Tag Archive | Holly Bush

Her Safe Harbor (Crawford Family #3) by Holly Bush

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1893. Jennifer Crawford, the peacekeeper in a well-to-do Boston family rife with anger, deceit, and even treachery, was born to solve mathematical mysteries at a time when women are only beginning to venture from home and into the world of commerce and politics. Beautiful and shy, she struggles to find the courage to face a scheming mother and guide a father denying their familial dysfunction, hesitant to traverse the volatile economics banks are facing at the turn of the twentieth century. But danger threatens when she discovers the crimes of an abusive man determined to make Jennifer his own.

Zebidiah Moran, chief of staff for a new senator in Washington, is determined to uncover the lovely Jennifer’s secrets and guard her from danger. But will his sacrifices be enough to keep her safe? Will he be Her Safe Harbor?

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Publisher and Release Date: Holly Bush Books, March 2016
Time and setting: Boston, 1893
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Rating: 4 Stars

Review by Vikki

I have been a fan of Holly Bush and her novels ever since I read The Train Station Bride. Her Safe Harbor is the final book in her Crawford Family series, which I have enjoyed immensely. While this is not my favorite of the series, I did enjoy it a great deal.

Jennifer Crawford is in a difficult position. She began a friendship with an attractive man, and now he is a vice-president at her father’s bank, but she learns too late that he is abusive and controlling. While she desperately wants to break it off, Jeffrey refuses to listen and her mother is so enamored of the man, she also refuses to listen to Jennifer’s protests.

After Jeffrey attacks her a second time, leaving her with bruised ribs, Jennifer leaves town in order to visit her sister, Jolene in Washington D.C. While there, she again meets Zebidiah Moran, a man she nursed through influenza when she visited her sister in Texas in Contract to Wed. She feels safe when she is near him and is relieved when Jolene’s husband sends Zeb to protect his wife while she visits her mother in Boston.

When Zeb discovers the truth about Jennifer’s injuries, he knows he must proceed with caution because of the relationship between her Jennifer’s mother and Jeffrey, and the fact that he works at her father’s bank; but Zeb will protect Jennifer no matter what. Will his protection keep her safe from this vile man, or will he lose her before he ever has a chance to tell her he loves her?

Her Safe Harbor is a fast-paced novel with elements of suspense, along with an emotionally-charged romance. This book has a few dark moments since the plot deals with physical abuse. While there are a couple of violent scenes, they are not gratuitous and are in no way offensive, but I do recognize that they could make some readers a bit uncomfortable.

Ms. Bush does an excellent job with the emotions experienced by an abused woman. Jennifer is an intriguing character with two sides to her personality. On the one hand, she is intelligent, independent, and a confident businesswoman, but in spite of her strength, she allows her abuser to make her question her abilities. While she is determined to stand up to him, in reality, her fear of what he will do to her and her loved ones keeps her from following through.

Zeb Moran is a great hero. He is an honorable man, determined to protect Jennifer from the egomaniac who is hurting her. He shows a great deal of patience with Jennifer, even when she is determined to keep him away. I fell in love with his character from the start.

Some of the writing is a little awkward, and I felt that the book could have used some decent editing to smooth it out. I found myself being pulled from the story at those moments.

If you enjoy an absorbing story with a bit of mystery woven in, then you will like Her Safe Harbor. It is a nice conclusion to this series.

VIRTUAL TOUR: Contract to Wed by Holly Bush

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1891 . . . Jolene Crawford Crenshaw, heiress and Boston socialite, went from her family home directly to Landonmore upon her marriage, the mansion she shared with her handsome and charismatic husband. She’d never in her life worried in the slightest over anything as crass as the dollars required to maintain that home or the lifestyle she’d been born to. Her extensive yearly wardrobe, the stables and the prime horseflesh within it, even the solid silver forks and knifes that graced her table, were expected and required to maintain the social standing that she’d cultivated over the years. But suddenly she was a widow with little money and just her pride and her secrets to keep her upright.

Max Shelby made his fortune in oil wells and cattle, but lost the love of his life the day his wife died. Now, his happy, carefree daughter needs instruction and guidance as she grows into a young lady and his dream of becoming a Senator from his adopted state of Texas seems out of reach with few political or social connections. The right wife would solve both problems. As it happens, his sister knows of a woman, a recent widow, charming, beautiful and socially astute, but in reduced circumstances, who may want to begin again. Max signed the wedding contract sight unseen.

