18 April 2014

A Beauty So Rare by Tamera Alexander Reviewed by Carrie Fancett Pagels

A Beauty So Rare by Tamera Alexander (Bethany House)

A Beauty So Rare, A Belmont Mansion Novel Book #2
(Bethany House Publishers)

5 stars *****
By Carrie Fancett Pagels

Another Belmont Hit!
What a wonderful read! A Beauty So Rare starts out a little bit slow but have no worries, Tamera Alexander soon takes off with a story wonderfully woven. I was tickled pink over heroine, Eleanor's reaction to certain colors of clothing, which I enjoy. Mr. Geoffries, a German archduke, and is a wonderful hero. Eleanor is strong and capable and learns to trust her heart, over the course of the story. Loved the secondary characters, with the widowed ladies and their children receiving help through the hero's and heroine's efforts. Some terrific antagonists, with great characterization.

This is the second book in the Belmont series and I can't wait to read the next book when it releases! The reader can settle in on A Beauty So Rare for a nice long read, though--as it comes in just under 500 pages!!!

Bibliotherapy: Eleanor's father has Alzheimer's and must be placed in an institution. Tamera does a great job in showing how irascible and even dangerous someone can become with dementia. Having had several loved ones with this disorder I've seen how someone with Alzheimer's can turn on the very ones they love the most--the paranoia that sets in can be terrifying. Beautiful and tasteful showing of both the sweet and the awful moments of coping with a parent in these later stages of deterioration.

Also, although it isn't dwelt upon, Eleanor begins the story in a combat field hospital with a dying man. So we have a 26-year-old woman experiencing the horrors of war (I could have done without some of those scenes) and so the reader can assume she has some PTSD issues.  With Eleanor now 30, in the story, she is also struggling with singleness and being "an old maid." She feels abandoned by her father and it is her intense loneliness at Aunt Adelicia's home that helps cement her relationship with "the gardener" who isn't a gardener at all! Having been almost 30 when I married my husband, I know it is worth the wait, as it is for the heroine!

Superlatives: This book will be on my best of 2014 list here on the Overcoming With God. We OWG reviewers publish these "Best of" lists the end of December. The book will also be entered in the Bibliotherapy category as well.

Highly recommend--don't miss this!

Disclosure: I purchased this book as a paperback through Amazon but I also received a Kindle copy through NetGalley and am under no compulsion to post a positive review. The reviewers on the OWG blog love Tamera's books so much that we made sure everyone got a copy of this new release, in paperback, for the gorgeous cover, too. I also ordered the audio copy of the book. Unfortunately, the narrator on the book doesn't do the story justice--so I'd recommend that you read on Kindle, setting the font to large, if you have difficulty reading long books with your eyes, like I do.

Giveaways: We are giving away several items this week, including copies of the book and my surprise pink giveaway and a $10 Starbuck gift card.

16 April 2014

Noela Reviews A BEAUTY SO RARE by Tamera Alexander

A Beauty So Rare

A Beauty So Rare
by Tamera Alexander
Bethany House Publishers (March 24, 2014)

Reviewed by Noela Nancarrow
~5 Stars~ *****
A Rare Beauty!

To read Tamera Alexander’s novel ‘A Beauty So Rare’ is to step back into the pages of history to visit the luxurious Belmont Mansion in Nashville, Tennessee during the year of 1868... just a few years after the brutal civil war had officially ceased. The dreadful war images almost fade away as you take in the grandeur of the exquisite estate with its expansive lavish gardens and magnificent palatial home. It is there we meet the lady of Belmont Mansion, the beautiful although demanding and intimidating Adelicia Cheathum, known by many as the richest woman in America.

Eleanor Braddock, niece of Adelicia, is financially devastated due to the failing health of her father. After committing her father to an asylum, she arrives as arranged to her Aunt’s grand estate to stay until she gets back on her feet. Eleanor comes with a pre-determined practical and hardworking plan to support herself and to pay for her father’s care. But Adelicia has plans of her own for her niece. They include an engagement to a wealthy suitor and a more leisurely high society lifestyle in keeping with Adelicia’s social circles. Personality and ideals clash, because Eleanor is unable to shake the images of Nashville's destitute war widows whilst living in such luxury. But when Eleanor finds her own plans falling into pieces, she begins to seriously consider the wealthy acquaintance of her aunt.

