Category Archives: Howard Books

It Happened at the Fair by Deeanne Gist

World’s Fair comes to life through Cullen and Della’s eyes

It Happened at the Fair by Deeanne Gist
Christian (?) Historical Fiction
Howard Books April 30 2013
Paperback 432 pages
Review copy provided by LitFuse, thank you!
Burton Book Review Rating:4 stars

Purchase a copy here

(Read my Love On The Line review, her last release)

A transporting historical novel about a promising young inventor, his struggle with loss, and the attractive teacher who changes his life, all set against the razzle-dazzle of the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair.

Gambling everything, including the family farm, Cullen McNamara travels to the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair with his most recent invention. But the noise in the Fair’s Machinery Palace makes it impossible to communicate with potential buyers. In an act of desperation, he hires Della Wentworth, a teacher of the deaf, to tutor him in the art of lip-reading.

Who could resist that gorgeous cover?! And that dress does actually make an appearance in the novel which adds an intriguing factor. If you have ever wondered what it was like to be at the 1893 Chicago Worlds Fair, look no further. Deeanne Gist masterfully recreates the atmosphere as we see the fair through Della and Cullen’s eyes, and we even get some pictures too! I loved that there were photos included from the fair, that was a really nice touch and added such authenticity to the story.

The story is a sweet and slow romance, because Cullen is only at the fair to market his invention of a sprinkler system while he has left his betrothed at home. Cullen is going to be at the fair for six months and he and Della have come up with an arrangement so that he could learn to lip read which is something he is going to need to learn how to do soon because of his own hearing impairment. Della easily begins to fall for him – in spite of herself – but Cullen is a respectful young man who knows where his heart is supposed to be: at home.

The story blends the historical element with the romance in a slow atmospheric way that is hard to put down. Tragedy spurs the story forward and the future is not so easy to guess for Cullen and Della, and when girlfriend Wanda shows up, Cullen has to make a difficult choice once and for all. At first I was distracted by the way the author displayed the annunciation of the words that Cullen was hearing, but that dissipated after a while. Those readers who do not like a large dose of “Christian” in their reads would be fine with reading this one, as there are only a few moments that I noticed the christian theme, which I guess is the norm for the Howard Books imprint of Simon & Schuster. I do want to mention that there is palpable amount of lust going on that is implied and while some may not think that is appropriate I absolutely LOVED the romance especially at the end – it was tastefully done and yet so..warm and passionate. Perfect.

“Blood rushed through her veins. He was magnificent. As beautifully formed as any sculpture on the entire grounds of the fair. She squeezed the stair rail. Would his chest have the same texture as his arms? {….}Oh, she could see. She could see just fine.”

Deeanne Gist’s newest novel brings to life the Chicago World’s Fair through the eyes of these two very lovable characters. Her writing style flows easily and I found that even though I sometimes wish I could knock Cullen and Della over their heads when they were not explaining their feelings to each other, it was still a story that I will remember. I recommend it to any historical romance reader, and definitely to those who are interested in the history at the fair.

Incidentally, Goodreads is hosting a giveaway of the title till May 10, 2013.
Christian Bookshelf Reviews is offering a giveaway and a fabulous interview with the author here. There she offers a sneak peek at her next World’s Fair novel.

Deeanne Gist is celebrating the release of It Happened at the Fair with an iPad Mini Giveaway and a Live Author Chat Webcast event {5/22}!


  One “fair” winner will receive:

  • An iPad Mini
  • A $25 iTunes gift card

Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on May 21st. Winner will be announced at the It Happened at the Fair” Live Webcast Event on May 22nd. Connect with Deeanne for an evening of book chat, trivia, laughter, and more! Deeanne will also be taking questions from the audience and giving away books and fun gift certificates throughout the evening.

So grab your copy of It Happened at the Fair and join Deeanne and friends on the evening of May 22nd for a chance to connect and make some new friends. (If you haven’t read the book, don’t let that stop you from coming!)

Don’t miss a moment of the fun; RSVP todayTell your friends via FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning. Hope to see you on the 22nd!

As always a warm thank you to Litfuse and their fabulous nesters for providing me a copy of this title for review. They are a fabulous group of ladies, always a pleasure to participate in their blog tours. 


