Category Archives: Historical

The Governess of Highland Hall by Carrie Turansky

The Governess of Highland Hall cover artTitle: The Governess of Highland Hall

Author: Carrie Turansky

Publisher: WaterBrook Multnomah

Book Description:

Worlds lie between the marketplaces of India and the halls of a magnificent country estate like Highland Hall. Will Julia be able to find her place when a governess is neither upstairs family nor downstairs help?

Missionary Julia Foster loves working alongside her parents, ministering and caring for young girls in India. But when the family must return to England due to illness, she readily accepts the burden for her parents’ financial support. Taking on a job at Highland Hall as governess, she quickly finds that teaching her four privileged, ill-mannered charges at a grand estate is more challenging than expected, and she isn’t sure what to make of the estate’s preoccupied master, Sir William Ramsey.

Widowed and left to care for his two young children and his deceased cousin Randolph’s two teenage girls, William is consumed with saving the estate from the financial ruin. The last thing he needs is any distraction coming from the kindhearted-yet-determined governess who seems to be quietly transforming his household with her persuasive personality, vibrant prayer life, and strong faith.

While both are tending past wounds and guarding fragile secrets, Julia and William are determined to do what it takes to save their families—common ground that proves fertile for unexpected feelings. But will William choose Julia’s steadfast heart and faith over the wealth and power he needs to secure Highland Hall’s future?

Review:

Julia Foster has spent the last twelve years in India, working with her missionary parents. Due to her father’s illness, she and her family have returned to England. Now Julia must work to support her parents. She becomes the governess at Highland Hall, despite her new employer’s reservations. Sir William Ramsey is desperate for a good governess for his two young children and his teenaged cousins, as well as a way to save the large estate he inherited. Although he finds a good governess, albeit a rather young one, he still can’t seem to find a way to raise enough money to save Highland Hall. When a young American heiress enters the picture, she offers the money he needs for the estate, but is he willing to forsake love and marry just to save Highland Hall?

From the start, Julia was a rather perfect character. Even in her flaws she showed perfection. She has a habit of speaking her mind rather bluntly at times, but she instantly regrets speaking so plainly when she would have been better off thinking a little longer before saying anything. Her pious nature, while admirable, becomes somewhat grating after a while. So does the fact that she instantly becomes the favorite person of nearly every major character and appears to be something of a superhero in that others often comment that they don’t know what they would do without her and that things are ever so much better now that she’s there. While this could be believable, when it happens a week into the people knowing her, it’s a little overblown.

Then there’s William, baronet and master of Highland Hall. His main concern throughout most of the book is money and how he is going to raise enough to pay the ridiculously high death duties for inheriting the estate. His other big concern is how society will view him and his family and whether he can maintain Highland Hall so he will be acceptable to the upper class. While his money woes make sense, it doesn’t make sense that a man so concerned with appearances would share his financial difficulties with so many people, including his newly hired governess and the overbearing aunt of his two young cousins, a woman he can’t stand.

The rest of the characters are a mixed bag, ranging from lovely yet timid to downright unbearable. The housekeeper in particular is a character I kept hoping would get fired. William’s sister Sarah could have benefitted from her own book, but her story did play a significant role in this one.

Between William’s constant worry about finances and appearances, Julia’s extreme piety mixed with a longing to return to India, and all the drama of the servants, it’s a wonder anything ever got resolved. The story dragged on with the same concerns repeated over and over and the same general nasty attitudes shown time and again until I wondered if the story would ever end. Even when the big conflict appeared, it only served to strengthen the concerns and attitudes already shown.

The message of faith and trusting God is a strong one. At times, it felt as though I was being preached to, but at other times the characters’ faith felt genuine. Honestly, I preferred the head gardener’s quiet faith to Julia’s in-your-face version, but just as in real life, each person has their own way of living out their love for the Lord.

It is a well-written historical novel that does an excellent job of depicting the time period and the struggles faced by many families, as well as the occasional strife between servants and family. If you enjoy novels set in the time just before World War I, you may enjoy this one. Unfortunately, as much as I love Downton Abbey and stories of a similar vein, this just was not the book for me.

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Filed under Christian, Fiction, Historical, Romance, Series, WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group

Martyr’s Fire by Sigmund Brouwer

Martyr's Fire cover artTitle: Martyr’s Fire (Book Three, Merlin’s Immortals)

Author: Sigmund Brouwer

Publisher: WaterBrook Press

Book Description:

Will this dangerous quest lead the outcast Orphan King toward an ancient secret—or to certain destruction? 

