Author Archives: Dawn Teresa

Book Tour, Giveaway, and Review: Unsinkable Faith by Tracie Miles

A Valuable Guidebook to Transforming Your Mind and Strengthening Your Faith

Unsinkable Faith - post sizeUnsinkable Faith
by Tracie Miles


Publication Date: April 1, 2017
Publisher: David C. Cook
Length: 224pp
ISBN-13: 978-0781414364

Related Links:
Tracie Miles’ Website
Blog Tour Landing Page


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Buy the Book

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Publisher Synopsis

For many people, remaining optimistic and feeling positive about themselves and their lives is a constant battle — especially when circumstances are difficult and life is hard.

For others, negativity is something that only sneaks up from time to time, yet still wreaks havoc in their hearts. Regardless of the root causes, once pessimistic thoughts permeate our minds, our feelings and emotions begin to control us instead of us controlling them. Eventually it doesn’t seem possible to stay positive, happy, and full of joy, and negative thought patterns shake our faith, causing us to sink emotionally, mentally, and spiritually over time. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Despite what storms roll in, hearts anchored in God don’t sink. When we change the way we think, we can change the way we feel and live, even if our circumstances remain the same. Intentionally embracing the opportunity to experience a transformed heart and a renewed mind opens the door for a changed life, because a positive mind will always lead to a more positive life.

In Unsinkable Faith, author and Proverbs 31 Ministries speaker Tracie Miles offers hope for women who struggle with negativity. Each chapter explores Tracie’s and other women’s personal stories, showing how they rose above their circumstances by transforming and renewing their minds.

Unsinkable Faith is a breath of fresh air for anyone longing for a heart full of joy, an unbreakable smile, and a new, more optimistic perspective on life. This book will equip you to:

-Replace pessimism with positive thinking by becoming the captain of your thoughts;
-Learn how true joy and happiness are based on choice, not circumstances;
-Overcome unhealthy habits of negative thinking by intentionally implementing three easy mind-renewing steps;
-Stop feeling hopeless and pitiful, and start feeling hope-filled and powerful instead; and
-Discover that when you change the way you think, you change the way feel, and in turn you can change your life completely.


About the Author
Tracie Miles - sm
Tracie Miles is a national speaker with Proverbs 31 Ministries and a bestselling author who’s spent the last twelve years inspiring women to become who God called them to be. She’s the author of Your Life Still Counts and Stressed-Less Living, and a contributor to Proverbs 31 Ministries daily devotions.

 My Review

I’ll be the first to admit it — I don’t have unsinkable faith. Though I’d like to think I’m tough, when the waters of life start to rise, I start flailing. Like Peter trying to walk to Jesus over the sea, my attention is focused on anything and everything that could go wrong. Consumed with negative thoughts and worse-case scenarios, my own doubts, fears, and insecurities weigh me down like a sack of rocks tied to my feet. It’s only when I’m gasping for breath and nearly gone under that I finally remember to look to where my help is — Jesus.

Words have the power to heal or the power to harm. Similarly, our thoughts — essentially words we speak to ourselves (or sometimes words we’ve heard from others that we’ve internalized) — have the power to weaken or strengthen us. We can’t change our circumstances, but we can change how we think and respond. In fact, Miles uses support from neuropyschology to show us that science and God’s word are in agreement:

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:2)

Our minds can be reshaped and remade! With Unsinkable Faith, Tracie Miles shows us that we already have the tools we need to change our thinking and renew our minds and live more peaceful lives. With work, we can find that unsinkable faith. Fortunately, all we need is already at our disposal. What are the two main tools to defeat negative thinking? Scripture and prayer.

Miles makes the process clear through conversational language and repetition through various examples and scenarios. It’s a three step process – 3 R’s: recognize, reject, and replace. First, be aware of the negative/false thought or belief when it occurs. Next, compare what you’ve been telling yourself is “true” to what God’s word says is true. Reject the lie as contrary to God’s truth and, finally, replace it with words from scripture that will buoy you rather than pull you down. And by all means, pray for help releasing what you need to let go of.

