My Review: The Thorn Bearer

This review was originally published almost 3 years ago, but some things are worth repeating. In light of Pepper Basham’s upcoming historical romance release, My Heart Belongs in the Blue Ridge – Laurel’s Dream, I thought it timely to recall her first historical romance (the one that made me an instant fan).

Thorn Bearer Review Image

I discovered The Thorn Bearer by Pepper Basham via an Instagram post by RachaelReadsFiction. I followed the link to her blog where she was so enthusiastic about The Thorn Bearer and its upcoming sequel, The Thorn Keeper, that I was compelled to add The Thorn Bearer to my TBR list.

The Story

English born, American raised, nurse Ashleigh has plans to return to her home country and serve in a hospital treating wounded soldiers in war ravaged England. Already harboring a soul-crushing secret, she suffers personal loss and heartbreaking betrayal before setting off across the Atlantic on the doomed Lusitania.

Much to her consternation, she is joined on this journey by her best friend, Sam Miller, who is traveling to England to reunite with his fiancé, Ashleigh’s sister.  “As they travel across the Atlantic, neither is prepared for the life-altering and heart-breaking journey of their friendship.”

When Ashleigh’s secret is thrown into the light, she is forced to deal with the aftermath and struggles to find her hope in God.

The Experience

Most of you will be familiar with the famous poem about God carrying us through our darkest times. As the reader, I could truly see this happening for Ashleigh. The spiritual aspect of this novel is completely organic and seamlessly woven into the story. Wonderfully written, this book has an almost poetic feel to it. The characters are so rich and the setting so real you’ll question whether you’ve actually lived through these significant events in history.

Having said that, I do feel compelled to issue one warning:  If you have a history of abuse, please be aware this book may contain triggers for you.

Whether you’re looking for a true love story, a strong character arc, a page-turning plot, a taste of history, spiritual encouragement, or a sensory feast, The Thorn Bearer has what you’re looking for.  I highly recommend this book!

I give this book 5 out of 5 stars!

As if reading a fantastic book isn’t awesome enough, I was blessed to win an Advance Reading Copy of the upcoming sequel, The Thorn Keeper!

Materials Note:  I purchased my own copy of this book, for my own reading pleasure.

Updated:

Read my review of Book 2, HERE!

Read my review of Book 3, HERE!

First Line Friday – 8.17.18

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Hi Everyone! It’s First Line Friday, so grab a book near you and share your first line in the comments below!

Today I’m sharing the first line from a novella I recently read and loved: Facade by Pepper Basham. But before I share that line, can we just pause a moment to drool over this cover? I mean . . . it’s just gorgeous!

Facade

*discretely wipes mouth with napkin* Okay, now that that’s done, here is the first line:

Yet another grand display of extravagance and the idiosyncrasies of the social dance. 

about-the-book-2

A reclusive academic who would do anything to save her brother.

A reluctant spy who’d risk is life to save the woman who broke his heart.

Olivia Rakes has almost mythic observations skills when it comes to facts, figures, and details, but she stumbles through matters of the heart. When her brother goes missing over German-occupied France, Livy enlists her services with a group of search-and-rescue spies, who not only thrust her toward espionage, danger, and deceit, but the most frightening of all…romance.

Agent Christopher Dawson has avoided Livy Rakes since she broke his heart three years ago. Which is probably for the best, since, as a British spy, he could very well die any day and pursuing a romantic relationship is not on the agenda for him. But when the search for a downed-pilot brings them together on a secret mission, the heart takes on a mind of its own.

In a world where war changes the rules of life and love, can Christopher and Livy work together to complete their rescue mission before the enemy catches them first.

My Thoughts

Okay, so I don’t normally share a review in my First Line Friday posts, and this isn’t going to be my usual type review, but I can’t help sharing my thoughts with you!

Perhaps it is because I’d just finished watching Churchill’s Secret Agents: The New Recruits, or perhaps it’s because I’m such a fan of PBS’s Sherlock and Basham’s heroine reminded me of a female version of the infamous detective, but this book simply fascinated me from the first scene to the last page.

