Archives

Honor Before Heart (Emerald Belles #1) by Heather McCorkle

honor before heart

Purchase Now from Amazon.

Risking it all for love and valor . . .

When Corporal Sean MacBranian awakens after being injured in battle, he is sure the luck o’ the Irish has run out on him. Or that he’s died and gone to Heaven. There can be no other explanation for the blond-haired, blue-eyed angel standing before him. But his “angel” is a truehearted lass named Ashlinn, and she wears a nurse’s uniform. Her tender ministrations have brought him back from the brink of death—and have given him a new reason for living.

Ashlinn knows their parting is inevitable; her handsome hero must return to the 69th infantry of the Union army, and there are no guarantees of his safe return. With most of her family already destroyed by the war ravaging America, she is sure she cannot survive another loss. Yet she feels powerless against the draw of Sean’s strong and steady heart. Neither time nor distance nor the danger of battle seems to lessen their bond. But when their secret letters are intercepted, the devoted nurse’s love will face the ultimate test . . .

add-to-goodreads-button

Publisher and Release Date: Lyrical Press, March 2017

Time and Setting: Virginia, 1862
Genre: American Historical Romance (Civil War period)
Heat Level: 2
Review Rating: 3.5 stars

Review by Sara

Honor Before Heart is a sweetly romantic story set against the horrors of the American Civil War. McCorkle has definitely done her homework to show the brutality and personal cost faced by those who fought or lost someone in the war, although I wish that a bit more had been done to develop the characters past their basic outlines and turn them into a man and woman I could fully connect with.

Ashlinn O’Brian’s life has been changed forever by the war. Her three brothers heard the call to arms and enlisted in the Northern army. After two of them died from poorly treated wounds Ashlinn has been desperately searching the battlefields to find her youngest brother to hopefully save him from dying too. Ashlinn learned everything she could from her parents, a progressive doctor and a midwife, and her skills at keeping patients alive has made her more than a few enemies in the army camp hospital she works in. The latest battle on the shores of the James River has littered the ground with the bodies of dead Union and Confederate soldiers but Ashlinn’s prayers are answered that none of the men she finds are her brother. Before returning to the safety of the army camp Ashlinn’s attention is drawn to her faithful dog Cliste dragging something by the river bank. Getting closer to the water Ashlinn sees that the dog is trying to help a Union soldier who is unconscious but bleeding heavily from a gut wound. Knowing she’s the man’s only hope for survival, Ashlinn gets him into a makeshift shelter and treats his injuries using the supplies she always carries with her.

Corporal Sean MacBranian had escaped injury during the battle only to be caught by a Rebel soldier he found abusing a dog. He managed to kill the Southerner but not before the man got a few good hits on Sean’s person. The pain of his injuries knocks him out and for a moment Sean is certain he’s died when he wakes up to the beautiful face of a guardian angel leaning over him. Fortunately for Sean, his angel is a nurse who knows better ways to heal severe injuries than slicing and dicing up a patient. Ashlinn’s skills at suturing his wounds and keeping them clear of infection allow him to regain some of his strength so they can move out of enemy territory. As they travel Sean finds that Ashlinn is a well-spoken young woman but every so often he can hear a bit of a brogue seeping into her words. As an immigrant from Ireland, Sean is drawn to that little hint of Ashlinn’s own background as it’s something special they share.

Upon arriving safely at the army’s encampment Sean and Ashlinn try to keep their relationship on a cordial level since the war could separate them at any moment. Ashlinn has already learned the difficult lesson that caring for someone makes it agonizing to watch them march into an uncertain future on the battlefield. Sean, too, has seen many good men die and fears that his growing feelings for Ashlinn might become a distraction when his focus should be on the soldiers who serve under him. What neither of them counted on was how strong their bond had already become after Ashlinn saved his life and Sean protected her from the unwanted advances of the camp’s brutal doctor. They become inseparable after Sean is deployed into another battle and Ashlinn knows she would be lost if he were killed in action. Their new relationship is tested when Ashlinn discovers proof that her brother is alive but the circumstances of his disappearance may make her choose between her family and a future with Sean.

Honor Before Heart is tonally perfect for the period –  I could almost see everything happening to Ashlinn and Sean through a sepia-colored lens. One would think that the importance of social status would be something easily ignored while living in an army camp; however Ashlinn’s background as a wealthy Northerner is something that matters to Sean. He is aware that his own status as an Irish immigrant puts him much lower in class than her family even thought they, too, had immigrated generations earlier. There is also a black mark on his family’s name that Sean is hesitant to reveal since it was part of the reason he came to America to start a new life. Once he decides to pursue Ashlinn he adjusts their situation within the camp to always provide a chaperone or keep their meetings within the bounds of propriety. It makes their romance very sweet for most of their courting.

Unfortunately those sepia-colored lenses cannot hide the fact that Sean and Ashlinn never seem to grow or change much throughout the course of the story. Sean is a noble man who fights for the Union to bring freedom to the Southern slaves. Ashlinn is an intelligent and enlightened woman far ahead of her times when it comes to the care of the sick and injured in the field. Those two ideas are discussed between characters many times and serve as the major points of conflict when Ashlinn’s methods are challenged by the male doctors or Sean is captured by a Southern plantation owner. Long passages of the story paint vivid pictures of the brutal conditions Ashlinn is fighting against in the field hospitals, yet that’s all she seems to be fighting for. We don’t really know why her family joined the fight or what her thoughts are about the political side of things.

