Beneath the Bending Skies

Beneath the Bending SkiesBeneath the Bending Skies by Jane Kirkpatrick
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Classic Jane Kirkpatrick story with an in-depth look into life as it used to be. Jane brings history alive as few can. Beneath the Bending Skies adds an extra layer. It digs into the relationships – both family and interracial – and how expectations can hinder or help how we relate to each other. Well worth reading.

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A Cord of Three Strands

A Cord of Three StrandsA Cord of Three Strands by Christy Distler
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Stories set in Colonial America are few and far between anymore, and books featuring Quakers are even rarer. If you enjoy either or both, you’ll need to read this book! The author immerses readers into the time and culture while weaving a story with a strong faith element (they are – after all – Quakers) that illustrates the importance of family. I’m not a big fan of first-person point of view, but Distler writes it so well that I barely noticed it. I was involved with the characters from the start and intrigued by their Quaker standards and adherence to them. The romance was gentle and sweet, in line with their beliefs, the setting very authentic, and the secondary characters rounded the story out very well. Good read!

Under the Tulip Tree

Under the Tulip TreeUnder the Tulip Tree by Michelle Shocklee
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I bought this book a while ago knowing that I enjoyed this author’s writing. However, I’m not a huge fan of 1st person point-of-view OR dual timeline novels. So it just mulled around in my TBR pile for a while. Boy am I glad I finally cracked it open!

This is a dual timeline – but both timelines are historical – and maybe that’s why I enjoyed it so much. Rena Leland is hired in 1936 to interview and write down the stories of elderly slaves who still survive. Frustrated at losing her newspaper job, she’s thrilled about the opportunity. Frankie Washington is intrigued by the young white woman who knocks on her door. In the days that follow, they form a fast friendship that defies the cultural norms of the day as Frankie remembers and shares her years growing up and living as a slave. But neither of them is prepared for what might come of unleashing the truth.

An Uncommon Woman

An Uncommon WomanAn Uncommon Woman by Laura Frantz
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I bought this book right after it came out – two years ago! It was the beginning of the Covid shutdown, and I’d stocked up on a stack of paperbacks I wanted to read. And I always enjoy Laura Frantz’s books! But when I started reading it, I realized it was a little too close to the book I was writing at that time, Maggie’s Strength. Both deal with a settler girl taken captive and raised by Native Americans. So I stopped reading and shelved the book.

I can’t tell you how many times I looked at it, wanted to get back into it, and yet had other commitments I needed to read for my own research, endorsing books for others, or editing. It was actually frustrating. But – at last – I carved out a few days to indulge myself.

And I wasn’t disappointed! This is easily in my top 4 of Laura Frantz’s books. Tessa is a complex and somewhat contrary heroine who fits her surroundings and earns the respect of the readers. Clay is a hero of legend – but not without his flaws – who also fits into his world in a comfortable and believable way. There is a large cast of secondary characters who – I’m convinced – deserve their own stories! I hope Frantz returns to the backcountry and picks up some of these threads to fill them out. 🙂

The Rebel Bride

The Rebel Bride (Daughter of the Mayflower, #10)The Rebel Bride by Shannon McNear
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’ve read most of Shannon McNear’s books, but I think this one is her best. The setting, the characters, and the tension derived from split loyalties during the Civil War lead to a real page-turner. I enjoyed the story, even the secondary characters were well-defined and interesting. I wouldn’t mind knowing how the story of several of them played out in novels to come!

Byway to Danger

Byway to Danger (Spies of the Civil War #3)Byway to Danger by Sandra Merville Hart
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a lovely conclusion to the series showcasing a pair of dedicated and compassionate people who risk everything to help end the war and slavery. We first met Meg in book one – so do read this series in order – but she blossoms in book three. Author Hart has presented a unique look at the undercover operations that were going on – on both sides of the Mason/Dixon Line – while the uniformed soldiers fought on the battlefields. She also offers a clear view of what life was like for those not involved in the fighting but living under the constant threat of nearby battles. A series well worth reading!

Songbird and Other Stories

Songbird and Other StoriesSongbird and Other Stories by Jennifer Lamont Leo
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A fun collection of 1920s stories that compliment the author’s two novels, You’re the Cream in my Coffee and Ain’t Misbehavin’. If you enjoy the Roarin’ 20s and the age of Downton Abbey – but in America – you’ll enjoy these stories.

The Lucky Thirteen

The Lucky Thirteen: The Winners of America's Triple Crown of Horse RacingThe Lucky Thirteen: The Winners of America’s Triple Crown of Horse Racing by Edward L. Bowen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A very readable account of the thirteen exceptional horses who have won all three legs of thoroughbred racing’s Triple Crown. I remember watching Secretariat in 1973, Seattle Slew in 1977, Affirmed in 1978, then surviving the long drought until American Pharoah in 2015, and Justify in 2018. There is a lot of great backstory in these pages and plenty of detail on personalities, pedigrees, and racing forms. Enough for the enthusiast without being so much it muddles the weekend race watcher.

Auschwitz Lullaby

Auschwitz LullabyAuschwitz Lullaby by Mario Escobar
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a relatively short book, but within its pages you will find a lyrical, thoughtful, and heart-rending account of a German woman and her 5 half-Gypsy children who were interred at Auschwitz in 1943. Based on a true story, it’s a story of love and courage and strength. Helene Hannemann is a heroine who will live with the reader long after the book is closed.

When the Meadows Blooms

When the Meadow BloomsWhen the Meadow Blooms by Ann H. Gabhart
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’m a loyal Ann Gabhart fan. I’ve read ALL her books! If this one isn’t her best, it’s just as good as.

Calla and Sienna Rose spend two years in an orphanage – even though they aren’t orphans. Their mother is in a sanatorium – a special hospital for people with tuberculosis. Rose has nowhere to live and no way to make a living, but she’s well enough to leave the sanatorium. She contacts her dead husband’s brother for help, but she didn’t expect him to show up to collect her and the girls. The crusty reclusive bachelor doesn’t know what to expect when his brother’s family comes to live with him, but it certainly wasn’t the unearthing of long-held secrets.

Beautifully told from 3 viewpoints that suck the reader deep into the characters’ lives. Well worth reading!