Book Review: The Secret of Pembrooke Park by Julie Klassen


Publication Date: December 2014

Publisher:  Bethany House

Pages:  460

Synopsis from Goodreads:

Julie Klassen Is the Top Name in Inspirational regency Romance

Abigail Foster fears she will end up a spinster, especially as she has little dowry to improve her charms and the one man she thought might marry her–a longtime friend–has fallen for her younger, prettier sister.
When financial problems force her family to sell their London home, a strange solicitor arrives with an astounding offer: the use of a distant manor house abandoned for eighteen years. The Fosters journey to imposing Pembrooke Park and are startled to find it entombed as it was abruptly left: tea cups encrusted with dry tea, moth-eaten clothes in wardrobes, a doll’s house left mid-play . . .

The handsome local curate welcomes them, but though he and his family seem to know something about the manor’s past, the only information they offer Abigail is a warning: Beware trespassers who may be drawn by rumors that Pembrooke contains a secret room filled with treasure.

Hoping to improve her family’s financial situation, Abigail surreptitiously searches for the hidden room, but the arrival of anonymous letters addressed to her, with clues about the room and the past, bring discoveries even more startling. As secrets come to light, will Abigail find the treasure and love she seeks…or very real danger?

My Review:

This book is so reminiscent to the great writings of Jane Austen!  Abigail is the more mature daughter, helping her father make business decisions and worrying with him about the lifestyle that her mother and younger sister are accustomed to.  Due to some financial ventures gone wrong, the family must move to meager accommodations.  Thankfully, they receive a letter from a family member, allowing the family to move into the house at Pembrooke Park.  However, the house has not been lived in for 18 years and Abigail has agreed to oversee the cleaning, before her family moves in.

Abigail willingly goes to help clean the house, while her younger sister stays behind to prepare for her season.  Sadly, Abigail finds out that the young man she had hoped to one day marry has eyes set on her younger sister.  Brokenhearted, Abigail heads over to the new property, where her own adventures begin.

This book has mystery, charm, secrets, friendships forged with some renewed, and love.  There are so many layers to this book, with the reader not knowing what is happening alongside Abigail.  Who can she trust? Who is the man with the green cloak walking in the middle of the night? What are those noises she keeps hearing at night? Is there a treasure hidden within the home or on the property? Will Abigail find true love?

True to form, Julie Klassen shares Biblical truths sprinkled throughout the book, which was quite relevant to the storyline.  However, those truths can be applied to those today.  I loved the storyline and found myself quite immersed in what was happening.  I didn’t try to guess who had bad intentions and who was really trying to be helpful.  It helped me to just enjoy the story without trying to get ahead of myself.  Every mystery will be solved (or at least addressed), so sit back and just enjoy the way the story unfolds.  It’s definitely one of my favorite books from Julie Klassen, with The Apothecary’s Daughter being my absolute favorite!

This book won’t be available in print until December 2, 2015.   However, it is available in e-format today! This is the perfect read during the Thanksgiving break.  After all, wouldn’t you rather curl up with a great book instead of being pounced on during Black Friday?

supreme cupcake rating 6

*A huge thanks to Bethany House and NetGalley for giving me the opportunity to read and review this book.  No forms of compensation were given.

Want to win the book, plus a couple of other great historical fiction stories?  Author, Julie Klassen and a couple of other authors are hosting a giveaway!  Click here for details.






Quick Reads-Short Reviews!

Don’t you just love reading books that are so easy to read, quite engaging, and is the kind of book that you can get lost in?  These are those kind of books!  So good, that you are finished before you know it, and miss the characters once you’ve turned to the last page.

Release Date: January 21, 2014
Pages: 320
Publisher: Gallery Books
Source: NetGalley

Synopsis: from Goodreads:

Molly is a thirty-nine-year-old divorced writer living in New York City who wants her own column, a Wikipedia entry, and to never end up in her family’s Long Island upholstery business.  For the past four years Molly’s been on staff at Eye Spy, covering all the wacky assignments.  She’s snuck vibrators through security scanners, speed-dated undercover, danced with Rockettes, and posed nude for a Soho art studio.

