Out of the Embers Book 1

Buy Now on Amazon Out of the Embers (Mesquite Springs)

735351: #1: Out of the Embers #1: Out of the Embers
By Amanda Cabot / Revell

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 It’s 1855 and the story opens Texas style, big and bold with great dramatic flare. An orphanage burns to the ground from the hand of a devilish arsonist. Evelyn and Polly are the only two survivors who happen on the scene after returning in their wagon from a day away on errands. Under a full moon sky, they make a run for it thinking their only route to safety is a quick escape. As they rush enroute to a new home, we’re introduced to three other plot lines. The spotlight switches to Rufus and Winnie who mourn the tragic loss of their two children. Their daughter was taken by scarlet fever and their son by the hangman’s noose. Rufus and Winnie can’t seem to claim a foothold on level ground. Their loss is overwhelming and Rufus especially seeks healing that always eludes him. At the chapter’s close, we meet Basil Marlow, the black sheep of the Marlow family driven by greed and revenge. Basil’s first action in the story is to raise a whiskey toast to the conclusion of a dastardly deed and fire his pistol. He’ll  shoot again before the story’s conclusion. Finally we meet Wyatt Clark and his mother. Wyatt is the story’s male protagonist. He’s a gem. A natural born leader with a love for raising the fastest race horses in Texas. All of this action takes place in just the first two chapters. The title of Amanda Cabot’s new book is Out of the Embers, and this story comes to life in a vibrant fashion out of these dying embers. 

     Cabot’s story is historically accurate. The United States was reluctant to admit Texas to the Union since Texas ranchers and cotton growers used large numbers of slave laborers. In 1855, the issue of slave labor was already causing a split in the U.S. The Mexican American War had already happened and soldiers who returned home lived with unpleasant after effects. One of Cabot’s characters is plagued by mental health problems following his battle experience.  

      Evelyn poses as Polly’s older sister even though Polly is a child who was just recently brought to the orphanage under dubious circumstances. Once they choose a new place to call home, they adopt new last names and carry on as sisters who always feel most at home in the kitchen. They meet many kind and generous people in Mesquite Springs. Evelyn and Polly are invited to stay with the Clark’s but Evelyn knows she must find a way to earn a living. Her exceptional baking skills give her confidence to open a restaurant. The idea is a good fit for the town and Evelyn and Polly have found a place to settle in. I thought Evelyn was a smart, independent, and courageous female leading character. 

     Several suitors compete for Evelyn’s eye, but she only has eyes for Wyatt. Marriage and settling down is not his goal when we first meet Wyatt, but eventually he realizes that a life with Evelyn and Polly will give him his heart’s desire. 

   In the middle of the story, there’s a mayor’s race. Wyatt and his childhood friend Sam are the two candidates. Wyatt pulls off a big victory which causes Sam to spiral downward. Sam follows through on some bad choices and exits the story soon after the election. 

    This is the second Amanda Cabot book I’ve read. I enjoyed the fast pace and well developed characters. If I  had to predict what book two in the series will bring I would say I’m expecting Sam to reappear. I’m lukewarm about how he left the story. To me, he is a dark horse that will send shivers down your spine when he rides back into town. 

   Her leading characters were terrific with caring hearts and interesting goals. The Clark’s are the supportive family Evelyn has been longing for since her own parents died ten years ago. I look forward to all future books in the Mesquite Springs series.  

   I received a complimentary book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review. 

Veiled in Smoke – Windy City Saga #1

102770EB: Veiled in Smoke (The Windy City Saga Book #1) - eBook Veiled in Smoke (The Windy City Saga Book #1) – eBook
By Jocelyn Green / Bethany House

Superb! The epic beginning grabs you and the way the plot is a thread drawn out from these events makes for a tremendous story. I decided some of Jocelyn Green’s previous books often end in very dramatic fashion with a battle either on land or sea. In both The Mark of the King and Between Two Shores this conclusion holds true. I like that in Veiled in Smoke, a pivotal moment in the action appears at the beginning and this sets in motion all the consequences that follow.

This book is such a fine example of historical fiction. The details add a layer of richness to the story that I surmise will propel this book onto many recommended reading lists. Her skill in writing stories with an appreciation for the military certainly is on display between these pages. Her handling of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in early times is eye opening.

We meet a big cast of characters and each one is so memorable. The characters through their words and actions clearly show their goals, inward struggles, and values. Each character was so well developed. Every character added an essential dimension to the story. I think this lineup of characters in the the historical Chicago setting is a cornucopia of stories just waiting to be told. I’m eagerly looking forward to Windy City Saga Book 2.

I received an advanced reader’s copy of Veiled in Smoke from the publisher and NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

#VeiledinSmoke #NetGalley

An Uncommon Woman By Laura Frantz

102700EB: An Uncommon Woman - eBookAn Uncommon Woman – eBook
By Laura Frantz / Revell

An Uncommon Woman

A satisfying read from beginning to end. There is so much to enjoy in this new book from Laura Frantz. The main character, Tessa, is not the only uncommon woman. As stated in the author notes, Keturah’s wisdom and generous nature is rare and exceptional. Hester is a character to love for her directness and ability to serve all in unflustered fashion.