The heroine is unlike any other I’ve ever read. For that reason, her relationship with the hero is also unlike any I’ve read before. Despite its uniqueness, or rather, I think, because of it, the love which the two of them share is deep and special. You just want to wrap yourself in their romance like a soft, warm blanket on a wintery day. (CLICK to TWEET)

When you combine this with a plot that throws twist after twist at you and keeps you turning pages to see what will happen next . . . this isn’t a book to start if you want to get any sleep.  But it is not a book you want to miss out on! I highly recommend adding this novella to your TBR!

AMAZON

Click HERE to follow my blog and make sure you don’t miss out on any of my upcoming reviews and other fun posts!

Are you a Kathleen’s Readers’ Club member? KRC members receive exclusive content, are eligible for exclusive seasonal book giveaways, and more! Join Today!

Now it’s your turn to grab the book nearest you and leave a comment with the first (or your favorite) line!

Then head over to Hoarding Books to see who else is participating:

TWEETABLE:

Cover Challenge

Cover Challenge

They say covers sell books and designing them takes a special skill. So I’m curious:  How much attention do we actually pay to those slaved-over images?

Below are pieces of book covers from Christian romance books which have been released within the last 12 months (May 2017-May 2018). Can you name each book from just a tiny peek at the cover? To make things easier, there is a list to choose from below the images.

AAn Unexpected Redemption - Puzzle Piece

BThe Captured Bride - Puzzle Piece

CThree Words and a Kiss - Puzzle Piece

DNo Other Will Do - Puzzle Piece

EThe Backcountry Brides Collection - Puzzle Piece

FThe Lady and the Lionheart - Puzzle Piece

GThis Wilderness Journey - Puzzle Piece

HLove Held Captive - Puzzle Piece

ICharming the Troublemaker - Puzzle Piece

JA Heart's Revolution - Puzzle Piece

Your possible answers in no particular order:

  1. Charming the Troublemaker by Pepper D. Basham
  2. Three Words and a Kiss by Sondra Kraak
  3. The Backcountry Brides Collection by Angela K. Couch, Debra E. Marvin, Shannon McNear, Gabrielle Meyer, Carrie Fancett Pagels, Jennifer Hudson Taylor, Pegg Thomas, Denise Weimer
  4. No Other Will Do by Karen Witemeyer
  5. An Unexpected Redemption by Davalynn Spencer
  6. The Captured Bride by Michelle Griep
  7. This Wilderness Journey by Misty M. Beller
  8. A Heart’s Revolution by Roseanna M. White
  9. The Lady and the Lionheart by Joanne Bischof
  10. Love Held Captive by Shelley Shepard Gray

See the full covers HERE!

Let’s chat!

How did you do? Did you guess them all? Did any of them stump you?

10 Awesome Books on Audible

10 Awesome Books on Audible

One of the great things about reviewing books is getting to read fantastic works earlier than most readers. One of the downsides is that by the time the audiobook releases for some of my favorites, I’m often too busy reading the next new release to get a chance to enjoy the audio versions.

That said, I do love a good audiobook, so I thought I’d share with you 10 awesome books currently available on Audible.

Since I have read and reviewed each one of these, I’m providing links to my reviews to help you with deciding which you’re in the mood for.

Book #1:

Long Time Gone audiobook cover art

Long Time Gone by Mary Connealy

My Review5 Stars!

Book #2:

Heart on the Line audiobook cover art

Heart on the Line by Karen Witemeyer

My Review: 4 Stars!

Book #3:

The Thornbearer audiobook cover art

The Thorn Bearer by Pepper D. Basham

My Review5 Stars!

Book #4:

The Thorn Keeper audiobook cover art

The Thorn Keeper by Pepper D. Basham

My Review: 4.5 Stars!

Book #5:

A Name Unknown audiobook cover art

A Name Unknown by Roseanna M. White

My Review5 Stars!

Book #6:

Love Held Captive audiobook cover art

Love Held Captive by Shelley Shepard Gray

My Review5 Stars!

Book #7:

The Lady and the Lionheart audiobook cover art

The Lady and the Lionheart by Joanne Bischof

My Review5 Stars!

Book #8:

Against the Tide audiobook cover art

Against the Tide by Elizabeth Camden

My Review5 Stars!

Book #9:

Never Forget audiobook cover art

Never Forget by Jody Hedlund

My Review5 Stars!