Will Jolene be able to shed her sorrows, anger and fears to begin anew away from the censure and hidden tragedy that marred her life? Is her new husband, confident, strong and capable Max Shelby, the man, the only man, to see past her masks to find the woman beneath?

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EXCERPT

Max walked slowly to where a woman, dressed in black, was directing several porters stacking multiple trunks and luggage. It was a detail he’d not thought of. He turned to the depot manager who was watching the porters himself.

“Can you get word to the Shaw Brothers to get over here with one of their wagons?”

The manager nodded and hurried to his depot, and Max turned back. Apparently finished, four porters stood behind rows and stacks of luggage and trunks, staring up at the train. The woman dressed in black was waiting, and the conductor stood to the side of the metal steps between the cars and lifted his hand up. At the top of those three steps appeared a tall, slender woman. She was dressed from head to toe in the palest blue, starting with the tilted, wide-brimmed hat, to her jacket trimmed in black roping to her bustled skirts. She extended a foot shod in a pale blue satin slipper and accepted the conductor’s outstretched hand.

At first glance, she was stunning and sophisticated and sure of herself. And he was certain she was his wife. He walked to her and held out his hand.

“Mrs. Jolene Shelby?”

She turned her head slowly. “Mr. Maximillian Shelby?”

He bowed his head and touched his hat. “At your service, ma’am.”

She put a gloved hand in his, and he was immediately aware of her. He could smell a musky rose scent and felt the pressure of her hand in his as she came down the last two steps.

OUR REVIEW

Publisher & Release Date: Holly Bush Books, February 2015

RHR Classification:
Time and setting: 1891, Texas
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 1
Rating: 4.5 stars

Review by Vikki

I first discovered Holly Bush when I read Train Station Bride, and I have been a fan ever since. Contract to Wed is a fantastic addition to the series.

BookCover_ContractToWedAt the reading of her late husband’s will, Jolene Crawford Crenshaw finds out the man has left most of the fortune she brought to the marriage to a child named Jillian. While she will have an adequate annual income, it will not keep her in Jolene in the style to which she is accustomed as a pampered Bostonian socialite. When an offer to wed a Texas rancher is presented to her, Jolene accepts and makes the trip to Texas.

When Maximillian Shelby meets the woman he married by proxy for the first time, he is immediately drawn to her cool beauty. When it quickly becomes apparent that she does not want an affectionate union, he is just as determined to have one, not only for their sakes, but for the sake of his twelve-year-old daughter, Melinda.

Will Max break through the insurmountable walls surrounding Jolene’s heart, teaching her that love is worth the risk, or will she remain a stiff, emotionless woman chained to her past?

Contract to Wed is a well-written and emotionally-charged read from the first page to the last. The characters are engaging and the storyline is easy to follow. It is a fast-paced read with just the right amount of dialogue to balance the narrative.

Even though Jolene’s character is not easy to love because of her cold, withdrawn demeanor, she did gain my empathy from the first page; and by the end of the story, I very much wanted her to have her happy ending. She is a very complex character with a lot of depth, and it takes a skilled writer to get the reader enmeshed with a character that is hard to like.

Max on the other hand, stole my heart, and so did his daughter, Melinda. She is a pure delight, fun-loving and free spirited. Max is honorable, loyal and dependable, but not in a dull way at all. It’s refreshing to find a hero who is not a womanizer while still being an alpha male. His love and care of his daughter says a great deal about his character.

What I loved most about the story is the Jolene’s journey; going from an unlikeable character to one I respected and admired. When Max breaks through her tough shell, you find a woman trying to deal with the bad hand life dealt her, from her detestable mother, to her weak late husband, to the loss of her dear little William. She has quite a few reasons to be so determined to never love again.

I thoroughly enjoyed Contract to Wed and recommend it highly. The book will appeal to anyone who likes a character who grows a great deal, and the romance is also deep and passionate as well. I can’t wait for the next book in this great series.

