Blog Book Tour | For Steele’s sophomore release (“#SodaSprings”) she’s knit us inside a wicked lovely Western where Hope guides the characters towards redeeming the Light of their lives!

Posted Tuesday, 22 December, 2015 by jorielov , , , 0 Comments

Ruminations & Impressions Book Review Banner created by Jorie in Canva. Photo Credit: Unsplash Public Domain Photographer Sergey Zolkin.

Acquired Book By: 

I am a regular tour hostess for blog tours via Cedar Fort whereupon I am thankful to have such a diverse amount of novels and non-fiction titles to choose amongst to host. I received a complimentary copy of “Soda Springs” direct from the publisher Bonneville Books (imprint of Cedar Fort, Inc) in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.

On my connection to Ms Steele:

I first made a connection to Ms Steele when I read ‘Willow Springs’, however, time and life swept us up in our respective tides until several months leading up to the ‘Soda Springs’ blog tour. Occasionally we would see each other on Twitter, and when it came time for Ms Steele to find bloggers for her blog tour, we reconnected finding to each of ours chagrin how much we share in common! As both writers and photographers, a friendship organically started to develop. A friendship I find to be a true blessing to have and in no way does this cloud my judgement to review her novels, because each story I read is met with an open heart and mind.

I am disclosing this, to assure you that I can formulate an honest opinion, even though I have interacted with Steele through our respective love & passion of reading inside the twitterverse or whilst in private conversations outside of it. I treat each book as a ‘new experience’, whether I personally know the author OR whether I am reading a book by them for the first time or continuously throughout their writerly career.

Quoting a part of my enthused reaction on why I wanted to read ‘Soda Springs’:

I love historical fiction and family dramas; this new novel has everything I appreciate! Plus, I don’t mind that it’s based on a historical period of time for Mormons because I’m an open minded reader who reads about cross-cultural and cross-religious heritages which may or may not be my own. It’s part of what I love the most about reading!

You get to walk in different shoes than the pair your wearing!

On notation on Cover Art and the author’s dedication:

When I first caught sight of this novel’s cover art (as given to me by Ms Steele), I must say, I was quite curious at where the character’s eyes were cast – such a serious expression and a curiously fiery sky in the background. Her eyes stand so very resolute in their stare, you see. It could be twilight or it could be a forbearance of strife. The historical etching of place was quite apparent and I liked the overlays of graphics as well. The short quotation caught my eye, as I am attracted to stories of adversity in which the writers knit a layering of survival threaded through hope and the joys life can bestow us when we’re least expecting to find merriment.

The author’s dedication to both a specific locale and to her husband was most endearing – you gathered a true sense of what anchours Ms Steele and what uplifts her heart and spirit the most. I was definitely keen on visiting Grays Lake myself after such a hearty glimpse into what gives her such a renewal of memory and mirth of happiness.

Blog Book Tour | For Steele’s sophomore release (“#SodaSprings”) she’s knit us inside a wicked lovely Western where Hope guides the characters towards redeeming the Light of their lives!Soda Springs

“Father!” Tessa jumped off the porch, skipping the four steps and landing with her bare feet on the dusty cobbles, making a soft thud. She raced toward the man silhouetted by the flames. “Father, what are you doing?” She whispered her shout as loudly as she dared, fearful of waking the rest of her family. “Stop!”

“Go back inside,” he hissed at her, scarcely turning his head in her direction as he tossed a jacket into the fire.

“Your uniform . . .” She gasped in horror. Flames consumed the gray woolen coat and trousers. “Why?”

When Tessa Darrow discovers her father burning his Confederate uniform, she has no idea that his secret torment will devastate their family and drive them from their home in North Carolina. In 1865, her family treks along the Oregon Trail until tragedy strikes, leaving Tessa and her father to build a new life in Soda Springs, Idaho, a town settled by a group of exiled Mormons. For Tessa to find happiness in her future, she must learn to forgive and grow from the hurt and hardships in her past.

This sweeping story illuminates an oft-forgotten era in LDS Church history and highlights the history of Soda Springs, Idaho--referred to by early travelers as "an oasis on the Oregon Trail." Filled with drama, humor, and enduring love, it's a thrilling read for history buffs and romantics alike.

Places to find the book:

Borrow from a Public Library

Add to LibraryThing

ISBN: 9781462117000

on 8th December, 2015

Pages: 264

Jorie Loves A Story Cuppa Book Love Awards Badge created by Jorie in Canva. Coffee and Tea Clip Art Set purchased on Etsy; made by rachelwhitetoo.