Posing as a beggar, Thomas escapes Magnus after fifteen men, who are calling themselves the Priests of the Holy Grail, arrive and take control of the castle through wondrous acts and apparent miracles. With the help of his longtime friend Gervaise, Thomas sets out on a journey that leads him to the ancient Holy Land. Unaware that Katherine and Hawkwood are watching over him, Thomas is tested in his beliefs and comes face to face with the ancient power that the Merlins and Druids have long been searching for.Enter the world of Merlin’s Immortals, where ancient secrets and evil conspiracies take you on a breathless adventure of discovery, intrigue, and hidden knowledge.

Review:

In this third book of the Merlin’s Immortals series, Thomas must face new challenges and dangers in his quest to rule and protect Magnus from the Druids. He also must take a leap of faith — a difficult task for a young man who values physical proof and things he can see. But when battling unseen enemies and trying to uncover hidden secrets, sometimes faith is all one can rely on.

Throughout the book treachery, secrets, and mysteries all lead Thomas to one big question: who can he trust? Katherine and Hawkwood face a similar dilemma. Can they trust Thomas, or is he their enemy? These questions and more circle round and round, each time drawing a little closer to an answer. Then, just when they think they know where to place their trust, something happens to make them question others’ loyalty once more.

The twists and turns in Martyr’s Fire keep the reader waiting with bated breath to discover what will happen next. Just when you think you know how events will unfold, the author throws in something that makes you question everything you thought you knew about the story. The high adventure and fast-paced action will keep you turning pages late into the night.

If you have read the first two books in the Merlin’s Immortals series, you should definitely read this book. If you haven’t started reading the series yet, you should pick up a copy of The Orphan King immediately and be prepared to read the next two books as well. This series will grab your attention, pull you into the story of Thomas and his quest for Magnus, and leave you wanting more.

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Filed under Christian, Fantasy, Fiction, Historical, Mystery/Suspense, Series, WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group, Young Adult

Fortress of Mist by Sigmund Brouwer

Fortress of Mist cover artTitle: Fortress of Mist (Book Two, Merlin’s Immortals)

Author: Sigmund Brouwer

Publisher: Waterbrook Press

Book Description:

The throne is redeemed, but the battle is just beginning.          

In the dark corners of an ancient land, evil lurks in the shadows. Powerful druids haunt the spaces of their lost territory. Double-minded noblemen fight for domain and influence. Invaders from the north threaten the kingdom of Magnus. This land of promise and redemption is mired in deceit and corruption.

The Orphan King, once victorious in conquest, appears to be losing his grip on his seat of power. Thomas rules Magnus, but does not know whom he can trust. His enemies anticipate his every move, thwarting him at each turn. Something is not right.

Under attack, both in the supernatural and natural worlds, Thomas must reach back into the secret layers of his past to find the strength and wisdom to fight his battles. When the mist clears, who will stand with him?

Review:

The battle between good and evil continues in Fortress of Mist. The more Thomas of Magnus searches for answers, the more questions he finds. Each person he wants to trust holds secrets they refuse to reveal, leaving Thomas unable to trust anyone but himself. And through it all, he must fight to hold onto Magnus, a goal that seems hopeless when he has to face it alone.

Once again, Sigmund Brouwer has written an intriguing book full of twists and turns that keep the reader guessing until the very end. The depth of Thomas’s emotions make it easy to step into his shoes and experience the events of the story along with him. Katherine’s longing to reveal everything to Thomas and her feelings for him bring the reader close to her and make it easy to want her to find a happy ending. Yet the book ends with a cliffhanger that leaves you longing to read the next book just to find out where the story goes next.

The theme of faith is artfully woven throughout the book. In the battle between good and evil, Thomas must choose which side to fight for. It is not always an easy choice, nor is the choice always clear at first glance. Thomas, though still resistant to Christianity, steadfastly analyzes each option presented to him and chooses in ways that indicate the beginnings of faith. His questions and doubts remain, however, lending him a relatable struggle that many face when struggling with whether to turn to God.

The intrigue, excitement, and believable challenges make this book easy to enjoy. If you’re looking for an adventure in which you will lose yourself until the end, I recommend Fortress of Mist.

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Against the Tide by Elizabeth Camden

Against the Tide cover artTitle: Against the Tide

Author: Elizabeth Camden

Publisher: Bethany House

Book Description:

After a childhood rampant with uncertainty, Lydia Pallas has carved out a perfect life for herself. She spends her days within sight of the bustling Boston Harbor, where her skill with languages has landed her an enviable position as a translator for the U.S. Navy.

