Cindy Vallar

Author, Editor, & Pirate Chronicler
P. O. Box 425, Keller, TX  76244-0425

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Recommended Books to Read

 
Historical Fiction            Romance            Contemporary Fiction            Mystery & Suspense            Nonfiction

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For my reviews on pirate & maritime books, check out The Bookaneer.


ROMANCE

Allie's Moon by Alexis Harrington
Setting: Oregon
Time: 19th century


Beauchamp Beseiged by Elaine Knighton
Setting: Wales
Time: 1200


Beyond All Dreams by Elizabeth Camden
Setting: Washington, DC
Time: 19th century


Blue Moon Promise by Colleen Coble
Setting: Texas
Time: 19th century


Christmas at Carnton by Tamera Alexander
Setting: Tennessee
Time: American Civil War


Edge of Town by Dorothy Garlock
Setting: Missouri
Time: Great Depression


Gingham Mountain by Mary Connealy
Setting: Texas
Time:1870


Haunting Warrior by Erin Quinn
Ireland
Time: Multiple


High on a Hill by Dorothy Garlock
Setting: Missouri
Time: 1920s
A Highlander Christmas
by Dawn Halliday, Cindy Miles, & Sophie Renwick
Setting: Scotland
Time: Multiple


In the King's Service by Margaret Moore
Setting: England
Time: 12th century


A Lady in Disguise by Sandra Byrd
Setting: England
Time: 1883


The Lawman Who Loved Her by Mallory Kane
Setting: New Orleans
Time: Contemporary



A Memory of Love by Bertrice Small
Setting: Wales, Holy Land, & England
Time: Medieval


Now & Forever by Mary Connealy
Setting: Dakota Territory
Time: 19th century


Over the Edge by Mary Connealy
Setting: Colorado
Time:
1820s


River Rising by Dorothy Garlock
Setting: Missouri
Time: 20th Century

A River to Cross by Yvonne Harris
Setting: Texas
Time: 1886


The Sun and the Moon by Patricia Ryan
Setting: England
Time: 12th century


Tamed by a Laird by Amanda Scott
Setting: Scotland
Time: 1374


A Texan's Coice by Shelley Gray
Setting: Texas
Time: 1874


To Wager Her Heart by Tamera Alexander
Setting: Tennessee
Time: 1871


True Highland Spirit by Amanda Forester
Setting: Scotland
Time: 14th century


The Vigilante's Bride by Yvonne Harris
Setting: Montana
Time: 1880s


Wings of Morning by Kathleen Morgan
Setting: Scotland
Time: 1566




ALLIE'S MOON
Alexis Harrington
St. Martin, 2000

Cover Art:
                            Allie's MoonFrom age eight, Allie Ford has borne the guilt of causing her mother's suicide and depriving her younger sister of a mother's love. Three years have passed since her father's death in 1877, and the Oregon farm is in desperate need of repairs. Unable to do the work herself, she hires Jefferson Hicks, the former sheriff and town drunk. Jeff "died" soon after shooting a young boy, and he's just biding his time until death claims him. The he meets Allie, and his desire to live blossoms. Although the past imprisons both Jeff and Allie, their love offers them a chance to heal, but others have no intention of letting that happen.

Although set in the American West, there is little history in this story. That said, though, it is a good depiction of a small town where everyone knows everyone else's business, and where the slightest scandal results in ostracism and ridicule. It also shows the psychological torment caused when innocent people make mistakes.

An enduring read for historical or western romance fans in search of healing love and who don't mind if the history is more social than historical in nature.


(Originally reviewed for Historical Novels Review, November 2000)

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BEAUCHAMP BESEIGED
Elaine Knighton
Harlequin Historicals, 2003

Cover Art:
                            Beauchamp BeseigedIn 1200 Ceridwen ap Morgan's father arranges for her to wed her enemy, an English knight. She'd rather not, but there is no other way for the Welsh to survive. Sir Raymond de Beauchamp doesn't want to wed, either, but does want the land offered as her dowry. Even for their marriage in name only to work, Raymond and Ceridwen must first confront their different cultures and the past. Unless they learn to love each other and live in harmony, neither will survive the onslaught of Raymon's evil brother and overlord.

The author quickly transports the reader back in time and weaves an intricate story of the conflict between the Welsh and the English with a struggle that pits brother against brother. A satisfying tale of full-developed characters that remain true to their assigned roles in history.