Book #10:

This one is newly released on Audible and I have enjoyed experiencing this story in a whole new way. I also recently reviewed this book on Goodreads and although I have mentioned it her previously (in a First Line Friday post and an interview with the author last summer), I never officially shared my review here. So below you will find the full text of my mini-review.

The Girl Who Could See audiobook cover art

The Girl Who Could See by Kara Swanson

My Review5 Stars!

I picked up this fantastic novella at a writers conference in June of 2017. I started reading it that night thinking I would just read a page or two and go to sleep. WRONG! I couldn’t stop reading! This book had my attention from the start and didn’t let go until the last page. Almost a year later, I still think about it and with the recent release of its audible version, I am actually revisiting this story – an extreme rarity for me. Even if you don’t normally read this genre, I highly recommend giving it a try. I read a lot, but I have never read anything quite as unique and entertaining as this. There is a Christian message in there, but it is subtle (without being weak) and completely organic.

 

Let’s Chat!

Have you listened to any of these books? What did you think of the narration? Do you prefer printed, digital, or audiobooks?

 

TWEETABLE:

Check out these 10 Awesome Books on Audible! #BookReviews #Audiobooks #ChristFic @KathleenDenly

First Line Friday – 4.13.18

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Hi Everyone! It’s First Line Friday, so grab a book near you and share your first line in the comments below!

Today I’m sharing the first line from the next book on my TBR list: Charming the Troublemaker by Pepper D. Basham. I completely adored the first book in Pepper’s Mitchell’s Crossroads series, so I’ve been wanting to read this second book in the series for a long while now. I’m excited to finally get to do so.

Charming the Troublemaker

Here is the first line:

Loser ex-husbands and freezing January afternoons left a nasty chill.

about-the-book-2

When Dr. Alex Murdock is demoted to a university in rural Virginia, the last thing he expects to find is a future. But country charm never looked as good as it did on Rainey Mitchell.

Rainey Mitchell does not need a high-class flirt in her wounded world, but trouble and temptation wafts off the new professor as strong as his sandalwood-scented cologne. When circumstances thrust them together to save her tutoring clinic, can the troublemaker find the hero inside and encourage the reticent Rainey to open her heart again?

AMAZON

Click HERE to follow my blog and make sure you don’t miss out on any of my upcoming reviews and other fun posts!

Are you a Kathleen’s Readers’ Club member? KRC members receive exclusive content, are eligible for exclusive seasonal book giveaways, and more! Join Today!

Now it’s your turn to grab the book nearest you and leave a comment with the first (or your favorite) line!

Then head over to Hoarding Books to see who else is participating:

First Line Friday – 10.26.17

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Welcome to First Line Friday! Each Friday I pick a book and share the first line with you. In return, I hope you’ll share with me a first line from whatever book you have at hand!

This week I am sharing the first line from a book by one of my favorite authors, Full Steam Ahead by Karen Witemeyer.

Full Steam Ahead cover image

Here’s the first line:

Galveston, Texas
April 1851

Nicole Renard gripped her mother’s letter in her gloved hand as the carriage rattled down Bath Street, away from the docks.

Here’s the description:

 

Nicole Renard returns home to Galveston and finds her father deathly ill. Though she loves him, he’s only ever focused on what she’s not. Not male. Not married. Not able to run Renard Shipping.

Vowing to secure a suitable husband to give her father the heir he desires before it’s too late, Nicole sets out with the Renard family’s greatest treasure as her dowry: the highly coveted Lafitte Dagger. But when her father’s rivals come after the dagger, she’s forced to change her destination.

Darius Thornton has been a man obsessed since the fatal boiler explosion aboard the Louisiana that nearly took his life. He will do anything to stop such disasters. Even hire a female secretary. Sure he can ignore the distraction of her pretty face, he’s not sure how to proceed when drawn to her clever mind.

Nicole is determined not to let her odd employer scare her off with his explosive experiments, yet when respect and mutual attraction grows between them, a new fear arises. How can she acquire an heir for her father when her heart belongs to an unsuitable candidate? And worse, when her father’s rivals discover her hiding place, she will have to choose between that love and her family’s legacy.

Now it’s your turn! Grab the book nearest to you and leave a comment with the first (or your favorite) line!