Filed under #histnov, 2013 Releases, 2013 Review, Christian Fiction, Deeanne Gist, Howard Books

Roses Have Thorns by Sandra Byrd

Intrigues of Elizabethan court via the love story of Helena Von Snakenborg

Roses Have Thorns by Sandra Byrd (book 3 in Ladies in Waiting)
Historical Romance/Tudor Fiction
Howard Books
Paperback 352 pages
Review copy provided by the author, thank you!
Burton Book Review Rating:4 stars

In 1565, seventeen-year-old Elin von Snakenborg leaves Sweden on a treacherous journey to England. Her fiance has fallen in love with her sister and her dowry money has been gambled away, but ahead of her lies an adventure that will take her to the dizzying heights of Tudor power. Transformed through marriage into Helena, the Marchioness of Northampton, she becomes the highest-ranking woman in Elizabeth’s circle. But in a court that is surrounded by Catholic enemies who plot the queen’s downfall, Helena is forced to choose between an unyielding monarch and the husband she’s not sure she can trust—a choice that will provoke catastrophic consequences.
Vividly conjuring the years leading up to the beheading of Mary Queen of Scots, Roses Have Thorns is a brilliant exploration of treason, both to the realm and to the heart.

Helena Von Snakenborg may be recognized by Elizabeth I aficionados as one of her closest friends/courtiers/ladies in waiting. In Sandra Byrd’s third installment of the Ladies In Waiting series we are treated to the tried and true Elizabethan era shenanigans except now we get to learn a bit more about her favored lady, Elin from Sweden. I was intrigued in this title because my interest is in Christian historicals, and I wanted to see how the author blended an inspirational theme with Elizabeth’s court.
Elin learns the ways of the court quickly as she decides to choose potential love in England instead of returning to Sweden with her family. She is about nineteen years old and has eyes for William Parr, but Parr is still married, unfortunately. Luckily for Elin she is welcomed by Elizabeth and she anglicizes her name to Helena and is given every comfort. Her high nobility for being associated with William Parr raises her status and she never has to worry for income as long as she remains under the fickle Elizabeth’s favor. She manages well until she blunders in the name of love again.. all at a time when Elizabeth has forbidden her ladies to marry.
Major events and players are portrayed in this retelling of Elizabethan courts, from Lettice Knollys’ marriage to Robert, Earl of Leicester, Francis Drake to the Mary Queen of Scots debacle. The difference this time is in learning more about Helena and how she managed to stay one step ahead of some of the other ladies at the court. Refreshingly, this telling helps humanize Elizabeth a bit more as we witness the relationship between Elizabeth and Helena and how it grows over the years. Although the novel covers a span of forty years, it certainly reads fast and there is no lull in the writing as there was always something going on from treachery in the courts to treachery in Helena’s own house.
I would recommend Roses Have Thorns for those who would like to learn a bit more about Elizabethan life and more about Helena. There are biblical references but I would not wholeheartedly classify this as the inspirational sub-genre simply because the mission of  Inspirational Christian Fiction is supposed to glorify God through a biblical truth while exhibiting a strong theme in forgiveness/faith/redemption; perhaps with the characters debating whether their life is living towards God’s will. There is a discernible difference from this title and my other reviewed inspirational titles but the element of a “clean read” could certainly apply here, as most christian fiction readers do require that in their reads.

If you happen to steer yourself away from Byrd’s books because you fear a possible preachy biblical element, please do not, although she does use basic scripture as an added layer to Helena’s turmoils in a “the bible tells me so” type of way. There is also the religious turmoil that occurs for the realm, the typical Catholic versus Protestant issues that Elizabeth had to deal with during her reign, as she attempted to not peer into men’s souls regarding faith yet the factions were still evident during her reign, mostly because of the Catholic Mary of Scots. The practices of these faiths were a major source of contention in Elizabeth’s time, and it is evident during this story as well. 

The author takes great pains to display the amount of knowledge she has gathered for the era and there are many details about the historical events that occur during the latter part of Elizabeth’s reign. But the main crux is always Helena – her life and her loves, a rare glimpse of the fact that perhaps it wasn’t so bad being the highest titled lady in the land next to Elizabeth. A book that features family lineage charts as well as a reading guide, this is an exemplary novel on Helena Von Snakenborg and her own love life, a lesser known figure in Elizabeth’s court that I would recommend especially to those who are just learning their ways around Elizabeth’s court.
On my other blog at HF-Connection the author was kind enough to offer an intriguing guest post regarding Elizabeth and her women, which you can read here, and it ties in a bit with the author’s note as well.


Filed under #histnov, 2013 Releases, 2013 Review, Elizabeth I, Howard Books, Sandra Byrd, Tudor