A story that teaches: Review of Remember the Lilies by Liz Tolsma

liliesEither World War II fiction is hot right now or I’m just more drawn to those stories than I ever have been. Whatever the reason, Liz Tolsma’s Remember the Lilies is another strong offering in the World War II fiction genre. (Disclaimer: I received a free copy of the book from the author in exchange for my review.)

Unlike her first two books, Snow on the Tulips and Daisies are Forever, which take place in Europe, her latest focuses on the Santo Tomas Internment Camp in the Philippines, an area of World War II history about which I am under-educated. I would expect I’m not alone. American civilians were held there for a good chunk of the war and Tolsma’s book portrays what conditions were like for those who experienced it.

The story focuses on Rand Sterling, who, before the war, was a successful American businessman in Manila, and Irene Reynolds, who was raised among missionaries in the Phillipine jungle. Both are prisoners at the camp. After a failed escape attempt by Rand, their paths cross more often and the two become friends trying to make the best of the worst circumstances.

Of Tolsma’s three books, this was my least favorite. It covers a large chunk of time in which the two main characters are prisoners. Months and years pass, noted by a paragraph, and the “action” is limited to the activities of prisoners in the camp. It wasn’t boring, not in the least, but the journey the characters were on was more of an internal one. The danger was more subtle and psychological than in the other books.

Still, it’s a great story, and I’m so grateful for the untold stories Tolsma is telling with her books. Tolsma’s research and attention to detail are so good I feel like I’ve been in a history class. The scenes depict realistic suffering–violent punishment, starvation–so if that bothers you, just be forewarned.

I’d encourage you to check out any of Tolsma’s books for a better idea of what it was like to live through World War II. I’m always more thankful for the sacrifices of the people who lived during that time period after I read one of Tolsma’s books.

You don’t have to love Valentine’s Day to love this story: Review of Paper Hearts by Courtney Walsh

I sometimes have a love-hate relationship with Valentine’s Day, even as a married woman. There’s a lot of pressure on that one day, and not every February 14 has been memorable or spectacular in my history. Though I still love a good happily-ever-after story, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve found myself drawn more to songs and stories that present a more realistic version of love and relationships.

Stuff like this:

But the very best love stories are the ones that are flawed and full of forgiveness and pain and joy and challenges and happiness. All these things make up a love story.

paper heartsThat’s a line from Paper Hearts by Courtney Walsh, which is–and isn’t–a Valentine’s Day story. (Disclaimer: I received a free copy of the book from the Tyndale Blog Network in exchange for my review.)

Here’s a summary:

Abigail Pressman lives in a town that is fascinated by love. Founded by a her ancestors whose love story is legendary, Loves Park, Colorado, capitalizes on its name, drawing tourists year-round, all in the name of love. Abigail runs a local bookstore and, to her mother’s disappointment, is single with a waning interest in dating. Reluctantly resolved to remain single and expand her business, Abigail’s plans are thrown into disarray when Dr. Jacob Willoughby arrives in town and buys the building that houses her bookstore. With his own plans to rebuild his life and practice in the other half of the building, Jacob is unprepared for the conflict his plans bring to the town. When Abigail is drafted into a club that gathers in her store and stamps mail with the town’s romantic postmark, she discovers a love story that is both touching and tragic in the form of paper hearts a couple writes to each other each Valentine’s Day. As she uncovers their story through the hearts, her beliefs about love are challenged and her own chance at happily ever after emerges.

This is a story about love, yes, but it’s also a story about dreams, and it’s a novel forged from the author’s own journey of dreams crushed and dreams realized. (You can find that story on her blog.) It’s about happily ever after, in a way, but about how sometimes you have to walk through some not-so-happy days to get there.

It’s a realistic picture of love in real life–not always pretty or tidy but ugly and messy and beautiful all at the same time. Abigail and Jacob were such realistic characters I could picture their actions and words as if they were flesh and blood people. I could see this as a Hallmark or Lifetime movie (please-oh-please producer type people, check this one out!).

