‘Beloved’ by Robin Lee Hatcher

b rlhSTORY: Diana Brennan came west on the orphan train and was given a home with a loving couple who cherished and spoiled her. At 17, she fell hard for Tyson Applegate, the son of a wealthy mine owner. After a whirlwind courtship and marriage, Tyson took off for adventures around the world, including fighting with the Rough Riders in Cuba. Receiving no word of him for seven years, Diana is ready to move past the old pain and marry again, just as soon as Tyson is declared legally dead.

But when Tyson returns, supposedly a changed man, he wants to reunite with his wife and run for the senate. While Diana suspects the election is his real reason for wanting her by his side, she agrees to maintain his home and to campaign with him, but when it is over, win or lose, she wants her freedom.

He agrees with one condition–she must give him a chance to change her mind about him.

REVIEW: At age six, Diana Brennan was sent west with her brother and sister after their parents passed away.  Luckily, Diana was adopted by a loving couple, Mr. and Mrs. Fisher. Diana later met and married the charismatic and wealthy Tyson Applegate. While Tyson had his own inheritance, his father still tried to control his life as he always had.  When he’d had enough, Tyson simply left for several years touring the world and fighting with the Rough Riders.

Diane was devastated that she never heard from him. While she mourned for many years, she finally decided that he had probably died fighting.  Just as he was about to be declared dead and her engagement to Brook Calhoun was to the announced, Tyson came back into her life.  Wanting to make amends with Diana and his family he offered her a proposal.  He had decided that he wanted to run for the Senate but he needed her to act as his wife for six months so he could win the election.  His hope was that he could win back her love.  But if he was unsuccessful, he would give her freedom and a divorce.

The story is told in flashbacks when Diana was a child and when Tyson was off on his travels.  During his time away, he was unfaithful to her but while he apologized for his indiscretions, his remorse never rang true to me.  He said he found God when he met a young man who was a true believer.  While Diana does her best to be by his side as they meet and entertain people who would be helpful to his Senate run, Diana is torn whether he truly is repenting for his past or whether he simply wants her with him to give him credibility for his political ambitions.

I liked parts of this book but I admit that flashbacks in a book are not my favorite as it can become a bit confusing.  The plot is good but I had a hard time becoming enthralled with the story.  However, I’m sure there are others who will love it.  Do give it a try to remember that this is just my opinion.

Connie for b2b

Complimentary copy received from Goodreads as part of their First Reads program

‘True Sisters’ by Sandra Dallas

ts sdSTORY: In 1856, Mormon converts, encouraged by Brigham Young himself, and outfitted with two-wheeled handcarts, set out on foot from Iowa City to Salt Lake City, the promised land. The Martin Handcart Company, a ragtag group of weary families headed for Zion, is the last to leave on this 1,300-mile journey. Three companies that left earlier in the year have completed their trek successfully, but for the Martin Company the trip proves disastrous. True Sisters tells the story of four women from the British Isles traveling in this group. Four women whose lives will become inextricably linked as they endure unimaginable hardships, each one testing the boundaries of her faith and learning the true meaning of survival and friendship along the way.

There’s Nannie, who is traveling with her sister and brother-in-law after being abandoned on her wedding day.

There’s Louisa, who’s married to an overbearing church leader who she believes speaks for God.

There’s Jessie, who’s traveling with her brothers, each one of them dreaming of the farm they will have in Zion.

And finally, there’s Anne, who hasn’t converted to Mormonism but who has no choice but to follow her husband since he has sold everything to make the trek to Utah.

REVIEW: It was extremely well written and kept my interest all the way through it. The story takes place in 1856 and is based on the true story of newly converted Mormons from England. It follows them on their journey by ship across the Atlantic to the U.S. and by pushing their belongs via handcarts from Iowa 1,300 miles to Salt Lake City, Utah. The deplorable conditions, bad weather, lack of food, clothing and medical care tests their faith to the extreme.

