Tuesday, December 24, 2019

An Uncommon Woman


An Uncommon Woman
By Laura Frantz
Published by Revell
Publication date: January 7, 2020

Tessa Swan's life isn't an easy one--living on the western Virginia frontier in the 1770s means she can never quite let down her guard, as there could be trouble with the neighboring Indian tribes at any time. Although she throws herself into working alongside her family members, she also yearns for more, perhaps even a life away from the dangers she's known for her entire life. When Clay Tygart comes to take command at the fort named for him, Tessa finds her heart yearning for him. Captured by the Lenape Indians but later returned to white society where he became a hero in the French and Indian War, Tessa is instantly drawn to him. But Clay fears entangling himself with a woman--even Tessa, who is different from any woman he's known--will put him, her, and even the settlement at risk as he needs to focus on his job.

Laura Frantz is an absolute master at establishing the setting and taking readers there. I haven't read many books set in this time period, but because her writing is so detailed and yet accessible to any reader, I quickly slipped right into the story and felt at home in the setting, understanding what was going on and thoroughly enjoying the look at life in this time and place. Tessa and Clay are both terrific characters--I love how Tessa is so strong and will just speak her mind. She and Clay were a great pairing--both strong and stubborn and even better together. The romance was sweet and slow, and the plot was really captivating. This book is really well-written and just great all around. 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, December 14, 2019

Under the Stars

Under the Stars
By Carolyn Twede Frank
Published by Covenant Communications

Marshal Hank Walker needs a posse to help him bring in an outlaw, Rosie Decker volunteers--only to have the marshal reject her help. Although she's a woman, Rosie's also a crack shot and highly competent, and if the marshal won't accept her as a woman, she'll disguise herself as a man and join the posse that way...which works until the day her fake mustache falls off. Determined to prove herself, Rosie soon finds that while she wants the marshal to recognize her skill, she also wants him to recognize that she's the right sort of woman for him.

Although this is the third book in a series, it can be read as a standalone. (I haven't read the first two books.) Rosie is a fun character, and she often had me chuckling. I liked seeing how she and Hank learned to work together.
3.5 stars.
I read an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley. All opinions are my own.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

The Piper's Pursuit

The Piper's Pursuit (Hagenheim #10)
By Melanie Dickerson
Published by Thomas Nelson

Katerina's beloved town, Hamlin, has been infested with rats--but even worse, dozens of children have gone missing and a beast has been spotted near town. Determined to slay the beast, Kat ignores the jibes from her stepfather, Hennek, who, despite having the townspeople duped into believing he is a good man, is nothing of the sort. When Lord Steffan, son of the Duke of Hagenheim, arrives in town and says he wants to slay the beast as well, Kat wants him to leave. She doesn't trust men--and especially not him. But he persists in following her as she hunts the beast, and Katerina soon finds that she might have to reevaluate her opinions of him and that his help might be just what she needs to save her town--and herself--once and for all.

This book was engrossing right from the beginning; it just totally pulled me. in. I didn't expect that since the story of the Pied Piper isn't exactly one of my favorites, but this was so well written. I loved tough, defensive Katerina and her determination to help her town be rid of the beast and to find the missing children. I also loved Steffan, who is struggling with his past and looking for redemption. The plot moved along quickly and was really interesting, and I enjoyed seeing the characters' growth throughout the story. This was just a pleasure to read!
4.5 stars.
 *Although this is part of a series, it can be read as a stand-alone.
I read an ARC provided by the publisher via NetGalley. All opinions are my own.

Saturday, November 30, 2019

Valley of Dreams

Valley of Dreams (Longing for Home/Hope Springs #6)
By Sarah M. Eden
Published by Mirror Press
Publication Date: February 4, 2020

Patrick O'Connor has spent over a decade letting his family think he died in the Civil War, knowing it would hurt them more to know the truth than to assume he had died. However, when he receives a letter from his mother, he decides to seek out his family, even if they can never forgive him for things in his past. On the stagecoach west, he meets Eliza Porter and her daughter. Despite his appearance and his grumpy demeanor, Eliza seems determined to befriend him--and when it turns out she's heading to the same town he is, Patrick finds himself in Eliza's company time and time again--and he finds himself unable to resist her cheerfulness and determination to make the best of life. In each other, they find companionship, but can Patrick let go of his past in order to embrace a brighter future?

Oh, this book was lovely. This entire series is fantastic, and this book captured my heart as it continued the story of one of my favorite fictional families. Patrick's struggle was so heartrending, as he wants to be with his family but also doesn't believe he can ever truly belong again. He's so tender-hearted and I just couldn't help but adore him. Eliza was such a bright spot, with her big dreams and her determination, which inspired Patrick in turn. Besides delightful characters, the plot is so good--I love how this series deals with hard issues. Even though it's painful to see the characters go through their trials, it makes the books realistic and gives them a depth that makes them so much more than just a historical romance (which isn't to discount the romance--each love story in this series has been terrific!). That depth, along with well-developed, lovable characters, is what makes Sarah Eden my favorite author. Definitely put this on your to-read-as-soon-as-possible list!

