Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Forward Ever Forward...Courageous is a Dramatic Conclusion to the Valiant Hearts series

I was ecstatic to have the opportunity to review Courageous by Dina L. Sleiman (Book 3 in her Valiant Hearts series). Having read and loved Chivalrous, it was exciting to travel back to the 1200's again, where I was certain the Camelot-like adventure would continue.

Courageous picks up about 2 years after Chivalrous continuing with Rosalind of Ipsworth's story. (Rosalind was Lady Gwendolyn's ladies' maid in Chivalrous.)  Moved by Lady Sapphira's vision to save captives from a prison in Tripoli, Rosalind feels called to join the Crusade along with a throng of other men, women, and children. Among this multitude, is Sir Randel Penigree, who was raised to serve the church, but always longed to serve as a Templar knight fighting for and protecting the innocent. Rosalind and Sir Randel have a solid friendship and they partner together to train the children in combat exercises. While onboard the ship, both Rosalind and Randel find themselves the recipients of unwanted attention.  Randel trying to fend off the vain Lady Jocelyn and Rosalind attempting to dissuade Lord Rumsford. To ward off the attention, Rosalind and Randel agree to pretend to be courting to keep the unwanted suitors at bay.  Will their charade cross over from being pretend to real?

Rosalind and Randel are similar in the fact that both are trying to overcome sins from their past. Over the course of the story, both of them realize that they must embrace the future and not attempt to earn their redemption.
Their motto throughout is "forward ever forward."

One aspect that truly impressed me was the maturity of the children and young adults. During this time period young people didn't have much of a childhood if any and had to grow up quickly. It was not uncommon for girls to be married as young as 15. In today's society we would balk at this, but back then the mortality rate was higher. It was sweet to see how both Rosalind and Randel developed paternal feelings for the younger children who were in their charge on the crusade. In my eyes, this trait endeared them to me.

Courageous was an excellent conclusion to Ms. Sleiman's Valiant Hearts series and I thoroughly enjoyed it. If strong, unforgettable heroines appeal to you, then I urge you to check out this series.

~~Courageous was provided to me by Bethany House in return for my honest opinion. I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher, for which I was not required to write a positive review. All opinions expressed are mine alone ~~

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Karen Witemeyer's No Other Will Do is a Page-Turner

Jane Austen once said, "...If a book is well written, I always find it too short."  This is how I feel about all of Karen Witemeyer's novels. I first discovered her books back in 2010 and in a short six years, Ms. Witemeyer has established herself in the Christian historical romance market. I'm excited to have this opportunity to read and review her latest endeavor and add it to my 'favorites' shelf. This sounds so clichĂ© to say, but Karen Witemeyer's books simply get better and better.

No Other Will Do (A Ladies of Harper Station Novel) takes readers back to 1890's Texas.
Emma Chandler is bossy, independent, and headstrong. Beneath these strong characteristics, she has a heart for animals and people, particularly, women who are in troubled circumstances. Emma founded Harper's Station, a woman's colony dedicated to helping females in need to get a fresh start. Raised from a young age by her suffragette aunts, Henry and Bertie, Emma has always been independent and taught not to rely on men. When an unknown man begins threatening and terrorizing the small community of Harper's Station, Emma agrees that they need a man to help defend them.
Enter, Malachi Shaw, a man that Emma has known since childhood and the only man she trusts to protect them.
Malachi has had a tough life. Orphaned from a young age he is guarded and doesn't trust people.  Until he meets Emma and her aunts. The Chandler ladies take him in and treat him like family. The time that Malachi spent with the Chandler family was a turning point in his life.  It caused him to not view people through such a jaded lens. When you meet Malachi as an adult, he's now an explosives expert for the railroad and has the respect he's always longed for.  Despite his success at his job, some traits from childhood still follow him into adulthood such as saving a portion of each meal he eats. I liked that Malachi didn't let his past define him.

