Book Review & Blog Tour: The Girl from the Channel Islands by Jenny Lecoat

It’s no secret that I have an affinity for WWII novels. Looking across at a small cubby on my bookshelf and of the 16 titles in the stack, almost half take place in that era. One of the greatly anticipated historical winter releases from Harlequin just so happens to take place on the Channel Islands during Nazi occupation. The Girl from the Channel Islands by Jenny Lecoat has romance, takes place in WWII, features remarkable gutsy women, and is based on a true story?!?! Count me in!

FROM THE PUBLISHER:
An extraordinary story of human triumph against impossible odds

The year is 1940, and the world is torn apart by war. In June of that year, Hitler’s army captures the Channel Islands–the only part of Great Britain to be occupied by German forces. Abandoned by Mr. Churchill, forgotten by the Allies, and cut off from all help, the Islands’ situation is increasingly desperate.

Hedy Bercu is a young Jewish girl who fled Vienna for the island of Jersey two years earlier during the Anschluss, only to find herself trapped by the Nazis once more–this time with no escape. Her only hope is to make herself invaluable to the Germans by working as a translator, hiding in plain sight wIth the help of her friends and community–and a sympathetic German officer. But as the war intensifies, rations dwindle, neighbors turn on neighbors, and Hedy’s life is in greater danger every day. It will take a definitive, daring act to save her from certain deportation to the concentration camps.

A sweeping tale of bravery and love under impossible circumstances, Hedy’s remarkable story reminds us that it’s often up to ordinary people to be quiet heroes in the face of injustice.

MY THOUGHTS:
I didn’t find this novel to be an epic swept away whirlwind tale with danger and daring around every corner – you know the type, I mean. However, I loved the “every day” feel of The Girl From the Channel Islands – we were flies on the wall while the characters went about life, however miserable or mundane or dangerous it was in any given scene.

It made me ponder what it would be like to lose everything and then to fall in love with the supposed enemy. I was also struck by the reminder of how unfair war was to everyone involved – not all Germans were evil, not all serving on the front were evil, the Allies were guilty of their own sins, and war is just horrible (an understatement, I know) all the way around.

The romance felt secondary to the primary story arc, but was a very elemental detail in Hedy’s decisions. I offer a content warning for a few scenes. Hedy, Kurt, Dorothea, and Anton were all just very ordinary, offering their own subtle resistances as they struggled for survival. The devastation to the island (and islanders) of Jersey was visible, the thread or hum of danger while eking out a meager existence palpable, the uncertainty and fear and hunger felt in the captivating tale. I particularly enjoyed that this gave a “fresh face” to the WWII historical romance, transporting us to a seldom explored location in this era and telling a unique aspect of the story.

I was slightly disappointed in the ending, but I don’t want to offer any spoilers so I will leave you with this. If you have questions about what happened next, or want to read more about the novel and the key players, check out this article from The Times of Israel. A quick Google search and I have more information then I will ever need! In a nutshell, this was a moving tale of simple bravery, ordinary people living with extraordinary courage, and the resiliency of humanity when balanced with compassion and friendship.

My thanks to our friends at Harlequin for sharing an Advanced Readers Copy with me! If you pick up a copy for yourself or have read the previously released version, Hedy’s War (UK edition), let me know if you agree with my take. This title releases next week (February 2nd) and will be available through all major booksellers (although I encourage you to order through your favourite local bookstore!)

THE GIRL FROM THE CHANNEL ISLANDS 
Author: Jenny Lecoat
ISBN: 9781525806414
Publication Date: February 2, 2021
Publisher: Graydon House Books

Book Review: A Castaway in Cornwall

Every once in a while a reader will stumble across an author that is such a great match for their reading interests that you know no matter which title you pick up, you’re going to love it. Julie Klassen is one of those authors for me. Her books aren’t always fast paced, but there’s just something about them that works time and time again.