5 stars and one of my picks for the best books of 2020!

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

Faceoff




Faceoff (Northbrook Hockey Elite #1)
By Rebecca Connolly, Heather B. Moore, and Sophia Summers

Description:
She isn’t supposed to want him. He isn’t supposed to want her. But wanting each other is inevitable. Clint McCarthy has finally achieved his dream of playing for a professional hockey program, and is eager to make his mark with his new team. While getting settled in his new city, he happens across Bree Stone, whom he has known for years, with their respective brothers both being in the famed Belltown Six Pack. But for the life of him, he can’t remember Bree ever looking so attractive. Or being so captivating. Or taking over his every waking thought.
In the middle of her graduate degree, Bree has no time or desire for working on her dating life, or lack thereof, but the impossibly handsome Clint McCarthy coming back into her life makes everything complicated. She shouldn’t be focusing on him, or on them, not when her professional future hangs in the balance. But once she hears about Clint’s past with the Northbrook Hockey Elite program, and where that program stands now, Bree just might find a way to make her career, and a future with Clint, come to life.

Welcome to Northbrook Hockey Elite! Six professional hockey players used to play on an elite club team together, but have all separated and now play in the pro-hockey leagues. Not all of them were friends, yet circumstances bring them together, and for the greater good, maybe they can put aside their differences.

Review: This is a strong start to a new series that definitely leaves me wanting to read the rest of the books. There's not really much conflict, but the romance is a ton of fun. I love the banter between Clint and Bree. The story moved along at a good pace and was well-written. Even not being a hockey fan, I still found the story to be really enjoyable. It's a quick read that has enough depth to keep it interesting. Great choice for those looking for a clean contemporary romance.

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

Visit us on Facebook: Swoony Sports Romances

Northbrook Hockey Elite Series:
Faceoff
Powerplay
Rebound
Crosscheck
 Breakaway
Shootout

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/46741705-faceoff


About the Authors

Rebecca Connolly

Rebecca Connolly writes romances, both period and contemporary, because she absolutely loves a good love story. She has been creating stories since childhood, and there are home videos to prove it! She started writing them down in elementary school and has never looked back. She currently lives in the Midwest, spends every spare moment away from her day job absorbed in her writing, and is a hot cocoa addict.



Heather B. Moore

Heather B. Moore is a USA Today bestselling author of more than fifty publications. Her historical novels and thrillers are written under pen name H.B. Moore. She writes women's fiction, romance and inspirational non-fiction under Heather B. Moore. This can all be confusing, so her kids just call her Mom. Heather attended Cairo American College in Egypt, the Anglican School of Jerusalem in Israel, and earned a Bachelor of Science degree from Brigham Young University in Utah. Heather is represented by Dystel, Goderich, and Bourret.

Goodreads:
Email list: http://hbmoore.com/contact/

Sophia Summers

Sophia Summers is an award winning author who just wants to relax a little and enjoy a great beach read. She lives in a quiet southern town brimming with an extra dose of hospitality and a whole lot of charm.

She writes historical romance under a different name. You can follow her on http://www.sophiasummers.com. Be SURE to join her Newsletter for freebies and fun. 


Monday, November 25, 2019

On Wings of Devotion

On Wings of Devotion (Codebreakers #2)
By Roseanna M. White
Published by Bethany House
Publication Date: January 7th, 2020

Nurse Arabelle Denler knows there's more to Phillip Camden than meets the eye. While most of England has branded him as a monster who intentionally caused the deaths of several of his fellow pilots. Ara isn't convinced that's true, though, especially as she comes to know him and realizes that he's fiercely loyal to those he cares about and not at all the Black Heart he has been labeled by society. Knowing the power of God in her own life, Ara wants to help Phillip find God's forgiveness as well as his own.
Phillip is waiting for the day when the military decides to execute him, knowing he deserves it. When he realizes that his actions have left Ara attracting the attention of men who only want her vast inheritance, he appoints himself her guard dog, and in so doing, finds that maybe his heart isn't as dead as he thought. But as he comes to care for Ara, through his work as a codebreaker for the Admiralty, he finds himself mixed up in a plot that could put Ara in danger and must find a way to distance himself to keep her safe.

