boundless gift of forgiveness. And when it comes to the woman he left behind in Norway, he just might discover that while his heart belongs to a daughter of the north, she’s been awaiting him on shores more distant than the land he’s fighting for.
This was the story I never thought I wanted.
The story ties in very neatly and cohesively with the first book. But I wasn’t sure just how I felt about Haakon being back and being a major player in this story (which speaks volumes to how well she developed him in the first book). If you’ve read Sons of Blackbird Mountain, the first book in the series, you know that he did a super spoiler-y thing at the end and has generally been a bit of a pain before. (Although not without his reasons.)
I was very curious to see just how his forgiveness arc would go. Forgiveness arcs, in my opinion, are one of those things that are done very well or very horribly. Joanne Bischof aced it. They didn’t all drop everything just because Haakon was back. In fact, by the end of the story, the ones he’d hurt the most (Aven and Thor) still struggled with him. Haakon had to make good on his promise, to show he truly was changed, before they would trust him--as it should be. Even though the characters chose to forgive right away, trust didn’t come right away. That’s a missing ingredient in a lot of forgiveness arcs.
This book handles a lot of sensitive subjects very well, much as its predecessor did. This book sensitively handles topics such as drug use, alcoholism, and domestic abuse. It also sports a very diverse cast, more diverse than most anything else I’ve seen in Christian fiction, including a Black family and a Deaf protagonist. Rather than dealing with an initial romance, this story focuses on the challenges that come after.
The inclusion of Kristji was very interesting, considering she has a huge bearing on the plot—even is pictured on the front cover!—but only appears in one, perhaps two chapters. It was an interesting cliché-bender.
And that spoiler-y death at the end! I’ve got to admit, that got me. I have not read that much of a tearjerker death scene in a while.
Daughters of Northern Shores follows in the footsteps of its predecessor, charting courses that are rarely trod in Christian fiction.
In 1942, an impulsive promise to her brother before he goes off to the European front puts Avis Montgomery in the unlikely position of head librarian in small-town Maine. Though she has never been much of a reader, when wartime needs threaten to close the library, she invents a book club to keep its doors open. The women she convinces to attend the first meeting couldn't be more different--a wealthy spinster determined to aid the war effort, an exhausted mother looking for a fresh start, and a determined young war worker.
At first, the struggles of the home front are all the club members have in common, but over time, the books they choose become more than an escape from the hardships of life and the fear of the U-boat battles that rage just past their shores. As the women face personal challenges and band together in the face of danger, they find they have more in common than they think. But when their growing friendships are tested by secrets of the past and present, they must decide whether depending on each other is worth the cost.
This is such a beautiful story because it steps outside the lines of the “norm” in Christian fiction. The members of the blackout book club compose of both male and female, young and old and in-between, married and single, and so many other beautiful differences. Each character is unique and distinct, with their own fears and quirks and motives. Everyone can find themselves in this story.
I loved that Avis and Louise had to choose between two good things—turning the library into a daycare or keeping it as it is. More often than not, the choices in life are not between good and bad, but between good and good. A library I know has gone through a similar circumstance and held on, so it really resonated with me. It also made the plot all the more intriguing as they had to choose between two perfectly valid options.
Freddy Keats is hands-down my favorite. I’ve just got to say.
One of the best things about this story, however, is the portrayal of abuse through Martina’s story. The depictions are spot-on. It truly steps into the shoes of someone who has suffered or is suffering these things. Amy Lynn Green has depicted exactly what it feels like to be in that situation and brought light into the dark, while not avoiding the hard.
The notes from the book club gave a little nod towards the style of her debut epistolary novel Things We Didn’t Say and I loved it. I also love that the novel comes with the list of books the book club read. It was so fun seeing each characters’ reaction to the different classics they read.
This story is a tribute to readers past, present, and future, who have found the indescribable value of reading and sharing what you’ve read.
This book is the perfect read for a book club, blackout or otherwise. Not just book clubs, though—libraries and readers and anyone, really. Because anyone belongs in this book club.
A mysterious invitation to spend Christmas at an English manor home may bring danger...and love?
England, 1851: When Clara Chapman receives an intriguing invitation to spend Christmas at an English manor home, she is hesitant yet feels compelled to attend—for if she remains the duration of the twelve-day celebration, she is promised a sum of five hundred pounds.
But is she walking into danger? It appears so, especially when she comes face to face with one of the other guests—her former fiancé, Benjamin Lane.
