Tuesday, November 1, 2022

Miss Newbury's List by Megan Walker

Miss Newbury's List
By Megan Walker
Published by Shadow Mountain
Publication Date: February 7, 2023

England, 1820.
Rosalind Newbury loves her family and wants nothing more than to add to their legacy. So when an opportunity arises to marry a duke—a dream come true for her family—despite hardly knowing him, she quickly agrees. 
But after rediscovering a childhood wish list, Ros realizes that she has dreams of her own and little time left to fulfill them. She recruits her dearest friend Liza and subsequently Liza’s handsome but wayward cousin Charlie—a gentleman turned rugged boxer—to help her complete her list before her wedding. 
From boxing lessons to buried treasure, Charlie helps Ros experience a life and love that she’d never dreamed possible. Soon, Ros is faced with the very decision she’s been running from—to save her family’s future or her own. 

I was really drawn into the book at the beginning--mainly because I liked Charlie so much!--but midway through, my interest started to wane. I didn't connect with Rosalind as much as I'd hope; I think if the book had alternated between her POV and Charlie's (which would have given me a little less time in Ros's head), I probably would have liked it better. I really liked seeing Charlie and Ros together; it was the scenes when they were apart that dragged a little for me. I don't necessarily think there was anything wrong with Ros or the way her character was written, so I know my experience will be way different from other readers who will totally click with her. The romance is adorable--like I said, I really liked seeing Ros and Charlie together. There are some seriously amazing lines in this book--the flirting is so cute! 
3.5 stars for me, but I know other readers will adore the whole thing. 

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

Friday, October 28, 2022

Godmersham Park: A Novel of the Austen Family by Gill Hornby (Excerpt Only)

Godmersham Park: A Novel of the Austen Family 
By Gill Hornby 
Published by Pegasus Books 
Publication Date: November 1, 2022 

 A richly imagined novel inspired by the true story of Anne Sharp, a governess who became very close with Jane Austen and her family by the #1 International bestselling-author of Miss Austen.

On January 21, 1804, Anne Sharpe arrives at Godmersham Park in Kent to take up the position of governess. At thirty-one years old, she has no previous experience of either teaching or fine country houses. Her mother has died, and she has nowhere else to go. Anne is left with no choice. For her new charge—twelve-year-old Fanny Austen—Anne's arrival is all novelty and excitement. 

The governess role is a uniquely awkward one. Anne is neither one of the servants, nor one of the family, and to balance a position between the "upstairs" and "downstairs" members of the household is a diplomatic chess game. One wrong move may result in instant dismissal. Anne knows that she must never let down her guard. 

When Mr. Edward Austen's family comes to stay, Anne forms an immediate attachment to Jane. They write plays together and enjoy long discussions. However, in the process, Anne reveals herself as not merely pretty, charming, and competent; she is clever too. Even her sleepy, complacent, mistress can hardly fail to notice. 

Meanwhile Jane's brother, Henry, begins to take an unusually strong interest in the lovely young governess. And from now on, Anne's days at Godmersham Park are numbered. 

(pages 81-85)
Advance Praise: 
"This is a deeply imagined and deeply moving novel. Reading it made me happy and weepy in equally copious amounts…I read it straight through without looking up.”— Karen Joy Fowler, author of The Jane Austen Bookclub 
"Hornby’s skillful mix of fact and fiction captures the complexities of the Austens and their era, and her crisp, nimble prose sparkles throughout. Best of all, Hornby genuinely channels the sentiment of 19th-century English literature. Janeites aren’t the only readers who will relish this smart, tender tale."— Publishers Weekly, starred review · “…a well-written and delightfully observant novel…an excellent read."— The Historical Novel Society

About the Author:
Gill Hornby is the author of the novels Miss Austen, The Hive, and All Together Now, as well as The Story of Jane Austen, a biography of Austen for young readers. She lives in Kintbury, England, with her husband and their four children.