Okay, I read this in November 2019 but I'm already willing to say this is one of my picks for Best Books of 2020. It was phenomenal! The plot was so interesting, with details about WWI that really take the reader to England during the war. There were some good twists but not so many to make the story feel contrived. Beyond that, the characters were amazing! I'm a character-driven reader, so a book that has a good plot but the characters are meh won't do it for me; I'm thrilled to say that both Ara and Phillip are characters who I will be thinking about for a long time. They are both so well-developed. Ara has a kind heart and a sincere desire to help others, mixed with her insecurities about her appearance and whether anyone can truly love her and want to stay with her, while Phillip is so torn up by his own poor choices and thinks he's beyond redemption but finds himself desperately wanting it and, despite his poor opinion of himself, reaches out to others more than he even realizes. Both of these characters had so much depth and were so relatable. I just adored them both! There are terrific themes of healing and redemption, and there was some terrific dry humor. All in all, just a fantastic read! An easy 5 stars.
I read an ARC provided by the publisher via #NetGalley. All opinions are my own.




Wednesday, November 6, 2019

The Heart of the Rebellion

The Heart of the Rebellion
By Sian Ann Bessey
Published by Covenant Communications

Rhys ap Tudor, having served King Richard II for three years, now returns home to Wales. With the new king, Henry IV, increasing taxes on the Welsh people, however, Rhys's homecoming is anything but peaceful. When his cousin proclaims himself the Prince of Wales and calls on him to be one of his marshals in the fight against Henry, Rhys answers the call and battles against the king.
Lady Catrin Buckley is the daughter of a Welshwoman and Englishman who serves Henry as the constable of a castle in Wales. Although she hasn't interacted much with the Welsh people, when she meets Rhys ap Tudor, she finds herself more fully embracing her Welsh heritage and the Welsh people--and caring most especially about Rhys himself. With the battles raging around them, however, is there any way for them to be together?

This was a really interesting historical fiction novel. I don't know anything about the Welsh rebellion, so it was really cool to learn more about this time period through this novel. Although I'm not typically a fan of battle scenes, the writing of the battles in this book kept my interest. The romance between Rhys and Catrin was sweet, and I really enjoyed reading this book.
4 stars.

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

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Promised

Promised
By Leah Garriott
Published by Shadow Mountain
Publication Date: February 18, 2020

After calling off her engagement when she realized the true character of the man she was to marry, Margaret Brinton has decided the best path for her is to marry someone she will never love--that way she'll have safety and security and not have to risk her heart again. When she attends a matchmaking house party, she meets Mr. Northam, a rake who will suit her purposes perfectly. However, his cousin, arrogant Lord Williams, intentionally undermines her chances, and when Margaret returns home, she finds that her father has agreed to her engagement to Lord Williams! Margaret is adamant about not marrying him, and yet, as Lord Williams visits her family's home, she finds that maybe she misjudged him and might be the type of man she could love--which makes him precisely the wrong sort of man for her.

Fun story! Margaret cracked me up--she was totally blunt with Lord Williams and said things that would have had society matrons fainting right and left if they had heard. I loved it, how she didn't pretend with Lord Williams but said what she really thought. The plot was unique and kept me reading, wanting to figure out what Lord Williams' true intentions were and why he had rushed off to arrange an engagement to Margaret. Good addition to the Proper Romance line!

4 stars.

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


Monday, October 21, 2019

Hereafter

Hereafter (Lost Princesses #3)
By Jody Hedlund

Emmeline, raised as the daughter of a charcoal burner deep in the forest, has always known her true identity as a princess--and she has never wanted to embrace it. She's perfectly happy living with her adoptive parents away from civilization, other than the fact that she's constantly afraid they'll be found. When her parents tell her it's time to join her two sisters and claim her true identity as a princess, fighting against the evil King Ethelwulf, she doesn't want to. Before she can figure out a different plan, however, King Ethelwulf's soldiers arrive at her home, and in order to spare her parents from being tortured, Emmeline agrees to go with them. She hopes to be able to escape, particularly knowing that the plan is to force her to wed Ethelwulf's heir, Ethelrex, but she's not counting on her reaction to Rex, who is different than she expected anyone associated with Ethelwulf to be.

Rex has trained to be the most elite warrior in his father's forces. He is deeply loyal to his father and will marry Emmeline as he's expected to--but he's not expecting to fall for her, especially not so quickly. With his father and his wife at odds, Rex, who is just as committed to his marriage vows as he is to his father, must reconsider his path in life.

I've enjoyed the previous books and prequel novella in this series, but this book is easily my favorite. I just loved it. Rex was such an intriguing character; the heir to an evil, brutal ruler, he has been taught violence and domination, but he also has a deep moral compass and wants to do what's right. I loved seeing how he interacted with Emmeline--both the times he was totally sweet and the times he failed her as he struggled to figure out how to please her and his father. As for Emmeline, I really liked seeing her try to figure out what she should do to try to establish peace in the kingdom as well as trying to sort out her feelings for Rex. This was a great conclusion to a terrific series...and I already want to go re-read it!

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

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

Description:
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?

Review:
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.

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Glass Slippers, Ever After and Me

Glass Slippers, Ever After and Me
By Julie Wright
Published by Shadow Mountain

Description:
A modern, reimagined Cinderella story.