Miles is part of the Proverbs 31 ministry, and if you’ve read other books from Proverbs 31 authors, some of what you find in Unsinkable Faith will be familiar. And that’s okay, because it takes repetition to break down fallacies in our mindset and start to rewire our thinking. I believe Miles had this in mind when she structured her book. She uses three stories from different women to help illustrate her points with each chapter.

At the end of each chapter, Miles hands over the oars and lets your “row your boat” and do the work. She includes prompts for “mind transforming reflections”, “mind renewing memory verses” from scripture for you to write down and commit to memory, and “chapter challenges” that ask you to take action or find practical applications for the skills you’ve been learning.

Miles acknowledges that renewing our minds is hard work. Habits take time to break and we must recognize that embracing positivity is a lifestyle, a continued effort, rather than a destination goal that, once reached, blankets you with uninterrupted peace of mind. You’ll slip, you’ll slide, and you’ll fall. But remember to get back up, dust yourself off, and keep looking up.

Ready to banish negative thoughts? What are you waiting for? Think you’ll fail? Miles knows we’re going to mess up. So in what is perhaps the most valuable section of Unsinkable Faith, she aims to help us avoid common traps she calls “whirlpools”. She lists ten of these hazards giving examples and explanations, then provides a lifeline from scripture we can use to stay afloat should we encounter any of these dangers. So, with a little reflection, you can close the book already equipped with some weapons with which to slay your own personal dragons!

— Dawn Teresa

Verdict

5 of 5 Hearts. A Valuable Guidebook to Transforming Your Mind and Strengthening Your Faith.

In Unsinkable Faith, Tracie Miles shows us that God’s word can help us overcome negative thinking and strengthen our faith even in the roughest waters.

*Disclosure of Material Connection: I would like to thank LitFuse Publicity Group for providing me with a copy of Unsinkable Faith in exchange for a fair and honest review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


Tracie Miles’ Unsinkable Faith Prize Pack Giveaway!

Have negative thought patterns overtaken your life and shaken your faith? Learn how to anchor your heart in God despite what storms roll in in Tracie Miles’ new book, Unsinkable Faith. Each chapter explores Tracie’s and other women’s personal stories, showing how they rose above their circumstances by transforming and renewing their minds. Unsinkable Faith is a breath of fresh air for anyone longing for a heart full of joy, an unbreakable smile, and a new, more optimistic perspective on life.

Join Tracie and other readers on April 25th for a fun Facebook Live event and the Anchored in Faith Prize Pack Giveaway (details below)!

One grand prize winner will receive:

Enter today by clicking the icon below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on April 25. The winner will be announced at the Unsinkable Faith Facebook Live event. RSVP for a chance to connect with Tracie and others searching for unsinkable faith, as well as for a chance to win other prizes!

RSVP today and spread the word-tell your friends about the giveaway via social media and increase your chances of winning. Hope to see you on the 25th!

 

CD Review: Open Hands by Laura Story

Laura Story’s Latest: An Outstanding Album about the Beauty of Letting Go

Laura Story - Open Hands - posting sizeOpen Hands

by Laura Story


Release Date: March 3, 2017

Label: Fair Trade Services

Artist Links:

Laura Story’s Website

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Tracks

1. Death Was Arrested

2. Open Hands

3. You Came Running

4. Give You Faith

5. For the Love of My King

6. Awake My Soul (A 1000 Tongues)

7. Whisper

8. Every Word You Breathe

9. Majesty

10. Extraordinary

11. Grace Abounds


My Review

The first thing to catch my attention about Laura Story’s newest project, Open Hands — an album filled with songs she’s written or co-written —  is that she chose to lead off with the one song she didn’t write. I’d like to know the story behind her discovery and adoption of “Death Was Arrested”. Thematically, the focus is on Jesus’ victory over death in His resurrection that followed the crucifixion. His sacrifice as Messiah and Savior gave new meaning to life and death and brings us the freedom to live fully. 