With that said, I enjoyed enough of Honor Before Heart to recommend it. The calm pace of the story creates the perfect conditions for a romance to thrive but the darkness of war is always present. It’s nice to believe that something as beautiful as love will survive past all of the hate.

SATURDAY SPOTLIGHT: The Forgotten Debutante (Book Nine of the Cotillion Ball Series) by Becky Lower

Purchase Now from Amazonforgotten debutante

In 1863, America is war-weary. Fifteen-year-old Saffron Fitzpatrick, whose teenage years have been spent mourning the dead rather than dancing at her debutante ball, just wants to visit her beloved horse after being housebound due to the draft riots. A chance meeting with soldier Ezekiel Boone changes everything.

Three years ago, Ezekiel ran away with his older brothers to join the war effort, welcoming the chance for adventure. But when all four of his brothers die at Chancellorsville, he retreats home, despondent and depending on the kindness of strangers, like Saffron, who helps him on the journey. They share a wild ride and a breathless kiss, parting with fond memories.

Fate reunites the couple three years later, and their former attraction rekindles as they discover unexpected common ground and begin to build a relationship. But though the war is over, a future together may still elude them … especially if Saffron’s older, protective brother and the U.S. Army have anything to say about it.

 

add-to-goodreads-button

EXCERPT

New York City
September, 1866

Saffron helped herself to the breakfast food choices laid out on the sideboard before she took her seat at the family table, where her mother and father were already enjoying their morning’s repast. She popped a slice of salty bacon into her mouth before she picked up her fork to dig into the eggs, reveling in the taste of the good food. She closed her eyes in order to savor the moment. Good food, good fortune, and good times ahead, now that the war was finally winding down. Her father snapped his newspaper shut with a practiced flick of his wrist, and Saffron’s eyes flew open. When her father closed his paper, he had something to say. Something that usually involved the war, which had been a topic of conversation for years. She hoped for no more of war. It was past time to play.

“The declaration President Johnson signed last month ending the war seems to be holding. Finally, this God-awful war is finished. I had almost given up hope.”

“Me, too,” Saffron agreed. “I hesitate to get too excited just yet, until I can be sure the truce will hold. But now, maybe life can get back to normal. I long to wear a pretty dress dripping in lace and frills and dance at an ornate ball. I’m dying to have some fun.”

Her mother, Charlotte, patted Saffron’s hand. “Yes, of all of ours, except for Pepper’s, your life has been the most disrupted by the war. All the experiences you should have been having during the past few years have gone by the wayside. We’ll have to do something to make up for it now. You’re eighteen, past time we find you a husband. And now that the boys are all returning home, the number of available men should be picking up.”

Saffron mused. “But even in war, Pepper managed to find a new love, and her life now is as rosy as it was before the war. I won’t be so lucky. The men who are fortunate enough to be returning home are either crippled or so emotionally scarred the last thing they’re hoping for is to marry and have another obligation.”

Her father rose from the table. “There’s a big write-up in the paper about how best to bring our fallen soldiers home from the battlefields and establish national cemeteries where people can assemble to honor the sacrifice of those good men. There’s a sense of urgency to retrieve the bodies from southern land.”

Charlotte nodded. “Well, of course we need to bring our boys home and see them properly buried.”

George donned his suit jacket and took his hat from the waiting servant before he addressed his wife. “This Reburial Progam would be a good effort to get behind. Maybe you and Saffron can expand on your Sanitary Commission volunteer efforts.”

Saffron’s interest in the conversation picked up. “I have become quite the expert in the battle at Chancellorsville. Will they go field by field? Battle by battle? Because I can definitely contribute to at least one.”

Her father nodded. “I suppose so. Clara Barton has been gathering information for over a year now with her Missing Soldiers’ Office in Washington, DC. Her wealth of information is where the government will begin its efforts, according to the newspaper.”

Saffron ran her finger over her upper lip. She’d volunteered her services to the Sanitary Commission for the past three years and worked closely with Pepper and her husband, Elijah, to set up a hospital directory to catalog the wounded and dead for the benefit of the affected families. After the hospital directory was established, she’d begun to gather letters and scraps of paper from soldiers and loved ones about the burial locations of the fallen at Chancellorsville. There were other battles, bigger battles, that had happened, but Chancellorsville was the one she had been most intrigued by.

Her interest had been sparked by her chance meeting with a young man called Ezekiel Boone, when he shared how he was responsible for burying his four brothers. The image of Zeke popped into her head for the first time in quite a while. But he had filled her head for months following their impromptu meeting when she was fifteen and helped him escape. One never forgot one’s first kiss. And only kiss, to date. It was past time to put away for good her memory of him. It was past time to add to her life experiences. Perhaps have some more kisses with different men. Then, she’d stop reliving Zeke’s kiss and their stolen moment in time. Maybe the Reburial Program could provide the way.

Her father continued. “Andersonville was the first place to have a cemetery, with the help of Clara Barton. Seems only fitting, since so many of our men died in prison there. The papers say more men died from disease and illness than died on the battlefield. But there’s so much more to do.”

Saffron listened to her father with half an ear, but her mind was far away. She was reliving a wild wagon ride three years earlier, with a wild boy who never should have been in any battles and seen what he’d had to witness, done what he’d had to do. She wondered where he was now and if he would still be able to make her stomach churn in delight. She ran her finger over her upper lip again and sighed. They were two ships that had passed each other during the stormy seas of war. She’d best set her sights on a new beginning, now that the war was over, rather than be pondering over what could have been with a boy she never should have met.