When aspiring author Charlotte Kingsley finally gets published, she thinks all her dreams have come true. But the trouble begins when her publicity firm reinvents her quirky online presence into a perfectly curated dream life. Gone are the days of sweatpant posts and ice cream binges with her best friend, Anders, replaced instead with beautiful clothes, orchestrated selfies, and no boyfriend. Only, that carefully curated fairy tale life is ruining her self-esteem and making her feel like a fraud.

When a bestselling author takes Charlotte under her wing—almost like a fairy godmother—she helps Charlotte see the beautiful person she already is and the worth of being authentic. But is it too late to save her relationship with Anders? The clock is quickly ticking towards midnight, and Charlotte must decide between her fairy tale life and the man she loves, before he's gone forever.
 

This book started out a little slow for me, mainly because Lettie has a tendency to take two paragraphs to say or think something that could have been said in about two sentences instead--which was consistent through the book and often quite witty but it was pretty wordy and it took some time for me to adjust to that. Partway through, though, things clicked for me and I did end up really liking the book. While on the one hand, of course you want Lettie to just tell her publisher and everyone to back off, it was also understandable that as she's finally achieving her dreaming of being published and in a sense entering a whole new world that she would feel (and cave to) the pressure they're putting on her. So, the conflict seemed realistic. I really liked Anders--he was sweet but not flawless. Good choice for those looking for a sweet contemporary romance.

4 stars.

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

Friday, September 20, 2019

Deborah: Blog Tour and Giveaway


Deborah: Prophetess of God
By H.B. Moore
Published by Covenant Communications

Deborah, a shepherdess, lives a fairly simple life—but that is turned upside down when encounters with the Canaanites lead her, as well as others, to realize that God is working in her life, for her sake and for the sake of His people. Although she is told by the Third Judge of Israel that she will be the next judge of Israel, when that becomes reality, Deborah must summon all her faith to face the challenges ahead, as the time has come for her, along with her husband’s cousin, Barak, who has been training the Israelites in battle, to lead the Israelites against the Canaanites to end their oppression.

I always enjoy reading H.B. Moore’s Biblical fiction because they make me think about people from the Bible in a totally different way. While this is a work of fiction, the setting is highly researched and it really brings to life how the ancient Israelites lived. The plot of this book is really interesting—the first part focuses a lot on Deborah and her future husband, Lapidoth, and their love story, while setting the stage for the eventual battle between the Israelites and Canaanites, while the second part moves fifteen years ahead to when Deborah becomes the Judge of Israel and the imminent battle looms large. I thought both parts were really interesting—I loved the romance of the first part but also really liked seeing how Lapi continued to believe in and support Deborah in her sacred calling in the second part. I also liked Barak’s character and seeing his worries, which were so realistic, as he was supposed to lead the Israelites, and how he had to push through them. This was just a pleasure to read! 4.5 stars.

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

Check out H.B. Moore's info here:  https://hbmoore.com/bio-faq/


And enter the giveaway here!

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Thursday, September 19, 2019

The Last Man at the Inn

The Last Man at the Inn
by R. William Bennett


Simon, Jewish but not devout, is in Bethlehem when Christ is born--the last man to find room at the inn before Joseph and Mary are turned away. While he sees Jesus and hears rumors about Him, he simply continues his life as a merchant. As the years pass, though, more rumors abound, and when Christ begins His ministry and His teachings spread through the land, Simon can no longer ignore the rumors but must decide for himself who Jesus is and what the answer will mean for him and his family.

I was expecting this to be more of a Christmas story, but while Simon does see Jesus shortly after His birth, most of the story takes place in later years of Christ's life and it's much more a story about coming to know and follow Christ, to decide whether or not to seek Him and believe or not. I really enjoyed that journey and there were parts of Simon's experience that I could relate to really well on my own journey to know and follow Christ. So it wasn't the Christmas story I was expecting, but it was definitely worth reading.

4 stars.

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

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Foremost (Lost Princesses #2)


Foremost (Lost Princesses #2)
By Jody Hedlund
Release date: September 24th

Description:
A second princess. Another key to the treasure. And a cruel king desperate to squelch the growing rebellion.
Raised in an isolated abbey, Lady Maribel desires nothing more than to become a nun and continue practicing her healing arts. She’s carefree and happy with her life…until a visitor comes to the abbey and reveals her true identity as one of the lost princesses.
 When he was a young boy, Edmund Chambers helplessly watched King Ethelwulf murder his family. Edmund escaped and has lived in the abbey ever since, uniquely trained to work with wild animals. Secretly, he loves Maribel and desperately hopes she doesn’t complete her holy order vows.
When King Ethelwulf’s army arrives at the abbey to capture Maribel, she flees with Edmund across the desolate Highlands in an attempt to reach Adelaide’s rebel army. Edmund can no longer hide his love, but can Maribel give up her dreams of becoming a nun to love him in return?

