Fiction Review: A Gilded Lady, by Elizabeth Camden

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Caroline Delacroix is at the pinnacle of Washington high society in her role as secretary to the First Lady of the United States. But beneath the facade of her beauty, glamorous wardrobe, and dazzling personality, she’s hiding a terrible secret. If she cannot untangle a web of foreign espionage, her brother will face execution for treason.

Nathaniel Trask is the newly appointed head of the president’s Secret Service team. He is immediately attracted to Caroline’s quick wit and undeniable charm, but his job leaves no room for distractions. Anarchist plots have led to mounting threats against the president, forcing him to put duty before his growing love for Caroline.

Amid the glamorous pageantry of Gilded Age Washington, DC, Caroline and Nathaniel face danger and heartbreak that shakes them to their core and tests all they know about love and sacrifice.

Review

Disclaimer: Although I received an electronic advance copy of this book from the publisher, the words and opinions below are my own.

Elizabeth Camden continues her Hope and Glory trilogy with a new novel set at President William McKinley’s White House. It’s the dawn of a new century and a time of great divide in America. Caroline Delacroix is one of the fortunate ones during the Gilded Age, a period of history which fascinates me. But it’s a time that can’t and won’t last forever. William McKinley will be assassinated less than 18 months later, at a location just over 60 miles away from where I live, in Buffalo. Continue reading

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Review: What Momma Left Behind, by Cindy Sproles

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In the face of overwhelming obstacles, she’ll need courage, grit, and a tender heart

Worie Dressar is seventeen years old when influenza and typhoid ravage her Appalachian Mountain community in 1877, leaving behind a growing number of orphaned children with no way to care for themselves. Worie’s mother has been secretly feeding several of these little ones on Sourwood Mountain. But when tragedy strikes, Worie is left to figure out why and how she was caring for them.

Plagued with two good-for-nothing brothers–one greedy and the other a drunkard–Worie must fight to save her home and the children now in her begrudging care. Along the way, she discovers the beauty of unconditional love and the power of forgiveness as she cares for all of Momma’s children.

Review

Disclaimer: Although I received an electronic advance copy of this book from the publisher, the words and opinions below are my own.

There are some Christian historical fiction writers whose newest novels I cannot wait to read. Cindy Sproles is one of that select group. I have read her previous novels, Mercy’s Rain and Liar’s Winter, and loved them both. In my mind, they were both five star reads. I was excited to get a copy of What Momma Left Behind, even if it was an electronic version marked “not final text.” Continue reading

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Non-fiction Review: James Monroe: A Life, by Tim McGrath

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Monroe lived a life defined by revolutions. From the battlefields of the War for Independence, to his ambassadorship in Paris in the days of the guillotine, to his own role in the creation of Congress’s partisan divide, he was a man who embodied the restless spirit of the age. He was never one to back down from a fight, whether it be with Alexander Hamilton, with whom he nearly engaged in a duel (prevented, ironically, by Aaron Burr), or George Washington, his hero turned political opponent.

This magnificent new biography vividly recreates the epic sweep of Monroe’s life: his near-death wounding at Trenton and a brutal winter at Valley Forge; his pivotal negotiations with France over the Louisiana Purchase; his deep, complex friendships with Thomas Jefferson and James Madison; his valiant leadership when the British ransacked the nation’s capital and burned down the Executive Mansion; and Monroe’s lifelong struggle to reckon with his own complicity in slavery. Elected the fifth president of the United States in 1816, this fiercest of partisans sought to bridge divisions and sow unity, calming turbulent political seas and inheriting Washington’s mantle of placing country above party. Over his two terms, Monroe transformed the nation, strengthening American power both at home and abroad.

Critically-acclaimed author Tim McGrath has consulted an extensive array of primary sources, many rarely seen since Monroe’s own time, to conjure up this fascinating portrait of an essential American statesman and president.

Review

Disclaimer: Although I received an electronic Uncorrected Proof of this book from the publisher via NetGalley, the words and opinions below are my own.