Published By: Bonneville Books (@BonnevilleBooks),

an imprint of Cedar Fort, Inc (@CedarFortBooks)
Available Formats: Paperback, Ebook

Converse via: #histfic, #ChristFic, #LDSFiction + #SodaSprings

About Carolyn Steele

Carolyn Steele

Carolyn Steele enjoys ferreting out obscure history and weaving it through her tales. With a career rooted in business writing, she loves researching details of her novels to ensure their historical accuracy, drawing praise from Pony Express re-enactors for her first novel, “Willow Springs.” Carolyn works full-time writing communications for healthcare providers, then spends evenings indulging her passion for writing historical fiction. When not at the computer, Carolyn loves traveling with her husband and visiting with her four children and thirteen grandchildren. In her spare moments, she traipses about Utah with a camera in hand, and occasionally muddles through a round of golf. She dreams of one day traveling the world, photographing all those mystical lands that beg to be backdrops for her novels.

To say “hello,” visit her on her social media channels!

Why I love ‘coming-of age’ novels:

Each coming-of age story is treated differently and read differently due to where we arrive inside the character’s life; sometimes without even realising how much adversity or affliction is going to bestowed to the character over the course of the story. Whenever I find myself firmly committed to a story such as this one, I find that it’s how each character is portrayed to deal with life’s circumstances as they arise that shows our best side of humanity. The road can be perilous and can be quite befitting a shadow of doubt if we have strength enough to handle what is coming towards us — but it’s how faith and hope can stitch together enough courage to see us through that makes these stories so memorable to read.

My Review of Soda Springs:

The details of the first four pages are of such a lovely historical grace, you feel quite absorbed by how upturnt young Tessa’s world is becoming out of a haste to leave the Carolinas and head West to Oregon. She caught her father burning his uniform and clothes one night, and the next morning along with her sister and grandmother found the news beyond alarming and saddening – as she could not bring as many of her childhood treasures with her as her heart ached to be kept with her belongings. The intensity of her grief was so visual, you could feel her chest heavy with emotions as she tucked in the memories of how what is left behind could reside now in her heart but not be taken with her. It’s a cornerstone of childhood – letting go and moving forward without what is familiar, but it’s how Steele crafts this moment of Tessa’s life that knits you close to the emotional keel of what Tessa’s family is about to live through.

My dear stars of grain – young Tessa is about to sprout her adult wings through the adversities her family is surviving as each tender memory per item of her childhood years truly can only become flickerments of her previous life. As what previously dissolved through ash, so too does her future rise out of the courage of her present. Part of the story is quite happily spoken about through Tessa’s writings of her journalled adventures as they head West – I love Epistolary tales, as they dig closer to the heart and the spirit of who we are during the hours a pen can carve out a piece of our reality.

So much tragedy has befallen Tessa since she first left her Carolina home, nearly orphaned and an outcast of the small community of Soda Springs on arrival (her father succumbed to smallpox); she finds serenity in Mrs Holt; a kind lady of faith who unlike her peers took pity on Tessa and promptly sought out to heal her father, as best she could with the time she has left to try to save his life. What moved me by this grace and kind act is how unselfish Mrs Holt was in her doings of goodwill and how difficult it was to recognise how blinded by fear the community had become. Mrs Holt doted on Tessa in a way a mother might, and gave her a bit of life lessons to ensure her survival into adulthood.

Her father was as obstinate as a mule and proud as a Scot untoward realising when he should be more accepting of humility and charity. Mr Darrow did not leave a good impression on me, as he seemed to erase the grief and anguish of his daughter and nearly forsook them both by taking away the grace of Mrs Holt. In the background, Steele illuminates this part of the West, where it’s both untamed and unreliable due to the hard environments with a difficult clime. Even out of the uncertainty of the seasons, Soda Springs became a residential outcropping of unsuspecting settlers who refused to admit a future was not possible to sow. I briefly held a candle of hope out for Tessa to settle here even if her father could not re-find his own joy; perhaps for her, she could seek a future that would not make the past too difficult to remember.

As the passage of the seasons starts to shudder out Tessa’s will to believe they will be embarking on the final leg of their journey to Oregon, she starts to find herself rooted in place with a deep appreciation for life in Soda Springs. There are life lessons and affirmations of faith integrated inside the story, where you celebrate the joys of Tessa’s attachment to this settlement community and the flickerings of healing out of her father. Such a hardened man, Tessa’s father has not yet trusted his daughter enough to explain what began this quest to cross America, but in his absence of truth, Tessa has wicked her mind to draw her own conclusions and thus, abandon the grace of forgiveness. In these moments, I most fondly appreciated the gentleness of Mrs Holt, of whom was the most impressionable character I found to touch my heart. She’s brilliantly confident with a lilt of Scottish baroque to her voice and has a way of asserting herself in a manner that teaches Tessa how to be a formidable and independent woman in the wilds of the West.