When asked about Open Hands,  songwriter and worship leader Story attests that “worship begins with surrender”. So immediately after establishing our reason for hope with “Death Was Arrested,” she sings of surrender with “Open Hands”. Together with Third Day’s Mac Powell, Story entreats God to “take it all, every  weight, all the shame…take it all, ’til all I have is open hands”. Powell’s voice blends well with Story’s and lends extra depth and interest, taking what starts as an introspective moment and bursting it wide open into mega worship. Together, these two opening songs form a solid base upon which the rest of the album builds.

The only real downside to Open Hands is its brevity — the eleven track album clocks in at just under 43 minutes. On the upside, the album is beautifully produced, thematically tight, and nearly flawlessly sequenced. Quieter instances alternate with big corporate worship singalongs. Even when things get more amplified, Story’s gentle, thoughtful spirit remains. This is particularly evidenced on tracks 5 and 6 where Story refashions classic hymns. On “For the Love of My King,” she revisits “My Jesus, I Love Thee” adding her own chorus. Next, “Awake My Soul (A 1000 Tongues)”, written with Matt Maher, Matt Redman, and Jonas Myrin, borrows the first verse of the Wesley hymn “O’ For a Thousand Tongues,” using Wesley’s words as a launching pad into their own words of praise. The blending of classic and modern is successful in each case, and I’d dare to say that even Charles Wesley himself would approve!

I love the lush yet measured production of “Whisper” where Story’s poignant piano-base is given just enough accompanying bells and whistles to lend the necessary mystery and majesty as her waiting heart listens for the Holy Spirit’s whispered voice. Strong album sequencing continues,  with “Every Word You Breathe” carrying on the message of waiting and trusting. Meanwhile, on “Majesty”, Story has crafted a stunning melody around which to sing of God’s grace.

Just as Open Hands began with two big songs, it closes in similar fashion. “Extraordinary” is a gem of a pop-worship song, and though I usually try to avoid comparisons, here I can’t help but recall Amy Grant at the height of her success. Giving pause to contemplate the pain and suffering with which we are surrounded, the quietly gorgeous “Grace Abounds” will strike a welcome chord with listeners who loved Story’s hit song “Blessings”. As Open Hands comes to a close, the message Story leaves her listener with is this: “When it feels like hope cannot be found, grace abounds.” Now that’s a reason for hope!

— Dawn Teresa

Verdict

4.5 Hearts - CD - DVD

4.5 of 5 Hearts. Laura Story’s Latest: An Outstanding Album about the Beauty of Letting Go.

On Open Hands, Laura Story has written about surrender, faith, and trust, while leaving plenty of space for worship. After all, when we stop holding onto our worries, burdens, and struggles, and approach the Lord with empty hands, He rewards us by filling those open hands with blessings.

“Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing me with a copy of Open Hands in exchange for this review and post.”

Christian Chapters: The Newcomer by Suzanne Woods Fisher

Thoroughly Historical and Wholly Enjoyable Amish Fiction

The Newcomer
by Suzanne Woods Fisher


Series: Amish Beginnings (Book 2)
Publication Date: January 31, 2017
Publisher: Revell
Length: 336pp
ISBN-13: 978- 0800727499

Related Links:
Suzanne Woods Fisher’s Website (Tons of info!)

Publisher’s Website

 

 


Buy the Book

AmazonBN







Publisher Synopsis

A fresh start in the New World will test Anna’s resolve . . . and her heart.

In 1737, Anna König staggers off a small wooden ship after ten weeks at sea, eager to start a new life in the vibrant but raw Pennsylvania frontier. It’s a time of new beginnings, and for Anna and Bairn’s shipboard romance to blossom.

But this perfect moment cannot last. As Bairn grasps the reality of what it means to be Amish in the New World, his enthusiasm evaporates. When a ship captain offers him a first mate position, he grabs it. Just one more crossing, he promises Anna. But will she wait for him?

As a newcomer joins the church, Anna is torn. This man is everything Bairn is not – bold, devoted, and delighted to vie for her heart. And he is here. Bairn is not.

Far from the frontier, an unexpected turn of events weaves the lives of Bairn, Anna, and the newcomer together. When the secret is revealed, which true love will emerge?


