First Line Friday: Mountain Laurel

Welcome to First Line Friday’s hosted by Hoarding Books.

Today I am happy to be featuring Mountain Laurel by Lori Benton. This poignant story set in North Carolina is sure to wisk you away to a bygone era. With vibrant characters that are sure to charm and hold a place in your heart, you won’t want to miss out on this new release!

Mountain Laurel
September 1793

At the creek that marked the boundary of his uncle’s plantation, Ian Cameron paused his horse. The creek’s water ran clear, chattering over a pebbled bed, no more than ankle-deep, yet for all his balking to cross it, it might have been the Red Sea.

Okay, you caught me. I just couldn’t help myself, I had to give you more than the first line. I do hope that you get the opportunity to read this wonderful book soon. It really is a true delight!

Now it’s your turn!

Grab the book nearest to you and leave a comment with the first line. To see what First Lines others are sharing this week head over to Hoarding Books.

First Line Fridays hosted by Hoarding Books

Mountain Laurel by Lori Benton

About the book:

North Carolina, 1793
Ian Cameron, a Boston cabinetmaker turned frontier trapper, has come to Mountain Laurel hoping to remake himself yet again–into his planter uncle’s heir. No matter how uneasily the role of slave owner rests upon his shoulders. Then he meets Seona–beautiful, artistic, and enslaved to his kin.

Seona has a secret: she’s been drawing for years, ever since that day she picked up a broken slate to sketch a portrait. When Ian catches her at it, he offers her opportunity to let her talent flourish, still secretly, in his cabinetmaking shop. Taking a frightening leap of faith, Seona puts her trust in Ian. A trust that leads to a deeper, more complicated bond.

As fascination with Seona turns to love, Ian can no longer be the man others have wished him to be. Though his own heart might prove just as untrustworthy a guide, he cannot simply walk away from those his kin enslaves. With more lives than his and Seona’s in the balance, the path Ian chooses now will set the course for generations of Camerons to come.

A story of choice and consequence, of bondage and freedom, of faith and family.

My Thoughts:

I have been a fan of Lori Benton’s books since her first book, Burning Sky in 2013. I don’t even read the synopsis on the back of the books anymore because I know that if Lori Benton wrote it, I’m going to love it!

Reading this story was like taking a trip back in time. I felt like I was in North Carolina in 1793. These characters wrapped themselves around my heart, flaws and all. This story has unapparelled depth, both in the characters themselves and in the very fabric of the story. I took my time reading this story, and I loved every moment. My heart may never be the same after finishing this story, and I am really excited to see what will happen in the next book!

(I receive complimentary books from publishers, publicists and/or authors, including netgalley. I am not required to write positive reviews. The opinions I have expressed are my own.)

About the Author:

LoriBenton2

  Lori Benton was born and raised east of the Appalachian Mountains, surrounded by early American and family history going back to the 1600s. Her novels transport readers to the 18th century, where she brings to life the Colonial and early Federal periods of American history, creating a melting pot of characters drawn from both sides of a turbulent and shifting frontier, brought together in the bonds of God’s transforming grace.

When she isn’t writing, reading, or researching 18th century history, Lori enjoys exploring the mountains with her husband.

Burning Sky, Lori’s debut novel, was a finalist for the ECPA 2014 Christian Book Award, and winner of the 2014 Christy Award for First Novel, Historical, and Book of the Year.

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If I Were You by Lynn Austin

About the Book:

If.I.Were.You1950. In the wake of the war, Audrey Clarkson leaves her manor house in England for a fresh start in America with her young son. As a widowed war bride, Audrey needs the support of her American in-laws, whom she has never met. But she arrives to find that her longtime friend Eve Dawson has been impersonating her for the past four years. Unraveling this deception will force Audrey and Eve’s secrets–and the complicated history of their friendship–to the surface.

1940. Eve and Audrey have been as different as two friends can be since the day they met at Wellingford Hall, where Eve’s mother served as a lady’s maid for Audrey’s mother. As young women, those differences become a polarizing force . . . until a greater threat–Nazi invasion–reunites them. With London facing relentless bombardment, Audrey and Eve join the fight as ambulance drivers, battling constant danger together. An American stationed in England brings dreams of a brighter future for Audrey, and the collapse of the class system gives Eve hope for a future with Audrey’s brother. But in the wake of devastating loss, both women must make life-altering decisions that will set in motion a web of lies and push them both to the breaking point long after the last bomb has fallen.

