Review: You Belong to My Heart by Nan Ryan

you belong to my heartReviewed by Lynn Reynolds

The setting is Civil War-era Tennessee.

Mary Ellen Preble goes down to the river but gets a surprise when she gets there. Clayton Knight grew up alongside Mary Ellen. As you read this story, you will find that it is linked with actual historical figures. It shows the amount of research or love for the time period that went in to developing this story.

If you like setting your ambience as you get into the mood for reading, I can almost picture reading while sitting on a swing under a huge tree. There would be a gentle breeze and the dress would have to be one from that time period – and don’t forget the bonnet. Or maybe you’re even sitting on a blanket under said tree waiting to enjoy a picnic with your true love.

Maybe you like to travel. Why not take this book and travel around the state of Tennessee and learn about some of the state’s history. It may sound a little morbid but why not go to an old cemetery and find a comfortable spot to sit, read, and try to think if some of those people around you were friends with our couple.

I had no trouble picturing everything in my mind because this author’s descriptions are that good. Nan shows the reader how two people can go from first love, to summer love, and then to a forever love. But with any first love, life and parents can get in the way.

We also see the sad parts – one being a female during that time period. Women had few choices back then and it seemed as if it was always the wife’s fault if the husband didn’t get the things he wanted – just a big bully. It’s also a reminder of how far we have come with a lot of things. But pain doesn’t change no matter if it’s the 1800’s or now.

It also must have been a hard book to write since we know how some of it ends. But you can still feel the emotions that come alive with Nan’s words. If you love(d) the film “Gone With The Wind”, this would make a great follow up. It helps to fill in some of the more romantic scenes that they couldn’t shoot back in the 1930’s.

As you get toward the end, just like the family members of the military, this author has the reader holding their breath until they find out for sure if the main characters got their happily ever after. But you have to keep reading because you want to know if you’re going to be right or wrong. I’ve been reading all types of romance novels for a long time and it’s sad to say that this is the first Nan Ryan book I have ever read. Now that I have, I know it won’t be that long before I read another one. And I hope you won’t wait as long as I did. And if you love a good historical romance, you will get your money’s worth with this book.

Rating: ★★★★☆

Buy: You Belong to My Heart

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Review: The Estate by J. Paulette Forshey

The EstateReviewed by Sandra Scholes

It is rare to find anyone whose dreams are real, but Cuillean Kelley thinks it is a possibility. Every night he wakes up after the same dream where a beautiful woman invades him and has him feeling as though his encounter with her was as real as breathing. His journey to the outskirts of Savanna takes him to where he can find a series of books, ones so rare he has a doubtful chance of actually finding them. These books he is looking for are to help the beauty in his dream world – she is trapped in a cruel prison not of this earth, and he wants more than anything to set her free.

J. Paulette gets right to the heart of the story with Cuillean going to find the books he needs so badly. The story sounds so poetic as though it were a dream even though he is awake, and shows how determined he is to give his dream woman a chance at life. As it is set during the time of the American Civil War, not everyone likes Cuillean being around them as they think he is a Yankee, but there are others who welcome him into their area even if he is a little worse for wear and unkempt.

There are plenty of rumours about an old house with ghostly and grizzly goings on after a murder, and the owner who originally wanted someone to catalogue his collection of arcane books. As no one has enough guts to go into the house, Cuillean is the one who thinks it would be good to give it a go. I loved the fact that Friday the 13th was chosen for when the ghostly events happened as the number alone is sure to give folk the willies.

Though it takes some time to get to the naughty bits, this is a very satisfying short novel many will enjoy reading on the train, bus or plane – it’s a real after work fix.

Rating: ★★★★☆

Buy: The Estate

Review: Destiny by Victoria Gray

by Carla F., guest review

In Destiny, set during the American Civil War, Emma Davenport has slipped away from the home of her father (a U.S. senator) to travel to St. Louis and marry her fiancé. Along the way she gets out of the train to get some fresh air and notices a manacled prisoner with Union soldiers on either side of him.  The man gives her a suggestive look. Emma is shaken by the thoughts this look causes and hurriedly returns to her seat. Later on, the train is held up by two masked men, but Emma recognizes one of them as the same prisoner she had seen earlier. The men don’t want anyone’s valuables. The prisoner heads straight for Emma and calls her by name. The men are on the train to kidnap her and hold her for ransom!

