Sunday, November 29, 2020

Courting Misfortune (The Joplin Chronicles #1)


Courting Misfortune (The Joplin Chronicles #1) 
By Regina Jennings 
Published by Bethany House 
Publication Date: December 1st, 2020 

Description:
Calista York needs one more successful case as a Pinkerton operative to secure her job. When she's assigned to find the kidnapped daughter of a mob boss, she's sent to the rowdy mining town of Joplin, Missouri, despite having extended family in the area. Will their meddling expose her mission and keep Lila Seaton from being recovered? 

When Matthew Cook decided to be a missionary, he never expected to be sent only a short train ride away. While fighting against corruption of all sorts, Matthew hears of a baby raffle being held to raise funds for a children's home. He'll do what he can to stop it, but he also wants to stop the reckless Miss York, whose bad judgment consistently seems to be putting her in harm's way. 

Calista doesn't need the handsome pastor interfering with her investigation, and she can't let her disguise slip. Her job and the life of a young lady depend on keeping Matthew in the dark.

Review:
I really liked the last third of this book, but the first two-thirds dragged for me somewhat. I just didn't enjoy Calista or Matthew as characters; Calista's constant lies, while perhaps necessary for her job, made it hard to really connect with her--and the lies she tried to pass off about being a nurse, when she obviously couldn't even handle anything remotely connected to nursing didn't make her seem like the most competent of detectives. It made it hard to see why Matthew would even want to put up with her at all. I also found myself more irritated than endeared by Calista's extended family. So, I struggled through the first two-thirds of the book, but I did like the remainder. There were some good messages about how God works in people's lives as well as some really nice romantic lines. 
3 stars.
I read an ARC provided by the publisher via #NetGalley. All opinions are my own.

Monday, November 23, 2020

To Dwell among Cedars (The Covenant House #1) by Connilyn Cossette

To Dwell among Cedars
By Connilyn Cossette
Published by Bethany House 
Publication Date: December 1st, 2020 

Description: 
Eight years ago, when the Philistines stole and then surrendered the ark of the covenant back to the Israelites, Eliora left her Philistine homeland to follow the ark to the community of Kiryat Yearim. There, the family she was adopted into has guarded the ark at the top of a mountain in seclusion. 
Ronen is a Levite musician determined to secret away the ark to a more fitting resting place, watched over by priests who would restore the Holy of Holies. He never expected that the Philistine girl he rescued years ago would now be part of the very family he's tasked to deceive. As Ronen's attempts to charm Eliora lead them in unexpected directions, betrayal leaves Eliora with strained family ties and Ronen questioning his own loyalties. 
Ultimately, Eliora and Ronen are caught up in the battle for the soul of Israel and its future under the leadership of Samuel, the last judge before the era of the kings begins. 

Review: 
Wow. Another fabulous book from Connilyn Cossette. The historical background for the story is so fascinating; I was absolutely drawn in by the idea of two Philistine children following the Ark as it's sent back to the Hebrews from the Philistines, who no longer want it after they've been stricken by plagues and pestilences. The idea of different factions within the Levites was also so interesting, with some wanting it to remain at Kiryat Yearim and others wanting to return it to Shiloh. That was an excellent backdrop for Eliora's and Ronen's stories. Cossette did a fantastic job showing why Eliora and Ronen acted the way that they did--how their earlier hurts and traumas really impacted the choices that they made. They were both realistic and likable characters, and I loved seeing the realizations they each came to about themselves, their families, and God. This book is really well-written, and I can't wait to read the sequel. 

5 stars. 

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

Sunday, November 22, 2020

The Gentleman and the Thief (Blog Tour)



The Gentleman and the Thief
By Sarah M. Eden
Published by Shadow Mountain

Description:

A standalone novel in The Dread Penny Society set in 1865 London brimming with secrets, scandal, suspense, and romance. 