Her mother was correct. It was past time for her to find a husband. She recalled the men who she’d seen on the streets coming home from the war, some of them still wearing their filthy, ragged uniforms. Haunted eyes stared at her when they chanced to notice her. Either that, or they were missing an arm or leg. How could a man wrap his arms around her when he had none? She sighed, heavily. She took pity on these men, admired their bravery, but wouldn’t choose to spend her life with them. At least not until she had an adventure or two to make up for lost time.

GIVEAWAY

ENTER TO WIN AN eCOPY OF THE FORGOTTEN DEBUTANTE. THE GIVEAWAY IS OPEN FOR SEVEN DAYS AND THE WINNER WILL BE NOTIFIED SHORTLY AFTER THE CLOSING DATE.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Becky LowerBecky Lower lives in an eclectic college town in Ohio with her puppy-mill rescue dog, Mary. Find Becky Lower at www.beckylowerauthor.com, on Facebook, and on Twitter @BeckyLower1.

VIRTUAL TOUR: An American in Scotland (MacIain #3) by Karen Ranney

VT-AmericanInScotland-KRanney

Purchase Links:  Amazon | B & N | Google Play | iTunes | Kobo

Rose MacIain is a beautiful woman with a secret. Desperate and at her wits’ end, she crafts a fake identity for herself, one that Duncan MacIain will be unable to resist. But she doesn’t realize that posing as the widow of the handsome Scotsman’s cousin is more dangerous than she knew. And when a simmering attraction rises up between them, she begins to regret the whole charade.

Duncan is determined to resist the tempting Rose, no matter how much he admires her arresting beauty and headstrong spirit. When he agrees to accompany her on her quest, their desire for each other only burns hotter. The journey tests his resolve as their close quarters fuel the fire that crackles between them.

When the truth comes to light, these two stubborn people must put away their pride and along the way discover that their dreams of love are all they need.

add-to-goodreads-button

EXCERPT

“Yes?”

The woman who opened the door was a matronly sort, dressed in a somber blue that nevertheless was a pleasant color for her complexion. Her smile was an easy one, as if she had long practice at being pleasant.

“May I help you?” she asked. “If you’re a friend of the missus, she’s dining with her family now. Like as not it’ll go on for a few hours. Do you need to see her?”

The smell of food wafted out of the house. Rose was so hungry she could define each separate scent: fish stew, freshly baked rolls, roast beef, and something that smelled like fruit cake.

Her stomach growled, as if she needed reminding she hadn’t eaten a real meal in two days.

“Mr. MacIain,” she said, pushing aside both her hunger and her fatigue. “Is he here? I need to see him.”

“You’ve business with Mr. Duncan? Well, he mostly transacts his business at the mill, miss. Wouldn’t it be better to call on him there?”

She didn’t know where the MacIain Mill was. She’d taken his home address from the letters he’d written Bruce.

“I’ve come from America,” she began, and had no more said those words than she was dragged into the house by her sleeve.

“Well, why didn’t you say so from the very first? From America? All that way? And here I let you stand on the doorstep. Is that your valise? And your carriage? We’ll take care of both right away.”

The woman, matronly only a moment ago, had turned into a whirlwind.

Rose found herself being led through the house, following the scent of food until she thought her stomach would cramp. In moments she found herself standing in the doorway of a small dining room.

Dozens of people, it seemed from her first glance, were seated at the table, all of them attractive and well dressed. Some of them were smiling as they looked up.

“Duncan? This lady came all the way from America to see you.”

She couldn’t think for the hunger. She couldn’t even speak.

A man stood, and she thought that hunger must surely have made her hallucinate. Tall, brown-haired, with the most beautiful blue eyes she’d ever seen. He smiled so sweetly at her, so perfectly handsome and kind, that she wondered if he was real.

He was broad-shouldered, with a face that no doubt captured the attention of women on the street. They’d stop to marvel at that strong jaw, that mouth that looked as if it could be curved into a smile or just as easily thinned in derision.

She hadn’t expected him to be so arresting a figure. No doubt that’s why she wavered a little on her feet.

“Yes?” he said, coming around the table toward her.

“Mr. MacIain? Duncan MacIain?”

He regarded her with a direct stare so forceful she felt as if her will were being drawn out of her with that glance.
She reached out one gloved hand toward him. Suddenly everything changed. The air around her grayed. The floor rushed up to greet her instead of him. Yet he somehow caught her when she fell. As he did so, she had the strangest thought, one that troubled her even as darkness enveloped her.

This was why she’d come all this way.

OUR REVIEW

Publisher and Release Date: Avon, March 2016

RHR Classifications:
Time and Setting: Glasgow and South Carolina, 1863
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 3.5 stars

Review by Wendy

an american in scotlandThis was my first experience of a Karen Ranney novel and to begin with I was pleasantly surprised, especially with the high standard of the writing. An American in Scotland is the third in Ms. Ranney’s MacIainseries and although I have not read either of the first two (In Your Wildest Scottish Dreams and Scotsman of My Dreams), I had no trouble sorting out the characters, the various familial connections or keeping track of the story line.