(Originally reviewed for  Historical Novels Review, February 2004)


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BEYOND ALL DREAMS (Editor's Choice title)
Elizabeth Camden
Bethany House, 2015

Cover
                                  Art: Beyond DreamsAn inaccuracy in the historical record compels librarian Anna O’Brien to question the navy’s investigation into the loss of her father’s ship. That jeopardizes not only her job, but those of the other female librarians, since no one made their temporary hiring at the Library of Congress permanent. Determined to learn the truth, she seeks help from a handsome, yet arrogant, congressman.

After a failed attempt to prove congressional corruption, Luke Callahan needs another crusade to pursue and the quiet, sharp-witted librarian intrigues him enough to help her. But the deeper they delve, the more dangerous the truth becomes – not only for themselves, but also the nation.

This inspirational romance opens in late 1897, when relations between the United States, Spain, and Cuba are tenuous. From the Capitol to the Library of Congress, Anna’s passion for her work shines through, transporting the reader into her world. Washington, DC, societal constraints, and ingenious inventions (think typewriter or flashlight) spring to life before the reader’s eyes. Camden tackles alcoholism and abuse with realism, while demonstrating how having faith, stepping outside of comfort zones, and trusting in others can overcome adversity to realize dreams. Highly recommended.


(Originally reviewed for  Historical Novels Review, May 2015)

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BLUE MOON PROMISE
Colleen Coble
Thomas Nelson, 2012

Cover Art:
                                Blue MoonAfter a man breaks into their house and she loses her job, Lucy Marsh weds a man she’s never met. It’s the only way to protect her siblings, Eileen and Jed, now that her father is dead and her stepmother left them to fend for themselves. On a wintry day in 1877 and with great trepidation, they board a train for Texas.

Nate Stanton never expected his father to arrange a marriage by proxy for him, but his Christian upbringing and conscience prevent him from putting the trio back on the train. Getting to know each other presents comical and heart-stopping situations, least of which is the realization that Lucy’s uncle is Nate’s sworn enemy. When a stranger threatens Jed and a smarmy, handsome detective wheedles his way into the good graces of Nate’s father and Lucy’s cousin, they join together to discover the truth.

Lucy, Nate, and his father are strong-willed people who prefer to maintain control to fix problems, rather than putting their trust in God. The obstacles and situations that arise emphasize this central theme. Several spoonfuls of an elaborate mystery add ample spice to make this a heartwarming Western romance.


(Originally reviewed for Historical Novels Review, May 2012)

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CHRISTMAS AT CARNTON

Tamera Alexander
Thomas Nelson, 2017

Cover Art:
                                Christmas at CarntonAs Christmas 1863 approaches, recently-widowed Aletta Prescott loses her job and home. With one child and another on the way, possible employment for an upcoming auction seems heaven sent, but the position has been filled. Although the carpenter's job remains vacant, Carton's mistress is reluctant to hire a woman with such skills.

Jake Winston's wound has healed, but not his eyesight -- a requirement for a Confederate sharpshooter. Rather than return to active duty, he's sent to Carnton to assist "a bunch of petticoats." He feels it would be better to just give money to Confederate troops, rather than waste time baking, sewing, and auctioning off the items. Aletta wonders why a man with no visible wounds isn't fighting. Hiding his affliction, he's amused when pride initially keeps her from asking for his help. After the walls between them crumble, unexpected news leaves one feeling guilty and the other yearning for the impossible.

Set in Tennessee, this novella introduces a new series at a historic plantation. Alexander intertwines love, war's cruelties, disabilities, and perseverance in a way that captivates readers. Her well-developed characters and attention to historical detail sweep readers back to the American Civil War. Often novels of this period concern the battles and soldiers who fought them. Whiles this narrative touches on these, Alexander focuses on those left behind and the adversities they endured. Christmas at Carnton is a tale of emotional highs and lows that allow readers to experience the joy, sorrow, and hopes of women in a southern town surrounded by war, as well as witnessing the daily struggles of men who must come to grip with life-altering wounds.


(Originally reviewed for Historical Novels Review, November 2017)

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THE EDGE OF TOWN
Dorothy Garlock
Warner Books, 2001

Cover Art:
                    Edge of TownRaising her brothers and sisters and doing daily farm chores don’t leave Julie Jones much time for a social life. She yearns for someone to court her, but she’s just a country girl, not one of those flappers who live in town. Her world, however, turns upside down when several new faces appear in Fertile, Missouri.

