Category Archives: Book Review

A Review: Mail Order Husband by DiAnn Mills

Mail Order Husband

VOTED FAVORITE HISTORICAL BOOK AND FAVORITE HISTORICAL COVER IN 2002

As a widow, struggling to raise two boys and keep her Nebraska farm operating, Lena Walker knows the pang of loneliness. None of the nearby men meet her expectations, so she decides to advertise for a husband in newspapers back East. After all, she figures, men find wives that way. In Philadelphia, Gabe Hunters has spent his life buried in books, believing every question can be answered from the printed page – especially of the Bible. When he sees Lena’s advertisement for a husband and father, he senses God pulling him to a place he’s never before seen and work he has never done. Lena is confident that God doesn’t make mistakes – but Gabe isn’t at all what she expected. How can she ever learn to love this man?

I am an avid reader of DiAnn Mills’ books so I was eager to start on this book from the Truly Yours Series as soon as I purchased it. I instantly sympathised and connected with Gabe. His past has left him with scars that make it hard to let people in and yet his faith in God prompts him to open his heart to his new family. Although Lena’s temper is discussed frequently in the book, the few times it came to the fore it wasn’t quite as volatile as I expected. Much was made of how she struggles to control it but really it was not that frequently seen. Lena also seemed to control it fairly well. In some ways, her temper flare ups felt much like anyone else’s, rather than something specific to someone who instantly flies off the handle.

Mills’ is able to capture the simply magic of the family bond in this book in her typical fashion, which I loved to see. The love between Lena and Gabe is lovely to watch as it unfolds and I felt happy that they didn’t have to overcome too complicated a hurdle, just a couple of misunderstandings. The secondary characters didn’t feel as alive to me as in other books by Mills but in the end, I didn’t mind all that much.

I would recommend this book to a friend, who wanted a lovely romance to read that wasn’t too complicated.

A Review: Fields of Grace (Heart of the Priarie Book #4)

Fields of Grace

With their eldest son nearly to the age when he will be drafted into military service, Reinhardt and Lillian Vogt decide to immigrate to America, the land of liberty, with their three sons and Reinhardt’s adopted brother, Eli. But when tragedy strikes during the voyage, Lillian and Eli are forced into an agreement neither desires. Determined to fulfill his obligation to Reinhardt, Eli plans to see Lillian and her sons safely settled on their Kansas homestead and he’s equally determined that the boys will be reared in the Mennonie faith. What he doesn’t expect is his growing affection for Lillianand the deep desire to be part of a family.

I just adored this book – the fourth in Sawyer’s Heart of the Prairie series. I immediately fell in love with the character of Eli with his easy-going nature and strong faith. I admired and respected Lillian’s ability to rise above the tragedies she suffers and to look forward to the future. The story itself was engaging and I empathised with Eli and Lillian’s struggle to reach her son, Henrick. What struck me most was how much Henrick’s choices resembled those made in the story of the Prodigal Son. I fully expected Henrick to return home at some point, realising that he had perhaps made the wrong choice in leaving. Even though that didn’t happen, I was thoroughly satisfied with the conclusion and to be honest, in my head, Henrick does return at some point in the future and the family achieves reconciliation. I thought the entire narrative was well-drafted and it complimented the world that Sawyer had created in both “Waiting for Summer” and “Where the Heart Leads.” Once again the Mennonite faith took centre stage in a favourable way, painting a genuine picture of a real frontier immigrant family and their struggles to build a new life together. The ending was beautiful – I read that chapter three times before I could officially close the book. I would definitely recommend this book and I would definitely read it again. I just loved it!

A Review: A Promise for Spring (Heart of the Prairie Book #3)

A Promise for Spring

England-born Emmaline Bradford pledged her life to Geoffrey Garrett and then bid him farewell when he sailed to America. Although Geoffrey anticipated only a short separation, several years passed before he was able to send for Emmaline. By then the fiery flame of her youthful love had all but died. Shocked by the conditions on Geoffrey’s Kansas sheep ranch, Emmaline wishes to return to England immediately. Geoffrey offers a compromise: If Emmaline promises to stay until spring, he’ll pay her return fare if she decides to go back to her home country. When spring arrives, will Emmaline return to England, or will she marry Geoffrey and carve out a life with him in Kansas?

