You Might Be a Book Nerd…

1. If your favorite people are fictional.

Not that all book nerds are introverts like me, but there are some days I prefer my fictional friends over the people I deal with in reality. Do you hear me?

2. If you experience something in real life, and it makes you think of a scene in a book.

Ok, this might remind you of a movie (think a book-nerdy Meg Ryan), but it is so true! We get to experience so many things in different times and even different worlds by reading. But isn’t funny when something we’ve already experienced while reading shows up in real life, too? It’s a strange form of Deja Vu.

3. If you don’t believe in having too many books.

I mean, you can always buy more bookshelves. So, why not hit the local thrift store or cruise the latest sale at your favorite bookstore? You will read it eventually. You will. I promise.

4. If you believe you were born in the wrong century/world.

adam-chang-494834-unsplashNow, this can apply so many directions. Whether you love historical fiction or sci-fi/fantasy, there’s probably a genre/time period you prefer above all others. I know my favorite time period is during the Civil War and a couple of decades after. (I LOVE me some transcontinental railroad. I want to ride on a steam engine!) I’d love to experience what it was like during those tumultuous years. But I may not last more than a few days before missing some of the basic modern conveniences, like taking a shower.

5. If you have a book boyfriend. Or two. Or three! (Because Mr. Darcy is always #1, right?)

Ask your significant other if you have a book boyfriend. I dare you! When I did, my husband rolled his eyes and listed them. Ha! (They pay more attention than you think!)

6. If every room in your house has at least one stack of books.

Guilty. And yes, I incorporate them into the decor. Doesn’t everyone?gaelle-marcel-8992-unsplash

7. If people know not to bother you while you’re reading.

Under a fuzzy blanket, sipping tea with a book in your hand….you’re basically projecting a sign saying ‘back off!”

8. If no one wants to go to the bookstore with you.

It. Will. Take. Hours.

9. If you knock over your TBR stack at least once a week.

And you remind yourself, again, you will read them all. Eventually.

10. If you use the hashtag, #booknerd, frequently.

You know what they say…the first step is admitting you have a problem…

Book Review: On a Summer Tide and a Giveaway!

Has your family ever experienced an event so momentous, it changed the course and dynamic of your lives? Mine has. When my grandmother passed away, our family kind of felt adrift. She was the rock on which the foundations of our relationships were laid. And after she passed into the next life, we quickly found our connections crumbling.

It took more effort to stay connected. There was no excuse to all gather in one place. No big Christmas. Or Sunday dinner. No more family birthdays. We were all busy with our own lives. It made the loss of such a wonderful woman in my life even more tragic.

So, I can identify with the Grayson family in On a Summer Tide. They are struggling. Each of them is trying to find their own way after their mother passed away, but they find themselves getting farther apart. Life is getting in the way.

Paul, the patriarch, believes there is hope for his family, for his three adult daughters to reconnect. And I found myself rooting for them because of my own personal experience. In the years since my grandmother’s death, my family has started to reconnect. It takes intention, but it’s worth it.

About the Book

Book: On a Summer Tide

Author: Suzanne Woods Fisher

Genre: Christian Fiction Romance

Release Date: April 30, 2019

On a Summer Tide Cover

Sometimes love hurts—and sometimes it can heal in the most unexpected way.

Camden Grayson loves her challenging career, but the rest of her life could use some improvement. “Moving on” is Cam’s mantra. But there’s a difference, her two sisters insist, between one who moves on . . . and one who keeps moving.

Cam’s full-throttle life skids to a stop when her father buys a remote island off the coast of Maine. Paul Grayson has a dream to breathe new life into the island—a dream that includes reuniting his estranged daughters. Certain Dad has lost his mind, the three sisters rush to the island. To Cam’s surprise, the slow pace of island life appeals to her, along with the locals—and one in particular. Seth Walker, the scruffy island schoolteacher harbors more than a few surprises.

With On a Summer Tide, bestselling author Suzanne Woods Fisher begins a brand-new contemporary romance series that is sure to delight her fans and draw new ones.

Click here to purchase your copy.