Evan Johnson, a veteran of the Great War, returns to protect the family farm from his drunk and abusive father. Birdie Stuart is a widow looking for a new husband. Corbin Appleby, the new police chief, searches for a rapist and murderer. The manner in which their lives intersect with those of Julie and her family threaten to rip asunder the ties that bind Julie to her family and to Evan.

The characters in The Edge of Town are ordinary people with all the foibles and traits that breathe life into them. The story transports readers back to the years just prior to the Great Depression in a Midwestern town where city dwellers and farmers intermingle but don’t always look at their community through the same eyes. Readers in search of a wonderful old-fashioned romance won’t be disappointed, and those looking for mystery will find more than enough to fill their plates.

(Originally published in Historical Novels Review, August 2001)

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GINGHAM MOUNTAIN
Mary Connealy
Barbour, 2008

Cover Art: Gingham
                        MountainSour Springs, Texas. Last stop for the orphan train. Last hope for two orphans nobody wants. Nobody but Grant, that is. Once an orphan himself, he provides them with shelter, food, and clothes, but the most important thing he gives is love.

Hannah Cartwright assumes Grant is like other “fathers,” who just want children to work until they drop. When her attempt to keep Grant from adopting the children fails, she takes the job of schoolmarm to watch over the children. She has a knack for teaching, but not cooking or sewing, so Grant’s children concoct plans to help her and get her to like him. The only problem is Shirt Lady, another newcomer, has designs on Grant herself, even though she hates children.

Set in 1870, this is a fast-paced, heartwarming story filled with humor and romance. There’s even a bit a mystery woven in, for Shirt Lady isn’t who or what she pretends to be. The only drawback is the occasional intrusion of characters from an earlier story in the “Lassoed in Texas” series, but Connealy eventually ties them into the main story. A delightful, entertaining book you’ll want to read again and again.


(Originally reviewed for Historical Novels Review, May 2009)

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HAUNTING WARRIOR
Erin Quinn
Berkley, 2010

Cover Art:
                      Haunting WarriorBouncer Rory MacGrath rebels against his dead grandmother's summons to come home -- a place he's not visited since his banishment to America after his father's disappearance. Rory returns to Ireland and his family, where he follows the mysterious woman who haunts his dreams and bids him to hurry before it's too late.

Able to see the dead, Saraid of the Favored Lands listens as the ghost of an old woman reveals that "A man will come to you in the guise of another. 'Tis the Book he wants . . . ." The latter is an evil thing that Cathán, her people's sworn enemy, believes Saraid possesses, and he has hunted them until only a few survive. Now he offers peace, a ruse Saraid doesn't trust, but her eldest brother must put their people's welfare before hers and she weds Cathán's brutal son, Rory the Bloodletter. Unexpected betrayal and trusting an enemy lead Saraid to the Book and her true fate.

With the skill of the Irish seanchai, Quinn spins a tale of time travel woven into the mystical threads of ancient Ireland. Haunting Warrior is not only a love story, but also a search to conquer inner fears and combat evil and greed.


(Originally published in Historical Novels Review, May 2010)

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HIGH ON A HILL
Dorothy Garlock
Warner Books, 2002

Cover Art: High on a
                      HillProhibition, bootleggers, moonshine, mobsters -- these are volatile ingredients during the Roaring Twenties. When they intersect in a small Missouri town, Annabel Lee Donovan's life changes forever.

Annabel, daughter of a bootlegger, yearns for the day her father retires. She's tired of moving, but fears Henderson is just another stopping-off place. Corbin Appleby, a former sheriff, arrives in town to locate a friend's brother and help a colleague. Falling in love with Annabel takes him by surprise, yet he's not the only one with eyes for Annabel. Marvin Carter wants her for himself, and he won't take no for an answer.

The twists and turns in this romantic tale force the reader to turn the pages. For those who read Ms. Garlock's The Edge of Town, where she first introduced Corbin, reading High on a Hill is like meeting an old friend. The depth of the characters, the inclusion of a poignant secondary love story, and the immersion into a time that captures the imagination are like spice added to an apple pie.  Without them, this would be an ordinary tale. With them, this is a book to savor and enjoy.


