Saturday, October 19, 2019

The Major's Daughter

The Major's Daughter (Fort Reno #3)
By Regina Jennings
Published by Bethany House
Publication date: December 3, 2019

Caroline Adams is restless and wants to find a path for herself that isn't defined by her position as the major's daughter. When the president signs off on a bill to allow the Unassigned Lands in Oklahoma territory to be claimed by homesteaders, Caroline decides this is her chance. She'll stake a claim and establish a boardinghouse. She even finds the perfect place--only realizing after she has claimed it (and there are no other plots to be claimed) that it's the exact spot Frisco Smith had picked out for himself.
Frisco, who has long been trying to settle in the unassigned lands, was instrumental in getting the territory opened for settlers--and he's picked out the perfect spot to set up a town. He even started building, put in a garden, and sold plots to others who will come to settle the land after he claims. On race day, however, he's held up at the starting line, trying to establish who was really there and who might have left early to stake a claim dishonestly--so Caroline reaches the land before he does. He desperately needs to convince Caroline to let him have the land and tries everything he can think of to get her to trade him for the small plot he claims in a neighboring developing town. She's equally determined to hold on to her dream and it seems one of them is bound to be a loser--unless they can find a way to work together.

The historical background for this book was really interesting. Seeing people who wanted a chance at claiming the land and their struggles was captivating, from those like Caroline who were successful in claiming the land but then needed to actually get to work settling there, to those like Frisco who didn't get the opportunity they so desperately wanted but were still trying to find a way to be successful. I also enjoyed the plot line with Frisco, a lawyer, trying to figure out if the very men who settled the town where he managed to buy his small plot did so legally or if they started out early in order to stake a claim. The romance angle wasn't quite as appealing to me as the other romances in this series, but all in all, it made for a good read.
3.5 stars.
I read a copy of the book provided by the publisher via NetGalley. All opinions are my own.

Monday, October 14, 2019

The Thief of Lanwyn Manor

The Thief of Lanwyn Manor (Cornwall #2)
By Sarah E. Ladd
Published by Thomas Nelson
Publication date: January 7, 2020

Julia goes to Lanwyn Manor to be with her cousin Jane through the remaining months of Jane's difficult pregnancy. It also gives Julia the chance to escape the gossip at home, as everyone seems to know that her heart was broken when a man she considered a suitor announced his engagement to someone else. Arriving at Lanwyn Manor, Julia finds that all in not well--her uncle has shut down the mine that he owns, putting many men out of work and causing unrest in the town, while her aunt hates being away from London and also seems determined to marry Julia off to local mine owner Matthew Blake. While Matthew does seem charming, Julia can't help but be drawn to his twin brother, Isaac, even though her aunt deems Isaac, as a second son, totally unsuitable. As Isaac tries to help the people in his town and Julia tries to find her place, they both come to realize that something dangerous is happening and must figure out who is behind it.

First off, I just have to say I love the dress on this cover so much. Just beautiful! As for the book itself, I loved the fact that Julia is a strong character who says what she thinks, not a shy, demure character. That made for some good interactions with both of the Blake brothers, as she did say what she really meant. Isaac was a great leading man; he was just a really good guy, trying to help those around him and do his best.  I also really liked seeing more about the mining industry; while there wasn't an overabundance of details, there were enough things woven into the story to really bring to life the impact on the townspeople, which I found really interesting. For those looking for a good historical fiction novel with both romance and mystery, this is a great choice.

4 stars.

I read an ARC provided by the publisher via NetGalley. All opinions are my own.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Cover Reveal and Giveaway! An Oxford Murder

Coming soon from G.G. Vandagriff--An Oxford Murder!

Back cover: 
A stylish 1930’s mystery set in Oxford with a love triangle, a murder, and a cast of eccentric suspects. 

Fans of Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane will love this tale!
“Vandagriff’s atmospherics are first rate. She amazes me.”—Anna Stone.
After Miss Catherine Tregowyn, poet, and Dr. Harry Bascombe, her bĂȘte noire, discover a body in the Somerville College chapel, they are declared suspects in a murder inquiry. How can they prove their innocence? The pair decide they must launch their own investigation into the strangling of Oxford don, Agatha Chenowith. But working as a team will not be easy. Their relations are anything but cordial.
It is not long before they uncover motives aplenty. Apparently, Dr. Chenowith was not at all what she seemed. As the surprises about the victim’s secret life multiply, they are awash in a sea of suspects. 
Into this scenario sails the former love of Catherine’s life as he returns from Kenya. Is she going to give Rafe another chance to break her heart? He convinces her to give him a six-month trial, and eager to show his worth, he joins in the investigation. Rafe offers to fly Catherine and Harry in his de Havilland six-seater to the Isle of Man where they must pursue a lead. Inevitably, Rafe and Harry square off in a battle for Catherine’s affections.  
Meanwhile, playing detectives proves to be a dangerous pursuit. Catherine and Harry shortly embroil themselves in a plot much larger than mere murder. No one wants to hear their theory, however. It contains truths too painful to contemplate. And it makes Catherine and Harry’s lives expendable.
Release date: November 6th, 2019

Giveaway! When you pre-order the book, take a screenshot of the Amazon "thank you" page, post it in the comments, and you will be entered in the drawing to win a $30 Amazon gift card! Contest runs Thursday through Sunday, and the winner will be notified on Monday.

Friday, October 4, 2019

The Duke's Second Chance

The Duke's Second Chance
By Jen Geigle Johnson

Second chances often come from surprising places. Will the Duke find another chance at love when everything seems to be combining against him? Gerald feels as though he’s lost everything when his wife takes her last breath. Amelia’s world turns upside down when the Duke of Granbury steps into her tea shop and leaves with her heart. But when a secret from Amelia’s past unveils possibilities, will the duke get a second chance at love from an unexpected source?