This sweeping story transports readers to one of the most challenging eras of history to explore the deep, abiding power of faith and friendship to overcome more than we ever thought possible

My Thoughts:

Lynn Austin has created another masterpiece! This epic story is one that you will want to add to your personal collection! I absolutely loved walking in the shoes of these two dynamic characters. The personal growth, challenges faced, and honestly just everything these two friends endure, brings this story and these characters to life and left me feeling like I was part of the adventure!

This is a powerful story of friendship, forgiveness, and learning to let go of the past and move forward. You won’t want to miss the opportunity to pick-up a copy of this book to read for yourself!

(I receive complimentary books from publishers, publicists, and/or authors, including Netgalley. I am not required to write positive reviews. The opinions I have expressed are my own.)

About the Author:

Austin_Lynn1 Lynn Austin has sold more than one and a half million copies of her books worldwide. A former teacher who now writes and speaks full-time, she has won eight Christy Awards for her historical fiction. One of those novels, Hidden Places, has also been made into an Original Hallmark Channel movie. Lynn and her husband have raised three children and make their home in western Michigan.

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First Line Friday: If I Were You

Welcome to First Line Friday’s hosted by Hoarding Books.

Today I am excited to be featuring If I Were You by Lynn Austin. This book released earlier this month and what a page-turning story it is! If you haven’t yet picked up a copy, do yourself a favor and grab this one!

London, November 1945
Eve Dawson bolted upright in bed. Someone was pounding on her door.

Now it’s your turn!

Grab the book nearest to you and leave a comment with the first line. To see what First Lines others are sharing this week head over to Hoarding Books.

First Line Fridays hosted by Hoarding Books

The Tea Chest by Heidi Chiavaroli

Synopsis:

Boston, 1773
Emma Malcolm’s father is staunchly loyal to the crown, but Emma’s heart belongs to Noah Winslow, a lowly printer’s assistant and Patriot. But her father has promised her hand to Samuel Clarke, a rapacious and sadistic man. As his fiance, she would have to give up Noah and the friends who have become like family to her–as well as the beliefs she has come to embrace.

After Emma is drawn into the treasonous Boston Tea Party, Samuel blackmails her with evidence that condemns each participant, including Noah. Emma realizes she must do whatever it takes to protect those she loves, even if it means giving up the life she desires and becoming Samuel’s wife.

Present Day
Lieutenant Hayley Ashworth is determined to be the first woman inducted into the elite Navy SEALs. But before her dream can be realized, she must return to Boston in order to put the abuse and neglect of her childhood behind her. When an unexpected encounter with the man she once loved leads to the discovery of a tea chest and the document hidden within, she wonders if perhaps true strength and freedom are buried deeper than she first realized.

Two women, separated by centuries, must find the strength to fight for love and freedom. . . and discover a heritage of courage and faith.

  The Tea Chest

My Thoughts:

This story is an impressive work of art. Filled with emotion and bold characters who are unapologetic in their beliefs and relentless in their pursuit of liberty. The abundant life breathed into these characters and the authentic attention to historical details all came together to create a vibrant story that is sure to stick with you long after you’ve read the last words on the page.

I fully enjoyed my time spent with this dual-timeline story. If you had asked me early on I would have said that the historical timeline was my favorite. But after reaching the end of the book and getting to know and understand Hayley better, I’m not hard-pressed to give an answer because I find that I love both timelines equally.

A few times I had to put the book down and look up a historical detail just to assuage my curiosity. Now more than ever I want to take a trip to Boston and see the sites for myself. I highly recommend this fantastic story!

(I received a copy of this book from the author/publisher in exchange for my honest opinion. I am not required to write a positive review. My thoughts and opinions are my own.)

Favorite Quote:

About the Author:

HeidiChiavaroliHeidi Chiavaroli is a women’s fiction author who seeks to portray authentic women finding boundless grace in Jesus. Her stories are largely split-time novels, weaving the past and the present together with hope. Heidi is the winner of ACFW’s 2014 Genesis Contest, Historical Category. Her debut novel will release this August from Tyndale Publishers. Heidi lives in Massachusetts with her high school sweetheart (AKA husband), two sons, and Howie, her standard poodle.

