woman on Civil War battlefield

Having thoroughly enjoyed Jocelyn Green's The Mark of the King in January, I was excited to go back and read one of her previous releases. This story was inspired by the life of Georgeanna Woolsey, real life pioneer nurse during the Civil War, which was also a draw for me. The history of nursing is so fascinating! It has come so far in less than 200 years.

Our Georgeanna stand-in is Charlotte Waverly, a New York socialite who is beginning to grow old enough to hear "old maid" whispers. Always a bit unconventional, Charlotte is interested in helping with the war effort in any way she can. When she hears about training beginning to be offered for female nurses, she's determined to be among the first who answer the call, even though it means going against the wishes of her mother and the man who is courting her.

The resistance of those close to home is nothing like what Charlotte faces both in getting into the program and once she travels to Washington. The Army is convinced that women have no business nursing wounded soldiers, no matter how great the need. Yet once the battles begin, they begrudgingly allow Charlotte to begin assisting - but only with the most menial, humiliating tasks.

Alongside Charlotte, this is also the story of Ruby, an Irish immigrant whose husband has enlisted. The poverty she's known in New York slums only grows worse as Matthew's paycheck fails to arrive. In desperate straights, Ruby is forced to consider prostitution in order to keep food on the table.

I did not enjoy this book as much as I anticipated. I think I would have enjoyed a book about Georgeanna herself more than this fictional account. I felt there were too many point of view characters who did not serve a real purpose, and for some reason I never felt a connection with Charlotte. This may have been because the main antagonist is so horrifying that it was hard to understand why she couldn't see through him, and I could not understand what was preventing her and the man she truly loved from expressing their feelings. There were also sexual assault scenes, which while tactfully written, still were disturbing. 

The historical side of this novel was quite interesting. Another series on the development of the nursing field is Sarah Sundin's Wings of a Nightingale, which focuses on the first flight nurses during World War II. I would recommend those books before this one, but I will probably check out more Jocelyn Green books in the future, as her 2017 release was so good.

I've only read one other Anita Higman novel, but it was one of my favorites from 2013. When the opportunity to review her latest release came my way, I jumped all over it! Higman is definitely a gifted author, with a unique voice that stands out in the Christian marketplace.

Our heroine of this story, Summer Snow, has her life turned upside down in the opening pages. She breaks off an engagement to a man she realizes is not right for her, and finds out that her beloved grandmother, her only living relative, is dying of heart failure. Granny has two deathbed wishes that she asks Summer to fulfill: that Summer would complete the list of adventures her grandmother wants her to have, and that she would reconnect with her childhood friend Martin and convince him to do the list with her. The list includes things like 'build a tree house' and 'go on a hot air balloon ride.' Summer hasn't seen Martin in 19 years, but he still holds a special place in her heart.

Meanwhile Martin has never forgotten the girl who stole his heart before he lost touch with her. Now grown into a quiet, somewhat eccentric man with a dysfunctional family background, Martin is thrilled when Summer looks him up and happily agrees to accompany her to fulfill her grandmother's list.

From the very beginning the writing style reminded me of early twentieth century authors Gene Stratton-Porter and Lloyd C. Douglas. The characters spoke in mini monologues and the motivations were uncomplicated and straightforward. The longer the story went on the more it also hearkened to the moralistic works of Louisa May Alcott, and while none of these are bad associations by any means, it was a little frustrating that every character easily fell into the category of good person or bad person, and the plot lacked complexity. It was disappointing in that sense, although I did enjoy the throwback feel because of my love of classic literature.

If you enjoy the style of old school storytellers, or are looking for a book that would be safe in the hands of young readers, this might be one for you to check out.

Join the Flock! Litfuse Publicity Group blogger

I received my copy of the book from LitFuse Publicity in exchange for this honest review. All opinions are my own.
I was a reading overachiever this year, not only accomplishing the goal I set out for myself, but exceeding it by 44%! There were many excellent books, but a few really stood out. Here were my favorite titles by genre from 2013.

Historical Fiction
So Shines The Night by Tracy Higley

Set in Ephesus during the events of Acts 19, Tracy brings the Bible and ancient history to life. You feel like you are there. It's particularly challenging to fictionalize a Bible account, but Tracy succeeds magnificently.

Young Adult Fiction and Speculative Fiction
Anomaly by Krista McGee

Normally I separate these categories, but "Anomaly" wins both easily. In the futuristic world when nuclear war has destroyed most of the planet and humans are genetically engineered for specific tasks, Thalli realizes that there's more than the sterile world around her. If her differences and longings are discovered, it will require her death.

Contemporary Fiction
Winter in Full Bloom by Anita Higman

Lily is entering the middle of her life when she finds out that she has an identical twin sister living in Australia. Taking one of the first risks she has ever tried, Lily sets off the find the sister who was separated by adoption. This novel beautifully touched on many aspects of family relationships and the hurt and hope that many struggle with in this area.