Wednesday, October 19, 2022

To Capture His Heart (Matchmakers #2) by Nancy Campbell Allen

To Capture His Heart
By Nancy Campbell Allen 
Published by Shadow Mountain 

Seaside, England 1886 
Eva Caldwell is an accomplished and well-known photographer who often works with the local constabulary to assist in documenting crime scenes, which means she also often works alongside the handsome and charming Detective Nathan Winston. She appreciates his intellect and how he treats her like an equal, but Eva’s heart is still healing from a past relationship, so, for now, she decides to keep her feelings for Nathan a secret. 
One evening, Nathan arrives on her doorstep asking for a personal favor. Would Eva be available to photograph his mother’s legendary, week-long dinner party and matchmaking event? The catch is that Eva would also have to pretend they are courting in order for Nathan to avoid the many single women seeking his attention. 
Though wary of the charade, Eva agrees. Spending a week with the two things she loves most—her detective and her camera—sounds simple enough. And if she wants to imagine that Nathan’s pretend courtship of her is real, well, what’s the harm in that? 
But when a criminal from Nathan’s past threatens revenge on the detective, Nathan must be extra vigilant to keep his mother and the rest of the partygoers safe. He confides in Eva, and as the two work together to solve the mystery and apprehend the criminal, they find that they might capture more than they expected—each other’s heart. 

About the Author:
Nancy Campbell Allen is the award-winning author of nineteen published novels and several novellas, which encompass a variety of genres, ranging from contemporary romantic suspense to historical fiction. Her most recent books, which include Regency, Victorian, and steampunk romance, are published under Shadow Mountain’s Proper Romance brand, and the What Happens in Venice novella series is part of the Timeless Romance Anthology collection published by Mirror Press. She has presented at numerous conferences and events since her initial publication in 1999. 
Her agent is Pamela Pho of D4EO Literary Agency. 
Nancy loves to read, write, travel, and research, and enjoys spending time with family and friends. She nurtures a current obsession for true crime podcasts and is a news junkie. She and her husband have three children, and she lives in Ogden, Utah, with her family, one very large Siberian Husky named Thor and an obnoxious but endearing Yorkie-poo named Freya. 
For author interview requests, please contact Callie Hansen at chansen@shadowmountain.com 

Advance Praise:
“A photographer and a detective go from friends to lovers while searching for a killer in this thrilling Victorian romance. The couple's connection is so undeniable that even readers who usually look for heat in their romances won't mind the lack of steamy scenes. This delectable treat is sure to keep readers guessing.” —Publishers Weekly, starred review 
“Allen once again combines love and mystery in her second "Matchmakers" series installment (following The Matchmaker's Lonely Heart). Readers will enjoy how the intrigue and romance increase in tandem, ratcheting up the suspense, while Eva's competent demeanor that hides a bruised heart makes this love story all the more touching.” —Library Journal 

Upcoming Appearances: 
November 17, 2022 6:30-8:30 PM 
Kaysville Branch Library 
215 N Fairfield Rd 
Kaysville, UT 
 With Proper Romance authors, Josi S. Kilpack, Arlem Hawks, and Jentry Flint

Wow! This book packed a punch! There's a dynamite plot--the mystery was quite interesting--and the romance was terrific. If this had been another book where the main characters take forever to figure out that they like each other, it would have been very tedious, so I love the fact that the charade didn't last very long. Although this is a clean romance, the chemistry was great, and I loved seeing Eva and Nathan together--they respected and supported each other and had some great banter. This was just pure fun to read.
5 stars.

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

Tuesday, October 11, 2022

In the Shadow of a Queen by Heather B. Moore


In the Shadow of a Queen
By Heather B. Moore
Published by Shadow Mountain

Based on the true story of the free-spirited daughter of Queen Victoria.
 As a young woman, Princess Louise is considered the most beautiful and talented daughter of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. She is also strong-willed and resists following the queen’s rigid rules and strict protocols for a princess.
After her father’s untimely death, Louise’s life is upended by the inconsolable grief of her mother and the rippling effect that rocks the British Empire. Captive to the queen’s overwhelming mourning, Louise is forbidden to leave her mother’s tight circle of control, attend balls, or have any kind of relationship outside the royal family. She is relegated to the position of personal secretary to her mother—the same position each of her sisters held until they were married.
Already an accomplished painter, Louise risks the queen’s wrath by exploring the art of sculpting, an activity viewed as unbefitting a woman. When Louise involves herself in the day’s political matters without Queen Victoria’s approval, including championing the career of a female doctor and communicating with suffragettes, the queen lays down the law to stop her and devotes her full energy and resources to finding an acceptable match for her defiant daughter.
In the Shadow of a Queen is the story of an epic battle of wills between two women: a daughter determined to forge her own life beyond the shadow of her mother, and a queen resolved to keep the Crown’s reputation unsullied no matter the cost.

