The Old Rectory: Escape to a Country Kitchen by Julia Ibbotson

September 23rd, 2013

The Old Rectory

Like the author, Julia Ibbotson, I love books about buying and restoring properties especially in quaint little villages or countrysides so her novel The Old Rectory: Espcape to a Country Kitchen was really an enjoyable read for for me. This is a shorter book at a little under two hundred pages and it just flew by as Julia related she and her husband’s journey towards getting the old Victorian rectory restored to its former glory.

Julia and her husband buy a property that is in the middle of the moors in the midlands of England. The rectory is in need of major restoration and they debate on whether they are up for it and can afford it but ultimately they know that this is the place for them. As the restorations are going forward they begin to learn that the rectory has a very rich history and this fascinates them even more. However as with all things they most definitely have their struggles in getting the rectory to where they want it and many times they are very frustrated but they keep on and eventually it all pays off. With beautiful gardens and an abundance of fresh veggies and herbs, the rectory has become the home they always wanted.

In reading any memoir it always helps when the main person is one that you can see yourself sitting at the kitchen table having a coffee or an English tea with and Julia is just that sort of person. She had worked hard all of her life and really wanted to get away from the craziness of the world and do something meaningful to her and her family. She is also someone who loves to cook and views it as a way of showing her love for her family and friends. It brings her joy to see them enjoy the bounty she prepares and I can’t tell you how many times I wished I was a part of her family and able to enjoy what is obviously a close knit and happy family.

While I enjoyed the sections of the book dealing with the restoration of the rectory I have to say that I really loved the mouth watering recipes that Julia included in the book that reflect the four seasons. As she said in her book “food seems to reflect the moods of life; it follows the seasons and creates your memories”. Most of us can relate to that as many of our fondest memories are related to sharing or cooking food with a loved one. There are so many recipes I plan on trying but I’ll just name a few here: Hot Oranges in Vanilla Caramel Syrup, Potato Dauphinoise de Loire which is a creamy cheesy dish -yum!, Traditional Lemon Syllabub, and Potato Pete Soup. This is just to name a few as there are many others that sound so scrumptious.

The Old Rectory: Escape to a Country Kitchen was a comforting read for me. Between the restoration, the recipes, and the obvious love that the author has for her family I found that the novel warmed my heart. The only thing missing was that I would have liked to see photos of the before and after of the restoration. The author did include pencil sketches at the beginning of each chapter though that were done by her daughter and they really added a touch of charm. This is a memoir that falls into a few categories so if you like books about restorations and you’re a foodie then The Old Rectory is certainly a book you’ll enjoy!



Julia’s website, Facebook, and Twitter
Buy at:  Amazon, Amazon Canada, and B&N

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Source:  Review copy provided by the publisher.  No compensation was received for this review and all opinions are my own. 

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Beyond the Valley by Rita Gerlach & Giveaway (US/Can)

March 6th, 2013


Beyond the Valley by Rita Gerlach is the third book in The Daughters of the Potomac series with Before the Scarlet Dawn (my review) being the first and Beside Two Rivers (my review) being the second in this fantastic Christian series.  I knew from the first book I read that this would be a series I would follow and I’m so glad I have.  Rita Gerlach has a way with her stories that fully draws you into her character’s lives and what’s happening to them.  You care about them, you shed a few tears with them, and you rejoice in their happiness.  The love, faith, and hope that shines through the pages of Rita’s novels is enough to call me back to this series time and time again.

Sarah Carr has never had an easy life.  As an orphan she has already endured hardships in her life and with one leg shorter than the other she is viewed as a cripple and tainted.  You  have to keep in mind that this was the 1700’s and any type of defect had people looking down on you.  Finally though she finds happiness with her husband Jamie until tragedy hits and he is taken from her.  Left pregnant and alone she turns to the only people she can – Jamie’s sister and her husband.  Imagine her surprise to find that they are not very welcoming and in fact scheme to have her kidnapped.  As she travels by ship to be sold as an indentured servant she can’t help but wonder why God has forsaken her and what hardships lay ahead of her.

While the trip on the ship was more than Sarah felt she could endure what was to come for her would really try her faith at times.  Her life has become one where she is destined to serve others until she has paid her debt.  While this is not the life she wants not everyone is bad especially one handsome doctor by the name of Alex Hutton.  They meet and it seems, despite their differing stations in life, that they are destined for each other.  Yet it seems that the fates cannot look favorably on Sarah and she is once again sold to someone else and Alex loses track of her in the process.  He vows to find her again, set her free, and marry her.  Yet at every turn it seems not meant to be.  Will Sarah survive what is in store for her?  Will her faith see her through?  Will Alex be able to find Sarah before she is lost to him forever?