Fearless in everything except love, Molly is now dating a forty-four-year-old chiropractor.  He’s comfortable, but safe.  When Molly is assigned to write a piece about New York City romance “in the style of Nora Ephron,” she flunks out big time.  Clearly she can’t recognize romance.  And in her own life, she can’t recognize the one man who can go one-on-one with her, the one man whogets her.  Mainly because he’s a well-known player.

But, with help from Nora Ephron’s movies, Molly learns to open her heart, suppress her cynicism, and find her very own fairytale ending.  Linda Yellin’s “What Nora Knew” will captivate readers with its charm and humor.

My Review:

I must admit, I’ve not read any Nora Roberts’ books, but have seen her books-turned-movies:  When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle and You’ve Got Mail.  While I don’t know Nora’s writing (other than in movies), I absolutely loved Linda’s book!  It has everything a great book should have:  romance, crazy job, great friends, and moments of self-reflection for the characters.

Molly has a great job (even though she has quite a bit of Bridget Jones’ Diary moments), and a boyfriend, who is a little too eager to hand out his business card.  Molly goes to the Hamptons for her yearly vacation getaway at her friend’s house.  While there, she meets Cameron, who is quite the player and has an eye for her.  While the book is predictable, it is entertaining, fun, a feel-good kind of book, that everyone needs from time to time!  Even if you aren’t a Nora Ephron fan or read her books, like me, you will love it!  If you are a Nora Ephron fan and have read her books- you will love all the references made to her books and characters!It’s a book that had me smiling as I read certain scenes and was a story that I am sure many readers will enjoy talking about!



Release Date:  February 4, 2014

Publisher:  Bethany House Publishers

Pages: 384

Genre:  Christian Romance, Mystery fiction

Source:  NetGalley

Synopsis from Goodreads:

Allie Kirkland has never been one to take wild risks. But when she’s offered a costuming assistant’s job on a docudrama in the hills near Moses Lake, she jumps at the chance. She’s always dreamed of following in her director-father’s footsteps, and the reenactment of the legendary frontier settlement of Wildwood is a first step. The family expectations will have to wait.

But in 1861, the real Wildwood held dangerous realities. Town founder Harland Delevan held helpless residents, including young Irish schoolteacher Bonnie Rose, in an iron grip. Mysterious disappearances led to myths and legends still retold in the folk songs of Chinquapin Peaks. Eventually, the entire site was found abandoned.
When strange connections surface between Allie and the teacher who disappeared over a century ago, everyone in Wildwood, including Allie’s handsome neighbor on the film set, Blake Fulton, seems to be hiding secrets, and Allie doesn’t know who she can trust. If she can’t find the answers in time, history may repeat itself . . . with the most unthinkable results.
My Review:
This is a book that anyone could read, not just those who love Christian fiction, but mystery novels in general.  I was quite fascinated with Bonnie Rose and her sister, even though her big secret is never shared, it seems like it was some form of sexual abuse.  Told in alternating viewpoints: past/present, Allie/Bonnie Rose, the story goes pretty smoothly.  It was interesting to have a book set along the phase reality tv has in today’s world, and how much can be learned from living in the old days.  As Allie shared her stories of becoming acclimated to living in old Texas, where women had to cook, make their clothes, heat the stove, and learn to be independent in a male dominated world, she also begins to feel that she is being watched and starts to feel the same way Bonnie Rose did: unsafe.  The storyline moves slow in the beginning, as we read Allie preparing for moving to the makeshift old Texas site: Woodland Creek, and as Bonnie Rose tries to adjust to her life with her little sister.  It starts to move quite quickly and become rather interesting when Allie finds herself underground and time starts to tick away, as she realizes her life is really threatened!  The epilogue was interesting, a little too nicely wrapped, but overall was a great book!
*A HUGE thanks to NetGalley and Bethany House Publishers!