Each of the book’s elements are presented with great skill. The alliterative phrases, sense of place, and historical accurateness add to the book’s appeal. I loved learning about coffin pie, dittany tea, fort life, and the Lenape of Mid-Atlantic. Her portrayal of Native Americans stayed clear of stereotypes that might offend and instead shared with readers a realistic glimpse of Lenape culture, daily customs, fears, even acts of aggression.

Throughout the story, I was impressed that there were no loose ends. Tessa was allowed sufficient time to grieve over the tragedy that befell Jasper and Ross. Despite Tessa and Clay’s budding romance, it would have been so dissatisfying for our main character to rush through this time of loss.

The conclusion was inventive and I love that the end had its beginnings in a network of relationships that began at such an earlier point in the characters’ lives. As Clay said, “You just never know where help is going to come from.”

I recommend this book with enthusiasm. I received an advanced readers copy from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

A Borrowed Dream

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A Borrowed Dream by Amanda Cabot

At various points throughout the book, two main characters pause and sample fudge recipes. This is a great sensory strategy that immediately draws you right into the plot of A Borrowed Dream by Amanda Cabot. How fun that Lydia, a confectioner, is married to Travis, the Sheriff of this Texas town. Lydia and her good friend, Catherine, share important updates at the Candy Shop. They’re confidants and their frequent check-in’s keep the plot moving. Amanda Cabot gives us a strong cast of characters to warm up to as well as some reprobates to spurn. The characters’ entrance into the storyline is well timed and their dialogue keeps the story moving.

I appreciate that Cabot reveals plot details in a manner that resembles peeling back the layers of something edible. Step by step, she eases you into the various plot twists. This is book two in a trilogy. I had not read book one, but I easily jumped into the story.

There’s a love story for Catherine. Yet this is not the only emotional journey she travels. She must overcome resentment and find forgiveness for one character who figures prominently in her life. Readers will appreciate that she eventually understands what her Mama had told her, “Forgiveness helps you.”

The setting is 1881 in the small town of Cimarron Creek, Texas. There is a Wild West flavor to some of the story. Our main character, Catherine, is an independent problem solver who also works as the local school teacher. Overall, I found this book satisfying to read. Some questions I had about historical details were answered in the author notes.

Valued Author Notes

When I was progressing through my flight of arrowsLibrary Science courses on collection development, I remember the emphasis that was put on books with author notes. We were encouraged to look favorably on historical fiction books, biographies, and folktales, that included this back matter. When author notes are shared, the writer’s point of view is clarified. In addition, his or her credibility ranking trends upward.

Personally, I agree wholeheartedly with the inclusion of author notes. In fact, before the story ends, I always turn to this story for a first glance at these details. At the book’s conclusion, I re-read these notes with great interest. Sometimes my only regret is that there aren’t more primary sources referenced here. I would be happy to see a photo, diary entry, or even a map.

A few summers back, I enrolled in a course taught by personnel employed by the National Archives. The course title was “Teaching with Primary Sources”. Of all the courses, I have taken over the years, I can say this was one of my favorites. I am also very aware of how computers have made so many more primary sources available to us and all of it just a few clicks away.

In Flight of Arrows, Lori Benton’s author notes, delivered exactly what I was looking for at the story’s end. Her notes expanded my knowledge of the story’s setting and characters. I was ready to delve into more books about this time in our nation’s history.

I’m sure it’s not an easy decision to include back matter. Additional pages are costly and do readers really care? If it was up to me, I would never skimp on author notes. They are as important as great covers and quality bindings.

Pioneer Perseverance

When 28637691an author makes the geographic setting of the story come alive, I’m hooked. Jane Kirkpatrick has a unique writing talent in this area. Her book titled This Road We Traveled transports us  back in time to the days of our country’s westward expansion.  This is a well researched story of pioneer life on the Oregon Trail . While it’s a work of fiction, the author has based the story on the true life of Tabitha Brown. At 66 years of age, she left Missouri for the Trail, and a future home in Oregon. Eventually in Oregon, she established an orphanage and a school.  Tabitha Brown is remembered in the history scrolls as “The Mother of Oregon”.   A spotlight on the plight of pioneer families highlighted social problems that are often overlooked when pioneer tales are told. This book opened my eyes to the troubles that arose when children were orphaned due to deaths on the trail, or their parents were off on missionary work, or rushing after gold. It’s a great multi-generational story with strong female characters. A very professional and excellent example of historical fiction at its best.  Here is a link to learn more about Jane Kirkpatrick’s book. 

 

Jane Kirkpatrick Website

National Parks

Theodore Roosevelt National Park – I think it was the grandeur of Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota that sparked my fascination with our great public lands. Soon after my trip out west, I sent away for my National Park Passport. I’ve collected a good number of stamps. My goal is to add a few every year. From there I started collecting the National Park Quarters. I’ve have nearly a complete set. So when I saw Karen Barnett’s book titled The Road to Paradise – A Vintage National Parks Novel... I was very excited. Now I’ve discovered the sequel is set to arrive in bookstores in June. It tops my “TBR” list.
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