Kim’s Review of Stealing the Preacher (Archer Brothers #2) by Karen Witemeyer

stpkwLast summer I read Short Straw Bride by Karen Witemeyer and completely fell in love with the Archer brothers.  Travis, Jim, Crockett, and Neill had my heart the minute I learned of their tragic upbringing.  I felt so bad for them and how they’d lost out on the innocent and whimsical childhood that all children deserve.  Forced to become adults well before their time they become a serious and a fairly un-trusting group of men, that is until Travis marries Meredith.  Meredith is able to bring love, kindness, trust, and compassion back into their lives.  When the book ended I wondered if Witemeyer would continue writing about the Archer brothers.  With the publication of her newest novel, Stealing the Preacher, my question was answered with a resounding yes!

Crockett Archer is on his way to what he thinks will be a normal interview for a pastoral position at a rural church in the Piney Woods of Texas.  However, on his way to said interview he is forced off of a train by a mysterious man and kidnapped.  He is brought before the man’s daughter, Joanna, on her birthday.  Although she had been asking for a pastor to come and revitalize her community church for as long as she could remember, Joanna didn’t want it to happen like this.  She is torn because although her wishes for a pastor have been answered, it is at the expense of Crockett’s freedom.  Fearing that this experience will jeopardize his future aspirations as a pastor, Crockett tries his best to flee his situation and eventually succeeds.  However, he can’t shake the strong feeling of attachment and connection that he feels towards Joanna.  As an attachment grows between them, Joanna must hope against hope that her prayers are being answered and that she may actually have a chance to develop a relationship with Crockett.  Crockett, on the other hand, must hope that Joanna’s father’s objections to his daughter dating a preacher are short-lived.  Will things ever work out between the two of them?

Witemeyer’s strongest attribute as an author is definitely her character development.  There are so many characters developing in this novel which makes it easy to become captivated by the story.  The plot gently unfolds around the development of Crockett, Joanna, Silas, and Jackson.  Silas definitely undergoes the most drastic of changes and is the character you’re rooting for during most of the story.  While the story is primarily about the romance between Joanna and Crockett, it’s also about a father and daughter’s love for each other, and also the transformation that occurs from having a strong faith.

Joanna was my favorite character hands down.  She’s a strong woman who has the best of intentions, always.  The largeness and goodness of her heart is simply immeasurable.  She tries to see the best in everyone and believes that even the worst of souls can be redeemed.  As an individual who isn’t religious personally, I think a lot can be said about how strong and moving Witemeyer’s writing is  when the character who is probably the deepest spiritually turns out to be my favorite. The inspiration in her writing is moving and holds a depth of meaning that anyone (religious or not) can appreciate.

Between the characters and depth of her works Witemeyer has found a fan in me for life.  You should definitely add her works to your to-read lists.  I’ve read Short Straw Bride, A Head in the Cloudsand To Win Her Heart and would recommend every single one of them.  Heartfelt, pure, and good, Witemeyer’s novels will definitely warm your heart.

4 out of 5 Stars

This is my seventeenth completed review for the Historical Fiction Challenge

Stealing the Preacher by Karen Witemeyer
Bethany House (2013)
eBook: 352 pages
ISBN: 9781441261458

Special thanks to Bethany House for my review copy via Netgalley!

#77 A Review of Short-Straw Bride by Karen Witemeyer

Who doesn’t love a good love story?  All that I had to know about Karen Witemeyer’s Short-Straw Bride was that it contained a honest-to-goodness old-fashioned love story and I was sold (as you know, I’m quite the sucker for these types of things).  Anyway, without further pretense, I dove right in.

As far as the four Archer brothers are concerned, no one crosses their land without their express permission.  So, Meredith Hayes is rightly troubled when she overhears a man plotting to take their land.  What’s even more troubling to her is that one of the brothers, Travis, has a special connection to her.  Twelve years ago, she was rescued from the jaws of a steel trap by Travis, who has not let a day go by without forgetting the strong young girl he saved all those years ago.  When Meredith approaches the brothers to tell them about the plan to run them off of their land, she eventually ends up in a situation where the Archer brothers draw straws to see who will marry her!  Will this marriage of convenience eventually turn into something more?  What will happen to the Archer’s land?