Their amazing strength and determination to reach their Zion is described by the author and the characters committed to their goal. I admit that I had mixed feelings reading this book. A part of me wondered why on Earth anyone would put themselves through this while another part of me admired their unfailing determination. I do hope that readers read this book for what I think is the reason is was written which is to portray especially the strength of women in this journey.

I am not a Mormon and do not necessarily support their religion, however, I feel that everyone has a right to worship in their own way.

Connie for b2b

I was lucky enough to win an ARC of this book from Bookreporter.com.

‘The Heiress’s Homecoming’ by Regina Scott

THIC RSSTORY: Terms of the Will

To keep her cherished childhood home, Samantha Everard must marry by her twenty-fifth birthday. Yet she refuses to marry on a whim, not even to save her fortune. When she returns to Dallsten Manor to say goodbye, the last person she expects to see is her handsome, disapproving neighbor William Wentworth, Earl of Kendrick.

Will is certain the scandalous Everard family is nothing but trouble. He shouldn’t care about Samantha’s predicament, but her feistiness and kindheartedness intrigue him—as does her refusal to wed. He wants to help, especially when he perceives the threat that surrounds her. Soon his greatest wish is to persuade Samantha that her true home is with him.

REVIEW: Lady Samantha Everard is quickly approaching her 25th birthday.  According to the instructions for the inheritance of her home Dallsten Manor, she has to marry by her then or lose her home.  She refuses to do so and has decided to visit the Manor one last time as she is ready to let the fortune go.

Her neighbor William Wentworth, the Earl of Kendrick, does not understand why she would choose to lose her home.  His teenage son, Jamie, was a childhood friend of Samantha and now fancies himself in love with her and wants to marry her.  William and his wife married when they were teenagers.  Sadly, she passed away giving birth to Jamie.  Since then, he has had no desire to remarry.

Intrigued by Samantha and her independent ways, William wants to get to know her better.  However, danger lurks.  Someone does not want Samantha to inherit and suddenly she starts being attacked.  Who is this person that wants to see her dead and why?  How does Samantha handle Jamie’s teenage love for her in addition to the growing attraction between her and William?

This was a great plot with intriguing twists that really keeps the reader’s interest.  It is a Christian novel as well.

Connie for b2b

*Book provided by my local Library

‘A Duke’s Promise’ by Jamie Carie

ADP JCSTORY: From the Land of Fire and Ice back to England’s shores, Alexandria Featherstone finds herself the new Duchess of St. Easton. Her husband has promised a wedding trip to take them to the place where her imperiled parents were last seen — Italy and the marble caves of Carrara — but a powerful Italian duke plots against Alex and her treasure-hunting parents.

Hoping to save them, Alex and Gabriel travel to Italy by balloon. Fraught with danger on all sides and pressured by Gabriel’s affliction to the breaking point, they must learn to work and fight together. The mysterious key is within their grasp, but they have yet to recognize it. This journey will require steadfast faith in God and each other — a risk that will win them everything they want or lose them everything they have.

REVIEW: This is the third and last book in the Forgotten Castles series; book one, ‘The Guardian Duke’ and book two, ‘The Forgiven Duke’ must be read before you read this third installment. None of the books are stand alone, unless you read the first one which ends in a cliffhanger.

I liked the first one very much, then I was very disappointed in the second one, and that disappointment extended to this third book as well.

I did find the character of Gabriel Ravenwood, Duke of St Easton well written and three-dimensional, but the heroine, Alexandria, I found to be only two-dimensional and not much likable.

Plot wise I found the first book somewhat believable and inspirational, while the second and the third I thought just too far-fetched and despite action, intrigue and lukewarm romance, I found it totally unbelievable.

These three books should have never offered to the readers as a series, but as one book. I believe it would have read better and wouldn’t feel forced and rushed.

I honestly wouldn’t recommend it or the series.

Melanie for b2b

*Book provided by publisher through NetGalley.

