Category: Farm and Ranching on the Frontier

Blog Book Tour | “Softly Falling” by Carla Kelly

Posted Saturday, 22 November, 2014 by jorielov , , , 3 Comments

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Softly Falling by Carla Kelly

Published By: Sweetwater Books (@SweetwaterBooks),
an imprint of Cedar Fort, Inc (@CedarFortBooks)

Available Formats: Paperback, Ebook

Converse via: #SoftlyFalling, #histfic, #diverselit

Fun Stuff for Your Blog via pureimaginationblog.com

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 “Softly Falling” direct from the publisher Sweetwater Books (imprint of Cedar Fort, Inc) in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.

Inspired to Read:

I simply adore historical romances, and I have a soft spot for Westerns! I love the intensity of the moment where the two main characters find themselves in a place where they have to fight alongside each other for survival! A great place to curate drama and romance!

Blog Book Tour | “Softly Falling” by Carla KellySoftly Falling
by Carla Kelly
Source: Direct from Publisher

Lily looked at the vastness of the plains, full of cattle, and then up at the sky without a cloud in sight.

"What's going to happen, Mr. Sinclair?" she asked.

"What do you know?"

Fresh off the train from New York City,  Lily Carteret arrives in picturesque Wynoming only to discover that her wayward father has lost his cattle ranch to a lowly cowboy in a card game!

Determined not to let her father's folly ruin her life, Lily becomes a teacher on the ranch. There she learns that the handsome cowboy, Jack Sinclair, has made some wild predictions about the upcoming winter - that it will be unlike anything Wyoming has ever seen. Lily must either cast off her skepticism to work with Jack or risk losing everything she holds dear.

This latest novel by bestselling romance author Carla Kelly is sure to please new and old fans alike. Stirring, tense, and filled with swoon-worthy moments, it's a delectable read that will leave you begging for more!

Places to find the book:

Borrow from a Public Library

Add to LibraryThing

ISBN: 9781462113958

Also by this author: Summer Campaign, Courting Carrie in Wonderland, A Season of Love

Genres: Historical Fiction, Western Fiction


Published by Sweetwater Books

on 11th of November, 2014

Format: Paperback Edition

Pages: 288

About Carla Kelly

Carla Kelly is a veteran of the New York and international publishing world. The author of more than thirty novels and novellas for Donald I. Fine Co., Signet, and Harlequin, Carla is the recipient of two Rita Awards (think Oscars for romance writing) from Romance Writers of America and two Spur Awards (think Oscars for western fiction) from Western Writers of America. She is also a recipient of a Whitney Award for Borrowed Light, My Loving Vigil Keeping and Softly Falling.

Photo Credit: Marie Bryner-Bowles, Bryner Photography

Rugged yet full of Heart: the American West was for spirited survivors:

One of the reasons I love snuggling into a historical fiction drama set within the Rocky Mountain range of majestic jeweled peaks, is because I love the ruggedness of the land with the warm fire of spirit of the people who call the territories home. This was a portion of America where only the rugged at heart could carve out a living and find the joy in the seasons, as hard as they were to survive on little to no means of surplus provisions. This is where the men and women who dared to thrive found themselves in pickles when the heaviest of the storms plundered down around them in the Spring and Winter.

I have always been encouraged by their fiery spirit and their camaraderie to find sparkles of happiness out of a rough-hewn life forged out of necessity and honour. They could teach the art of simplicity and the wealth of faith rooted out of everyday joy and celebrations. Reading stories underlit by raw courage and a sense of instincts labouring to endure whatever nature could see to challenge them with is one reason I find myself drawn into the Western genre; soaking inside one story after another, and gaining a bit of insight into the way the West was settled.

My Review of Softly Falling:

Miss Lily Carteret has not had an easy upbringing; she is the daughter of her father’s heart, but her family in England was quite proper and never fully accepted her uniqueness as a quality they could appreciate. Her grace of statue and her calm fire in spite of such uneasy attitudes gave her a bit of a headway into understanding how to survive in a world of injustices. The colour of her skin held within it’s own beauty of her spirit and the compassion of her mother of whom she rarely speaks of but intuitively knows she had gained a grounding of character. Lily is a formidable woman in an age and time during our historical past where women were not given many opportunities nor a chance to define their lives on the merits of their own capabilities. Yet, due to a change of circumstance in both her station and in her location, Lily not only accepts her plight but shines a light on what is possible inside her mind’s eye.

The story begins on a premise of words whispering out of Thomas Edison about how never to compromise a defeat if you haven’t first uncovered every stone cast against your path. The strength of the quotation is explored through Lily as much as it is in Jack; two unlikely souls finding themselves in the same bit of Wyoming territory where a harsh clime and an undying level of optimism can take you further than a stubborn attitude against change. They each are residing near a rambling ranch where a lone schoolhouse looms silent within a stone’s throw of a towne with less than a dozen children residing inside it. The potential for what the schoolhouse could give Lily is enough of a will for Jack to encourage the lass to consider all options outside the box in an attempt to inspire her forward when life has left her feeling as though she is slowly falling into a vacuum. Neither moving forward or backwards, but rather sliding into a part of her life where uncertainty rules the roost of the early dawn.