Then head over to Hoarding Books to see who else is participating:

First Line Friday – 10.13.17

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Welcome to First Line Friday! Each Friday I pick a book and share the first line with you. In return, I hope you’ll share with me a first line from whatever book you have at hand!

This week I am sharing the first line from the book I am currently reading, Just the Way You Are by Pepper Basham.

Just the Way You Are cover image

Here’s the first line:

One step into the massive glass-walled waiting area was all it took.

Here’s the description:

Single mom, Eisley Barrett, prefers to keep romance housed within a centuries-old mystery, but when she travels to England to unearth the secret, an actor with a sordid past offers her heart a very different type of discovery.

Wes Harrison has a past he’s ashamed to confess. Suspicious and cynical, he’s managed to avoid romantic entanglements since a tragedy upended his career and life, that is until American Eisley Barrett comes along. Her authenticity and kindness upend his bitter assumptions and send his heart into unscripted territory.

When his past threatens to ruin a second chance at love, can some Appalachian matchmaking and letters from the grave salvage their unexpected romance?

Humor, love, mystery, cute kids, crazy families, and culture clashes make this Britallachian Romance a unique and delightful romantic comedy sprinkled with adventure.

Now it’s your turn! Grab the book nearest to you and leave a comment with the first (or your favorite) line!

Then head over to Hoarding Books to see who else is participating:

My Review – Love at First Laugh

My Review - Love at First Laugh

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Dive into eight brand new contemporary Christian romantic comedies from some of your favorite inspirational authors.

From light-hearted romance to laugh-out-loud love, this set will put a smile on your face and keep you reading long into the night.

Second Impressions by award-winning author Pepper Basham
He likes streamline. She prefers embellishments. His forte is business. Hers is atmosphere. Will they realize each has what the other needs most to create the perfect romance with a touch of Jane Austin flair?

Mowed Over by USA Today bestselling author Christina Coryell
A tiny, chatty fairy artist with multicolored pastel hair. A burly, bearded landscaper who can’t get a word in edgewise. They have nothing in common, but is that enough to keep them apart?

An Informal Affair by award-winning author Heather Gray
She’s tired of waiting for happily-ever-after, so she takes matters into her own hands…with online dating. He has the worst bad-date streak ever. How will God show two people who are determined to do things their own way that He’s had a perfect plan all along?

A Heart Restored by Elizabeth Maddrey
She renovates old houses. Can he restore her heart?

Unleashing Love by Jessica R. Patch
She’s a dog walker who agrees to a full-time position caring for a puppy. In total shock, she’s handed a precious baby girl. He’s a construction mogul who’s taken his infant niece into temporary relative placement — keyword: temporary. Unless the sassy southern nanny can change his mind…and his heart.

A (nearly) Normal Nanny by Krista Phillips
Normal is highly overrated…

That’s When I Knew by award-winning author Laurie Tomlinson
When two childhood sweethearts find themselves thrown together on the road to a trade show that could save her career, past mistakes threaten to ruin her chances—and the possibility of rekindling a romance. Will the end of the summer find them apart once again?

A Time to Laugh by USA Today bestselling author Marion Ueckermann
When an unexpected inheritance and a lung disease diagnosis coincide, a missionary couple realizes God is telling them it’s time to retire. But sometimes retirement comes with strings attached. Will their life-long dream be a blessing or a curse?

Why This Book:

Well there were several reasons, actually:

  1. I enjoy novellas.
  2. Pepper Basham is one of the included authors.
  3. Romantic Comedy may be my favorite kind of anything – book, movie, song, ice cream.  (Is there a romantic comedy ice cream? Because if there is, I’d probably love it.)

Opening Line(s):

Second Impressions:  Birthdays were not her happy place.

Mowed Over:  With the magnifying glass dangling from the contraption atop her head, Willow Sharpe barely touched the tip of her toothpick into the black ink and made one more slight adjustment to the book that measured only an inch in height.

An Informal Affair:  Lia Promise stared at eh man across the table from her. 

A Heart Restored:  “You did what?”

Unleashing Love:  Just once Emma Kate Lambert wanted to be the center of the sandwich and not the crust. 

