Category: Historical Fiction

“Home for Erring and Outcast Girls” by Julie Kibler

“Home for Erring and Outcast Girls” by Julie Kibler

Blurb:

In turn-of-the-20th century Texas, the Berachah Home for the Redemption and Protection of Erring Girls is an unprecedented beacon of hope for young women consigned to the dangerous poverty of the streets by birth, circumstance, or personal tragedy. Built in 1903 on the dusty outskirts of Arlington, a remote dot between Dallas and Fort Worth’s red-light districts, the progressive home bucks public opinion by offering faith, training, and rehabilitation to prostitutes, addicts, unwed mothers, and “ruined” girls without forcibly separating mothers from children. When Lizzie Bates and Mattie McBride meet there—one sick and abused, but desperately clinging to her young daughter, the other jilted by the beau who fathered her ailing son—they form a friendship that will see them through unbearable loss, heartbreak, difficult choices, and ultimately, diverging paths.

A century later, Cate Sutton, a reclusive university librarian, uncovers the hidden histories of the two troubled women as she stumbles upon the cemetery on the home’s former grounds and begins to comb through its archives in her library. Pulled by an indescribable connection, what Cate discovers about their stories leads her to confront her own heartbreaking past, and to reclaim the life she thought she’d let go forever. With great pathos and powerful emotional resonance, Home for Erring and Outcast Girls explores the dark roads that lead us to ruin, and the paths we take to return to ourselves.

My Thoughts:

This is a very moving story and beautifully written. The narrative moves back and forth between Cate in the present, and Lizzie and Mattie in the early 1900’s. Mattie and Lizzie immediately appealed to me as characters. As the story opens, both are in desperate situations with no resources to draw on. Cate took me a little more time to warm up to because she has closed herself off from people so completely. In the end, I think I enjoyed her part of the story the most because of the depth of the transformation her research leads her to. Having lived a stone’s throw from Arlington, TX, where the Berachah home was located, I was very drawn to the historical aspect of the story. In the historical records there is mention of a Lizzie and a Mattie and the author has incorporated what is actually known about their lives into the this fictional account. I loved everything about this book, the setting, the characters, the historical setting and recommend it to anybody who wants a good story.

Alinefromabook’s rating: 

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Links:   Amazon   |   Goodreads   |   Author’s website

“Burial Rites” by Hannah Kent

“Burial Rites” by Hannah Kent

Narrated by Morven Christie

Blurb from Amazon: In northern Iceland, 1829, Agnes Magnúsdóttir is condemned to death for her part in the brutal murder of her lover. Agnes is sent to wait out her final months on the farm of district office Jón Jónsson, his wife and their two daughters. Horrified to have a convicted murderer in their midst, the family avoid contact with Agnes. Only Tóti, the young assistant priest appointed Agnes’ spiritual guardian, is compelled to try to understand her. As the year progresses and the hardships of rural life force the household to work side by side, Agnes’ story begins to emerge and with it the family’s terrible realization that all is not as they had assumed.

My thoughts: This story is dark and at times disturbing, but beautifully written and, in this case, beautifully narrated. I imagine that Agnes must have been a very difficult character to write. This woman is condemned to death but doesn’t know when, and while waiting she must continue to live and work to earn her keep. Her full story comes out in pieces either through conversations with other characters, or from her own inner musings. Agnes’s story is, as much as possible, based on the actual facts of her life and what a horrific one it was. I would not expect life in Iceland in the 1800’s to be in any way easy, but this woman, even as a child, was never offered even the smallest of comforts. I think the story does an excellent job of spotlighting the social issues of the time, some of which are still relevant today. There are also some interesting musings on what it means for a society to invoke capital punishment. This is a thought provoking and fascinating look at a life that never really had a chance. If your looking for something a little different, I would definitely recommend this one.

Alinefromabook’s rating: 4-star-rating  4 stars!!