Imprisoned unjustly, Ben wants revenge on whoever stole his honor. When he’s given the chance to gain his freedom, he jumps at it—and is faced with the anger of the woman he stood up at the altar. Brought together under mysterious circumstances, Clara and Ben discover that what they’ve been striving for isn’t what ultimately matters.
What matters most is what Christmas is all about . . . love.
This is my top favorite Christmas read (right next to Catching Christmas by Terri Blackstock). I read it every year at some point during the Christmas season.
I think the main reason that it’s worked its way so thoroughly into my affections is both the premise and the way it carries that premise out. The premise is so creative and holds my attention so naturally. Who wouldn’t want to read about a group of completely unrelated people basically playing Survivor in an old English manor where one of them seems to be a murderer and someone’s always watching them? It delivers on every promise it makes and I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough—yet was sorry when it was over.
Oh, and that group of completely unrelated people? The author aced their personalities and interactions. Each one has something distinct and unique about them, something undeniably quirky. And getting even just two of them together promises a good show. She used tension and differences in personality to their fullest potential.
But they all have solid goals as well, and for most of them, you sincerely hope they all get what they want, even as you know that only one of them can. But who will it be? And what will become of those who don't get what they need/want?
The author’s prose is gorgeous. This book really does feel like a step back in time. The words she uses all lend that classic, distinctly English feel to it while still being an accessible read.
Twelve Days at Bleakly Manor is a Christmas read worth returning to every year. Everything about it just has the feel of reading a cozy mystery with a Christmas classic playing in the background and snow falling outside.
Libraries are being ransacked. France is torn apart by war. A French librarian is determined to resist. Told through smuggled letters to an author, an ordinary librarian describes the brutal Nazi occupation of her small coastal village and the extraordinary measures she takes to fight back.
Saint-Malo, France: August 1939. Jocelyn and Antoine are childhood sweethearts, but just after they marry, Antoine is drafted to fight against Germany. As World War II rages, Jocelyn uses her position as a librarian in her town of Saint-Malo to comfort and encourage her community with books. Jocelyn begins to write secret letters smuggled to a famous Parisian author, telling her story in the hope that it will someday reach the outside world.
France falls and the Nazis occupy Jocelyn's town, turning it into a fortress. The townspeople try passive resistance, but the German commander ruthlessly begins to destroy part of the city's libraries. Books deemed unsuitable by the Nazis are burnt or stolen, and priceless knowledge is lost.
Risking arrest and even her life, Jocelyn manages to hide some of the books while desperately waiting to receive news from her husband Antoine, now a prisoner in a German camp.
Jocelyn's mission unfolds in her letters: to protect the people of Saint-Malo and the books they hold so dear. Mario Escobar brings to life the occupied city in sweeping and romantic prose, re-creating the history of those who sacrificed all to care for the people they loved.
This is a beautiful story that went none of the places that I expected it to. It rejected most tidy standards for the historical novel market, particularly in Christian fiction, and told a powerful story regardless of where it led. It doesn’t take the easy way out, but rather presents a meaningful picture of reality. (This story is also based on true events as well, which adds a whole new layer to it.)
I was curious going in when I noticed it was a female lead written by a male author. (Not anything against male authors, but I had just come off of a very poorly written novel by a male author who hadn’t done his research.) Mario Escobar did an amazing job keeping the thoughts and perspectives true to female experience. Much applause.
Plus, can I just say how cool it was when they would talk about Spain and such, and to know that this guy actually knows what he’s talking about, lives it day in and day out? I felt like it added such a neat element to the story. I’d love to see more authors of different ethnicities telling their stories in the Christian fiction market.
This book does include infrequent language (four instances total, three of which appear in one chapter, Chapter 5 to be specific). I found the book at my church library where the words had been inked out.
Due to it being told in a letter format, I didn’t feel like I really got in Jocelyn’s head or really got to know her. I was reading a compelling story, to be sure, but I didn’t have a connection to the characters. I would have loved to see something more along the lines of Amy Lynn Green’s Things We Didn’t Say, which does a fabulous job connecting the reader to the character despite being told through letters.
What The Librarian of Saint-Malo lacks in character connection, it makes up for in powerful story.
Lost In Darkness By Michelle Griep
Even if there be monsters, there is none so fierce as that which resides in man’s own heart.
Travel writer Amelia Balfour’s dream of touring Egypt is halted when she receives news of a revolutionary new surgery for her grotesquely disfigured brother. This could change everything, and it does . . . in the worst possible way.
Surgeon Graham Lambert has suspicions about the doctor he’s gone into practice with, but he can’t stop him from operating on Amelia’s brother. Will he be too late to prevent the man’s death? Or to reveal his true feelings for Amelia before she sails to Cairo?