A (nearly) Normal Nanny:  “… eighteen-one-thousand, nineteen-one-thousand, twenty-one-thousand! Ready or not, here I come!”

That’s when I knew:  Bless her heart.

A Time to Laugh:  Arms still extended on the Vortex Spin Bike’s handles, Elizabeth Dunham sat back down on the narrow seat.

First Impressions:

Since the first novella in the Love at First Laugh collection was Pepper’s, I’ll use her beginning for my “first impression.” Now you know I’m a major Pepper Basham fan, but I have to admit, I just wasn’t feeling it at the start of Second Impressions. Knowing Pepper, though, I kept reading and eventually I warmed to the story.

Love At First Laugh - Intelligence Quote Image

Characters:

The characters in these stories ran the gamut from a popular fairy artist to a retired missionary. Yet they each held their own when it came to keeping my attention and engaging my heart. Although you can’t typically flesh out any character in a novella to the same depth that you can in a full-length novel, these characters came across as three-dimensional and real.

Love At First Laugh - Overthinking Quote

Emotional Engagement & Pacing of the Story:

Some of the novellas were page turners while others kept me reading at a steady pace, but none of them bored me. There were some I related to more than others, but I was rooting for each and every relationship to succeed.

Elements I especially liked/disliked:

My favorite novella in this collection would have to be Mowed Over by Christina Coryell, because I felt her characters were the most unique. Perhaps it’s because I have a crafty side and three active young boys at home so I could relate to her angst over her little fairy village being threatened by the big nasty mower. Whatever it the reason, Mowed Over is the story that made me smile the most.

However, I have to add that I enjoyed the surprise of the final novella in the collection being very different from the rest. I’m not sure you can call it a romance in the classic sense (the couple is already married and very much in love at the start of the story and that never changes), but the story very much reflects true love in action both through the couple themselves and through their relationship with God.

Ending:

I was very satisfied with each of the endings in this collection. Some I enjoyed more than others, but that’s inevitable.

Overall Rating:

I always have a difficult time reviewing novella collections because it’s like reviewing a box of chocolates. They’re usually all pretty good. Some are amazing. Some are just okay. In the end, you just wanted chocolate and chocolate is what you got. So you’re happy.

I would say the same could be said about this collection (although I’m having trouble thinking of any of them as “just okay”).  I would definitely read more work by any of these authors.

4 out of 5 stars

(none of the links in this review are affiliate links)

Material Note:  I purchased my own copy of this book, for my own reading pleasure.

What do you think of including a non-romance in a romantic comedy collection?

TWEETABLES:

A novella collection is like a box of chocolates.  – Click to Tweet

Check out this review of a romantic comedy novella collection. – Click to Tweet

Psst! Feel free to borrow any of the photos in this post for sharing on social media and remember to tag me @KathleenDenly !

My Review – A Twist of Faith

about-the-book-2

Will a wager against her future steal her chance at true love?

Dr. Adelina Roseland has worked ten years in research as an accent reduction specialist to attain her dream job. But a secret wager to transform Appalachian cattle farmer Reese Mitchell into corporate material challenges Adelina in ways she never expected, threatening her new position.

For one, Adelina didn’t plan for the faith and friction of Reese, or the unexpected influence of his chaotic family. Now, drawn into a culture she’d tried to forget, Adelina finds the warmth of family, the hope of faith, and the joy of love melting away the deep wounds of her past.

But when Reese discovers that he’s a pawn in her climb up the academic ladder, will he forgive Adelina’s deceit or will their miscommunication end in two broken lives?

Why This Book:

As with my last review, this choice was all about the author. If you have been following my blog you know that I absolutely adore Pepper’s Penned in Time historical romance series. So when I heard she was releasing a contemporary romance, I knew I had to give A Twist of Faith a chance.

Opening Line:

PHD was not supposed to smell like this.

First Impressions:

Above is the actual first line of Pepper’s novel. However, the book opens with a quote from Pygmalion, Act 1:

“Remember that you are a human being with a soul and the divine gift of articulate speech:  that your native language is the language of Shakespear and Milton and The Bible; and don’t sit there crooning like a bilious pigeon.”

In fact, each of the chapters in this novel begins with a Pygmalion quote. The quotes appropriately set the stage for what is to come and add a unique element of fun and familiarity to the reading.