The schoolhouse not only offered shelter for a small group of knowledge thirsty children to gain insight into how to read, write and do arithmetic but it sheltered them from a blizzard which arrived without warning and without a whispering sound! Snow funneled down to the earth in such earnest strides towards whitening out the entire ranch, giving Lily only time enough to assess her supplies and attempt to bring a bit of normalcy to the growing tension rising between her and the children. Her mind was filled with concern for her father (recently enroute to the city) and for Jack (elsewhere at the moment) whilst the world turnt dark, cold and frightening otherworldly. The snow’s wrath and extended conditions reminded me of the snowstorm greeting the Northern Tier of the states and provinces of Canada this November of 2014!

In the very beginning of the novel, Jack proffered Lily a premonition of what might come as soon as Winter set in on this small portion of the Wyoming Territory; knowing his intuition was set to rights was one thing, watching it arrive before her eyes was nearly too much weight for Lily to bear. She had grown not in years but in depths of what she was individually capable of achieving since she first arrived off the train; she had taken the bleak situation presented to her and turnt lemons into lemonade. She found her true calling in life (teaching) and she found self-worth was never too far away if you had a bit of ingenuity up your sleeve. Her presence warmed the hearts of the ranch hands and the help of the ramshackle ranch; where even the children learnt prejudice of others had no place in their world. She was not the only multicultural resident, but she was the one who breathed acceptance and tolerance into a slice of the territory which had long since needed to evolve past ignorance.

What I loved the most about Softly Falling is how the pieces of Lily’s life started to fall as soft as early Winter snowflakes, gentle and soft; warming to the spirit and endearing to the heart. She found she was never quite as alone as she felt she were in the world and that suddenly you can find yourself in a well sprung of kindness you never knew you had aligned on your path. The charming bits of the story remind me of a true epic saga, where you tuck yourself into the lives of the characters in such a way as to firmly and rather stubbornly do not move an inch off your seat until your fingers move the very last of the pages forward to gleam what is awaiting you in the ending paragraphs!

Softly Falling reminded me a bit of Love Comes Softly on the level where true love is not always a shower of sparks or lightning bolts, but a reassurance of commitment, trust, and compassion developing into something more solid as hours slide into days and days into months. Love isn’t always a firecracker explosion but true love can fall as softly as a snowflake and endure a soul to another as surely as a thousand year old oak can withstand a blizzard. A testament of strength irregardless of the ills and adversities of life; love can gather itself in thin soil and thrive in a pasture of a fertile harvest.

A soulful grace of story-telling where the characters alight naturally into view out of the pen of Carla Kelly:

Carla Kelly shines her soulful grace of the craft of story-telling within this novel, which accomplishes much more at it’s core than merely telling us a story wrought out of the Western genre within the folds of a Historical Fiction. No, this novel seeks a gentle truth towards telling a story rooted in the realism between the continental divides of race, identity, and personal worth as related to station, lifestyle, and locale. She interweaves a gentle hand of guidance within the minds of her characters, but it is how each of her characters bespeak of their innermost beliefs I found endeared me the most to the novel itself. A prime example of this is how Jack took awhile to realise his fond affection for Lily was far deeper than he was allowing himself to believe and yet, every chance he had to convey his thoughts to the reader, his love shone as bright as the Northern Lights:

My favourite passage from Jack relaying his thoughts on behalf of Lily & her mother:

He had no family, and the two women – one of color and the other of a creamy blend – filled his heart more than he knew at the time. They were ladies of quality but suspended in an unkind world, because they fit no mold.

– Jack from page 50, Chapter 7 of “Softly Falling” by Carla Kelly; see sources below

Kelly has captured my heart for the American West and given me a novel fully supported of cultural integrity and diversity of spirit, soul, heart, and the pursuit of finding your own path when life gives you an intercession of pause to choose how you want to live rather than having a life dictated to you.

An additional note on | character descriptions (per a convo I had on #K8Chat):

If I hadn’t ducked in on the lively and open-minded chat via #K8chat whilst I was working on this book review, I might not have thought to broach this subject, as part of the discussion was focused on how characters of race are presented within descriptive narratives. Specifically how writers tend to lean on descriptive choices pairing food with personal appearances as a method to convey differences in culture, race, and ethnicity. During the chat, I had expressed my thoughts on the topic by mentioning that oft-times when I find descriptive choices that lean on this writing technique to be of a ‘falling short of grace’ for me. Of course, within 140 characters I had to get a bit creative in how I expressed this but suffice to say, most choices come across as contrite, predictable, cliche or used in a way which does not befit the character nor the representation of the diversity the character is illuminating.