From the moment Hollis Darby meets Ana Newport, he's smitten. Even though he's from a wealthy, established family and she isn't, he wishes he could have a life with her by his side. But Hollis has a secret: the deep coffers that have kept his family afloat for generations are bare, so he supports himself by writing penny dreadfuls under a pseudonym. If not for the income from his novels, he would be broke. 
Ana Newport also has a secret. Though she once had a place in society thanks to her father's successful business, bankruptcy and scandal reduced his fortune to nothing more than a crumbling town house. So Ana teaches music during the day, and at night she assumes the identity of the "Phantom Fox." She breaks into the homes of the wealthy to reclaim trinkets and treasures she feels were unjustly stolen from her family when they were struggling. 
When Hollis's brother needs to hire a music tutor for his daughter, Hollis recommends Ana, giving him a chance to spend time with her. Ana needs the income and is eager for the opportunity to get to know the enigmatic gentleman. What neither of them expects is how difficult it will be to keep their respective secrets from each other. When a spree of robberies rocks the city, Ana and Hollis join forces to solve the crimes, discovering that working together deepens the affection between them. After all, who better to save the day than a gentleman and a thief? 

Advance Praise: 
“The real joy in Eden's follow-up to The Lady and the Highwayman (2019) is the furthering of the overarching crime story and the work of the Dread Penny Society as Hollis and Ana pursue a chaste romance. Eden excels at exploring the realities of Victorian life and class differences. Once again, chapters of penny dreadfuls written by the characters are interspersed throughout, with Hollis' story about a school for ghosts offering particular delight. Fans of Eden's smart series will be thrilled and impatient for the next installment.”— Booklist, starred review 

“Every time I thought my racing heart just couldn’t take the suspense anymore, I'd turn the page and smile.”— Bookconfessions “Eden writes it well, so thoroughly researched that you’re transported and in Victoria England. Great suspense and romance.”— Leslie, Books and Socks Rock 

“Undeniably clever, suspenseful, well-researched, and deftly written…”— Katie Jackson, RegencyProofreading.com 

Author Bio:
Sarah M. Eden is a USA Today best-selling author of witty and charming historical romances, including 2019’s Foreword Reviews INDIE Awards Gold Winner for Romance, The Lady and the Highwayman, and 2020 Holt Medallion finalist, Healing Hearts. She is a two-time “Best of State” Gold Medal winner for fiction and a three-time Whitney Award winner. Combining her obsession with history and her affinity for tender love stories, Sarah loves crafting deep characters and heartfelt romances set against rich historical backdrops. She holds a bachelor’s degree in research and happily spends hours perusing the reference shelves of her local library. 

Connect with Sarah here:

My review:
This is another fabulous book from Sarah M. Eden. All the hallmarks of her writing--characters you wish were real; snappy dialogue that will make you laugh out loud; details, based on extensive research, that make the setting come to life; and a plot that keeps you reading, eager to find out what's going to happen next--are present in full force. After being introduced to Hollis and Ana in the first book in the series (which you don't have to read first to have this book make sense but you SHOULD read because it's awesome), I was thrilled to be able to read their story. I loved their flirting and how they worked together, trusting each other more and more throughout the book. I also loved the secondary characters, from those in the previous book to a couple of new ones introduced in this book. There were so many moments when I laughed out; the writing is terrific and the dialogue is fantastic. Although I'm not very familiar with the Victorian era, the details made me feel right at home. As for the plot--or, should I say, plots, because, besides the main story, we also get to read two Penny Dreadfuls--was so interesting. The main plot had some twists to keep you guessing what would happen next, while Lafayette Jones' penny dreadful provided some excellent humor, and Mr. King's penny dreadful had a bit of mystery and romance. It was also interesting to see the parallels between the main story and the two penny dreadfuls. I just had a ton of fun reading this book. 
Totally one of my picks for the best books of 2020. 5 stars. 