GIVEAWAY

Holly will be awarding a $25 Amazon or B/N GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Holly Bush2
Holly Bush writes historical romance set on the American Prairie, in Victorian England, and recently released her first Women’s Fiction title. Her books are described as emotional, with heartfelt, sexy romance. She makes her home with her husband in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Connect with Holly at * ~ * ~ * Twitter * ~ * ~ * Facebook * ~ * ~ * Amazon

SATURDAY SPOTLIGHT: Charming the Duke by Holly Bush

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1849 . . .

Matilda Sheldon, the middle daughter of the sixth Earl of Bisset, has never been interested in the fashionable society events that so preoccupy her parents and siblings. Her loving, albeit, daft family cannot understand why. But Matilda has little use for silly rules and dramas. She would rather occupy her time with a worthwhile cause such as opening The Sheldon Home for Orphans, much to the chagrin of her mother and grandmother. They are quite certain a venture of this nature will discourage suitors. Matilda is quite certain that if suitors are discouraged it is because she is clever, plain, a bit clumsy, and inevitably compared to her beautiful sisters.

The Duke of Thornsby is in tight spot. After receiving the title on the death of his father, he discovers the inheritance is to be gifted elsewhere if he does not marry before his thirtieth birthday. Unfortunately, our man-about-town is embroiled in a scandal, not of his own making, and the marriage mamas won’t let any eligible misses anywhere near him. What’s a Duke to do? Get invited to a house party hosted by the notoriously absent-minded Earl of Bisset, who just happens to be Papa to some young ladies of marriageable age!

Thornsby finds himself fascinated, not with the two Sheldon debutantes actively seeking a husband, but rather with the ‘brown wren’ he first mistakes for a servant. Matilda is counting the hours until the house party ends when the necessity of conversing with the guests will be over, and ridiculously handsome men go far away. Can a worldly Duke convince a sensible girl to accept his court? Find out in Charming the Duke.

EXCERPT

“Thornsby!” Matilda hissed. People from one end of the room to the other were staring. Oddly, the glimpse Matilda caught of her mother revealed a smile. “What is wrong with you, Thornsby?” Matilda asked when he finally released her after pulling her into the first deserted room they came to.

“You said yourself that Altry has never asked you to dance. What do you imagine prompted him now?”

“Heavens, I don’t know. Why would I care? It was just a dance,” Matilda replied.

“Just a dance? That young pup was nearly drooling.”

“Drooling? Whatever are you talking about?” Matilda asked.

“Miss Sheldon! You are no fool. Don’t presume to tell me you don’t understand. Altry asked you to dance because of this damned outfit you’re wearing.” Thornsby shouted.

“You’re only angry you can’t compare me to a maid or a washwoman.”

Matilda supposed the Duke was right though. Altry would have never paid her court if she hadn’t been wearing this dress. It all supported her notion that the glasses, brown dresses, and scruffy boots separated the chaff from the wheat. Those that deemed her worthy enough to speak to when dressed that way, and those that chose this evening to address her. The Duke had apparently noticed her gown.

Thornsby stared at her as if in a trance. She wondered what was going through his mind. “Don’t make Altry to be any more the cad than you, Thornsby. You’ve never noticed me either. Unless to insult me.”

His eye twitched. “That is untrue.”

“Far from it,” Matilda said.

“Don’t presume to know what is in my mind,” Thornsby said and grabbed Matilda’s bare shoulders.

The moment was charged with sparks, shooting through the air, connecting him to her. Matilda felt, well, she didn’t know what she felt. Fluttery and female. Angry. Aware. The touch of his fingertips drifted down her arms leaving her hands numb. Her voice came out barely above a whisper.

“What is on your mind then?” she asked.

“I’m thinking of kissing you, Miss Sheldon.”

Matilda batted her lashes. “Is it the dress?”

Thornsby touched his lips to hers. A feather’s touch. He inched back to gaze over her face. “I don’t know. But I don’t think so.”

His breath was warm on her cheeks. She’d never been this close to a man before. She could see the lines around his mouth and the bristle of his beard. He touched his lips to hers again.

“What do you imagine it is?” Matilda whispered into his mouth.

Thornsby slipped his hand around her waist and pulled her close. He tilted her head up with his finger. “I haven’t a clue,” he said. Then he kissed her. Really kissed her.