Rose Sullivan arrives in Glasgow at the home of Duncan MacIain. Dressed in mourning black, exhausted, broke and faint with hunger, she is admitted to the house and promptly collapses. On searching her reticule for evidence of her identity and finding documentation, the MacIains jump to the conclusion – fairly reasonably, given her black clothing and American accent – that she is the widow of their American cousin Bruce MacIain and is then made unconditionally welcome by the warm and friendly family. Although Rose doesn’t actually utter the words, she is guilty of lying by omission and knows it. Her long and dangerous trek across the Atlantic was a desperate, last ditch attempt to save her sister and family from starvation in South Carolina. Arrogant, cruel, Bruce MacIain is away from home fighting in the American Civil War and there is a shedload of his cotton going begging. Rose has taken it upon herself to brave the blockade in US waters in order to travel to Glasgow to persuade Duncan, to buy the cotton for use in his mill, and this is one of the reasons she cannot reveal her ‘lie’ – it’s not actually hers to sell. The whole story centres around this cotton and Rose’s determination to sell it to feed her family.

The author has a pleasing style and writes succinctly and knowledgeably. However, for the first third or so of the book, I was hard pressed to believe I was actually reading an historical romance as claimed. I’m talking more about a lack of connection or sensuality rather than any bedroom action, because Ms. Ranney doesn’t really deliver when it comes to an actual romance in this book. The connection between Rose and Duncan lacks warmth and sensuality – we are told that they are attracted to each other but I didn’t feel it. Although Duncan is a decent, honourable, salt-of-the-earth kind of man, he isn’t someone with a strong enough presence to remain with me; I couldn’t actually ‘see’ him. And then there’s proud, defiant, capable Rose – who has been so badly treated that it was difficult to understand why, when faced with the opposition and sheer ingratitude of her family, she would risk her life so often to help them! And her treatment at the hands of Bruce is mentioned so many times that it became irritating. The pair of them are almost too good to be true.

On the positive side, Karen Ranney paints a very evocative and moving picture of life under the tyrannical rule of the despotic Bruce MacIain and the appalling atrocities suffered by the slaves in those times. She obviously has extensive knowledge and I found her impeccably researched historical content and its delivery very well done which made for compelling reading. But this is billed as an historical romance, and while things do improve towards the end but I still didn’t ‘feel the love’ and although Rose and Duncan do get their HEA, it all feels rushed and just a bit too neatly tied off.

While I enjoyed the skill with which An American in Scotland is written and found the historical detail interesting, the romance is disappointing, and this led to my feeling somewhat cheated after I finished the book. If you’ve read the other books in the series you might want to read this for completeness, although if you’re looking for an emotionally satisfying romance, you won’t find it here.

GIVEAWAY

a Rafflecopter giveaway

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

KarenKaren Ranney began writing when she was five. Her first published work was The Maple Leaf, read over the school intercom when she was in the first grade. In addition to wanting to be a violinist (her parents had a special violin crafted for her when she was seven), she wanted to be a lawyer, a teacher, and, most of all, a writer. Though the violin was discarded early, she still admits to a fascination with the law, and she volunteers as a teacher whenever needed. Writing, however, has remained the overwhelming love of her life.

You can find Karen at: : Website * ~ * ~ * Facebook * ~ * ~ * Twitter * ~ * ~ * Goodreads

SATURDAY SPOTLIGHT: A Widow’s Salvation by Becky Lower

A Widows Salvation CoverPurchase Now from Amazon

In 1862 America, the Civil War has raged for twelve months. Pepper Fitzpatrick Brown’s heart was broken when her husband died with the first volley at Manassas. Now she’s a widow raising three young boys and plans to honor his sacrifice by volunteering at the army hospital.

When Colonel Elijah Williams can grab a few minutes to nap between his duties as head surgeon at MacDougall Army Hospital in the Bronx, his sleep is invaded with nightmares of the atrocities he’s seen. His life has narrowed to nothing but the bloody war … until he meets Pepper Brown. But her father is concerned Elijah doesn’t have the best intentions, and Pepper is fearful of loving and losing again.

It’s hard to find happiness in a war-torn United States, but these two stand a fighting chance—if they can save what’s left of their hearts.

add-to-goodreads-button

EXCERPT

New York City, July 1862

Pepper Brown yanked open her bedroom armoire and stared at the sea of black. Her widow’s weeds, as people called them. They were showing up in increasing numbers on the streets of New York, on women of all ages. The Civil War, which both sides had thought would be over in a matter of weeks, marked its one-year anniversary today.

Which meant today was also Pepper’s one-year anniversary as a widow. She drummed her foot on the floor while she perused the black dresses. Was she ready to move on?

Michael had thought she would be. In fact, he extracted a promise from her before he left for the war. One year and not one day more, he had said. Her mother thought so, too, or she wouldn’t have planned their outing for today. All Pepper now needed was the courage to convince herself they were right. The churning in her stomach told her she had a ways to go yet.

She straightened and turned her back on the black.

“Molly, please come help me dress,” Pepper called down the hall to her lady’s maid.
“I’m going out today.”

“Aye, ma’am.” Molly, a young Irish girl with light brown hair and matching freckles across her pert nose, came quickly into the room. “Which gown would you be liking?”
She began fondling the various dresses in the armoire.

“None of these. I’m done with these dresses. Besides, most of them are maternity gowns. I want to wear something fresh, something different.”

Molly nodded vigorously, and the little white cap on her head bounced askew. She righted it before she spoke. “Perfectly understood, ma’am, and you should be stepping down to half mourning. Perhaps I can find a nice gray or deep purple gown among your other things.”

Pepper shook her head. “No, no half mourning for me. What kind of silly term is that, anyway? I’m going out with Mother, and I want our day to be special. I want to wear something bright. I think the periwinkle dress Jasmine created for me right before Michael’s death will do. Yes, the periwinkle.”