I'd read another review that said this book topped the other two in the series--and I agree! I really enjoyed both the prequel novella and the first book in the series, but there was just something about this one that made it even more enjoyable. There were a few times when I thought Maribel was a little dense, but I liked seeing her figure things out. I really loved Edmund's character; he was just so endearing. The plot was interesting, adding some cool elements to the series, and I'm definitely excited for the last book in the series!
4.5 stars.

I read a review copy provided by the author/publisher. All opinions are my own.


Pre-order here! https://www.amazon.com/Foremost-Lost-Princesses-Book-2-ebook/dp/B07WZWBYQD?_bbid=12988537&tag=individualbookpagesite-20

Monday, September 16, 2019

Saving Fable

Saving Fable (Talespinners #1)
By Scott Reintgen
Published by Crown Books for Young Readers

Description:
Indira has been a character-in-waiting her entire life. So she can't believe her luck when she's finally chosen to travel to Fable and study at the renowned Protagonist Preparatory, a school known for producing the best heroes. But Indira's dreams of achieving hero status don't exactly go as planned. A failed audition lands her in the school's side-character track, and her best efforts to prove advisors--famous characters like Alice from Wonderland and Professor Darcy--wrong are constantly sabotaged. Indira is starting to feel like an evil antagonist might be to blame. As the danger spreads, Indira discovers all of Fable is under siege. With her friends Maxi and Phoenix by her side, she pieces together clues that will reveal who is behind the dark magic threatening them all. But the more Indira uncovers, the more doubt she feels about her place in this world of stories. After all, can a side character really save the day?

What a great story! This was so much fun to read--I loved the whole premise, with Indira and other characters hoping to be written into a story in the Real World. It was really fun to see the different areas of Imagination, like Fable and Origin. I also loved Protagonist Prepatory and the different classes the Indira attended. It was just a really clever world and I really enjoyed venturing into it with Indira. Indira was a great character--I loved her heart and her pluck and her determination and seeing her struggle to believe in herself. The plot was also really interesting, with twists and surprises to keep it moving along quickly. I will definitely be reading the rest of the series!

4.5. stars.

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

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Blog Tour and Giveaway! All Heats Come Home for Christmas


 First off, if you get a chance, swing by the Facebook Launch Party on September 10th from 6-8 p.m. (MDT):  https://www.facebook.com/events/1297858497062569/

Check out my review here: http://adriennesbooks.blogspot.com/2019/09/all-hearts-come-home-for-christmas.html

Christmas at Falstone Castle by Sarah M. Eden 
 The Dowager Duchess of Kielder eagerly anticipates spending Christmas with her son and his family. Though their relationship has been strained, the duchess is determined to heal the chasm. Even with the help of the widowed local vicar, her plan will take a Christmas miracle. But during this magical season, anything is possible . . . even two second chances for love. 

The Heart of Christmas by Anita Stansfield 
 When a chance meeting brings together a gentle seamstress and a widowed banker, each lonely soul finds a first hint of hope. As their lives become entwined, it will take Christmas spirit to guide a broken family to love and healing. 

‘Tis the Season to Be Daring by Esther Hatch 
Elizabeth Davenport has had quite enough of the London Season. Determined to evade a parade of unsuitable suitors, she seeks help from the one gentleman who has no regard for Society’s rules. All of Society knows Lord Hawthorne is not interested in marriage, yet he cannot deny Miss Davenport’s unique charm. And as the Christmas season works its magic, their charade begins to feel less like playacting and more like love. 

The Christmas Dress by Joanna Barker 
Seamstress Nell Addington is thrilled when her childhood friend Jacob Hammond commissions a dress for his sister. But when Nell realizes her feelings for Jacob run far deeper than friendship, an unexpected snowstorm—and some holiday cheer—may convince them both that love is worth fighting for.

Learn more about each author!
Sarah M. Eden : https://www.sarahmeden.com/
Anita Stansfield : http://www.anitastansfield.com/
Esther Hatch : https://estherhatch.com/

Enter to win a copy here!

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Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Diamond in the Rough

Diamond in the Rough (American Heiresses # 2)
By Jen Turano
Published by Bethany House

In order to help her family's financial situation, Poppy Garrison has agreed to a New York Season under her grandmother's supervision. When her grandmother thinks she needs tutoring in proper behavior, Poppy finds herself being taught by proper Englishman Reginald Blackburn, who is accompanying his cousin in New York as his cousin looks for a wealthy bride. While Poppy agrees to the lessons, she frequently finds herself in the middle of unusual situations that test Reginald's abilities to make look proper--and the more he is around Poppy, the more he starts to wonder if he really wants anything about her to change in the first place.