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About the Author

Holly BushHolly Bush writes historical romance set on the American Prairie and in Victorian England. Her books are described as emotional, with heartfelt, sexy romance. She makes her home with her husband in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Connect with Holly at her website, on Facebook and on Twitter @hollybushbooks.

Charming The Duke by Holly Bush

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1849 . . . Matilda Sheldon, the middle daughter of the sixth Earl of Bisset, has never been interested in the fashionable society events that so preoccupy her parents and siblings. Her loving, albeit, daft family cannot understand why. But Matilda has little use for silly rules and dramas. She would rather occupy her time with a worthwhile cause such as opening The Sheldon Home for Orphans, much to the chagrin of her mother and grandmother. They are quite certain a venture of this nature will discourage suitors. Matilda is quite certain that if suitors are discouraged it is because she is clever, plain, a bit clumsy, and inevitably compared to her beautiful sisters.

The Duke of Thornsby is in tight spot. After receiving the title on the death of his father, he discovers the inheritance is to be gifted elsewhere if he does not marry before his thirtieth birthday. Unfortunately, our man-about-town is embroiled in a scandal, not of his own making, and the marriage mamas won’t let any eligible misses anywhere near him. What’s a Duke to do? Get invited to a house party hosted by the notoriously absent-minded Earl of Bisset, who just happens to be Papa to some young ladies of marriageable age!

Thornsby finds himself fascinated, not with the two Sheldon debutantes actively seeking a husband, but rather with the ‘brown wren’ he first mistakes for a servant. Matilda is counting the hours until the house party ends when the necessity of conversing with the guests will be over, and ridiculously handsome men go far away. Can a worldly Duke convince a sensible girl to accept his court? Find out in Charming the Duke.

Publisher and Release Date: Holly Bush Books, March 2014

RHL Classifications:
Time and Setting: Victorian London
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 1
Reviewer Rating: 4.5 stars

Review by: Sebina

Charming the Duke is one of those delightfully breezy reads that you can read in a day. The romance was lovely, with both of the protagonists not expecting to find love. Along with a gang of funny, rather daft but delightful family members, it made the romance of the two all the more interesting to read. If you like the combination of Historical Romance and Comedy-of-Manners I am sure you will enjoy this quick and fun read.

Matilda Sheldon is the middle daughter of the sixth Earl of Bisset. She is passionate, giving, opinionated and independent. She lives near London in the Dowager House on the Maplewood estate with her two sisters, Juliet and Alexandra, her mother, Frances, and her father. She also has a younger brother. Matilda is closest to her grandmother Ethel, who is not daft as the rest of her immediate family. They often converse together over tea. Matilda feels at the beginning of the book that she is a bit of misfit in this family of daftness, wanting rather to be an “only daughter of a village vicar, happily whiling away the hours absorbed in literature and philosophy.” But that does not mean that she takes anything for granted in her life or that she does not appreciate and love her family. She has a deep wish to help orphaned children and is planning to create a home for them.

Even though Matilda is a beautiful young woman, she hides her beauty, wanting rather to be appreciated for her intelligence and the person she is within, instead of what she is on the outside. This in turn creates some fun scenes with her love interest, The Duke of Thornsby. Their dance of misunderstandings and misconceptions reminded me of the best light and fun Regencies and Victorian stories I’ve read.

The Duke of Thornsby’s character was not as clear to me as Matilda’s. I think that may have had something to do with his situation in this book. He has to marry before his thirtieth birthday to inherit the money from his late father. That creates some urgency throughout. He is also not clear on what he is seeking in a wife. He has been with other women and has quite the reputation in polite society, but finding a wife is something he has tried to put off again and again. He is astounded by Matilda (in a good way), and their scenes together are beautifully written. I felt he was a character that had a healthy dose of manliness and adorableness which befit this light romance perfectly.

Most of my favourite scenes were actually those which featured Matilda’s family. Throughout the story, they prove a great support and surprise Matilda quite a bit. One of the best things in the book was that Matilda’s two sisters also found love, as did the Duke of Thornsby’s sister Athena Wilcox; Athena, like Matilda and Ethel, is an intelligent woman with a great deal of inner strength.  That Matilda’s sisters and Athena found love, worked well and fit the pacing of the book.