And the whole angle of the paper hearts–of creating a tradition where you write what you love about the other person on hearts throughout the year and then reveal them to each other on Valentine’s Day–is such a sweet and creative idea. It’s the kind of thing you can take from this book and apply to life. (Fiction can do that!)

So, if you aren’t yet in love with the idea of this book, then check out this video, which is all kinds of adorable (and real):

And catch up with Courtney on her website or on Facebook.

If this is your introduction to her work, then you also should check out her three previous books: A Sweethaven Summer, A Sweethaven Homecoming, and A Sweethaven Christmas.

All good things must come to an end: Review of Sabotaged by Dani Pettrey {plus giveaway!}

Sigh.

I knew this day was coming, the day we’d bid farewell to the McKenna family and this crazy amazing series of romantic suspense books by Dani Pettrey. Sabotaged, the fifth and final book in the series, releases this month, and it’s just as heart-pumping as the rest. (Disclaimer: I received a free copy of the book from the author in exchange for my review.)

SabotagedSM1This book centers around the Iditarod and a missing dog sled driver who is also the uncle of Kirra, a local veterinarian who grew up around the McKenna family. Reef, a McKenna sibling with a sketchy and troubled past, is working search-and-rescue with Kirra when her uncle goes off course. They’re then thrust into a mystery that has them traveling to points along the race path and fearing for their lives.

Each of five books follows one of the McKenna siblings and a crime/mystery they find themselves involved in solving. If you want to catch up and start from the beginning, you can. You could read each book separately but the background helps, I think.

Here’s the order, with links to my reviews:

Submerged. (Sadly, I didn’t actually review this one, but it hooked me enough to want to read and review the books that followed!)

Shattered.

Stranded.

Silenced.

Sabotaged.

Pettrey’s books are so well-written I find myself wanting to hang out in Alaska, no matter the cold, and re-read the whole series (a rare act on my part). They’re full of action, suspense, romance and deep truths. Now that the series has ended, I’ve been thinking about which story or character was my favorite and I have a hard time choosing. It’s a toss-up between Submerged, which introduced the series with Cole and Bailey, and Stranded, which focused on Gage and Darcy.

Overall, these stories are like a Nancy Drew/Hardy Boys mash-up for grown-ups if those main characters were related and each had love interests.

I’m sad to see this series end but thrilled and excited about the next series Pettrey is working on. It’s set on the East Coast and will revolve around the Chesapeake Bay area.

But you know what makes the ending of a series better? A fun giveaway! Click the picture below to enter the Heart of Adventure sweepstakes. Prizes include a gift certificate to Hotels.com, a donation to an animal shelter or veterinarian, and a sweetheart survival kit (chocolate included!). You can find everything you need to know about the giveaway here. The contest runs through Feb. 22, so head on over and enter!

Enter the HEART OF ADVENTURE Sweepstakes from Author Dani Pettrey!
And if you want to get a glimpse of what Pettrey’s stories are like, check out her amazing Pinterest boards for each book. If that doesn’t get you interested in an Alaskan adventure, nothing will!

War changes everything: Review of Secrets of a Charmed Life by Susan Meissner

SecretsOfACharmedLifeCOVERI hope last week’s interview with Susan Meissner piqued your interest in her new book, Secrets of a Charmed Life. Today, you’ll get to read more about it and what I thought about the book, as well as enter for a chance to win a copy! (I love free books, don’t you? I received my copy free in exchange for my review, but my opinion is my own.)

The one thing I love about every book of Meissner’s I’ve read is how she blends a contemporary story with a historical one. I love the connections between two stories from different eras that on the surface seem to be unrelated. She always weaves them together with such skill that I’m as awed by the storytelling as I am by the story.