Pepper smiled at Molly’s horrified intake of breath. She obviously disapproved, which meant it was the right decision.

“Periwinkle? Forgive me saying so, ma’am, but isn’t it a wee bit too much of a difference?”

“Why yes, it is, Molly.” Pepper’s smile grew. “It’s time to be different, don’t you think? Michael would have approved. Go on, now, and find me the dress. It may need a bit of altering, since I’ve still to lose some of the baby weight I’ve put on. It’ll need to be fixed before Mother gets here.”

“Aye, ma’am, right away.”

Molly took off at a trot down the hall to the large storage room for clothing, and Pepper closed the doors on the widow’s weeds. She had never expected to be a widow at only thirty-one years of age. She had never expected to have three boys under the age of eight to raise by herself. She had never expected Michael’s last gift to her would be another son, one who was his exact image. The babe had been born hale and healthy, even though she had thought the child would suffer because of her melancholy.

And, even though she had never expected the life now facing her, she would throw off her widow’s weeds and pick up the rest of her journey on this earth, despite her fears that she’d never be able to pull it off. Today she would dress up in gay-colored clothing, maybe even splash on some toilet water, go to the Army hospital in the Bronx with her mother, and provide a bit of comfort to the many who were wounded. She had no medical experience to draw from, but she could hold a hand, fetch a glass of water, write a letter home. Little things, she reasoned. But a lot of little things could make a difference. She hoped someone had been there on the battlefield to hold Michael’s hand as he took his last breath.

She brought a fist to her mouth as the tightness in her chest threatened to reduce her again to the sniveling mess she’d been in those first days. Days when she’d gathered information from the papers on how her beloved died alone on some field in Virginia in front of the shameful folks who had driven out from Washington, D.C., with their picnic baskets to witness the battle, only to turn and run when the battle dragged on and became so bloody. They had expected a fun-filled afternoon as the men strutted about in their fancy uniforms but instead were witness to the first carnage of the ghastly war.

GIVEAWAY

a Rafflecopter giveaway

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

BeckyLowerBecky Lower lives in an eclectic college town in Ohio with her puppy-mill rescue dog, Mary. Visit her website at www.beckylowerauthor.com or find her on Facebook and Twitter.

VIRTUAL TOUR: A Time for Everything by Mysti Parker

SBB_TourBanner_ATimeForEverything copy

Purchase Now from Amazon

After losing her husband and only child to the ravages of the Civil War, twenty-five-year-old Portia McAllister is drowning in grief. When she sees an ad for a live-in tutor in another town, she leaves everything behind in hopes of making a fresh start. But as a Confederate widow in a Union household, she is met with resentment from her new charge and her employer, war veteran Beau Stanford.

Despite their differences, she and Beau find common ground and the stirrings of a second chance at love—until his late wife’s cousin, Lydia, arrives with her sights set on him. Burdened with a farm on the brink of bankruptcy, Beau is tempted by Lydia’s hefty dowry, though Portia has captured his heart.

In another time and another place, his choice would be easy. But love seems impossible amid the simmering chaos of Reconstruction that could boil over at any moment into an all-out battle for survival. Will Beau and Portia find their way into each other’s arms, or will they be swept away by raging forces beyond their control?

add-to-goodreads-button

EXCERPT

Brentwood, Tennessee — December 25, 1865

The angels are coming.

Portia lay on the frozen ground between her husband and daughter. Snow fluttered softly toward the earth in delicate flakes, each one melting on her face with a pleasant sting. She wouldn’t have to wait much longer.

MediaKit_BookCover_ATimeForEverythingThe sunrise, hidden by snow-laden clouds, gradually lit the gray sky. With numb fingers, she traced her husband’s name, carved into the stoic slate. Jake McAllister, but let her hand drop to the ground before she touched that wretched date. December 16, 1864 — the day her whole world began to fall apart.

It had been a day as cold as this one when Jake returned. Portia had stood on their porch, holding Abigail, both of them wrapped in shawls and a quilt. Yet the cold had managed to seep inside, wrapping icy fingers around her heart. Her husband lay lifeless in the back of a wagon. His once-rosy face had turned ashen. Blood caked his Confederate jacket. His hands, large and strong, yet once so gentle, were posed across his belly. His fingers were stiff and claw-like, wrapped around a phantom gun. He did not look like Jake. It had to have been a mannequin with a wig the same dusty red shade of his hair.

“That’s not him,” she’d repeated to the men who’d so methodically carried him into the house. Jake would pop out from somewhere, still the jokester he had always been, and she would slap him for playing such a cruel prank. Then she would laugh with him and hold him tight because he had finally returned to her and Abby.

But the longer her eyes absorbed the wretched sight, the more evidence she had discovered. Little freckles and scars she knew so well. The pea-sized patch on his jaw where his beard never grew. The missing end of his middle finger, taken by a vicious dog when they were children.

It wasn’t a joke. Jake was dead.

GIVEAWAY

a Rafflecopter giveaway

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

MediaKit_AuthorPhoto_ATimeForEverythingMysti Parker is a wife, mom, author, and shameless chocoholic. She is the author of the Tallenmere standalone fantasy romance series and The Roche Hotel romantic comedy series. Her short writings have appeared in numerous anthologies and magazines. Her award-winning historical romance, A Time for Everything, will be published this summer by EsKape Press.

Other writing pursuits include serving as a class mentor in Writers Village University’s seven week online course, F2K. She has published two children’s books (Quentin’s Problem & Fuzzy Buzzy’s Treasure) as Misty Baker.