You Were Born For More by Harry R. Jackson Jr.

I wasn't so sure about reading this book, but God got the last laugh on this one. Bishop Jackson brings out straightforward truths which would be beneficial to every believer to grasp and implement in their lives.

Classic Literature
Les Miserables by Victor Hugo

For this year it could be nothing besides "Les Miserables." Not just because it was the only classic I read this year (hey, it's 1450+ pages!), but because I drew so much inspiration from it.

Lily Winter is just entering a new season of life. She's recently widowed and her only child has just started college. When she goes to visit her emotionally distant mother, she is beyond shocked to hear the news that she has an identical twin sister living in Australia. While Camille had been given up for adoption, her parents had chosen to raise Lily as their own.

Anguished over all the years of missed sisterhood, Lily braves the unknown and takes off on a search in the Land Down Under. Armed only with the knowledge that Camille lives in Melbourne and attends St. Paul's Cathedral, Lily hopes it will be enough to lead to a reunion. The day of her arrival she meets a curious man named Marcus, who has self-exiled himself from his home in the States. Although a little wary of his quirky ways, Lily agrees to accept his help. Feeling a relationship with Camille will somehow fill a void in her life, Lily must also face the reality that searches can lead to very different results than the one anticipates.

"Winter in Full Bloom" is a novel that tackles many, many emotions. With family issues at the heart of this novel, I knew it would touch on sensitive subjects. If I had known just how many, I might have skipped over it. That would have been a mistake. Anita Higman touches on all of them beautifully, gracefully. Although very real and ugly things must be addressed and dealt with, she never leaves one without the hope that God can restore all things. A few of the things addressed in this story are abandonment, parental neglect, abuse, responsibility for the accidental death of loved ones, persecution, spousal unfaithfulness, rape, unwanted pregnancy, divorce, and bitterness. Yes, it's a frightening list! Can God really work to heal hearts so fragile from the beatings of this life? Is there a way for restoration to come where so much devastation has been known? Absolutely! Lives are forever changed when these things come into them. It's where our brokenness takes us that determines whether we will be completely destroyed or if we'll find a way in God's strength to fully bloom again.

Novels that tackle heavy subjects with such grace are an amazing gift. I truly enjoyed this book. I would recommend it to anyone who has dealt with disappointing family relationships or wrestled with wondering if God can renew and restore us after hardships. He can! Thank you, Anita, for reminding us in such a gentle yet powerful way.

I received an advance reading copy from LitFuse in exchange for this honest review. All opinions are my own.

Please click this link for information about a Facebook party with the author tonight! You can also click here to purchase the book in paperback or download it on your e-reader. Hurry, it's a free download for a short time!

If the Shoe Fits

I confess that I'm not much of a fairytale kind of girl. Princes and princesses can come or go. I like the real life kind of stuff that I can relate to and take part in. But fairytales are very popular in our current culture, and I have become more aware and engrossed in their various forms over the past year or so, largely thanks to ABC's "Once Upon a Time." When I saw this title and cute cover I was intrigued, and it was the tagline "A Contemporary Fairytale" that convinced me I should give this one a try.

This is the story of Julianne, a successful lawyer just starting her own practice with her childhood best friend Will. She's dreamed of finding her white knight for as long as she can remember. On the way to work one day, she sees a handsome man save a dog which had been hit by a car. In the process of saving the dog, his work boot and toolbox get left behind at the scene. Julianne retrieves the box and the footwear and places an ad in the newspaper, sure that a man both ruggedly handsome and animal conscious has to be made for her.

Will has almost worked up the nerve to tell Julianne that he's been in love with her since they were kids. He's tried to forget his feelings for her after their one bad date in high school, and he knows she dreams of someone dreamier than him. But try as he might, his heart belongs to Julianne and Julianne alone. When she arrives at the office one morning saying she saw the perfect guy, and all she needs is to find the man who fits that boot, Will's frustration reaches another level.

While Julianne searches for the man she thinks is Mr. Right, she and Will struggle to get their new law firm off the ground. Their first client is a former coworker who is being defamed by a child for accidenally shooting her pet pot-bellied pig. There's also the comedy of needing to work with people both Will  and Julianne dislike, all in hopes that it will pay off with business success someday.

When Julianne's ad is answered by the handsome, mysterious stranger, she's dismayed to find he may not be her white knight after all. But surely one doesn't meet their beloved on a ten-speed bike in their own neighborhood when they are too young to know better, do they? Even as new feelings for Will begin dawning inside of her, Julianne fights to lay claim to something that matches her dream criteria. How much of her life and reputation will she destroy in the process?

This book was more of a straight-up romance than I usually read. It was a Christian story and there were more plot twists as the story went along, but for the most part it was simple, easy, and a bit predictable. My other complaint is that the author inserted some anti-gun propoganda that didn't fit with the tone of the story at all. Overall, this would be a lovely summer read for anyone looking for a few hours to rest, relax, and let the story entertain you.



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