(Feature) The Quest for the Crown of Thorns, Book Two of the Long-Hair Saga by Cynthia Ripley Miller

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Publisher and Publication Date: Knox Robinson Publishing. June 12, 2017.
Genre: Historical fiction.
Pages: 308.
Source: Available in paperback and eBook.

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Summary:
AD 454. Three years after the Roman victory over Attila the Hun at Catalaunum, Arria Felix and Garic the Frank are married and enjoying life on Garic’s farm in northern Gaul (France). Their happy life is interrupted, when a cryptic message arrives from Rome, calling Arria home to her father, the esteemed Senator Felix. At Arria’s insistence, but against Garic’s better judgment, they leave at once.
Upon their arrival at Villa Solis, they are confronted with a brutal murder and the dangerous mission that awaits them. The fate of a profound and sacred object–Christ’s Crown of Thorns–rests in their hands. They must carry the holy relic to the safety of Constantinople, away from a corrupt emperor and old enemies determined to steal it for their own gain.
But an even greater force arises to derail their quest–a secret cult willing to commit any atrocity to capture the Crown of Thorns. And all the while, the gruesome murder and the conspiracy behind it haunt Arria’s thoughts.
Arria and Garic’s marital bonds are tested but forged as they partner together to fulfill one of history’s most challenging missions, The Quest for the Crown of Thorns.

About the Author:
Cynthia Ripley Miller is a first generation Italian-American writer with a love for history, languages and books. She has lived, worked, and travelled in Europe, Africa, North America and the Caribbean. As a girl, she often wondered what it would be like to journey through time (she still does), yet knew, it could only be through the imagination and words of writers and their stories. Today, she writes to bring the past to life.
She holds two degrees and has taught history and teaches English. Her short fiction has appeared in the anthology Summer Tapestry, at Orchard Press Mysteries.com and The Scriptor. A Chanticleer International Chatelaine Award finalist for her novel, On the Edge of Sunrise, she has reviewed for UNRV Roman History, and blogs at Historical Happenings and Oddities: A Distant Focus
Cynthia has four children and lives with her husband, twin cats, Romulus and Remus, and Jessie, a German Shepherd, in a suburb of Chicago.
On the Edge of Sunrise is the first in the Long-Hair Saga; a series set in late ancient Rome and France and published by Knox Robinson Publishing. The second book in the series, The Quest for the Crown of Thorns, was released in June 2017.
For more information please visit Cynthia Ripley Miller’s website. You can also connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.
03_Cynthia Ripley MillerPraise:
“Ripley Miller astutely brings to life a Rome teetering precariously on the brink of collapse …the combination of political and romantic drama–spiritual as well–is rousing. The reader should be glad to have read this volume and eager for a third. Intelligent and artfully crafted historical fiction…” -Kirkus Reviews
“From cover to cover a gripping read – in all senses of the word! Grips your interest and imagination, your held breath and your pounding heart! A thumping good novel!” -Helen Hollick USA Today bestselling author of the Sea Witch Voyages
“Forbidden love, a turbulent time period, and world-changing events combine to produce a real page-turner.” -India Edghill, author of Queenmaker, Wisdom’s Daughter, and Delilah.
“A passionate and intriguing take on the often overlooked clash of three brutal and powerful empires: the Romans, Franks, and Huns. A Compelling read!” -Stephanie Thornton, author of The Secret History and The Tiger Queens
“Readers will be absorbed by a setting of barbarian Gaul and the constancy of Arria’s and Garic’s destined love amid the strife of a dying Roman Empire.” -Albert Noyer, author of The Getorius and Arcadia Mysteries
The Quest for the Crown of Thorns, is an elegant masterpiece of historical fiction. This book totally ensnared me in its clasps, and it did not release me until I had read it all. The attention to detail was exquisite The characterization was sublime, and the romance was breathtakingly beautiful. I adored the world that Miller has created, as well as the characters in it. This is a sit-down and finish book and is one I would Highly Recommend.” -Mary Anne Yarde author of the Du Lac Chronicles

 

(Review) The General’s Women by Susan Wittig Albert

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Publisher and Publication Date: Persevero Press. March 7, 2017.
Genre: Fiction, war and military.
Pages: 532.
Source: Free paperback copy from Susan Wittig Albert.
Rating: Good.