My Review

The Newcomer is the second book in Suzanne Woods Fisher’s Amish Beginnings series. Let me assure you, since I’ve not yet read book one, Anna’s Crossing, you can pick up The Newcomer without any prior knowledge and completely enjoy it. In fact, Ms. Fisher originally wrote Anna’s Crossing as a stand alone novel. It was only after years of readers’ requests for a sequel that the tale developed into a series. And it’s only natural that readers wanted more since The Newcomer begins in late 1737, soon after a group of German Amish immigrants emigrate to the New World. Anna’s Crossing chronicles Anna’s group’s voyage to the New World, and The Newcomer tells us about their journey toward settlement.

Indeed, in many ways The Newcomer is about journeys – physical and spiritual, personal and communal. Other thematic elements include pain and loss, dealing with the past, forgiveness, freedom, family, community, leadership, faith, God’s providence, and perseverance.

A true historical novel, The Newcomer will teach you a thing or two! For instance, you might learn about ships, naturalization (there’s an interesting story about the Amish immigrants’ views on the Oath of Allegiance and the resultant changes that were made so they could take the oath in good conscience), Penn’s Woods, or about what led the Amish to leave their homeland. You might even learn a bit about Benjamin Franklin: Good ol’ Ben appears in the novel, working as a printer in Philadelphia. You’ll really enjoy his character and his wit, including the wise sayings of his alter ego Poor Richard — and their German counterparts (and possible origins). One of my favorite proverbs mentioned in The Newcomer is “Ken Rose ohne Dornen,” which translates to “there is no rose without a thorn.”

On top of Mr. Franklin’s humor, a young Amish boy named Felix supplies plenty of smiles and laughs. In addition to levity, Fisher uses short chapters with brief, alternating story lines to carry her plot along without delay. The result? You’ll be turning the pages so quickly you’ll forget you’re reading historical fiction!

I certainly enjoyed my stay in early 18th century Pennsylvania. Though it was definitely not a place for the faint of heart, it’s easy to see the promise that our then young country held for those who faced oppression and possibly even danger for simply practicing their faith, as well as understand why they were willing to endure hardship and combat fear to secure their religious freedom.

— Dawn Teresa

Verdict

4.5 of 5 Hearts. Thoroughly Historical and Wholly Enjoyable Amish Fiction.

With her latest novel, The Newcomer, Suzanne Woods Fisher has successfully accomplished several ticklish feats. She has written an engrossing sequel that also reads perfectly well as a stand alone; her novel is thoroughly researched yet fast-paced and easily read; she’s crafted likeable and memorable characters (some of whom are even based on real people!); and she’s tied it all together in a beautiful bow that teaches her readers about faith and leaves them with an uplifting message: “There is always something to fear. There always will be. But God will be with us wherever we go.”

*Disclosure of Material Connection: I would like to thank Revell Reads for providing me with a copy of this title. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Christian Chapters – An Amish Home: Four Novellas by Beth Wiseman, Amy Clipston, Ruth Reid, & Kathleen Fuller

An Outstanding and Uplifting Collection of Amish Novellas!

An Amish Home: Four Novellas
by Beth Wiseman, Amy Clipston, Ruth Reid, & Kathleen Fuller


Publication Date: February 7, 2017
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Length: 406pp
ISBN-13: 978-0-5291-1869-1

Related Links:
Beth Wiseman’s Website
Amy Clipston’s Website
Ruth Reid’s Website
Kathleen Fuller’s Website
Publisher’s Website


Buy the Book

AmazonBN







Contents

A Cup Half Full by Beth Wiseman

Home Sweet Home by Amy Clipston

A Flicker of Hope by Ruth Reid

Building Faith by Kathleen Fuller


My Review

Early last month, when Amy Clipston surprised those of us in her Bakery Bunch with a beautiful purple welcome package, it was Christmas all over again! She had put together the contents with so much love that it was like receiving a care package from your mom, and amid all the lovely surprises inside was An Amish Home.

I couldn’t have been more excited or felt more welcomed — more at home! I have grown to love these seasonal Amish Novella releases by Thomas Nelson. Typically, I buy each new offering as soon as it hits the bookstore shelves, so to have one early and gifted to me by one of the authors — well, that’s a rare and happy treat!