Archduke Marcus Gottfriend aka Marcus Geoffrey, second in line to the throne in Austria, has come to Nashville anonymously to spend time living his life catering to his interests for a change, while also longing to leave his mark in America with his combined passions of nature and architecture. But he has responsibilities to his fiancĂ©, family, and country, and knows he will soon have to return. Working in the enormous glass-walled conservatory in the Belmont grounds, he meets Eleanor and discovers her to be a breath of fresh air, a woman without pretences, and with a generous heart like none other. With all that binds them, they know the growing affection between them cannot be allowed to bloom. Will love find a way in the impossible? I loved seeing Proverbs 16:9 being played out… ‘A man’s mind plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.”

There was so much to love about this book: The fascinating history and impeccable research that has gone into this story; the multi-layered characters that invoke in you an intense longing for; and the smiles and chuckles the clever dialogue prompts to name just a few. Spiritually, I departed with the reminder of how intimately God cares for each of us, and that He will guide us to a better place than imagined when our trust is placed in Him. Tamera Alexander is an outstanding storyteller and has created a rare beauty with an excellence that should definitely be savoured!

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This book may be purchased through Amazon, CBD, BAM, or your local bookstore.

GIVEAWAYS: This week we are giving away a paperback and e-book copy of A Beauty So Rare, a Starbucks $10 Card, a pink surprise giveaway, AND Tamera is offering a signed copy, too!!

*Please leave a comment to enter and don't forget your email addy! If you'd like, share an instance with us of how you've seen God care for you intimately!

15 April 2014

Diana Reviews "A Beauty So Rare" By Tamera Alexander

A Beauty So Rare

Reviewed by Diana Flowers
5 stars*****

Historical Fiction At Its Finest!

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. The Civil War had finally come to an end—leaving in its wake the wealthy still pursuing their opulent lifestyles in their beauteous plantations with lush, manicured lawns and tea parties—and on the opposite end of the spectrum, the destitute war widows with starving families and a city in the midst of rebuilding.

Eleanor Braddock is plain and well past the years most women marry and resigns herself to the fact that she never will. Her father, once one of the most revered attorneys in Tennessee has taken ill, leaving Eleanor with no choice but to live with her wealthy Aunt Adelicia in her exquisite estate, Belmont. Aunt Adelicia soon endeavors to introduce Eleanor into high society and picks out a rich beau for her, neither of which holds any interest to Eleanor. Knowing her aunt will never approve, Eleanor's compassionate heart leans in another direction…building a home for the destitute widows and fatherless children from the Civil War.

It is here where she works closely with the handsome architect, Marcus Gottfried of Austria, who stirs her heart as no one ever has. However, Marcus harbors a deep secret which he refrains from telling Eleanor and the townsfolk of Nashville. Though his passionate kiss tells her otherwise, Marcus is hopelessly unavailable to Eleanor. Will her work with the war widows and a new man in her life be enough to sustain her while she suffers yet another heartbreaking loss in her life?

Tamera Alexander's books never disappoint and this one is no exception! While reading it I kept thinking "wow" and although not a very profound statement, this book totally "wowed" me! Rich in historical detail, this fascinating storyline depicts real life events and characters, and Tamera's research is impeccable. I really enjoy intriguing historical moments, but would much rather read about them in fiction formthank you. J I absolutely fell in love with the realistic, fleshed out hero (he was one class act!) and heroine, and their humorous, playful, and flirtatious interactions one with another. If you treasure an awesome historical romance, A Beauty So Rare is a definite must read for you!

This book may be purchased through Amazon, CBD, BAM, and your local bookstore.
GIVEAWAYS: This week we are giving away a paperback and ebook copy of A Beauty So Rare, a Starbucks $10 card, a pink surprise giveaway, AND Tamera is offering a signed copy, too!!
*Please leave a comment and don't forget your email addy! 

13 April 2014

Overcoming in the Desert Seasons by Tamera Alexander

Author Tamera Alexander
Overcoming in the Desert Seasons
by Tamera Alexander

Do you like deserts? Not desserts, mind you, those are much easier to love. But deserts. Specifically, the desert times of life. Those seasons in our earthly journey when our hearts feel dry and empty, purposeless. When our spirit can grow weary due, perhaps in part, to a prolonged illness or injury, to trials or troubled relationships, or maybe disappointment in a career. Those times when there seems to be no end in sight to the "soul drought."

I’ve experienced those seasons in my life. I think we all have. There’s a verse I came across years ago during one of these times, and since then, God has engraved it on my heart:

"When Pharaoh finally let the people go, God did not lead them along the main road that runs through Philistine territory, even though that was the shortest route to the Promised Land. God said, "If the people are faced with a battle, they might change their minds and return to Egypt." So God led them in a roundabout way through the wilderness..."
                                                                                                            (Exodus 13:17-18a)

Did the same phrase jump out at you that jumped out at me that day? "God did not lead them along the main road…even though that was the shortest route to the Promised Land."