The character who delighted me by his caring presence and his wicked sense of humour whilst able to upturn Tessa’s world with a quickening of girlish delight is William; Mrs Holt step-son. William is laid-back, sturdy in strength (by way of faith and brawn) and has a cheekiness about him that is quite alluring because he places a lot of weight on how he treats others inasmuch as how he approaches living his life. You get to see his feelings and Tessa’s start to kindle out a romance between two hearts who never felt they’d feel for another after what they’ve overcome. For him, it’s hard lessons of war and for her, it’s the tender fragility of life and how moments can become lost if memories do not yield to hold against an anguished heart.

For a girl who grew up wrapped inside the cosy comforts of an Ignalls novel and the adaptive television series that took on a life of it’s own merit –  I was quite bemused noting how much Tessa and William reminded me of Laura and Almanzo! Not from the novels, but from the television series, as who could forget how young Laura was when she found herself smitten by ‘Manly’? Nor how horrified it made Pa to realise he had lost his ‘half pint’ to a bloke! Laughs. I am not sure if this was the inspiration behind the budding couple of Soda Springs but it surely did feather up my heart with a bit of remembered joy!

I loved learning more about the topography of the land in this section of Idaho, as Idaho for an Eastern girl is a bit undiscovered and beholding of the raw beauty all of the West could yield if a girl like me ever finds herself ensconced out in the Western states once more! The scenery speaks to my mountain heart, as I became entranced with the eastern mountains as a child; from Appalachia to the Catskill range. I used to retreat inside Westerns (i.e. Cowboy Fiction, Americana Romance, Frontier Fiction, etc) growing up as I loved reading a story set during the 1800s, where the land was still being settled and the strength of surviving the elements was counter-balanced by the mirth of a community’s spirit. A lot of what I seek in Westerns are held within the chapters of Soda Springs.

Somewhere in the tides of the story, Tessa’s journalled thoughts reverberated through her internal thoughts instead – shedding a light on how her heart was growing and softening at the same time. She had a lot on her mind to heal and as she drew closer to her faith and gave of herself to this new community, she too, found ways in which her father was healing by accepting the present without allowing the past to forestall their future. Two of my favourite seasons to read about are Harvest and Christmas with a special blessing of seeing a wedding spruced together; Soda Springs has all three of my lovelies together with a few twists of plot to keep your readerly heart on it’s toes! In some ways, I was surprised I found myself entertaining one of the twists, because I had already fashioned myself to accept one particular outcome; although, I’ve read quite a heap of historicals and Westerns combined in my life to accept not everything goes quite as planned in those days; especially given the circumstances of how life was lived! (even by today’s standards, things can happen to disrupt your goals)

It’s the kind of historical Western setting and novel I find to be a true gem of the era; where everyone finds a way to pitch in and lend a hand; where hearts resolve their angst and where unexpected new friendships become the calming balm out of adversity. It’s full of life, bubbling through the ordinary graces and hardships everyone must face, and the kindness of giving a charity of hope to those who need it most.

Soda Springs simply grabs a hold of your heart and let’s you soak inside it’s world for as long as the chapters continue to guide your mind towards it’s final resolution. I personally wanted something to happen and towards the ending, I was rewarded with full blissitude. It was such a small wish for one particular moment in this story to have a bit of a renewal of life and happiness; for you see, it was an abandoned house and it’s not going to spoilt anything for you to know it becomes a home! I have a soft spot for homes and well-built architecture; especially hand-crafted homes withholding their own stories inside their wood and frame. Imagine my smile when I saw how Steele endeavoured an ending for this house that would paint such a happy glow of a surprise in my expression!

On gratitude for the medical bits being on the lighter side:

There are a few bits of medical scenes inside Soda Springs, and I was most appreciative of the fact Steele conveyed what needed to be heard and seen in such a way as to make the story swallowable to sensitive readers who cannot handle a more realistically gritty approach to the same scenes! I was quite uplifted to learn the apothcarthic healing practices from Mrs Holt in regards to Smallpox but also, how Tessa was healed from her lightning storm accident. The medicinal benefits found in the natural world are incredible but how Steele encouraged her reader along with Tessa to ‘buck up’ and handle the harder bits of the story was brilliantly crafted, because it focused more on the ‘nuts and bolts’ than the grittier bits it could have revealled. For this I am a thankful reader, because too oft I find authors show more than they need, as a little goes a long way with a reader who has a sensitive heart for medical dramas and medical scenes!