While this is not my favourite book of the series, it is worth persevering with. The only thing that stopped me from engaging with the characters immediately was Emmaline’s sheltered naivety. It was initially difficult for me to like her. I found it hard to understand how she could set off on this journey to America, knowing that she was meant to marry Geoffrey, having been in love with him once, only to arrive and refuse to go through with it. It’s not as if he was a complete stranger to her. It seemed to me that she was very juvenile in her approach to her circumstances – perhaps too juvenile for a twenty-two year old woman. Her continual rebellion at the beginning of the novel grew tiring after her second attempt at leaving Chetwynd Valley.

That being said, I ended up enjoying the novel and I’m glad I persevered. Both characters mature into likeable, engaging people, who both carry the story to its satisfying conclusion. I would have liked to have seen Geoffrey open up about his own insecurities to Emmaline (especially considering he is just as culpable in their initial misunderstandings as she is) but by the last page, I had accepted the fact that he hadn’t done so and I didn’t dwell on it. I would recommend this book by saying that the ending is well worth persevering with the beginning.

A Review: Where the Heart Leads (Heart of the Prairie Book #2)

Where the heart leads

After his graduation from college, Thomas Ollenburger is filled with big dreams and many questions. What will he do for a career? Should he marry? Where will he call home? Torn between his Mennonite roots on the Kansas prairie and his love for the big city of Boston, as well as his affection for a girl in each location, Thomas is unsure of his place in the world. He has always sought God’s leading in his decision-making, but now it seems as if God is staying silent. Has Thomas’s heart led him astray?

I loved this book. It was a fantastic sequel to Waiting for Summer’s Return. It wasn’t clear to me initially who the real love of Thomas’ life was going to be, but the journey that Thomas endures was definitely interesting and compelling. I thought Sawyer really brought him into his own as a man of faith by the end of the book. Once again the Mennonite faith was centered in the plot in an honest way, which I enjoyed immensely. I would definitely recommend this book to others.

A Review: Waiting for Summer’s Return (Heart of the Prairie Book #1)

Waiting for Summer's Return

All alone on the Kansas prairie, Summer Steadman has few options. With her husband and children lost to illness, she has no desire to continue on farther west to where she and her husband planned to build their future. Instead, she seeks employment in a small Mennonite community in order to be near the graves of her family. Widower Peter Ollenburger, the local gristmill owner, needs someone to teach his young son. When he hears of a “learned woman” in town, he believes she is the answer to his prayers. He soon discovers, however, that helping this outsider may have troublesome consequences. There is little this father will not do for his son, but as the boy begins to look at Summer as more than a teacher, Peter must make a choice. Does he marry this woman to give his son a new mother, or does he marry only for love? Will Summer’s broken heart ever be able to love again?

The first in Sawyer’s Heart of the Prairie series truly captures the imagination from the first page. Her characters are well-written and well-developed. Summer’s grief over the loss of her children is as real as her journey towards knowing God. Peter’s genuine faith and open compassion woo and romance her, even before she realises that her heart is opening once again. His son, Thomas, is caring and loving and just what Summer’s burdened heart needs to heal. I loved every page of this story. The way the two characters help each other on their own respective journeys is truly inspiring. I fell in love with Kim Vogel Sawyer’s style after reading this book and her depiction of the Mennonite immigrants is real and engaging. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who asks me about it.