OMG TRAVIS.  That is honestly all I have to say.  What a wonderful, beautiful, raw character. I love him!!  He is a man with the weight of the world on his shoulders and is living with the guilt of an event that happened years prior.  Deep down inside he’s a man who needs love and wants to give it, but has been hardened by extenuating circumstances.  When Meredith happened into his life the first time a small piece of that man inside was exposed.  Meredith holds on to the kindness he showed her and lives her whole life, loving him for it.  When the two are thrust into each other’s lives again, she vows to make sure that the man inside him is cared for and is able to break through the walls he’s put up around himself.  Theirs is truly a story about a giving love, full of hope, kindness, and selflessness.

I’m not a religious person by any means, but I do have to admit, the psalms and other biblical quotes did add to the story and character development.  Regardless of what religion you are, and how often you practice, you’ll still be able to enjoy the novel.  I still can’t get over how adorable this story was.  I’m adding the rest of Witemeyer’s novels to my to-read list for sure.  Her writing is crisp, sharp, and full of fun.  It has the perfect blend of humor and sincerity in it.  If you’re not already reading Witemeyer’s novels fix that ASAP.  Start with Short-Straw Bride, I can guarantee you won’t be disappointed.

5 out of 5 Stars

This is my thirty-fourth completed review for the Historical Fiction Challenge

Short-Straw Bride by Karen Witemeyer
Bethany House (2012)
Paperback: 368 pages
ISBN: 9780764209659

Special thanks to Bethany House for sending me my review copy!

#57 A Review of Homespun Bride by Jillian Hart

The old saying “true love conquers all” is one we’re definitely familiar with.  Jillian Hart takes it to a whole new level in her inspirational romance, Homespun Bride.  Set on the wide plains of Montana in 1883, we’re treated to a story of adventure, overcoming obstacles, and love that defies all odds.

Noelle Kramer and her Aunt Henrietta are in trouble.  On a routine carriage ride home from town they become stuck in a fast-moving blizzard.  Not only are they alone, but Noelle is blind.  Five years prior, she lost her sight in a carriage accident that took the life of her parents.  She and her Aunt fight their way through the storm, when their horse is spooked by an incoming train (steam locomotives are a new invention at this time) and she is nearly thrown into an icy river by the rearing horse.  Miraculously, she is saved from almost certain death by a strange man who happened upon Noelle and her aunt at the exact time of their accident.  In another twist, this man is no stranger to Noelle.  Thad McKaslin was Noelle’s beau in their younger years, and they even went as far as planning to leave town and elope together.  Sadly, Thad never showed on the proposed night they were set to escape together.  What Noelle doesn’t know is that her father ran Thad out-of-town believing that he was not good enough for his daughter.  How will this sudden turn of events after so much time change the two of them?  Will Thad still have positive memories of Noelle after what occurred?  How will they be able to put the past behind them?

For people who are looking for something wholesome, this is a great fit.  It’s a tale of love, redemption, and forgiveness more than anything else.  Noelle has no idea why Thad left her all those years ago, and has been living under the misconstrued notion that her love for him was inadequate.  Thad, on the other hand, could easily win her back if he told her the real reasons of his departure, but his love for her is so deep that he would not do so in order to protect Noelle’s vision of her parents and the positive memories she has of them.  Noelle and Thad are refreshing changes for this genre because of the abnormal circumstances of the heroine being blind.  Thad is a steadfast character who refuses to accept Noelle’s blindness as a hindrance to any type of future with her.  At times, Noelle’s constant doubts of her own abilities got to me, especially considering the fact that she was very independent despite her blindness.  She is clearly capable of doing many complex tasks, including teaching piano, and is constantly aware of her surroundings.  She doesn’t allow her family to let her be a victim, so it was confusing that she placed no such restrictions on her own thoughts, constantly second guessing her own abilities and skills.  Other than this, Homespun Bride was a tale about love conquering all.  Sweet, romantic, and endearing, this is one romance that will tug at your heartstrings.

3 out of 5 stars

Homespun Bride by Jillian Hart
Steeple Hill Books (2008)
ebook: 292 pages
ISBN: 9781426830655

#15 A Review of The Last Cahill Cowboy by Jenna Kernan

The Last Cahill CowboyMost of you, my fabulous readers, know that I have a weak spot for romance novels.  I know they’re not written amazingly nor do they have the most creative plot lines, but damn – they hook me in.  I love those roguish rakes and loose ladies. I can’t help it. I’m addicted.  With that being said I ventured into the “western” branch of Harlequin romances and came out with The Last Cahill Cowboy by Jenna Kernan.