A Castaway in Cornwall was published in December but I just got around to reading it a few days ago. I was not mistaken – I was met, as expected, with a work of fiction that hit all the right notes for me at the right time. It’s an atmospheric telling, obviously about a castaway in Cornwall – a shipwreck survivor – and the woman who nurses him to health, a castaway in her own right. That’s an overly simplistic capture of the plot, but I don’t want to spoil the story – I want to encourage you to read it for yourself. Inside you’ll find a lot of coastal or sea-worthy jargon with an emphasis on flotsam and jetsam (do you know the difference?) and a reflection of the Cornish history of smuggling and wreckers woven into the period piece.

The lead characters in this novel have some depths to them – secrets, pasts, scars – but they’re steadfast – which is not to be confused with boring. The book as a whole is not fast paced, and it’s not a romp – it takes its time to get from cover to cover, but it’s an enjoyable journey nonetheless. I would classify it as historical inspirational fiction with intrigue and an innocent, slow-burn romance. Bonus points for the cover art – I just absolutely love the colour palette and soft design. This title felt quite a bit like a novel written just for me.

My thanks to the publisher for the complimentary copy of this title via NetGalley. All opinions are my own.

Publication Date: December 1, 2020
Publisher: Bethany House
ISBN: 9780764234224

Book Review: The Thief of Blackfriars Lane by Michelle Griep

We’re well into the third day of the first month of a brand new spanking year that we as a family brought in much like we do every other strike of midnight – sleepy, contemplating bed for the adults, and wide awake, gaming, for the teens. You’d think for someone who spent more time than usual encamped at home this year that my reading goals would have been a breeze to meet, but I miscalculated and by the last of 2020 had not met my benchmark at all. Oh well! A new year… a new book… some new reading goals!

The Thief of Blackfriars Lane by Michelle Griep was the perfect official inaugural read for this booklover. While I technically finished another title prior, that title straddled the line between years and is accounted for somewhere in a reader’s no-man’s land. This smashing work of fiction, however, was published January 1st and seemed the exactly right title to start my new book year fresh. I finished it in the wee hours of the morning, being fully ensconced in this sweet, mysterious, and fast paced romp, aided in part by a miscalculated (but enjoyable) coffee at 9 p.m. last night. As I put my Kindle to sleep around 3 a.m., and contemplated sleep myself, I remembered again how much I truly enjoy Griep as an author of historical Christian fiction. Why do I not read her work more often?

I was swept back in time and settled in for a delightfully vivacious adventure. The author crafts a beautiful word picture that will immerse you in the action, location, and emotion on every page. The romance lends itself to sweetness and naivete, while the need to meet a deadline lends a sense of urgency and need to engage. Through this clever and compelling novel with elements of faith and trust, I was transported through the smelliest, darkest parts of London where danger and deception lurk to the glittering ballrooms of the wealthy (where danger and deception lurk) to the noble halls of the historic metropolitan police. A 5-star read to start the year off right. What a delight!

Publication Date: January 1, 2020
Publisher: Barbour Fiction

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

Blog Tour Book Review: Wrong Alibi by Christina Dodd

I’ve been reading Christina Dodd for years. Her books are sassy, well paced, with elements of humour, danger, and intrigue. When Harlequin sent me the list of titles available for the Mystery Thriller Fall Reads Blog Tour, I was excited to see Wrong Alibi on the list and eagerly selected it as a title to read and review.

From the Publisher:

Perfect for fans of Lisa Jewell, New York Times bestselling author Christina Dodd delivers an all-new thriller, featuring a bold and brash female protagonist.

WRONG JOB
Eighteen-year-old Evelyn Jones lands a job in small-town Alaska, working for a man in his isolated mountain home. But her bright hopes for the future are shattered when Donald White disappears, leaving her to face charges of theft, embezzlement—and a brutal double murder. Her protestations of innocence count for nothing. Convicted, she faces life in prison…until fate sends her on the run.

WRONG NAME
Evie’s escape leaves her scarred and in hiding, isolated from her family, working under an alias at a wilderness camp. Bent on justice, intent on recovering her life, she searches for the killer who slaughters without remorse.

WRONG ALIBI
At last, the day comes. Donald White has returned. Evie emerges from hiding; the fugitive becomes the hunter. But in her mind, she hears the whisper of other forces at work. Now Evelyn must untangle the threads of evidence before she’s once again found with blood on her hands: the blood of her own family.

