Review + Giveaway – Counterfeit Faith

Madi’s Musings is participating in the tour for Counterfeit Faith by Crystal Caudill, which is hosted by JustRead.

Read on to find, in this order, more about:

  • the book
  • the author
  • the review
  • the giveaway

About the Book

Title: Counterfeit Faith
Series: Hidden Hearts of the Gilded Age #3
Author: Crystal Caudill
Publisher: Kregel Publications
Release Date: May 16, 2023
Genre: Christian Historical Romance

She’s losing her faith in mankind. He’s lost his faith in God. Can working together restore them both?

As matron of Final Chance House of Refuge, Gwendolyn Ellison has dedicated her life to serving the children deemed delinquents by society. She’ll protect them with everything she has. So when she suspects someone is using Final Chance for criminal deeds, she’s determined to investigate and put a stop to it. But villains don’t like to be crossed–and they’re willing to kill to get their way.

Gwendolyn knows she can’t quit fighting. More than her own life is on the line if counterfeiters go free. She must find someone she can trust to help her expose the criminals and protect the children under her care.

Charming and chivalrous Secret Service operative Josiah Isaacs has never been able to turn his back on a woman in trouble–and capturing counterfeiters is his job, after all. The danger he’s truly worried about is his growing attraction to Gwendolyn when his heart wants to remain faithful to his deceased wife.

As both peril and interest grow, he begins to consider whether a second love may be possible–if they can live through this case. At the same time, he’s put off by her faith in a God he no longer trusts. How can a future together even be possible when their beliefs are at odds?

“Page-turning action combines with depth and richness to create a full-bodied, rewarding read.”

–Jocelyn Green, Christy Award-winning author of The Metropolitan Affair

“Readers who love romance, suspense, and a graceful amount of faith won’t want to miss this story.”

–Toni Shiloh, Christy Award-winning author

“With a host of sympathetic and likable characters (and a few not so likable), a riveting plot that clips along at the perfect pace, and a relatable faith thread, this book [is a] completely enjoyable read.”

–Kimberly Duffy, Carol Award finalist and author of A Tapestry of Light


Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Bookshop | Christianbook | BookBub

Check out the rest of the series:

Counterfeit Love

Counterfeit Faith


Crystal Caudill is the author of “dangerously good historical romance,” with her work garnering awards from Romance Writers of America and ACFW. She is a stay-at-home mom and caregiver, and when she isn’t writing, Caudill can be found playing board games with her family, drinking hot tea, or reading other great books at her home outside Cincinnati, Ohio.

Connect with Crystal by visiting to follow her on social media or subscribe to email newsletter updates.


4 Stars


Counterfeit Faith contains an interesting plot, lovable characters, and odious villains who’ll make you want to clobber them with Red (if you know, you know). I especially enjoyed the research that went into this book. The historical Secret Service and Pinkerton agencies have always intrigued me.

The plot is Christian historical romance mixed with suspense. I don’t usually read suspense, and I’ve certainly never heard of it mixed with Christian historical romance before, so I was holding my breath as I read. These poor characters! I dare say my heart still hasn’t quite recovered yet.

Gwendolyn has the prettiest name, and I liked how Caudill made her a strong female character, but not a feminist. Josiah is a solid MMC and I liked his character arc.

The kids were adorable, I want Wilhelmina’s story (pretty please), and other characters like Mrs. Flowers made me laugh. I still have mixed feelings on Mrs. Issacs, though. Hopefully she’ll eventually come fully around.

This book had plenty of faith, and I loved it. I mentioned Josiah’s character arc, and this was where he really grew.

There are plenty of prayers, characters attend church and mass, and God’s will and timing are reflected upon. This looks like a short list, but there is a ton of faith packed in this book.

Completely clean and sweet, just the way I like it. Characters kiss once.

An opiate addiction is discussed, characters are injured by the nasties, characters are cut, kicked, beaten, and battered, there is a counterfeit ring, and there’s a brief mention of a young man raping two women, who are then forced to become prostitutes.

Caudill handles everything with tact and non-gratuitous references. Nothing was improper and everything is tastefully addressed.

Counterfeit Faith is a book I believe all fans of Christian historical romance and suspense will enjoy, and I recommend it to everyone seeking clean romance with plenty of faith.

*I receive a copy of this book from the publisher in conjunction with JustRead. The opinions expressed are my own.


(1) winner will receive print copies of Counterfeit Love, Counterfeit Hope, and Counterfeit Faith, a set of bookmarks, 2 stickers with quotes, and a magnet with a QR code to a “test your Secret Service knowledge” quiz!

Be sure to check out each stop on the tour for more chances to win. Full tour schedule linked below. Giveaway began at midnight May 31, 2023 and lasts through 11:59 PM EST on June 7, 2023. Winner will be notified within 2 weeks of close of the giveaway and given 48 hours to respond or risk forfeiture of prize. US only. Void where prohibited by law or logistics.

Giveaway is subject to the policies found here.