TLC Book Tours: The Dancing Master by Julie Klassen

Paperback: 432 pages

Publisher: Bethany House Publishers (January 7, 2014)
Source: TLC Book Tours & NetGalley


Finding himself the man of the family, London dancing master Alec Valcourt moves his mother and sister to remote Devonshire, hoping to start over. But he is stunned to learn the village matriarch has prohibited all dancing, for reasons buried deep in her past.

Alec finds an unlikely ally in the matriarch’s daughter. Though he’s initially wary of Julia Midwinter’s reckless flirtation, he comes to realize her bold exterior disguises a vulnerable soul–and hidden sorrows of her own.

Julia is quickly attracted to the handsome dancing master–a man her mother would never approve of–but she cannot imagine why Mr. Valcourt would leave London, or why he evades questions about his past. With Alec’s help, can Julia uncover old secrets and restore life to her somber village…and to her mother’s tattered heart?

My Review:

The first book I ever read from Julie Klassen was, “The Apothecary’s Daughter”.  I fell in love with the characters and loved the way in which she wrote Christian fiction with Regency romance combined.  So, I was quite excited to learn she had a new book out, which actually was released for publication on January 7, 2014.

The premise was a bit familiar, as I had flashbacks of the movie, Footloose (the original).  I kept picturing Kevin Bacon as Alec and Julia as Lori Singer.  The preacher is Julia’s mother (Amelia Midwinter), of course.

Back to the story: Alec is back with his mother and trying to establish his business. The problem: he is a dance instructor in a town that forbids dancing.  With a few clients, he begins teaching dancing, as well as fencing, in a town that is skeptical of him and his intentions.

Julie Klassen is a perfectionist when it comes to detail.  She describes the small town so vividly and the characters are so well developed, that it easy to fall in love with Alec and seem a little put off by the childish ways of Julia.  Julia is used to being the center of attention and having many suitors, however she is challenged by Alec, who refuses to become just another suitor and ruin any chances of helping his family financially.

This is a slow, simmer read.  It takes time for the story to develop, as the characters slowly reveal themselves to the reader, but it is a book worth reading. If you love Regency romance, Christian fiction, or both, then you will love this story.  In true fashion to Julie Klassen’s writing, Christianity isn’t pored through every page.  Rather, lessons are taught, and God’s grace is shown, through the trials the characters face.

*This book was provided by Bethany House, through TLC Book Tours and NetGalley.

About Julie Klassen

Julie Klassen loves all things Jane–Jane Eyre and Jane Austen. A graduate of the University of Illinois, Julie worked in publishing for sixteen years and now writes full time. She has won the Christy Award: Historical Romance for The Silent Governess (2010) and The Girl in the Gatehouse (2011) which also won the 2010 Midwest Book Award for Genre Fiction. Julie and her husband have two sons and live in a suburb of St. Paul, Minnesota.

Connect with Julie:  



Julie Klassen’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS:

Monday, January 6th:  A Chick Who Reads

Tuesday, January 7th:  Reviews from the Heart

Wednesday, January 8th:  Books in the Burbs

Thursday, January 9th:  Christian Bookshelf Reviews

Thursday, January 9th:  Worthy 2 Read

Monday, January 13th:  Let Them Read Books – review

Tuesday, January 14th:  Let Them Read Books – interview/giveaway

Wednesday, January 15th:  Luxury Reading

Thursday, January 16th:  Kahakai Kitchen

Monday, January 20th:  Lavish Bookshelf

Tuesday, January 21st:  Melina’s Book Reviews

Wednesday, January 22nd:  Broken Teepee

Thursday, January 23rd:  Bookfoolery

Monday, January 27th:  WV Stitcher

Tuesday, January 28th:  Deb’s Book Bag

Wednesday, January 29th:  The Overweight Bookshelf

Thursday, January 30th:  Mom in Love with Fiction

Wrapping It Up for 2013!

wrapped book

I can’t believe that 2013 has come to an end.  It’s been a hectic year, a year full of wonderful beginnings and endings, and some great books that have made this year even better!

My daughter started prek this year, my oldest son is in his last year of high school, my husband had sinus surgery-turned hospitalization from anesthesia, remodeled our home, younger son took drivers ed, we adopted 2 brother pups, and I started on a road to healthier living-down 25 pounds so far!