When she’s not writing fiction, Mysti reviews books for SQ Magazine, an online specfic publication. She resides in Buckner, KY with her husband and three children.

You can connect with Mysti at: www.mystiparker.com * ~ * ~ * Facebook * ~ * ~ * Twitter

SATURDAY SPOTLIGHT: The Soldier’s Secret by Heather Osborne

soldier's secret
Purchase Now from Amazon

A picture of pure shock and curiosity, Emma placed her empty glass down, “Surely, you are not suggesting I dress as a man and enlist in the Union Army!”

“That is precisely what I am suggesting.”

In an era when women are adornments, Northerner Emma Mansfield finds it challenging to fit the mold. It becomes an impossible task when her country is torn apart by civil war. Knowing she must take action, Emma finds herself in the midst of danger and intrigue when she takes up the guise of a young artillery soldier for the Union Army. Desperately trying to find out if her two brothers are alive, Emma must maintain her anonymity as she fights for survival.

add-to-goodreads-button

EXCERPT

December, 1862
Fredericksburg, Virginia

“You have to hold him tighter!” The Union doctor showed no sympathy at all for the man writhing in blood on his table.

“Yes, Sir!” The youth compressed all his strength on the man, turning his face away from the bloody limb, which vaguely resembled a leg.

The sawbones grasped the bone saw firmly and without much ado, began vigorously amputating the man’s leg. The strangled screams echoed in the youth’s ears and he swallowed hard to prevent himself from losing what little food he had in his belly.

The soldier passed out as soon as the doctor hit bone. Although it seemed to take an eternity, the whole procedure was over in ten minutes. The youth crawled off the man and waited while the doctor stitched the wound. Leaving a hole for drainage, he bandaged what was left of the man’s lower right leg.

“Get him moved!” The doctor was already preparing for the subsequent amputation. The youth followed the stretcher out of the tent, ignoring the cries of the next soldier. He wanted to slam his hands over his ears and fuse his eyes closed.

The carnage was almost too much to bear. The Confederate Army had devastated the Army of the Potomac. The youth hung his head and trudged along, scuffing his boot in the dirt. A hand grabbed his ankle and he steadied himself.

“Water…gimme water, boy.” The soldier was on a stretcher awaiting the surgeon, with a gaping hole in his abdomen, intestines spilling out.

The youth knelt down and wiped away some dirt from the man’s face, “Won’t be long now.”

The soldier fished in his pocket and pressed a gold watch into the youth’s hand. “My boy…he’ll be 10…man of the house now…take this to him. Name’s on the inside.” He grabbed the youth’s collar, “Promise me, boy.”

Folding his fingers around the watch, the youth quickly nodded and the man collapsed back, his eyes vacant. Rocking back on his heels, he stared for a few moments at the dead man. Nearby, soldiers were digging a mass grave for the men who had fallen on the battlefield. Removing his kepi, he said a short prayer and made the sign of the cross before rising and shuffling his way to the hospital tent.

Two officers were speaking in hushed tones and barely noticed the thin youth entering the canvas tent. The smell of death permeated the air, along with urine and vomit. The surviving patients were awaiting transport to the city from the battlefield. The youth quickly located his compatriot and pulled a wooden stool to the side of his cot.

“Water…”

The youth placed his hand on the man’s chest, “You cannot have any yet, William. Soon though. They are going to take you into the city.”

Will gave him a weak smile and grasped the narrow boned hand, “If I survive long…”

“You will! Have faith.”

“Hurts like hellfire, Em. Wish we were back at home. It’ll be Christmas soon…I wish I could taste my ma’s cookin’ one last time…” William let out a sigh and shut his eyes again.

Hanging his head, the youth angrily brushed away a tear, speaking in a voice low enough for Will not to hear, “Me too, Will. Me too…”

GIVEAWAY

TO WIN A COPY OF THE SOLDIER’S SECRET, ENTER AT RAFFLECOPTER, BELOW. ENTRY IS OPEN FOR THE NEXT SEVEN DAYS, AND THE WUNNER WILL BE NOTIFIED SHORTLY AFTER THE CLOSING DATE

a Rafflecopter giveaway

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

heather osborneHeather Osborne was born and raised in California. She has a Bachelor of Science in Criminology and Victimology, as well as coursework in Early Childhood Education. In 2009, she met her husband and moved to Scotland, very much a dream of hers since she was a small child. Heather has been writing short stories for as long as she can remember. She also has written and directed several plays. In her spare time, Heather enjoys reading, writing (of course!), theatre, as well as caring for her young son.

You can connect with Heather at:heatherosborneauthor.wordpress.com * ~ * ~ * Facebook * ~ * ~ * Twitter * ~ * ~ * Google+

The Memory House by Linda Goodnight

memory house

Purchase now from Amazon

Memories of motherhood and marriage are fresh for Julia Presley—though tragedy took away both years ago. Finding comfort in the routine of running the Peach Orchard Inn, she lets the historic, mysterious place fill the voids of love and family. No more pleasure of a man’s gentle kiss. No more joy in hearing a child call her Mommy. Life is calm, unchanging…until a stranger with a young boy and soul-deep secrets shows up in her Tennessee town and disrupts the loneliness of her world.