Review + Giveaway – Murmur in the Mudcaves

Madi’s Musings is participating in the tour for Murmur in the Mudcave by Kathleen Denly, which is hosted by CelebrateLit.

Read on to find, in this order, more about:

  • the book
  • the author
  • from the author
  • the review
  • the giveaway
  • tour stops

About the Book

Book: Murmur in the Mudcaves

Author: Kathleen Denly

Genre: Christian Historical Romance

Release date: May 16, 2023

He came to cook for ranch hands, not three single women.

Gideon Swift, a visually impaired Civil War Veteran, responds to an ad for a ranch cook in the Southern California desert mountains. He wants nothing more than to forget his past and stay in the kitchen where he can do no harm. But when he arrives to find his employer murdered, the ranch turned to ashes, and three young women struggling to survive in the unforgiving Borrego Desert, he must decide whether his presence protects them or places them in greater danger.

Bridget “Biddie” Davidson finally receives word from her older sister who disappeared with their brother and pa eighteen years prior, but the news is not good. Determined to help her family, Biddie sets out for a remote desert ranch with her adopted father and best friend. Nothing she finds there is as she expected, including the man who came to cook for the shambles of a ranch.

When tragedy strikes, the danger threatens not only her plans to help her sister, but her own dreams for the future—with the man who’s stolen her heart.

About the Author

Kathleen Denly lives in sunny Southern California with her loving husband, four young children, and two cats. As a member of the adoption and foster community, children in need are a cause dear to her heart and she finds they make frequent appearances in her stories. When she isn’t writing, researching, or caring for children, Kathleen spends her time reading, visiting historical sites, hiking, and crafting.

From the Author


Picture in your mind the typical male rancher or cowboy. Can you see him? If we’re going for the full stereotype, you’re looking at a tall, handsome man who is, above all, strong. Particularly in the nineteenth century, it takes strength to build a house, install fencing, chop wood, haul water, heft hay bales, and most of all manage cattle. Not to mention the 101 other things it takes to start and keep a ranch running. 

Now consider the aftermath of the American Civil War. Many men never returned from the battlefields, and those who did often returned with injuries that would remain with them the rest of their lives. Some would suffer chronic pain until the day they died. 

In considering whose story I wanted to tell next, I wondered about that last group of men in the context of running a ranch. How could a seriously injured man, suffering chronic pain, keep his ranch going in an era where able-bodied men were more difficult to find? And what about those whose ranches were too new and small to support the cost of hiring help? 

This was the beginning of my inspiration for Gideon Swift–a Civil War Veteran still struggling daily with the consequences of having gone to war, ten years after his injuries sent him home. 

Raised to believe true men were strong and weak men were next-to useless, Gideon’s identity is shattered when an explosion leaves him with brain damage that causes recurring migraines with aura and the loss of periphery vision in one eye. For those unfamiliar, a migraine with aura is a severe headache preceded or accompanied by sensory disturbances called aura. Examples of such disturbances include flashes of light, blind spots, general blurry vision, and blurry or shimmery lines in vision. There can also be speech or language difficulty, muscle weakness, and/or numbness or tingling in one side of a person’s face, one hand, or one limb. Gideon experiences most of these at different times, but his most common sensory disturbance is a curled shimmery line that appears in his vision.

He is further humbled by a series of tragic losses partially triggered by his medical condition. These are the events that send him to California, determined never to work with cattle again, and never to marry.

I am often asked how much of myself I put into my characters. In Gideon’s case, I modeled his pain partially after my own. While I have no peripheral vision loss, nor brain damage, I do have recurring migraines. In my case, these are brought about by my menstrual cycle and only occasionally involve aura symptoms. Still, these severe headaches have lasted from a mere hour, up to nearly a week, and are frequently beyond anything my medications can alleviate. Too often, this pain leaves me unable to function. If I’m lucky I can sleep through it. If not, I lay awake in a darkened room for hours with pain preventing me from drifting into blissful unconsciousness. Nauseousness, foggy thinking, dizziness, and exhaustion are frequently parts of my experience. I have also experienced one-sided tingling numbness and the same curly, shimmering line that Gideon experiences. Yet, I know others who have far worse migraines. So, in describing Gideon’s episodes, I combined my own experiences with those of family and friends whom I have witnessed suffering. 

Through Murmur in the Mud Caves, we see how God works in Gideon’s life and heart to remind him of where his true value and strength come from. It is my hope that his journey will touch the hearts of readers and encourage them in whatever trials they may be facing. We are never alone. Whatever God brings us to, He will bring us through. He loves us and has a good purpose for everything we endure in this life, even when we cannot understand His reasons.


5 Stars


To Bridget “Biddie” Davidson, baking and family are everything. And it’s that loyalty and love that drives her to help and visit someone who wants her monetary help, but nothing else. Well, too bad for that person, because Biddie refuses to ignore those in need–especially when they’re family.