(Originally published in Historical Novels Review, August 2001)

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A HIGHLANDER CHRISTMAS
Dawn Halliday, Cindy Miles, & Sophie Renwick
Signet Eclipse, 2009

Cover Art:
                        A Highlander ChristmasI love Christmas anthologies and this one is no exception. The three stories in A Highlander Christmas center around MacDonald women, an heirloom pin, and the Scottish Highlands. Three romance sub-genres are represented: historical, fantasy, and paranormal.

I first encountered Dawn Halliday’s "Winter Heat" in one of my Scottish workshops. The first chapter so intrigued me, I had to read the rest of the story. Following the failed Rising of 1715, Logan Douglas makes his way home to protect and provide for his dead brother’s family and their clan, of which he’s now the chief. Along the way, he discovers a sword-shaped pin, and nearby lies an unconscious woman half-covered in snow. Her eye is swollen and blood cakes her lips and neck. He quickly spirits her back to the shieling where he sought shelter the night before to care for her.

Maggie MacDonald, a widow, escapes the clutches of Innes Munroe, a brute who intends to rape her and force her into a marriage she doesn’t want. When she awakens naked in the company of a stranger, she insists she can take care of herself, but she can’t. As the fiercesome winter storm keeps them trapped, she realizes she can trust the stranger to keep her safe. As the days pass, each fight the growing attraction between them, but fate has other plans for them. Before long there must be a reckoning between Logan and Innes, only which one will end being wedded to Maggie?

Five days before Christmas 1869, Isobel MacDonald once again sees the beautiful, white stag that once saved her life in Sophie Renwick’s "Yuletide Enchantment." Her brother wishes to slay the beast and mount the antlers above the hearth at MacDonald Hall. Not if Isobel has her way, but in the ensuing argument between the siblings, she learns of her impending marriage to wed their annoying neighbor, the Earl of St. Clair, and her brother’s arrow injures the White Hart.

Later, she goes in search of the stag, but instead meets a mysterious and enigmatic Prince Daegan. He will rule the world of the sidhe with Cailleach, the supreme goddess, whom he doesn’t love. Isobel has captured his heart, and he intends to make her his, even though doing so will cause great upheaval in the Otherworld. When Isobel learns the truth about Prince Daegan, will she still love him? And what will they sacrifice to be united?

Cindy Miles’ "A Christmas Spirit" takes place in the present when Paige MacDonald, a curator at the Smithsonian Institution who has had her fill of spending the holidays alone and at work, becomes lost while on a self-touring holiday. Just before her rental car dies and a blizzard begins, she comes upon a sign for the Gorloch Bed and Breakfast and turns down the gravel road. She soon discovers the place is a castle, but when she knocks on the door, a voice within tells her to go away. She stays put and eventually, Gabriel Munro allows her entry.

Gabriel is less than thrilled to have Paige in his home. After all, the Craigmires, the actual B&B’s owners, assured him no one would visit while they are in London for the holidays. Gabriel has long resided in the castle – since medieval times after being slain by a MacDonald. When he forgets to disguise himself in modern attire, Paige runs from the house, promptly trips, and breaks her nose. While he can’t carry her back to his home, he convinces her to stay. The ironic thing is Paige doesn’t mind he’s a ghost as much as she thought. After all, he is a gorgeous Scottish warrior, and she feels safe around him. For the first time in centuries, Gabriel likes being with another person, and before long the pair discover they are in love. But what can a 21st-century lady and a medieval ghost do about it? And what will happen when Gabriel learns Paige’s secret?

Whether you prefer historical fiction, fantasy, or the paranormal, A Highlander Christmas offers a tale to delight everyone. Each story whisks you to the Scottish Highlands, if only in your dreams, and the heartwarming, breathtaking romances will gladden your heart and make you wish to spend Christmas with your own special love, especially if he dons a kilt.


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IN THE KING'S SERVICE
Margaret Moore
Harlequin Historicals, 2003

Cover Art: In the King's ServiceAfter marrying Eleanor of Aquitaine, King Henry II relies on French advisers rather than his own countrymen, which upsets some English nobles. He sends Sir Blaidd Morgan, a trusted knight and friend, to determine whether Lord Throckton plots treason. To camouflage his mission, Blaidd woos the Lady Laelia, the most beautiful woman ever seen. Her younger sister, Lady Becca, however, is far more intriguing with her sharp tongue and stinging wit, harp playing, training as a warrior, and caring heart. As love unfolds, Blaidd strives to learn the truth about her father. All appears innocent, but Throckton Castle holds secrets and some of its people hint that all isn’t as it appears.