This book was very informative, with lots of details about Louise's life and family, what she wore, all of the rules she had to follow, etc. It gave really interesting insights into her life and just felt so well-researched!  The pace of this one was pretty slow, but Louise was just delightful, and I liked seeing her character and how she interacted with her mother and her siblings. My favorite part of the book was the husband hunt and the ensuing romance--ooh, there were some sweet moments!

4 stars.

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

Friday, October 7, 2022

The Holly and the Ivy


The Holly and the Ivy
Published by Covenant Communications

Spend the holidays with four of your favorite historical romance authors, whose stories of Yuletide romance will brighten the season with humor, hope, and the promise of true love.

“The Holly and the Ivy” by Sarah M. Eden
As nursemaid to the eight-year-old Duke of Kielder, Robbie will spend her holidays with her young charge as a guest of Lord and Lady Jonquil. While the couple makes the child’s holiday magical, the handsome gardener works his own magic on Nurse Robbie’s heart.

“Hiding Christmas” by Esther Hatch
Celebrating Christmas in Scotland will only invite persecution. But that never stopped Kirstine’s English grandmother. When they are almost caught, Kirstine is forced to beg for the help of the one man she cannot abide.

“A Twist of Christmas” by Dana LeCheminant
A Christmas house party offers two members of the ton an irresistible opportunity: a weekend of anonymity. But their charade comes with unexpected romantic consequences.
“A Season to Love” by Anneka R. Walker
Alice Hunt is searching for a Christmas miracle: a husband of her choosing. With the threat of an arranged marriage looming, she looks to an unlikely matchmaker for help.

What a great collection of stories!
"The Holly and the Ivy” by Sarah M. Eden is a prequel of sorts to some of her other books--and although it can be read as a stand-alone, it will especially tug at the heartstrings of those who are familiar with the Duke of Kielder (Adam) and the Jonquils from her other books. The romance between Nurse Robbie and the gardener was sweet and funny, and this was just a wonderful story to kick off the collection.

“Hiding Christmas” by Esther Hatch made me laugh, and oh, how I love a book that makes me laugh. There were some really fantastic lines in this one, and I also learned some things (I had no idea that Christmas was ever banned in Scotland!)

“A Twist of Christmas” by Dana LeCheminant was a fun story, although keeping track of who was who and if they were acting like themselves or the people they were pretending to be and who knew about the switches got a little dizzying at times! I think this was my first time reading anything by Dana LeCheminant, but I'll definitely be looking to read more by her in the future.

“A Season to Love” by Anneka R. Walker was such a cute story! The meet-cute is so original, funny, and just plain awesome--and I love how it connected with the ending. I also loved seeing how Alice's matchmaker quickly came to appreciate her for who she was.

All of these stories were so fun to read and made me want to read nothing but Christmas stories for the next three month!

4.5 stars.

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

Saturday, October 1, 2022

The Winners (Beartown #3) by Fredrik Backman

The Winners (Beartown #3) 
By Fredrik Backman 
Published by Atria Books 


Two years have passed since the events that no one wants to think about. Everyone has tried to move on, but there’s something about this place that prevents it. The residents continue to grapple with life’s big questions: What is a family? What is a community? And what, if anything, are we willing to sacrifice in order to protect them? 

As the locals of Beartown struggle to overcome the past, great change is on the horizon. Someone is coming home after a long time away. Someone will be laid to rest. Someone will fall in love, someone will try to fix their marriage, and someone will do anything to save their children. Someone will submit to hate, someone will fight, and someone will grab a gun and walk towards the ice rink. 

So what are the residents of Beartown willing to sacrifice for their home? 

The long-awaited conclusion to the beloved New York Times bestselling and “engrossing” (People) Beartown series—which inspired an HBO series of the same name—follows the small hockey town’s residents as they grapple with change, pain, hope, and redemption. 