Lydia’s talents bring her to the attention of Alexander Banebridge, a mysterious man in need of a translator. Driven by a campaign to end the opium trade, Bane is coolly analytical and relentless in his quest. He cannot afford to fall for Lydia and must fight the bittersweet love growing between them.

When Bane’s enemies gain the upper hand, he is forced to turn to Lydia for help. Determined to prove her worth, Lydia soon discovers that carrying out Bane’s mission will test her wits and her courage to the very limits.

When forces conspire against them from without and within, can their love survive?

Review:

Set in Boston in the early 1890s, Against the Tide deals with the problems of opium smuggling, the use of opium in popular cure-alls, and the difficulties facing women in need of employment. The story is told in a manner that makes it easy to relate to the characters and the challenges they face. Ms. Camden’s vibrant writing draws the reader into the story and brings the characters to life. Although I loved the book and the characters, at times it felt like I was reading a contemporary story set at the end of the nineteenth century. The book didn’t have the historical feel that I’m used to in historical novels, but that was a minor issue that didn’t really affect my enjoyment of the story. The characters and the plot, as well as Ms. Camden’s vivid writing style, made it easy to get lost in the pages of this book.

If you enjoy novels with tumultuous romance, danger, and faith, I recommend reading Against the Tide. Be prepared to stay up late because if you’re like me, once you start reading you’ll find the book impossible to put down.

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The Orphan King by Sigmund Brouwer

The Orphan King cover artTitle: The Orphan King

Author: Sigmund Brouwer

Publisher: Waterbrook Press

Book Description:

The future of the Immortals is in the hands of an orphan

My greatest fear was that they would find us and make of us a sacrifice beneath a full moon. Now you, Thomas, must help us destroy the circle of evil.

The last words of a dying woman would change the life of young Thomas. Raised behind monastery walls, he knows nothing of his mysterious past or imminent destiny. But now, in the heart of medieval England, a darkness threatens to strangle truth. An ancient order tightens their ghostly grip on power, creating fear and exiling those who would oppose them. Thomas is determined fulfill his calling and bring light into the mysterious world of the Druids and leaves the monastery on an important quest.

Thomas quickly finds himself in unfamiliar territory, as he must put his faith in unusual companions—a cryptic knight, a child thief, and the beautiful, silent woman whom may not be all she seems.  From the solitary life of an orphan, Thomas now finds himself tangled in the roots of both comradery and suspicion.

Can he trust those who would join his battle…or will his fears force him to go on alone?

Review:

The first book in the Merlin’s Immortals series, The Orphan King is the beginning of an epic battle between good and evil. Thomas, an orphan raised in an abbey, has known from a young age that he has a special destiny, one he must fulfill or die trying. With the help of a knight he must first rescue from the gallows, he plans to retake the castle Magnus from the man who stole it from Thomas’s family and forced his mother to hide him at the abbey. At first, it appears as though Thomas’s fear may defeat him before his journey begins, but then his courage and determination shine through. He is filled with the necessary fire to stand up for what is right and to fight against those who oppress and inflict pain upon the innocent and the weak. But does he have the wisdom to discern those who wish to use his sense of justice for their own nefarious plans from those who truly need his help and wish to aid his mission?

This book is packed with adventure and intrigue. Each chapter brings a new twist and adds just enough information to allow the reader to discover what is going on right alongside Thomas. The Christian theme is masterfully woven into the plot, revealing itself more through Thomas’s doubts than through any great displays of faith. As Thomas travels the path laid before him, he ponders the same type of questions many people have, such as why a loving God would allow such evil to occur to those helpless to defend themselves. Thomas’s journey also shows the necessity of wisdom and looking beyond a pretty face or compelling words to a person’s true intentions. Not everything is as it seems, and Thomas soon learns that not everyone can be trusted.

With this new series, Sigmund Brouwer has given teens and adults a glimpse into the superstitious medieval times. He adds just enough easily explained “magic” to emphasize the mystique of the educated in the Middle Ages while avoiding turning this into yet another “sword and sorcery” fantasy novel that reads like a dozen others. The Orphan King has a unique plot filled with mystery and questions that leave the reader begging for more.

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The Messenger by Siri Mitchell

The Messenger cover artTitle: The Messenger

Author: Siri Mitchell

Publisher: Bethany House Publishers

Book Description:

Hannah Sunderland felt content in her embrace of the Quaker faith… until her twin brother joined the Colonial cause and ended up in jail. She longs to bring some measure of comfort to him in the squalid prison, but her faith forbids it. The Friends believe that they are not to take sides, not to take up arms. She is not allowed to visit him, even if she were able to secure a pass.