The author has a way of writing that makes you feel like you’re reading a classic. You truly feel like you’re in Regency England—and yet her prose is still understandable and down to earth.
This story is wildly creative. I mean, really, how many Frankenstein retellings are there, period, much less on the Christian market? It’s the kind of book that sticks out and sticks with you.
The author is also a master of suspense. I couldn’t wait to find out what happened and actually noticed my heart racing at certain moments. The thing is, it’s not even like it’s an action packed story. It has its fair share, yes, but she managed to make me feel the suspense in everyday encounters, too.
The Scripture and theme are woven in without being pushy or overbearing. I automatically cringed when the characters were set up for a conversion arc, just because it is rarely done well. This novel handles it in a realistic and very-not-cheesy way.
I only had one negative thing to say about this book, but it was a big enough one that I debated whether or not to write this review. I try not to post negative reviews of a book unless there is something truly wrong with it (because it’s just mean to drag a good book down because it wasn’t your jam. Negative reviews hurt authors!).
This was a story that went down really well . . . but after an hour or so to think, I realized it had some major flaws in its representation of disabled persons. I searched the book on numerous book review sites and didn’t see anyone talking about this problem, so I decided to go ahead and write the review.
Please note this is NOT me discounting the book. I highly, highly doubt the author ever intended to present these messages. Sometimes we writers try to represent something well, and we just don’t get it right. We learn from our mistakes. And this is still a lovely book and an excellent read.
There is no way to discuss this without spoilers, so if you’re not interested in spoilers, please skip to the conclusion.
As you learn from the back cover copy, the main character (Amelia’s) brother, Colin, is facially disfigured. He plays the role of the monster in the retelling. (You can even see the token “grotesquely disfigured” line in the back cover copy above.
That’s a little bit of a cringey casting anyway—people with facial disfigurement are already cast as villains/monsters all the time, and who really wants to hear that they’re a monster all the time?
But then the entire story revolves around Colin believing he’s a monster, everyone else believing he’s a monster, and everyone desperately pursuing a surgery that will make him “normal.” While Colin eventually makes peace with himself, most of the other characters do not. In general, it feels as if they’re saying “we love you just the way you are, but if you could fix yourself, I mean, we won’t argue” feel.
Major spoilers begin here, so seriously.
In the third quarter of the book, Colin does unwillingly go through with the surgery, under pressure from the other characters. It goes wrong and causes injury to Colin’s brain, leaving him mentally disabled.
As soon as this happens, the plot immediately shifts to Amelia and everyone around her worrying about “the pressure.” How will Amelia ever handle it all? It’s such a burden to bear. She will never be able to travel again. It’s made a big deal that Colin is holding her back from her dreams and she’s having to sacrifice everything for him and he’s a terrible burden.
Is caring for a mentally disabled person a burden? Pressure? Stress? I imagine so. I can’t imagine the strength of some of these families. But this just stripped all the value from Colin—like he was good for nothing because he had a brain injury.
Shortly thereafter, Colin dies in the climax. First off, it was just entirely too convenient. Solved the problem so Amelia was no longer beholden to him. It seemed like a cheap way out.
We get a chapter or two of some very poignant grief—and then everyone just moves on. Amelia gets engaged (Graham conveniently proposed now that Colin’s out of the way) and is back to traveling to Egypt and living her best life. Never been happier. Because Colin’s out of the way.
All of this unintentionally sent the message that physically or mentally disabled persons are seen as monsters and are horrible burdens that hold those they love back from their best lives and selves.
I couldn’t help but think about how people with these disabilities or families that support them would feel reading this story.
I really wish Colin would have lived. I wish I could have gotten to meet Colin as he was with his injury. I wish Graham and Amelia would have committed to care for him and value him no matter what. I wish they would have acknowledged the challenges, yes, but also the blessings. I would have liked to see them have to make some hard choices. I wish Colin had been valued, not forced to go through with that surgery after all. I wish I could have seen Colin being allowed to be himself and overcoming the daily challenges of living with a disability.
Please remember, I do not believe for a second that this message was ever this author’s intention. The book otherwise was wildly creative and a solid read, and I’m still eagerly awaiting more in the series. Honestly, I think the rest of the series could be a wonderful chance to better represent disabilities in the future. This particular story just could have benefited from some time and maybe some more sensitivity readers.
If you’re looking for a fall read with just the right amount of spooky, Lost in Darkness is it. While marred by some poor representation of disabilities, maybe it will serve to spark some more thought about the real life people who face these challenges every day.