In this book, her newest release, grad student Kendra arrives at a cottage in the English Cotswolds to interview 93-year-old Isabel McFarland about her experiences during the London Blitz of World War II. But the interview takes a turn when Isabel reveals two secrets she’s been keeping for decades. Thus begins the story of Emmy Downtree, a teenager in 1940s London with dreams of opening a bridal shop. She’s the daughter of an unmarried mother with a younger half-sister she looks after. Just when Emmy glimpses a chance for her dream to come true someday, London’s children are evacuated to the countryside. Emmy and her sister Julia find refuge at Thistle House, but Emmy can’t let go of her dream. She plans a return to London on the very night the Blitz begins setting off a series of events that will alter her future and change the lives of those she loves.Thistle House

I couldn’t be exactly sure where the story was going or how it was going to turn out, which is one of Meissner’s storytelling strengths. She keeps the story moving in a way that’s hard to step away from. And this particular circumstance, children being separated from parents during a time of war, was one I didn’t know much about. It’s both heart-breaking and inspiring because it was true for thousands of families.

Are there secrets to living a charmed life? Emmy believes there are if she can only discover them. As Isabel tells the story, she presents Kendra with the same question. Though it’s not the interview she expects when she walks into the cottage, Kendra leaves with something far better.

You can’t go wrong with a Susan Meissner novel, and if you’re a fan of fiction set in World War II, this is a not-miss book.

And guess what? I get to give a FREE signed copy to one of you, (if you live in the U.S. or Canada) if you leave a comment on this post.

Tell me this in your comment:

What is one sacrifice you’ve had to make for your children or that your parents made for you?

(Could you send your kids away to the country for months, maybe years, if it meant they would live in safety? I don’t know!)

If that’s too deep then tell me your favorite World War II book, fiction or non-fiction, and why it’s your favorite.

I will choose one random winner on Tuesday, Feb. 3, the official release day of Secrets of a Charmed Life. Good luck to you!

And if you missed the interview with Susan from last week, click here to catch up!

 

 

 

When my favorite author talks about her new book: Q&A with Susan Meissner

Forgive this moment of gushing, but Susan Meissner is among my top favorite authors for no other reason than she writes a story I can’t put down and blends contemporary and historical storylines in a way I admire (and envy and aspire to!).

SecretsOfACharmedLifeCOVERSo, it’s with great pleasure that I give you the scoop on her newest book, Secrets of a Charmed Life. We’ll take two weeks to talk about it. Up first, an interview with the author including some teasers from the book and background on the historical storyline. Scroll down to read all about an aspect of World War II that isn’t often talked about, at least not in the U.S. (and get a sneak peek at her next book!) Then, come back next Wednesday to read my review of the book and enter for a chance to win your very own copy! (You’ll want it, I know.) Between now and then, watch Facebook and Twitter for some hints at the themes in the book. (You should know that I received a free copy of the book from the author in exchange for my review and help promoting the book, and although I’m not obligated to give a favorable review, I can say without hesitation that you should buy/read this book!)

Okay. Got it? Author interview this week. Review and giveaway next week.

Without further ado … here’s Susan Meissner! MeissnerHeadshot1

Susan Meissner is the multi-published author of seventeen books, including A Fall of Marigolds, and The Shape of Mercy. She is also a speaker and writing workshop leader with a background in community journalism. She and her husband make their home in Southern California.

Susan, tell us where the idea for Secrets of a Charmed Life came from.

The story began first as an image in my head of an impoverished girl on the brink of adulthood sketching wedding dresses in the tiny bedroom she shares with a younger half-sister. I could see her in my mind’s eye imagining a life far different from the one she is living. She wants a fairy tale life where love and comfort and happiness are in abundance, and for her, that charmed life begins with a wedding dress worn on that blissful day a girl’s childhood dreams come true. I decided to set her in London at the start of the war because I knew that even for a young woman not yet sixteen, war is a crucible. It is a tester of dreams and desires and determination. I knew the London Blitz was an opposition that would bring out the very best and the very worst in this girl, as war so often does.The Cotswolds

What is the story about, in a nutshell?