I liked Sarah.  I had already met her in a previous book so I knew some of her story but it was interesting to get it all instead of only bits and pieces.  Despite the hardships that continually seemed to find her she was still loyal to those she loved and had a fierce determination to live and clung to her hope and faith in her God.  I enjoyed being taken back to characters from the previous books as well.  If I had one complaint and it isn’t really a complaint as it’s more of an observation and that is I think this book would have fit better in the middle as the second book.  It can most definitely stand alone but I do think you get more from the story having read the others.  As for me I’ve really enjoyed the series and it’s everything I look for in a good Christian historical romance novel.  God doesn’t promise us an easy life but he promises to be there for us and with us as long as we keep our hope and faith in him alive.


Beyond the Valley by Rita Gerlach is touring with Pump Up Your Book so be sure to visit the other tour stops for more reviews, guest posts, and giveaways.  You can find Rita on her website and Facebook and your own copy of Beyond the Valley can be purchased at Amazon and Amazon Canada.



I have one copy of Beyond the Valley by Rita Gerlach to share with my readers.  To enter…

  • For 1 entry leave me a comment entering the giveaway.
  • For 2 entries follow my blog.  If you already do let me know so I can pass the extra entry on to you as well.
  • Tweet, post on Facebook, or Blog about this giveaway to earn 3 entries.

This giveaway is open to US and Canadian residents (no PO boxes) and I will draw for the winner on Saturday, March 23/13.  Good luck!

Source: Review copy provided by Pump Up Your Book and the Publisher.  No compensation was received and all opinions are my own.

The Aviator’s Wife by Melanie Benjamin & Giveaway (US/Canada)

February 18th, 2013

The Aviator's Wife

The Aviator’s Wife by Melanie Benjamin is an extraordinary  story.  I don’t know of many people who haven’t been fascinated at one time or another by the Lindbergh story.  You know the story of Charles Lindbergh who earned his fame as an aviator and then later the whole horrible ordeal of their child being kidnapped and later found dead.  Yet how many of us know the woman behind the man – Anne Morrow Lindbergh?  Melanie Benjamin has taken Anne, a woman who valued her privacy, and brought her alive for us in a way that will touch your heart and soul.

Anne, the daughter of the U.S. ambassador to Mexico, meets Charles when her father brings him home to meet his family.  Anne, never one to be in the spotlight as her sister usually has it never dreams that Charles will notice her.  Yet this is one time she wishes she would be noticed by the Colonel who has just made his solo flight over the Atlantic that has garnered such praise and excitement.  Nobody is more surprised than Anne when Charles does ask to call on Anne.  They go flying  together and Anne’s life is never the same again.

While there was much I didn’t know about Charles Lindbergh and learned through this book it is Anne that the book focuses on and how she felt about the man she married, their life, and later the regrets she had.  Charles seemed a larger than life man to the public who adored him and alternately hated him at different points in time and he seemed much the same at home.  He was a domineering man who liked things done a certain way – his way.  Yet in the beginning of their relationship they had fun going off on flights together and seeing the world.  When Anne became pregnant and had Charles Jr. she thought they would settle down but they didn’t.  Charles insisted on them leaving for weeks or more at a time and even though Anne didn’t want to leave the baby she went.  At the time they were first married it was only the 1920’s and women still generally followed their husband’s wishes whether they agreed with them or not.  After the loss of their child Charles insists upon burying it all and moving on but how does a mother ever move on from such a life-changing event.

This novel takes an intimate look into Anne’s life from the beginning of her time with Charles in 1927 to the end of his life in 1974 as she sits with him trying to understand finally some of the decisions he made in his life that affected her and their family.  For Anne, life with Charles threw her into a spotlight that she never got used to and never liked.  They were constantly barraged by cameras and reporters and absolutely no part of their lives was left untouched.  For me though the parts that really made me feel for Anne were of her private life with Charles.  She was forever trying to live up to what he expected of his wife and family.  At one point in her life she had her own dreams of being a writer but everything became overshadowed by Charles and yet she was a strong woman as she brought up 5 more children all on her own and ran their home although with direction from Charles via phone from wherever he might have been.  I have to wonder how much she would have done had she taken a different direction in her life.