The few flashbacks the author provides into Emma and Malachi's childhood relationship are key and gives the reader a deeper sense of why Emma see Mal as the only man she trusts and also why he is willing to swiftly come to her aid after receiving a simple telegram from her with a plea for help.

Ms. Witemeyer is known for her romantic tension between the hero and heroine. No Other Will Do is no exception. The romantic interactions were "sigh worthy" and sprinkled with humor.

"You're a good man, Malachi Shaw." Then before he could even think of dodging, Emma clasped his cheeks, raised up on tiptoes, and pressed her lips to his.
It only lasted a heartbeat-although, he was pretty sure his heart stopped beating in that moment, so that particular measurement was probably not very accurate. The only thing he knew for sure was that the kiss ended before his stupefied mind could respond.
Then she vanished. And all he could do was stand in the empty café and wish he's chosen kissing over talking when he'd had the chance." (Witemeyer, 257)

I will admit that Emma and Mal's story is somewhat predictable, but sometimes as a reader I want and enjoy reading a predictable story. I find with any of Ms. Witemeyer's books it's always a fun adventure getting to the end. 

I can confidently say that Karen Witemeyer easily makes my 'top 5 favorite authors list.'  If you haven't heard of her; you need to go to the nearest library or bookstore and read her books. You will not be disappointed. She's one of those authors that I find myelf in countdown mode till her next release which is set to be released January of 2017....only 5 more monthts to wait! 

~~ No Other Will Do was provided to me by Bethany House in return for my honest opinion. I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher and author herself, for which I was not required to write a positive review. All opinions expressed are mine alone ~~

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

June Bride (1948) A Delightful and Overlooked Screwball Comedy

Before I begin this film review, I have a confession.  I've never been a fan of Bette Davis (Gasp!), but the premise of June Bride intrigued me.  And I have to admit that I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed this underrated screwball comedy.  The writing is sharp and witty.

June Bride (1948) stars Bette Davis, Robert Montgomery and a cast of Hollywood's most memorable character actors: Betty Lynn, Barbara Bates, and Mary Wickes.
Davis is best known for her dramatic roles throughout her 58 year career in Hollywood and she gained recognition for roles she plays in films such as All About Eve (1950), What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962), Dead Ringer (1964) and Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte (1964). Davis' character in June Bride brings out a different side of her and I have to say she was genuinely funny.
Editor Linda Gillman (Davis) is forced to work with writer and former flame Carey Jackson (Montgomery). Verbal sparks fly between the former lovers as they travel to Indiana to cover an All-American story of a local girl, Jeanne Brinker (Bates) marrying her high school sweetheart, Bud Mitchell.  While there, Carey uncovers something that could put a crimp in the story and possibly cost him his job. He discovers that older sister, Jeanne Brinker was engaged to Bud's older brother Jim who is serving in the military and stationed in Chicago and younger sister Barbara "Boo" Brinker (Lynn) is in love with Bud.
I found myself rooting for Barbara and Bud and amused at Carey's role as cupid between the two young people.

 Spoiler alert: For all the feminists out there the ending to June Bride may not sit well with you because Linda ends up being the one to make the gesture or sacrifice. Just remember this film was made in 1948. I personally found the ending to be sweet and charming.

Fun Film Trivia about a few of the character actors in June Bride: Betty Lynn is best known for playing Thelma Lou the ever patient girlfriend of Barney Fife on The Andy Griffith Show.  Barbara Bates is known for Cheaper by the Dozen (1950), Let's Make it Legal (1951), and Belles on their Toes (1952). Mary Wickes plays nosy house keeper Emma Allen in White Christmas (1954).
Additional Trivia:  Robert Montgomery is the father of actress Elizabeth Montgomery best known for playing Samantha Stephens on the classic sitcom Bewitched. 
June Bride is the film debut of Debbie Reynolds.
This was costume designer Edith Head's first time designing clothes for Bette Davis.

Unlike me, if you're a huge fan of Bette Davis' work and want to see her in something other than a drama, check out this forgotten screwball comedy. You'll be in for a treat!