This book was just so much fun to read. Poppy is a terrific character, who finds herself in the funniest of situations--made all the funnier by the fact that proper English gentleman Reginald is trying to get her to behave properly. Poppy is a strong, determined character, who isn't afraid to stand up to the bullies in society, which made her a terrific leading character, while Reginald isn't as stuffy as he'd have people believe, and I loved getting to see his true nature come through as he helped Poppy and her friends. Secondary characters were also great. The pacing was quick and the story was engaging. All in all, just a lot of fun to read!

4 stars.

Although this is the second book in the series, it could be read as a stand-alone (but the first book is just as much fun so you should read it, too!)

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

Monday, September 2, 2019

All Hearts Come Home for Christmas

All Hearts Come Home for Christmas
Publisher: Covenant Communications

What a terrific collection of Regency Christmas stories! Even reading it well before the Christmas season, I found it to be captivating and highly enjoyable.

Christmas at Falstone Castle by Sarah M. Eden
It has been years since the Dowager Duchess of Kielder spent Christmas with her son Adam and his family. Although their relationship has been improving slowly, Harriett knows she still has work to do before Adam realizes how much she has always loved him. As she sets out to heal her relationship with her son, the local vicar provides his assistance—and he and Harriett find a connection of their own.
I was thrilled to be able to see some of my favorite characters from Sarah M. Eden's Lancaster family. I absolutely love them, so I was eagerly anticipating this story, and it was wonderful. It has all my favorite elements of a good story--snappy dialogue, laugh-out-loud moments, characters you wish were real, and a good romance. Just a fantastic story! 

The Heart of Christmas by Anita Stansfield
When Theo, a widowed banker offers her a chance to leave her demanding and underpaid seamstress job to work in his household, Addie jumps at the chance and quickly finds herself coming to care for him, his daughter, and his elderly aunt, all of whom have wounds that she hopes to help heal during the Christmas season.
This one was more of a sweet story about family and healing with a dash of romance thrown in than a true romance. While Anita Stansfield isn't a favorite author of mine (I tend to like more dialogue and action, rather than the longer descriptive passages that she writes), this story fits well with her style and her fans will be quite happy with it. I still enjoyed it; it just isn't the style I personally prefer.

’Tis the Season to Be Daring by Esther Hatch
In an attempt to escape her mother’s rather embarrassing matchmaking endeavors, Elizabeth Davenport decides to damage her reputation just enough that her mother will withdraw her from the season. In order to do so, she enlists the help of Lord Charles Hawthorne, who has never cared what society thought of him. Although their arrangement is supposed to be temporary, Elizabeth soon finds that her heart doesn’t want their time together to end.
Oh, my gosh. I loved this story! Starting this story, I expected to have a clear favorite (Sarah M. Eden's contribution, since she’s my favorite author), but this one at least tied for favorite. I absolutely loved the plot; Elizabeth and Charles kept me laughing and I just loved all of their interactions. It was just so much fun to read--and I already want to go reread it.

The Christmas Dress by Joanna Barker
Nell Addington has worked as a seamstress ever since the death of her father, a vicar, and has tried to make the best of her lowered position. When Jacob Hammond, a childhood friend, commissions a new wardrobe for his sister, Nell is happy to reconnect with him.
This was a sweet story with a gentle romance between former childhood friends. I liked how Jacob and Nell, both with struggles of their own, came together and brightened each other's lives. It has a great opening scene, and I love the ending, too.

All in all, a great collection with unique stories that I highly recommend! 5 stars!

 I read a review copy provided by the publisher. All opinions are my own.

Friday, August 30, 2019

Deborah: Prophetess of God

Deborah: Prophetess of God
By H.B. Moore
Published by Covenant Communications

Deborah, a shepherdess, lives a fairly simple life—but that is turned upside down when encounters with the Canaanites lead her, as well as others, to realize that God is working in her life, for her sake and for the sake of His people. Although she is told by the Third Judge of Israel that she will be the next judge of Israel, when that becomes reality, Deborah must summon all her faith to face the challenges ahead, as the time has come for her, along with her husband’s cousin, Barak, who has been training the Israelites in battle, to lead the Israelites against the Canaanites to end their oppression.

