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.


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: Love’s New Beginnings

Where it all began…

Book: Love’s New Beginnings (Wyoming Sunrise, Prequel)

Author: Penny Zeller

Genre: Christian Historical Romance


Where it all began…

Lydie Beauchamp recently moved with her aunts—sisters Myrtle and Fern—to the untamed Wyoming Territory. When a teaching position in nearby Willow Falls captures her attention, can she leave her aunts, one of whom just suffered a broken heart, and embark on this new adventure? Will she find the courage to persevere in the midst of challenges, one being a handsome challenge named Solomon Eliason?

Reverend Solomon Eliason has the goal of making a difference. Hired as the pastor of Willow Falls, he must convince the congregation that he is able to undertake the role of a reverend. When he’s nominated to be the adult in charge of the annual prank tradition at the school, he embraces the idea, thinking the new teacher will be an elderly crotchety woman like his former teacher. What he doesn’t realize until it’s too late is that the teacher is far from crotchety and elderly.

When Lydie’s and Solomon’s paths cross in an unexpected way during the prank tradition at the Willow Falls school, can Solomon redeem himself in the eyes of the lovely new teacher?

Take a glimpse into where it all began with Lydie and Solomon’s story in this tender tale that reminds us that God can and does use willing hearts for His purposes.


5 Stars


What a sweet beginning to the Wyoming Sunrise series!

Love’s New Beginnings introduces the reader to Lydie and Solomon, who are integral secondary characters in the novel, Forgotten Memories. Following Zeller’s customary writing style of faith, humor, and romance, the reader is treated to a novella that will repeatedly make them go, “awww!”

The characters are darling. I empathized with Lydie and Solomon is just a sweetheart. I enjoyed learning about how their arcs were formed and how they were molded into the way they are in FM. There is a well-formed string of secondary characters too. Some will make you snort in amusement. Others will have you eyeing them and wondering if they’ll ever come around. And there are a few who will make you want to crack a slate over their heads Anne-of-Green-Gables style.

The plot is sweet. We follow Lydie and Solomon through a hilarious misunderstanding, their insecurities, and their attempts to settle into a Wild West town.

The setting is well-done too. I could picture myself on the stagecoach (though I was grateful I wasn’t actually on the stagecoach), at the school, in the town, and so forth.

In short, Love’s New Beginnings is a tender, gentle, faith-filled romance that will sweep the reader into the world of two uncertain characters and the captivating Wyoming Sunrise series.

*I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review. The opinions expressed herein are my own.

Cover Reveal: Love’s New Beginnings

Where it all began…

Today I am posting the reveal of a prequel for one of my favorite historical romance series: Wyoming Sunrise by Penny Zeller.


Take a glimpse into where it all began with Lydie and Reverend Solomon’s story in this tender novella releasing just in time for Christmas.

If you loved Forgotten Memories and you’re anticipating Dreams of the Heart, travel to the Wyoming Territory where new beginnings abound in the town of Willow Falls.

Full description coming soon. Stay tuned!

Releases: December 13, 2022

Free Book Alert

Love from Afar by Penny Zeller is free on Kindle today and tomorrow only. Click here for the Amazon link.


What happens when two little sisters become self-appointed matchmakers?

Best friends Tillie and Lula are tired of watching Tillie’s older sister and Lula’s older brother admire each other from afar. Determined to bring their siblings together, they hatch a most brilliant plan. After all, it’s perfectly acceptable to indulge in mischief if it’s for a good cause, right?

Meredith Waller has an excellent reputation as a wedding dress seamstress in the frontier town of Ellis Creek in 1880s Montana Territory. There’s just one problem: all of the wedding dresses she has sewn have been for others. The eligible bachelor options—or at least decent eligible bachelor options—are next to nil in Ellis Creek, and Meredith worries spinsterhood is God’s plan for her.

Gabe Kleeman has recently returned to Ellis Creek. In those three years away, his affection for Meredith Waller, a woman he’s admired from a distance since their former school days, has remained steadfast. But Meredith doesn’t know Gabe exists, and if he doesn’t figure out a way to use the mouth God gave him to tell her his intentions, Meredith may never know.

Can Tillie and Lula’s clandestine plot bring two lonely hearts together?