Jeremiah Jones, a Colonial spy, needs access to the jail to help rescue men important to the cause. Upon meeting Hannah, a plan begins to develop. Who would suspect a pious Quaker visiting a loved one?

But Jeremiah is unprepared for Hannah, for her determination to do right, to not lie. How can one be a spy and not lie? Hannah, in turn, is surprised by Jeremiah… for the way he forces her to confront her own beliefs, for the sensitivity and concern that he shows her despite the wounds he still carries.

In a time of war, can two unlikely heroes find the courage to act?

Review:

Hannah Sunderland has always been a good, obedient Quaker. Then her brother, who left the Meeting to become a rebel soldier, is captured and imprisoned. Hannah is determined to help him if she can, or at least see him and make sure he’s all right. Jeremiah Jones is a tavern keeper who lost his arm while battling Indians with the British army. Now disillusioned and resigned to a life of misery, he joining the colonials’ fight against the British in the only way he can: by taking their coins and any information the soldiers share while in his tavern. In order to succeed in their personal missions, Hannah and Jeremiah must rely on each other. But can they ever learn to trust each other?

This is a story of courage and sacrifice, of faith and doing the right thing no matter the cost. Hannah and Jeremiah both start with beliefs that are in opposition to each other, or so they think. As the story progresses, the reader travels along with them as they undertake a journey of discovery regarding faith, religion, and what it means to do the right thing. Written with insight and historical accuracy, this book will take the reader back to Philadelphia in 1778 and give a glimpse into the trials faced by the citizens and the turmoil created by the British occupation. The twists and turns in the plot and Hannah and Jeremiah’s personal growth will keep readers turning the pages late into the night. The element of faith is woven beautifully into the story and is an integral part of every decision Hannah makes.

Siri Mitchell has done a marvelous job of capturing the essence not only of the time period, but also of Quaker beliefs of the time. From the style of speech to the behavior of the characters, the differences between the Friends and the other characters is shown in a realistic manner. I was drawn into the story from the beginning and soon lost myself in the pages, eager to find out what happened next. This is a book I highly recommend for anyone who loves historical novels.

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The Girl in the Gatehouse by Julie Klassen

The Girl in the Gatehouse cover imageTitle: The Girl in the Gatehouse

Author: Julie Klassen

Publisher: Bethany House Publishers

Book Description:

Mariah Aubrey lives in seclusion with her secrets. Will an ambitious captain uncover her identity… and her hidden past?

Banished from the only home she’s ever known, Mariah Aubrey hides herself away in an abandoned gatehouse on a distant relative’s estate. There she supports herself and her loyal servant the only way she knows how—by writing novels in secret.

When Captain Matthew Bryant leases the estate, he is intrigued by the beautiful girl in the gatehouse. But there are many things he doesn’t know about this beguiling outcast. Will he risk his plans—and his heart—for a woman shadowed by scandal?

Intriguing, mysterious, and romantic, The Girl in the Gatehouse takes readers inside the life of a secret authoress at a time when novel-writing was considered improper for ladies and the smallest hint of impropriety could change a woman’s life forever.

Review:

With one devastating mistake, Miss Mariah Aubrey ruined her reputation and her hope of ever marrying a respectable man. Cast out by her family, she must now rely on the generosity of her aunt for a place to live — the abandoned gatehouse on the aunt’s estate. The need for an income causes Mariah to seek publication for her novel manuscripts, which would give her father another reason to disapprove of her should he find out.

Captain Matthew Bryant is determined to win the hand of the young lady who rejected him once before. While he may not have been born into a society family, his successful career in the Royal Navy and the prize money he received through it should be enough to finally convince both the woman and her father that Matthew is worthy of her. The girl living in the gatehouse of the estate he had leased, however, intrigues him and may threaten his ability to win the young lady he is determined to impress.

Ms. Klassen brings this tale to life with a colorful cast of characters, each of whom have their own secrets and add flavor to the story. Several subplots are woven throughout the book, such as the mysterious man who walks the poorhouse roof, but each adds to the conflict and motivation of the characters. Although this is a Christian novel, the Christian themes — such as forgiveness and loving your neighbors — are so well integrated into the story that they are inconspicuous much of the time.

All in all, The Girl in the Gatehouse is a wonderful story I would highly recommend to anyone who enjoys Regency-era romance or historical fiction.

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