Like many of my other novels, Secrets of a Charmed Life is historical fiction framed by a contemporary layer that links to a story in the past. An American college student named Kendra, who is studying abroad at Oxford, interviews Blitz survivor Isabel McFarland just when the elderly woman is ready to give up secrets she has kept all her life – beginning with who she really is. The story then takes the reader to England in 1940. An unprecedented war against London’s civilian population is about to take place and half a million children are evacuated to foster homes in the countryside. Fifteen-year-old Emmy Downtree and her much younger sister Julia find refuge in a charming Cotswold cottage, but Emmy’s burning ambition to return to the city and apprentice with a fashion designer pits her against Julia’s profound need for her sister’s presence. The sisters’ lives are forever changed when—acting at cross purposes—they secretly return to London on the first day of the Blitz.

What drew you to include in your story the evacuation of London’s children?

Prior to researching for this book, I was only minimally aware of what London’s parents did to keep their children safe during World War II. I’d long ago read C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia and I knew the four children in those stories had been sent out of London into the countryside at the start of the war. But I didn’t know that for tens of thousands of children just like them that stay in the countryside lasted for the duration of the war. We’re talking five years. How difficult it must have been for the parents and their kids to be separated from each other – with just occasional visits – for half a decade, and during a time of fear, danger, and deprivation. From a storyteller’s standpoint, the emotional pull of this situation is intense. I knew I wanted to explore what this scenario might have been like for two young sisters.evacuees=poster

Is this a book about sisters, then?

It is that, but it is also a book about mothers and daughters, and other family bonds as they relate to children. The universe of children is rather small – home and family are pretty much their world. They don’t always see how their decisions are impacted by the decision of others, nor do they have much frame of reference for war, which is an especially cruel teacher to a child.

What is the significance of Emmy’s wedding dress sketches?

Those bridal gown designs represent Emmy’s naïve notions about the happily-ever-after life that she believes begins for a girl on the day she wears a dress emblematic of bliss and perfection. Emmy sees her unwed mother as someone on whom fate has frowned and that she is somewhat to blame for that. Emmy’s vision for her future is to rise above the constraints of her mother’s unlucky life. But those sketches blind her at first to the larger forces at work. And there are always larger forces at work.Little girl 1940 London2a

What were you most surprised by in your research for Secrets of a Charmed Life

I think many of us who were born after World War II have a limited understanding of what England suffered because there were so many other more shocking situations, like the slaughter of millions of Jews, the occupations of nations like Poland and France, the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the storming at the beach at Normandy, and the Bataan Death March, to name just a few. I didn’t realize the magnitude of what London suffered until I took a closer look. The city was never occupied by Hitler’s forces but it was bombed relentlessly. Seven of Christopher Wren’s beautiful churches were destroyed, as were thousands upon thousands of homes. More than sixty thousand civilians were killed in the whole of the British Isles. Those are staggering losses. And yet the British people were and are resilient. Their rallying cry of Keep Calm and Carry On (I truly can’t stand trivializations of this motto!) is truly the hallmark of that resiliency. You can go to London’s East End now and see street after street of 1950’s-era buildings, framed by a quiet horizon of much older buildings that the war did not flatten. London, Coventry and the other bombed cities rebuilt what was destroyed and moved on. The memories of the war aren’t in the streets but in the museums, and in national cemeteries, and sometimes, if you look closely enough, in the faces of those who survived it.

What would you especially like readers to take away from Secrets of a Charmed Life?