Two handsome brothers. An age-old Appalachian feud. And a love that may tear the Norgaard family apart.
After the tragic death of her husband, Aven Norgaard is beckoned to give up her life in Norway to become a housekeeper in the rugged hills of nineteenth-century Appalachia. Upon arrival, she finds herself in the home of her late husband’s cousins—three brothers who make a living by brewing hard cider on their three-hundred-acre farm. Yet even as a stranger in a foreign land, Aven has hope to build a new life in this tight-knit family.
But her unassuming beauty disrupts the bond between the brothers. The youngest two both desire her hand, and Aven is caught in the middle, unsure where—and whether—to offer her affection. While Haakon is bold and passionate, it is Thor who casts the greatest spell upon her. Though Deaf, mute, and dependent on hard drink to cope with his silent pain, Thor possesses a sobering strength.
As autumn ushers in the apple harvest, the rift between Thor and Haakon deepens and Aven faces a choice that risks hearts. Will two brothers’ longing for her quiet spirit tear apart a family? Can she find a tender belonging in this remote, rugged, and unfamiliar world?
A haunting tale of struggle and redemption, Sons of Blackbird Mountain is a portrait of grace in a world where the broken may find new life through the healing mercy of love.
This book did an excellent job portraying issues rarely well represented in Christian fiction. I loved the thoughtful representation of Thor’s deafness, as well as sensitively handling his alcoholism. And she sensitively portrayed the struggles of a black family in this time period as well! Oh, and also addressed a character dealing with a close family member’s suicide. For real, how does she do it?
The book nailed the relationships between the three brothers. Each brother had their own unique personality, and it was neat seeing what brought them closer together and what annoyed them. Honestly, that was enough to make me keep reading.
And somebody just give Thor a cookie or maybe some coffee, okay? He went through so much.
On the subject of Haakon. I get where he was coming from, but Thor said he was sorry, okay? And proved it a million times over. And then Haakon goes and tries to do that big spoiler thing near the end? As an antagonist, he was spot-on—I understood where he was coming on but was also overwhelmingly frustrated with him.
Just reading the back cover copy, I steeled myself for another stereotypical love triangle, but the unique personalities of each brother really helped pull this one off.
While the brothers were super unique, I struggled a bit with Aven. She fell just a little on the stereotypical emotional woman side for me. I would have loved to have her share some of the uniqueness the other characters had.
This is not the fastest paced book I’ve ever read in my life, and there were a couple points where I had trouble getting into the story just because not much seemed to be happening. Her other novel I’ve read, The Gold in These Hills, was better paced in my opinion.
Sons of Blackbird Mountain sports unique characters, a diverse cast, and a twist on the love triangle for those ready for a slower pace.
*No picture of the cover was available.*
Sabina Mancari never questioned her life as the daughter of Chicago’s leading mob boss until bullets tear apart her world and the man she thought she loved turns out to be an undercover Prohibition agent. Ambushes, bribes, murder, prostitution—all her life, her father sheltered her from his crimes, but now she can no longer turn away from the truth. Maybe Lorenzo, the fiancé who barely paid her any attention in the last two years, has the right idea by planning to escape their world. But can she truly turn her back on her family?
All his life, Lorenzo’s family assumed he would become a priest, but he has different ideas—marrying Sabina and pursuing a career in the law. Despite his morals, he knows at the core he isn’t so unlike his mafiosi father and brothers. Has he, in trying to protect Sabina, forced her into the arms of the Prohibition agent bent on tearing her family apart? How can they rebuild what has so long been neglected and do it in the shadow of the dark empire of the Mafia?
Shadowed Loyalty, set amid the glitz and scandal of the Roaring Twenties, examines what love really means and how we draw lines between family and our own convictions, especially when following one could mean losing the other.
This novel taps into an unheard time period in historical fiction. I mean, really, how many historical novels have you read about the Mafia? And she’s not content to leave it at surface level either. She examines all the complexities that made up the real life of Mafia bosses and their families.
Sabina and Lorenzo’s relationship was very different than expected as well. Far from a fairy tale romance, they had to deal with some big problems and miscommunications from the start. Their commitment to working through them, being honest and open with each other from here on out, and being there for each other was a refreshing change in a genre teeming with romances half-baked on feelings. This novel dug into the hard in relationships and camped there a while.
Shadowed Loyalty is an interesting peek into a time mostly forgotten and relationships curiously similar to ours today.
Hi there! Rachel again. Check out this section for book reviews and cover reveals of some of my favorites!