The plot was quite unique and original, and I found it intriguing. And I love, love, love, loved the adoption thread.

I usually don’t care for anything related to California, but this book drew me in, and the setting is partially responsible. Mudcaves? Never heard of them until now. Do I want to visit them? Absolutely not. Did I find reading about them absolutely interesting? Absolutely. Denly painted the setting such a way that I didn’t mind “visiting”, and I felt like I was there, sweating away and blinking sand out of my eyes.

I found Biddie to be a tenacious, spirited, lovable character. Her drive to help and protect her family is admirable.

Gideon. Oh, Gideon. Such a broken soul, so in need of a rekindled faith. He was my favorite. I really, really liked his character arc.

The cast of secondary characters was strong. Ginny–poor dear. I wanted to slap her sometimes, but Denly made her quite the sympathetic character.

This book contains a beautiful and heartfelt faith element. I especially appreciated how men rallied around Gideon. In today’s culture, it seems like discipleship for men is overlooked and cast aside. I found Gideon’s discipleship refreshing.

Very pure and sweet and is in no way unwholesome.

Characters are injured, a character was in the Civil War, characters endure hardship, pain, and struggles; it is indicated a woman was raped in her past, and an off-the-screen occurrence of a character we never meet is briefly mentioned. It is insinuated what men would like to do to a kidnapped woman. Cattle are rustled, a fire happens, and threats are made.

Murmur in the Mudcaves is an enjoyable Christian historical romance that fans of the genre will be sure to find an engaging read.

I liked the Author’s Note, and on a slight side topic, Denly is to be lauded for persevering through personal health problems. Writing is no easy task when one is in good health, let alone when you suffer from health issues. Though those trials persisted, Denly delivered a quality, heartwarming tale.

* I received a copy of this book from the publisher in conjunction with CelebrateLit. The opinions expressed are my own.


To celebrate her tour, Kathleen is giving away the grand prize package of 1 set of beautifully engraved, metal measuring spoons, 1 pouch of “Baking Day” potpourri, 1 Cat and Mouse kitchen timer, 1 vintage wooden sign with Christian encouragement message, 1 Cowboy Hat cookie cutter with recipe for Cowboy Sugar Cookies, 1 Kitchen towel that reads, “This Home is our Happily Ever After”, and 1 Kathleen Denly engraved pen!!

Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the button below to enter.

Blog Stops

lakesidelivingsite, May 17

Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations, May 18

Books You Can Feel Good About, May 18

Texas Book-aholic, May 19

Locks, Hooks and Books, May 20

For Him and My Family, May 20

Melissa’s Bookshelf, May 21

Connie’s History Classroom, May 21

Babbling Becky L’s Book Impressions, May 22

Betti Mace, May 22

Truth and Grace Homeschool Academy, May 23

Madi’s Musings, May 23 (YOU ARE HERE)

Pause for Tales, May 24

Happily Managing a Household of Boys, May 25

Kristina Hall, May 25

Vicky Sluiter, May 26

Blossoms and Blessings, May 26

Blogging With Carol, May 27

Gina Holder, Author and Blogger, May 28 (Author Interview)

Mary Hake, May 28

Cover Lover Book Review, May 29

Holly’s Book Corner, May 30

Karen Baney Reviews, May 30

Review: A Tender Hope

As far as Thea Michener is concerned, it’s time for a change.

Series: Cimmaron Creek Trilogy

Author: Amanda Cabot

Genre: Christian Historical Romance

Publisher: Revell


As far as Thea Michener is concerned, it’s time for a change. With her husband murdered and her much-anticipated baby stillborn, there is nothing left for her in Ladreville. Having accepted a position as Cimarron Creek’s midwife, she has no intention of remarrying and trying for another child. So when a handsome Texas Ranger appears on her doorstep with an abandoned baby, Thea isn’t sure her heart can take it.

Ranger Jackson Guthrie isn’t concerned only with the baby’s welfare. He’s been looking for Thea, convinced that her late husband was part of the gang that killed his brother. But it soon becomes clear that the situation is far more complicated than he anticipated–and he’ll need Thea’s help if he’s ever to find the justice he seeks.

Amanda Cabot invites readers back to Cimarron Creek for a tender story of loss, betrayal, and love in the majestic Texas Hill Country.


4 Stars


This was an enjoyable Christian historical romance.

The characters (the ones that should be liked) are sweet and perfect for their roles. It was good to meet up with Thea again after Paper Roses, and Jackson is quite the likable hero. Aimee and the cast of secondary characters are good too, although I wasn’t that fond of Edith Harris. Persnickety old hen needed a wallop to the upside of her noggin.

The plot was a gentler, slower pace, allowing the reader insight into Thea’s healing. I must admit I was a bit disappointed because the ending felt a little anticlimactic.

I am in no way a Texas person, nor would I ever want to live there due to the heat and tornadoes, but Cabot made Cimarron Creek sound lovely.

One of my favorite parts is a certain adoption thread. I adore pro-adoption stories, and this book is endeared to me because of it.

