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review 2018-06-16 09:36
Love Held Captive (Lone Star #3) by Shelley Shepard Gray
Love Held Captive (A Lone Star Hero’s Love Story) - Shelley Shepard Gray

Major Ethan Kelly has never been able to absolve himself of the guilt he feels for raiding a woman’s home shortly before he was taken prisoner during the Civil War. He is struggling to get through each day until he once again crosses paths with Lizbeth Barclay—the very woman he is trying to forget. Life after the war is not much different for former Captain Devin Monroe until he meets Julianne VanFleet. He knows she is the woman he’s been waiting for, but he struggles to come to terms with the sacrifices she made to survive the war. When Ethan and Devin discover that their former colonel, Adam Bushnell, is responsible for both Lizbeth’s and Julianne’s pain, they call on their former fellow soldiers to hunt him down. As the men band together to earn the trust of the women they love, Lizbeth and Julianne seek the justice they deserve in a country longing to heal.

Amazon.com

 

 

 

POTENTIAL TRIGGER WARNING: This novel addresses the topic of rape. 

 

 

During the Civil War, Major Ethan Kelly and his men were pushed to do many things they weren't proud of, but did it they did in the name of survival. One regular unsavory task was raiding the homes of innocent people for supplies to help keep the troops alive. Lizbeth Barclay's home was one of the properties raided by Kelly and his men. Unbeknownst to him, prior to his arrival she had not only suffered the deaths of her family members but also a sexual attack and mutilation by another soldier. 

 

Years later, Kelly and Barclay cross paths once again --- he as a hotel guest, she one of the hotel housekeepers. Though they don't immediately remember their past interaction, Major Kelly's memory is jarred when he sees the long scar running down the side of Lizbeth's face, a scar he never forgot even if he and Lizbeth never got on a first name basis the first time around. 

 

Kelly's friend and military comrade, Captain Devin Monroe develops an acquaintance with Julianne Van Fleet that, on his end, quickly grows into an honest love for her. But when she reveals her own story of some of the unpopular methods she resorted to to survive the war and care for her ailing grandmother, Devin struggles to make peace with it all. He questions whether he can make a life with someone with such a past. Though he's tempted to walk away at first, with some time to consider he realizes Julianne's actions were no worse than any men he served with who were similarly driven to survive. Devin once again comes to Julianne wanting to offer her a chance at a life rich in love, respect, and fidelity. But before the couple's dreams can take flight, their plans are stalled with the threat of former Army acquaintance Colonel Adam Bushnell.

 

When Devin and Ethan and their ladies all come together to share their stories of struggle, they find one common denominator among all of them: Bushnell. At different times, Bushnell terrorized both Lizbeth and Julianne. Devin and Ethan further reveal that these ladies weren't his only victims, not by a longshot. His face scarred by smallpox and hard living, Bushnell likely got in the habit of assaulting women rather than wooing them because his low self-esteem convinced him women would never give him the time of day otherwise. Determined to put a stop to Bushnell's assaults, the men rally the troops (as in, calling in even more Army buddies) to hunt the man down.

 

In addition to the duel romance stories going on here, as well as the manhunt scenes, this novel, like its two predecessors within this series, includes chapters detailing the mens' experiences in a Civil War POW camp, giving the reader an idea of how those months & years of imprisonment reshaped their spirits, inevitably changing them forever. 

 

I'm just going to say it: This book had the worst title of the series. Get beyond the title though, and Love Held Captive (man, that title gives me hard cringe though -- just screams bodice-ripper) is actually the BEST story in the trilogy IMO.  While the previous two books were enjoyable but, if I'm being honest, a little on the forgettable side, this one came alive with much more real characters full of humor, honesty and depth. Julianne's story really inspires empathy in a reader, making one think on maybe not be so quick to judge someone living life in a way that doesn't line up with how we would do things. Take time to consider the limited options they might be forced to choose from.

 

Bushnell is just the right amount of despicable without becoming cartoonish and Major Kelly and Capt. Monroe are just good solid dudes. Especially Devin. Major Kelly, coming from a privileged background and well-to-do family, can come of as slightly snobbish from time to time, but Devin is quick to set him straight and Kelly is open to learn when he oversteps. Lizbeth was a bit overdramatic for me at times, and though she never became one of my favorite characters (I'm too busy shipping Devin & Julianne!), she did grow on me a little by story's end.