‘The Heiress of Winterwood’ by Sarah Ladd

THOW SLSTORY: Amelia Barrett, heiress to an estate nestled in the English moors, defies family expectations and promises to raise her dying friend’s baby. She’ll risk everything to keep her word—even to the point of proposing to the child’s father—a sea captain she’s never met.

When the child vanishes with little more than an ominous ransom note hinting to her whereabouts, Amelia and Graham are driven to test the boundaries of their love for this little one.

Amelia’s detailed plans would normally see her through any trial, but now, desperate and shaken, she’s forced to examine her soul and face her one weakness: pride.

Graham’s strength and self-control have served him well and earned him much respect, but chasing perfection has kept him a prisoner of his own discipline. And away from the family he has sworn to love and protect.

Both must learn to accept God’s sovereignty and relinquish control so they can grasp the future He has for planned for them.

REVIEW: Amelia Barrett is a young woman who lost her parents at an early age and was raised by her uncle at the estate known as Winterwood Manor.

The novel opens with Amelia caring for the orphaned baby of her friend Katherine, who passed away right after the birth of baby Lucy.  Amelia has come to love Lucy as her own and wants to raise her at Winterwood.  

In order to not lose the estate, Amelia gets betrothed to Edward Littleton to make sure she would keep her inheritance. Sadly, Edward Littleton has told her that when they marry, Lucy can’t be living at Winterwood and Amelia realizes that he’s only after her money.  

Captain Graham Sterling, Lucy’s father, is returning to his brother’s home, Eastmore Hall, which adjoins Winterwood and while looking forward to finally meeting his daughter, he’s still grieving the loss of his wife.  

As Amelia finally meets Captain Sterling, she proposes that they wed so she can keep Lucy at Winterwood and keep the estate. However, Mr. Littleton is not letting her and the wealth of the estate go without a fight.

When Lucy disappears and a ransom note arrives, Amelia and Graham face frightening events in their fight to get her back. 

This is a lovely novel with religious undertones.  I understand it is the author’s début novel and I applaud her talent for writing a book that will keep the reader’s interest from the first page until the last.  I look forward to more of her novels.

Connie Fischer for b2b

‘The Forgiven Duke’ by Jamie Carie

TFD JCSTORY: Tethered by her impulsive promise to marry Lord John Lemon – the path of least resistance – Alexandria Featherstone sets off toward Iceland in search of her parents with a leaden heart. A glimpse of her guardian, the Duke of St. Easton – the path less traveled by – on Dublin’s shore still haunts her.

Will he come after her? Will he drag her back to London, quelling her mission to rescue her treasure-seeking parents, or might he decide to throw caution to the wind and choose Foy Pour Devoir: “Faith for Duty,” the St. Easton motto. The Featherstone motto Valens et Volens: “Willing and Able,” beats in her heart and thrums through her veins. She will find her parents and find their love, no matter the cost.

The powerful yet wing-clipped Duke of St. Easton has never known the challenge that has become his life since hearing his ward’s name. Alexandria Featherstone will be the life or the death of him. Only time and God’s plan will reveal just how much this man can endure for the prize of love.

REVIEW: First, there are three books in this series and none are stand alone. Once you’re done reading the first, which ends with a cliffhanger, you have to go to the second and third to find out what happens next.

This is the second book of this series and it starts off right at the ‘cliffhanger’ of the first one as the Duke catches the glimpse of his charge and a man she’s with on the ship bound to Iceland, of whose destination, or for that matter the man’s identity, the Duke is unaware of and must now find out.

Let me start by saying that I just loved the first book, ‘The Guardian Duke’, very much and thought it such a clever ending, albeit very frustrating because there was no happy ending for our Duke and his charge.

As I kept reading this book, the only thing I felt was irritation at the heroine for her indecision about the two men she’s deliberately and stubbornly dangling on a string.

I also felt that what seemed a clever idea to end the first one with a cliffhanger, now rendered the second book less relevant and reduced it as ‘filler’ until the third came along and tied it all together.