The title of this book, which I love, is meant to cause the reader to wonder if there really are secrets to living a life that has happily-ever-after written all over it. The title seems to suggest there are hidden truths to being able to have everything you’ve always wanted. But in actuality, and what I hope readers will take away, is that a happy life is not made up of what you have chased and achieved, but rather who you have poured your life into, who has poured their life into yours, and the difference you’ve made in the lives of others. Most of the dreams we pursue don’t have intrinsic worth, but people always do.  It’s not a perfect world, and we can only play our own hand of cards – if you will – but if we play the hand as best we can with love for others as the motivation, I think we can rest content.

What are you working on right now?

My next book is set primarily in Hollywood’s golden age, specifically in 1939 when a treasure trove of timeless movies was released, including the most iconic movie of all time, Gone With The Wind. Two studio secretaries who become friends on the set of this movie forge a tale of love, desire, and survival that hints at the dynamic between the characters Scarlett and Melanie. The contemporary thread features a woman whose vintage clothing shop specializes in updated designs of classic Hollywood fashions. When her version of the infamous Gone With the Wind curtain dress is photographed for a local newspaper, a surprising delivery comes her way that ushers the reader back to old Hollywood and the two studio secretaries who, like Scarlett O’Hara, must decide what they are willing to do to get what they want most. The novel will release in February 2016 and is tentatively titled Stars Over Sunset Boulevard. I’ve always loved the movie Gone With the Wind; the sound track alone can stop me in my tracks. It has been a wonderful experience researching the details of how this film came to be made. Like most unprecedented endeavors, there was plenty of drama!

So, are you intrigued yet? Don’t forget to come back next week for a chance to win your copy!

Who wants a free book?

It is two weeks into January and I am cold. Yep, I’m a complaining about winter and I grew up in the Midwest.

My favorite way to forget about winter is to curl up with a good book and a blanket and a hot cup of coffee or tea. Two active kiddos and being our family’s taxi driver don’t give me as many days like that as I’d like, but I’m never at a loss for books to read when the mood and opportunity align.

In case you are one of those people who can’t find a good book to read, you’re in luck! I’m giving one away today.

It’s called The Day Angels Fell. It’s by Shawn Smucker who is one of my favorite bloggers. He has written numerous nonfiction books with fun titles like How to Use a Runaway Truck Ramp, but this is his first fiction release. angels

And you don’t want to miss it.

Here’s my review:

The Day the Angels Fell is a captivating debut novel from a talented author and blogger who takes time to see the world in a way few others do.

Part bedtime story, part fictional memoir, part adventure story, I loved this tale of Sam and Abra and what happened after Sam’s mother died. I kept turning the pages because I had no idea what was going to happen next or how things were going to work out. As with Lord of the Rings, I couldn’t be sure Sam would make the right decisions (or the ones I thought he should make) until the very end. And I liked how we got two perspectives on Sam’s life–what happened when he was a boy, and him as an old man about to attend a funeral.

The best part, though? There’s a follow-up story in the works!

The Day the Angels Fell stars two children as its main characters but the themes are deep enough for adults and reading it reminded me of everything I loved about adventures and mysteries as a kid.

Sound like something you’d like to read? Or do you have a young reader in your house who plows through books faster than you can get to the library? Shawn wrote the book for his 10- and 11-year-old kids, so that’s one target age range, but don’t write this off as only a children’s book. Perfect for adults, too.

I have an extra copy and I want you to have it! Which “you”? Well, that remains to be seen!

Leave a comment here on the blog telling me a story that you read as a child that stuck with you. (For me, it was Nancy Drew mysteries. I couldn’t get enough!) I’ll pick a random winner on Monday, January 19. If you don’t already follow Shawn’s blog, why not? Click here. You can find him on Facebook and Twitter, also. No extra entries for connecting with him, just the benefit of reading his writing!

Don’t forget to share your childhood favorites, then check back here on Monday to see if you won! (U.S. entries only.)