Why on earth would God purposefully make the Israelites go the longer, harder route? Why would he keep his chosen people wandering in the desert? When we travel, don’t we typically opt for the shortest route? Why wouldn’t God do that too?

Because He knows something we don’t. About us. And about the journey.

In the past, when I’ve been in those desert seasons, I’ve asked God why I'm there. Rarely have I gotten an immediate response, mind you, if I get one at all. So I push on, just like you do, through the responsibilities and obligations of life, seeking God’s face, listening for his voice.

One such desert time for me was watching my mom suffer from metastatic gallbladder cancer. Her journey from diagnosis to stepping into Jesus’s arms was brief. Only six months. And traveling that road with her was one of the most agonizing––yet most precious and beautiful––times in my life. Odd how often the most beautiful experiences also involve moments of excruciating pain.

In writing A Beauty So Rare I drew upon many of my own desert seasons, specifically when writing about Eleanor Braddock and her relationship with her father. God showed me yet again (with the benefit of distance and perspective), how faithful He is. How intentional his love is. And how he always has our best at heart, even when our hearts are breaking.

I’ve learned we ought not let our circumstances teach us theology. God is faithful. He’s sovereign. Always. And if we’re in the desert, we’re there because he’s either allowed it, or designed it. It’s not pleasant, the desert. It’s prickly, irritatingly sandy, and it burns. But God has proven over and over to me that I’ll be better for the experience in the end. My own heart grows more pliant in those times, and I become more like clay in the Potter’s hands, which I so long to be on a daily basis.

So when you’re empty inside and feel your loneliest, remember you’re never alone. God sees you. He loves you. These desert seasons are training grounds. They’re heavenly-orchestrated detours intended for our eternal good. And even though it may not feel like it, God is still guiding each and every step, because we’re on our way to the Promised Land!

Continued Blessings!  Tamera

Thank you Tamera for sharing with us on OWG!  Readers we have lots of giveaways this week. We were all waiting so patiently for Tamera's new release and "A Beauty So Rare" was worth it! This lovely Christian historical romance will be on my best of 2014 reads.   

Giveaway: (This week, we have a paperback and ebook copy of A Beauty So Rare, a Starbucks $10 card, a pink surprise giveaway and Tamera is offering a signed copy, too!) Answer the Q--What has helped you during a season of soul drought? For extra entry entry "Like" Tamera's FB page and put FB on your comment. Leave your email address so we can contact you.

12 April 2014

Connie Almony's "At the Edge of a Dark Forest"--Will be on Carrie's 2014 Best Bibliotherapy Books List!

At the Edge of a Dark Forest by Connie Almony 

Reviewed by Carrie Fancett Pages
5 Stars *****

Cole Harrison is a veteran amputee with severe PTSD and is a full blown alcoholic.  Who would have thought that Connie Almony could get the reader to care for a hero who will eventually suffer Delirium Tremens (also known as the DTs)? 

Carly Rose is trying to save her father's company. He makes prosthetic limbs and early in the story Cole has an encounter with Mr. Rose that is very important to the story. Their romance blossoms when Carly moves into Cole's mansion to work with him on rehab and on fitting him.

Connie's  Beauty and the Beast story was unique despite it being a twist on this plot.  At the Edge of a Dark Forest is especially authentic because of Connie's background working in mental health.

This compelling novella by Connie Almony is my top candidate for Best Bibliotherapy Book for 2014 on my blog. I am not a big contemporary romance reader but her story was so well written and so unique that I couldn't stop reading the story until I was done! Strong characterization and a nicely layered storyline. Will be looking for more from this talented author!

Highly recommend, particularly for those dealing with PTSD, alcoholism, coping with amputation and rehabilitation, and for their loved ones! 
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This book may be purchased through AmazonBarnes & Noble, and others.

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GIVEAWAYS! We are giving away TWO copies of Connie's book this week (choice of format), a Starbuck's $10 Gift Card Giveaway AND also a a $10 Gift Card to an online bookseller. Please "like" Connie's FB author page and put FB on your comment. Leave your e-mail so that we may contact you if you win!

10 April 2014

Diana's Review of 'At The Edge Of A Dark Forest' By Connie Almony

At The Edge Of A Dark Forest
At The Edge Of A Dark Forest by Connie Almony

Reviewed by Diana Flowers
5 stars*****

Beauty…and the Beast

In At The Edge Of A Dark Forest, Connie Almony has written a haunting but breathtakingly beautiful story reminiscent of the classic tale; The Beauty and the Beast. Set amongst the alluring beauty of a lush, green pine forest sits a huge mansion that wreaks of wealth, wherein a lonely man resides—scarred both inside and out—an ugly, disfigured "beast" unworthy of love and acceptance, at least in his own mind.