My Thoughts

On a Summer Tide is a beautifully written story of a family who is struggling to pull together as time and a past tragedy are tugging them apart. The Grayson’s are far from perfect, but that’s what makes their story so real and heartwarming. The family dynamic is one of dysfunction–feelings kept hidden, worries pushed aside, and selfish decision making all make for chaos. But when Paul, the patriarch, takes a gamble on a small island struggling to survive, he hopes to restore more than the summer camp where he met his wife. He wants to mend his relationship with his daughters.

The Grayson family story is woven deep within the individual stories of the three sisters: Cam, Maddie, and Blaine. While this book focuses more on Cam, giving us a deeper insight into her childhood, you will get to know all the Grayson women well by the end of the book. I loved the dynamic between the sisters. There are harsh words, doubts and even a tantrum or two, but underneath it all, they love each other and support each other. As they draw closer together, their story will make you laugh and cry. (Sometimes on the same page!)

Cam’s relationship with Seth is slow-paced and sweet. I loved how he deeply cares for the nature of the island and how he is able to use that to share his faith with Cam.

I enjoyed watching the Grayson family heal through their work on Three Sisters Island. I truly felt like I was part of the family as I cheered for their victories and cried over their sorrows. The setting was ridiculously beautiful and was painted perfectly. You will wish you could make reservations at Camp Kicking Moose!

I would definitely recommend this book. It would be a great summer read–even better if you’re on the beach.

About the Author

suzanne woods fisher

Suzanne Woods Fisher is an award-winning, bestselling author of more than thirty books, including Mending Fences, as well as the Nantucket Legacy, Amish Beginnings, The Bishop’s Family, and The Inn at Eagle Hill series, among other novels. She is also the author of several nonfiction books about the Amish, including Amish Peace and The Heart of the Amish. She lives in California. Learn more at www.suzannewoodsfisher.com and follow Suzanne on Facebook @SuzanneWoodsFisherAuthor and Twitter @suzannewfisher.

More from Suzanne

Oh-So-Maine Blueberry Buckle

Summer in Maine means plump, tart blueberries are everywhere. Here’s a family recipe that is nearly fool-proof….and so delicious! Especially with a scoop or two with vanilla ice cream.

Ever wonder how it got the name Blueberry Buckle? While the batter rises as it bakes, but the blueberries and crumb topping weigh it down. This causes the surface of the cake to buckle…hence the name.

Batter:

¾ cup sugar

¼ cup soft butter

1 egg

½ cup milk

2 cups sifted flour

½ teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons baking powder

2 cups drained blueberries

Crumb Topping:

½ cup sugar

½ cup flour

½ teaspoon cinnamon

¼ cup softened butter

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Mix sugar and butter with egg. Stir in milk Sift together and stir in flour, baking powder and salt. Carefully blend in blueberries. Put on topping before baking. Pour in a greased and floured 9” square pan.

Bake 45-50 minutes.

Blog Stops

Just the Write Escape, May 23

The Avid Reader, May 23

The Power of Words, May 23

Blessed & Bookish, May 23

The Morning Chapter, May 24

Blogging With Carol, May 24

Carpe Diem, May 24

Cultivating Us, May 24

Godly Book Reviews, May 25

Stephanie’s Life of Determination, May 25

Mary Hake, May 25

For Him and my Family, May 25

C Jane Read, May 26

Happily Managing a Household of Boys, May 26

Blossoms and Blessings, May 26

Daysong Reflections, May 26

Lighthouse Academy, May 27

Reader’s Cozy Corner, May 27

Empower Moms, May 27

Remembrancy, May 27

Wishful Endings, May 28

Simple Harvest Reads, May 28

Spoken from the Heart, May 28

SusanLovesBooks, May 28

Truth and Grace Homeschool Academy, May 29

Book Bites, Bee Stings, & Butterfly Kisses, May 29

Chas Ray’ Book Nerd Corner, May 29

Hallie Reads, May 29

Book Reviews From an Avid Reader, May 30

Maureen’s Musings, May 30

Library Lady’s Kit Lit, May 30

Inspiration Clothesline, May 30

Living Life Free in Christ, May 31

Locks, Hooks and Books, May 31

Pause for Tales, May 31

Abba’s Prayer Warrior Princess, June 1

Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations, June 1

A Reader’s Brain, June 1

Through the Fire Blogs, June 2

Have A Wonderful Day, June 2

Southern Gal Loves to Read, June 2

Quiet Quilter, June 3

2014 and Beyond, June 3

By The Book, June 3

She Lives to Read, June 4

Texas Book-aholic, June 4

janicesbookreviews, June 4

Jeanette’s Thoughts, June 4

Christian Chick’s Thoughts, June 5

Little Homeschool on the Prairie, June 5

Inklings and notions, June 5

Giveaway

To celebrate her tour, Suzanne is giving away a grand prize of a $50 Amazon gift card!!

Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter. https://promosimple.com/ps/e540/on-a-summer-tide-celebration-tour-giveaway

I hope you put this book on the top of your summer TBR pile! It’s a vacation in itself!

Happy reading and God bless,

Kristina

Book Review: Remi and A Giveaway!

If y’all remember me sharing my unique finds at the National Frontier Trails Museum, you know that I love all things frontier, especially the Oregon and California trails. So, I was excited to read Caryl McAdoo’s book, Remi, about a young woman heading toward California via wagon train to find her father and perhaps her future.

About the Book

Book: Remi

Author: Caryl McAdoo

Genre: Christian Historical Romance

Release Date: May 3, 2019

Remi Cover

It isn’t within man to guide his own steps—or a woman. Caught between a wagon train and the deep blue sea, Agnes Remington Dalrumple, Remi for short, chooses the overland journey west over crossing the Atlantic with her mother and step-father. She decides to go to California and try to fine the father she’s never known though she’s never been on her own. Thwarted at every turn, almost every effort is dashed until a widower’s thirteen-year-old daughter intervenes on her behalf. How can the headstrong woman place herself under the responsibility of the young girl’s father, a perfect stranger? But if she doesn’t, her journey ends right there in Saint Joseph, Missouri. On the Oregon/California trail, will her pride and independence deter her from the destiny God has prepared for her?

Click here to purchase your copy.

My Review

I enjoyed the historical setting of this book. I’m a big fan of stories relating to the California/Oregon trails, and it was obvious the author had done her research. The details of the scenery and the struggles they faced everyday on the trail were made all the more realistic. I could feel their exhaustion by the end of the day.

Remi is such an independent and brave young woman! I was taken aback at her determination to make her way out west on her own. I can’t believe how difficult it would have been for a woman to decide to travel all the way across the country with no male escort. The prospect would have been daunting. But as you get to know Remi better, you understand her bravery doesn’t extend to all aspects of her life, and I was touched by insecurities related to her non-traditional upbringing. I enjoyed watching her battle the doubts in her heart and try to find her way.

I must confess my favorite part of the book was young Samantha. Her youthful optimism and lovesick letters were quite entertaining. I loved reading the journal she kept and seeing the wagon train through her unique perspective. It will be interesting to continue with her story in another book!

I was given a copy of Remi through CelebrateLit in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

About the Author

Caryl McAdoo

For research in December, Caryl McAdoo hit the trail—literally, the Oregon / California Trail—beginning in St. Jo, Missouri with the Napa Valley being her destiny. No wonder readers enjoy her novels so well! She prays her story brings God glory, and He blesses the award-winning, best-selling novels with a lion’s share of 5-Star ratings! With forty-three titles (thirty-three in the last four-and-a-half years), it’s obvious she loves writing almost as much as singing the new songs the Lord gives her. (Listen to a few at YouTube.) Celebrating fifty years being married to Ron, her high school sweetheart, she counts their four children and eighteen grandsugars life’s best blessings. The McAdoos live in the woods south of Clarksville, seat of Red River County in far Northeast Texas, waiting expectantly for God to open the next door.

More from Caryl

Remi, my May ‘Prairie Roses Collection’ story, picks up where Uniquely Common, my April ‘Lockets and Lace Collection’ story ends! Well, actually it backs up a bit to Remi’s decision to go west! In Uniquely Common, you meet her after she’s already in Saint Jo, trying to join the wagon train.

I fell in love with this semi-introvert, lover of literature, highly intelligent young lady, and felt the cover captured her exactly! (Thank you, Chautona Having, my new amazing cover designer! I am so blessed!)

Remi, short for Remington—her middle name as she hates her first name Agnus—is an only child reared by a single mother. Her father left years ago; she’s never met him and decides to go to California where his last letter was postmarked to do just that. It’s a long way from New York City, but better than sailing across the Atlantic.