So, that’s a very quick, very simplistic narrowing down of my year for 2013.  Now, let’s talk books!

Please click on each book to read the synopsis!

This is a story that is riveting, as it will keep you engaged the whole time and you will not want to put the book down, until you turn the last page.  Even then, you will wonder about the characters in the book.  It’s a story that easily could have turned a bit paranormal, a bit scary, even a bit too predicatable.  However, Kristina McMorris takes you to the very edge of the cliff, only to bring you back in for more.

It’s told through the alternating voices and time periods.  One is a widowed mother of a young son, the other is a the grieving, heartsick young lover of a solider.  Both of their stories will intersect at one point in the story, but not until you’ve truly become immersed in their stories.  While both stories have a sense of urgency, the story doesn’t feel rushed, or drawn out.  Rather, it has a very beautiful balance of expectation and being in the present.

I loved this story and appreciated the way a story in history was recreated in a way that shows the vulnerability and endurance that true love has: one for a man, the other for a son.

*This book was provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.


I absolutely loved this story!! It had me from page 1, literally.  First of all, I want to live on a house boat, or at least stay in one for a week.  Secondly, the mystery and love story is absolutely beautiful.  Sarah Jio does not disappoint her readers, new and established fans of her work.

Sarah has a gift of storytelling, and this is one of her best ones by far.  Told in alternating voices and timelines, the reader will be introduced to Ada ( a widow, who also loses her daughter), and Penny ( a lonely wife of an artist).  It is a story of love, loss, feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt.  However, as the flower itself: morning glory, the spirit cannot be truly broken and new life always springs up.

It’s such a beautiful and tragic tale, that it left me truly missing the characters of the story at the end.  Sarah Jio is a talented writer, who can write a character that readers will recognize, sympathize with, and feel connected to.  This is a must read and should be on everyone’s TBR list for 2014!

 *This book was provided by the publisher, through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.


This is a sweet story, about love and new beginnings.  It is during a time when women had to do as they were told, with the exception of this one great heroine: Cora Kensington.  Because this is the 3rd book in the series, I had a very difficult time truly appreciating the characters and their stories.  It’s not a stand alone book, in my opinion, and should only be read after reading the first 2 books in the series.  It will be easier to understand Cora’s decision to return to the US and her decision to stray from what is expected of her with marriage and business.  It is a good story and I am sure readers following the series will absolutely love Cora’s journey to the States.

*This book was provided by the publisher, through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.


I’m always leery to read books that everyone has read and raved about.  I know….I’m weird that way.  It’s just that I don’t starting a book with high expectations, that I am just so disappointed and wished I had just not opened the book.  However, this is one that will not disappoint!! I loved every bit of this story, cried, laughed, and as a mom of 2 teenagers, I could completely relate with the parents and hear my kids saying some of the things Hazel, Gus, and Ozzie say.  The story is so realistic, the emotions are so raw and revealing, and it’s a story that needed to be told in a way that readers can resonate with the characters and perhaps, be a little kinder and befriend someone battling an illness.  Because, if anything can be learned from this story, it is that “cancer” doesn’t define the person.  I read this book in 2 evenings, and researched Esther Earl, too.  While the story isn’t about her, John Green was inspired by her outlook on life, as she fought cancer and lived her life as best as she could.  I don’t know how a movie will be able to recreate the magic in the story, so that is a huge feat the director is taking on.  Nonetheless, read this book!

*I purchased this book, because it was a really great deal for $2.99.  P.S. Don’t let the cover dissuade you from buying the book.  The cover doesn’t do the story justice!


Book Winner for Someone Else’s Love Story by Joshilyn Jackson is:

Angela J.

End of Year Reflection:

It has been a very challenging, but blessed week for us. My husband was hospitalized from a severe reaction to anesthesia and it was very emotional, very difficult to watch him in pain, and a lot of balancing the home, helping keep our children at peace, and relying on family.  I write that it was a blessing, because out of the worst case scenario for an outpatient procedure my husband had, something beautiful happened.  His family came together and they all reconnected in a way that has been truly missed.  It was wonderful to see my children with their uncles and grandparents, and it was wonderful to know that we weren’t alone in this minute by minute, day by day, stand-by. 