Penny Zeller is known for her heartfelt stories of faith and her passion to impact lives for Christ through fiction. While she has had a love for writing since childhood, she began her adult writing career penning articles for national and regional publications on a wide variety of topics.

Today Penny is a multi-published author of several inspirational books. She is also a homeschool mom and a group fitness instructor. Her desire is to assist and nurture women into a closer relationship with Christ.

When Penny is not dreaming up new characters, she enjoys spending time with her husband and two daughters, camping, hiking, canoeing, biking, reading, running, gardening, and playing volleyball.

She is represented by Tamela Hancock Murray of the Steve Laube Agency and loves to hear from her readers at her website, and on Facebook at

The Secret Admirer Romance Collection

Can concealed love be revealed in 9 historical novellas?

Authors: Amanda Barratt, Lorraine Beatty, Molly Noble Bull, Anita Mae Draper, CJ Dunham, Jennifer Uhlarik, Becca Whitman, Kathleen Y’ Barbo, Penny Zeller

Genre: Historical Romance

Publisher: Barbour

Length: 447 pages


Shy Expressions of Love Lead to Nine Historical Romances

Declaring one’s love can be hard—even risky—especially when faced with some of life’s greatest challenges. Separated by class, time, distance, and more, some loves must remain secret until the time is right. Instead, notes of affection, acts of kindness, gifts of admiration, and lots of prayer are circulated. From New England mansions to homestead hovels, love is quietly being nourished and waiting for the right time to be revealed. But when love can finally be boldly expressed, will it be received by love in return?

Reviewer’s Note: Due to this being a collection, I will provide individual ratings and thoughts on each novella before resuming my typical review format.

The Cost of a Heart by Amanda Barratt – Newport, Rhode Island, 1897
Nathaniel Evans has stood by Lily Montgomery through a broken marriage and the death of her husband. On the eve of her return into social life, he battles his attraction to her. But he is a servant, she a socialite.

Rating: 4 Stars

Thoughts: This is a sweet, faith-filled story with a good message about how only God’s approval matters – not society’s approval or disapproval regarding how our appearance aligns with its demands. I appreciated that Lily didn’t have the typical heroine build of slim and perfectly-proportioned. It was refreshing.


The Advocate by Lorraine Beatty – East Texas, 1881
Hannah Davis tries to get Mitch Kincaid, the man she secretly admires, elected sheriff by printing anonymous articles about his qualifications and sterling character. But will the truth win his heart or break hers?

Rating: 4 Stars

Thoughts: The Advocate discusses vote purchasing, which was when a politician bribed folks to vote for him by purchasing their vote. I found this interesting. The characters are well-developed and the plot fun. I did think Hannah a bit immature in the beginning, but she quickly grew on me. I enjoyed her tenacity and Mitch’s aloof grumpiness. I’ll definitely be investigating more books by Lorraine Beatty.


Too Many Secrets by Molly Noble Bull – Frio-Corners, Texas, 1882
Abigail Willoughby hides her feelings for Luke Conquest, the handsome cowboy who introduced her to her mail-order husband. How could she have guessed that her future husband was ninety-years-old?  

Rating: 2.5 Stars

Thoughts: This has an interesting premise of a mail-order bride whose future husband has hidden his age from her. But it just wasn’t delivered well. While this certainly had potential, the writing felt stilted and the characters awkward in their interactions with each other. The conversations also felt dry. I just couldn’t get into it.


Love in Store by Anita Mae Draper – Miles City, Montana, 1890
Hidden love notes hint at what’s in store for a reserved shopkeeper when a straight-talking spinster sneaks anonymous declarations of her affections among the shelves of his store.

Rating: 5 Stars

Thoughts: What happens when a reticent shopkeeper meets a straight-shooting young lady intent on making her affections know? Confusion, chaos, and humor. Despite the word count limit, the author did exceptionally well in developing character arcs, not only for the main characters, but secondary ones as well. Adam’s descriptions (e.g. “gaggle of women”, “catering to little vixens”) are hilarious and Janet’s straightforward ways are endearing. Touching moments, endeavors to build a list of eligible bachelors, and a beautiful faith message also earn this novella its five-star rating. Anita Mae Draper is another author whose books I’ll be looking into.