 

So there you go! If you, like me, found the first couple books in this series fun enough but maybe a litle flat, don't duck out just yet! Definitely get into this one because the Lone Star series, at least as I see it, is one where author Shelley Shepard Gray left the best for last! 

 

FTC DISCLAIMER:  TNZ Fiction Guild kindly provided me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. The opinions above are entirely my own. 

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review 2018-06-16 07:22
An Uncommon Protector (Lone Star #2) by Shelley Shephard Gray
An Uncommon Protector - Shelley Shepard Gray

The years following the war have been hard on Laurel Tracey. Both her brother and her father died in battle, and her mother passed away shortly after receiving word of their demise. Laurel has been trying to run her two hundred acre ranch as best she can. When she discovers that squatters have settled in her north pasture and have no intention of leaving, Laurel decides to use the last of her money to free a prisoner from the local jail. If she agrees to offer him room and board for one year, he will have to work for her to pay off his debt. Former soldier Thomas Baker knows he’s in trouble when he finds himself jailed because he couldn’t pay a few fines. Laurel’s offer might be his only ticket out. Though she’s everything he ever dreamed of in a woman—sweet and tender-hearted, yet strong—he’s determined to remain detached, work hard on her behalf, and count the days until he’s free again. But when cattle start dying and Laurel’s life is threatened, Thomas realizes more than just his freedom is on the line. Laurel needs someone to believe in her and protect her property. And it isn’t long before Laurel realizes that Thomas Baker is far more than just a former soldier. He’s a trustworthy hero, and he needs more than just his freedom—he needs her love and care too.

Amazon.com

 

 

 

 

After losing her brother and father in the Civil War, and then her mother to sickness, Laurel Tracey finds herself running the family's 200 acre ranch solo. Struggling to have some squatters evicted, Laurel makes the risky choice to hire former soldier and now convict Thomas Baker to hopefully scare them off. After she buys his freedom, Baker agrees to pay back the bond money by living and working on the ranch free for one year. His presence on the ranch moves into the role of the "uncommon protector" when he gets wind of an unidentified someone terrorizing Laurel, trying to scare her off the land. Laurel's cattle are being killed off, ominous notes are left, this mystery terrorist even resorts to arson to unnerve Laurel.

 

As with the first book in this series, this novel opens with a scene at a Civil War POW camp. These POW scenes reoccur periodically throughout the novel, providing the reader with backstory elements on our main male characters. Robert Truax, one of the primary characters from Book 1, makes a reappearance in this novel.

 

Thomas is the strong but with a good, kind heart type. The fact that he was a country boy scared of chickens I found sort of endearing. Still shocking to think that he's only supposed to be 22 though! The way he's written (dialogue and such) had me imagining him solidly in his 30s! 

 

The romantic element between Thomas & Laurel can get a little ridiculous sometimes. In one scene, when shots are fired, Thomas gets Laurel to the ground to protect her and her focus is not on fear but all about how hard his body is and how good he smells. The story as a whole has its cute moments but largely felt kind of flat to me. There's a confrontation scene near the end that I felt was well done, but the closing scene to the whole story was just too cheezy to end things on! 

 

As far as the Christian aspect in this one, it's on the lighter side. There are examples of people showing a strong belief in faith during hard times, saying prayers over meals, quick prayers for strength or to calm nerves during trying or anxious moments... but nothing out of the ordinary for characters raised in the countryside. Light spiritual, motivational sentiments: every so often a "thank the Lord" gets dropped... that, or "Trust in the Lord", "God is in control", or "The Lord takes care of his children".. but that's about the extent of the Christian aspect. 

 

Also something to note: the back cover synopsis is actually misleading in one detail. It describes Laurel's mother as passing away shortly after hearing of the demise of her husband and son. In fact, the book early on explains that Laurel's mother actually remarries a year after getting word of the deaths, lives a full 3 YEARS more before dying with her 2nd husband in an influenza epidemic. Not exactly "shortly after". A small point, as the mother is not a key character in the story, but thought I'd note it. 

 

FTC DISCLAIMER:  TNZ Fiction Guild kindly provided me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. The opinions above are entirely my own. 

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review 2018-06-08 17:01
A Rebel Heart, Beth White

I enjoyed this Historical Romance. I received this book for free and I voluntarily chose to review it. I gave this a 4.5* rating. This story pulled me in from the beginning and kept tugging me along throughout. There were lots of characters to like and a couple not so much. This mostly dealt with post civil war, a few years out and some of the feelings still felt to this day. Let's face it, some people just do not deal well with change, big or small. That's something the Civil War did. Some people are still waiting on those changes. Except for some violence, this is a pretty clean read. And if I didn't get migraines, I would have read this faster. I thought this dealt with those civil war and after issues well. Dealing with one person at a time is sometimes all we can do. But that is enough if that is all we can do.