A good, fast read that’s the perfect escape on a rainy day.


(Originally reviewed for  Historical Novels Review, May 2005)

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A LADY IN DISGUISE
Sandra Byrd
Howard, 2017

Cover Art: A Lady in
                        DisguiseBereft at the unexpected loss of her father in 1883, Gillian Young returns from his funeral to discover a London Metopolitan Police sergeant searching her house. Her father is under suspicion for associating with and profiting from criminals; he may have been murdered. Although afraid, Gillian is determined to prove his innocence. She discovers a photograph of a beautiful stranger and a letter from her deceased mother that reveals her intentions to donate Winton Park to the Cause, a Christian mission for the poor. Her father never mentioned the letter, and Gillian had assumed her grandfather's home was now hers. She just doesn't have sufficient funds to restore the house to its form splendor.

Further investigation must wait when Gillian is asked to design and sew costumes for a new production of Cinderella at the Theatre Royal. The prestigious assignment will make her name known throughout London, but she needs additional seamstresses, an older woman and two young girls from the theater mission dear to her mother's heart.

A handsome viscount and a police inspector's son begin to court her, but she questions their motives. Lord Lockwood shares her passion for the theater, but also wants to purchase Winton Park. A childhood friend, Francis Collingsworth may just be trying to find evidence to prove her father's guilt. The closer to the truth she gets, the greater the danger she encounters. She needs to trust someone, but whom?

Byrd deftly intertwines research with love and murder in this final book in the Daughters of Hampshire trilogy. She transports us back to Victorian England to view the startling differences between the world of the ton and the seamier sections of London. Her tantalizing web keeps us enthralled until the truth about the perpetrator and the romance are finally revealed.

(Originally reviewed for Historical Novels Review, May 2017)

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THE LAWMAN WHO LOVED HER

Mallory Kane
Harlequin Intrigue, 2001

Cover Art: The Lawman
                        Who Loved HerThe instant Cody Maxwell hears the click, he knows he's made a stupid mistake. Thinking about his ex-wife nearly gets him killed, but he can't help it. That morning he found Dana's earring lying on the seat of his car. It was a clear message from Gerard Fontenot, the man Cody tried to put away for murdering his wife. Instead of life imprisonment, Gerard was sentenced for another crime. Now, he's out of prison and he has one goal -- to kill the New Orleans detective who put him away -- and he'll do it any way he can, including hurting Dana.

Although they divorced four years ago, neither Cody nor Dana have gotten over their love for each other. Yet Cody's job and Dana's past made marriage impossible for them both. Unwilling to let Dana come to harm, Cody insinuates himself into her life. When Fontenot leaves another warning in Dana's car, Cody's boss sends them away together to the fishing cabin where they spent their honeymoon. Needless to say, that's when things start getting interesting. But Gerard is close on their heels and he has definite plans that will torment and torture Cody and Dana. Will they succumb to Gerard's devious intentions or will they learn to trust the love they share in order to defeat him?

This contemporary romance is a spellbinder. Mallory Kane deftly weaves a tale of love and suspense where you will wish for a hero of your own like Cody while rooting for Dana to let go of the past and follow her heart. Gerard is a vicious yet intelligent villain that you will want to tear apart with your own hands. Unless you have the time to read this book in one sitting, don't pick it up. It's impossible to put down!


(Originally reviewed for Ivy Quill Reviews)

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A MEMORY OF LOVE
Bertrice Small
Ballantine, 2000

Cover Art: A Memory
                        of LoveBorn out of wedlock, Rhonwyn is raised as a boy by her Welsh father's warriors. Not until her impending marriage to an English prince does she learn to be a lady under the tutelage of her aunt, a prioress, and the other nuns at the abbey. Edward de Beaulieu is both captivated and dismayed by his bride. Rhonwyn is beautiful, but she is also freespirited. With Prince Edward of England, they embark on a crusade to the Holy Land. Captured by the infidels, she becomes the captive of the Emir of Cinnebar, who teaches her about passion. She eventually escapes the harem and returns to England -- where the battle for her heart and her freedom pit her against enemies she doesn't even know exist.