My Thoughts:

This novel contains all the twists, turns, drama, and danger you’d expect in a gripping piece of contemporary suspense, but I do find it was missing the sass and humour I have come to expect, which, yes, I can admit would probably have been out of place in a book with a dark side. I found myself frustrated throughout, screaming “No!” or “That’s not fair!” or “Why would you do that?” silently to myself. Needless to say I was engaged with the drama and mystery – wanting to know the backstory and see where we were headed. Beautifully descriptive settings land you in the middle of Alaska, hiding in the wilds with those who find the vast remote landscape the perfect place to become someone new or hide their true identities. As with most of Harlequin’s novels, I would recommend for adult readers due to content.

This title hit shelves today and is available through all the major booksellers and I’m sure through your favourite local bookstore!

WRONG ALIBI
Author: Christina Dodd 
ISBN: 9781335080820
Publication Date: December 29, 2020
Publisher: HQN Books


Book Review: Autumn Skies by Denise Hunter

The third and final novel in the Bluebell Inn series, Autumn Skies is an absolutely wonderful conclusion to a beautifully written contemporary family saga. Three siblings renovate and run the Bluebell Inn to commemorate their parents, each novel devoting itself to one love story at a time. My review of the first title, Lake Season, can be found here.

Continuing the family story while tying up the loose ends as the Bennetts look to the future, we encounter Grace’s romance in this last installment. Engaging and heartwarming, Denise Hunter knows her audience and creates dynamic characters that you love. There is an innocence or winsomeness to Hunter’s writing that is appealing, and yet her characters and storylines have a depth to them – scars and doubts and obstacles that all must be dealt with for any healthy relationships to occur – especially as truths are exposed that make heartache a very real possibility. Set in a picturesque small town that you’ll want to visit, this is another winner for Ms. Hunter, I’m sure.

Released October 20th, you should be able to find this title at your favourite local bookseller or through the usual online distributors. If not – request it and the other titles in the series and find a quiet spot to get lost in their charm!

My thanks to the publisher for the complimentary copy of this title via NetGalley.
Opinions expressed are entirely my own.

Publication Date: October 20, 2020
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
ISBN: 9780785222804



Blog Tour & Book Review: The Forgotten Sister by Nicola Cornick

I have had some disappointing reads lately that have just been “blah” and left me in a bit of a reading slump. I haven’t been quick to pick up any new NetGalley titles because I’ve been leery of feeling disappointed and not quite knowing how to weave my thoughts into constructive criticism – which is the whole premise of the program. When a reminder popped up that I was to post as part of the Harlequin 2020 Fall Reads Historical Fiction blog tour for Nicola Cornick’s newest title, The Forgotten Sister, I realised I had procrastinated long enough and it was time to jump into something new. It took me a day to read and it was easy-going – no drudgery involved. What a relief!

FROM THE PUBLISHER:

In the tradition of the spellbinding historical novels of Philippa Gregory and Kate Morton comes a stunning story based on a real-life Tudor mystery, of a curse that echoes through the centuries and shapes two women’s destinies…

1560: Amy Robsart is trapped in a loveless marriage to Robert Dudley, a member of the court of Queen Elizabeth I. Surrounded by enemies and with nowhere left to turn, Amy hatches a desperate scheme to escape—one with devastating consequences that will echo through the centuries…

Present Day: When Lizzie Kingdom is forced to withdraw from the public eye in a blaze of scandal, it seems her life is over. But she’s about to encounter a young man, Johnny Robsart, whose fate will interlace with hers in the most unexpected of ways. For Johnny is certain that Lizzie is linked to a terrible secret dating back to Tudor times. If Lizzie is brave enough to go in search of the truth, then what she discovers will change the course of their lives forever.

MY THOUGHTS:

This was a well-crafted easy-to-read novel. During the opening scenes, I had some doubts about compatibility, but kept reading and was pleasantly entertained. I shouldn’t have doubted, as I’ve read and enjoyed Cornick’s work before. I pondered the relevance of the title at times but that too resolved itself to my satisfaction. This is a fanciful work of fiction with some extrasensory elements. I don’t typically travel to the Tudor period in my historical reading, so was unfamiliar with some of the key characters. The author’s note at the end made it even more interesting to me!