Traveling back to his hometown to help find the person who brutally murdered his parents, Chance Cahill is a much different person than when he originally left.  Now a bounty hunter, Chance feels that he has nothing to lose, and lives life on the edge.  Thinking that his hunting skills are his only asset to the town, he is taken aback when he meets his sister’s best friend Ellie Jenkins.  Her beauty astounds him, and he is ashamed to admit to himself that she is quite above his standards.  Ellie, however, feels a strong attraction to Chance that she just can’t seem to shake.  His sudden return to town makes her realize that she has loved him her entire life.  The only problem is Ellie’s mother: a dominant woman who Ellie is pseudo-controlled by.  Will Ellie be able to move past her mother’s commandeering nature and tell Chance how she really feels about him?  Will Chance be able to see past his depression and take the woman who so ardently loves him?

First thing that struck me about this book?  The amount of action in this book. No, not *that* kind of action – I’m talking the action with guns and duels and pistols!  Knowing that romance novels are written and geared towards a female audience, I was surprised that there was so much “manly” violence. I actually found myself getting into all the fight sequences: cheering on Chance and jeering at the bad guys.  I was temped to let my husband read the book when I was finished, knowing he has an affinity for westerns, but figured he’d die when he found out he was reading a Harlequin romance novel.

Anyway….moving on!  Chance was a pretty interesting character.  He’s got a grudge against the world and doesn’t look upon himself too kindly.  This is unfortunate for multiple reasons: he’s given his sister every dime he’s got to support her and her business, he puts his life at risk to save Ellie, and he’s a bounty hunter! (I say that in this case being a bounty hunter is good because it involves going after bad guys! Who doesn’t love a man who goes after the bad guy!?!)  Ellie is a woman who evolves a lot over the book.  I was really happy with her development, it seemed realistic and made sense for her storyline.  As for the supporting characters, their descriptions were all written like you knew them already.  I found out after reading the book that this was the 4th and final book in the “Cahill Cowboys” quartet.  If you haven’t read the first three though it’s 100% OK.  The plot for this book can stand alone.

As for taking on my first western romance novel I have to say I left feeling impressed.  The writing isn’t the best I’ve read, but it did the job it was supposed to.  If you’re looking for a quick, fast-paced read I would definitely add this one to your list.  (Warning: besides all the action there are the more mature romance scenes not meant for the faint of heart.)

3 out of 5 Stars

This is my fifth completed review for the Around The Stack In How Many Ways Challenge

The Last Cahill Cowboy by Jenna Kernan
Harlequin (2012)
Paperback 288 pages
ISBN:  9780373296750

Todd’s Review of Pemberley Ranch by Jack Caldwell

Cover Image

When Kim first asked me to read Pemberley Ranch by Jack Caldwell, it was at the bequest of a commenter who asked what my take on the novel would be, considering it is one of the few pieces of Jane Austen fan fiction (that we know of) written by a man.  To be honest I didn’t really expect it to be all that different from the other fan fiction novels that Kim reviews.  I can honestly say that I was definitely wrong.

Pemberley Ranch, or Pranch as I called it informally when I was reading it around our apartment (haha), was a gangbuster of a novel, full of action and adventure that never ceased towards the end.  Set in the years immediately after the Civil War, Caldwell tells the story of Will Darcy, an ex-Confederate soldier who is a large landowner in the town of Rosings, Texas.  He moves back there following the war with his good friend and fellow soldier Dr. Charles Bingley.  Beth Bennet, a strong Union supporter, moves to Rosings with her immediate family after her brother Sam dies in the war.  The Bennet’s move to a small ranch near the much larger B&R ranch, owned by Darcy’s cousin Cate Burroughs.  Darcy’s ranch, known as Pemberley ranch, is located across a river that divides the two large ranches.  At first Beth is uneasy about moving to a state that supported the Confederacy during the war, but soon develops a close friendship with many in the town, including Ms. Charlotte Lucas, daughter of the town sheriff.  Her sister Jane is soon smitten with Dr. Bingley, and they soon marry, bringing Darcy into the company of Beth.  She of course is initially irritated by him due to his haughtiness, but additionally because of his status as a Confederate soldier.  Beth holds a longstanding animosity towards all things Confederate, as her relationship with her brother was especially strong and she holds the war accountable even though he actually died of pneumonia.  This continues to be a strong factor in her negative views towards Darcy, and keeps her from seeing his good intentions.

Aside from the relationship tension between Darcy and Beth, there are evil forces at work in Rosings.  Mr. George Whitehead, a carpetbagger from the north, comes to Rosings and becomes the recorder of deeds for Long Branch County.  Additionally, he becomes an influential partner in the B&R ranch, holding a great deal of sway over Cate Burroughs and her land.  Initially plesant towards the townsfolk, Whitehead’s true intentions eventually emerge and the town is thrown into the middle of a war between Whitehead and his quest to take over all of Long Brach County and Darcy and Beth, who stand to stop him.  How many lives will this war claim?  Will Whitehead be stopped?