The kindle copy at Amazon is $1.99.

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About the author:
A NYT bestselling author, Susan’s books include biographical fiction (A Wilder Rose 2013, currently under film option; Loving Eleanor 2016; and The General’s Women 2017). Her mystery fiction includes the bestselling China Bayles mysteries; The Darling Dahlias; the Cottage Tales of Beatrix Potter; and the Robin Paige Victorian/Edwardian mysteries written with her husband, Bill Albert. Working together, the Albert’s have also written over 60 young adult novels.
Susan’s most recent nonfiction work includes two memoirs: An Extraordinary Year of Ordinary Days and Together, Alone: A Memoir of Marriage and Place. Her earlier nonfiction work includes Work of Her Own, a study of women who left their careers, and Writing From Life: Telling Your Soul’s Story, a guidebook for women memoirists. That book led to the founding of the Story Circle Network in 1997. She has edited two anthologies for the Story Circle Network: With Courage and Common Sense (2004) and What Wildness Is This: Women Write about the Southwest (2007). She currently serves as editor of Story Circle Book Reviews and co-coordinator of SCN’s Sarton Women’s Book Awards.
She and Bill live in the Texas Hill Country, where she writes, gardens, and tends a varying assortment of barnyard creatures.
For more information, please visit Susan Wittig Albert’s website. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, Goodreads, Amazon, and BookBub.

Summary:
A compelling story of love, betrayal, and ambition by New York Times bestselling author Susan Wittig Albert, The General’s Women tells the story of two women–Kay Summersby and Mamie Eisenhower—in love with the same man: General Dwight Eisenhower.
Set during the chaotic years of World War II, The General’s Women tells the story of the conflicted relationship between General Dwight Eisenhower and Kay Summersby, his Irish driver/aide, and the impact of that relationship on Mamie Eisenhower and her life in Washington during the war. Told from three alternating points of view (Kay’s, Ike’s, and Mamie’s), the novel charts the deepening of the relationship as Ike and Kay move from England (1942) to North Africa (1942-43) to England, France, and Germany before and after the Normandy landing (1944-45). At the end of the war, Ike is faced with the heart-wrenching choice between marrying Kay and a political future.
The story continues into the post-war years, as Ike (returning to Mamie) becomes Army Chief of Staff, president of Columbia University, Supreme Commander of NATO, and president of the United States. Kay, meanwhile, struggles to create a life and work of her own, writing two memoirs: the first (Eisenhower Was My Boss, 1948) about her war work with Ike; the second (Past Forgetting, 1976) about their love affair. An author’s note deals with the complicated question of the truth of Kay’s story, as it finally appears in the posthumously-published Past Forgetting.

My Thoughts:
The Generals’ Women is a work of fiction. When I began reading the book, I had to remind myself this is a fiction piece. As big of a historical figure as Dwight D. Eisenhower, it is easy to become wrapped up in the story believing this is a biography.
In the past, I’ve read several nonfiction books on Eisenhower as the central figure or as apart of the World War II story. The General’s Women is not a strong military story. References are made to the battles and the advancement of the war. Meetings Eisenhower attended with ambassadors, heads of state, generals and other military are mentioned.
The story’s emphasis is on the relationship Eisenhower had with his driver, Kay Summersby. Mamie Eisenhower, back at home in America is apart of the story but not a strong part. She seemed more like a secondary character. The spotlight is on Eisenhower and Kay.
I was glad, Susan Wittig Albert, documented her research on the people discussed in the book in the “Author’s Note.” Mamie Eisenhower’s granddaughter wrote a biography on  Mamie, as well as a few other sources were studied. Kay Summersby wrote a memoir and this is utilized.
Even thought Albert explains what is fictionalized in the story. I want to mention my feelings on how I feel about historical figures who are written about in a book. It is a guess as to what are people’s motives, feelings, and thoughts. Husbands and wives who have been together many years, parents who are close to their children, and best friends don’t know everything about each other. Only the individual and God know the true self behind the flesh. Maybe Eisenhower deeply loved Kay Summersby or cared for her or it was a wartime romance. During a time of war, sexual relationships between people happen. Afterwards, on reflection, that is when a person can adequately make a judgment about what happened.
The General’s Women is an interesting and entertaining story. It personalizes the military figure of Eisenhower. He is shown as the human with emotions behind the military uniform.
I have empathy for both Eisenhower and Kay. Both people spent time together during a war. They depended on one another. They had chemistry. They developed feelings. But the relationship did not last.
I have lived long enough (age 53) that I have heard several stories from people who loved a person but the relationship did not continue. They ended up marrying another person. They spent the rest of their life remembering that great love. It is sad. But this is the reality of life. There really is no happily ever after.