However, I said it does depend on context and content, as much as the story itself and not every writer writes the same way per each situation this would arise. Or at least, it was my intention to point this out, but chats on Twitter are such a rapid fire explosion of tweeting, you’d have better luck playing Quidditch! What I mostly have found though is that if you are limiting a person’s outside appearance to being described solely upon shapes, food, or discernible attributes which barter on a consensus of commonality within the trade of books — I feel as though the industry is simply missing out on the opportunity to use a palette of words which befit characters as defined as we would describe someone we met in real life.

I  personally do not see colour nor culture – I see people and their stories; stories yet to be shared or known, but everyone who walks earth has a story to tell. We are as diverse as the four winds, we are as colourful as a kaleidescope and we are as wonderfully unique as we were bourne to be. I always champion writers who find a way to allow their characters to be naturally wrought out of the text of their stories, emerging into the scenes as if they were not only living their truth but they were owning it at the same time.

In the opening chapters of Softly Falling, we are greeted by Lily’s disheveled and disillusioned father, who has never quite turnt an honest wage into an honest living irregardless of which country he’s living inside. A man whose soul was hinged to the bottle and a heart without the will to see past his daily tasks. His greatest gifts of love and joy were his wife and daughter, yet both were ethnically different from himself. Sadly, he was never quite the man either one of them deserved. Rather than establish a line of clarity on what his daughter would appear like disembarking from the train to the man he entrusted to collect her, he relates her origins in direct comparison to a specific type of tea.

What I appreciated seeing how Kelly treated the scene from two different points of view – that of Lily’s father (Clarence) and from Jack, is that Jack felt her appearance and her essence were not being properly voiced. He was embarrassed by the frankness of her father and of the method of his ability to describe her. Jack had more sense in his head than a father could bestow on his own flesh and blood. The dichotomy of their choices proved a telling point — no matter which era we call our own, there are always ripples of indifference in regards to who we are on the outside without seeing our beauty from the inside. I felt Kelly approached this quite well and I sided with Jack instantly on his compassion and his acceptance of Lily.

During the #K8Chat, I was surprised on how lively the discussion had become but one that was full of respect, innocent encouragement of exchanging ideas and an open forum for acceptance on both sides of the topic itself. Some voiced concerns over how descriptive narratives are used or how they are interpreted by readers whereas some who might have felt everything was acceptable were given fodder to chew at the end of the hour. To me the best way forward in a diverse world of literature is where every person (and their character counterpart) has the breathing space to become a part of the world stage of stories — we each have to remain open and honest about our thoughts, our impressions, and the believably of how stories are told. If truism and realism are important, even as book bloggers it would benefit us to remember to voice any concerns we might have as we read diversity in novels as much as celebrating the writers like Carla Kelly who get it right.

Don’t forget to give a nod of gratitude to her publisher, Sweetwater Books/Cedar Fort as well!

Fun Stuff for Your Blog via pureimaginationblog.com

(read more of the convo) (read the chat transcript)

(the chatter who sparked the topic : Melissa Robles (@MeliRobles) | The Reader & the Chef)

(read my essay from #atozchallenge: Letter E The World is a Melting Pot)

Fun Stuff for Your Blog via pureimaginationblog.com

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

Cedar Fort Publishing & Media

 Be sure to follow the rest of the blog tour:
Softly Falling Blog Tour via Cedar Fort Publishing & Media
This book review is being cross-promoted via:

#IndieWriterMonth Blog Feature of Jorie Loves A Story, badge created by Jorie in Canva

Return May, 2015 to see my second book review on behalf of a Carla Kelly novel:

Summer Campaign Blog Tour via Cedar Fort Publishing & Media

{SOURCES: Book Cover Art for “Softly Falling”, author biography, book synopsis, blog tour badges and the badge for Cedar Fort Publishing & Media were provided by Cedar Fort Publishing & Media and used with permission. Permission granted in notice of copyright for ‘brief passages embodied in critical reviews’ which is why I selected a small quotation to share on my review with the permission of the publisher. Post dividers badge by Fun Stuff for Your Blog via Pure Imagination. Blog Tour badge provided by Parajunkee to give book bloggers definition on their blogs. #IndieWriterMonth badge created by Jorie in Canva. Cross-Posted badge for Riffle created by Jorie in Canva.}

Copyright © Jorie Loves A Story, 2014.