A Review: Kiowa Husband (Nebraska Legacy Series) Book 3 by DiAnn Mills

Kiowa Husband

Sarah Jane’s future lies in Oregon – or so she thinks when her parents pack their belongings to leave their home and friends in Nebraska. But typhoid strikes along the trail – and the Bensons are cut from the wagon train to protect other travelers from the dreaded disease. Sarah Jane needs help to care for her parents, and the only person willing to stay is the group’s scout, Painted Hands. Troublesome stories surround the man, and Sarah Jane is terrified. Her fears only grow when the wagon master insists they marry for propriety’s sake. Can true love grow out of an arranged marriage? Can Sarah Jane trust God to see her through these troubled times?

I adored this book from the very first page. Sarah Jane’s faith and resilience instantly captured my attention while I immediately became invested in Painted Hands’ development as a man. Their shared journey was really well-written and their blossoming romance was completely engaging. I never wanted the book to end! I recommend this to anyone who loves a good romance set on the wagon train of America. I know I will read this book again and again.

A Review: The Jewel Series by Hallee Bridgeman

Sapphire Ice Greater than Rubies Emerald Fire Topaz heat

Sapphire Ice

To Robin Bartlett, men were nothing more than violent users. After a hair-raising childhood, Robin and her two younger half-sisters battled simply to survive. Determined to give her sisters a very different life from that of their mother; to never have to rely on a man for anything, she worked two jobs and put them both through college, while accepting help from no one. Her heart had turned to ice and she had no use for men or God.

Antonio “Tony” Viscolli had grown up on the streets, homeless. At seventeen, he entered a downtown church with the intent of casing it, but found himself on his knees at the altar. After being fostered by the youth minister, Tony followed God’s leading and eventually became a very successful and powerful businessman. In a fallen world, he was a gem.

When Tony bought the restaurant where Robin tended bar, she immediately resented his intrusion into her well-ordered, but exhausting, life. She suspected his offering her special attention and constant kindness was merely his way of expecting something from her in return, something she wasn’t willing to give. Tony knew God had led him to Robin. Would she ever allow herself to trust him? Could she ever allow herself to trust God? Or would the winter of their tragic youth rise from the shadows of the past and freeze any chance at happiness?

My sister came across this book one day while scrolling through Amazon for great Christian fiction. She couldn’t put it down and insisted that I read it too. As soon as I started the first page, I was hooked. Bridgeman has managed to present a faithful, loving man, who is instantly endeared to the reader because of the way he loves and care for those around him. Despite all the reasons Robin has not to trust Tony, his patience and his genuine honesty break down her walls. Robin’s reservations are also instantly understood by the reader, even if the reader is not someone who went through the kind of abuse Robin did. Immediately, the reader wants these two to be together. Every twist and turn in the story makes total sense and engages the reader’s imagination. I love the way Robin and Tony love each other and I have to say that I could not put it down and finished the whole thing in a 24 hour period. I would definitely recommend it!

Greater than Rubies

*** 2014 EPIC eBook Awards™ Finalist for the Spiritual category ***
Robin Bartlett said, “Yes!” Will she say, “I do,” when the big day arrives? From his cultured handsome looks to his vast fortune, Antonio “Tony” Viscolli is every girl’s dream. Robin comes from a blistering past, struggling for survival in a cold, cruel world. Robin never had a chance to dream of a white wedding gown or a prince charming. Instead, her dreams were nightmares — dark and clouded with fear and desperation. By the time Tony thaws her heart, she has known hunger, poverty, violence, and want.

For months, Tony courted the blond beauty with the sapphire eyes. He showered with attention, respect, and charm and covered her in diamonds, sapphires, and rubies. Finally, Robin came to understand God’s love for her as imitated by the unconditional love Tony freely offered. On a sunny Florida beach, Tony proposed.

Back in bitter cold Boston, doubts about becoming a billionaire’s bride begin to burden her hopes for happiness. Robin struggles to cope with the never-ending details of the shower, ceremony, reception, and honeymoon; the prospects of changing her name and relocating; and the very public image she must suddenly adopt; all while dealing with her father’s very serious legal problems.