She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and Women’s Fiction Writers Association. Heidi is represented by Natasha Kern of the Natasha Kern Literary Agency.

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Click on the title below to snag your copy!

 The Tea Chest

Other books by Heidi Chiavaroli:

The Edge of Mercy

  The Hidden Side

  Freedom’s Ring

 

Where Dandelions Bloom by Tara Johnson

Synopsis:

Cassie Kendrick is on the run. Her abusive father arranged her marriage to a despicable man, but she’s discovered an escape. Disguised as a man, Cassie enlists in the Union army, taking the name Thomas Turner. On the battlefields of the Civil War, keeping her identity a secret is only the beginning of her problems, especially after she meets Gabriel Avery, a handsome young photographer.

Anxious to make his mark on the world and to erase the darkness and guilt lurking from his past, Gabriel works with renowned photographer Matthew Brady to capture images from the front lines of the war. As Gabriel forges friendships with many of the men he encounters, he wonders what the courageous, unpredictable Thomas Turner is hiding.

Battling betrayal, their own personal demons, and a country torn apart by war, can Cassie and Gabriel learn to forgive themselves and trust their futures to the God who births hope and healing in the darkest places?

My Thoughts:

“Did you know that more than 400 women disguised themselves as men and fought for the Union and Confederate armies during the Civil War?”

Have you ever wondered what would make a woman in the 1860’s disguise herself as a man, pick up a gun, and fight in a war? I don’t know about you, but when I think of women in the 1860’s I imagine the big hoop skirts with lots of ruffles (Think Gone With The Wind), I never realized that there were women who joined the war efforts.

Author Tara Johnson set out to answer that very question, “what would make women disguise herself as a man, pick up a gun and fight in the Civil War?” For at least one young women living in Howell, Michigan, the answer was to escape a forced engagement to a despicable man.

With vivid imagery and authentic characters, I found myself traveling through the mists of time, and entering a past that I’d only dimly imagined. History comes to life within these pages and a story unfolds that both captivates and entertains. The first few chapters spent time introducing the characters and setting up the story, but after that things really get moving, and I found that I couldn’t put the story down, I had to know what would happen next.

If you enjoy stories set during the American Civil War then you will want to be sure to snag a copy of this story!

(I receive complimentary books for review from publishers, publicists, and/or authors, including Netgalley. I am not required to write positive reviews. The opinions I have expressed are my own.)

Favorite Quote:

About the Author:

Tara-Johnson A passionate lover of stories, Tara uses fiction, nonfiction, song, and laughter to share her testimony of how God led her into freedom after spending years living shackled as a people pleaser. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and makes her home in Arkansas with her husband and three children. Visit her website and subscribe to her newsletter

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    Where Dandelions Bloom

Also from Tara Johnson

   Engraved on the Heart

 

Lady of a Thousand Treasures (The Victorian Ladies #1) by Sandra Byrd

Synopsis:

Miss Eleanor Sheffield is a talented evaluator of antiquities, trained to know the difference between a genuine artifact and a fraud. But with her father’s passing and her uncle’s decline into dementia, the family business is at risk. In the Victorian era, unmarried Eleanor cannot run Sheffield Brothers alone.

The death of a longtime client, Baron Lydney, offers an unexpected complication when Eleanor is appointed the temporary trustee of the baron’s legendary collection. She must choose whether to donate the priceless treasures to a museum or allow them to pass to the baron’s only living son, Harry—the man who broke Eleanor’s heart.

Eleanor distrusts the baron’s motives and her own ability to be unbiased regarding Harry’s future. Harry claims to still love her and Eleanor yearns to believe him, but his mysterious comments and actions fuel her doubts. When she learns an Italian beauty accompanied him on his return to England, her lingering hope for a future with Harry dims.

With the threat of debtor’s prison closing in, Eleanor knows that donating the baron’s collection would win her favor among potential clients, saving Sheffield Brothers. But the more time she spends with Harry, the more her faith in him grows. Might Harry be worthy of his inheritance, and her heart, after all? As pressures mount and time runs out, Eleanor must decide whom she can trust—who in her life is false or true, brass or gold—and what is meant to be treasured.

My Thoughts:

This story is filled with plenty of twists and turns that will keep you guessing. Eleanore Sheffield’s life has centered around her love of antiques. Growing up her father taught her all he knew about evaluating and obtaining antiques and priceless treasures for the nobility. But now that her father has died and her uncle’s health is rapidly declining, the upkeep of not only the house but the business has fallen on her shoulders.