The live reading tweets in regards to “Softly Falling”:

{ favourite & Re-tweet if inspired to share }

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

  • Go Indie
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Posted Saturday, 22 November, 2014 by jorielov in #K8chat, 19th Century, American Old West, Animals in Fiction & Non-Fiction, Balance of Faith whilst Living, Bits & Bobbles of Jorie, Blog Tour Host & Reviewer, Bookish Discussions, Cats and Kittens, Cedar Fort Publishing & Media, Clever Turns of Phrase, Compassion & Acceptance of Differences, Death, Sorrow, and Loss, Equality In Literature, Family Drama, Family Life, Farm and Ranching on the Frontier, Father-Daughter Relationships, Geographically Specific, Historical Fiction, Historical Romance, Homestead Life, Indie Author, Inheritance & Identity, Inspirational Fiction & Non-Fiction, Life Shift, Lyrical Quotations, Multi-cultural Characters and/or Honest Representations of Ethnicity, Native American Fiction, Old West Americana, Passionate Researcher, Philosophical Intuitiveness, Romance Fiction, Small Towne Fiction, Small Towne USA, Spontaneous Convos Inspired by Book, Twitterland & Twitterverse Event, Western Fiction, Western Romance, Wordsmiths & Palettes of Sage, Wyoming

Book Review | The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn by Lori Benton #BloggingForBooks

Posted Wednesday, 22 October, 2014 by jorielov , , , 0 Comments

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The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn by Lori Benton

 Published By: WaterBrook Multnomah (@WaterBrookPress),

(an imprint of Random House Publishing Group)

Official Author Websites: Site | Facebook

Available Formats: Trade Paperback & Ebook

Converse on Twitter via: #ThePursuitOfTamsenLittlejohn & #LoriBenton

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Acquired Book By: I decided to join the “Blogging for Books” programme (on 9th July, 2014) which is a book for review programme created by the Crown Publishing Group. I received “The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn” at the end of July, and had 90 days in which to post my review. As a book blogger you are offered books in exchange for an honest review on your book blog as well as the ability to reach new readers when you cross-post your review to the Blogging for Books website. The benefit for the blogger is exposure as a reviewer as they put direct links back to your blog post on the book you select to review as well as your homepage. Therefore, this is my first review as a new book blogger in the programme. I received a complimentary copy of the book direct from the publisher WaterBrook Multnomah, in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.

Inspired to Read:

I appreciate compelling historical fiction stories that curate within them a fusion of heart and soul inside the narrative itself. I appreciate reading stories of anguish and angst, where in the ending you feel as though the characters who have walked the hardest path have found not only resolution but redemption through what oppressed them. I have always held a soft spot for stories set in the American West, in the wild lands between the Coasts before progress and civilisation came into existence. There was a lot of untamed townes and cities, where lawbreakers outnumbered the peacekeepers, and where the rules of propriety between the genders was dependent upon the beliefs and views of the individuals you encountered.

I always felt a championing spirit by uncovering the stories that knitted together the realism of the generation where the stories were set but placing within their pages a lead character who could tether your own spirit straight into the story itself. I like taking the journey with a character whose moxie and grit of determined spirit not only inspires you as you read her story unfold, but gives you a hearty prose to stay with you after the book is put down. I love finding writers who stitch their stories alive with an intensity that pulls back with a grace that illuminates the action through a gentle hand of how a story can take you somewhere unexpectedly cosy to visit.

Book Review | The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn by Lori Benton #BloggingForBooksThe Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn
by Lori Benton
Source: Publisher via Blogging for Books

Frontier dangers cannot hold a candle to the risks one woman takes by falling in love

In an act of brave defiance, Tamsen Littlejohn escapes the life her harsh stepfather has forced upon her. Forsaking security and an arranged marriage, she enlists frontiersman Jesse Bird to guide her to the Watauga settlement in western North Carolina. But shedding her old life doesn’t come without cost. As the two cross a vast mountain wilderness, Tamsen faces hardships that test the limits of her faith and endurance.

Convinced that Tamsen has been kidnapped, wealthy suitor Ambrose Kincaid follows after her, in company with her equally determined stepfather. With trouble in pursuit, Tamsen and Jesse find themselves thrust into the conflict of a divided community of Overmountain settlers. The State of Franklin has been declared, but many remain loyal to North Carolina. With one life left behind and chaos on the horizon, Tamsen struggles to adapt to a life for which she was never prepared. But could this challenging frontier life be what her soul has longed for, what God has been leading her toward? As pursuit draws ever nearer, will her faith see her through the greatest danger of all—loving a man who has risked everything for her?


 Praise on behalf of the novel:

“Seldom has a tale swept me away so powerfully that I’m left both breathless and bereft at its end, reluctant to let go. The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn is such a book, a gentle masterpiece destined to be treasured and acclaimed.”
—Julie Lessman, award-winning author of the Daughters of Boston and Winds of Change series

“With gorgeous prose and characters that will steal your heart, Benton has breathed live and passion into history. The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn is a captivating example of excellence. Flawless!”
—Roseanna M. White, author of the Culper Ring series 

“In this sweeping colonial saga, author Lori Benton has crafted a powerful tale wherein every element of storytelling is vividly woven together. Poetic, emotional, and rich in historic detail, The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn is a stirring page-turner.”
—Joanne Bischof, award-winning author of Be Still My Soul and Though My Heart Is Torn 

Places to find the book:

Genres: Historical Fiction, Inspirational Fiction & Non-Fiction


Published by WaterBrook Multnomah

on 15th April, 2014

Format: Paperback

Pages: 400

Author Biography:Lori Benton

Lori Benton was raised east of the Appalachian Mountains, surrounded by early American and family history going back three hundred years. Her novels transport readers to the 18th century, where she brings to life the Colonial and early Federal periods of American history, creating a melting pot of characters drawn from both sides of a turbulent and shifting frontier, brought together in the bonds of God’s transforming grace. When she isn’t writing, Lori enjoys exploring beautiful Oregon with her husband.