Why do I like them so much? These little beauties are the perfect introduction to Amish Fiction, or for those like me who may have started with Beverly Lewis, they are a great way to sample the work of other authors in the stable, so to speak. The novella format is also the perfect length to read in one sitting, and there’s always something satisfying about starting on page one and reading a story to its conclusion.

As the title makes plain, the four novellas share the common theme of home and hearth. Wiseman and Clipston each look at home through the eyes of young newlyweds. Wiseman’s Sarah returns from the hospital following a serious accident to find her house remodeled and her imagined future altered. While Clipston also shows us a young married couple, Chace and Mia are Englishers whose circumstances bring them and their young child to Bird-in-Hand to live in the daadihaus of Chace’s boss. Each couple struggles against circumstances to create the home and family life they desire. Meanwhile, Reid’s novella, the book’s longest, stands alone in its portrayal of an older couple. Rather than just having established their home and marriage, Thomas and Noreen lose their house to a fire and appear on the brink of losing their marriage. Finally, Kathleen Fuller brings us a young woman named Faith who has an unusual hobby for an Amish female: carpentry. When she’s asked to make cabinets for her cousin’s new house, she finds herself having to work through some painful memories from her past.

Did An Amish Home live up to my expectations? You better believe it! I like how each author gives us a different look at home. In A Cup Half Full, the characters demonstrate a lot of bravery and love, and Beth Wiseman shows us that physical challenges leave no community untouched — even the Amish have members living productive lives despite adversity. Though neither of Amy Clipston’s characters come from an ideal home situation, they find that with God’s help they can create their own home life in each other. I especially enjoyed how Ruth Reid developed Thomas and Noreen’s story through alternating looks at their present and past. And lastly, Kathleen Fuller illustrates how a home and marriage must be built on trust.

An Amish Home reminds us that there is no perfect or ideal home — each has a unique set of circumstances to celebrate or even to endure. But take heart: Home is not the sum of our accumulated things or the safety of the walls that surround us. These can be swept away in a heartbeat. That’s why the true measure of a home is not found in its size or its material contents, but in the strength and depth of the love found in the conjoined hearts residing within.

— Dawn Teresa

Verdict

5 of 5 Hearts. An Outstanding and Uplifting Collection of Amish Novellas!

Once again, Thomas Nelson has published a quartet of novellas around a common theme, this time An Amish Home. In these four stories by top Amish Fiction writers, you’ll find many of the same things you have at home — good things like comfort, love, and faith, and difficult things like hardship, pain, and loss. Most importantly, though, you’ll finish your reading with a greater appreciation for what makes a house a home.

*Disclosure of Material Connection: I would like to thank Amy Clipston and Thomas Nelson for providing me access to this title. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Christian Chapters: The Mark of the King by Jocelyn Green

An Historical Narrative Demonstrating God’s Redemptive Grace

The Mark of the King
by Jocelyn Green


Publication Date: January 3, 2017
Publisher: Bethany House Publishers
Length: 406pp
ISBN-13: 978-0764219061

Related Links:
Jocelyn Green’s Website (Tons of info!)

Publisher’s Website

 

 

 


Buy the Book

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Publisher Synopsis

After being imprisoned and branded for the death of her client, twenty-five-year-old midwife Julianne Chevalier trades her life sentence for exile to the fledgling 1720s French colony of Louisiana, where she hopes to be reunited with her brother, serving there as a soldier. To make the journey, though, women must be married, and Julianne is forced to wed a fellow convict.

When they arrive in New Orleans, there is no news of Benjamin, Julianne’s brother, and searching for answers proves dangerous. What is behind the mystery, and does military officer Marc-Paul Girard know more than he is letting on?

With her dreams of a new life shattered, Julianne must find her way in this dangerous, rugged land, despite never being able to escape the king’s mark on her shoulder that brands her a criminal beyond redemption.


My Review

My first experience with the work of Joceyln Green was Yankee in Atlanta in which a woman named Caitlin McKae disguises herself as a soldier during the Civil War. With The Mark of the King, Green has once again brought forth a historical account surrounding the life of a strong and courageous woman.