Julia suspects there’s more to Eli Donovan’s past than his motherless son, Alex. There’s a reason he’s chasing redemption and bent on earning it with a new beginning in Honey Ridge. Offering the guarded man work renovating the inn, she glimpses someone who—like her—has a heart in need of restoration. But with the chance discovery of a dusty stack of love letters buried within the lining of an old trunk, the long-dead ghosts of a Civil War romance envelop Julia and Eli, connecting them to the inn’s violent history and challenging them both to risk facing yesterday’s darkness for a future bright with hope and healing.

add-to-goodreads-button

Publisher and Release Date: HQN Books, March 2015

RHR Classifications:
Time and Setting: American Civil War, 1864 and Present Day
Genre: Romantic historical fiction/contemporary fiction
Heat Level: 1
Reviewer Rating: 3.5 stars

Review by Jill

This is a lovely dual timelines story featuring two romances; one centred around Peach Orchard Inn, Tennessee in the present day and the other at Peach Orchard in 1864, during the Civil War.

Present Day:
It’s been six years since Julia Presley lost her son. Renovating Peach Orchard Inn and bringing the peach orchard back to life has brought her a measure of peace. After seven years in prison, Eli Donovan, broke and homeless, receives news that he has a son. With the boy’s mother dead, Eli decides to stay in Honey Ridge and is offered work by Julia at the inn, helping with the restorations.

The Civil War:
In 1864, Charlotte Reed Portland, mistress of Peach Orchard Farm has been married since the age of sixteen. Her dutiful life is interrupted by the arrival of Union soldiers led by Captain William Gadsden. Charlotte finds in Will a confidant and friend, a balm for her loneliness that her husband cannot fill.

Tying these two timelines together are light supernatural elements. Combining two gentle romances, this is a really delightful story of forgiveness and healing amidst tragedy and pain. Recommended for readers who enjoy romances free of sexual descriptions, and dual timeline stories.

RETRO REVIEW: Sound of the Heart by Genevieve Graham

sound of heart

Purchase Now from Amazon

Dougal MacDonnell, a fierce warrior from the Highlands of Scotland, is able to hear the thoughts of other men and dream how the future will unfold. Devastated by the loss of his family during the Battle of Culloden in 1746, he fosters a deep hatred for the English. But when Glenna, the love of his life and a Scottish outlaw, is captured and shipped overseas, Dougal is forced to join an English army made of vanquished Scots. Now fighting on the side of his sworn enemies, he embarks on a journey that will take him across the seas to the colonies. There he will risk everything for the chance to find his true love.

Publisher and Release Date: Berkley, May 2012

RHR Classifications:
Time and Setting: Scotland /American colonies, 18th Century
Genre: Romantic Historical Fiction
Heat Rating: 2
Reviewer Rating: 4.5 stars

Review by Jill

Dougal MacDonnell, barely a man, has fought at the Battle of Culloden, losing his father and not knowing the fate of his younger brothers, Andrew and Ciaran. Captured by the victorious British soldiers he, along with other surviving Highlanders, is taken from the moors of Culloden to the prison at Inverness. From there he is moved to the floating prison on the Thane of Fife, to Tilbury Port and the filthy streets of London, and finally to the colonies.

This is not an historical romance, so much as a work of romantic historical fiction. There is a romance and it’s very strong, but the historical parts are numerous and detailed. The dialogue is believable and very well done, with enough Scottish ‘accent’ to feel immersed in the Highlands, without it being overdone.

This is the second book in Ms Graham’s MacDonnells series, but can be read as a standalone. I did enjoy this one a little more than the first book, Under the Same Sky. There is a paranormal element – as in the first book – but it’s not obtrusive. Dougal does possess a gift as does his brother, Andrew. If you read other reviews, be careful. There is a rather delicious twist, and it’s best you find it out for yourself.

If I have any complaints, I feel the ending was rushed, and the step from friends to lovers happened just a bit too quickly. I also had some problems working out the timeline of events, but that could be just me.

With plenty of historical details and descriptions of the era and setting, an action-packed adventure, and a sweet romance, this will suit fans of romantic historical fiction, historical romance, Highlanders, the Battle of Culloden, and the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon.

Wedded to War (Heroines Behind the Lines #1) by Jocelyn Green

wtwBuy now from Amazon

Tending to the army’s sick and wounded meant leading a life her mother does not understand and giving up a handsome and approved suitor. Yet Charlotte chooses a life of service over privilege, just as her childhood friend had done when he became a military doctor. She soon discovers that she’s combatting more than just the rebellion by becoming a nurse. Will the two men who love her simply stand by and watch as she fights her own battles? Or will their desire for her wage war on her desire to serve God?

Wedded to War is a work of fiction, but the story is inspired by the true life of Civil War nurse Georgeanna Woolsey. Woolsey’s letters and journals, written over 150 years ago, offer a thorough look of what pioneering nurses endured. This is the first in the series “Heroines Behind the Lines: Civil War,” a collection of novels that highlights the crucial contributions made by women during times of war.

Publisher and Release Date: River North, Moody Pulbishers Fiction – 20 June, 2012

Time and Setting: American Civil War, New York
Genre: Christian Fiction, Military Fiction
Heat Level: 2 (warning – there is a rape scene)
Reviewer Rating: 4.5 stars

Review By: Sabrina

I have been eager to read this book ever since I downloaded the sample in May. Something about the fierce determination of Charlotte’s character had me wanting to read more of her. After completing the novel, I am pleased to report that the book lived up to my expectations! This beautifully written story created a realistic view of Charlotte’s life and struggles and I felt like I was experiencing things right alongside her. There was no holding back in its apt and descriptive details of life as a war nurse. We’ve endured the “ugly” together and I feel connected to Charlotte and her cause because of it. What a life! To be so brave – Charlotte is a woman with a calling who courageously embraced it.