(Review) Choices: The True Story of One Family’s Daring Escape to Freedom by J.E. Laufer

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Publisher and Publication Date: Little Egg Publishing Company. May 15, 2017.
Genre: Nonfiction, memoir, novella.
Pages: 116.
Source: Free copy from Little Egg Publishing Company and Smith Publicity.
Rating: Excellent.

A map of Europe is included for the time period of the 1950s.

Seven family photographs are located at the end of the book.

Choices is a novella, and a story for both adult and young adult readers.

For more information from the publisher about the book: Choices.

Summary:
J.E. Laufer has written a true story of her family’s escape from communist Hungary post World War II and the Hungarian Revolution. She was age two when the family left. She has an older brother named Gyorgy. Their parents names are Adolf and Kati Egett.
The story centers on the love and sacrifice the parents made for their beloved children.

The time period is the mid 1950s. Adolf and Kati Egett are aware of people leaving the communist country of Hungary. Some of the people leaving are known to them. People are afraid to tell anyone they are leaving. Some people leave with only the clothes they wear. Adolf and Kati contemplate leaving. They want a safe and secure future for their children. They hate to leave family, friends, job, and home. The escape itself is difficult and risky.

My Thoughts:
I love big books. I love long stories. I love a well-developed story and characters. Choices is a small book. A small package with 116 pages of written material. Before I began reading, I wondered, will Laufer be able to share this important story in so few of pages? The answer is yes!
I love this story!
I did not know anything about life in Hungary post World War II and after the country became communist. I have been given a glimpse of what the people endured.
Several reason led me to give Choices an excellent rating:
1. The story builds with anticipation as to what Adolf and Kati will do. Will they leave Hungary? How will they escape?
2. The story shows the dramatic events of leaving Hungary. Several questions are answered about their defection:
-how much money do they take and what it is spent on?
-how do they dress for the trip and what belongings do they take?
-who do they trust on the journey and who do they tell before leaving?
-how do they keep their children calm and quiet?
-what will they do until they can work and earn money?
-how will they leave Europe?
3. Kati reflects on the story of her experiences during the Holocaust.
4. A teenage girl is met on their journey. She takes a risk in helping them. They took a risk in trusting her. The relationship is tantamount to their survival.
5. The love expressed between Adolf and Kati. They have commitment and tenderness towards one another. They show patience and self-control. One does not make a decision without the other. I feel they are a beautiful example of a marriage and family.

 

 

 

 

 

(Review) The Tea Planter’s Wife by Dinah Jefferies

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Publisher and Publication Date: Broadway Books. Paperback June 20, 2017.
Genre: Fiction, India.
Pages: 448.
Source: I received this copy from Blogging from Books for this review.
Rating: Okay.

Dinah Jefferies

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Summary:
Gwendolyn Hooper, age 19, traveled from her home in Gloucestershire, England to the country of Ceylon. The year is 1925. She joined her new husband, Laurence Hooper. Laurence is a widower and a tea planter. He is age 37. They met in England and had a whirlwind relationship. Gwen is dreamy-eyed with love and the expectation of a being a wife.  On board the ship, just as Gwen arrived in Ceylon, she met mysterious Savi Ravasinghe. After attending a party, Gwen became uncomfortable with an American woman who is in a business relationship with Laurence. Early in the story unanswered questions develop for Gwen. What happened to Laurence’s first wife? Why is his behavior so odd for a newlywed? Is the American woman more to Laurence than a business type relationship?
Ceylon was a British Crown colony between 1802 and 1948. Ceylon is now called Sri Lanka. It is an island southeast of India. The length of the island is 268 miles. The width of the island is 136 miles. Colombo is the capital of Sri Lanka. Three mountains on the island are over 7,500 feet, the tallest at 8,281 feet. The Monsoon rains are from May to September. For more information: Britannica.