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Links:   Amazon   |   Goodreads   |   Author’s website

 

“The Lady of the Rivers” by Philippa Gregory

“The Lady of the Rivers” by Philippa Gregory

Narrated by Bianca Amato

Descended from Melusina, the river goddess, Jacquetta always has had the gift of second sight. As a child visiting her uncle, she met his prisoner, Joan of Arc, and saw her own power reflected in the young woman accused of witchcraft. They share the mystery of the tarot card of the wheel of fortune before Joan is taken to a horrific death at the hands of the English rulers of France. Jacquetta understands the danger for a woman who dares to dream.

Jacquetta is married to the Duke of Bedford, English regent of France, and he introduces her to a mysterious world of learning and alchemy. Her only friend in the great household is the duke’s squire, Richard Woodville, who is at her side when the duke’s death leaves her a wealthy young widow. The two become lovers and marry in secret, returning to England to serve at the court of the young King Henry VI, where Jacquetta becomes a close and loyal friend to his new queen.

The Woodvilles soon achieve a place at the very heart of the Lancaster court, though Jacquetta can sense the growing threat from the people of England and the danger of royal rivals. Not even their courage and loyalty can keep the House of Lancaster on the throne. Henry the king slides into a mysterious sleep; Margaret the queen turns to untrustworthy favorites for help; and Richard, Duke of York, threatens to overturn the whole kingdom for his rival dynasty.

Jacquetta fights for her king, her queen, and for her daughter, Elizabeth, for whom Jacquetta can sense an extraordinary and unexpected future: a change of fortune, the throne of England, and the white rose of York.

I have been wanting to read a Philippa Gregory for a long time because I’ve read so many good things about her books. So I couldn’t resist this audiobook when I saw it. At 19 hours it looked a bit daunting but once I started listening I was so captivated by the characters and the story that the time just flew by. This is a sweeping saga full of drama, intrigue and history. Now I understand all the high praise that Philippa Gregory receives and she deserves it. Bianca Amato did a fantastic job with the narration. There are a lot of male and female characters in this story and she was able to differentiate them all seemingly effortlessly. There is nothing I didn’t like about this book, except the bad guys, of course. I will die happy knowing that I’ve read at least one of Philippa Gregory’s books.

Alinefromabook’s rating: 5-star-rating  5 stars!!

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Links:   Amazon   |   Goodreads   |   Author’s website

“The Forgotten Garden” by Kate Morgan – Audiobook

“The Forgotten Garden” by Kate Morgan – Audiobook

Narrated by Caroline Lee

I just loved, loved, loved this story. I have not read the book but the narration her was so compelling that it felt like I was being read a beautiful, dreamy, bedtime story. The story starts in London with a young woman who lives in poverty with her brother after their mother dies. Then she loses her brother and the uncle she’s never known finds her and takes her into his manor home to be a companion for his sickly daughter. The two girls form an intense bond that continues until one of them gets married. Meantime, the reader is also hearing the story of Nell in Australia. Nell was found as an orphan on a ship that came from Britain. No one seems to be looking for her and the man who found her takes her into his family and raises her as one of his own. Years pass and Nell has raised her own daughter and granddaughter and when she dies she leaves everything to her granddaughter, including a cottage in England. Why did she buy a cottage in Britain? And just where did she come from? Nell’s granddaughter sets out to answer these questions.

This is a sweeping story covering 4 generations of women and secrets galore. I am just in awe of Kate Morgan and her ability to create really rich and unique characters in her stories. I also admire the complexity of her plots. In this book, the story moves back and forth between the past and the present, which in an audiobook can be a little confusing for me until I get a feel for the narrator’s voicing of the different characters. That being said, Ms. Lee did a superb job with this book. I enjoyed the narration as much as the story itself. One of my favorite things about this book is the way the ocean was used as kind of an anchor for each of the characters. And let me talk a little bit about the garden. The garden belongs to the cottage owned by Nell. I place she visited once and never saw again. The cottage and garden have been unoccupied for decades when Nell’s granddaughter finds it and sets about bringing it back to life. The garden is a place full of secrets and possibilities. This is a rich and compelling story with a top-of-the-line narration. Get a copy today.