My only complaint was near the ending – which I will not spoil – but I felt that maybe we should have had more time with Matilda and Thornsby after they got together. The fact that we didn’t did not take anything away from the overall pacing of the book, so it is more of a personal gripe. Besides the pacing, I found the Victorian setting convincing and felt throughout as though I had been transported into that time and place. I heartily recommend this book.

AT TIME OF WRITING, CHARMING THE DUKE IS AVAILABLE FROM AMAZON FOR $3.09

Virtual Tour: Cross the Ocean by Holly Bush

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1871 . . . Worlds collide when American Suffragette, Gertrude Finch, and titled Brit Blake Sanders meet in an explosive encounter that may forever bind them together. Gertrude Finch escorts a young relative to London and encounters the stuffy Duke of Wexford at his worst. Cross the Ocean is the story of an undesired, yet undeniable attraction that takes Blake and Gertrude across an ocean and into each other’s arms.

Excerpt

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Blake found his guests in the music room listening to Melinda play the pianoforte. “Miss Finch, may I beg a moment of your time?” he asked as he touched her elbow.

The two of them retreated out of hearing distance from the rest.

“Yes?” Miss Finch clipped off and folded her hands at her waist.

“I find I do owe you an apology,” Blake began.

“And every other woman in the room as well,” she replied.

“I am not concerned with every other female in the room.” Blake stood tall. “I have many faults, but hurting a guest’s feelings cannot be one of them.”

“I agree with you there,” Miss Finch said and clapped politely.

“Agree with what?” he asked.

“You have many faults. The least of which are poor manners.”

“Yes, well, in any case, I apologize for what I said.” Blake looked away ashamed. “I was wrong. You are really quite attractive.”

Gertrude Finch put her hands on her hips, and her voice rose with each word. “I could care less what you think of me.”

“Now, now, no need to call attention our way,” Blake said and glanced at the assembly listening to Melinda. “No need to be defensive, either. I am aware of the tender sensibilities women associate with how attractive they are. My own mother made us all kiss and coo over Aunt Constance, and she had whiskers longer than . . .”

“Listen to me, Sanders. I meant what I said. I couldn’t care less whether you think I’m attractive or not. You dismiss ideas and brains for the lack of a pretty face. I think you’re a pompous idiot. What do you think of them apples, Your Highness?” she said.

Blake held his hands behind his back, and a muscle twitched below his eye. “Miss Finch, the title ‘Your Highness’ is reserved for the royal family. You Americans bandy about titles as if a one of you could trace a history further back than the last mule you shoed.”

About the Author:

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Holly Bush was born in western Pennsylvania to two avid readers. There was not a room in her home that did not hold a full bookcase. She worked in the hospitality industry, owning a restaurant for twenty years and recently worked as the sales and marketing director in the hospitality/tourism industry and is credited with building traffic to capacity for a local farm tour, bringing guests from twenty-two states, booked two years out. Holly has been a marketing consultant to start-up businesses and has done public speaking on the subject.

Holly has been writing all of her life and is a voracious reader of a wide variety of fiction and non-fiction, particularly political and historical works. She has written four romance novels, all set in the U.S. West in the mid 1800’s. She frequently attends writing conferences, and has always been a member of a writer’s group.

Holly is a gardener, a news junkie, has been an active member of her local library board and loves to spend time near the ocean. She is the proud mother of two daughters and the wife of a man more than a few years her junior.

Holly can be found on Twitter – @hollybushbooks
At her website – www.hollybushbooks.com
On her Facebook page – https://www.facebook.com/pages/Holly-Bush/247399131941435

Our Review

RHL Classifications:
Time and Setting: England and America, 1871
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 1.5
Reviewer Rating: 3.5 stars

Review by Caz

A thoroughly unsympathetic hero at the start, Blake Saunders, Duke of Wexford is certain of his place in the world, arrogant and rather stuffy. At the beginning of the story, we learn that his wife of eighteen years has left him and that he is far from broken-hearted. In fact, he is more concerned with appearances and how he is going to explain the situation to his children and his friends and hold his head up in society. He’d never really loved his wife, so reading between the lines it’s easy to see why she finally left – she was unappreciated and unloved, and her husband, like most society gentlemen, kept a mistress.