With the death of Baron Lydney; Eleanore is tasked with not only cataloging but deciding the fate of the items in his vast estate. Should the items be donated to the local museum or should the items be awarded to the Baron’s only son, Harry? Who should she trust?

While this story is as artistic as the countless antiquities described within the pages, the plot seemed to drag in places. This story has an abundance of information and details, and I would suggest that it may be best enjoyed by someone who can carve out large chunks of time for reading it.

For me personally, I recognized several places in the story where the Christian viewpoint would have added greatly to the story, however, it was missing. There were a few mentions of God and trusting in His plan. However, it seemed to fall flat when the characters didn’t act on the knowledge.

Sandra Byrd writes with beautiful word imagery, and really sets up the scenes for the story beautifully. The mystery was expertly woven throughout the story and kept me guessing as to how it would turn out.

While I enjoyed certain aspects of the story, I never could fully get into the story and identify with the characters. I give this story 3-stars.

(I receive complimentary books for review from publishers, publicists, and/or authors, including Netgalley. I am not required to write positive reviews. The opinions I have expressed are my own.)

  Lady of a Thousand Treasures (The Victorian Ladies #1) 

About the Author:

SandraByrd  Bestselling author Sandra Byrd has published more than fifty books over her editing and writing career. Her traditionally published books include titles by Howard Books, a division of Simon and Schuster, Tyndale House Publishers, WaterBrook Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House, and Bethany House. She’s also an independent author.

Sandra’s series of historically sound Gothic romances launched with the best-selling Mist of Midnight, which earned a coveted Editor’s Choice award from the Historical Novel Society. The second book, Bride of a Distant Isle, has been selected by Romantic Times as a Top Pick. The third in the series, A Lady in Disguise, published in 2017 and was named by the American Library Association’s Booklist as one of the Top Ten Inspirational Fiction books of the year.

Her contemporary adult fiction debut, Let Them Eat Cake, was a Christy Award finalist, as was her first historical novel, To Die For: A Novel of Anne Boleyn. To Die For was also named a Library Journal Best Books Pick for 2011, and The Secret Keeper: A Novel of Kateryn Parr was named a Library Journal Best Books Pick for 2012.

Sandra has published dozens of books for kids, tweens, and teens, including the bestselling The One Year Be-Tween You and God Devotions for Girls. She continued her work as a nonfiction author with The One Year Home and Garden Devotions. The One Year Experiencing God’s Love Devotional was named by Called Magazine, the #1 magazine for Christian Women, as among their favorite, must-read books for Fall, 2017.

Sandra is passionate about helping writers develop their talents and their work through content coaching and line editing, and has mentored hundreds of writers. For testimonials about her editing and coaching, please visit novelcoaching.com.

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Pick up your copy:

  Lady of a Thousand Treasures (The Victorian Ladies #1) 

The Road to Magnolia Glen (Natchez Trace #2) by Pam Hillman

Synopsis:

1792, Natchez Trace, MS
Bitter since his eldest brother abandoned their family in Ireland, Quinn O’Shea travels to Natchez, Mississippi, ready to shuck the weight of his duty and set off on an adventure of his own. It’s time Connor, as head of the family, took responsibility for their younger siblings. While aboard ship, a run-in with three Irish sisters lands Quinn in the role of reluctant savior. Though it may delay his plans, he cannot abandon the Young sisters, especially the tenacious yet kind Kiera.

Upon arriving in the colonies, Kiera Young prepares to meet her intended and begin her new life. But she soon discovers the marriage her brother-in-law arranged was never meant to be, and a far more sinister deal was negotiated for her and her sisters.

Quinn offers to escort his charges safely to Breeze Hill Plantation and his brother’s care, fully intending to seek his freedom elsewhere. But the longer he remains, the greater his feelings toward Kiera grow and the more he comes to realize true freedom might be found in sacrifice.

My Thoughts:

I was thrilled to travel back to the Natchez Trace in this second novel from Pam Hillman. With vivid details and engaging characters, I was transported into this exciting story of betrayal and learning to trust God when things seem their darkest.

After the death of her step-father, Kiera Young and her two younger sisters are sent to Natchez, Mississippi. Kiera was told that her brother-in-law arranged a marriage for her, but it was something else entirely that was arranged. Kiera’s faith in God is tested as she learns to wait on God’s perfect timing.