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My Review of The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn:

The opening of The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn brought me back to my readings of Westerns, as there has been a bit of a gap between my readings of frontier life, the open plains, and the trappers who called the woods their home. Cowboy fiction was a bit of a sub-genre of interest for me, and as I started to settle into Jessie Bird’s life moving cattle across the open lands fraught with Native American attacks, it drew me back into the worlds I used to alight inside quite frequently. There is a raw freedom to living off the land, curating your own hours, and taking it upon yourself to draw out a stipend of a living by any which means you’re able. Jessie felt a bit hardened by his lifestyle of choice, but optimistically hopeful about his future at the very same time, wondering why his bunkmates felt it necessary to gloat about another man’s fortune of matrimony when he hadn’t yet found a gal to fancy himself.

I enjoyed seeing a working agreement between the Native Americans and the cowboys, as they were each looking out for each other when a raiding group of rebels attempted to cut the herd by a river. Whilst the men hunkered down for the night by firelight, Tamsen Littlejohn herself took her cue to enter into the story within the next chapter. The segue felt natural to me, as Tamsen’s ability to strike a scene so vivid and endearing of courage held my breath as I watched her handle Ambrose Kincaid’s unsettling display of diffidence towards someone he employs like the true champion I felt she was all along! Tamsen Littlejohn doesn’t seek out trouble, but trouble finds her all the same, yet it is her firm beliefs in what is right and wrong in life that anchor her to speaking her mind when the occasion rises to be filled with words of truth. The 18th Century was not the time of acceptance for expressing the rights of slaves but there were a few who understood the greater scope of the plight all slaves faced and happily I found Tamsen Littlejohn a woman who stood on the side of justice and freedom.

The vile nature of Tamsen’s step-father is enough to see the world painted black and tarnished with a fear that will not end unless you find the bravery necessary to escape – my thoughts were aligned with Tamsen as she plotted to sort out a way to ferret out of his plans. The man had no filters nor boundaries of causing violence inside his home, as he attacked Tamsen’s mother with such a harshness and cruel smugness that I couldn’t wait to see Tamsen exit the house to gain her freedom. Her mother was too passive to understand that staying was not the better option, but watching Tamsen realise the error of her mother’s choices was guttingly emotional.

I had a bit of difficulty staying inside the story after Tamsen starts to make her way out from the shadow of her step-father, not because the writing of the story wasn’t on the same caliber as the first half of the novel itself, but because the intensity of Tamsen’s life never felt like it was going to lesson. I was hoping that once she was out from underneath her step-father’s control, she could start to put the pieces back together, whilst forging a new life and identity elsewhere. The circumstances she left under and the origins of her own heritage she learnt on her mother’s deathbed painted a true portrait of how this story was going to be an emotional read from start to finish. For me personally, it felt a bit too emotionally churning as each time Jesse and Tamsen were a step closer to being on stable ground, something else would alight on their conjoined path and upset the apple cart so to speak. The harsh reality felt a bit crushing at times, and a bit of a difficult reading when your used to having the heaviest bits lesson a bit after awhile.

The writing style of Lori Benton:

Benton has the graceful stroke of understanding the importance of the historical perspective of her story as much as giving realism to the era in which her characters lived by allowing them the chance to speak in words & phrases that would have been readily known. She leaves a breath of intrigue in only giving out certain pieces of information at different junctions of time, giving you a full pause and a measure of wonder at where she is going to guide the story next. She cleverly masked the worst of the brutality from Tamsen’s step-father by giving just enough to feel the full measure of his wrath without pushing the envelope past what you can stomach inside of a historical inspirational novel.

Fun Stuff for Your Blog via pureimaginationblog.comThis book review is courtesy of: Blogging for Books

Blogging for Books - book for review programme for book bloggers

I wanted to thank the Blogging for Books programme for giving me the opportunity to read this novel! I had hoped to post my review over the Summer, and not on the deadline of 90 days after I received it! I simply had too much on my plate this Summer, and I regret that I was delayed until now to share my thoughts about reading my first Lori Benton novel! The grace of understanding the staff of Blogging for Books gave me in this regard was a true blessing! I am going to wait until mid-November before I make my next selection for Blogging for Books, to allow myself to have more time to soak into my next novel I accept for review through their programme for book bloggers! I am thrilled I can find Inspirational novels like this one available on their website!

I positively *love!* comments in the threads below each of my posts, kindly know that I appreciate each thought you want to share with me and all the posts on my blog are open to new comments & commentary! Short or long, I appreciate the time you spent to leave behind a note of your visit! Return again soon!