An absorbing medieval tale, this romance will have readers turning the pages until they discover the identity of Rhonwyn's true love and how she rescues herself from the predicaments that threaten to destroy her.


(Originally reviewed for Historical Novels Review, November 2000)

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NOW & FOREVER
Mary Connealy
Bethany House, 2015

Cover Art: Now
                          & ForeverMountain man Matt Tucker, who lives in the Dakota Territory, should pay attention to the trail, but a woman distracts him. Which is how he tangles with a mama grizzly. She swats him off the mountain then chases after him. Which is how he encounters Shannon Wilde, his distracter. With nowhere left to run, they jump into the Slaughter River. Shannon’s Civil War survival and medical training kick in, and she snags a branch that leads her to a cave. Once she gets Matt out of the water and splints his broken leg, they explore the cave, hoping to find a way back to civilization.

The rescue party, including a preacher-mountain man, insists the pair wed since they’ve spent the past five days alone. Matt likes the idea, but Shannon needs more convincing. Mountain man and sheep farmer aren’t compatible. But those problems seem small once someone begins trying to force Shannon off her property no matter who gets hurt.

From first page to last, book two in the Wild at Heart series is a hoot! Connealy tackles the serious and the comical with equal aplomb, while her characters tug at heart strings. This great inspirational romance doesn’t disappoint.


(Originally reviewed for Historical Novels Review, November 2015)

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OVER THE EDGE
Mary Connealy
Bethany House, 2012

Cover Art: Over the
                        EdgeThe horrors of the Civil War and a Confederate prison camp reawaken Seth Kincaid’s emotional scars from a childhood fire. He also suffers from gaps in his memory, which explains why he doesn’t recognize the woman who tries to shoot him. A decade after the war, Callie wonders if her husband is still alive. With her father dead, her brother gone, a son to raise, and nowhere to live, she heads for the Kincaid ranch in Colorado. If Seth’s alive, can she trust him not to disappear again?

While a stagecoach robbery reunites them, an unexpected addition to the Kincaid family and Seth’s craziness threaten to tear asunder the few threads that still bind them. Then Callie is kidnapped and only he can save her, but that requires his return to the cave where the fire happened.

Third in The Kincaid Brothers series, Over the Edge is fast-paced and humorous at times, poignant at others. Callie’s strength and rugged determination and Seth’s internal struggle with inner demons enrich the depth of these characters. The numerous subplots of the story may overwhelm newcomers to this inspirational series, but Connealy neatly weaves the threads to a satisfying and enjoyable conclusion.


(Originally reviewed for  Historical Novels Review, February 2013)

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RIVER RISING
Dorothy Garlock
Warner, 2005

Cover Art: River RisingWith her car stuck in the mud on the outskirts of Fertile, Missouri, April Asbury slogs through pouring rain, scoots under a barbed-wire fence, and flees an angry bull to reach the safety of a small farmhouse. Meeting handsome Joe Jones, the bull’s owner, sets off April’s alarm bells, but his kindness and teasing tug at her heartstrings. Thus begins her new life as Doc Forbes’ nurse. But this charming town has secrets. With the unending rain, the river threatens to flood. As the water rises, so do prejudices against those who live near the river. Yet nothing threatens Fertile as much as a bitter widow’s plan to destroy the legacy of her husband, and in doing so, she will ruin the lives of innocent residents.

Once again, Ms. Garlock captivates readers with a tale involving this quaint town and the people who live there. Her three-dimensional characters, with all their strengths, frailties, laughter, and warped thinking, make this depression-era town a living place that readers will want to visit and remember for years to come.

(Originally reviewed for Historical Novels Review, November 2005)

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A RIVER TO CROSS
Yvonne Harris
Bethany House, 2011

Cover Art: A River
                          to CrossMexican soldiers abduct Elizabeth Evans and kill her brother, a newspaper editor who published information about General Manuel Diego’s design to overthrow his president. With the help of gypsies and several fellow Texas Rangers, Jake Nelson, a former army reconnaissance officer and now a Ranger captain, rescues Elizabeth from her captors and returns her to El Paso. Diego, refusing to allow anyone to thwart his plans, devises another scheme to kidnap this daughter of an important senator. Elizabeth’s attraction to Jake is instantaneous, but after her husband died, she vowed never to marry another military man. Although betrayed once before, Jake can’t deny what his heart wants. But will he prevent Diego from killing Elizabeth to spark another war between Mexico and the United States?