With as much as I have loved Fredik Backman's previous books (both the ones in this series and all of his other books), there was a lot of pressure going into this one--would I love it as much? Would it meet my expectations? Would it rip me apart and put me back together again as much as his other books? So I was definitely on tenterhooks heading into this one....and I have to say, the first little bit didn't capture me as much as I was hoping. The foreshadowing and hinting and me being so nervous about what was going to happen was bugging me (which isn't necessarily a reflection of the writing but of my emotional investment in these characters!)--but there was no way I wasn't going to finish it. And just like with his other books, Backman broke my heart and made me smile (several times but perhaps no more than with BOBO! Oh my gosh! The cuteness!) and made me think so much about why people would make the choices that they make. That might be what I love most of about Backman's writing--it makes me be empathetic, it makes me see the pieces that make up the people who then make the choices that drive us nuts or hurt us or that heal us and save us. It's really hard to dislike anyone in his books--be disappointed by them? Sure? Want to smack them upside the head sometimes? Absolutely. But actually dislike them? No, because we've seen the glimpses into their who they are and why they are who they and seen ourselves in them, which makes us hope for good things for them--and for ourselves by extension. (There are a couple of characters that are the exception to that, but given more page space, maybe even they would be sympathetic characters.) 
I loved seeing the characters from the previous books as well as meeting new characters in this one, and while I tried to savor this while simultaneously reading quickly because I needed to know what was going to happen, I can't wait to re-read it and to look for the things I missed along the way. (I might have to wait a few months until my heart can handle revisiting it, though!) 

Another fabulous book by Fredrik Backman and definitely one of my favorite books of the year. 

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

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Millstone of Doubt: Thorndike and Swann Regency Mysteries (Book 2) by Ericka Vetsch (Excerpt Only)

Millstone of Doubt (Thorndike and Swann Regency Mysteries Book 2)
By Ericka Vetsch
Published by Kregel Publications 
 Publication Date: September 20, 2022 
 Blog Tour Dates: Septeberm 19-October 3 

 A Bow Street Runner and a debutante in London Society use their skills to find the killer of a wealthy businessman, but the killer’s secrets aren’t the only ones they will uncover. 
Caught in the explosion of the Hammersmith Mill in London, Bow Street runner Daniel Swann rushes to help any survivors only to find the mill's owner dead of an apparent gunshot--but no sign of the killer. 
Even though the owner's daughter, Agatha Montgomery, mourns his death, she may be the only one. It seems there are more than a few people with motive for murder. But Daniel can't take this investigation slow and steady. Instead, he must dig through all the suspects as quickly as he can because the clock is ticking until his mysterious patronage--and his job as a runner--comes to an abrupt and painful end. It seems to Daniel that, like his earthly father, his heavenly Father has abandoned him. Lady Juliette Thorndike is Agatha's bosom friend and has the inside knowledge of the wealthy London ton to be invaluable to Daniel. She should be in a perfect position to help with the case. But when her trusted instructor in the art of spy craft orders her to stay out of the investigation, Lady Juliette obeys. That is, until circumstances intervene, and she drops right into the middle of the deadly pursuit. 
When a dreadful accident ends in another death on the mill floor, Daniel discovers a connection to his murder case--and to his own secret past. Now he and Juliette are in a race to find the killer before his time runs out. 