Thus, I can definitely attest a gentle reader will not find it difficult to read this novel.

On reflecting about how this novel highlights Mormon History and Religious Beliefs:

I recognised early-on (even before I started reading the novel) this particular novel might re-direct itself to reflect upon the History of the Mormons who travelled West to settle in Utah, Idaho and other outlying states of the Wild West era of settlement and expansion. I also felt it might dip a bit inside explaining key principles of their religious beliefs and the framework of their beliefs as a whole – however, what I found instead is a wonderful inspiring novel about community, family, friendship and the grace of charity when knitted together with faith.

This is a story anyone of any faith and religious background would appreciate reading, because it’s about how kind-hearted spirits can lead towards tolerance and change within communities. This was self-evident immediately with the introduction of Mrs Holt to Tessa and Mr Darrow on their arrival to Soda Springs (Idaho). Yes, Steele does reveal little bits of early Mormon History, including the differences between those who settled in Salt Lake (previously known as ‘Great Salt Lake City’) and those who separated from the established group who called Utah their home. A lot of religions have breakaway branches of their churches, especially if you look at how wide and large the Protestant arm of Christianity encompasses! (not forgetting that the LDS Church itself is Protestant!)

What I found most compelling of all is how the research into this history and the courage of the settlers who forged ahead to find a place they could call their own is the framework of the story. It reminded me of the settlement of the Lost Colony of Roanoke (from my reading of The Lost Duchess by Jenny Barden) wherein History is full of colonies and communities who dared to carve out their own niche in whence to live. By way of pace and tone, this novel happily reminds me of Go Away Home by Carol Bodensteiner and Bee Summers by Melanie Dugan; as the novel is set to follow the characters as true to their hours as they lived them. This is a special gift in historical fiction, as it allows you to soak inside the era and the timescape without worrying about how quick your exit from the story will arrive!

There is a gentleness about the Romance developing between different characters, which I have previously appreciated in Westerns, as read within: The Spirit Keeper by K.B. Laugheed; A Bargain Struck by Liz Harris; Flight to Coorah Creek by Janet Gover; and Softly Falling by Carla Kelly. Not forgetting how much I appreciated Steele’s freshman debut Willow Springs!

Overall what impressed me the most about how Steele balanced the story between the drama of life on the frontier and the walk of faith of her characters, is how she showed two separate backgrounds can form a bridge together. Her characters lived their faith and gave their life a well of hope, love and charity; through which they united in their walk. It’s a great testament of how differences do not need to put craters between people but rather be a stepping stone towards understanding and tolerance. Sometimes differences can yield a new tomorrow of a path that becomes conjoined together – which is a beautiful thing to share within a tome of an INSPY novel such as Soda Springs.

Why I am drawn back inside a Steele novel:

Steele has a way of writing historical drama that kicks it’s heels inside your chest – anchouring you into the emotional tidal-waves of where her characters are residing, and finding a way to bring a bit of humanity out of adversity. She has a clever way of catching a reader off-guard, such as she did on page 8 of Soda Springs as despite the prelude to ‘something’ was about to happen, I must admit, I was not quite prepared for what was revealled; although truth be known, it was not a shocker! No, you see the gobsmacked moment for me arrived a bit lateron in the story – mostly as I hadn’t realised there was going to be a guttingly real and honest moment happening in Tessa’s life where she would have to choose how she would face her circumstances and how she would choose whom she would want to become as she transitioned into her adult years.

Now that was shocking, yet not overtly because during the era in which Tessa lived the survival rate was considerably lower than today; if you factor in the duration of time it would take to cross the United States by wagon train originating in Missouri and heading out towards Oregon, (yes the infamous Oregon Trail route!) you can certainly surmise there is going to be arduous strife involved! I simply think I set myself up a bit for an emotional shock as I hadn’t forethought to think this might not involve her whole family but rather a singular journey of a girl who grew into a woman whilst on a journey her father started on her behalf. Now that’s convicting literature if you ask me!

I like how she infuses historical nuances into her stories – inasmuch as the phrases and twisting of words that give you the impression it’s the 1800s and not the 2000s. She takes extra care to flex how her story is resonating with the reader, as I can see her dedication to both research and style by how she chose to compose her chapters. There is such a lot of depth to the words she’s expressing through her narrative, that you become ‘rooted in place’ and wish to forsake time itself off the clock in order to pass through this world she’s given us. This is historical fiction I love to read because your ‘elsewhere’ for a spell, taking up with a family you barely know and spending ample time getting to know them by chapters end.