Set in 1886, this border town springs to life within the pages of this historical romance. Harris’s three-dimensional characters step off the pages in a stirring adventure that keeps readers on the edge of their seats. The depth of her research is evident throughout yet never intrudes into the intricate, sometimes humorous, web she weaves in this vivid portrayal of Texas Rangers in the Old West.

(Originally reviewed for Historical Novels Review, February 2012)

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THE SUN AND THE MOON
Patricia Ryan
Signet, 2000

Cover Art: The Sun and the
                      MoonKing Henry II of England suspects that his estranged wife, Eleanor of Aquitaine, conspires against him. To ferret out the truth, he enlists the aid of his trusted spy, Hugh of Wexford, and a learned but innocent scholar, Lady Phillipa de Paris. Posing as Hugh’s wife, Phillipa must use intelligence and feminine wiles to expose the traitorous secrets of the queen’s confidante and her unscrupulous brother.

This is an engrossing depiction of medieval historical romance. I was a bit thrown by the incorporation of courtly love into the storyline since its depiction is often at odds with its true definition. Yet the story is an intriguing treatise on courtly love gone awry. Some readers may object to the explicitness of the sexual escapades, but for those who seek a riveting and entertaining adventure you will be richly rewarded.


(Originally reviewed for Historical Novels Review, August 2000)

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TAMED BY A LAIRD
Amanda Scott
Forever, 2009

Cover
                    Art: Tamed by a LairdJenny Easdale awaits her fate -- marriage to a man who wishes to possess her lands and title. Not the future she desired, but her guardian insists this is best for her. She craves a last adventure and escapes her betrothal feast to join a band of traveling musicians. Never has she felt such freedom, but unease filters through her as she overhears whispered tidbits and is mistaken for someone else in the company.

Sir Hugh Douglas wants no part in hunting down his brother's wayward heiress, but agrees to prevent a scandal. A warrior adept at mimicking others, he assumes the identity of a troubadour to travel with the musicians. Accomplishing his task proves challenging, for Jenny has stumbled on a plot that might endanger the peace between Scotland and England, and she's determined to warn his liege lord herself.

Slow to start, this story, set in the Border region of Scotland in 1374, captivates and charms once Jenny and Hugh join the musicians. Humor, love, and tension build to the climax, where secrets and truths are revealed. This is the first in a trilogy and more of a backstory to the next title, which may explain why the ending leaves the reader feeling a bit disappointed.


(Originally reviewed for Historical Novels Review, August 2009)

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A TEXAN'S CHOICE

Shelley Gray
Abingdon Press, 2012

Cover Art: A Texan's Choice1874: Scout Proffitt, notorious gunslinger, arrives at the Bar C. He won the fifty-acre Texas ranch in a card game but never dreamed that his desire to start a new life would get him a spread built of broken dreams. Nor does he reckon on Rose, whom mother and sister abandon after they bury her father. When an old acquaintance offers Scout the chance to expunge his criminal past, Scout agrees to hunt down rustlers stealing his brother-in-law’s cattle.

Blamed for the accidental death of her brother when she was eight, Rose has never belonged, never known love. She should be frightened of the black-clad  killer, but leaving the Bar C and striking out on her own would only terrify her more. She convinces Scout to allow her to stay for a short while to clean and cook, but the citizens of Broken Promise don’t look kindly on living in sin.

The showdown with the rustlers fails to live up to the danger initially depicted and happens too swiftly. In spite of this, Gray weaves sadness and despair, spiced with humor and love, into an inspirational story of redemption that tugs at the reader’s heart.


(Originally reviewed for Historical Novels Review, November 2012)

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TO WAGER HER HEART
Tamera Alexander
Zondervan, 2017

Cover Art: To Wager
                      Her HeartUnable to move past the train wreck that killed her fiancé, Alexandra Jamison faces the untenable choice of accepting her father's choice for a husband, a much older man, or remaining a spinster -- until voices raised in song offer her a new path one evening in 1871. Fisk University, a school dedicated to educating former slaves, needs teachers. When she joins their staff, Alexandra is turned out of her house with only the clothes on her back.

Sylas Rutledge of Colorado is in Nashville to bid on the Belle Meade Railroad Station contract. His problem is twofold: he's still looking for investors and he's an uncouth outsider. He's also come to clear his father, a dedicated engineer who would never have caused the accident that killed so many people.