Reader Interactive Question:

What are your favourite Inspirational Fiction stories to read? Do you find yourself captured more by historical settings or contemporary modern life? What do you appreciate the most by finding a strong lead character such as Tamsen Littlejohn who defies her era by standing strong in the midst of danger?

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{SOURCES: Book cover for “The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn” (small icon size) was provided by Blogging for Books directly and the larger version seen at the top of this review was saved from the Random House site’s page for the novel itself with permission of Blogging for Books; both versions are used with permission. The Author Photograph was saved from WaterBrook Multnomah site’s page for the author with permission of Blogging for Books. Likewise, the Author’s Biography, the Book Synopsis, and Quotes of Praise were used with permission of Blogging for Books as well. Blog Tour badge provided by Parajunkee to give book bloggers definition on their blogs. Post dividers by Fun Stuff for Your Blog via Pure Imagination. Tweets embedded due to codes provided by Twitter.}

Copyright © Jorie Loves A Story, 2014.

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Posted Wednesday, 22 October, 2014 by jorielov in 18th Century, African-American History, Balance of Faith whilst Living, Blog Tour Host & Reviewer, Blogging for Books, Civil Rights, Clever Turns of Phrase, Domestic Violence, Farm and Ranching on the Frontier, Father-Daughter Relationships, Historical Fiction, Historical Romance, Inspirational Fiction & Non-Fiction, Mother-Daughter Relationships, Native American Fiction, Old West Americana, Psychological Abuse, Sociological Behavior, The American Frontier, The Deep South, Western Fiction, Western Romance

+Book Review+ A Bargain Struck by Liz Harris #ChocLitSaturdays

Posted Saturday, 18 January, 2014 by jorielov , , , 18 Comments

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A Bargain Struck by Liz HarrisA Bargain Struck by Liz Harris

Author Connections: Personal Site | Blog

Facebook | Twitter | Converse via: #ABargainStruck

Illustrated By: Berni Stevens

 @circleoflebanon | Writer | Illustrator

Genre(s): Fiction | Romance | Historical | Western

Old West Americana | 19th Century Wyoming

Published by: ChocLitUK, 7 September 2013

Available Formats: Paperback, E-Book & Audiobook Page Count: 336

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Acquired Book By:

I am a ChocLit reviewer who receives books of my choice in exchange for honest reviews! I received a complimentary copy of “A Bargain Struck” from ChocLit via IPM (International Publisher’s Marketing) in exchange for an honest review! The book released on 7th September 2013. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein. 

Inspired to Read:

As soon as I read the premise, I was brought back to “Loves Comes Softly” (the motion picture(s), as I did not read the novels)!! I love it when writers infuse romance in a way that arrives as calm as a gentle breeze into the lives of their characters! Love isn’t always fireworks and “bing, bang, boom!”!! Sometimes it takes awhile for a heart to accept the connection its softening towards and sometimes being human brings with it the baggage of not only our life experiences but of broken hearts &/or broken love. Mail-Order Brides. Brides of Convenience. I am drawn to these stories like moths to flame! I love reading them because they are always intrinsically unique! One prime example of a novel I like in this branch of romance is “A Bride in the Bargain” by Deeanne Gist.

Fun Stuff for Your Blog via pureimaginationblog.comBook Synopsis:

Does a good deal make a marriage?

Widower Connor Maguire advertises for a wife to raise his young daughter, Bridget, work the homestead and bear him a son.

Ellen O’Sullivan longs for a home, a husband and a family. On paper, she is everything Connor needs in a wife. However, it soon becomes clear that Ellen has not been entirely truthful.

Will Connor be able to overlook Ellen’s dishonesty and keep to his side of the bargain? Or will Bridget’s resentment, the attentions of the beautiful Miss Quinn, and the arrival of an unwelcome visitor, combine to prevent the couple from starting anew?

As their personal feelings blur the boundaries of their deal, they begin to wonder if a bargain struck makes a marriage worth keeping.

Set in Wyoming in 1887, a story of a man and a woman brought together through need, not love …

Liz HarrisAuthor Biography:

Liz was born in London and now lives in South Oxfordshire with her husband. After graduating from university with a Law degree, she moved to California where she led a varied life, trying her hand at everything from cocktail waitressing on Sunset Strip to working as secretary to the CEO of a large Japanese trading company, not to mention a stint as ‘resident starlet’ at MGM. On returning to England, Liz completed a degree in English and taught for a number of years before developing her writing career.

Liz’s debut novel, The Road Back, won a 2012 Book of the Year Award from Coffee Time Romance in the USA and her second novel A Bargain Struck was highly praised by the Daily Mail in the UK.

Fun Stuff for Your Blog via pureimaginationblog.comWyoming, on the fringes of the 20th Century:

Lush open land was the norm for the Western frontier, and Harris pulls the reader back into the days of virgin forest and the beginnings of urban developments to where the natural world remained quite in tact. I had grown up with stories surrounding the West from my Mum who had travelled West with her parents, and I oft remembered how she told me of how impressive and awe-inspiring those forest were to her young eyes! I have nearly felt as though I have all but touched the grace of those lands through the living histories of her and my grandparents she has shared throughout my childhood. I could notice hintings of the author’s travels to Wyoming threaded through the narrative as she gave a clear and conscientious description of the open ranges nestled just outside the organisations of the towne.