And she can’t stay there with nowhere to live since her newest stepfather is whisking her mother overseas to his villa in Southern France. They invite her of course, but she hates boats and gets frightfully seasick! It seems the perfect time to go west and meet her Daddy. Riding in a prairie schooner would be a lark!

Researching for the covered wagons heading west led my dear husband to ask if I wanted to drive the Oregon / California Trail. Yes, yes, yes, I assured him! What could be better than seeing the rivers my wagon train had to cross, the amazing sights my characters would experience, and the terrain they navigated for ourselves?

What an opportunity God put before me!

Two weeks and forty-three hundred-plus miles later, we got back home to Clarksville, enthralled with our journey. That trip has made this story so much better for me! I hope it will make it all the better for you, too! I praise and give glory to the Lord for His many blessings and high favor.

I’m so grateful for the stories He gives us, His divine appointments—like with Sandy Barela, the founder of Celebrate Lit, all her amazing bloggers and reviewers—the doors He opens, my new cover designer Chautona Havig and all the fictional characters He introduces me to and allows me to share with you!

♫♪*`•. I’m just so excited.•*♪¨*about what the Lord is doing!•♪♫*`•. I’m just so excited Lord!! ♪♫•*¨♪ for what I know♪♫¸¸.•*♪ He will do!!*•.¸ Ƹ̵̡Ӝ̵̨̄Ʒ ¸♫♪*`•. I’m just so excited!!•.¸.• ✿And He is delighted ღ(̆̃̃ڿڰۣ✿♫♪*with my anticipation ♪♫•* ♫♪ of what I know He will do. •*♪♫•!♪♫¸•*♪ And I get to be a part ♫♪*`of what the Lord is doing!•♪♫*`•. I get to be a part! ♫•*♪¨♥ •♪♫ of what I know♪♫¸.•*♪ He will do!!*•.♫♪ I get to be a part ♫♪*♫•*♥ and He has a good plan!♪*•.✿♫♪*`•. He’s called me for His purpose!.•*♪¨ ✿♫♪*`• I have a role to play! ♪♫•*¨♪ (hear this new song on YouTube! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GKnU8JWXRlU )

Blog Stops

Babbling Becky L’s Book Impressions, May 20

Stephanie’s Life of Determination, May 20

Blessed & Bookish, May 21

Quiet Workings, May 21

Retrospective Spines, May 22

For HIm and My Family, May 22

Maureen’s Musiings, May 23

Truth and Grace Homeschool Academy, May 24

Abba’s Prayer Warrior Princess, May 25

KarenSueHadley , May 26

D’S QUILTS & BOOKS, May 26

Christian Author, J.E. Grace, May 27

Through the Fire Blogs, May 28

Emily Yager, May 29

Inklings and notions, May 29

Bigreadersite, May 30

Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations, May 30

Happily Managing a Household of Boys, May 31

janicesbookreviews, May 31

Texas Book-aholic, June 1

A Reader’s Brain, June 2

Giveaway

To celebrate her tour, Caryl is giving away

Grand Prize – $50 Gift Amazon Card

1st Prize – Signed, Paperback copy of CHOICE of all my books

2nd Prize – Signed copy of Remi

3rd Prize – eBook copy of Remi

4th Prize – eBook copy of CHOICE of all my books!!

Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter. https://promosimple.com/ps/e516/remi-celebration-tour-giveaway

Book Review: Lord of Her Heart

I will admit to being one of those people who once I find what I like, I tend to stick with it. I order the same thing from my favorite fast food chains every time. I drink the same drinks everyday. I can’t hardly write with any pen other than my Sharpies (especially the purple one). And, as it turns out, I’m not much different when it comes to my book selections.

I have always loved historical fiction since I started reading more seriously in my middle school days, and I must say, I haven’t ventured far from where I started. I love history, and I love the idea of completely escaping the world today into a different time. But I do tend to stay with books set between 1860-1900, and they do tend to involve the western frontier.

So, when I had the opportunity to attend an event featuring several Christian fiction authors last year, most of which I hadn’t read their novels, I decided it was time to branch out.