 The dowager was one of those ladies who was quite content to have observers rather than participants in any conversation she held. Juliette smothered a smile and nodded, which was all the encouragement the dowager needed to continue. 
Juliette’s fingers approached the butt of the gun again through her pale-pink gown. She drew in a breath and pushed. 
She let out a cough she hoped would disguise the impact. But rather than thudding to the floor, the weapon didn’t budge. A tug pulled along the back of her thigh. She was sitting on the strap she had used to bind the holster to her leg. 
Botheration. She couldn’t move it up, and she couldn’t move it down. At least she no longer needed to worry about the gun crashing to the floor before she was ready, but then again, she had no way of stopping it from doing so when she was forced to rise. She shoved again, just to make sure she couldn’t move the thing without being obvious, but she bumped the dowager’s elbow slightly. 
“What are you doing?” The dowager pinned her with a stare. “You’re jerking as if you’ve contracted Saint Vitus’ dance. Sit still, child.” 
Juliette stopped wriggling, the pistol just inches from where she could secure it. “I am sorry.” Her words were forced through a clenched-teeth smile. Uncle Bertie glanced her way, and she wanted to melt into the floor. He missed nothing, and somehow, she knew he was aware of her exact predicament. He raised his brows in a mocking query, a smile touching his lips, and she glared at him. He was enjoying her discomfiture altogether too much. 
Mr. Pultney, the family butler, unwittingly came to her rescue by appearing at the drawing room door. “Breakfast is served.” 
The guests deposited their small plates on the nearest flat surfaces and drifted toward the hall. Juliette remained seated even when the Duke of Haverly came over to assist his mother to her feet.
“Lady Juliette, you’re looking quite fetching today.” The duke, hand- some and well-built, smoothed his long hair back into the queue at his nape. 
Juliette always felt safer when the Duke of Haverly was about. He was not only capable and intelligent, but he was now the director of the agency, her parents’ and Bertie’s supervisor. And he had a lovely wife, Charlotte, who was also at the party and with whom he was clearly besotted.
“Are you enjoying your debut Season?” he asked. 
“Yes, Your Grace, especially since my parents were able to rejoin me here in London.” 
The dowager adjusted the lace at her cuffs and leaned on her cane. “So unfortunate they had to be away when you arrived home from finishing school. Still, there it is. Noblesse oblige. When the needs of the estate call, one must go.” She looked down at Juliette, her gray curls clustered beside her cheeks. “Aren’t you coming?” 
“Please, go ahead. I’ll just be a moment.” 
The dowager sniffed. “Waiting for someone special to escort you? Of course, you are. Come, Marcus.” She put her hand through her son’s arm, a calculating gleam in her eyes. “These girls today. So canny.”
Heat charged into Juliette’s cheeks as the duke, leading his mother away, glanced over his shoulder. The dowager thought she was setting her cap for someone in particular? Looking for an escort? 
As if she would. This was her year of freedom, of enjoying herself and not worrying about flirting with men or finding a husband. And at the moment, her only concern was getting a gun out of her skirts. 
The moment both Haverly backs were turned, Juliette raised her leg, dislodged the strap holding the holster, and let it fall to the carpet with a soft thump. 
“Lady Juliette.” 
Her chin jerked up. Duke Heinrich. 
Frantically searching with her slipper, she found the pistol and slid it across the carpet, nudging it beneath the settee, hoping her hem hid the movement. She barely avoided puffing her cheeks out in a huge sigh as she disguised the weapon. 
“Duke Heinrich, I hope you are enjoying yourself?” 
“Very much. Your mother has given permission for me to take you into the dining room.” Duke Heinrich offered his hand. 
Behind him, near the door, Juliette’s parents, the Earl and Countess of Thorndike, waited arm in arm, clearly as besotted as the Duke of Haverly and his wife, though they had been married years longer. A warmth that held a hint of longing surrounded Juliette’s heart. 
Juliette took the duke’s hand, rising and smoothing her skirts. She felt behind her with her foot once more to ensure the gun was out of sight, then rested her fingers on his arm. “Thank you, sir.” 
As they entered the hall, a footman opened the front door, allowing a brisk breeze to scurry into the room. Juliette turned, and her breath caught. 
Don’t be ridiculous. You knew he was invited today. And for pity’s sake, don’t blush. He’ll think you a silly chit. 
Though she scolded herself, she felt a thrill race along her collar- bones. Ever since they had worked together last month, first at odds and then so closely in the matter of the stolen artwork, Mr. Daniel Swann had never been far from her thoughts. 
Which was absurd. He was a detective and a colleague, but she was a lady of the ton. There were expectations she must fulfill. Not that she was a snob. Of course not. It was just that while their professional lives might intersect, their personal lives lay far apart. 
None of which kept her from acknowledging that Daniel Swann was a fine-looking man. He dressed very well in clothes a dandy would envy, while keen intelligence shone from his eyes, intriguing and unsettling her. 
He had played a significant role in rescuing her from kidnappers too. Brave and daring. She would not be human if such heroism didn’t attract her attention. 
Duke Heinrich paused to greet the detective. “Herr Swann, you are joining us today?” 
Juliette couldn’t tell if the duke was pleased or surprised or both. It was unusual to have someone of Daniel’s stripe as an invited guest at a society gathering, but then again, her parents were known for bringing eclectic groups together. 
“Or is it that there is something amiss? A crime perhaps?” The duke smiled as if jesting, but questions lingered in his pale-blue eyes. 
“Your Grace.” Daniel nodded. “Lady Juliette.” He bowed, handing his cloak and hat to the footman. “I have been invited by the earl and countess. A thank-you, I believe, for services rendered.”
“Well deserved.” The duke’s hand tightened over Juliette’s on his arm. “Not only at the return of all that stolen artwork, but when those men kidnapped Lady Juliette . . .” He shook his head. “You were most brave in recovering her, and I thank you sincerely.” 
Daniel’s eyes darted from the duke to Juliette, and his brows came down. Juliette flushed. Did Daniel, too, hear the proprietary tone in the duke’s voice? 
Agatha Montgomery, Juliette’s best friend, hurried toward them from the dining room. “Jules, I’ve been hoping for a moment alone with you—” She skidded to a halt, blinking. “I beg your pardon. I didn’t realize you were busy.” Shifting her weight, she twisted her fingers together, biting her lip. 
Juliette could not ignore her imploring look. Clearly, she had some- thing of import to share, though with Agatha, everything was important and nothing trivial. At least it would give Juliette an excuse to escape Duke Heinrich’s attentions for a moment—and Daniel’s presence too—until she could compose herself properly. 
“Gentlemen, if you will excuse us?” She stepped back. “Agatha, perhaps we can move into the salon?”

