Book Review: Once Upon A Dickens Christmas by Michelle Griep

I know, I know… Christmas is still months away (14 weeks, give or take a day!) However, I can read Christmas-themed novels all year round. Michelle Griep, self-proclaimed “author, blogger, and occasional super-hero when her cape is clean.” knows how to do heartwarming, wholesome historical fiction.

Heartwarming & Wholesome Historical Fiction

In her three-novella series, she provides a Dickensian-feel to bring on the Christmas cheer and leave you feel like you’ve been sitting fireside – all warm and cheerful on the inside. The three charming Victorian tales (originally published individually) included in Once Upon a Dickens Christmas are:

  • 12 Days at Bleakly Manor: Brought together under mysterious circumstances, Clara and Ben discover that what they’ve been striving for isn’t what ultimately matters. What matters most is what Christmas is all about…love.
  • A Tale of Two Hearts: Pleasure seeker William Barlow needs a wife immediately to gain his uncle’s inheritance, and Mina Scott is just the girl to make him look respectable—too bad she turns him down. Ought he give her a second chance?
  • The Old Lace Shop: Recently widowed Bella White is finally freed from the domination of the overbearing men in her life, but when she enters into a business partnership with the handsome Edmund Archer, she begins to wonder if marriage is worth a second chance.

My favourite of the three was the first (12 Days at Bleakly Manor), but they were all appealing within their own right. These titles balance mystery with romance and a sprinkling of faith (but not in a heavy-handed obnoxious way.) The recipe leaves you with a delightful narrative that you’ll want to enjoy curled up in a cozy place with a tea – even better if there’s a Christmas tree illuminated in the corner. Published September 1st, and available for purchase now.

My thanks to the author and publisher, Shiloh Run Press, an imprint of Barbour Books. I was provided with a complimentary title via NetGalley and all thoughts are my own.

Book Review: The Yellow Lantern by Angie Dicken

There has been so much on my mind lately – thoughts tumbling and turning over one another, emotions and experiences lending a layer to the fog. I want to tell you all about it, but at the same time it all seems too much. So I read. And I will share with you my thoughts on a much simpler subject.

If you follow me on Instagram you may have seen my story the other day on how wonderfully generous NetGalley is and how terribly behind I a in getting through my to-be-read pile of galleys and ARCs. So many books, so little time.

One of the series I’ve been fortunate enough to have read recently is the True Colors: Historical Stories of American Crime series, written by various authors, published by Barbour Publishing Inc.

Each title is a standalone focusing on true crimes throughout history, but presented in a neatly wrapped bundle of fiction. The latest title, published August 1, is The Yellow Lantern written by Angie Dicken.

This novel covers the dark side of medical research and the history of labour opportunities afforded to women, and the lack of options available to women. We are introduced to grave robbers, mill work, blackmail, murder, and more.

To balance the darkness of the crime aspects, we also have secrets unraveling left, right, and center… plus watching our protagonists fall in love.

Everything you could want… I guess. I wish there had been a bit more historical fact. I wish the protagonists were a little more developed (at times they felt a little banal.) The gruesome side of this tale and the secondary mystery held my attention more than the actual main storyline. I will say, however, that the author opened the book with a remarkably intense scene that set a tense background to the whole of the book.

Overall, a quick read that I would recommend for a bit of historical mystery, drama, and danger – a little on the light and perhaps even a tiny bit colourless. Overall, the series as a whole presents decent insight into dark and tragic events that impacted our society today, but this one might not be exciting enough for someone looking for a thrill.

My thanks to Barbour Publishing and NetGalley for the opportunity to read this complimentary title. All opinions are my own.

Book Review: The Pink Bonnet by Liz Tolsma

The Pink Bonnet is the second title I’ve read in the True Colors series – historical novels of real American crimes. I’ve enjoyed this series because I’ve actually learned about certain parts of history that I had no clue about. In fact, I just received an email inviting me to review a third title in the series.

Tolsma’s tale revolves around the battle between a widowed mother and Georgia Tann, the head of the Tennessee Children’s Home and child trafficker. Her gang stole more than 5,000 babies and adopted them our for profit on the black market.

This is not the first retelling of the historical events (I think I might be the only one who hasn’t yet read Lisa Wingate’s “Before We Were Yours.” I promise it’s been on my to-be-read pile for some time.) It was, however, enjoyable to read in a suspenseful, I really-hope-it-turns-out type of tale. The sweet romance element added a little extra something to the drama and hopeless expectation, underdog vs. corruption focus of the story.

Tolsma presents a likeable story marked with a clear picture of horrendous events. As a mother, I found it difficult to read at times. It was “clean” in language, romance, etc.