The Good:

1. Since Emma was raised in very proper home by two strict aunts, I was pleasantly surprised at some of the skills she had and the ones that she didn’t have.

2.  I enjoyed that this was set in the midst of the Civil War, but that no part of the story was set on any battlefield.

3. The way that Emma and Jack get to know each other was fun to “watch”.

The Bad:

1. The bad guy came back one too many times.

2. Would ya please just shoot the gun!

The Ugly:

No Ugly in this one.

Overall: A different sort of Civil War story that has a hero that you will be trying to figure out and a somewhat surprising heroine. It has plenty of suspense, shooting, sexual tension, and lovin’.

Rating: ★★★½☆

Buy: Destiny (Paperback), Destiny (ebook)

Review: Pemberley Ranch by Jack Caldwell

If Jane Austen wrote an American historical romance it’d be called Pemberley Ranch. If Margaret Mitchell wrote a Pride and Prejudice inspired story it’d be called Pemberley Ranch. That’s right–Ausenites and fans of Gone with the Wind will love this book!

In Pemberley Ranch, the classic story of Pride and Prejudice is retold in the antebellum period after the Civil War in US history. To flip expectations Jack makes Darcy is a Confederate Officer, Bingley a military doctor for the Confederacy, and George Whitehead (Wickham) a decorated Union officer.

The history between Whitehead and Darcy extends to Bingley too so that the two Confederates have a shared dislike of the man. Whitehead is seriously criminal and immoral. Watching him try to land grab in order to make a killing off the future railroad was intense. Catherine definitely overestimated her ability to keep Whitehead in line.

The Bennets move from Meryton, Ohio to Rosings, Texas to make a new start after the war to get away from the memories of their only son/brother who was a casualty in the war for the Union. Beth (Elizabeth) blames the Confederacy for his death even though he contracted a contagion instead of dying by Confederacy bullets. Living in Texas, a Confederate State, is not something Beth ever thought she’d do in her lifetime. She’ll show them what it means to be part of the Union!

Upon arrival she immediately labels caring, loyal, hardworking, and honest Will Darcy as an arrogant louse… while George Whitehead gets on her good side by encouraging her prejudices against the South and the Confederacy. Only time will show how wrong she was in her assumptions.

A key difference to the story is that Beth and Darcy must overcome the North/South divide instead of British class divide from the original telling if their romance is to come to fruition.

I don’t know about other readers but I felt like I was getting a primer in American Civil War history, but in a good way. I learned lots of interesting things and relearned some of what I already knew about the Reconstruction.

It was a very absorbing read. It is my hope to read more of Jack Caldwell in the future.

Rating: ★★★★½

Buy: Pemberley Ranch

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Dancing with Heroes: A Ball in 1866

by Zarabeth, guest blogger

So some of you may recognize me as a frequent reviewer for Keira in historical romances from Regency and Highlander for LRP. Recently I attended a ball and danced with a series of heroes–no I’m not talking about a new romance novel. I really did spend the last two months sewing a period appropriate ball gown, learning period appropriate dances, and then spent a wonderful night reveling in my success (relatively minor though they may be). The ball was set in 1866, just after the end of the American Civil War in a little northern town to celebrate the homecoming of our soldiers and politicians.

I built my dress out of many many yards of a beautifully embroidered green silk and a ruched green satin for the overskirt. The stays and other undergarments/petticoats are a light muslin suitable for a summer ball. The hoop skirt is just tulle and flexible steel boning, as well as the structure of the bodice. I do have to mention that I have never used a sewing machine until this experience so I am particularly proud of my results.

Aside from the process of dress making–one that makes me truly appreciate every modiste on Bond St–I had the opportunity to learn a number of dances. I am happy to report that I only fell twice. I suppose I won’t be finding any husbands on the dance floor… The waltz (you know the one where all of our heroes and heroines first fall in love because they fit so perfectly together) absolutely requires a great deal of skill on his part and the grace to follow without tripping over either of them (or her dress) on her part.

The polka is a fast paced jaunt around the room which requires less communication, but a substantial amount of coordination. At least here there are no specific steps needed. The other dances are all great fun where couples dance together trading partners and twirling about. Most of these dances really only require partners to hold hands and not for very long.

I absolutely have a better understanding of how these events could be the most social interaction a young woman would have with the opposite sex. It was wonderfully fun and enlightening. I highly recommend trying something like this if you have any interest. Of course reading blogs and books is great too!

Want to see more photos of the ball?