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

Saturday, November 14, 2020

Besotted (The Fairest Maidens #3) by Jody Hedlund

 

Besotted (The Fairest Maidens #3)
By Jody Hedlund
Published by Northern Lights Press
Publication Date: November 17th, 2020

Description:
In a land where being the fairest maiden is a curse . . . 
 A young queen trying to stay alive until she comes of age to rule, and a prince turned into a pauper. Queen Aurora of Mercia has spent her entire life deep in Inglewood Forest, hiding from Warwick’s Queen Margery, who seeks her demise. As the time draws near for Aurora to take the throne, she happens upon a handsome woodcutter. Although friendship with outsiders is forbidden and dangerous, she cannot stay away from the charming stranger. 
Only two months away from completing his royal testing, Prince Kresten of Scania is ready to be finished with the poverty and hardships of being a woodcutter. When he meets a beautiful peasant woman, he doesn’t plan to fall in love, especially when he must soon leave and return to his homeland. 
As Queen Margery’s forces close in, Aurora finds herself in mortal danger. Kresten knows a future with Aurora is impossible, but he is desperate to save her and bring an end to the queen’s threat. To do so, he joins the ultimate battle against the evil queen, risking everything, including his chance at true love. 

Review:
This book started out a little slow for me; I didn't connect with the characters right off the bat. Aurora seemed like a pretty bland character for the first half of the book and Kresten was kind of irritating because he was arrogant. Of course I wanted to see how things played out in the series, so I kept reading, and I did enjoy seeing Aurora and Kresten change, with her becoming more confident and him becoming more selfless. There was a cool twist on the Sleeping Beauty story, and I also enjoyed the ending and seeing how things played out for the three princes of Scania. This book wasn't my favorite of the series, but I did like it and think other readers will as well. 

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

Monday, November 2, 2020

To Steal a Heart by Jen Turano


To Steal a Heart (The Bleaker Street Inquiry Agency #1)
By Jen Turano
Published by Bethany House
Publication Date: November 17th, 2020

Description:
After a childhood as a street thief, Gabriella Goodhue thought she'd put her past behind her until a fellow resident at her boardinghouse is unjustly accused of theft. In the middle of breaking into a safe that holds the proof to prove her friend's innocence, Gabriella is interrupted by Nicholas Quinn, the man she once considered her best friend—until he abandoned her. 

After being taken under the wing of a professor who introduced him into society and named him as heir, Nicholas is living far removed from his childhood life of crime. As a favor to a friend, Nicholas agreed to help clear the name of an innocent woman, never imagining he'd be reunited with the girl he thought lost to him forever. 

As Gabriella and Nicholas are thrown together into one intrigue after another, their childhood affection grows into more, but their newfound feelings are tested when truths about their past are revealed and danger follows their every step. 

Review:
This book was so much fun to read! Gabriella is a terrific leading lady and totally relatable; she's been hurt in the past so she has distanced herself from others, but as she sets out to help clear her acquaintance's name, she finds herself thrown together with other residents of the boardinghouse, as well as Nicholas, and ends up realizing that maybe letting people in isn't so bad after all. Nicholas is both endearing and frustrating at the outset; he obviously cares about Gabriella and is good to employ those who need a helping hand, but he has learned to be a bit high-minded and too set in following society's ways. Seeing him change throughout the book was very gratifying. While the book is definitely funny, there are also some serious issues addressed that add depth to it (and would make it a good choice for book clubs). It's really interesting to consider how women weren't taken seriously by men and therefore might need an investigation agency comprised of women to listen to them and help them; it's also really neat to see how sometimes women's skills and opportunities were precisely what was needed to solve a crime or mystery. The way high society treated those they deemed beneath them was appalling but also makes for an interesting discussion topic. Some of the antic throughout the book might seem a little over the top if you were to list them off, and yet, Turano makes them work and provides a highly appealing book with romance, mystery, humor, and more. 
5 stars. 

I read a copy of the book provided by the publisher via #NetGalley. All opinions are my own.