I first started to garnish a deep appreciation for Western stories and frontier life whilst a pre-teen reader who was seeking something outside the sphere of Children’s Literature. I sunk into the novels of The Black Stallion quite easily as I was approaching the horse drama genre from the real-life experiences of being a new equestrian in training. I could well relate to the close connections one forges with a horse as a rider who was inclined to cherish the hours she shared with her mount. I was hungry for stories of the Old West as much as the trials of those who dared to travel West from the East. Henceafter I would settle into Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman, The Harts of the West, Walker, Texas Ranger, Lonesome Dove (film), Little House on the Prairie, The Young Riders (about the Pony Express), Love Comes Softly Saga, The Wilderness Family (film trilogy), The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr., Legend, Peacemakers, and as many horse dramas in motion picture as I could sort out to see via the silver and small screens. I was attracted to the truism of writers such as: Cameron Judd (Fiddler & McCann) and Dana Fuller Ross (Frontier trilogy of the Holts, as previously I hadn’t realised it had continued! I unearthed this information in 2013 through conversations on the Society). Western fiction is a part of my reading life I tend to forget to mention being amongst my absolute favourites to disappear inside!

Which goes to explain why I was lit with eager excitement in finding A Bargain Struck amongst the offerings of ChocLit books! I have been segueing in recent years of taking my appreciation for the West into my inspirational fiction wanderings which is why over the score of 2014 the vast majority of stories set in this genre will be threaded through my 70 Authors Challenge. I am sure I shall never extinguish a passion for seeing the roots of how we settled America nor of our Northernly neighbour (Canada) as well. There is such a rich living history forged out of need and destined out of determined grit. The strength necessary to carve out a living space in the midst of the wilds has a passionate appeal for a girl such as I whose heart is forever entwined to the natural world.

My Review of A Bargain Struck:

The complexity of the story inside A Bargain Struck is hinged to the theory of how well can you know someone you advert to marry and how well you can trust the person who takes up residence in your home after the haste of marriage. Mail-Order brides and marriages of convenience were quite the commonplace a handful of centuries ago due to the extreme consistency of pre-mature death. Men and women were thrown together to make do with the next spouse in line to agree to a partnership which would help them survive and thrive in the harsh realities of a farm or homestead. The work was heavily wrought on physical labour making it made a sound choice to find women and men who could bargain their contract of marriage to offset the chores and duties applied therein to each gender.

Harris paints a very poignant picture whilst opening her novel, as her bride is not a blushing one but one who is vacillating about what she should have writ her soon-to-be-husband and what she omitted. She’s at the cornerstone of her life caught between two worlds of acceptance: society at large ostracising her for her physical deformity and the kindness of a stranger who will wed her as his wife. Her step-daughter’s obsession with punishing her father for bringing a new ‘mother’ into her life had me flicker back a sideways smile towards remembrance of ‘Missy’ from Love Comes Softly. Bridget fills every inch of her red hair with a fierce Irish sensibility!

I did not take a shine towards Conn’s brother Niall nor of Bridget’s teacher Miss Quinn, as both felt to me of having the character towards malicious intent rather than outward sincerity. They were a matched pair in my eyes as they felt self-assured to place their own needs and desires ahead of those of the community, their friends, and family. I was admittedly hoping there would be a turning tide in the story were Riall would be behind the ruckus of disparaging behaviour which was all too common for frontier ranchermen to have dealt with. I normally wouldn’t want ill-will to befall a character but he was writ in such a way as to realise his spots were tattooed throughout his soul. He ought to have been happy to play the part of the rogue but oh, no! He had to be a rakish rat!

I had hoped a bit more flushing out of Peggy & William, the lovely neighbours who would step in to watch Bridget if need be. True salts of the earth, neighbourly and kind with a full heart of bringing together community fortitude. Harris’s research is embodied in the tasks she brings to the center of the story itself, whereupon Ellen is seen going through her daily chores, tasks, and projects. The ones that get me personally excited about one day living through a hearty Winter myself! (i.e. a proper backyard victory garden, canning, drying herbs, cold storage for root veg, etc) I adore wood-stoves and living off the land which inspires a freedom of self-sustainability! A near primer of how to make the land work for you is illuminated inside.

The most endearing bit to the story is how each of us has a choice of how we’re reflected in life and it is not always pinned to our attitudes but rather in a matching of the mirrors in which we present to the world. If our inner selves are aligned with our outer persona, our personality will carry-over any decidedly difference which could cause prejudicial behaviour. However, if a person’s character is shrouded in a double-blade sword of uncertainty behind the merit of their ethical motivations, an invisible line is drawn to ascertain whom is the better person to befriend.