My Thoughts:
The Tea Planter’s Wife had the beginnings of a great novel, but there are four things that did not work for me.
1. There were opportunities to examine and illustrate through the story the contrast of wealthy citizens (white British), and the poor people who were native to Ceylon and India. Many of the workers at the tea plantation were from India. I wanted to see more development in this element. The Great Depression effected all people. The wealthy lost money and the poor became poorer. Gwen loved beautiful clothing. She was alert to fashion trends. However, most of the people living in Ceylon were trying to feed their families. During the story Gwen wanted to do more for the people, for example build a school. Her husband is less inclined to want to reach out and help the people. So, some attention is given to this element, but I wanted to see greater development.
2. Several descriptive references are made to “pulled faces.” What does this mean?
Further, several monotonous references are made to a trembling or “wobbled” mouth. These descriptions were used too much. They were boring.
3. Gwen is a teenager when she marries a man 18 years older. She is young, naïve, silly, and immature. It took gumption to marry and travel so far away from England to the exotic world of Ceylon. What happened to that gumption she had shown a spark of? I wondered what kind upbringing and home life she’d had? I wondered about her parents? During the story, Gwen reflected on her father. And, she misses home at times. Her parents never went to visit their daughter while she was living in Ceylon. A friend from England visited her but not her parents. It became a big mystery to me about her parents. I couldn’t understand why more attention was not given to them? I don’t think Gwen even mentions letters from her parents. Odd.
4. The answer maybe because Gwen is so young, but why did she not know what happened to the first wife? Females are curious. Young females are known to ask questions about previous relationships their men had. Why did she not pick his brain beforehand?
5. There is an absence of communication between Laurence and Gwen. If in the beginning they had shared about their families, then there would be no need for insecurities. Of course, there would be no story either.

After reading The Tea Planter’s Wife, I wondered if the story had been told by the nanny/servant Naveena, would I have liked it better? This woman had cared for Laurence, his first wife, and Gwen. Naveena was a native to the culture and people group. I feel she had a unique perspective on the people she worked and cared for.

Final Thought:
The story wraps up nicely. Everything is placed in a nice gift wrapped box with a bow by the end of the novel. I am glad the story had closure. I kept reading, The Tea Planter’s Wife, because I wanted to know what happened to the characters and those unanswered questions about the first wife.

(Review) Secrets: A True Story of Addiction, Infidelity, and Second Chances by Jonathan Daugherty

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Publisher and Publishing Date: New Growth Press. June 19, 2017. First published 2008.
Genre: Christian nonfiction, sexual addiction, pornography.
Pages: 133.
Source: Free copy from New Growth Press.
Rating: Good.

Link for more information at New Growth Press.
Link to read a sample chapter: Secrets.

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Jonathan Daugherty is the founder of Be Broken Ministries, and founder of Gateway to Freedom workshop for men. He also hosts the weekly radio broadcast, Pure Sex Radio, and is in demand nationally as a speaker on sexual purity and men’s issues. He has appeared on multiple radio and television media, both local and national. He has authored “Grace-Based Recovery,” “The 4 Pillars of Purity,” and other works. Jonathan lives with his wife and three children in San Antonio, Texas.
Find out more about Jonathan at http://www.jonathandaugherty.com.
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Summary provided by the publisher:
Everyone has a secret or two, a part of their life they would rather not share with the rest of the world.
But for Jonathan Daugherty, his secret was so life-altering and relationship-ending that he fought to keep it hidden at all costs. And it did cost him. His secret kept him from contentment, peace, and the possibility of being known and loved for who he truly is. That’s what any secret addiction can do-but in particular a sex addiction.
After his wife finally discovered his secret, their marriage appeared to be over. In Secrets, Jonathan honestly and courageously shares his story of addiction to pornography and how he lost everything to it.
But that’s not how the story ends. While Jonathan struggled, someone else was at work-his heavenly Father. At the lowest possible moment of his life, God stepped in and brought him hope and healing. This is a story of both loss and redemption that gives hope to anyone who has ever experienced the power and struggle of addiction and its life-destroying effects.
Addiction doesn’t have the final say over Jonathan’s life or in his marriage. The God who finds the lost, heals the sick, and brings life from death has the last, victorious word.
-A courageous, honest and open account of life as a sex addict and how sex addiction destroys marriages.
-A life-affirming and personal story of recovery and redemption that will inspire readers.
-Offers hope to all who struggle with pornography and sex addiction.
-Each chapter includes a “Living in the Light” section designed to equip and help readers find freedom from addiction.
-Suitable as a study for support groups of addicts and those who care about them.