I was able to read the book throughout one day (without neglecting my family!) I was entertained, my curiosity was piqued, and the plot caught me by surprise. Overall I would recommend The Forgotten Sister as it held (without taking away from the merits of Cornick herself as an author) a Susanna Kearsley-esque appeal. Released today, you should be able to pick up a copy from your favourite local bookseller or any of the usual online retailers

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

USA Today bestselling author Nicola Cornick has written over thirty historical romances for Harlequin and HQN Books. She has been nominated twice for a RWA RITA Award and twice for the UK RNA Award. She works as a historian and guide in a seventeenth century house. In 2006 she was awarded a Masters degree with distinction from Ruskin College, Oxford, where she wrote her dissertation on heroes.

THE FORGOTTEN SISTER 
Author: Nicola Cornick 
ISBN: 9781525809958
Publication Date: November 10, 2020
Publisher: Graydon House Books 

Book Review: What They Meant for Evil

It has been more than a year since I first read Rebecca Deng’s beautiful autobiography, What They Meant for Evil. My Facebook post from October 2019 reflects my eagerness to share this title with the world. “I was given an advanced copy of this book, but didn’t get around to reading it until Saturday night. Once I started, I could not put it down. It is a remarkable account of a “Lost Girl” from Sudan and all she survived before (and after) being accepted as a refugee. Her faith was unshakeable and her story an inspiration. As one of my kids complained their turkey was cold, I shared a little bit of Rebecca’s story to remind them of how truly blessed we are. I will be ordering a copy for myself so if you want to borrow it, let me know!”

Unfortunately, my advanced order from Amazon was cancelled and I’ve not yet looked into a new source. Officially released September 8, 2020, I strongly recommend this title for anyone who would like to expand their worldview as it provides a remarkable firsthand account of a historical atrocity that we only heard about on the news.

From the Publisher:

One of the first unaccompanied refugee children to enter the United States in 2000, after South Sudan’s second civil war took the lives of most of her family, Rebecca’s story begins in the late 1980s when, at the age of four, her village was attacked and she had to escape. What They Meant for Evil is the account of that unimaginable journey. With the candor and purity of a child, Rebecca recalls how she endured fleeing from gunfire, suffering through hunger and strength-sapping illnesses, dodging life-threatening predators-lions, snakes, crocodiles, and soldiers alike-that dogged her footsteps, and grappling with a war that stole her childhood.

Her story is a lyrical, captivating portrait of a child hurled into wartime, and how through divine intervention, she came to America and found a new life full of joy, hope, and redemption.


Deng’s writing is descriptive and beautiful, painting a brightly woven tapestry of heartbreak, sorrow, hope, and healing. I don’t know how anyone could read it without being moved by her story – her strength, her brokenness, her light, her voice. Candid and captivating, she doesn’t shy away from the darkness encountered in her journey, but leads you carefully by the hand as you take every step with her. Rebecca Deng is a beacon of purpose and peace as she shares her incredible history without bitterness.

My thanks to the publisher for the complimentary copy of this title via NetGalley. I will be purchasing when I can locate a supplier in Canada. If you have any leads, please tip me off in the comments.

Harlequin 2020 Fall Reads Blog Tour – Women’s Fiction & Romance – Rescue You by Elysia Whisler

There’s something about reading in fall – maybe it’s the opportunity to get really cozy with a warm blanket and a hot drink while immersing yourself in an even cozier read. If you follow the publishing industry at all, you’ll know there’s some highly anticipated books hitting the market this time of year. One of those titles, Elysia Whisler’s Rescue You, is being released next week (October 27, to be exact.) My thanks to the team at Harlequin Trade Publishing for providing an advanced readers copy for review as part of the 2020 Fall Reads Blog Tour featuring Women’s Fiction & Romance.

FROM THE PUBLISHER:

She needs a fresh start. He’s got scars that haven’t healed. With the help of some rescue dogs, they’ll discover that everyone deserves a chance at happiness.