It was a good book. It piqued my interest in the Tennessee Children’s Home scandal. It was easy to read… but even though I enjoyed it, it felt like it was missing just little something – it’s a three-star rating from me – not bad at all, but not rave-worthy either. We’ll call it a good way to pass by a quiet afternoon.

Published by: Barbour Publishing, Inc.
Publication date: June 1, 2019

I was provided with a copy of this book via the publisher via NetGalley. All opinions are my own.

Book Review: The Erie Canal Brides Collection

If you’re a fan of historical American Christian romance, you’ll enjoy The Erie Canal Brides Collection. Touted as “7 Romances Develop Along Man-Made Waterways of New York and Ohio”, it’s written by a talented group of various authors. Each book feels complete and wasn’t a one-night read for me – it may require an investment of time. I perused a digital version so I can’t speak to the heft of the actual print edition, but there was a lot to consume in this one!

Of the seven titles, there were obviously a few stories that I preferred more than others. Titles included in the collection include:

  • The Way of a Child by Lauralee Bliss, Little Falls, New York 1817
  • Wedding of the Waters by Rita Gerlach, Goshen Creek, New York. 181
  • Digging for Love by Ramona K. Cecil, Rochester, New York 1822
  • Return to Sweetwater Cove by Christina Miller, Sweetwater Cove, New York, 1825
  • Journey of the Heart by Johnnie Alexander, Circleville, Ohio, early 1852
  • Pressing On by Rose Allen McCauley, Zoar, Ohio, 1856
  • The Bridge Between Us by Sherri Wilson Johnson, Albion, New York, 1859

With so many choices, I was exposed to authors I had never read before and dug into an aspect of history that I’ve never really thought about. Some stories were a little deeper, some a little more emotional, some more preach-y than others, but there is definitely a title for everyone who is a fan of this genre included in the pack.

My personal favourites, though very different styles, were Digging For Love (prejudice against the Irish) and Journey of the Heart (abolition.) No objectionable content in any of the stories, of course, and each included that sweet dash of romance. It wasn’t a 5-star rating from me just because I was indifferent to a few of the included tales. However, it was a nice way to spend a few cozy evenings.

This title was published on March 1, 2019 by Barbour Publishing Inc., known for being
“a leading publisher of Christian books offering exceptional value and biblical encouragement.”

I was provided with a digital copy of this title via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are my own.

Book Review: The Noble Guardian by Michelle Griep


Taciturn & Tender –
Adventurous Historical Christian Romance

If you are looking for historical Christian fiction brimming with the characterization of a taciturn, valiant hero and a lively, generous heroine, while courting danger around every bend and the demonstration of courage in the face of disappointments, Michelle Griep’s The Noble Guardian has it all! Adventure. History. Romance. The third in The Bow Street Runners series, it’s easy to read as a standalone (but having read this title, I’ll definitely be adding the first two titles to my to-be-read stack.)

Griep has a wonderful way with words and kindly shares some of her historical research aspects with her readers at the back of the book. I have no remarks on the aspect of historical accuracy, because I’m generally reading the genre for the escape, not the realism. I’m guessing based on the facts she shared, most aspects were pretty spot-on.

Back to the story itself… two bruised individuals, an adorable cherub of a child, and well-shaped secondary characters shine. At 32o pages in the paperback format, it’s not a short book, but it’s quite the tale of longing, revenge, and as mentioned previously, danger (almost ridiculous amounts of danger, to be honest. I mean it’s fiction, but life just kept throwing one curveball after another – which of course they handled with fortitude and style.) They faced seemingly insurmountable hurdles while trying to navigate their futures and escape the wounds of their pasts while racing cross-country through Regency England.

Romance was sweetly threaded throughout and, of course, love triumphs all. One of my favourite quotes from the book was just before the half-way point, when the Captain (our hero!) insists Abby (our heroine) is more valuable than she realises and calls her a gem. *sigh* (I’d quote the exact line but my copy was uncorrected and I don’t want to get it wrong!) Honestly, coming from such a sullen man and in the early stages of their alliance it was really quite the tender and endearing scene (with a typical touch of gruffness from a pensive man.) The story was liberally sprinkled with references to faith and the characters’ development of conviction and hope. As they lean on each other, they each find safety – both physically and emotionally – as they become the family they’ve always needed.

I truly enjoyed this spin on my go-to genre and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys a heartwarming historical tale of hope and redemption. You can pre-order your copy now through all major booksellers. It’s a 4.5 star for me!

I was provided with a complimentary Advanced Reader Copy of this title through NetGalley with thanks to the publisher and author. All opinions expressed are my own.

Published by: Barbour Publishing, Inc.
Publication Date: June 1, 2019