I read a few Regency era novels and adored them. (Baby steps, people.) Then, I tried some contemporary by Becky Wade (I LOVE the Bradford sisters series.) And when I learned about the Nobel Knight Books, a young adult series by Jody Hedlund, I decided to give them a try. They. Were. So. Fun! Chivalry, knights in shining armor, damsels with impressive archery skills…I could hardly wait to devour them all!

And one of the best parts about stepping out of my comfort zone? I have found several new authors who I adore! Sometimes it does pay to try something new!

So, when a Christian fiction writer’s group asked for anyone willing to help as an influencer in a post last week, I took the plunge and said yes! And guess what? I have the priviledge of working with author Sherrinda Ketchersid to promote her debut novel, Lord or Her Heart, a medieval romance! I had no problem agreeing to read the book since I already knew I like the genre, and it has been a treat to be a part of the book’s birthday launch.

I was provided an advanced reader copy in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

Here is the synopsis from the back cover of the book:

Lady Jocelyn Ashburne suspects something is amiss at her family’s castle because her father ceases to write to her. When she overhears a plot to force her into vows—either to the church or a husband—she disguises herself and flees the convent in desperation to discover the truth.

Malcolm Castillon of Berkham is determined to win the next tournament and be granted a manor of his own. After years of proving his worth on the jousting field, he yearns for a life of peace. Rescuing a scrawny lad who turns out to be a beautiful woman is not what he bargained for.
Still, he cannot deny that she stirs his heart like no other, in spite of her conniving ways.

Chaos, deception, and treachery threaten their goals, but both are determined to succeed. Learning to trust each other might be the only way either of them survives.

Doesn’t that sound like fun?

Lord of Her Heart will capture you from the very beginning, keeping you hostage page by page with stellar fight scenes, an intriguing mystery, and a heartwarming and realistic romance.

I enjoyed the fast pace of the book, and how it had you hooked within a matter of pages. I felt as if I was immediately swept into the action, and it was difficult to put the book down not knowing what might happen next.

The heroine, Lady Jocelyn, is independent and outspoken, yet kind and selfless. I came to admire her for her bravery and her generous heart. Sir Malcolm, the hero, is the ultimate example of a chivalrous knight. Although he is keenly aware of his brawny good looks and exceptional skill with the sword, his heart is gentle and always willing to aid those less fortunate than himself.

I enjoyed this book. I have just started reading in the medieval genre, and one thing that really stood out to me was the action/fight scenes. It really felt like I was present for the tournament, and I could see blow for blow what was happening in the scene. I always felt like I was part of the action, whether it was the jousting or the dancing!

I also enjoyed watching the characters grow as they navigated through their relationship. Jocelyn blossomed as she strove to love others around her through Christ’s eyes, and I must admit I stopped more than once after reading her ponderings and asked myself if I could change the way I behaved toward people in my life. Witnessing her spiritual growth was inspirational and applicable to our lives today.

Malcolm, on the other hand, was humbled as he fought to trust those closest to him. His past already made him cautious about trusting others, and discovering Jocelyn’s deception made it even more difficult to give his heart to her fully. His journey is heartfelt and relatable to many.

Overall, I would definitely recommend this book. It is full of mystery, action, and romance, and it will not disappoint you! It will be available on Amazon on May 14th, but you can catch it now during the presale.

This is Sherrinda’s debut novel, and I’m so excited for her! She has been a treat to interact with in her launch group, so I hope you take the time to read about her below and connect with her on social media or her website.

Sherrinda Ketchersid is a lover of stories with happily-ever-after endings. Whether set in the past or present, romance is what she writes and where her dreams reside.

Sherrinda lives in north-central Texas with her preacher husband. With four grown children, three guys and a gal, she has more time and energy to spin tales of faith, fun, and forever love.

You can find with Sherrinda via her website at http://www.sherrinda.com. Connect with her on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and Facebook @sherrinda.

Happy reading and God bless!

Book Review: The Lieutenant’s Bargain

Old friends, long since become strangers, find themselves tethered together in the most unlikely of circumstances.

Calvary Lieutenant Jack Hennessey is proud of his work with the Arapaho on the reservation near Fort Reno. He considers himself a friend and student of their culture and has even begun to learn their language. So, when he receives word they have a white woman in their custody who was the victim of a stagecoach robbery, he is quick to respond to her aid.