As the date draws inexorably near and the pressure mounts, Robin questions whether she is truly the woman God has made for him. Is she the girl of his dreams? His vast material wealth begins to overwhelm her. Nightmares from a forgotten past return in full force, reminding Robin of an even deeper and more terrifying prospect. Will she give in to her insecurities and cancel Boston’s “Royal Wedding” for good? Or, with God’s guidance, can Tony sacrifice everything to prove to his beloved Robin her true worth

Inspired by the Critically Acclaimed Christian Anthology – The Jewel Trilogy — Greater Than Rubies takes place immediately after book 1 and before book 2.

Having read and loved Sapphire Ice, I was always a little disappointed that it did not include Robin and Tony’s wedding. So, I have to say that this book is the much needed conclusion to their romance. Despite some of Robin’s demons rearing their ugly head, I was constantly rooting for their wedding to happen. The way the wedding was planned, complete with the theme and colours was beautiful and as was the continuation of the love story of their relationship. It was worth every twist and turn and I plan on reading this book again and again!

Emerald Fire

A terrifying past imprisoned Maxine Bartlett all her adult life, shackling her with fear anytime a man even touched her. In a spontaneous weekend, she unintentionally elopes with an unlikely groom. After a magical wedding night filled with love and passion, “Maxi” finally discards her dreadful chains. She doesn’t know that her new husband has turned his back on God. Worried over how the world might see the completely unexpected – and some would certainly say inappropriate – marriage, in his pride he promises Maxine a quiet annulment.

Maxine refuses to cooperate because she is unwilling to let their marriage disappear as if it never happened. Seeking God’s will, she moves in with him and informs him that when he decides to act like her husband again, he will find his loving wife waiting for him right there in their home. As the days stretch into weeks, the newlyweds slowly begin to trust and even love each other. Then, just as they begin to live the “happily ever after” love story that neither of them ever dreamed could come true, a sudden and nightmarish catastrophe strikes that could wreck everything. Will her husband realize that he must trust God once more? Can he find peace and strength enough to carry them through the flames?

I have to say, despite how much I enjoyed Sapphire Ice and Greater than Rubies, Emerald Fire by far is my favourite in the series. It’s a fantastic sequel to Sapphire Ice. The love story between Maxine and her husband is touching and instantly captures the reader’s imagination. I thought the writing was well done and the character of Maxine, which I have to say I wasn’t sure I completely understood in Sapphire Ice, suddenly sprang to life as someone I could engage with and identify with. It’s that good! Thoroughly enjoyed it, would definitely read it again and would certainly recommend to a friend.

Topaz Heat

The very moment Derrick meets Sarah, he realizes he has a reason to live. Sarah sees only an unshaven tough kid covered with tattoos and shuts down every advance. Sarah Thomas has no memory of her broken young life leading up to the tragic murder of her mother. Her memory begins the morning she wakes in the home of her loving adoptive parents. She doesn’t even know her sisters exist until her 15th year. She learns to love her siblings, but always feels a little out of place in their presence.

A benevolent billionaire offers Derrick DiNunzio a home and an education. Fresh off the streets and rescued from a criminal future, Derrick sheds his old life. He trades his ripped leather jacket for silk suits; dealing drugs for mentoring “at risk” youth; lock picking and back door jobs for the rigors of mountain climbing and hotel management. Sarah cannot seem to see beyond the past Derrick left behind … until one day she does. When they finally come together, an indictment threatens their future. Now the heat is on. Will Sarah finally set aside her prejudices and open her heart to true love or will the long forgotten past tear them apart forever?

In so many ways, Topaz Heat needed to be written to help the reader understand Sarah. I always found Sarah a little hard to connect with before this book. Her inability to remember her broken home and years of abuse is a blessing but it also prevents her from being able to connect with her sisters. I loved Derrick and the way he constantly rubbed her up the wrong way. I also loved the way Sarah’s prejudices were (finally) explained in a way that you didn’t hate her. I really enjoyed this final book in the Jewel Series and it was a lovely note to end on.