The first paragraph continues from the first line to describe the contrast between her perceived prestigious new title – Ph.D. – and her less-than-prestigious new surroundings – namely farmland aromas.  Living not so far from farmlands myself I could instantly smell the particular odors Pepper is referring to and it made me chuckle when she concluded her second paragraph with “Country charm it was.”

Characters:

Adelina Roseland – (First, can I just say how much I love this name in a contemporary romance?) She is less than happy to have returned to her home region of the Appalachians. Her entire focus has been to educate and work her way out of this area and into the big city, but life has thrown her a detour she couldn’t avoid. She’s determined to make it the briefest detour possible until the unexpected warmth and acceptance of the people in her new home force her to reconsider not only her career and life goals, but the very lens through which she has always viewed life and God. She is a well-developed character with layers and depth. She isn’t perfect, but I was definitely in her corner and sympathetic to her flaws.

Reese Mitchell – Loaded with baggage of his own, widower Reese must find his way around and through his emotional scars to follow the incredible pull of his attraction to Adelina. Adding to the complexity is his love and concern for his two young children who are growing attached to the new lady in their lives. This is no two-sided hero, but a richly written man you’ll cheer on through the end.

Rounding out the cast are:  Adelina’s colleague, Dr. Alex Murdock, and Reese’s family, which includes his spunky widowed mother, a few meddling sisters, a big brother battling cancer, and a young niece. None of these characters fall flat and each has their own personality, strengths, and struggles which add to the story.

Emotional Engagement & Pacing of the Story:

This isn’t an edge-of-your-seat page turner, but it does keep you reading. There is a gentle but persistent tug to the story which makes you want to know what happens next without making you feel breathless. Though there is some predictability to the plot given its Pygmalion references and the fact that it is a romance, there is nothing boring or disappointing about it. Instead, those elements are received with a sense of enjoyable familiarity. Like cuddling up in your favorite blanket.

Although I struggled to really like Adelina in the very beginning, by the end of the first chapter I was emotionally engaged with the characters and I wanted to see how the story played out. I laughed out loud. I held my breath. My heart ached for them. I grin that silly grin of a romantic ending well earned.

Elements I especially liked/disliked:

I quite enjoyed the Pygmalion quotes along the way. It made for a unique reading experience.

I also enjoyed how unintentionally poor word choices and believable emotional reactions played out in the story with real impact.

Additionally, I appreciated how Pepper showed that grief is not a linear path but one that ebbs and flows and sometimes surprises us with how it pops back into our lives even after we think it has passed.

Themes:

Don’t judge a book by its cover could be part of the theme, but I think it goes deeper than that. I think the true theme for this book deals with judging an entire group of people based on an experience with one or two of them.

The book also deals with the parent-child bond, as well as the struggle of forgiveness and how the granting or withholding of it affects a person’s life.

Finally, there is an ongoing consideration of what true love really looks like, as well as whether and how dreams can change.

Ending:

I was very pleased with how the twists near the end brought things full circle and even pushed the characters to overcome final emotional hurdles. There is a heart-warming depth and truth to the love the two main characters develop in the end. Nothing shallow in this story.

(none of the links in this review are affiliate links)

Overall Rating:

4 out of 5 stars

Materials Note:  I purchased my own copy of this book, for my own reading pleasure.

What do you think of Pepper’s contemporary romance? Do you have a preference between historical or contemporary romance in general?

TWEETABLES:

A talented historical author conquers contemporary romance with depth and humor. – Click to Tweet!

Don’t miss Pepper Basham’s Pygmalion in the Appalachians. – Click to Tweet!

Like cuddling up with a favorite blanket, this romance will warm your heart. – Click to Tweet!

Psst! Feel free to borrow any of the photos in this post for sharing on social media and remember to tag me @KathleenDenly !

My Review – The Thorn Healer

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about-the-book-2

Jessica Ross’ scars run much deeper than the wounds of war. Determined to escape the ghosts of her past and the German influence on her nightmares, she returns home to the sleepy Appalachian town of Hot Springs, NC, only to find the renowned Mountain Park Hotel has been converted into a ‘prison’ for displaced Germans. To Jessica’s dismay, her grandparents have befriended one of the treacherous internees.