But he is blindsided when the fear-filled, mud-covered woman is a girl from his hometown, Miss Hattie Walker. The same Hattie he was sweet on for years–not that she’d ever paid him much attention. Trying to impress her with his knowledge of the Arapaho, he attempts to arrange a ceremony to transfer her from the custody of the Arapaho to the U.S. Calvary. But with his limited knowledge of the language, he doesn’t understand the ceremony is one of marriage until it’s too late.

Hattie Walker is determined to travel to Colorado to prove to her parents she could make a living with her talent. If she could sell one painting, then she wouldn’t be forced to settle down and marry. But when her stagecoach is robbed and she is the only living survivor, her plans come to an abrupt halt. Left with nothing and terrified of every noise and shadow, she is relieved to see a familiar face in the cavalry officer who rescues her from the Indian reservation. Her relief is short-lived when she realizes he accidentally married her. How will she ever submit a painting in Denver if she’s stuck at Fort Reno?

Knowing if they disregard the Arapaho’s marriage ceremony they will be disrespecting the tribe, Jack’s commanding officer insists they pretend to be married until Jack can be transferred out of Indian territory. So, while Hattie is pretending outside of the home in front of the troops, Jack is pretending the one woman he’d wanted as a wife isn’t living and sleeping in his house.

As they pass the time until the transfer orders can be received, Hattie and Jack discover there’s more to each other than what they remember from childhood. And when Hattie helps Jack with problems surrounding the school for the Arapaho children, she begins to understand why he is willing to live in such a barren and dangerous place.

Will Jack give up his career’s work of helping the Arapaho so Hattie can continue on with her dreams or will Hattie discover what her heart desires most is not selling a painting?

After reading the first Fort Reno book, Holding the Fort, I have been waiting to read Jack’s story. I enjoyed the camaraderie and humor between Lieutenant Jack and his commanding officer, Major Adams. Jack is an interesting hero. He’s swoon-worthy (of course!) and a gentleman, but he’s also a bit of an academic or, as Hattie sees him, a bookworm. He may not wear spectacles, but he is definitely an atypical hero. It’s refreshing to have a leading man who has a lifelong devotion to expanding his knowledge as I’m a bit of a self-proclaimed nerd myself.

I always say I MUST like the heroine if I’m to really enjoy a story. It’s easy to like a dreamy hero who moves heaven and earth to be with the woman he loves. But to root for the romance in the book, you have to believe they deserve each other, which means you need to like the heroine, too!

Hattie may be a little selfish in the beginning as she is focused on her goal of being a successful painter. She left the security and familiarity of her hometown to expand her artist’s eye. But the world Jack introduces to her makes her grow exponentially as a woman and provides a newfound depth to her paintings. I loved watching her transformation and adored her tenacity and wit, despite her secret insecurities when dealing with Jack’s intellect.

I also enjoyed how Hattie seemed to be the one with the most courage in the relationship even though Jack is an officer in the United States Calvary. You’ve got to love a girl who’s willing to stand up for what she wants.

The story had plenty of laugh-out-loud moments as well as sweet and simmering romance (you’ll love the rollerskating scene, I promise!). It only took a couple of chapters to have me completely hooked, and I was scrolling through the pages late into the night.

Don’t hesitate to pick up this book! The third book in the series will be published later this year (already available for preorder), so now’s the time to get caught up on the characters of Fort Reno.

Have you read this series, yet? What were your thoughts? Comment below!

Happy reading and God bless!

My Historical Adventure

My current work in progress (WIP) is set on the Kansas prairie in 1876. Kansas was already a state at this point, and plenty of pioneers had passed through and settled into the territory by the time we meet my hero, Whitley, who is a farmer in northeast Kansas. The life of the pioneer changed considerably from the time people started heading west before the Civil War to when I send my heroine, Leota, scrambling east to the safety of a slightly more civilized region.

When writing historical fiction, one must devour as much information as possible only to sprinkle it lightly over your novel. No one wants to read a paragraph of information about the construction of a log cabin on the Kansas prairie. But woven amongst the dialogue and action, an author can add small details to the scene, like the squeak of thin boards below their feet, called puncheon floors. Or how a character places a book above the stone fireplace.

Details are important in a story as much as the bigger picture.