But when Blake meets Miss Gertrude Finch, a distant cousin of one of his friends, he finds his ordered existence and his assumptions that he will automatically receive the deference due his station are turned on their heads. Miss Finch is outspoken, has no care for what society may say of her and certainly no care for what a puffed up and self-important member of the British aristocracy thinks.

They take an instant dislike to each other – he doesn’t like that she says what she thinks, and she thinks he needs taking down a peg or several; but that dislike doesn’t stop him from grabbing her, in full view of his friends and children and snogging the life out of her. Needless to say, both Blake and Gert (as she is called throughout) are horrified (even though they admit to themselves – individually – later on that it had been one hell of a kiss.)

Their mutual antagonism and attraction continues until one night, Blake ends up in Gert’s bed and they make love. He proposes marriage, as he feels is his duty, but Gert will have none of it, and shortly afterwards, boards ship to go home.

Unbeknownst to her, William, Blake’s eldest son has stowed away on board, believing that it is his only chance to see something of the world. William – or Will, as he becomes known – is quite happy to bunk down and work as a member of the crew, seeing it as part of his adventure. Back in England, Blake has hidden himself away in order to nurse his wounds, and doesn’t discover his son’s absence for a week. Will expects his father to send someone to retrieve him – but instead, Blake decides to go himself, to retrieve his son, and, he hopes, to see Gertrude again.

I rather enjoyed the descriptions of Blake’s journey through the ‘wilds’ of America, accompanied by his faithful valet, Benson, to turns out to be a handy chap to have around. Blake goes from being an upright and uptight nobleman to a man who is finally learning what is important in his life. He sleeps outdoors, gets set upon by ruffians, helps to deliver a baby, hunts for his dinner and generally ‘roughs it’ – and realises that he feels freer than he’s ever felt in his entire life.

When Blake and Gertrude finally reunite, he is shocked to discover that she is pregnant – and she still refuses to marry him. He sees that he has not treated her as well as he could have done, but what he doesn’t know is that her refusals of his suit are not just down to his behaviour. Gert was abandoned by her father at the age of twelve, and lost her mother to illness shortly afterwards. With her dying breaths, her mother cautioned her against men like her father – handsome charmers who leave when they’re done – and Gert sees history repeating itself in her relationship with Blake.

Although he wants desperately to stay with Gert at least until the baby is born, problems in England mean he has no alternative but to return home, with Will at his side. I felt the ending was a little too drawn out, but I suppose all’s well that ends well.

Overall I enjoyed the book and I thought the story was solid and for the most part well-realised, but there were several things that prevented me from giving it a higher rating.

There were several typographical and grammatical errors in the copy I received, but more annoying was the way that the characters referred to Blake, who was the Duke of Wexford, by his surname, Sanders. I can understand that perhaps the author was trying to show that Gert was unimpressed by the ceremony accorded a British peer, but even Blake’s stickler of a mother-in-law also referred to him in the same way, as did many other characters. And then there was the way that on several occasions in the early part of the book Blake grabbed and kissed Gertrude in public and in front of his children. I imagine this was partly to convey the fact that his wits fled him completely in Gert’s company, but it still doesn’t feel right that a man who was brought up to be very aware of his consequence and always to act in the proper manner would so completely ignore all the rules by which he had lived his life. Also, the way that many of the other characters spoke candidly to and with Blake about his sex life just didn’t ring true.

There was also the matter of his divorce. His duchess leaves him at the beginning of the book, and yet it’s only about eight weeks later that we are told the couple are divorced. I know divorce was possible in 1871, but it certainly wouldn’t have taken a mere two months. The timespan of Gertrude’s pregnancy is similarly truncated; she is suffering from morning sickness and has missed her period on the boat back to America, but when Blake arrives at her home just a few weeks after she does, she is already obviously pregnant. Blake stays at the ranch for a few weeks before he has to leave – and when Gertrude decides to pursue him, we’re told she’s eight months pregnant. Given that her sea voyage took six weeks from the UK to America, I’d guess it would have taken the same in the reverse direction, in which case, she should have given birth on board!

I know that picking up on things like this may seem unnecessarily pedantic, but they were things that broke the flow as I was reading and took me out of the story.