August Reinhold has not only found kinship with Jessica’s grandparents but as they share their granddaughter’s letters from the Front, he discovers a surprising bond drawing him toward the independent and beautiful woman. Displaced by a war and a painful history, he finds Hot Springs and the intriguing Jessica Ross a tempting place to start over. Determined to scale the heights of her bitterness and show her the power of love, August faces more than just Jessica’s resistance but a more devious design to harm the civilian sailors housed in Hot Springs.

Will August’s tender pursuit bring Jessica the healing and hope she needs, or will bitterness force her into the hands of a “true” enemy waiting to destroy much more than her heart?

Why This Book:

Well, if you have read either of my reviews for the first two books in this series, you’ll know exactly why I wanted to read and review The Thorn Healer, the third installment in the Penned in Time series by the talented Pepper D. Basham. (I loved the first two books and couldn’t wait to read another book by this very talented author!)

Opening Line:

Wounded soldiers returned from war as heroes. Wounded nurses returned as old maids.

First Impressions:

I’ll be honest. While I love the opening line, the beginning of this book didn’t wow me nearly as much as the openings for the first two books did. I just didn’t feel hooked by the first chapter. That’s not to say the writing was dull by any means. It simply didn’t invoke the compulsion to turn pages which I have come to expect from a Pepper Basham novel.

Nevertheless, I kept reading because 1) the story truly was an interesting one and 2) I knew Pepper wouldn’t let me down. Sure enough, by the fifth chapter I was having trouble making myself put the book down to sleep at night.book-quotes-thorn-healer-empty-hand

Characters:

Jessica Ross has been a star on the sidelines in each of the first two books and it is wonderful to see her take center stage in this book. She is, of course, a well-rounded and compelling character who truly engages your heart as she struggles to overcome the wounds, both physical and emotional, which have followed her home from the war.

August Reinhold is a character new to the series. He is German and an internee in a camp in Jessica’s hometown nestled within the Blue Ridge Mountains. How he handles the challenges he faces as a German stuck in America during the first World War can’t help but endear him to the reader and you find yourself rooting for him.

Additional characters include:

Dr. and Mrs. Carter – Jessica’s grandparents

Cliff Carter – Jessica’s cousin and a guard at the camp

Eliza Larson – war widow, mother of 7-year-old Jude Larson, & pregnant

Jasper Little – a wounded newcomer who arrives in town with anger to spare

As well as several other townspeople who all add to the story in their own way. Including some important characters which I won’t name here or it would give away surprises. No one character blends into another. They each stand out as unique and authentic.

For those of you who have enjoyed the previous two books in the Penned In Time series, you’ll be pleased to know that some of the characters from those books make an appearance in this one and you do get updates on their lives.book-quotes-thorn-healer-steadfast

Emotional Engagement & Pacing of the Story:

Once this story got ahold of your heart, it didn’t let go. It made me laugh out loud, audibly gasp, and even cry. Real. Tears. I can’t remember the last time I actually cried over a book. Choked up? Sure. But I don’t remember actually crying. This book made me cry. I had to wipe my face because my tears were going to drip on my Kindle. And I loved it! I was crying because I was so wrapped up in what the characters were going through. It was so real.

Elements I especially liked/disliked:

This book had several elements which served as an introduction to the unique culture of the Blue Ridge Mountains during the first World War. I enjoyed feeling like a visitor with a backstage pass in the small, remote town of Hot Springs. The elements of history introduced by the author, whether Blue Ridge, World War, or medically related,  all felt very well researched and authentic.

The elements of history introduced by the author, whether Blue Ridge, World War, or medically related,  all felt very well researched and authentic.

Themes:

The primary themes are prejudice, forgiveness, and the cost of hate.

book-quotes-thorn-healer-thoughts-write-lettersEnding (mild spoiler):

If the idea that this book made me cry has you worried, do not fear. This book has the happy ending requisite of its genre. And it is perfect. I am completely satisfied with how the book ended. And yeah. I closed the book with a smile on my face.

Overall Rating:

4 out of 5 stars

Material Note:  I purchased my own copy of this book, for my own reading pleasure.

Have you read any of Pepper’s books? What do you think?

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