Characters pray, attend church, and rely on God.

There are insinuations of rape. Not graphic, and Cabot handled it so tastefully, but younger readers do beware. Because of this a secondary character has a child out of wedlock.

Characters are injured through knife-and-gun related injuries. Two characters we never meet are murdered. A gang’s past crimes are discussed. There is the potential for infidelity from a character we never meet. Like I said before, Cabot handled everything tastefully, and I thought no aspect was questionable or gory. Mature teens can read this without issue.

Very clean, which I liked. A few kisses, neither of which go “too far” in description.

This was the only Amanda Cabot book available at the library, and you can bet I’ll be returning for the rest when they’re returned (why must others have the audacity to check out the books I want to read?).

A Tender Hope is a book I recommend for every fan of sweet Christian historical romance.

Review: Love in the Headlines

Can paper and paw prints draw these two nemeses together?

Author: Penny Zeller

Genre: Christian Contemporary Romance

Age: Adult, although readers 15 and up can read it.


Can paper and paw prints draw these two nemeses together?

All Carleigh Adams wants is a relaxing evening. But Sullivan Theodore IV, her wayward shih tzu, has other plans. After escaping from home, Sullivan Theodore unlawfully enters what Carleigh assumes is a stranger’s house via a doggy door. Much to Carleigh’s horror, it is actually the home of her coworker and nemesis, Trey “The Irritating” Montgomery.

Trey Montgomery has had to work with “Quirky Carleigh,” his top competitor for the best articles at The Oakville Daily, for the past two years. It’s safe to say that she and her criminally-minded pet are his adversaries. Trey’s attempts to keep his distance from her are demolished when their boss thrusts them together as The Oakville Daily Duo, forcing them to work as a team on every. Single. Article.

Petty crimes and crazy shenanigans in Oakville soon draw Carleigh and Trey into doubling as detectives. When dogs, including their own pets, begin to mysteriously disappear, Carleigh and Trey join forces to uncover the culprit. As they work to report the daily news and solve the crimes in Oakville, can these two stubborn reporters find love in the headlines?

Faith, plentiful humor, and tender romance round out the latest Christian contemporary romance novel by Author Penny Zeller.

Please note: this book is a faith-based Christian novel.


5 Stars


How do you survive being forced to work with your nemesis on every. Single. Project?

That’s the question Carleigh Adams is asking…and the question to which she’s desperately seeking an answer.

Crazy shenanigans, a strong-willed Shih Tzu, a chew-happy German Shepherd, and ornery coworkers keep the reader laughing in this fun, lighthearted tale. Romance with a brush of mystery, the reader will be swept into Small Town America where everyone knows everyone else and everyone else’s business…well, most of it.

The plot flowed well and I liked the dollop of mystery. Everything was logical, and the zaniness kept me snickering.

Staying true to her brand, Zeller incorporates characters you can’t help but love. I identified so much with Carleigh because she is an aspiring writer. Her flamboyant personality contrasted well with Trey’s snarkiness, and the two were absolutely hilarious.

Their pets, too, were perfect. Sullivan Theodore IV is such a brat. I think I’d agree more with Trey when he called the Shih Tzu a fluffy-rat dog. Jaxx is a dear dog, albeit a nervous sort, which also made me laugh because it’s funny to think about a dog belonging to such a big breed that’s portrayed as tough and invincible needing doggy toys to keep him from chewing through Trey’s furniture.

While lighter than Zeller’s historical novels, Love in the Headlines incorporates prayer, church attendance, and Bible verses.

Perfectly clean. Enemies-to-more is one of my favorite tropes, and Zeller pulls it off perfectly in this Christian rom-com.

This is an extremely clean book. A bloodied nose is mentioned after a fight with Sir. Nasty, and it’s mentioned some dogs are kept in poor conditions, but there is nothing questionable at all.

I rarely read Christian contemporary, but I was so glad I read this one. If you abhor exercise, all you need to do is pick up Love in the Headlines , and you’ll have dream abs in no time, you’ll laugh that much. This needs to be made into a movie.

Fun and entertaining with canine capers aplenty, Love in the Headlines is a delightful tale you’ll not want to miss.

*I received a copy of this book from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review, and all opinions expressed are my own.

Darkness Draws Near

Life’s worth fighting for…

Author: Kristina Hall

Series: Kentucky Midnight, Book Two

Genre: Christian Dystopian

Appropriate Age Range: 16 and up


Life’s worth fighting for …

When Mellie Rivers takes in a young mom, she knows there’s risk involved–both from the government and from her own inadequacies.

Working as a missionary and a mechanic is already a challenge, but now Friedrich Wolf faces an unknown threat–a threat he must stop before he loses all too much.

Friedrich and Mellie will have to fight for life … even as darkness draws near.