The premise was interesting, but the story just felt really rushed and didn't hold my interest like other books. The romance aspect especially was just too fast and didn't have enough time to develop.

I read an ARC provided by the author. All opinions are my own.

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Thursday, October 3, 2019

Secrets & Suitors

Secrets & Suitors
By Joanna Barker
Published by Covenant Communications

Nora Hamilton would rather remain at home in the country than go to London for her third season--and she'd much rather spend time with her friend James, recently returned to England, than Mr. Weston, the man her father wants her to marry. But since James made it clear he doesn't return her feelings for her, she reluctantly tells her father she'll agree to marry Mr. Weston at the end of the season if her younger sister is allowed a season and her younger brother is allowed to accompany them to London. As she participates in the season, she wonders if her feelings for Mr. Weston might grow, and she also attracts the attention of an earl who seems to enjoy her company, but even with two men interested in her, she still can't convince her heart to forget James.
Time is running out and she must decide what is the right path for her before it's too late.

Big sigh! This was lovely (particularly the last couple of chapters! Swoon!). Timid Nora and charming James were just terrific. I loved the moments when Nora actually pushed through her shyness and let her true self show. I enjoyed the plot; there was more going on than just a romance and the elements all fit together well. The story flowed really well, and it was just a delight to read. I read a lot of Regency romances, but this one stands out--and I've already reread the last couple chapters because they were so perfect!
5 stars!
I read an ARC provided by the publisher via NetGalley. All opinions are my own.

Saturday, September 28, 2019

When Silence Sings

When Silence Sings
By Sarah Loudin Thomas
Published by Bethany House
Publication Date: November 5th

The Harpes and the McLeans have been feuding for generations, so it's no surprise to Colman Harpe that when his cousin is killed by a McLean, the Harpes want vengeance. Colman, an aspiring preacher, tries to remind himself that vengeance is the Lord's and stay out of things, but then he receives an unexpected call from the Lord--to preach to the McLeans. Not sure how to carry out that call, and even sure he wants to, he heads out on a fishing trip instead, only to be stranded in a storm and lost in mountain caves until he emerges in the McLeans' territory, cared for by Ivy, an outsider who encourages him to answer his call to preach to the McLeans.

Serepta McLean, the matriarch of the McLean clan, has worked too hard to gain control of and prosper the family businesses to let anything get in her way. Neither of her two sons quite seems up to scratch to be the next leader of their empire--the elder is too sloppy and the younger too eager to make changes Serepta doesn't approve of. While she needs to tend to business and bringing at least one of her sons up to scratch, when a terrible accident leaves a young girl orphaned, Serepta impulsively takes her in and soon finds that the little girl changes her life way more than she anticipated.

Wow! This book was incredibly well written. I don't know anything about West Virginia in 1930, and yet, Sarah Loudin Thomas brought it to life in such a way that it felt totally familiar to me. I was quickly immersed in the setting as well as the plot. From the get-go, Colman, with his Jonah-like story, just tugged at my heart; I think a lot of readers can relate to feeling like there's something God wants us to do but don't have any idea how to actually do it. I thought that was totally relatable, as was how he felt caught between his family and his own desires for life. Ivy and her uncle, who care for him, were totally endearing as well. As for Serepta, she was a fascinating character, one who does things that are definitely questionable but who also does good things. She, along with other characters, definitely make for an interesting discussion topic, like what makes someone good or evil, if anyone is past redemption, etc. There's just so much to like about this book--and there's tons to talk about, which makes it a great choice for book clubs. Highly recommend--I'm picking this as one of the best books of 2019!
5 stars!

I read an ARC provided by the publisher via #NetGalley. All opinions are my own.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

A Pursuit of Home

A Pursuit of Home (Haven Manor #3)
By Kristi Ann Hunter
Published by Bethany House
Publication Date: November 5, 2019

After her family's murders, Jess Beuchene, left only with the diary her father entrusted with her and family legends about their beloved home country, Verbonne, worked with the English to defeat Napoleon. Having finished her work, she moved on, ending up working as a cook in a home for unwed mothers and their children, never expecting that she would receive word that her brother, long presumed dead, is alive and trying to claim his place as king of Verbonne. In order to do that, however, he needs a special symbol of his right to rule--and the secret of where to find that item is hidden in the words of the diary Jess has kept safe. Although she'd prefer to work alone, the diary is written in Italian and describes various works of art, and Jess must enlist the help of Derek Thornbury, an art expert who can also translate the diary. Unfortunately for her, he's one of the most annoying people she has ever met--and while he agrees to help, he asks far too many questions and sees through her attempts to give him as little information as possible. Determined to be a full partner in their quest, Derek doesn't settle for Jess's half-answers and evasiveness; he pushes for more and in so doing, he comes to know Jess better than anyone.

Wow! This is a thrilling read. I've been waiting for Jess's story, because she's been such a fascinating side character in the author's previous books, and this book did not disappoint. I loved seeing the interactions between sarcastic, world-wise Jess and scholarly, somewhat oblivious Derek--and especially seeing the moments when Derek wasn't quite as obtuse as Jess thought. I loved how Derek, while determined to help, recognized that there were things that Jess was better at than he was and didn't try to stop her from doing them, while also asserting himself when he did have the strengths needed to help. I also loved seeing other characters from previous books who refused to let Jess brush them off in her attempts to keep them safe and protect them from caring about her. This was a great conclusion to the series.

4.5 stars.

I read an ARC provided by the publisher via #NetGalley. All opinions are my own.