This time, Green’s heroine is Julianne Chevalier, a respected French midwife whose life suddenly takes a marked turn when she is accused of causing the death of one of her clients. She is imprisoned in the Parisian stronghold of Salpêtrière, and branded with a fleur-de-lis, an indelible reminder of her crime and a sign that she is the property of Louis XV.

The Mark of The King is a meticulously researched glimpse into a piece of history with which I was unfamiliar. Though we all learn about the Louisiana Purchase in our early American History, I’m sure most of us know little to nothing of Louisiana’s colonial origins. In 1720, when Julianne debarks in Mobile en route to New Orleans, Louisiana was worlds away from being the fertile land of gold and silver that the prisoners and other colonists were told awaited them. In reality, it was a harsh, dirty, unrefined swampy wilderness. Beyond that, it was a political cesspool in which tensions between the British and French, being played out through the manipulation of the Chickasaw and Choctaw, were brewing.

It’s in this desolate landscape where Julianne endures hardship, famine, poverty, and natural disaster while encountering danger, disease, and death. Though the reading is sometimes slow going, Julianne is as likeable a heroine as she is determined, and readers’ heartstrings will be tugged as they watch her withstand judgment and loss, and abuse both mental and physical. Luckily, though, readers will be able to put the box of Kleenex aside, as Julianne also finds love and grace. Because, in addition to being about faith and forgiveness, The Mark of the King  is ultimately a tale of redemption.

— Dawn Teresa

Verdict

4 of 5 Hearts. A Thoroughly Researched Historical Narrative Demonstrating the Boundless Power and Reach of God’s Redemptive Grace.

There’s a lot to love about Jocelyn Green’s The Mark of the King. Thoroughly researched, the book will teach you much about a part of history you’ve likely never encountered. You’ll have no trouble pulling for Green’s tenacious heroine while also being enlightened, or maybe just reminded, about God’s ability to redeem and restore.

*Disclosure of Material Connection: I would like to thank Jocelyn Green and Bethany House Publishers for providing me access to this title. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Christian Chapters – A Beauty Refined: Review, Blog Tour, Giveaway, and Facebook Party

Well-Researched But Less Than Satisfying Historical Romance

A Beauty Refined
by Tracie Peterson


Series: Sapphire Brides (Book 2)
Publication Date: July 5, 2016
Publisher: Bethany House
Length: 315pp
ISBN-13: 978-0764213250

Related Links:
Tracie Peterson’s Website
Publisher’s Website

     


Buy the Book

  AmazonBN






About the Author

Tracie Peterson is the bestselling, award-winning author of more than one hundred books. Tracie also teaches writing workshops at a variety of conferences on subjects such as inspirational romance and historical research. She and her family live in Montana.

TPeterson


Publisher Synopsis

What does it take to reveal the true beauty of a hidden gem?

Phoebe Von Bergen, the daughter of a German count, is excited to visit America for the first time while her father purchases sapphires in Helena, Montana. Little does she know, however, that her father’s intentions–both for her and the gemstones–are not what she thinks.

Ian Harper, a lapidary working in Helena, finds the dignified young woman staying at the Broadwater Hotel more than a little intriguing. Yet the more he gets to know her, the more he realizes that her family story is based on a lie–a lie she has no knowledge of. And Ian believes he knows the only path that will lead her to freedom.

Meeting Ian has changed everything for Phoebe, and she begins to consider staying in America, regardless of her father’s plans. But she may not be prepared for the unexpected danger that results when her family’s deception begins to unravel.


My Review

A Beauty Refined, best-selling author Tracie Peterson’s latest release, is the second in her Sapphire Brides series. Although part of a series, the book can be read as a standalone without any trouble. The heroine, Phoebe Von Bergen, travels to the American West with her father, a German count. On a business trip to purchase sapphires, the count is quickly revealed to be not only unscrupulous and demanding, but abusive.