The Aviator’s Wife is beautifully and descriptively written and Benjamin’s research into Anne’s life is amazing but even more touching is that she made it her mission in this novel to bring out the emotional side of Anne Morrow Lindbergh and not just the woman we heard about in the news or saw in pictures.  She makes a statement in her author’s note that she always feels rewarded when reading one of her books prompts someone to do even more research into the person she has written about – well it’s certainly true for me as I’ve already picked up a couple of the books she recommended and can’t wait to read them.  I can’t possibly do this novel justice but I can say it’s a favorite and one I hope that a lot of others will enjoy as well especially if you’re a fan of historical fiction!  The Aviator’s Wife is why Melanie Benjamin is one of my favorite authors – she is an amazing writer!

The Aviator’s Wife by Melanie Benjamin is touring with Pump Up Your Book.  Stop by to check out all the other tour stops and you can connect with Melanie on her website, Facebook, and Twitter.  You can pick up your own copy of The Aviator’s Wife at Amazon or Amazon Canada.

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I have one copy of The Aviator’s Wife by Melanie Benjamin to share with my readers.  To enter…

  • For 1 entry leave me a comment entering the giveaway.
  • For 2 entries follow my blog.  If you already do just let me know and I’ll pass the entry on to you as well.
  • For 3 entries, blog or tweet this giveaway.

This giveaway is open to US and Canadian residents (no PO boxes) and I will draw for the winner on Saturday, March 2/13.  Good luck!

Source: Review copy provided by Pump Up Your Book and the Publisher. No compensations was received. All opinions are my own.

Book Review: Beside Two Rivers by Rita Gerlach

November 15th, 2012

Beside Two Rivers by Rita Gerlach is the second book in The Daughters of the Potomac series, the first being Before the Scarlet Dawn which I reviewed yesterday (my review).  This is a fantastic Christian series and I really enjoyed the second book as well as it took me again from America to England and back to America again.  As with the first book, Beside Two Rivers also pulled me into the story immediately and held me there on another emotional and hopeful journey.

Beside Two Rivers centers around Darcy, Eliza and Hayward’s daughter.  Darcy believes her mother is dead and her father disappeared years ago.  He left her with his half-brother and she’s grown up healthy and happy with her uncle, aunt, and cousins in America.  Although Darcy barely remembers either of her parents she carries many of their traits especially her mother’s adventurous spirit.  Darcy loves life and wants to experience all she can to the point where sometimes she jeopardizes her own safety and scares the dickens out of her aunt.  On a beautiful summer day at a party being held at Twin Oaks Darcy meets Ethan, a man who takes her breath away, but he is also there from England and with a woman who he apparently has an arrangement with to marry.  She loves him and believes he loves her as well until the day she receives a letter from him telling her there can never be anything between them and that he is returning to England.

Darcy is saddened but not one to be held down for long and when a letter arrives from England from her grandmother who she’s never met asking her to come and live with her for a while Darcy jumps at the offer.  Needless to say it’s a long journey from America to England but meeting her grandmother turns out to be a wonderful experience for them both.  But Darcy is also there to try to learn more about her father and mother if she can as there is so much she doesn’t know about them.  The days seem to go by pleasantly enough but nothing prepares her or her heart for meeting Ethan again.  Will their love finally blossom into more?  Or are there too many outside forces at work to keep them apart? Soon enough Darcy is faced with events that have the power to change her life forever.

Rita Gerlach can really write characters that manage to enmesh themselves into your life and make you care about them.  It was great to read about Darcy all grown up and to see how, despite all that had happened to her already, she still has a strong faith in God and his plan for her.  There were many characters from the first novel that were brought back into this story like Eliza and Fiona and while their parts weren’t huge it was still nice to revisit them.  I have really enjoyed both books, Before the Scarlet Dawn and now Beside Two Rivers, a great deal.  I am very excited that there is a third book in the series, Beyond the Valley, that will be releasing in February of 2013 and oh yes, I will most definitely be reading it!

Beside Two Rivers by Rita Gerlach is on tour with Pump Up Your Book.  Be sure to check out all the other tour stops to see what others think of the book as well.  You can connect with Rita on her blog or Facebook and your own copy of Beside Two Rivers can be purchased here in the US and here in Canada.

Source: Review copy provided by Pump Up Your Book. and the Publisher via NetGalley. No compensation was received for this review and all thoughts are my own.


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