In need of money, Alexandra agrees to teach Sylas about southern gentility, even though she thinks him more an outlaw than a gentleman. In turn, he agrees to share whatever he learns about the accident and when she is offered a chance to arrange a tour for the Jubilee Singers, he's the one who must help her conquer her fears.

This final installment in the Belle Meade Novels is a heartwarming tale of following dreams, standing up for what's right, facing fears, and learning to trust where the heart leads. Rich in details of time and place, Alexander transports her readers back to a United States attempting to recover from the wounds of civil war, where bigotry and prejudices exist in both the North and the South. Her three-dimensional characters bring to life an era fraught with danger in the struggle to change attitudes -- a struggle still relevant today -- while the story provides a poignant recreation of technology's impact on their lives, which also rings true today.


(Originally reviewed for Historical Novels Review, February 2018)

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TRUE HIGHLAND SPIRIT
Amanda Forester
Sourcebooks, 2012

Cover Art: True Highland SpiritA sealed missive orders Morrigan McNab’s brother to kill the bishop. In his absence, the task falls to her. If she fails, her impoverished clan will suffer. Although she longs to be a lady, her sins are many and no one wants to wed a woman who wears male attire and skillfully wields a crossbow or sword. Except perhaps the French minstrel she robbed then kissed. The same man who stops her from murdering the bishop.

Jacques Dragonet isn’t really a minstrel, but a Hospitaller knight who seeks a priceless relic that the Templars brought to Scotland. Unbeknownst to him, Morrigan also seeks the treasure. As each follows a different path to gain it, their lives become intertwined. But two corrupt, powerful men also want the relic and they will stop at nothing to attain it.

Forester’s characters draw you into the story, and her skillful storytelling anchors you in medieval Scotland. She deftly combines Edward III’s invasion with legends of Templar treasure and holy relics of great significance to spin an enchanting tale of greed, love, and redemption that will make you sigh and wish “if only.”

(Originally reviewed for Historical Novels Review, May 2012)

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THE VIGILANTE'S BRIDE
Yvonne Harris
Bethany House, 2010

Cover
                    Art: The Vigilante's BrideEmily McCarthy goes to Montana with great misgivings about marrying a wealthy stranger, who advertised for a wife. On Christmas Eve 1884, Luke Sullivan, a reluctant vigilante, hears about Bart Axel getting hitched. Luke's intent is merely to rob the stage carrying Axel's money, but his conscience prevents him from allowing feisty, but beautiful, Emily from wedding the nasty old man who swindled Luke's father out of their ranch. After he kidnaps her, he seeks a safe haven -- the orphanage where he grew up. Emily and Luke spar constantly, neither willing to admit what they feel toward one another. While out searching for missing cattle, Luke is ambushed and seriously injured. Later they discover Axel's been lying about the acreage the orphanage owns, but proving it gets complicated when a hired gun shows up and the nearby Crow become involved.

Harris' depictions of Montana, late 19th-century life, and the independent people who settled the West captivate the reader to such an extent that the outside world disappears. Humor and love are intertwined with regret and rugged determination. The reader will long remember and savor the experience of reading this inspirational western romance.


(Originally reviewed for Historical Novels Review, May 2011)

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WINGS OF MORNING
Kathleen Morgan
Revell, 2006

Cover Art: Wings of MorningRegan MacLaren loves her husband, but an argument on their wedding night results in his departure, and the next day she finds herself a widow. Her brother-in-law claims Iain Campbell shot Roddy in the back, and Walter convinces Regan they must right this wrong. Regan has second thoughts and sets off to stop Walter.

The Scottish Highlands in 1566 are a dangerous place for a woman riding alone during a storm. When her horse spooks, she hits her head and is dragged far from home. On regaining consciousness, she finds herself under the care of Iain Campbell and his mother. But Regan doesn’t realize he’s her enemy; she doesn’t know who she is. As she struggles to remember, she falls in love with Iain. Intrigues and political struggles soon intrude into the Highlands, complicating and endangering Regan’s life.

Morgan weaves a charming tale that seamlessly intertwines clan life with romance and the struggle to heed God’s wishes. History, however, plays a minor role, and as a result, the story could easily take place in another time without endangering the storyline.


(Originally reviewed for  Historical Novels Review, May 2006)

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