On the positive side, I thought that Blake’s relationship with Will was well written, and I liked the way that Blake came to see the difficulties about how to deal with his eldest son, a boy on the verge of manhood who would naturally look to his father for guidance. Blake realises that he would be giving Will advice that he himself had ignored because, of course, Blake hasn’t behaved well towards his wife, having openly kept a mistress. He is also made uncomfortable when realising the double standard he is maintaining when he assures his daughter that her husband would have to answer to him should he prove unfaithful like the majority of the wealthy and titled husbands in society. His devotion to his children really shone through, however, even when he was being his most ducal and asshattish.

The story was entertaining overall, and I liked the way that Ms Bush managed to redeem Blake, who spent most of the first half of the book being, in Gert’s words, a horse’s arse. Given the reservations I’ve outlined, I enjoyed the Cross the Ocean and would certainly give it a qualified recommendation.

At the time of this review, the Kindle edition of Cross the Ocean is available for $3.10.

Virtual Tour Review: RECONSTRUCTING JACKSON by Holly Bush

PUBLISHER’S BLURB:

1867 . . . Southern lawyer and Civil War veteran, Reed Jackson, returns to his family’s plantation in a wheelchair. His father deems him unfit, and deeds the Jackson holdings, including his intended bride, to a younger brother. Angry and bitter, Reed moves west to Fenton, Missouri, home to a cousin with a successful business, intending to start over.

Belle Richards, a dirt poor farm girl aching to learn how to read, cleans, cooks and holds together her family’s meager property. A violent brother and a drunken father plot to marry her off, and gain a new horse in the bargain. But Belle’s got other plans, and risks her life to reach them.

Reed is captivated by Belle from their first meeting, but wheelchair bound, is unable to protect her from violence. Bleak times will challenge Reed and Belle’s courage and dreams as they forge a new beginning from the ashes of war and ignorance.

**Author Giveaway: Holly will be awarding a $25 Amazon gift card to a randomly drawn commenter during the tour.**

RHFL Classification:

Post Civil War

Heat rating 1

Review Rating: 5 Stars/Top Pick

REVIEW by : Suzan Tisdale

I don’t normally read books from this era. However, I am so very glad that I did!

Holly Bush weaves a very sweet romance into a time period and subject matter that is, to say the least, complicated and at times, quite ugly. Holly pulls no punches in regard to how slaves were treated after the war, to preconceived notions, and the struggle that people had when the war ended.

At times, I did not like Reed Jackson, simply because of his hardheaded ways and his ideals. But I had to remind myself the time period we were dealing with and those notions made sense. Reed most definitely had a heart and a soul and there was no doubt that he fell in love with Belle the moment he first saw her. However, he was struggling with inner demons and pain and heartache.  Holly dealt with him beautifully, allowing him to grow from the very first pages. That is not always an easy feat. Sometimes authors wait until the very end to redeem a character. We know from the start that there is hope for Reed. I loved that.

Belle was undeniably sweet and strong. There is nothing over the top about this character. Holly was able to show the kind of life and upbringing this poor young girl had. With everything she had gone through, she still held on to a dream. It is Belle’s dream that had me in tears on more than one occasion. How simple yet profound can a pair of white curtains be?

This is not a bodice ripper. This is not a typical romance. It is sweet, soft, gently building. There is passion, but on an entirely different level. You’ll have to read the book to understand what I mean. This is a clean romance, a sweet romance, yet there are elements and things happening that make you want to scream for people to stop being so insensitive, cruel, and ugly. But that is what sets this apart and makes it such a beautiful read.

I look forward to reading more from Ms. Bush!

At the time of this review the book is available at Amazon for $2.99 cents.

REVIEWER BIO

Suzan is both writer and reader of historical romance. She has three books in her Clan MacDougall series. Laiden’s Daughter, released in December 2011, Findley’s Lass, released in September 2012, and the third, Wee William’s Woman was released on March 8, 2013. She is currently working on her fourth novel, Rowan’s Lady, which will launch her Clan Graham series. Rowan’s Lady is set for release later this year.