I must say that the most striking differences between this novel and the others written by women are the degrees of violence and language.  When I first read some of the dialogue I actually laughed out loud, as all manners of cursing is used in the book.  Must be the wild west, I guess.  I would imagine that Jane might be slightly offended though, haha.  Anyway, I definitely liked the final battle scene.  It played out like a modern movie, full of gun battles and heroic actions.  I was on the edge of my seat for the final 30 pages.  Caldwell does an excellent job ratcheting up the excitement in not only this scene but the entire book. 

There is a slight courseness to the book, and that made it much more enjoyable for me.  The flowerly language and wordplay of Ms. Austen is gone, and it is replaced with a more direct action and manner of speaking that I found refreshing.  All in all, I wholeheartedly encourage everyone to give Pemberley Ranch a try.  It is refreshing, exciting, and hysterical in some parts.  It is an exciting twist on the Pride and Prejudice story, and one I won’t soon forget!

5 out of 5 Stars

Pemberley Ranch by Jack Caldwell
Sourcebooks (2010)
Paperback, 384 pages
ISBN: 9781402241284

You can find Kim’s review of Pemberley Ranch here

#77 A Review of Pemberley Ranch by Jack Caldwell

Cover ImagePemberley Ranch, a contemporary westernized version of Pride and Prejudice, is Jack Caldwell’s debut novel. I saw this in Barnes and Noble with the comment “It’s Pride and Prejudice meets Gone with the Wind — with that kind of romance and excitement” and was instantly struck that I had to try the novel out.  Glad I did!
The Civil War has finally ended.  Will Darcy is headed back to Rosings, Texas to his beloved Pemberley Ranch with his friend Dr. Charles Bingley.  Up north in Ohio, Beth Bennet is finding out that her father is selling their family farm to her uncles and moving the family to Rosings.  Shortly after their arrival Beth meets the haughty Will Darcy, Jane falls in love/marries Dr. Bingley, and the carpetbagger George Whitehead comes to town.  Whitehead becomes a good friend of the Bennet family much to Darcy and Bingley’s chagrin.  Whitehead has a past with the two men, having been their jailer in the prison camp that Darcy and Bingley wound up being wrongfully thrown into near the end of the Civil War.  Darcy begins discovering that Whitehead is double-crossing his cousin Cate Burroughs, the owner of the B&R Ranch.  Darcy also discovers that Beth is unlike any woman he has ever met and sees himself falling in love with her.  It’s up to him to convince her that he isn’t the haughty arrogant man she believes him to be and that Whitehead isn’t looking out for her family’s best interests either.  Pemberley Ranch is filled with murder, mayhem, gunfights, love, deceit, and all the things you’d expect from a Pride and Prejudice sequel with western influences. 

 So let me preface this by saying it was SO interesting to finally read a sequel written by a man.  (NOTHING against women when I say that) I’m so used to reading a P&P sequel written by a woman where Darcy has a huge character transformation and Elizabeth has a transformation, but not on an epic scale like Darcy.  Reading Pemberley Ranch it is Beth who has the huge character transformation. It was an interesting change to read and I think because as women we romanticize the transformation of Darcy into something bigger than is actually written.  (Maybe because the period of time in which he transforms is not written explicitly?)

Anyway, back to Pemberley Ranch! It was also refreshing to not read an overly mushy or sexual romance between Beth and Will.  The conflicts are what take center stage here; especially those between Cate Burroughs, Will Darcy, George Whitehead, and Denny’s gang.  The romance that is written however does seem more realistic and natural than other sequels I read.  Nothing is overly romanticized, it all seems natural.

Caldwell did some really interesting things with the characters that I enjoyed: Bingley was a doctor, Mr. Lucas was the town sheriff, Colonel Fitzwilliam was the head man on Darcy’s ranch, Denny was a gunslinger, and Mrs. Younge became a saloon owner.  I also was pleased to see other Austen characters make their way into the novel, with the biggest supporting part going to Reverend Henry Tilney of Northanger Abbey.

All in all the book was a lot of fun to read and as I said previously a refreshingly different point of view.  For those women who are trying to get the men in their lives to read a Pride and Prejudice sequel, I would definitely suggest trying this one.  It’s written with enough action to keep their attention. 

4 out of 5 Stars