(Chapter 1, pages 11 - 15)

Advance Praise:
“An artfully told story that will have you wondering at the outcome until the final pages are read.” —Ruth Logan Herne, USA Today best-selling author 
 “…a fully satisfying mystery. I can’t wait to read the next one!” —Jocelyn Green, Christy Award–winning author of Drawn by the Current 
“I am sure fans of the first book in this series will revel in the deepening relationship between Daniel Swann and Juliette Thorndike.” —Alissa Baxter, author of The Viscount’s Lady Novelist 
 “Millstone of Doubt captivated me from the first sentence and kept me guessing the entire novel…Erica Vetsch is the master of all things Regency.” —Lorri Dudley, author of The Duke’s Refuge
“5 Stars. Millstone of Doubt is a compelling Regency mystery with plenty of romance. Michelle Griep fans (or any Regency fan in general) will love this novel.”— Jennifer Purcell, ChristianBooks.com

Purchase Links:

About the Author:

Erica Vetsch is a New York Times best-selling author and ACFW Carol Award winner and has been a Romantic Times top pick for her previous books. She loves Jesus, history, romance, and watching sports. This transplanted Kansan now makes her home in Rochester, Minnesota.

Thursday, September 15, 2022

The Opera Sisters by Marianne Monson

The Opera Sisters 
By Marianne Monson 
Published by Shadow Mountain 


Based on the true story of the Cook sisters, who smuggled valuables out of 1930s Nazi Germany to finance a daring, secret operation to help Jews find hope for a new life in England 

British sisters Ida and Louise Cook enjoy their quiet, unassuming lives in south London. Ida writes romance novels, and Louise works as a secretary. In the evenings, the sisters indulge in their shared love for opera, saving their money to buy records and attend performances throughout England and Europe, becoming well-known by both performers and fellow opera lovers. 
But when Hitler seizes power in 1933, he begins targeting and persecuting German Jews, passing laws that restrict their rights and their lives. The sisters continue their trips to the German opera houses, but soon, Jewish members of the opera community covertly approach the sisters, worried that they will be stripped of their wealth and forced to leave their homes and the country. Danger looms on the horizon, threatening to spill across all of Europe’s borders. 
Ida and Louise vow to help, but how can two ordinary working-class women with limited means make a difference? 
Together with their beloved opera community, the sisters devise a plan to personally escort Jewish refugees from Germany to England. The success of the plan hinges on Ida and Louise’s ability to smuggle contraband jewelry and furs beneath the watchful eyes of the SS soldiers guarding various checkpoints. But how many trips can they make before someone blows a whistle? Or before the final curtain falls on Germany’s borders? 