This is my second experience with Tracie Peterson’s work, the first being Treasures of the North. Award-winning Peterson has written over 100 books and has a large, faithful following. Still, I guess I’m either the odd-girl out, or I’ve had bad luck as far as selection goes, because each has left me unsatisfied. Of course, a novelist with such an abundance of works can’t hit a home run every time, and A Beauty Refined is not without merit.

First, let’s talk about where Peterson succeeds. Her research on the time period, the sapphire business in the American West and Ceylon, and the process of stone-cutting, shines through. Additionally, a Prussian character makes reference to the unification of Germany. Little details like that help make the setting come alive.

Quickly paced, the novel is an easy read that can become a page-turner. Peterson’s fast-moving plot gives her reader a desire to find out what happens next. Whether readers will be emotionally invested in those outcomes, however, is less certain. Peterson’s writing puts plot ahead of all else, at the expense of character development, dramatic and emotional tension, and plausibility. Ultimately, the underdevelopment of these elements works to undercut another of the novel’s desired intentions — Christian teachings.

While A Beauty Refined began with potential, for the reasons above, and other qualms which I can’t specifically disclose without heavy spoilers (I’ll just say I often didn’t agree with choices made by characters or the rationales behind them), I was less than thrilled with the end product. By the time I had turned the final page, I was more relieved than satisfied. It’s a shame, too, because under different circumstances, the novel’s lessons about faith, trust, honesty, and love might have had more impact and a broader reach.

— Dawn Teresa

Verdict

3 of 5 Hearts. Well-Researched But Less Than Satisfying Historical Romance.

The most interesting aspect of A Beauty Refined is the look the reader gets at the sapphire business in Montana in 1907. But characters who too often make unrealistic, illogical, or just plain dumb choices and a too easily resolved plot undercut the Christian message.

*Disclosure of Material Connection: I would like to thank Litfuse Publicity Group for providing me with a copy of A Beauty Refined in exchange for an honest review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Blog Tour, Giveaway, and Facebook Party!!

Join author Tracie Peterson in celebrating the release of A Beauty Refined by entering to win her Precious Gems giveaway (details below) and by attending her author chat party on August 9!

beauty refined - 400

One grand prize winner will receive:

Enter today by clicking the icon below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on 8/9. The winner will be announced at A Beauty Refined Facebook party. RSVP for a chance to connect with Tracie and fellow fans of historical fiction, as well as for a chance to win other prizes!

beauty refined - enterbanner

RSVP today and spread the word — tell your friends about the giveaway via FACEBOOK, TWITTER, or PINTEREST and increase your chances of winning. Hope to see you on the 9th!

** For more information about the blog tour, and to read additional reviews about A Beauty Refined, please visit the Litfuse campaign page here. **

 

Christian Chapters: Dawn at Emberwilde by Sarah E. Ladd

 A Light Regency Romance With a Touch of Darkness

Dawn at Emberwilde
by Sarah E. Ladd


Series: Treasures of Surrey (Book 2)
Publication Date: May 10, 2016
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Length: 343pp
ISBN-13: 978-0718011819

Related Links:
Sarah E. Ladd’s Website

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Buy the Book

  AmazonBN






Publisher Synopsis

Isabel Creston never dared to dream that love could be hers. Now, at the edge of a forest filled with dark secrets, she faces a fateful choice between love and duty.

For as long as she can remember, beautiful and free-spirited Isabel has strained against the rules and rigidity of the Fellsworth School in the rolling English countryside. No longer a student, Isabel set her sights on a steady yet unexciting role as a teacher at the school, a safe yet stifling establishment that would provide her a steady environment to care for her younger sister Lizzie, who was left in her care after her father’s death.

The unexpected arrival of a striking stranger with news of unknown relatives turns Isabel’s small, predictable world upside down, sweeping her and her young charge into a labyrinth of intrigue and hidden motives.

At her new family’s invitation, Isabel and Lizzie relocate to Emberwilde, a sprawling estate adjacent to a vast, mysterious wood rife with mysterious rumors and ominous folklore—along with whispers of something far more sinister. And perhaps even more startling, two handsome men begin pursuing Isabel, forcing her to learn the delicate dance between attraction, the intricate rules of courtship, and the hopes of her heart.