We also met some fantastic people, who are just so inspirational and full of love for Christ.  Christmas was spent in the hospital, but we all learned that it isn’t where you are, or what you do, it is who you are with that matters most.  Our children spent Christmas with me and their daddy at the hospital, and we were so thankful for the precious nurses and hospital staff, who worked that day with a cheerfulness that helps patients feel calmer.  Carolers came by the unit, a mom with her children handed out stuffed animals, and my husband was surrounded by his brothers and parents, too. 

Family.  It’s important that we make time for another.  Friends.  It is so important to not be afraid to reach out and ask for help.  Health.  Wow.  Never take anything for granted.  In the end, God granted our Christmas wish.  My husband was sent home without further surgery a couple of days ago and we get to spend the New Years together, at home. 

I hope everyone has a safe New Year’s Eve and that you are surrounded by family, friends, and much love.  Most importantly, that you are surrounded by a great book, or two!

P.S. My top books for 2013 will be posted soon.  Stay tuned, as there will a book giveaway, too!

 Wishing you a wonderful new year,


Review: The One Year Book of Amish Peace: Hearing God’s Voice in the Simple Things by Tricia Goyer

Click on the pic to read a sample!

Click on the pic to read a sample!

Book Information:

Pages: 384 pages

Published:  Tyndale House Publishers,  September 20th 2013


In our instantly connected world, it’s surprisingly easy to lose our connection to God. This devotional taps Amish wisdom in order to help us draw closer to God and hear his voice. In “The One Year Book of Amish Peace,” you’ll get a daily taste of Amish values and wisdom. Tricia Goyer shares her fascination with the Amish in a way that will inspire and encourage believers to carve out more time in each day to listen to God and experience his presence. This daily devotional contains interesting facts about the Amish, recipes, and information about the way the Amish handle money, rear their children, and center their lives on faith in God. You’ll be inspired to slow down and find ways to simplify so that you, too, can experience God in the ordinary.

My Review:

Let’s face it, there are devotionals for any topic, any gender, any age, any religion…sold every year.  So, what makes Tricia Goyer’s a stand-out above the rest???  First, if you are a reader-who loves Christian fiction, Contemporary fiction, Women’s fiction, love the simplicity of the good ole’ days, love the Amish culture, wish you could scale back on the demands of this contemporary, every so fast world….then you will want to pick up this book.  Now, I am the first to tell you, I love e-books.  As a matter of fact, I prefer them to any hardback/paperback and will often turn down reviews if they are not in e-format.  However, this is a book that you will to feel, highlight, use as a companion to your Bible, and paperback is the way to go.

I absolutely love the layout of this incredibly, beautiful, and well written devotional.  It is dated, so you can use it based on the day of each week, on any year.  However, if you are like me-I like to start from the beginning, and that is fine, too.  Each devotional starts with a scripture, some personal insight from Tricia, and ends in a prayer.  Then, on the side bar, there is a little tidbit of Amish culture, faith, and tradition.  The scriptures are very readable, no “thou” or “thy”, very contemporary and so relatable to any person reading and applying this devotional.

I HIGHLY suggest this devotional as a gift for any occasion, a must have for your daily reading, and perhaps to use as a group study because the insight is so contemporary that you will want to discuss it with someone.  If nothing else, to journal about.

*This book was provided by Tyndale House Publishers, in exchange for an honest review.

     Click here to read more about the author, Tricia Goyer!

SimpleAmishRecipes (2)

*Don’t forget to enter my book giveaway, Joshilyn Jackson’s, Someone Else’s Love Story!

Review: Reinventing Rachel by Alison Strobel


God let Rachel Westing down. For twenty-six years she’s done everything by the book; she figures He should have her back. But then she learns her fiancé is cheating on her. Her parents are getting a divorce. And her Christian mentor has a pill addiction. Where is God in all this? Nowhere, as far as Rachel can see. Wounded, bitter, and with a shattered faith, she quits her job and moves across the country to live with Daphne—her childhood best friend whose soul Rachel once thought she was meant to save.