For this reason, I set off on a journey with my family to the nearby city of Independence, Missouri, to visit the National Frontier Trails Museum. Independence was one of the main jumping off points for people headed out west. It was a town where one could find all the necessary supplies (at a price!) before taking the journey.

My goals were simple. Find some details to sprinkle into my story, and check out the books in the gift shop. Museums always have interesting books!

The museum did not disappoint. It had lovely exhibits on the major trails out West, including the Santa Fe Trail, Mormon Trail, and Oregon Trail. It also had quite a bit of information and artifacts related to the gold rushes (California Trail). And a fur covered exhibit related to the Lewis and Clark trail. It’s amazing to think all of these trails passed through this area!

Since my novel is set mainly in northeast Kansas and St. Joseph, Missouri, I wasn’t really interested in the trails so much as the people who traveled them. And what those people took with them or left behind on their journey. It’s really the details that make a story, and I didn’t leave disappointed.

Leota carries a small white book with her that she uses as a diary. From my research, I already knew several pioneers who were kind enough to journal about their experience. I’m thankful for these accounts, so we have a record not only of dates and facts but of the emotion behind their travel. Or the heartache behind their labor. Or the wonder that overwhelmed them at the beauty of such an untamed land.

Pioneer Diary

But even though I’d read their words, I’d never seen their journals in person. Were they small? Could they fit in a skirt pocket? Were they leather bound? I didn’t know!

But one of the first things I saw in the exhibits was a glass box containing real-life journals. And it just so happens one was small. Small enough to fit in Leota’s skirt pocket. And it happened to look like it used to be white, just like Leota’s. Sometimes it’s the little things that make the fiction historical.

It’s amazing to discover what pioneers packed in their wagon, thinking they would carry all their HEAVY material possessions halfway across the country. By the time they realized their mistake, there wasn’t much to do besides dumping their prized furniture and other treasures by the side of the trail. Everything from beds, books, cast iron skillets, and rolling pins could be found littering the highway to the west.

This rocking chair was abandoned on the trail only to be picked up by a man returning from the gold rush empty handed. He felt like he needed something to give his wife upon his return.

There were several other items I was sure to capture with my camera. There was a pretty dress belonging to a gold rush widow and a kettle that would have been used for cooking over an open flame. And a traveling case with another pretty calico dress.

One such item was this beautiful rocking chair. My hero’s father, Melvin, is often found in a rocking chair, enjoying the sunrise and nursing his broken leg. Seeing this chair can help me give a more in-depth description of what might have been sitting next to the Garretts’ fireplace.

Labeled diagram of a wagon.

Then, there are just plain facts, like this picture naming all the parts of a Conestoga wagon.

And what comes after the tour? The gift shop!

Cue the book nerd! I was looking forward to browsing through their book selection even more than the exhibits. And I discovered some interesting finds.

This dime novel and paper doll book were on clearance, and I couldn’t resist (obviously). I’ve always loved paper dolls, but I think these will go into my collection with my Pride & Prejudice dolls.

One is a research book about women travelers on the Oregon Trail during the time period of my WIP. One is a reproduction of a dime novel about a pioneer, and the other is pioneer paper dolls! Squee!

I was super excited to find this little recipe book. It had a lot of the dishes I’d found in pioneer journals I’ve read. Have you ever had watermelon rind preserves? I haven’t decided if they sound appealing or not.

Oh, and I found this wonderful pioneer cookbook. By reading through several first-hand accounts, I had put together a list of foods they ate, but this gives me a better idea of how they were prepared. And since Leota spends a significant amount of time in the kitchen, these details are important.

One thing is for certain. Writing historical fiction requires extensive research. But it’s no fun for the reader (or the author) if all the historical aspects are presented as hard facts instead of interlacing them with the story. So, I may meander through museums, browse through libraries and comb through pioneer journals, but the information I glean from my research will, hopefully, be difficult to detect. It’s my goal to blend it so gracefully into the story, you don’t even notice. Instead, your mind uses the information to paint the scene for you, right down to the last apple tree or overripe melon (things found in Whit’s garden).

So, the next time you are reading historical fiction, try to pay attention to the details. It’s taken the author HOURS (or MONTHS) of research to extract the information from facts and turn it into a can’t-put-it-down story.

What’s the last historical novel you have read that really impressed you with the details?