After a year of heartbreak and loss, the only thing keeping Constance afloat is the dog rescue she works at with her sister, Sunny. Desperate for a change, Constance impulsively joins a new gym, even though it seems impossibly hard, and despite the gym’s prickly owner.

Rhett Santos keeps his gym as a refuge for his former-military brothers and to sweat out his own issues. He’s ready to let the funny redhead join, but unprepared for the way she wiggles past his hard-won defenses.

When their dog rescue is threatened, the sisters fight to protect it. And they need all the help
they can get. As Rhett and Constance slowly open up to each other, they’ll find that no one is
past rescuing; what they need is the right person—or dog—to save them.

MY THOUGHTS:

This title was really immersive, as in, I’m more of a cuddle on the couch type of person than a let’s get sweaty and run 5 miles before we bench-press our bodyweight type of person, but I found myself wanting to hit the nearest CrossFit facility after stopping at the local animal shelter to adopt a puppy. The author brought her environment to life in an engaging and appealing way.

The characters were smashing* in a kick-butt, no nonsense regard. Constance was sweet and sassy, strong and protective – a down-to-earth woman with a very low tolerance for bull from anyone. Rhett is damaged but kind and also, ridiculously fit. I particularly appreciated some of Constance’s realizations regarding her own self-image, workouts, etc. She needed some healing and I think she found that. Beyond that, the story has layers – the primary heartwarming love story, the sisters’ relationship, a dog rescue, and a secondary romance. All the layers mesh together to create this easy-to-read, give-you-all-the-feels, about-what-you’d-expect contemporary romantic women’s fiction. It wasn’t anything spectacularly “out there”, but was warm, stirring, engaging – exactly what you want for a fall weekend read. (*I didn’t know what word to use here… use your imagination.)

Reader discretion advised for occasional language and not-graphic adult scenes (that you can definitely skip over if you choose.) While I enjoyed the novel, I wouldn’t be comfortable lending it to a 12 year old.

Watch for this title to hit all your favourite retailers next Tuesday! Available from the usual spots online for preorder or ask your local bookseller to bring it in.

RESCUE YOU
Author: Elysia Whisler
ISBN: 9780778310082
Publication Date: October 27, 2020
Publisher: MIRA Books

Isolation & A Book Review: Take Heart by (in)Courage

It’s midday and I’m tucked into bed, laptop on my knee. I’ve been up since 7 a.m. after a restless night. In the accomplishment column, one child made it to school without issue, I gagged down some oatmeal before 7:30 a.m. (I hate early breakfasts), I unexpectedly shuttled the other child to school because the bus didn’t show, and made it into my nuclear medicine appointment with seconds to spare. I spent time listening to a rundown on radioactive iodine and what I can expect over the next few days, weeks, months. Signed off on consent forms, and after an hour of time and a dynamic little capsule, was safely back on the road back home again. I’m in isolation with some distanced visiting for the next few days – I can’t share a bed or a couch with my husband, but I can watch TV in the same room. No kissing, sharing dishes, or using the same washroom, but we can visit a bit and otherwise I’m restricted to my room. I’m anticipating all the free time I’ll have (3 whole days of not being allowed to do things!) and I’ve been making a mental note of what I want to enjoy with this precious bundle of unspoken for minutes. I’m looking at it as an enforced vacation – books, blogging, Netflix, naps, etc. We’ll see if my outlook is as optimistic by Sunday afternoon.

Those who know me or have been following along know that not unlike others, my journey hasn’t been along the smoothest straightest path. Sometimes life really sucks. Hard things happen. Difficulties loom. Health tanks. Relationships strain. Loved ones pass. We struggle… but I am a person of faith and I believe that we are not alone, even in the darkest moments and the brightest of days. I’m not here to preach or pontificate, but wanted to preface the book review I’m sharing below as it’s not a genre I usually post about.