My Thoughts:
It is always difficult for me to write a book review that is so deeply personal to me. I struggle with how transparent to be in sharing from my own life the similarities that I found in the book. Sexual addiction is not something I’ve struggled with. Pornography is not something I’ve struggled with. But these two issues have effected my life. I know first hand the ugly mess they make in a marriage and in relationships period. I could have passed over the opportunity to read this book. I could have chickened out and let the tour group know I can’t handle writing a review.  But, maybe I am just the person who needs to read and share my thoughts in a review?

The first thing I noticed about the book is it’s small. The content of the book is only 124 pages. Most of the people I know, both family and friends, are not big readers. A small book is an approachable book to a nonreader or a person who reads little. I consider this a positive point about this book. It is a book with a heavy story and topic, but it is approachable in size. It at least looks less scary.

Daugherty’s writing style is informal. To write with transparency about a difficult subject, how he became involved, and the consequences of involvement takes courage. The serious nature of the book could have become so stomach churning that a reader might need an Alka-Seltzer. So, there are moments when he is witty. These moments are needed, they bring relief.

What I liked best about the book is Daugherty is quick to accept blame. He is descriptive in regards to the spiraling downfall of the addiction. He explains how indulging in one thing led to a second thing, and the second thing led to a third, and so forth.

Daugherty points out sexual addiction is about escape. I believe addictions, no matter the addiction, is about escaping from a reality that the person can’t handle.
He explains how sexual addiction effects intimacy. The fantasy in the mind is more enticing than a real relationship.
He expresses how deceptive the addiction is to the person who tries so hard to cover their tracks. They don’t want anyone to know. He tried to present himself as a Christian man involved in church, and as a married man, but he was living a double life.

In the final chapters, he shared the recovery process. A first step in recovery is admitting the problem, followed by confession. Daugherty stresses the importance of brokenness and repentance over the sin.

What I disliked about the book is the ease of reconciliation between Daugherty and his wife. What I wanted to read about was the details (including long-term) of working through what happened to them. Daugherty explains in some part. I needed more of the mechanics of what the couple did in processing the different emotions and the work to heal. I did not hear from Mrs. Daugherty in this book. I do not know her story.

When a couple reconciles after adultery has been committed, trust is one of the strong elements that must be worked on. And trust is never a given, it must be earned through the entirety of marriage.

Forgiveness is necessary, but forgiveness does not mean reconciliation will happen. People think sometimes that reconciliation is an automatic response after forgiveness. I don’t believe that. I also believe it is easier to walk away from a broken marriage then stay and fix it. Adultery, betrayal, deception, and abuse are things that cannot be undone in this lifetime. They can be forgiven, but they are not forgotten. People work toward healing, but full healing will not be in this lifetime. A question to ask is if my husband and I are out eating dinner at a restaurant and we see the person who my husband committed adultery with, what will we do, and how will we feel? What if people at church and the job know about what happened? What if someone tells our children? For the offended and betrayed spouse, it is humiliating and horribly painful. Years and years from now people will still know and talk about the husband who betrayed, and the wife who chose to stay in the marriage. Marriage can heal and time helps, but the couple must understand it is a lifetime of work. Renewing the wedding vows is not the key. It is a symbol and a good start, but not the answer. Daugherty was quick to state, “God healed my marriage.” I am thankful he gave God the glory. I still wanted to see the mechanics of their marriage afterwards.