5+ Stars


It’s been over a year since the events in Midnight Will Come, and maybe, just maybe, Mellie Rivers is catching a break. Well, aside from an unexpected patient, that is. And that potential threat. At least she has her resident Stubborn German nearby for protection, and her sister at hand so she won’t starve off the food Mellie reduces to charcoal.

Life proves it’s not on her side, however, and soon Mellie finds herself enduring circumstances no one envies.


I know this is a dystopian book, but it’s also quite suspenseful, as well. I’ll need a short break before venturing to Book Three because my heart simply cannot handle everything these darling characters go through. So, in short, the plot will keep you—literally—on the edge of your seat.

Darkness Draws Near takes place in Kentucky. Hall makes it easy to visualize yourself there with the characters.

Mellie is a dear, as always. Her humor is similar to my own—verging on slightly insane, definitely dry, and a tad wacky. It made me laugh many a time, which was a nice reprieve from the constant worry that the good guys wouldn’t survive.

Friedrich is great too. I really like how human he is. He has his insecurities, fears, and flaws like the rest of us. He’s genuine, and is a good example of an everyday Christian.

The supporting cast were solid as well—either solidly good like Jess and Audra or solidly despicable like a certain Sir Needs a Punch or a particular cluster of ne’er-do-wells.

Typical to Hall, there is so much faith packed within these pages. Characters learn that, no matter how dire and dark their circumstances, God will always be there. His Light can neither be muffled nor extinguished.

Characters pray, attend church, read the Bible, and discuss faith and the sanctity of life.

There is some violence, but it’s tastefully handled. Characters are beaten up, shot, shot at, smacked around, kidnapped, threatened with torture and death, and there are mentions of riots, destruction, and an unnamed character being brutally treated before perishing. Characters are forced to shoot in self-defense.

The romance is pure, sweet, and awkward. It made me laugh, Mellie’s denial of not liking a Certain Someone.

This book tackles abortion and pro-life. Hall takes an unapologetic stance on portraying how sacred life is and how an unborn baby is still human. It should encourage any true Christian to continue standing strong for the unborn.

To those who are easily offended: this is not the book for you. Liberalism and forced government mandates and overtures are portrayed as the evil they are. So, if you dislike faith, true science, and the reality of the potential evil that could easily overtake our United States, don’t read this book.

This review is long overdue, and for that I ardently apologize.

Darkness Draws Near is a whopper. Not in length, but in content. It challenges the reader to ask themselves what they would do if in Mellie’s and Friedrich’s positions; if our faith would suffer or strengthen; and what we’d sacrifice to protect truth and life. A thousand standing ovations to Hall for being bold in proclaiming the truth.

Dystopian is a genre often both dissed and dismissed, but I believe we need Christian Dystopian. Not only to warn of us of what could be if we become lax in defending the values our country was built on, but to provide hope that, even in the hardest of times, God will neither leave nor forsake us.

Well done, Hall. After I’ve recovered from the numerous near-heart attacks, I’ll move on to Book Three.

I received an ARC of this book from the author. The opinions expressed are my own.

Cover Reveal: Trouble in Dry Springs

I am excited to participate in friend and fellow author, Kristina Hall’s, cover reveal for her upcoming Christian Historical Western, Trouble in Dry Springs. And, because I’m such a kind, amazing, and lovely blogger, I’m making you wait ’til the very end to see the cover.


Kristina Hall is a sinner saved by grace who seeks to glorify God with her words. She is a homeschool graduate and holds a degree in accounting. When she’s not writing, she enjoys reading, arm wrestling, lifting weights, and playing the violin.








Even the peaceful town of Dry Springs is not without trouble.

When Eliza McCoslin’s brother sends for her, she exchanges war-torn Mississippi for Dry Springs, Texas. Settling into a new way of life proves difficult though, despite the arrival of the man she’s long admired.

Jesse Carrigan comes to Dry Springs seeking work and a place to start the ranch he’s dreamed of ever since his parents lost their farm. What he doesn’t expect to find is the woman he’d like to court—or his former colonel on the run from a deadly threat.

Given the circumstances keeping Jesse and Eliza apart and the danger looming on the horizon, he and Eliza find themselves facing the loss of future love—and life. When trouble comes to Dry Springs, who will be left standing?


Being the font snob that I am, it tickles my designer’s heart to see Cinzel Decorative.

Isn’t that a lovely cover? Have you added this to your TBR yet? And have you ever visited Texas? I haven’t, and I have no desire to, but I certainly don’t mind reading books taking place there.

Review: A Groom by Surprise

A proxy bride, a surprise groom, and the secrets that could tear them apart.

Author: Laura Ashwood

Title: A Groom by Surprise

Genre: Christian Historical Romance

Length: 222 pages

Age: 14 and up can read this, although it is not marketed as a YA


A proxy bride, a surprise groom, and the secrets that could tear them apart.

Sarah Clark is utterly alone. Her sister’s dying wish was for Sarah to take her place as a proxy bride. But Sarah isn’t so sure that she can go through with deceiving her sister’s would-be husband and his family…especially when she begins to fall for her new husband, Levi Nelsen.