I was privileged enough to be a part of the Take Heart launch team and was provided with a complimentary digital copy of this devotional (through NetGalley, naturally.) For someone who has been experiencing probably the roughest two years of her life, every entry was like sitting down to have a chat with a friend – straight-shooting, honest, heartfelt, and soul-soothing. Some readings made me sit up straight and think. Others were a balm that left me feeling seen and heard. Some made me laugh or cry – or even both at the same time in that awkward snort-sob kind of way.

Written by women going through the same things you and I experience every day, the quality of the topics and the writing is spot on. Quantitively, the entries are quick and easy to read, with a short Scripture (or two or three) and each passage closes with a prayer of reflection. With titles such as “Rest and Be the Beautiful You” by Bonnie Gray, “In the Waiting” by Jen Schmidt, and “The Worthy Cost of Being an Ally” by Michelle Reyes, you’ll find relevant topics with soul-searing truth and beautiful voices sharing encouragement straight from the heart. I highly recommend this devotional for anyone who finds themselves struggling with the mundane or the not-so-ordinary hiccups that come along the path of life as a reminder that you’re not going through anything alone!

One of the most poignant readings for myself was the entry mentioned above by Bonny Gray. The whole thing struck a chord in me and even the prayer is a call of my heart. She closes with this simple statement that reinforces the importance of rest and stillness.

Be kind to yourself and find a place for your weary soul to rest in His irrevocable love for you.

– Bonnie Gray, Rest and Be the Beautiful You,
Take Heart: 100 Devotions to Seeing God When Life’s Not Okay by (in)Courage

This devotional is now available for pre-order and releases October 20, 2020. The cover is beautifully designed as all titles from (in)Courage are and it’s affordably priced. I can’t wait for my purchased copy to arrive and sit within easy reach on my bedside dresser. My thanks to the publisher and the entire launch team for including me in previewing this timely, relatable title!

Book Review: Take The Lead by Shelley Shepard Gray

Readers familiar with Shelley Shepard Gray may know she’s a top notch writer when it comes to inspirational contemporary fiction set among the Amish.  I will admit that while no doubt well-written, those novels appeal to a very niche market and just aren’t for me.  When I was first introduced to the Bridgeport Social Club series, I quickly realised that I was guilty of pigeonholeing the author without cause.  Her contemporary women’s fiction is enjoyable reading.  If you’re familiar with Bridgeport, some of the characters and landmarks in The Dance With Me series will seem recognizable. 

I read the first title, Shall We Dance, in fall of 2019 and gave it a warm review.  Last month, I eagerly read an advanced readers copy of the second title in the series, Take The Lead, and was not disappointed in the least.  It continued along familiar lines with charming characters and a heartwarming celebration of family. While part of a series, it could easily be read as a stand alone title.

Growing up in foster care, Officer Traci Lucky had a rough start to life, but things are looking up now that she’s found a place in Bridgeport with two sisters she never knew she had. One night while on the job Traci finds Gwen, a pregnant teen caught up in a dangerous world of drugs, and takes her straight to the hospital. There Traci encounters the oh-so-charming Dr. Matt Rossi, who surprises Traci with his compassion—and his movie-star good looks.

A busy ob-gyn with a huge, meddling Italian family, Matt Rossi hasn’t had much time for love in his life. All that changes when he meets the beautiful Officer Lucky. He’s intrigued by her strength and the kind heart she tries to hide beneath her tough exterior.

When Matt confides that he needs to learn to waltz for his brother’s wedding, Traci reveals that her sister happens to be a ballroom dance teacher. Next thing they know, Matt and Traci are juggling busy careers, helping young Gwen with her pregnancy and personal safety, and learning to waltz together. But when Gwen’s escalating problems threaten to put all of them in danger, they wonder if they’ll ever find time for a little romance too.

The characters are flawed but charismatic and, as a girl with absolutely no rhythm, I enjoy the beauty of how dance is portrayed. The chemistry is spot on as is the drama. The novel presents a complex balance of romance, peril, and emotion with an engaging, easy-to-read appeal. I look forward to the final book to see how the sisters continue on their path to happily ever after.

My thanks to the publisher for the complimentary copy via NetGalley.  Opinions expressed in this post are entirely my own.

Publication Date: September 8, 2020 Publisher: Blackstone Publishing ISBN: 9781982658557