Book Review: With This Pledge

Promises. We give them out every day. Maybe to our spouses, children, family or friends. But how often do they get forgotten as we try to keep up with the rapid pace of life?

Do we remember to make the call to check on our friend who’s grieving a loved one? Or playing your child’s favorite game one more time before bed? Or even showing up to support your significant other doing one of their passions/hobbies?

I try carefully to guard my promises. I use the all too familiar mom saying “we’ll see” more than I care to admit. If I say I will pray for someone, I try to do it right then. But I still make mistakes. Sometimes I break my word because of too much busyness in my life, and I always feel awful about it. No one likes to be disappointed by someone they care about.

One thing I promised myself for this year, is to start writing and posting book reviews on my blog. And it’s only fitting that the first one is called, With This Pledge by Tamera Alexander. (Click on the link to get a free preview of the book!)

This lovely book begins with a promise made by two strangers. A simple pledge and the courage to keep it leads to a deep and lasting friendship between Elizabeth (Lizzie) Clouston and Captain Roland Ward Jones during a time in our history when very few things blossomed.

Lizzie, the governess at the Carnton plantation near Franklin, TN, is abruptly swept up into the war when the plantation house is commandeered as a field hospital by the rebel army. She, and the rest of the household work feverishly to help as many soldiers as possible, but the battle is devastating for both sides, especially the Confederacy. Lizzie makes many promises that day to dying soldiers. Memorizing final words, promising to mail letters to loved ones. But one promise is different than all the others. One of the injured soldiers is Captain Roland Jones, a sharpshooter for the Confederacy and a slave owner himself. He and Lizzie form a bond when she promises to keep the doctor from amputating Roland’s leg. Lizzie finds herself repeatedly drawn to the captain despite having promised herself to another.

When Roland and several other soldiers are allowed to convalesce at Carnton while their wounds heal, he begins to see Lizzie as more than a nurse–something he never thought possible after the death of his wife. However, his hopes are dashed when he discovers not only is she engaged to another soldier but she’s also an abolitionist.  Knowing she is a woman of her word and abhors the idea of slavery, he resigns himself to friendship despite his growing affection for her.

The Civil War has always been an area of interest for me, and Ms. Alexander transports you to the time expertly, weaving details throughout her writing. You won’t find any information dumps in this book! The fact that several of the main characters are real, including Lizzie and Roland, only adds more depth to the book and made my attachments to the characters deeper.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Historical fiction is my favorite, and this book completely immerses you in the time period. I found myself wondering about the story between my nightly reading sessions. To me, that’s always the mark of a good book–it’s never far from your mind whether the words are in front of you or not.

Although I enjoy sweet, uplifting romances, I loved the deeper themes in this book. Slavery, of course, was a recurring theme with Lizzy being of the opposite opinion of Roland. It was interesting to hear the thoughts of a Confederate soldier, and Roland had some concerns about his family I’d never considered. I also enjoyed the discussions about time and how precious it is in our lives. It must have been a subject at the forefront of people’s minds as thousands of young men and boys died for their cause in blue and gray uniforms. When you’re not guaranteed the next day, what is most important? Was the loss of so many lives worth it?

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I particularly loved this quote from a letter from Lizzie’s intended, Lieutenant Townsend, a man who’d faced his mortality time and again.

I adored getting to know Lizzy. She is a beautiful soul whose compassion and dedication to the soldiers who fought for a cause she didn’t agree with was inspirational and a true example of Christ’s love. I found myself wishing I could be her friend, and I was thankful Ms. Alexander brought her to life for so many to enjoy–including me! She made so many promises to boys and men who lay dying in her arms, and she followed through with each one.

The scenes of devastation at the Carnton plantation were very realistic. It is impossible to think of what happened to the soldiers without cringing inside. However, knowing the truth of what men were faced with on the battlefield and afterward is important to me, and these scenes, though difficult, were necessary. If you have a weaker stomach, you may feel differently. But it was truly the reality of war.

I was already a fan of Tamera Alexander before reading this novel, and I will definitely be pre-ordering the next novel in this series as soon as it’s available. If you enjoy historical fiction, you will devour this book!

And don’t miss out on the novella, Christmas at Carnton, a short story about life at the plantation before the battle of Franklin.

Happy reading and God bless!