At Emberwilde, Isabel will discover that the key to unlocking the mystery of her past may also open the door to her future and security. But first she must find it—in the depths of Emberwilde Forest.


My Review

“We are each on our own journey, and nothing is by accident.”

How often have you looked back at the end of a trying time and understood that what you first perceived as stumbling blocks turned out to be stepping stones? The quote above is spoken by our heroine, Isabel, near the end of Dawn at Emberwilde, the second in Sarah E. Ladd’s Treasures of Surrey series.

In life, perspective makes all the difference. It can be difficult to remember that God is at work when we are too closely connected to the threads of our own story. Eventually, time and distance allow us to begin to view the larger picture. Though we don’t have the luxury of crystal balls or time machines so that we might anticipate our future, we have certain tools at our disposal: prayer and history. We can learn from our past as well as from the stories of others, fictional characters included.

Isabel’s journey begins at Fellsworth School. Though she is a bit of a dreamer, Isabel would never imagine a future for herself that included grand estates, invitation-only dinner parties, dancing, and marriage. Not a chance! She knows her place in the world, and it’s not attending balls or enjoying “a season” trying to secure the heart (or fortune) of an eligible bachelor. As orphaned wards, she and her little sister Lizzie are likely headed for a life as teachers or governesses. But with the sudden arrival of a tall, dark stranger at Fellsworth, Isabel’s life is turned upside down.

Some readers have referred to Dawn at Emberwilde as a Cinderella story or rags to riches tale. You might also consider Isabel as an “Alice” who has gone down the rabbit hole. Indeed, from a utilitarian life as a charity ward, she is thrust into the extravagant world of the landed gentry. Even more disorienting, although there are no strange women hidden in the attic at Emberwilde, the house does appear to have secrets connected to local lore surrounding dark mysteries in the Emberwilde Forest (or as the locals call it — the Black Forest).

Before I wrap up, I want to take a moment to discuss this as a work of Christian fiction. I’ve seen some readers who have wanted more overt Christianity tied into the novel. Some have even gone so far as to say it could have been released as a general market title. In the 19th-century, perhaps. Today? Not likely. Just because the novel doesn’t evangelize doesn’t mean there aren’t Christian messages. I’d argue that, in a sense, this is more Christian because it’s more realistic. We don’t walk through life being pointed to little signs neatly explaining what God is teaching us. Nor do we often run into people with whom we’ve previously spoken very little and suddenly start speaking at length about God and Jesus. Okay, maybe some of you do. But my life hasn’t worked that way. So why should a novel be expected to do so?

Although this is a romance novel, it’s the mystery and the unanswered questions that kept me happily turning the pages. Not to mention the fact that Isabel’s outsider status allows her a critical appraisal of the so-called “good life” of the wealthy. She’s a heroine worthy of your affection. I only wish we could have had more of her story.

Don’t let the fact that Dawn At Emberwilde is the second in a series deter you; the novel stands completely alone. Although this was my first experience reading a book by Sarah E. Ladd, it has not only found a welcome home in my library, but will soon have the company of other Ladd books. This Regency should find favor with folks who enjoy Julie Klassen or Jane Austen. So what are you waiting for? Pick up a copy of Dawn at Emberwilde today!

— Dawn Teresa

Verdict

4.5 of 5 Hearts. A Light Regency Romance With a Touch of Darkness.

The interplay between dark and light in Dawn at Emberwilde makes for a satisfying experience. Like Isabel, readers will be drawn to the mysterious dark woods in search of answers, buoyed by the wise words of her friend Mary, dazzled by the prestige and privilege of wealth, yet confounded at how anyone could choose a life of stability over a home filled with love. Indeed, with Dawn at Emberwilde, Sarah E. Ladd demonstrates that life is neither all light nor all dark, but a delicate dance between the two — one made more secure, not by wealth or status, but by faith and love.

*Disclosure of Material Connection: I would like to thank Litfuse Publicity Group and TNZ’s Fiction Guild for providing me with copies of Dawn at Emberwilde in exchange for an honest review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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