Alinefromabook’s rating: 5-star-rating  5 stars!!

Happy Reading!

Links:   Amazon US   |   Amazon UK   |   Goodreads   |   Author’s website

“Gods of Howl Mountain” by Taylor Brown

“Gods of Howl Mountain” by Taylor Brown

Rory has returned from the Korean war having lost one leg while there. He’s living with his grandmother on Howl Mountain. Rory’s history is troubled. He was born to an unwed mother while she was in a psychiatric facility, a facility she continues to live in. His grandmother raised me on the mountain, making a living for them by providing traditional remedies to the community. Rory is making money by running whiskey for family friend Eustace. Then Rory has a run-in with the Muldoons, who threaten his life, the county sheriff, who threatens his liberty, and the beautiful Christine, who turns his heart upside down.

This is a beautifully crafted story of life in the mountains of North Carolina. The author carefully reveals to us the challenges that Rory faces as he tries to build a life for himself and deal with the scars, physical and emotional, left him by the war. The descriptions in this story are rich and full of color, and they really draw you into the environment of Howl Mountain. The characters are each unique and complex, hiding a variety of secrets and revealing very little. The story reveals how government actions in the mountains have affected the lives and spirits of the people who live there, and how sometimes the mountain is more menacing than beautiful. This is a story of survival and a story of hope.

Alinefromabook’s rating: 4-5-star-rating  4.5 stars!!

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Links:   Amazon US   |   Amazon UK   |   Goodreads   |   Author’s website

“The Tea Planter’s Wife” by Dinah Jefferies

“The Tea Planter’s Wife” by Dinah Jefferies

Journey to 1920’s Ceylon in this deeply engrossing family drama. Gwendolyn, a young Englishwoman, marries Laurence, the owner of a tea plantation in Ceylon, and travels there to begin their life together. She knows his first wife has died but he is reluctant to share details with her. Gwen loves the home that she now finds herself in charge of and gradually takes over the running of the household. Before long she finds herself pregnant and the two eagerly anticipate the arrival of the child. But there are secrets in this household and forces determined to undermine them.

This drama covers the first 10 years of Gwen and Laurence’s marriage and follows them through the challenges of life as plantation owners. The story touches on issues of discrimination and the changes taking place in the culture at the time. I thought the author did a great job of navigating these issues in a way that doesn’t distract from the story but is an integral part of it. Gwendolyn is a lovely young lady who is dropped into a completely different culture and the job of running a large household at the tender age of 19. She must carefully navigate some very troubled waters but comes out stronger every time. Laurence is a good man but he has his flaws and all of this comes out in the book. I felt like I really got to know these two in an intimate way throughout the story. Finally, the author gives wonderful descriptions of the foliage and landscape of Ceylon. This is a sweeping story that takes the reader from England to Ceylon to New York and back again. Really well done!

Alinefromabook’s rating:  4-star-rating 4 stars!!

Happy Reading!

Amazon US   |   Amazon UK   |   Goodreads   |   Barnes & Noble   |   Amazon Canada

Thank you to Blogging for Books and Broadway Books for providing a copy in exchange for an honest review.

“Carnegie’s Maid” by Marie Benedict

“Carnegie’s Maid” by Marie Benedict

Clara Kelley has been sent to America by her family in impoverished Ireland. Their hope is that she will find work and be able to send money home to support the family, as they have recently lost their land source of income. When she arrives she finds herself being mistaken for a different Clara Kelley who already has a job waiting for her. Clara decides to become this other Clara Kelley and finds herself in Pittsburgh working on a trial basis as lady’s maid to Andrew Carnegie’s mother.  Mrs. Carnegie is known to be a harsh mistress but Clara is determined to win her over. In the process she meets Andrew and the two instantly hit it off as friends. The story follows Clara through her years working in the Carnegie household and the influence she had on Andrew and his charitable work.