RECONSTRUCTING JACKSON by Holly Bush

BLURB:

1867 . . . Southern lawyer and Civil War veteran, Reed Jackson, returns to his family’s plantation in a wheelchair. His father deems him unfit, and deeds the Jackson holdings, including his intended bride, to a younger brother. Angry and bitter, Reed moves west to Fenton, Missouri, home to a cousin with a successful business, intending to start over.
Belle Richards, a dirt poor farm girl aching to learn how to read, cleans, cooks and holds together her family’s meager property. A violent brother and a drunken father plot to marry her off, and gain a new horse in the bargain. But Belle’s got other plans, and risks her life to reach them.
Reed is captivated by Belle from their first meeting, but wheelchair bound, is unable to protect her from violence. Bleak times will challenge Reed and Belle’s courage and dreams as they forge a new beginning from the ashes of war and ignorance.

RHL CLassifications:

Post American Civil War

Romantic Historical Fiction

Heat level 2

Review Rating: 5 Stars *Top Pick*

 

REVIEW BY VIKKI

This was such an engaging read. Belle and Reed’s story captured my heart. Reed moves to Fenton, Missouri from the south, 2 years after the civil war. He arrives in Fenton a broken man. During the war, he lost his left lower leg and the right is mangled badly so he’s in a wheel chair. Once Reed meets Belle, things move very quickly. Due to some extenuating circumstances, Reed and Belle marry, even though they are virtual strangers.

This novel was full of action and emotion as the reader becomes privy to Reed and Belle’s personal thoughts and actions. The secondary characters add flavor to this excellent plot and storyline. I loved the way Ms. Bush ended the book with a letter to Reed’s mother.

I really enjoyed watching their love for each other develop. This novel is much more than a historical romance. It deals with the very real issues of slavery and the reconstruction period of history for our nation. Ms. Bush paints a vivid picture of the reality of the prejudices that existed then and still exist today.

This is a story that will linger long in my mind and one that I will read again in the future. I highly recommend this book and could easily give it 5 stars. I look forward to reading other works from this author. I’ve read all three novels she’s written and each of them have touched my heart.   

TRAIN STATION BRIDE by Holly Bush

RHFL CLASSIFICATIONS:

Historical Romance

American History- 1880’s

Heat rating of 1.5 – Low to Moderate

Rating: 4 STARS

Publisher’s Blurb:

1887 Debutante, Julia Crawford endures a lifetime of subtle ridicule as the plump, silly daughter of a premiere Boston family. Julia strikes out on her own to gain independence, traveling to the Midwest to marry an aging shopkeeper and care for his mother. Julia finds her new home rough and uncivilized after the sophistication of a big city, while closely held secrets threaten to ruin Julia’s one chance at love. Jake Shelling was sixteen and grew up quick when his parents died from influenza on the North Dakota prairie. Left with a half-cleared farm and two young sisters, he spent little time on his own needs . . till now. At thirty-five, he figured it was high time to have some sons and a mail order bride would suit him just fine. No expectations of love, just a helpmate from sturdy stock, ready for farm life. 

REVIEW BY LADY BLUE: 

Julia has a privileged life, but she has been so beaten down by her family’s expectations that she no longer sees her own beauty or worth.  In a desperate move to escape, she arranges a marriage with a safe, older man, and leaves home to start a new life.  In the chaos of the train station, she meets a man with a similar name to her intended, who also arranged a marriage, but to a different woman.  Wanting to waste no time, he brought the preacher with him to perform the marriage right at the station.  After the ceremony has been performed, they realize what has happened, but agree to carry on with the marriage. 

Julia has secrets.  She confesses one of them to Jake right at the start, and he accepts what he hears.  However, the second secret is much bigger (and I give the author credit here, because I never guessed what it was.)  The marriage is going very well, and then Julia’s family from Boston comes to take her back home.  While she resists, they exert pressure and are not above blackmail (having to do with the big secret.)  The lovely future that they started to build is starting to unravel.  Can they recover it and save their new love? 

This book’s main strength is the realistic portrayal of its characters.  You can feel Julia’s need to escape her family.  You can also feel the pettiness and cruelty of her mother and sister.  Julia and Jake both make mistakes with each other, as people do, but they both are willing to give a little ground for the sake of their relationship.  I appreciate that all the compromising was not one sided.  A recommended read.

 ** At time of review Train Station Bride is available from Amazon.com in ebook format for $2.99**

 ABOUT THE REVIEWER:

Lady Blue is a mild mannered accountant by day, and feeds her fiction addiction at night, reading four to seven books a week.