As for the characters, and I am including everyone  here, they all now felt forced and placed in situations that were unbelievable and uncharacteristic of their own selves.

In all honesty this second book was riddled with plot holes and I should have hoped that the Editors would have pointed it out to the author. Ms. Carie without a doubt has a talent for storytelling, but it definitely needs some ‘tuning’ and ‘tweaking’.

Now of to the third one and my hope is that the last one is more in tune with the first book…

*Book provided by the publisher through NetGalley.

‘An Unexpected Angel’ by Janet K. Halling

AUA JKHSTORY: Ella Davies, is focused, independent, and driven. Her hard work is finally paying off and she is on the brink of great success. But what no one knows is that her frantic drive is born not from a desire to succeed, but from a need to forget – forget her past, forget her guilt, and mostly, forget the tragedy that changed her life forever.

Ella’s strategy seems to be working but on Christmas Eve she meets Cohen, a strange man with an even stranger purpose. Cohen catapults Ella back through time and forces her to confront not only her own pain, but the pain of those long since passed. In the process, Ella learns about courage and compassion and that in the darkest hour, no one is ever alone.

BEHIND THE STORY by Janet K. Halling

My main inspiration came just from pondering some of the big questions in life such as why we are here and where we were before being born. I believe in life before birth and after death and so I wanted to explore that.

The other inspiration came during a trip to New York City with my sister. We were there in December and had spent the day shopping and of course everything was decorated to the hilt and it was completely crowded with people. It was quite late and as we were walking back to our hotel, I looked up into the lit windows of the skyscrapers and could see people who were obviously still at work. It was just odd. Here was all this revelry going on below and they were working. So I started wondering what their lives might be like and that provided a lot of the structure for Ella.  The story opens with her working late on Christmas Eve.


“Somewhere there was a rhythmic humming—a kind of a swooshing sound that increased and decreased in volume at regular intervals. She couldn’t remember where she was. Her whole body ached, and her head felt as if it would explode.

Ella groaned and opened her eyes. She was still in the gym, lying crumpled against the weight machine. The treadmill had stopped, and the rhythmic sound was coming from the man riding the spinning bike, which sat nearby.

Her fingers trembled as she felt the goose egg on the side of her head. Her face was on fire, probably scraped on the belt, and her knees were bloody, also from the belt.

Suddenly she stiffened. There was a man riding the bike! A man riding the bike. While she had been lying there unconscious. Had he just sauntered in and climbed on without seeing her at all or had he viewed her inert form without concern? That was cold, even for New York City. Gingerly, she turned her head to look at him.

It was the clerk from the deli, and he didn’t stop pedaling as he glanced her way. “Oh good, you’re awake.”

She stared up at him in mute astonishment.

He reached for his water bottle and took a long drink. “I’m glad you woke up on your own,” he said pleasantly. “I was about ready to pour this in your face, so you can thank me for sparing you an unexpected shower.”

Ella grasped the weight machine and pulled herself slowly to a sitting position. Her head was throbbing, and her stomach lurched. “I could sue you for failing to come to the aid of an injured person,” she snapped rather feebly.

The man studied her contemplatively. “Hmmm, yes, you would think of that, wouldn’t you? But I’m not too worried, Ella. You’re not going to sue me and we both know it.”

She opened her mouth to snarl a retort but stopped abruptly. “How do you know my name?” she demanded. “And what are you even doing here? You don’t live in this building.” She hesitated, realizing she wasn’t sure. “Do you?”

He jumped off the bike and held out his hand. “You should get up. Want help?”

She shrank away from him. “Don’t touch me! Who are you, and how do you know my name?”

“Well, it’s simple really. My name is Cohen, and I’m your guardian angel.” He broke into a brief but rapid tap dance routine and finished with flair. And with jazz hands.

Ella stared at him in perplexed silence, unsure if he was a hallucination or just crazy. “Uh-huh. Right,” she finally said, groaning as she pulled herself to her feet. A wave of nausea hit her, and she stopped, doubling over and willing herself not to vomit. She for sure had a concussion.