I loved this story. I have previously read another book by this author and was really excited about this one. It did not disappoint. The author masterfully created her characters with rich detail and her descriptions of the city of Pittsburgh in the time period are perfect. I was easily drawn into the both the affluent world of the Carnegies and the impoverished world of Clara’s cousins. This is another fabulous story from Marie Benedict and I highly recommend it.

Alinefromabook’s rating:  5-star-rating  5 stars!!

Happy Reading!

On Amazon   |   On Goodreads

“Norse Mythology” – Audiobook by Neil Gaiman

“Norse Mythology” – Audiobook by Neil Gaiman

Narrated by Neil Gaiman

Fun and fascinating! “Norse Mythology” is just what it sounds like, a retelling of the Nordic mythological tales. But it was so much more at the same time. This is my first adventure with Neil Gaiman and my first audiobook in way too many years, and I am now hooked on both. I do occasionally enjoy mythology and I was intrigued by this one because I was pretty much clueless about the Nordic myths. When I started listening I thought maybe I’d gotten in over my head because there were a lot of characters with names that I had no reference point for. However, the more I listened, the more the characters came together in my mind and the stories were just fascinating. The characters in these tales somehow seemed more human and less god-like than, say, the Roman or Greek gods. Of course there is Thor with his mighty hammer, but I found myself most fascinated by Loki, who can be quite devilish at one moment, and in the next be the one who has the perfect solution. There are some pretty violent scenes in these stories that might not be appropriate for younger children. Overall, I really enjoyed this book. Neil Gaiman is a perfect narrator, not overly dramatic, but able to bring out the characters as individuals. You should give this one a try.

Alinefromabook’s rating:  4-5-star-rating  4.5 stars!

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On Amazon   |   On Goodreads

“An Untamed Land” by Lauraine Snelling

“An Untamed Land” by Lauraine Snelling

Christian values and 1880’s Dakota Territory combine in this inspirational story. Roald and Ingeborg, Carl and Kaaren, two young couples from Norway emigrate together to America in order to take advantage of the homesteading opportunities in North Dakota. Just getting there almost costs Kaaren her life, but they have been researching and planning for this trip for years and are ready to hit the ground running when they arrive. Proving up a homestead is no easy task and finding the tools and livestock they need proves more challenging then they anticipated. The story follows these two couples through the first 3 years recounting their triumphs and tragedies, and demonstrating how their faith pulls them through.

I don’t normally read books in this genre but I was drawn to this one because the story takes place in the Red River Valley where I happen to live and I was looking for a change from my usual thrillers. The story did not disappoint. The pacing and creative of the storyline kept me well engaged. I think the author did a great job of bringing the realities of the homesteading life to the reader. My usual problem with this genre is that it can be quite preachy, but I did not find this to be true in this case. If this is a genre you enjoy then you won’t go wrong with this book. This is the first book in the Red River of the North series.

Alinefromabook’s rating: 3-5-star-rating  3.5 stars!

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On Amazon   |   On Goodreads

“Scarred” by Michael Kenneth Smith

“Scarred” by Michael Kenneth Smith

Synopsis:  After fatally shooting the Confederate sharpshooter who killed his best friend, Zach Harkin’s sense of revenge changes to deep remorse when he views the dead man’s diary and photo. Haunted, suffering from post traumatic stress, and unable to serve, he is mustered out of service. With scant information, he begins an epic journey to search for the dead man’s family. He is captured, imprisoned, tortured, and thoroughly tested as a human being, but after escaping, he never expects to find love in the war ravaged South.

My thoughts: I found this story very moving. Zach Harkin is so damaged by his war experience and yet still all he wants is to return the journal he found on a Confederate soldier to the man’s wife. What he thinks will be a relatively simple task turns into a nightmare for Zach. I liked that even when his circumstances were at their worst, he thought of other’s needs before his own. It’s not often that I come across a story set in the Civil War, but this is a moment of history that has always piqued my interest so that just added to my enjoyment. I cannot recommend this story highly enough, a real gem. I am looking forward to more from this author.

Alinefromabook’s rating:  5-star-rating 5 stars!

Happy Reading!

On Amazon   |   On Goodreads