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review 2018-05-30 05:42
Maid of Baikal: A Novel of the Russian Civil War - Preston Fleming

 

War, no matter the countries or people involved, is always bad. There are always those among the troops on both sides having wicked hearts and use the excuse of a weapon in their hands to do the evil in their hearts. Then there are those that don't want to kill anyone, "enemy" or not but are unwillingly compelled to do their duty. 
Like many other books about a war, this one focuses on a handful of characters and how the war impacted them on a personal level. It tells of honest patriotism, betrayal, corruption, love, jealousy and hate-- basic human emotions that everyone in the world feels. Though Maid of Baikal is speculative fiction, many of the characters did indeed exist (photos of them included in book). The Maid, however, is fictional. The book spins a tale, asking what if Russia had had its own Joan of Arc during the Russian Revolution and would the outcome have been different? The Maid of Baikal, or Zhanna Stepanovna Dorokhina fulfills that role. She is just a young schoolgirl from a rural northern outpost in Siberia while at prayer hears a voice that tells her she has a mission to save her country and people from the cruel tyranny of the Bolsheviks. As days go by, angels and saints appear to her, guiding her and revealing more of her destiny and telling her of things that have happened that she could not possibly know otherwise. More and more people are convinced and she develops a following and troops of demoralized, disappointed soldiers are given hope by her message. After numerous victories liberating towns that amaze the military hierarchy, tragedy develops.
Maid of Baikal is a fine drama portraying those with pure hearts wanting only good for others, and those who have hidden agendas for their own careers, and willing to stoop to any evil deed to further that as well as protect the corruption they are involved in. It recounts the involvement of foreign nations bankrolling the war (Bolshevik and the White troops as well), with the aim being solely economic. 
Maybe I am much too an emotional person, but chapter 22 and into 23 had me weeping. Such betrayal! Such deceit! The author included a playlist (one song for each chapter) which I downloaded and listened to while reading the book to gain the full experience the author wished to impart. That in itself was a minor education (in a small way) of Russian classical music and composers. I did enjoy the book very much, and wish to thank the author for a copy of it in exchange for an honest review-- thank you!

 

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review 2018-05-25 20:28
Part of Summer Reading Goals
A Free Man of Color - Barbara Hambly
I first discovered Hambly by reading her fantasy. In fact, the book was Dragonsbane. But, I think her real love is historical fiction because her historical fiction is better. This was the first her historical fiction I read. It is the start of the Ben January series. 

Ben is a free man of color in recently US brought New Orleans. His mother was a field slave until a white man took an interest in her and brought and freed both her and her two children. The same man paid for Ben's education, both in New Orleans and Paris. Ben is both a skilled surgeon and a skilled piano player. When he returns to New Orleans after a long spell in Paris, he has to readjust to the various codes that he needs to live by. His mother and youngest sister are both prominent in planter society - his sister, Minou, is a mistress to a white planter. His other sister (full sister) is a voodoo priestess, a wife, and a mother. Needless to say, there is some family drama, in particular Ben's feeling that his mother loves her third child (the daughter of the white man who freed her) best.

The first book finds Ben in the midst of a murder mystery where is life is on the line, for better to accuses a black man of murder of a black woman than an white man or woman from society. He also interacts with one of the new American lawman, who somewhat to everyone surprise can read. 

In a later edition of the book or installment in the series, Hambly corrects what historical erros she made here. (Hambly has a degree in and has taught history). What is of note here is Hambly's use of code switching by the characters, the use of color to determine social standing (including shades of black, something that is not always dealt with) as well as women having to deal with a society that constructs them. And of course, the question of race and slavery. It is to Hambly's credit that she never goes the route of the trophe of good master, and even "good" masters are dismissed by Ben as not being moral because of owning another person or treating black people as less than human. 

Ben and his friend Hannibal might, might, be a bit too ahead of their time in being open minded, but both men's back stories do take this into account. Neither man is perfect, and in fact, Ben does wrestle somewhat with one or two reveals in the story. 

Personallly, I find Livia, Ben's mother, to be the most interesting character of all.

 

 

(This is part of my summer reading goals, which include re-reading and reading the whole series).

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