She tried to think. Should she go to the hospital? Or maybe just go home and try to sleep? She didn’t know. She made a move toward the door, but Cohen tap-danced over to block her path.

“Get out of my way,” she snapped at him with more bravado than she felt.

He grinned. “Can’t do that. You and me, we have business tonight.”

For the first time, she felt a small dart of fear. Cohen wasn’t exactly menacing, but he certainly was strange. If he attacked her, would she have the strength to fight him? If only her head would stop hurting!

“What do you want?” she asked.

“I already told you, I’m your guardian angel. Well, not technically an angel, but that word will serve as well as any other. Anyway, I’m here to help.”

“Sure. Like you helped me when I was unconscious a minute ago? If that’s your kind of help, no thanks.”

“No, not that kind of help, silly.”

“Look, whatever you’re on, whatever you’re offering, I’m not interested. Just leave me alone, please? I’m sore and tired, and my head is killing me. I need to go lie down.”

“Oh, right. That.” He made some sort of vague gesture and instantly her nausea subsided and the pain in her head vanished.

Chills raced up and down her spine, and she stared at him, “Wait . . . what’s . . . what’s going on?”

“Okay, no more joking around.” Cohen looked suddenly serious. “Here’s the deal. You need help and there’s a lot you need to learn. Only you’re far too stubborn to admit it. You might not even know how much help you need. But I know; so here I am.”

The pieces were starting to fall into place. “Wait . . . Christmas Eve . . . guardian angel. This is some kind of a joke, right?” she said before adding sarcastically, “What’s the matter, Jacob Marley was busy? Clarence already got his wings? Or wasn’t he on duty tonight?”

He grinned. “Both good men. But you got stuck with me. Although, all things considered, maybe it’s me who got stuck with you. You can be quite unpleasant, do you know that?”

Ella snorted derisively. “So when does the Ghost of Christmas Past show up? Or is he waiting for me upstairs?”

“Dickens took some liberties. It doesn’t exactly work like that. At least, this time it won’t.”

“You have exactly one second to get out of my way or I’m going to start screaming at the top of my lungs!”

Cohen cocked his head to one side and gave her a brief shrug of resignation. “Okay then, you win. Can’t say I didn’t try.” He stepped smoothly to one side and swept his arm in a wide arc toward the door. “Be my guest.”

Throwing him what she hoped was a withering glare, Ella marched past him, flung open the door—and stepped into a nightmare.”

REVIEW: Ella is one of those heroines that at the start of the story you’ll not like much. Growing up, she was the overachiever that grew into a workaholic  She is good-looking, single and dedicated to her work. Her work week consists of not just putting in seventy hours at the law firm, but extra hours at home as well.

She is the epitome of one of those women that are best described by the three B’s: Boring, Bland and Blah.The author did an excellent job in portraying her as too serious, rude and not likable at all. Even her living quarters are telling of her personality.The colors of the rooms are in varying shades of white, gray and light blue. Oh, and she dreads Christmas. Something about it brings up unpleasant memories that she’s not ready to face.

As for her love life, well there was none after Stuart and it looks like she doesn’t even want to be in a relationship. This woman’s life was just pathetic, and of her making. Until one evening when she meets Cohen….

For a little novella, this story sure packs a punch. From page one, right off the bat, it will grab you and keep you glued until the end. It will make you think and question its many what ifs and maybes. The author achieved in making the reader ponder this life and the next, and possibly the previous. This is my first time reading Janet Halling, but trust me, it won’t be the last.

Oh, and make sure you have the Klinex with this one too!

Janet K HallingFEATURED AUTHOR: Janet K. Halling

Author Bio: Janet Halling discovered her love of writing at the age of six when her story of a lonely duck won a first grade writing contest. She has a degree in Marketing Communications and lives with her family in northern Utah. She is currently working on her next novel.