Thursday, September 28, 2017

All That Makes Life Bright by Josi Kilpack, Book Review

I just finished reading this beautiful book, All That Makes Life Bright by Josi Kilpack and I'm happy to review it today.
Booklist calls it a “Marvelously engaging historical novel. Kilpack writes with great insight and superb sensitivity.”

Rachelle's Thoughts: I love historical fiction and each Proper Romance novel that Josi Kilpack has written about a person who actually existed in history has been such a joy to read. I love Kilpack's attention to detail, author's notes regarding actual vs. fictional accounts, and the incredible way that she is able to bring historical figures to life. The story of Harriet Beecher Stowe was new to me. I had heard of her and knew she was connected somewhat to issues of anti-slavery during the Civil War because of her book, Uncle Tom's Cabin, but that was all I knew. After reading this novel, I feel a great respect and admiration for the difficulty any woman in the early 1800s went through to live life and have some semblance of creativity, individuality, and a voice.
I think one of the reasons I loved this story so much is that I completely empathize with Hattie. As a mother of five children who also loves creative pursuits like writing, music, and art, I have found it to be a constant struggle to balance the needs of my family with my desire to continue developing other God-given talents. It was a balm to my soul to realize that I am not alone, nor ever have been, in my struggles. In this story, Hattie has a compelling need to write while at the same time absolutely loving the privilege of being a wife and a mother. Although not all details are exactly as occurred, I think it is fascinating that so much of the sentiments expressed were actually found in letters of correspondence to Hattie and her husband and other family members.
I am certain that when you read this novel, you will find something that also connects you to this influential and impressive woman who lived at such a tumultuous and pivotal time in history. All That Makes Life Bright will make you laugh, grit your teeth, cry, and feel the emotions of a time in history that continues to affect us now.

More about the book:
When Harriet Beecher marries Calvin Stowe on January 6, 1836, she is sure her future will be filled romance, eventually a family, and continued opportunities to develop as a writer. Her husband Calvin is completely supportive and said she must be a literary woman. Harriet's sister, Catharine, worries she will lose her identity in marriage, but she is determined to preserve her independent spirit. Deeply religious, she strongly believes God has called her to fulfill the roles of wife and writer and will help her accomplish everything she was born to do.

Two months after her wedding Harriet discovers she is pregnant just as Calvin prepares to leave for a European business trip. Alone, Harriet is overwhelmed-being a wife has been harder than she thought and being an expectant mother feels like living another woman's life. Knowing that part of Calvin still cherishes the memory of his first wife, Harriet begins to question her place in her husband's heart and yearns for his return; his letters are no substitute for having him home. When Calvin returns, however, nothing seems to have turned out as planned.

Struggling to balance the demands of motherhood with her passion for writing and her desire to be a part of the social change in Ohio, Harriet works to build a life with her beloved Calvin despite differing temperaments and expectations.

Can their love endure, especially after "I do"? Can she recapture the first blush of new love and find the true beauty in her marriage?

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Celebrate Christmas with The Forgotten Carols on Tour!

It's hard to believe, but Christmas is right around the corner! There are so many things about this holiday that I love, and one of the things that make it most special to me is the music. I'm sentimental and music brings so many good memories to the forefront of my attention.
The Forgotten Carols is part of a Christmas tradition in my family that has been going on for over twenty years. I own the original CD and the songbook, but it's been over ten years since I've been able to see the musical with Michael McLean. I have sung along with these beautiful songs every year and have performed, "I Cry the Day I Take the Tree Down," several times. So, you can imagine how excited I was to find out that the tour will be coming to my area!!

The Forgotten Carols stage performance tells the story of Connie Lou, a nurse whose empty life is changed when Uncle John, a new patient she is attending, recounts the story of Christ’s birth as told by little known characters in the nativity story. The accounts from the Innkeeper, the Shepherd and others help the nurse discover what the world has forgotten about Christmas, ultimately encouraging her to open her heart to the joy of this special season.

Find out more about the shore and where to get your tickets here:

Special announcement from Michael McLean: THE FORGOTTEN CAROLS has been a gift I first received back in 1991 when the book and accompanying music was written and released to the public.  As with all good gifts, particularly one like The Forgotten Carols, comes a desire to share it with others…with the hope that they will “receive” the gift as I did;  Feeling the message and the love of the season in the context of the story and songs.  When I first started “performing” the story I thought it was my gift to the audience, but then I discovered that the more I tried to give it away the more it came back to me…a hundred fold.  Being able to bring the story to life with a team of talented people that truly have become “family” is another part of the gift that has profoundly blessed my life.  But WHAT MOST SURPRISES ME is how the presentation of this story with songs has grown, evolved and taught me things in the language that resonates so deeply with me.  Story & Song.   A couple of days ago, quite out of the blue, A NEW SONG, maybe we could call it a New Carol, just arrived.  I sat at the piano and it just poured out of me.  It really touched me because it captures what I think Uncle John would want most for Connie Lou (and the entire world, for that matter).  Just this morning I envisioned how this new carol could be presented during this year’s TOUR and I got goosebumps.  I can’t wait to share this gift I just received.  So, if you ask what The Forgotten Carols means to me, it means RECEIVING then SHARING then DISCOVERING the meaning of the gift, and then RECEIVING MORE, then SHARING MORE and then DISCOVERING more.  

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If you'd like to see something special this Christmas season, then don't miss your chance to attend The Forgotten Carols. There are quite a few stops across the nation, see the full list here:

Here's a special video invite to The Forgotten Carols by the talented artist himself, Michael McLean.

I'm very grateful to have the opportunity to attend this magnificent production and feel the spirit of Christmas this year. How about you? Will you have take the chance to see and hear The Forgotten Carols?

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

The Secret of the India Orchid, Fantastic new Proper Romance

New from Nancy Campbell Allen and the Proper Romance Line, it’s The Secret of the India Orchid. Read the book that Publishers Weekly says, “Simmers with sweet romance, historical detail, and a dose of mystery.”

Rachelle's Thoughts: I enjoyed this book so much that I finished reading and already lent it out to my aunt! This book is part of the Proper Romance line but it has a wonderful mystery full of suspicions, clues, hints, and everything I love to keep me reading late into the night.
I loved the setting of this novel. Reading about India in a time where it was treated as almost a summer-home for the British was so interesting. The setup with Anthony Blake was well-done and I was rooting for him from the start. Sophia's character is fresh, determined, and smart as she faces the mystery surrounding her heart, Anthony, and the deeper mystery involving murder and intrigue.
This is a satisfying read and I look forward to more from Nancy Allen.

About the book: The Secret of the India Orchid
Anthony Blake, the Earl of Wilshire, is in love with his best friend’s sister, Sophia Elliot. But his plans to court her are put on hold when he is forced to resume his role as an undercover spy for the Crown. A secret document listing the names of the entire network of British spies—including his own—has been stolen. To protect Sophia, Anthony cuts off all ties to her and exchanges his life as an honorable earl for the facade of a flirtatious playboy.
Heartbroken and confused, Sophia travels to India, hoping to find healing in one of the most exotic regions of the British Empire. But the exotic land isn’t as restful as she had hoped. Instead, she finds herself embroiled in a mystery of a missing sea captain, a possible murder, and a plot that could involve the prince of India. And when Anthony appears at the British Residency, asking questions and keeping his distance from her, she is stunned.
She still loves him, and, in her heart, she knows he loves her too. But how can she rebuild her relationship with him if he won't confide in her? Does she dare offer her heart to him a second time, or will their love be lost under the India sun?


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