Confident, successful, fun-loving Daphne sets about helping Rachel reinvent herself, and for a while it’s exciting. But when another tragedy shakes Rachel to the core, what little bit of self-possession she has left begins to unravel. A true-to-life story that will draw you in and keep you biting your nails until the end.

My Review:

This is a Christian fiction book, definitely geared towards a YA audience.  However, as someone a smidge beyond young adult, I also enjoyed the storyline.  There are quite a few issues Rachel faces and it’s through her eyes, we read her struggles and her anger towards God.  I thought this book could definitely help those facing similar issues and how inspite of ourselves, God does not abandon us.  While I would have liked a little more storyline after Daphne’s hospitalization and aftermath, the author did a nice wrap up and bring closure to issues Rachel was still faced with.  I highly recommend this book to those who love a great Christian fiction read with some real life issues many people face today.

Review: She Makes It Look Easy by Marybeth Whalen


Ariel Baxter has just moved into the neighborhood of her dreams. The chaos of domestic life and the loneliness of motherhood, however, moved with her. Then she meets her neighbor, Justine Miller. Justine ushers Ariel into a world of clutter-free houses, fresh-baked bread, homemade crafts, neighborhood playdates, and organization techniques designed to make marriage better and parenting manageable.
Soon Ariel realizes there is hope for peace, friendship, and clean kitchen counters. But when rumors start to circulate about Justine’s real home life, Ariel must choose whether to believe the best about the friend she admires or consider the possibility that “perfection” isn’t always what it seems to be.
A novel for every woman who has looked at another woman’s life and said, “I want what she has,” She Makes It Look Easy reminds us of the danger of pedestals and the beauty of authentic friendship.
My Review:
Everyone knows someone who seems like she has it all together, is always dressed so nicely, make-up on, hair done, Bible in hand or scriptures ready to share, a clean house, baked break or cookies in the oven, and a seemingly perfect life.  At least, I can think of a few people in my own life that seem that way to me.  Now, that is not to say that they are probably a Justine…with skeletons in their closet and secretly unhappy.  However, I have often wondered, “what’s it really like?”.
If you know someone like that and feel complete opposite, then you will certainly resonate with this book. If you don’t know someone like that, or perhaps you are a Justine-strong A type personality then you will certainly enjoy this book, too.  Overall, this is a story that takes us behind closed doors, where church members don’t have access, where the process to do everything perfectly isn’t always shared…only the end results-perfection!
I loved this book and could relate to Ariel as she tries to keep up with the Joneses, so to speak, in a spiritual and Godly way.  Her dream is to move into this posh neighborhood, Essex Falls, and she begins working as a freelance photographer to help save money for the move.  Her husband, ever so frugal, really doesn’t want to move because it will mean that he will need to take another higher paying job and be away from the family more.   However, Ariel soon gets her wish and moves into the neighborhood of her dreams where children play and parents have neighborhood parties.  Living behind the main neighbor in charge of these soiree’s, Ariel soon begins to feel inadequate as she tries to maintain a clean home, bake bread and cookies, and manage her children, all with a gorgeous smile and crisp clothes.  Justine invites her to a church meeting, where Justine discusses Godly orderliness and Ariel finds herself trying to emulate Justine at home and in the neighborhood.  However, nothing is ever as it truly seems.
While Justine is painting this perfect picture of a Godly household, inside, she is hurt and angry, feels empty in her marriage, and soon seeks solace in the arms of an old flame.  Marybeth gets so deep into the minds and thoughts of the characters, that the scenarios and actions of each character seem so real and authentic.  Both Justine and Ariel have decisions they have to make and decide where their loyalties lie, and determine the fate of their friendship and of their marriages.  This is an excellent story and gives great discussion opportunities for a church reading group and book club.  I loved this book and would highly recommend it to anyone that enjoys Christian fiction.
5 plus more