We start off in New York City where our protagonist lives. We get a clear understanding of her character from the start and it was easy for me to rally behind her. While most ladies of her station are content with superficial giving, Charlotte is looking to do more. When civil war breaks out, she is determined to help. For the first time, female nurses are being recruited to tend the wounded soldiers. Charlotte, sensing her opportunity, volunteers despite knowing she will face opposition from home.

Charlotte leaves behind a beau to whom we are introduced early in the book. Phineas seems perfect in every way, but you can sense Charlotte isn’t in love with him. I believe she wants to love him, but there is a hint that her affection is placed elsewhere and, well, when you can’t release your heart from one there’s usually no room for another. I imagine this is why it is so easy for her to leave. Phineas, however, is not giving up so easily. He is determined to win her over and plans on doing everything he can to make her love him.

Parallel to Charlotte’s story, we have Ruby, a sweet, poverty-stricken immigrant from Ireland whose husband has just enlisted in the New York union. He does this in an effort to gain a better life for him and his wife. Ruby, however, falls on hard times as there is no money coming in and she is left to fend for herself. It is a rough life and with limited options Ruby is going nowhere fast. I admit to crying for her and raging bitterly at the unfairness of her predicament. Ruby’s struggles were difficult to get through and I admired her strength. When the two women finally come together I found myself relaxing and feeling just a bit easier.

But wait – there is a love story hidden in all of this. It is subtle, as our two lovers are apart for most of the book. However, once they finally come together it was a happy “hurrah” moment for me. While I would have preferred a little more time with our couple, the story was so engaging overall that I was only slightly disappointed with the brief HEA.

Touched with Fire by Christopher Datta

tbf

Buy now from Amazon

Touched With Fire is a novel of the Civil War inspired by the true story of Ellen Craft.

Ellen Craft is property, in this case of her half-sister Debra, to whom she was given as a wedding gift. The illegitimate daughter of a Georgia plantation owner and a house slave, she learned to hate her own image, which so closely resembled that of her father – the same wiry build, the same blue eyes, and the same lily-white skin.

Ellen lives a solitary life until she falls, unexpectedly, in love with a dark-skinned slave named William Craft, and together they devise a plan to run North. Ellie will pose as a gentleman planter bound for Philadelphia accompanied by his “boy” Will. They make it as far as Baltimore when Will is turned back, and Ellie has no choice but continue. With no way of knowing if he is dead or alive, she resolves to make a second journey—South again. And so Elijah Craft enlists with the 125th Ohio Volunteers of the Union Army. She will literally fight her way back to her husband.

Eli/Ellie’s journey is the story of an extraordinary individual and an abiding love, but also of the corrosive effects of slavery, and of a nation at a watershed moment.

Debut author CHRISTOPHER DATTA is no stranger to civil conflict or the still-extant scourge of slavery. Most recently the acting ambassador to the Republic of South Sudan where he helped end a war in April of 2012, he has spent a distinguished career moving from one strife-torn country to another, including Lebanon, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, and Liberia. A lifelong student of the American Civil War, his research for Touched with Fire is exacting and based in part on a true story.

Publisher and Release Date: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 21 June 2013
RHL Classifications:
Time and Setting: 1800s Georgia
Genre:
Heat Level: 1
Reviewer Rating: 4 stars

Review by: Sabrina

Ellen (Ellie) Craft is the illegitimate daughter of a wealthy plantation owner and a house servant. Ellie serves in her father’s household but is not acknowledged as a daughter or sister. Unfortunately for Ellie, she is also not accepted by the other slaves in the community as they think she looks down on them. Ellie is distant, but not for the reasons people think.

I immediately felt for Ellie. She was a resolved, hardened woman, but completely and utterly alone. Tormented from every angle, she actually hoped to die to avoid living the life she had. When Will enters her life, I was jumping for joy. I loved him from the first moment. A voice of reason; he exuded the quiet strength and devotion Ellie was lacking. She needed him in her life and I’m glad she finally realized this.

But this book is not about their interactions as a couple. In fact for the majority of the book they are apart. Wanting to live a free life, Will and Ellie decide to flee North. Being three-quarters European, Ellie is fair-skinned and easily poses as a white-male plantation owner. It is quite ingenious the way they accomplish this and I can only imagine how terrifying it was for Ellie to assume the role of a dominant male. Some of the conversations she/he had to endure were brutal and I was completely on edge the whole time.

So close to freedom, they encounter trouble and are split apart. This parting was heart-wrenching and their loss felt overwhelming. Ellie, though, is a determined woman. Posing once again as a man, she enlists in the Union Army with all intentions of destroying the rebels and getting her husband back. With this goal in mind, this is where Ellie, now Eli, comes alive. He, as she now refers to herself, is an armed and trained angry soldier. Because he is not afraid to die he is fearless on the battlefield and that, I believe, is one of the biggest reasons he survives. During Eli’s time in the army we are introduced to some pretty fantastic secondary characters who help him live through this madness. With the help of one friend in particular Eli is able to understand people better and let go of his hatred, which saves his soul. The moments between the two friends are heartfelt and insightful.

For me, books on the Civil War are always hard to get through. I find my emotions rolling most of the time and it’s hard to escape the overwhelming saddness of it all. This book provided a fantastic story that engaged in its actions scenes and tempered with its easy dialog. I really enjoyed reading Touched by Fire.