Levi Nelsen has given up on marriage. After two failed attempts at securing a bride, he’s resigned to being a bachelor — that is, until his attorney brother tricks him into signing a marriage by proxy certificate. Suddenly, he finds himself with a wife he didn’t want.

Can a marriage built on deception become something meant to be?

A Groom by Surprise is a wholesome, proxy bride, Christian western historical romance that can be read as a standalone. Download today and get ready to accompany Sarah and Levi on their journey to happily ever after.

A Groom By Surprise was previously published under the title A Bride for Levi.


5 Stars


What do a marriage by proxy, a meddlesome sibling, and two failed attempts at matrimony have in common?

Levi Nelson, who is content living a bachelor’s life. When his brother shows up with unexpected news, Levi may be tempted to use his hoe for more than tending the garden, as his nosy brother needs a solid rap on the noggin.

Unfortunately, events are in motion that cannot, at this time, be undone. But that’s fine. Because this new bride of his won’t stick around anyway.


This is a delightful spin on the mail-order bride trope. Don’t read this book without a box of tissues nearby, though, because it is a tear-jerker at parts. Sweet and gentle, this is a wholesome romance.

Ashwood did a fantastic job showing the differences between Philadelphia and a little town in Minnesota. It wasn’t difficult to imagine the stark differences, and I really liked how she used Sarah’s questions to tell the reader more of the differences.

Sarah is such a sweet, dear character. She needs a huge cup of hot chocolate and a big, big hug. I admired her tenacity and bravery, even when dealing with heart-wrenching loss.

Leviticus “Levi” was a great character too. I found his name particularly amusing and clever.

The secondary characters, while not receiving a ton of page time, were fleshed out well. Anja seems like the grandma everyone wants and while I wanted to take a shovel to Zep’s head at times, I see the reason (however poorly-executed on his part) to help his brother. Hannah seemed nice, too.

Verses are quoted, characters pray and attend church, and God’s will and plan for our lives is discussed.

Characters kiss, a barn catches fire, and a man is injured. Nothing is graphic and I found the romance tasteful and just right.

A character lies, but it is shown how lying is not right.

A Groom by Surprise is a short, enjoyable Christian historical romance. This is my first Ashwood book, and it won’t be my last. I thoroughly enjoyed it and am grateful the author kept the romance pure and sweet. That is how romance in Christian fiction should be portrayed.

If you are a fan of Christian historical romance, then this is a book needing to be on your TBR. This is an excellent story with endearing characters and a delightful plot.

Review: The Guardian

God only gives so many wake-up calls… Will she answer?

BOOK: The Guardian (A Three Sisters Novel)

AUTHOR: Abbigail Raine B.

GENRE: Christian Historical Fiction

AGE LEVEL: Appropriate for Fifteen and up


Survival on the prairies of 1850s Texas is full of hardship and tragedy. Felicia “Felix” Taylor would know. Raising her sisters, running the farm, and connecting with her neighboring friends keeps her grounded. But when the providential and the coincidental occur, how will she respond? Will she acknowledge that it may be the God she turned her back on? Will she let Him in? Or will she steel her heart against the faith that betrayed her?


5 Stars


Still reeling from a cruel blow that changed everything, Felix is determined to do whatever it takes to keep her sisters safe so no more tragedy befalls her family. But life isn’t cooperating with her plans, and problem after problem accrues. Is this some mere, destructive turn of fate, and how can any good possibly come from such hardships?

With a steady pace that gently guides the reader through the everyday lives of three sisters, the plot gradually builds the tension until the reader can’t help but wonder how things will be resolved. There’s a bit of suspense near the end, and my heart was pounding something fierce during those last few chapters.

This is where Abbigail’s strength really shines. Effortlessly weaving words, she draws the reader into hot, humid days, tempestuous storms, solemn settings, and cozy cabins and barns. I could feel myself in the setting, and Abbigail does well never letting you forget the time and place.

Felix reminded me so much of myself: the determined older sister who will do anything to keep her siblings safe, even if it means being a controlling tyrant at times. The other sisters, Stacey and Millie, are each well-crafted too, and I never once mixed them up with each other.

There is another character–my favorite, in fact–whom readers will meet, but I will refrain from spilling any more details lest I spoil the plot. Let’s just say I fangirled so. Doggone. Hard. And I shipped two certain characters so. Doggone. Hard as well.

As always, the icing on the cake is the faith content, and that’s certainly true for The Guardian. With an unashamed and bold manner, Abbigail proclaims the Gospel without reservation. I so appreciated her resolve in portraying the truth. In a world where the truth is watered down to avoid “hurting feelings” or offending people, this was a wonderful reminder of how we are called to be lights amidst the darkness.

Holding no punches, Abbigail lays out the Gospel as it is presented in Scripture: Hell is real, and that’s where all who are unsaved are going unless you repent and believe.