The Last Letter by CJ Dunham – Kansas,1865
The Civil War has taken everyone Emilia Davis loves. When she receives her dead fiancé’s last letter, she embarks on a journey into the Kansas frontier to fulfill his last wish. So who is sending her anonymous gifts?

Rating: 5

Thoughts: This was excellent. Emilia’s journey kept me eager to continue reading. Her faith, the hero’s sacrifice, and the plot were executed so well. What most endeared me to this novella was the strong adoption theme. Emilia’s determination and love for little Josiah is touching and elicits a lot of feels. I also liked how the importance of the heart over physical attraction was embedded in the story. This is another author whose books I’ll be looking into.


The Outcast’s Redemption by Jennifer Uhlarik – Blackwater, Texas, 1872
When a reformed rustler is framed for stealing cattle, his secret crush—the daughter of the disgraced lawman who arrested him—comes to his aid. But who really saves who?

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Thoughts: This novella is what hooked me on Jennifer Uhlarik’s writing. The plot is decidedly unique, the characters excellent, and the baddies chillingly evil. This was another novella where a lot happened in a short word count. This is packed with action, the struggle of forgiveness and redemption, and a sweet love story. The only complaint I have is Lucky’s use of whilst. For a man whose vernacular includes typical western speech, like ain’t, whole mess of, and sweetest gal, the use of whilst fit neither the story nor character.


Beside Still Waters by Becca Whitham – Lawton, Oklahoma, 1901
Sarah Maffey is receiving worrisome letters that make her feel vulnerable. Her handsome neighbor has vowed to keep her safe. . .or is he playing her for a fool?

Rating: 5 Stars

Thoughts: Besides Still Waters earns the reward for having the most humor. Sarah is a fun heroine, her feisty spirit, naivete about horses and plowing, and her hilarious commentary – both internal and aloud – had me laughing. This is a different spin on love letters from a secret admirer, and I liked the direction it was taken. I’ll definitely be adding more of this author’s books to my TBR.


The Princess of Polecat Creek by Kathleen Y’Barbo – Texas and Washington, DC, 1886
Scandal divided them. Two kidnappings and a wedding later, can a Texas cowboy turned Washington lawyer and the girl-next-door who secretly loved him since childhood save their marriage of inconvenience?

Rating: 2.5 Stars

Thoughts: This was another one I couldn’t bring myself to like. There are funny parts, and the shenanigans employed to steal Pearl from the train are amusing, but I just wasn’t impressed. Pearl is rather annoying, though her stubbornness makes her a more likable character than Deke, whom I found conniving, selfish, and overbearing. Other readers really liked this story, and you may as well, but I could barely finish it. It had potential, and I don’t know if it was just the execution of the story or the off-putting main characters, but Y’Barbo’s style and I don’t get along, it seems.


Love From Afar by Penny Zeller – Ellis Creek, Montana, 1880s
When secret love letters are written in a clandestine plot to bring two lonely hearts together, will love from a distance finally bloom into matrimonial bliss for Gabe and Meredith?

Rating: 5 Stars

Thoughts: No, the rating’s not because I’m biased. It’s because Love From Afar fully deserves five stars. Gabe and Meredith are endearing characters. Gabe is a reserved, tongue-tied mess around the extroverted Meredith who wishes he’d say more than two words to her. The clandestine plot and its instigators are the funniest, though. As an older sister, I could sympathize with Gabe and Meredith as they found themselves baffled and hesitant – at first – participants in a scheme cooked up by two mischievous best friends. Well-written, hilarious, and enjoyable.

Faith Elements:

God’s faithfulness is mentioned; characters, pray, mention Biblical characters, and discuss trusting God; the Bible is quoted; characters attend church; there are strong redemption and salvation messages.


A character dies from being thrown from a horse; the Civil War’s casualties are mentioned; a store is robbed; a character suffers PTSD flashbacks and nightmares; President Lincoln’s assassination is implied; a child is kidnapped; a character’s past is brought up; characters are shot; a character is injured by sabotage; characters are murdered.


Infidelity is implied and witnessed; characters kiss; a character once drank and smoked; a woman is called an adulteress and the Scarlet Letter is referenced; a character drinks themselves to death.

Overall Rating:

5 Stars