Like listening to a ghost story around a campfire: Review of In the Heart of the Dark Wood by Billy Coffey

Billy Coffey is fast becoming one of my favorite authors, and if your fiction reading tends toward gritty and deep, then he will be one of yours also.
dark woodIn the Heart of the Dark Wood is the second of Coffey’s books I’ve read, and they are equal parts disturbing and inspiring. (Disclaimer: I received a free copy of the book from the Booklook Blogging Program in exchange for my review.) You will not find sugar-coated scenarios and shallow characters from Coffey. And at times, he will make you squirm. Case in point: in this book, Allie, the 11-year-old main character, starts her period early on in the story, and Coffey is detailed (though not graphic) about this motherless girl’s transition to womanhood.

So, the story. Allie’s mom was taken in a tornado that happened in Mattingly, Virginia about 18 months before this story takes place. She is not convinced her mama is dead, just gone, and when the Mary disappears from her front lawn Nativity, Allie and her best friend, Zach, set off into the woods on a search that leads them where they never thought they’d go.

In the Heart of the Dark Wood is a story of growing up, of pressing into the hard times to find that the light still shines. It’s about hope and moving on and overcoming. It’s the kind of story that sticks with you long after you’re done reading it.

Coffey’s writing style is that of a campfire storyteller on whose every word you hang. You’ll look over your shoulder to the dark to see if the monsters are sneaking up on you. You’ll shiver a bit. You’ll let your guard down when the story takes a turn for the better. And you’ll study the storyteller trying to decide if this is, in fact, true or not. Coffey absorbs his readers into the lives and hearts of the residents of Mattingly. And I, for one, don’t want to leave.

Set a story in Chicago and I’m glad to read it: Review of Secrets of Sloane House by Shelley Gray

I first knew of Shelley Shepard Gray as an author of Amish fiction. Now I know her writing credits stretch beyond those boundaries. In Secrets of Sloane House, writing as Shelley Gray, she pens a novel of suspense, mystery and romance set against the Chicago World’s Fair. (Disclaimer: I received a free e-copy of the book through the Booklook Bloggers Program in exchange for my review.)

sloane houseI love a story set in historical Chicago, and even though I don’t know much about the era, it’s still fun to read about the city I most love to visit. My husband recently read The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson, a true story of events that happened during the Chicago World’s Fair. As I read Secrets of Sloane House, I got the impression that it was like The Devil in the White City meets Downton Abbey.

Rosalind Perry is a servant in Sloane House, but she’s there under false pretenses–investigating what might have happened to her sister who was a servant there and has disappeared. As she asks questions and tries to uncover the mystery, she begins to fear for her own safety when it becomes clear that everyone around her is keeping secrets and her questions are drawing the wrong kind of attention. Only Reid Armstrong, the heir to a silver fortune, agrees to help her. Remembering his middle class roots, Reid forgoes propriety to help Rosalind, a servant in another house, much to the dismay of some of society’s members.

Though it’s not a fast-paced action kind of story, it is intriguing and held my attention. I wanted to know what happened to Rosalind’s sister, and I was interested in the World’s Fair come to life in the lives of ordinary Chicagoans of the day. The relationship between Reid and Rosalind is full of potential problems and it was fun to see how their story played out.

Secrets of Sloane House is the first in a series that I would continue reading. If you’ve read any of Gray’s Amish fiction, you’ll find this a departure from those stories, but if you’re not interested in Amish fiction, this one is worth a try.

And it makes me wish for a Downton Abbey style show set in Chicago!

Full of surprises from start to finish: Review of Price of Privilege by Jessica Dotta

I discovered Jessica Dotta’s Price of Privilege series almost reluctantly. Because it was on the list for Tyndale’s Summer Reading Program and I could check it out from the library, I gave it a chance. Sometimes I yawn at another offering set in 19th Century England, but I’m so glad I picked up this series. (You can read my reviews of books 1 and 2, Born of Persuasion and Mark of Distinction, on Goodreads.)

price of privilegeThe finale in the series, Price of Privilege, is a stunning and surprising conclusion. It also might be my favorite of the three books. (Disclaimer: I received a free e-copy of the book through the Tyndale Blog Network in exchange for my review.)