Fun Stuff for Your Blog via

This Blog Tour Stop is courtesy of Cedar Fort, Inc:

Cedar Fort Publishing & Media

Be sure to follow the rest of the blog tour:

I am quite sure if those on the blog tour had seen my pinned tweet or my sticky note on my blog, were aware of the fact I took ill, however, for those who weren’t able to see either notices: I have been fighting a strong cold virus since the first weekend of December, where I have my ‘good days’ and my ‘bad days’. The days leading up to my original tour stop of the 20th were riddled with coughing and sneezing fits that proved too strong to soak inside a novel, much less have the clarity to blog.

Therefore, I truly did not get to start reading ‘Soda Springs’ until the 20th, continuing on the 21st until I fell quite ill in the evening hours and had to return on the 22nd to finish the last quarter of the novel before I posted my review. I believe I explained it best when I posted this tweet which expressed the joy of spending an ‘extended time’ with ‘Soda Springs’!

My apologies if you were following the tour and were awaiting my thoughts!

Soda Springs blog tour via Cedar Fort Publishing & Media.
Previously I was introduced to Carolyn Steele’s writing via:

If this is your first induction to Ms Steele’s writings, I encourage you to take a moment to visit my review on behalf of “Willow Springs” to see what originally moved me by her writing style and voice! She’s one of the Cedar Fort authors I automatically grow excited to read a *new release!* and am quite wicked happy she’s continuing to brainstorm new stories after each novel I read!

By the by, ‘Willow Springs’ was one of my Top Favourite Historical Fiction Reads from August 2013-August 2014 — as you will find it on my Riffle List!

Willow Springs Blog Tour with Cedar FortFun Stuff for Your Blog via Reader Interactive Question:

What do you love the most about coming-of age historicals which give you a firm idea about how life was decidedly different than it was from your own generation?

Comment Box Banner made by Jorie in Canva.

{SOURCES: Book Cover Art for “Soda Springs”, author photo, author biography, book synopsis, blog tour badge were provided by Carolyn Steele. The blog tour badge for “Willow Springs” and the badge for Cedar Fort Publishing & Media were provided by Cedar Fort Publishing & Media and used with permission. Ruminations & Impressions Book Review Banner created by Jorie in Canva. Photo Credit: Unsplash Public Domain Photographer Sergey Zolkin. Post dividers badge by Fun Stuff for Your Blog via Pure Imagination. Comment banner created by Jorie in Canva. Tweets are embedded due to codes via Twitter. Jorie Loves A Story Cuppa Book Love Awards Badge created by Jorie in Canva. Coffee and Tea Clip Art Set purchased on Etsy; made by rachelwhitetoo.}

Copyright © Jorie Loves A Story, 2015.

I’m a social reader | I tweet as I read:

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

  • 2015 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge

About jorielov

I am self-educated through local libraries and alternative education opportunities. I am a writer by trade and I cured a ten-year writer’s block by the discovery of Nanowrimo in November 2008. The event changed my life by re-establishing my muse and solidifying my path. Five years later whilst exploring the bookish blogosphere I decided to become a book blogger. I am a champion of wordsmiths who evoke a visceral experience in narrative. I write comprehensive book showcases electing to get into the heart of my reading observations. I dance through genres seeking literary enlightenment and enchantment. Starting in Autumn 2013 I became a blog book tour hostess featuring books and authors. I joined The Classics Club in January 2014 to seek out appreciators of the timeless works of literature whose breadth of scope and voice resonate with us all.

"I write my heart out and own my writing after it has spilt out of the pen." - self quote (Jorie of Jorie Loves A Story)

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Posted Tuesday, 22 December, 2015 by jorielov in #JorieLovesIndies, 19th Century, Balance of Faith whilst Living, Bits & Bobbles of Jorie, Blog Tour Host, Bookish Discussions, Cedar Fort Publishing & Media, Death, Sorrow, and Loss, Epistolary Novel | Non-Fiction, Family Drama, Family Life, Farm and Ranching on the Frontier, Father-Daughter Relationships, Grief & Anguish of Guilt, Historical Fiction, Historical Romance, Homestead Life, Indie Author, Inspirational Fiction & Non-Fiction, Jorie Loves A Story Cuppa Book Love Awards, Life Shift, Mormonism, Mother-Daughter Relationships, Old West Americana, Oregon, Questioning Faith as a Teen, Religious History, Romantic Suspense, Siblings, Western Fiction, Western Romance

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