Welcome to Book Chat with Julie! This month we have two romantic selections that feature lasting friendships as well as brave women forging their own paths and finding their voice in the world.
Our first book Briarwall Hearts by Krista Jensen is unusual because it is set in the Edwardian period of the Second Industrial Revolution, when “progress” was happening too fast for some and too slow for others. Ms. Jensen uses JM Barrie’s play Peter Pan as a framework for the characters as each tries to choose the direction of their lives, sometimes with unexpected results.
Lydia is part of the Wendy League, a group of women who come together to discuss “courage, aspirations, community, femininity, and . . . Men.” These friends want to help each other “fly”. Lydia pays close attention to any female orientation as she grew up without a mother, ever since her parents were killed in a car accident when she was six years old. Her older brother Andrew has done his best to raise her, but he struggles to see her as his own person.
Spencer, Andrew’s schoolmate, comes to Briarwall asking for financial support for his business and is shocked to find that Lydia has grown into a beautiful woman – a woman he would like to get to know better. However, he doesn’t want to let his attraction get in the way of his business with Andrew, so he holds back. Or try. He’s drawn to Lydia in ways he can’t explain, and their adventures and scenes are full of sparks. But their journey to happily ever after isn’t easy as Lydia and Spencer try to find their way through a bold new world with people who don’t always seem to appreciate their thoughts and ideas.
Ms. Jensen easily paints a picture of what Edwardian England would have been like, and her characters are endearing and memorable. Spencer is so serious about trying to keep his mother and sister safe that he puts aside any reservations to ask his friend for help. When things start to unravel, he chooses another path that has dire consequences for him and his future. Lydia is sometimes insecure about herself, wanting to please her brother, but also yearning to make her own choices in life. She is a dichotomy of strength and vulnerability and readers will feel a protective force for her as she tries to do the right thing. The romance with Lydia and Spencer was full of banter and fun, but was also balanced with a serious edge as they navigated the situation with her brother. The secondary characters are well drawn and add perfectly to the world of Briarwall. I loved the Wendy League ladies and hope they all have their own stories, and I think Andrew deserves his own story as well.
If you’re looking for a turn-of-the-century love story that’s fiery and intriguing, then you won’t want to miss Hearts of Briarwall. This book will be available on August 2, 2022.
Our second book is Hazelnut of healing by Jennifer Moore, the third installment of the Blue Orchid Society. I enjoyed the first two books of the series, but this one is unique because it takes place in the Spanish countryside, in the middle of the civil war. Hazel is traveling to Spain to visit her father for Christmas, when his train is bombed, seriously injuring some passengers, including Hazel’s fellow passengers. Hazel always wanted to complete her nursing education, but couldn’t because of her panic attacks. When thrust into a situation where her skills are desperately needed, Hazel does her best to put her anxieties aside and focus on the patients.
Dr. Jim Jackson, a Red Cross doctor stationed in Spain, isn’t so sure of his abilities and doesn’t make it easy for Hazel. She’s working hard to be useful, to prove to Dr. Jackson and to herself that she can be the nurse she’s always wanted to be, and their newfound friendship may have the potential to blossom even further. However, they find themselves in the middle of a combat zone and trying to treat soldiers and patients becomes more dangerous than anyone ever thought. If she survives, Hazel must choose a path that could hurt those she loves most. A battle rages all around her, and there is one in her heart as well.
Ms. Moore deftly takes the reader on a journey through Spain at a time when the Red Cross was relatively new and doctors did all they could to earn the trust of those they served. Dr. Jim Jackson had a rich history that we are given hints of as we see him struggle with his feelings for Hazel. He suffered in his craft, wanting to save everyone and sometimes feeling defeated by his limitations. But it also means he has compassion and we see more of that as the romance progresses. Hazel has suffered in her life as well and because of that she lacks confidence in herself and her abilities. But Hazel rises to the occasion when she has to, and readers will admire her wit. No matter what anyone throws at her, she does her best to make the situation better, even if it doesn’t always turn out the way she thought it would. The author has included an extraordinary supporting cast of characters, and combined with the detailed descriptions of the settings, you’ll feel like you’re in Spain with civilians, soldiers, and medical personnel whose lives are turned upside down by a seemingly endless war. end. This romance has a gripping action-adventure thread that will keep readers up late at night to see how it all plays out. I will definitely re-read this one. Healing Hazel will be available on September 8, 2022, but you can pre-order it today!
Behind the Scenes – A Conversation with Krista Jensen
I enjoyed chatting with author Krista Jensen to get all the inside scoop on her story, Hearts of Briarwall. If you want to know more about our conversation, you can connect to my Book Chat with Julie podcast. She will also be the featured guest of my Book Chat Book Club on August 23 at 7:00 PM MT. If you would like to join the Book Club, you can click here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1055727957843897
Here’s a bit of what she had to say.
Julia: What gave you the idea for this book?
Christa: I love Downton Abbey and thought it would be interesting to take that setting and era, but give it a more bourgeois vibe, with humor and banter that moves as fast as the innovation of the time. I researched popular writers and artists of the time, came across Sir James Barrie and his new play, Peter Pan, and ideas blossomed from there.
Julia: Did you have to do a lot of research on this period?
Christa: I had already researched the Regency era for some short stories I had written, so I kept going through the Victorian era, and then really focused on Edwardian England. As ideas came up for the story, like the automotive theme, I totally dove into this emerging industry. You need to get it right, as right as possible. It’s important to the story and it’s important to the readers. Lots of research before, lots of research during the writing process. And more as I write the series.
Julia: Do you have an “invention” that fascinates you?
Christa: I’ve always been fascinated by clocks and the evolution of timing and it shows in “Briarwall”.
Julia: If you invented something, what would it be?
Christa: I invent stories. Anything else I could imagine would probably end up being dangerous to the time continuum or something, ha.
Thank you so much for joining me for our book talk today. Hope you found a new author to read this month!
The hearts of Briarwell by Krista Jensen published by Shadow Mountain, 288 pages, available in softcover, audio and ebook August 2, 2022.
Hazelnut of healing by Jennifer Moore, published by Covenant Communications, available September 8, 2022.
After winning $10 in a sophomore writing contest, Julie Coulter Bellon knew she wanted to be a published author someday. This dream has come true and she is now the author of around thirty books. She is also a podcast host for Authors Off the Page and Book Chat with Julie..