To this, I give Abbigail a thousand accolades. Well done, Abbi. I’m so proud of your boldness in this.

An attack is reminisced about, a character is injured in various occurrences, and a horse is poisoned by hemlock (no one is at fault for this).

In a solid story that forthrightly declares the Gospel, Abbigail Raine B. delivers an impactful and poignant debut. If you enjoy faith-filled historicals, you’ll not want to miss The Guardian.

*I received an ARC of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.

Book Review: Dreams of the Heart

Sometimes the hardest battles take place in the heart.

Author: Penny Zeller

Series: Wyoming Sunrise, Book Two

Genre: Historical Romance

Suitable for: This is an adult book, but readers 15 and up can read it.


Sometimes the hardest battles take place in the heart.

Poverty and abuse at the hands of her drunkard father leaves Hannah Bane trapped and alone. Without hope, she prays for a miracle just on the off-chance God will hear her. Will the handsome new deputy, who seems to be watching her every move, be Hannah’s one chance to escape the only life she’s ever known?

For as long as he can remember, John Mark Eliason has wanted to be a deputy sheriff. When a job opens in the nearby town of Poplar Springs, he eagerly accepts, but finds his greatest mission won’t be tracking down criminals and bringing justice to the ruthless Wyoming town, but saving a beautiful young woman he barely knows.

Will an unexpected answer to a difficult situation show how love can endure—and even thrive—in an unconventional situation? Or will fear and uncertainty keep two hesitant hearts apart?

A handsome deputy sheriff.
A woman in search of freedom.
An unconventional situation.

In the sequel to Forgotten Memories, author Penny Zeller weaves a tender tale of faith, romance, and humor in a memorable story that reminds us God hears every prayer and has a plan for every life.


5 Stars


Sometimes the hardest battles take place in the heart.


In my review of <a href=" Memories, which is the first book in the series, I said it was my favorite book of Zeller’s to date.

Dreams of the Heart has now stolen that spot. Because this book is my absolute favorite of Zeller’s, and I honestly do not see any other story surpassing it. Dreams of the Heart is just so, so good and tender and beautiful and heartwarming.

The plot is sweet and gentle. The reader is quickly sucked into a Wild West town of lawlessness, where good struggles to shine through. The action is primarily heart-and-emotional-wise, although it does build up to one heck of an epic showdown. And the ending! Yes, I was teary. If it doesn’t draw tears to your eyes, then you either scanned it or just didn’t read it. Because it’s just the perfect ending to such a lovely story.

The wild, wayward town of Poplar Springs is well-written, as is Zeller’s amazing depictions of the nearby mountains, wooded foothills, and cattle-dotted prairie. And it was nice revisiting Willow Falls again.

John Mark is the best and that’s all I’m going to say. I love his protective nature and duty to enforcing justice.

Hannah is such a dear character and Zeller really presented her as a sympathetic character. I loved her character arc. She’s depicted perfectly on the cover–it captures the longing we witness within her, captures the dreams she hopes will someday, somehow be fulfilled, and just encapsulates the book’s overall feeling.

The myriad of secondary characters are great as well. Ambrose is such a little sweetie and he needs a hug. I want his story. It was nice seeing the other characters from Love’s New Beginnings and Forgotten Memories again. Reverend Solomon is as wise as ever, Lydie is still so kind and caring, Annie and Caleb are now three, soon to be four, times busier (you’ll understand when you read this book), and Charlotte is Charlotte. I think her story is next, and I really want it. Really, really want it.

Ina, Pritchard, Hank, Frank, Winslow, and the others were good as well. Pritchard had me laughing almost every time. And the antagonists were well-written too. Nasty sots. They deserved their comeuppance.

True to Zeller’s style, a deep amount of faith is woven in, and in such a beautiful manner as well. This is not a book for those who detest Scripture and characters who are unafraid to obey the Bible and share about their faith. It’s also not a book for those who only want watered-down faith. Zeller is bold and firm in the incorporation, and I can’t applaud that enough.

There is nothing objectionable. Emotional abuse is alluded to, as are a few instances of physical. Characters are shot, there are mentions of robberies, and arson is committed. Zeller stays true to her style and writes a book that is pleasing and God-honoring and which contains no cringe-worthy content.

True to Zeller’s style, the romance is wonderfully clean, which I so appreciate. I don’t have to have my eyes pop out at unexpected–and unnecessary–content, and it’s just lovely and pure and God-honoring. I’ve been seeing many historicals become too lustful, and I am grateful to report this is not one of those. This is an example of how a Godly marriage should be, even if it comes about in an unconventional way. No nasty sex scenes, no lewd comments, no lust. Just a wonderful romance I can read without cringing.

With a delightful blend of faith, God-honoring romance, a great plot, and humor, Zeller once again brings us a book that deserves to be on everyone’s TBR. You will laugh, cry, shout in anger at the villains, and urge the main characters toward triumph as you immerse yourself in this book.

I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again: this is my favorite of Zeller’s books.