Thursday, October 22, 2020

The Right Kind of Fool by Sarah Loudin Thomas


The Right Kind of Fool
By Sarah Loudin Thomas
Published by Bethany House
Publication Date: November 3rd, 2020

Description: 
Thirteen-year-old Loyal Raines is supposed to stay close to home on a hot summer day in 1934. When he slips away for a quick swim in the river and finds a dead body, he wishes he'd obeyed his mother. The ripples caused by his discovery will impact the town of Beverly, West Virginia, in ways no one could have imagined. 
The first person those ripples disturb is Loyal's absentee father. When Creed Raines realized his son was deaf, he headed for the hills, returning only to help meet his family's basic needs. But when Loyal, now a young teen, stumbles upon a murder it's his father he runs to tell--shaping the words with his hands. As Creed is pulled into the investigation he discovers that what sets his son apart isn't his inability to hear but rather his courage. Longing to reclaim the life he abandoned, Creed will have to do more than help solve a murder if he wants to win his family's hearts again. 

Review: 
Oh man, this book! This book! Right from the get-go it totally tugged at my heartstrings. I'm totally a character-driven reader, so if you don't give me good characters, you've lost me. Well, with this book, there are so many characters to absolutely fall in love with. 
There's 13-year-old Loyal, who is bright and loving and wants to fit in despite being deaf--and who also wants to both make his parents proud and do whatever he can to help them. 
There's Creed, Loyal's father, who blames himself for Loyal's deafness and has retreated from his family, living and working on a nearby mountain and only visiting his family periodically. 
There's Delphy, Loyal's mother, who is desperate to protect her son and who wishes her husband would come back while simultaneously wishing she didn't care about him so he couldn't let her down again. It's tough to pick which character to love the most; they all were so REAL and their pain and worries and hopes were so vividly portrayed. 
Take such beautiful characters and weave them together, and wow, what a great start to a story. I loved reading every single one of their interactions, as the three of them are trying to figure out how to interact with each other. They're all good people who are trying hard so you know it's going to turn out all right in the end, but it was still so touching to read each moment. 
 So, take amazing characters (I won't get into the secondary characters other than to say they were great, too) and then add in a really interesting plot (I couldn't wait to find out whodunit!) and a setting that is so well-written that you just immediately feel like you've slipped into West Virginia in 1934, and you've got one heck of a book! 
This is one of those books that will stick with you. I adored it from start to finish. This is definitely one of my favorite books of the year! 
An easy 5 stars on this one!
I read an ARC provided by the publisher via #NetGalley. All opinions are my own.

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Mary and Martha

Mary and Martha 
By H.B. Moore 
Published by Covenant Communications 
Publication Date: November 2nd, 2020 

Description: 
For prosperous landowner Lazarus, hard work, and extensive travel are a means to comfortably support his family, including his two sisters, Mary and Martha. Following a journey to sell his wares, Lazarus stumbles upon an opportunity to assist a stranger in need, delaying his return home. Through Lazarus's selfless act of service, he, Mary and Martha find themselves standing witness to miracles they never dreamed possible in the presence of a man who will forever change them and those they love-a man called Jesus of Nazareth. 

Experience as never before the accounts of those who knew Christ, not only as the Savior of the World but also as a friend. 

Review: 
I always love reading H.B. Moore's Biblical fiction because it's so well-written, with amazing details that really transport me to the past, and characters who draw me into the story, and this book was no exception. I loved her imagining of Mary and Martha and what their lives may have been like. I especially enjoyed the fact that she portrayed them as caring deeply about each other; it's so easy, based on the few Bible verses about them, to envision them as rivals or constantly being frustrated with each other. Moore showed them differently, though, and as I was touched by how much they supported each other even though they had different personalities and different interests. I also really loved the dash of romance incorporated in the story, as both Mary and Martha find someone who is drawn to them for their unique gifts. This was a beautiful story and I thoroughly enjoyed it. 
4.5 stars. 

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