Without giving too much away for anyone who hasn’t read the first two books in the series, I’ll say this: I want good things for Julia, the lead character, who is telling these stories in the first person. Her life has been marred by circumstances out of her control (and some in her control), and I just want things to work out for her. A friend who read the first book in this series had almost no sympathy for her character, so I’m not sure why I do, but I feel sorry for her. But sorry for her in the kind of way that I’m pulling for her.

I can say that almost nothing that happens in Julia’s life makes me feel good or happy. And this is not your light-hearted happily ever after kind of story, but it has a redemptive storyline that drew me into it. One of the highlights is a character named Jameson who adds a sprinkling of humor through some of the toughest scenes. His character is what made this book my favorite.

Now that I’ve finished the series, I’m a bit sad to leave these characters behind even though there were disturbing events in their lives. I felt their sufferings and sorrows, and what I’ve loved about Dotta’s writing is the kind of dark moodiness she’s able to convey on the page. Definitely reminiscent of the Bronte sisters’ works, Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights.

If you’re looking for something different in the historical genre, love England and don’t mind a story with some darkness to it, then I’d whole-heartedly recommend Dotta’s series.

I wish I could say more about this particular story without giving away other details. This is another series I’d love to read again, straight through, to get a better handle on the turns of events, too.

Just what I expected: Review of Love Unexpected by Jody Hedlund

Any time I read a book by one of my favorite authors, I’m expecting a good story. Yet, a part of me wonders, will this be the book I don’t like? Because, over time, it’s possible that I’ll not like a book by one of favorite authors. (Possible, but it hasn’t happened yet!)

LoveUnexpectedFortunately, Jody Hedlund’s new release, Love Unexpected, is another gem of a story, and the only “unexpected” part is how the story will unfold. (Disclaimer: I received a free copy of the book from the author in exchange for my review.)

Love Unexpected kicks off a new series centered on Michigan’s lighthouses. Being from the Midwest, I have a soft spot for the Great Lakes but have almost no knowledge about the area’s lighthouses. Michigan is a treasure trove for lighthouse lovers, it would seem.

This book is set at the Presque Isle lighthouse on Lake Huron and is based on a real lighthouse keeper from the 1800s. (This is one of my favorite things about Jody’s books. She uses characters from history and fictionalizes their stories while keeping many of the facts of their life intact.) Even if this wasn’t based on Michigan history, though, it would be a good story.

Emma Chambers and her brother, Ryan, are searching for a new life when their boat is attacked by pirates and they find themselves shipwrecked in the lake. They’re rescued by Patrick Garraty, lighthouse keeper, who has just lost his wife and is struggling to care for his two-year-old son while maintaining the lighthouse.

Prompted by the circuit-riding preacher, Emma agrees to a quickie wedding to this stranger. Marrying him gives her what she’s always dreamed of: a home of her own, a husband and a child. But she soon learns she isn’t as up to the task as she thought. And her new husband hints at an unsavory past that feeds Emma’s doubts about her hasty decision.

As her love for the child grows, so do her doubts about her new husband. Is this marriage what she dreamed of or did she just enter a nightmare?

Love Unexpected is part love story, part history lesson, part mystery, and Jody crafts a page-turning tale. I literally tell myself, “One more chapter,” half a dozen times before I have to step away from the story to take care of real life.

If you’re a fan of lighthouses, Michigan history or just really good inspirational fiction, I’d encourage you to check out this book by Jody Hedlund. (You can also read her Beacons of Hope novella, Out of the Storm, for free on Kindle.)

If lighthouses or Michigan aren’t your thing, you can check out her other books. Here’s a list of ones I’ve reviewed.

I’m looking forward to more lighthouse stories from Hedlund. And now I want to take a trip to visit them!