Dreams of the Heart is a captivating, lovely story that will capture you within its pages and keep you reading–and wishing for more.

*I received an eARC of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.

Isn’t that cover just gorgeous? It’s so soft and gentle and matches the story perfectly.

What about this book piques your interest? Is Christian historical romance one of your favorite genres, or are you more partial to others?

Review: The Tethered World

Title: The Tethered World (The Tethered World Chronicles, Book One)

Author: Heather L.L. FitzGerald

Genre: Fantasy

Publisher: Mountain Brook Ink (Please keep in mind Mountain Brook no longer publishes Christian spec fic.)

Available: Wherever books are sold



“Normal” means different things to different people.

For sixteen-year-old Sadie Larcen, family dynamics look a little different than most. Parents with oddball occupations? Normal. Five homeschooled siblings—one with autism? Normal.

Police knocking on the door and parents gone missing? Definitely not normal!

When Sadie uncovers the reasons behind her parents’ disappearance and the truth about her heritage, she despairs of ever feeling normal again. Especially when she learns that her mother’s interest in Bigfoot, Dwarves, and other lore extends beyond her popular blog. Sadie’s family has been entrusted with keeping the secrets of the Tethered World—home to creatures that once roamed the Garden of Eden.

Sadie and her siblings must venture into this land to rescue their parents. Stepping out of reality and into a world she never knew existed is a journey Sadie fears and resents. But she chooses to risk all to save her family.

She’s just not sure she will survive in the process.


5 Stars


Whowzers. Um, okay. What was this, my fifth time reading The Tethered World? And I’m still mourning the end of the book even though I know where the series goes.

This, my friends, is what Christian YA should be.

Urban Fantasy with a Biblical twist…kind of. It’s super unique and just fun and enjoyable. Clean, family-friendly, no amount of cringe material whatsoever, and just wholesome. Lots of adventure packed with good lessons, including the importance of family. Plus, I really liked the adoption thread, minor as it was. And the fact that we have a homeschool family as the main characters is a major YES for me.

Most homeschoolers can identify with Sadie’s exasperation at the “Oh, you’re a homeschooler?” part. I mean, come on, folks. Quit gawkin’ at us like we’re creatures from Mars. Or the Tethered World. We know how to “socialize” far better than your precious public school darlings, and I dare say we’re more intelligent over all. You know. Because our curriculum isn’t packed with nonsensical, anti-God, anti-intelligence, and anti-American garbage.

Anyway. Rant over. Needless to say, I empathized. Such stupid reactions we homeschoolers, and homeschool graduates, receive.

The Tethered World is beyond fascinating. The sheer amount of creativity FitzGerald packs into this story blew me away. Worldbuilding can become tricky when writing straight-up fantasy. But worldbuilding while tying it in with the Bible? And the real world? That’s a doozy. A doozy FitzGerald did marvelously at. You’re there in the passage ways, atop Odyssey’s back (and passing out with Sadie), and traveling to the different parts of the “World”.

Sadie’s a hoot. A sarcastic hoot. I was laughing for about half of this book due to the humor mixed in. I liked how organic her character arc was–the good, the bad, and the sassy.

Brady is great. Because I know what happens in future books, I have to say he’s my favorite. (Which ends up killing my heart in Book Three, but I’ll not go there.) An arrogant little twerp, but he learns so much during the adventure.

Sophie’s the stereotypical younger sister. I definitely empathized with Sadie about her.

Brock is Brock. Lovable because of who he is, not because he “interacts” a lot with the reader.

The myriad of supporting characters are fantastic as well. Except for the baddies. They’re not fantastic. Well, they’re fantastically nasty and evil and vile and putrid and just all-around miserable sots. It was easy to dislike them. Stinky creatures.

Faith/Spiritual Elements
Again, very organic. We learn with Sadie and we are reminded of the importance of relying on God and that He is in control no matter how dire the situation.

Many, many kudos to FitzGerlad for achieving something you rarely find in YA: a solid, nuclear family that actually loves each other. Liam and Amy’s devotion toward each other was so tender, even in the roughest moment, and I was delighted regarding Sadie and her siblings’ relationships and interactions. You don’t get that wholesomeness in most YA books, even if they’re touted as “Christian”.

Content Warnings
Characters are injured, kidnapped, smacked around, and bloodied. War and battle and their casualties are mentioned. Nasties are slain in self-defense. There’s no profanity to speak of (no pun intended) and the romance is pure and simple.

I reread this book after being exhausted by an absolutely colossal YA failure, and this is so refreshing. We need more YA authors like FitzGerald.

Like I said before, this is what YA should be. This is what Christian YA should be. Wholesome, clean, faith-filled, and just great for the entire family. The Tethered World falls into the same category as Chuck Black and Donita K. Paul: perfect for the entire crew.

If you want an excellent book that defies the typical YA boundaries, incorporates faith and family, and mixes in a generous heaping of adventure and hints of romance, The Tethered World is the book for you.