I always enjoy reading H.B. Moore’s Biblical fiction because they make me think about people from the Bible in a totally different way. While this is a work of fiction, the setting is highly researched and it really brings to life how the ancient Israelites lived.
The plot of this book is really interesting—the first part focuses a lot on Deborah and her future husband, Lapidoth, and their love story, while setting the stage for the eventual battle between the Israelites and Canaanites, while the second part moves fifteen years ahead to when Deborah becomes the Judge of Israel and the imminent battle looms large. I thought both parts were really interesting—I loved the romance of the first part but also really liked seeing how Lapi continued to believe in and support Deborah in her sacred calling in the second part. I also liked Barak’s character and seeing his worries, which were so realistic, as he was supposed to lead the Israelites, and how he had to push through them. This was just a pleasure to read!
4.5 stars.
I read an ARC provided by the publisher. All opinions are my own.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Always and Evermore (Lost Princesses series)

Always (Lost Princesses 0.5)
By Jody Hedlund

As their enemy Ethelwulf invades their country, Lady Felicia and Lance, one of the true king’s elite guards, must save the now-orphaned newborn twin princesses and their three-year-old sister from the invaders. Although Lance initially thinks of Felicia, a noblewoman used to a pampered life, as a liability, he soon comes to admire her; however, as an elite soldier, he has made a vow of lifelong celibacy. With the lives of three young princesses in danger, will Lance and Felicia’s growing feelings distract them from their mission—or prove to be exactly what gives them the strength to fulfill their vows to their deceased monarchs?

This novella is a great kickoff to Jody Hedlund’s new series; it was full of fast-moving adventure and sets the stage for the next book, leaving me eager to find out how things play out for the princesses and their guardians. Lance and Felicia were a really cute couple. I like how the author incorporated the back story of the kingdom and why Ethelwulf wants to take over the kingdom.
4 stars.

Evermore (Lost Princesses #1)

As Adelaide's "aunt," who has raised her since she was a small child, lays dying, she tells Adelaide she is really Constance, the true heir to the throne of Mercia, which taken over by the invading Ethelwulf when she was a child. Now aware of who she truly is, Adelaide must figure out how to find her two sisters, also hidden away as children, as well as Solomon's lost treasure, which is supposed to help her regain her rightful place. With her dear friend Mitchell and his brother Christopher, recently returned from neighboring Norland, where he has made a name for himself as a mercenary knight, she sets out to claim her birthright--but quickly finds Christopher claiming her heart as they work together to thwart Ethelwulf.

This is an exciting book with a bit of a fairy-tale type feel to it--except it's cooler than most traditional fairy tales because the princess isn't sitting around waiting for a happily ever after. Adelaide isn't your typical princess; she's tough and has trained like a knight, even secretly competing in jousts, while being very compassionate and tender-hearted at the same time, which made her a really interesting character. I liked how Christopher was a good balance for her--he respected her but also worried about her and wasn't afraid to tell her when he thought she was wrong. This book was a lot of fun to read, and I'm looking forward to reading the rest of the series.
4 stars.

For each book, I read an ARC provided by the author/publisher. All opinions are my own.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

A Lady's Maid

A Lady's Maid
By Jen Geigle Johnson
Published by Covenant Commuications

Molly O’Malley, enjoys being a lady's maid to Lady Amanda Halloway, but she also wants to further the cause of suffrage for women. When she sees firsthand the terrifying existence for many in the slums, where children are abducted and forced to work in factories and women are forced into brothels, Molly wants to do more for them. Focused as she is on her missions, she can't help but notice how the Halloways' footman, Thomas Flaherty, supports her in all her efforts. Having lost a man she loved once before, can she open her heart to love Thomas?
Chloe Wetherton has always felt shy and awkward among the ton, but as she gets involved in the suffrage movement, she begins to find her voice. She also finds herself more and more drawn to her childhood friend, Lord Annesley. As her confidence grows, however, she can't help but notice that Annesley doesn't seem as supportive of her efforts in the suffrage movement as she expected.

I liked the two different female characters--bold, headstrong Molly was a good contrast to the more timid Chloe, who is just beginning to find her voice. There's a lot going on in this story--two romances, plus the suffrage movement (including trying to figure out who is working so hard against the movement) plus the efforts to clean up the slums., which makes for an interesting read. I really liked seeing the suffrage efforts in Regency England, as it's a topic I definitely haven't seen explored in other books (other than the first book in this series.
4 stars.
I read a copy of the book provided by the publisher, Covenant Communications, via NetGalley. All opinions are my own.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

The Spice King

The Spice King (Hope and Glory #1)
By Elizabeth Camden
Published by Bethany House
Release Date: September 3, 2019

Annabelle Larkin needs to somehow turn her temporary position at the Smithsonian into a full-time position, so when she's assigned to contact Gray Delacroix, a successful businessman whose spice empire and the plant collection that supports it are legendary, to try to gain access to his plants, she pursues the assignment wholeheartedly.
Gray has no intention of letting the Smithsonian anywhere near his plants--but Annabelle turns out to be a different story. He's quickly enamored by her and beings courting her. Little does he know how letting her into his life will change everything--but not in the ways he anticipated.
Annabelle cares for Gray, but she's also a loyal American, and when she's approached by government officials who insist they need her help to keep her country safe, rooting out spies who could hurt their country in the delicate situation following the Spanish-American war, she can't say no--even if it means ruining her chance for love to do so.