Growing up in Britain meant I didn’t really know much about American history prior to World War Two. Whereas I could recite all the kings and queens of England from 1066 onwards (I can still recall half of them today), I couldn’t have done similar with the American presidents, and probably still can’t today. What I knew about James Monroe before reading this new biography of his life could fit on the proverbial back of a postage stamp. I’d heard of the Monroe Doctrine, but couldn’t tell you what it was and, if pressed, I could probably tell you that of course he must have something to do with the capital of Liberia since it was named after him but nothing more. Continue reading

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Non-fiction Review: Catastrophes and Heroes: True Stories of Man-Made Disasters, by Jerry Borrowman

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A century of the industrial age saw unprecedented leaps in technology and engineering, from the first flight of an airplane to the first flight of humans to the moon. But alongside these awe-inspiring achievements were horrible disasters caused by faulty engineering or careless judgement. Fortunate Survivors explores eight such disasters and recognizes the unheralded heroes who stepped up to save others in times of great danger.

Included in this collection are the stories of female phone operators who, despite being in the path of destruction after the Los Angeles St. Francis Dam collapsed in 1928, stayed on the job to warn others to evacuate, Ernest Hemingway, who assisted survivors in his own boat after a hurricane destroyed the Florida East Coast Railway in 1935, and Ernest Betts who, though knowing little first aid, saved thirty people after the streamliner train The City of San Francisco crashed in the Nevada mountains in 1939.

Filled with little-known stories and historical insights, this book explores the rich history of the marvels of engineering and technological advances in the span of a century and reveals how the perils, though disastrous, gave rise to heroism and compassion at a time when machines were supposed to do it all.

Review

Disclaimer: Although I downloaded an Advance Reader’s Edition of this book from the publisher via NetGalley, the words and opinions below are my own.

If you’ve watched shows such as Engineering Catastrophes on American cable television, chances are you’ll be familiar with the eight events that author Jerry Borrowman includes in his latest book. The difference is that while the show looks at the actual engineering, here the emphasis is on the human element. Continue reading

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Non-fiction Review: City of London at War 1939-45

book coverSynopsis

The City of London was always going to be an obvious target for German bombers during the Second World War. What better way for Nazi Germany to spread fear and panic amongst the British people than by attacking their capital city? Although not vastly populated in the same way that a bigger city or larger town would be, there were still enough people working there during the day for attacks on it to take their toll. The city’s ancient and iconic buildings also bore the brunt of the German bombs, including churches designed by Sir Christopher Wren after the Great Fire in 1666.

The book looks at the effects of war on the City of London, including the damage caused by the 8 months of the Blitz between September 1940 and May 1941. The most devastating of the raids took place on 29 December 1940, with both incendiary and explosive bombs causing a firestorm so intense it was known as the Second Great Fire of London.

It also looks at the bravery of the staff at St Bart’s Hospital, which was one of the medical facilities that remained open during the course of the war. Other stories include the sterling work carried out by the City’s civilian population and the different voluntary roles that they performed to help keep the city safe, including the Home Guard and the Fire Watchers, who spent their nights on the city’s rooftops looking out for incendiary devices dropped by the German Luftwaffe.

Despite the damage to its buildings and its population, by the end of the war the City of London was able to rise, like a phoenix, from the flames of destruction, ready to become the vibrant and flourishing borough that it is today.

Review

Disclaimer: Although I received an electronic copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley, the words and opinions below are my own.

When I’m asked where I’m from, I usually reply, “London.” It’s a place almost everyone has heard of, unlike the actual towns where I spent my first nine years. Truthfully, I lived in Sutton and Kingston. These are towns in the county of Surrey, and both are London boroughs. My paternal grandparents were also born in south London, in the boroughs of Southwark and Lambeth. When I think of London, the urban sprawl both sides of the River Thames comes to mind. So, it’s no wonder I had a moment of confusing London with the City of London when I first saw this book title. The City of London is the square mile north of the river, the business district, and the ancient city established by the Romans. This is the area author Stephen Wynn focuses on in the latest in the “Your Towns and Cities in World War Two” series put out by British publisher Pen and Sword. Continue reading

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