An IED in Iraq has cost Cole Harrison the loss of an arm and a leg and numerous scars, not to mention his self respect. Immersed in guilt over a long buried secret and shame of his ghastly appearance, Cole drowns himself in alcohol and self-pity. His "beastly" behavior extends to all those around him, including Carly Rose who contracts to live with Cole and train him to use his new limbs; a new prototype prosthetic which she invented herself. As Carly (who he has nicknamed Beauty) and Cole begin to draw closer, she sees beyond his outward appearance—to the nightmares and mental anguish the war has inflicted upon this man's spirit. She can help him use his new limbs, but must she walk away from Cole permanently…and leave his inner healing to the One who knows all? Will a mysterious package from the past help hold the key to Cole's healing as well? 

Connie Almony is a new author to me and what an awesome talent she is! I was drawn into this emotive, powerful story from page one and I quickly devoured it. My emotions were all over the page (literally) and ranged from compassion towards Cole, to anger, to frustration, to deep sorrow…as I know Carly's were as well. What an amazingly tough and realistic heroine she is! This story is such a beautiful tribute and "thank you" to all of our wounded warriors and members of the military who sacrifice their lives daily for our freedom—and to those who help them to heal. I highly applaud you, Connie Almony, for such a compassionate portrayal of one such warrior and one such lady.

This book may be purchased through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and your local bookstore.

GIVEAWAYS! We are giving away TWO copies of Connie's book this week, a Starbuck's Gift Card Giveaway AND also a Giveaway from Connie this week -- a $10 Gift Card to an online bookseller such as Barnes & Noble or Amazon! **Please leave a comment and an email address in order to qualify.** 


08 April 2014

Noela Nancarrow reviews 'AT THE EDGE OF A DARK FOREST' by Connie Almony

Reviewed by Noela Nancarrow
5 Stars *****

A modern-day retelling of Beauty and the Beast

This deeply compelling, raw, and insightful story of Connie Almony's, inserts the reader into Cole Harrison’s intensely troubled life… A life that’s filled with self-loathing, self-absorption, and alcohol abuse. Cole Harrison was only half a man. Ugly on the outside, and ugly on the inside. At least, that is what he thought of himself. A war veteran amputee that suffers from PTSD, he frequently has visions and nightmares of the worse kind, carries an ever-present peace-consuming guilt, and exudes a surliness that he uses along with his disfigurements to keep everyone at a distance.

Cole makes a somewhat hesitant agreement with a man he recently comes across, to try out and potentially invest in the prototype prosthetic's that this man’s daughter Carly Rose has developed. Carly, upon Cole’s insistence, moves into his mansion and life to help train Cole with his new limbs. But Carly soon realizes that Cole’s brokenness isn't just physical and that she’s unable to help this terribly damaged man.

Can Cole become a whole person again – even though he’ll always be missing limbs? As Carly draws closer to him and begins to see Cole may actually contain a heart - a package from his past arrives for him and everything begins to fall apart for Cole. Carly has to leave and now alone, Cole now faces an even greater battle than he did while on active duty. Can he battle his demons enough to let in the only one that can help? And could the contents of the package that broke his resolve, possibly be also what’s needed to pull him back together again?

This modern-day retelling of the classic Beauty and the Beast story was intensely heart-stirring and inspiring! Barely able to pause from reading, I was surely a captive of this heart-rending though heart-warming novella, as Cole Harrison was of his precarious mental prison. 'At the Edge of a Dark Forest' is immensely well-written, but what I found particularly engaging, were the conversations and thoughts of the characters… They were exceptionally realistic and captivating throughout the entire story! The romance was also tender, sweet, and credible, and brought an overall sheen to this uplifting tale. It is a story that discerningly demonstrates that it is only God that can renew our spirit and fulfill our deepest needs. Thank you Connie Almony for this remarkable story, that is both a tribute to the brave men who risk life and limb to fight for our freedom, as well as those who work tirelessly to help those brave men recover from the ravages of war with the assistance of prosthetic limbs. Highly recommended!! 
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This book may be purchased through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and others.

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GIVEAWAYS! We are giving away TWO copies of Connie's book this week, a Starbuck's Gift Card Giveaway AND also a Giveaway from Connie this week -- a $10 Gift Card to an online bookseller such as Barnes & Noble! Please "like" Connie's FB author page and let me know you did in order to qualify. Remember to leave your e-mail so that we may contact you if you win!

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