This was a really unique piece of historical fiction. It was really interesting to see Gray's business pursuits and the development of spices that we take for granted in our day, particularly alongside the government aspect, with the Smithsonian wanting information and the Department of Agriculture wanting to start regulating the growing business. Saying a book talks about the beginning of the fight for food safety and ingredient labels, that might not make it sound very appealing, but it was really fascinating, which I think shows Camden's talent for taking a unique part of history and making it engaging so that readers find themselves totally caught up in something that they didn't think they'd ever find that interesting. (I expected the "spice" aspect of the book to be the thing I liked least, but I really enjoyed it!) The political setting, with the brief look at the aftermath of the Spanish-American war, was also something Camden made me want to know more about. The plot was good, with suspense and action and family dynamics, and moved along well. I definitely want to read the next book in the series to see how things play out for certain characters.

What didn't work quite as well for me was the romance, particularly on Annabelle's side. I just didn't see her feelings being developed enough. Gray's feelings were shown more than hers were, but I just didn't ever get a good sense of chemistry between them. They worked well on projects--sometimes because they antagonized each other!--but I would have liked a stronger romantic feel.
The other thing that fell a little short for me was the Christian aspect. There was very little that came through about Christian beliefs (and the biggest part of that was very close to the end of the book), to the point that I actually double-checked to make sure this really was being put out by Bethany House.
So, with that said, if you're mainly interested in historical fiction, this an excellent choice. If you're looking for a great romance or a book with overt Christianity, this might not be the best choice. For me, it's interesting enough that I'll give it 3.5 stars and I want to continue with the series.

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

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

The Lady and the Highwayman

The Lady and the Highwayman
By Sarah M. Eden
Published by Shadow Mountain
Release date: September 3, 2019

As the headmistress of a girls' school, Elizabeth Black needs to be all this is prim and proper in order to maintain support for her school. Her job as a "silver-fork" author, writing for the upper classes in Victorian society--is acceptable. Her secret career as the author Penny Dreadfuls--cheap, sensational stories--is not and must remain a secret or it will threaten everything she has worked for.
When Fletcher Walker, another successful Penny Dreadful author, starts sniffing around, trying to find out who the mysterious author "Mr. King" is, Elizabeth figures "helping" him with his search will enable her to guarantee he never finds out that she is Mr. King. She quickly becomes interested in more than just keeping her secret, however; rumor has it that Fletcher belongs to a secret group of penny dreadful authors, the Dread Penny Society, who work to fight for the poor and working-class and whose ideals seem in line with Elizabeth's own, and Elizabeth is intrigued by the possibility that such a society exists. More than that, though, she's intrigued by Fletcher himself--and he seems equally interested in her.

I read an ARC of this novel in July; just over halfway through the year, I"m going to say not only is this one of my picks for the Best Books of 2019, but it's my personal favorite out of everything I've read this year. I have read a lot of terrific books this year, but there is something about this one that just captured my heart beyond what any other book has done.

So, what did I love about it?
Fletcher, for starters. Oh, how I love a good romantic hero, and I've got a special spot in my heart for a rough-around-the-edges-with-a-heart-of-gold hero, which Fletcher totally is. Having risen from the gutters, he doesn't try to be something he's not, and I love it. He's genuine and gritty while also being compassionate and smart and frankly, pretty stinking sexy!

What else? Elizabeth, of course! I love that she's smart and strong and capable. I love that she doesn't shy away from danger but follows her heart and her conscience and helps those around her. I also really liked that she's confident. And I love that she holds her own with Fletcher and that, despite being "higher class" than he is, never, ever treats him that way but genuinely sees him and his worth.

I also love the secondary characters--Elizabeth's fellow teacher Ana and various members of the Dread Penny Society were great characters and I really, really hope that this book is the first in the series and we'll get to know these characters on a deeper level in future books.

What else did I love? The writing! I am NOT one for long (especially flowery) descriptions. I love snappy dialogue (particularly if it makes me laugh!) and Sarah Eden is a master of that style. The dialogue was terrific and moved the story along well. There were many times when I laughed--I'm smiling now as I write this just thinking about some of those great moments! (Ah! I loved the flirting between Fletcher and Elizabeth! So much fun!) The plot was fun and moved along well and kept my interest the entire time.

I also really liked the setting. I don't read many Victorian novels, but I'll definitely read more if Sarah Eden is the author! I liked seeing more about the society, how it was still very, very divided but there were some pushes toward more equality and educating the poor and things like that.

Something else that was neat was that included in the book were two Penny Dreadfuls--one written by "Mr. King" and one written by Fletcher. It was cool having two extra stories worked into the larger story and was a clever way of showing aspects of Victorian society.

So, basically, I loved the entire thing. With several months left in the year, there is the possibility that another book could steal the "favorite book of the year" title from this one, but it's going to take one heck of a book to be able to do that because I absolutely adored this book.

5 stars and one of my picks for the best books of 2019!

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