Quinn O’Shea carries a heavy burden of bitterness toward his older brother for leaving the family in Ireland and for having to take on the responsibility of his younger brothers. Quinn wants nothing more than to see his younger brothers safely to their older brother, before setting off on his own grand adventure. However, he didn’t foresee his hearts entanglement with a feisty blond Irish lass, nor the guilt at leaving his brother’s behind. Will Quinn be able to let go of the bitterness and hurt of the past to have a future filled with love and laughter?

This spellbinding story is sure to keep you on the edge of your seat wondering what will happen next. I was kept up late into the night, turning pages eager to find out what would transpire in the lives of these charming characters. I give this story 4.5 stars and would encourage you to pick up a copy to enjoy!

(I receive complimentary books for review from publishers, publicists, and/or authors, including Netgalley. I am not required to write positive reviews. The opinions I have expressed are my own.)

Favorite Quote:

About the Author:

PamHillman  CBA Bestselling author PAM HILLMAN was born and raised on a dairy farm in Mississippi and spent her teenage years perched on the seat of a tractor raking hay. In those days, her daddy couldn’t afford two cab tractors with air conditioning and a radio, so Pam drove an Allis Chalmers 110. Even when her daddy asked her if she wanted to bale hay, she told him she didn’t mind raking. Raking hay doesn’t take much thought so Pam spent her time working on her tan and making up stories in her head. Now, that’s the kind of life every girl should dream of.

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Pick-up your copy today!

  The Road to Magnolia Glen (Natchez Trace #2)

  The Promise of Breeze Hill (Natchez Trace #1)

magnolia-glen-cover-photo-facebook-available-now-624x237

Engraved on the Heart by Tara Johnson

Synopsis:

Reluctant debutante Keziah Montgomery lives beneath the weighty expectations of her staunch Confederate family, forced to keep her epilepsy secret for fear of a scandal. As the tensions of the Civil War arrive on their doorstep in Savannah, Keziah sees little cause for balls and courting. Despite her discomfort, she cannot imagine an escape from her familial confines―until her old schoolmate Micah shows her a life-changing truth that sets her feet on a new path . . . as a conductor in the Underground Railroad.

Dr. Micah Greyson never hesitates to answer the call of duty, no matter how dangerous, until the enchanting Keziah walks back into his life and turns his well-ordered plans upside down. Torn between the life he has always known in Savannah and the fight for abolition, Micah struggles to discern God’s plan amid such turbulent times.

Battling an angry fiancé, a war-tattered brother, bounty hunters, and their own personal demons, Keziah and Micah must decide if true love is worth the price . . . and if they are strong enough to survive the unyielding pain of war.

My Thoughts:

I was drawn into this story right from the start and blissfully held captive until the last page. Tara Johnson’s writing is so immersive that I felt like I was right there in the sticky heat of Savannah, Georgia. Take a journey back in time through the pages of this wonderful, story of faith. With a poignant reminder that we are all priceless treasures.

Keziah is such a gentle soul. She is soft-spoken and kind. She has a heart for others, especially those she see’s being treated unfairly, those being treated less than the beautiful creation of God that they are. Keziah suffers from epilepsy and has been made to feel that she isn’t worthy of love and a future because of her condition.

Dr. Micha Greyson has returned to Savannah after obtaining his medical degree in Philadelphia. Reunited with his old schoolmate, Keziah, he invites her to an Abolition meeting that will change the course of their lives. With a secrets to uncover and dangerous Underground Railroad missions, you are sure to be kept turning pages!

I absolutely loved this poignant story and give it 5-stars! If you enjoy stories set in the civil war time period, you won’t want to miss this fresh story. I encourage you to purchase a copy for yourself.

(I receive complimentary books for review from publishers, publicists, and/or authors, including Netgalley. I am not required to write positive reviews. The opinions I have expressed are my own.)

Favorite Quote:

About the Author:

Tara-Johnson A passionate lover of stories, Tara uses fiction, nonfiction, song, and laughter to share her testimony of how God led her into freedom after spending years living shackled as a people pleaser. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and makes her home in Arkansas with her husband and three children. Visit her website and subscribe to her newsletter

Web Page // Goodreads // Facebook // Twitter //

Pick-up your copy today!

   Engraved on the Heart