Fly in the Ointment OR is it?

The only discerning flaw I could notice was the repetitive nature of drawing attention to Ellen’s disfigured scar, which felt to me as though the characters and the texture of the story were not following suit of the pacing. Except to say, as I mulled over the choices of when the topic was brought up in the story itself, I realised I was approaching this from an extroverted point of view rather than an introspective and introverted perspective which is the characteristic of the central lead characters! Both Ellen and Conn are quite reserved, less likely to broach their internal feelings and thoughts, as they would typically walk on eggshells around each other than state a straightforward truth. Approaching my issue with the repetition in taking into account their own personalities, I am not sure if its such a flaw as a difference in an approach I would have given them.

I appreciated when their individual discussions would turn reflective and entertain the heart of what was stabbing at their marriage’s stability and civility. One of the true strengths of ChocLit novels that I can foresee having read two of them within a fortnight, is that ChocLit novelists do not shy away from giving out the internal lives of married couples. They do not merely hint at the everyday nuisances of married life nor do they flinch to reveal how each man and woman feel whilst in their marriage. I like the inclusion of dialogue and of passages where you’re not having their everyday motions swept past your view, but rather explored; revealing hidden truths as you are walking with them through their angst or uncertainty rather than merely presuming what they are thinking or doing in those moments of strife.

I truly was rooting for Conn and Ellen to get to the point to where they could say what they felt in their heart rather than lead with a standard response to hide their truer feelings. I think in this regard, this is not a fly in the ointment in the traditional sense but an irksome reality of marriage in the late 19th Century being viewed by a 21st Century strong-willed gal who felt badly for both of them to always fall back on what was their original opinions rather than the change of heart they were equally acknowledging to have had.

A Note of Appreciation on behalf of the writing style of Ms. Harris:

For an American whose own writing voice has moved past her native language and merged into the language and stylings of her ancestors, I personally am drawn into stories evoked out of British & Old English vernaculars. I had received a few bits of feedback in the past to where an American whose written voice is British wouldn’t fly for creating stories set around American life nor for an American audience. I was always boldly bent towards taking the stance to defend not only my right to write a story in the voice and style that is naturally created but to keep my chin tucked up knowing that by remaining true to my own voice in story form was the only course I would be willing to take. I applauded and smiled whilst reading A Bargain Struck because this is the epitome of the critical eyes who could not grasp the fuller picture! The voice of a story isn’t hindered nor deflected by words, language, and phrases as it’s the craft of the story-teller to give the seed of the story through what is painted throughout the texture of the story itself.

I hadn’t even thought to think of the larger picture of this realisation until I was nearly halfway through the novel! I sat back and allowed myself a bit of a bubble of laugh over the seemingly pettiness that sometimes can affect or alter a writer’s perspective on the changing ebbs of publishing. For every solid story writ, there is surely an audience and a publisher who understands the writer’s intentions and merit of writing. I applaud this very British Americana novel for every inch of its contents for being decidedly British with a flair and flavour for homesteading life where the locality of words flow freely through the exchanges between Conn and Ellen.

And, on a very personal level, bless Ms. Harris for confirming what I felt was right in how to properly have spelt the word ‘travelling’! 

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This book review is courtesy of ChocLitUK,

ChocLitUK Reviewercheck out my upcoming bookish event and mark your calendars!

#ChocLitSaturdays | a feature exclusive to Jorie Loves A Story

*NEWSFLASH* : This marks my second *#ChocLitSaturdays*, where I will be spotlighting a book published by ChocLitUK! Coordinating bonus features will alight on my blog in forthcoming weeks! My next ChocLit review will be for “Close to the Wind” by Zana Bell, on the 25th of January! I will be tweeting about it ahead time if you want to watch the hashtag for future announcements for this Jorie Loves A Story feature!
**UPDATE** : 21 June, 2014 I have cross-posted my review of A Bargain Struck to my BookLikes blog, as well as cross-posting the first two paragraphs of the review to the ChocLitUK book page for the novel.

{SOURCES: Author photograph, Author Biography, Book Synopsis, and Book Cover were provided by ChocLitUK and were used by permission. Book Review badge provided by Parajunkee to give book bloggers definition on their blogs. Jorie Loves A Story badge created by Ravven with edits by Jorie in FotoFlexer. Post dividers by Fun Stuff for Your Blog via Pure Imagination.}

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Posted Saturday, 18 January, 2014 by jorielov in 19th Century, American Old West, Blog Tour Host & Reviewer, ChocLitSaturdays, ChocLitUK, Death, Sorrow, and Loss, Family Drama, Family Life, Farm and Ranching on the Frontier, Father-Daughter Relationships, Fly in the Ointment, Historical Fiction, Historical Romance, Homestead Life, Indie Author, Mail-Order Brides & Marriages of Convenience, Modern British Literature, Old West Americana, Romance Fiction, Second Chance Love, Western Fiction, Western Romance, Women's Fiction, Writing Style & Voice