I love the fact that this book is based on real people! When you read a book and love the characters, it's definitely cool that they were real people! It was really inspiring to read about their work. The format took some getting used to, as there were lots of short passages ( some about the people Ida and Louise worked with or those they helped, some showing the events happening around the world as war approached, etc.), that initially seemed jarring to me. I did find the information in those short passages very interesting, but it broke up the flow of the main story somewhat. Overall, a very interesting story about a couple of amazing women!

4 stars.

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

Monday, September 12, 2022

An Autumn Kiss (Timeless Victorian Collection Book 7)

An Autumn Kiss 
Published by Mirror Press 

An Autumn Kiss is the seventh book in the Timeless Victorian Collection, a bestselling anthology series from Mirror Press. The book features three novellas from acclaimed historical romance authors whose stories reveal if one kiss will change the lives of the three heroines. 

“The Plucky Miss Ruth” 
by Laura Rollins 
Miss Ruth Hughes is certain she’s caught in a time loop—every day she wakes to find it exactly as the one before. A thrilling prospect to be sure. If the many books she reads on time travel has taught her anything, it is that to break free she must complete an all-important task. For Ruth the task is straightforward: reunite a couple, once desperately in love but forced apart by society. Unfortunately, things are not always as easy as they first appear. Struggling, Ruth opens up to the handsome Lord Lambert and he readily agrees to help. With autumn on the brink of turning into winter, time is running out for Ruth to help the ones who need her most. And, with a bit of luck, perhaps she can even find a little time for her own happily ever after. 

“Mr. Dowling’s Remedy” 
by Annette Lyon 
Crandall Dowling’s aspirations of becoming a physician collapse when he develops symptoms that land him in an asylum. He’s been at Sherville Retreat long enough for autumn leaves to appear when Beverly Stanton arrives. She’s held under the dubious diagnosis of “hysteria” but seems perfectly sane, unlike Crandall, though his verbal and physical tics don’t seem to scare or even bother her. Beverly and Crandall develop a friendship fueled by an undeniable attraction that under other circumstances could become more. But in an asylum, one cannot plan a future, let alone one of love or marriage. Then tragedy strikes, testing staff and patients beyond anyone’s training. When the dust settles, Beverly’s diagnosis may be reversed, but if she leaves, what will become of her? What of Crandall? And what of their autumn-born love? 

“A Railway Through the Roses” 
by Lisa H. Catmull 
 Mr. Adrian Everard has tried everything to keep his father’s factory open, but a single solution remains. Marry an heiress before Christmas to fund the desperately needed railway. The local landowner, Lady Anne Baxter, will not agree to sell her garden—or her heart. Indeed, his childhood friend is determined to sabotage all his efforts to find a wife. As the deadline for Adrian to choose a bride draws close, one thing becomes painfully obvious. Saving the factory will mean losing the woman he loves forever. 

About the Series 
Since 2015, Mirror Press has been presenting the Timeless Romance Collection, a curated anthology of novellas and short stories featuring bestselling authors from the contemporary and historical romance genres. The collection has hit the USA TODAY bestselling list and charted at #1 at Amazon.com. Learn more about the series and other anthologies published by Mirror Press at their website

"The Plucky Miss Ruth" was delightful! I love a story with good dialogue, and I smiled so much at all of Ruth's conversations with Lord Lambert. I really enjoyed this story! I just really liked Mr. Lambert and how he appreciated Ruth for who she was. 

Moving from that story to "Mr. Dowling’s Remedy" was a bit jarring, as the first story was much more lighthearted. However, it didn't take long for me to be engrossed in the details--it was really fascinating to see what an asylum in the Victorian era was like--as well as charmed by Crandall and Beverly and their sweet romance.

"A Railway through the Roses" had a fantastic opening line, but I did find the plot, with Anne going from being angry with Adrian to being friends with him (and so on and so on) and Adrian flirting with her one minute and then with a different heiress the next, to be a bit dizzying.  Stories that center around miscommunication (or noncommunication) aren't my favorite, but this one made me laugh more than once and I appreciated the clean romance. 

I listened to an audio production of the book and quite liked the narrator. 

4 stars. 

I received a copy of the ebook and audio version from the publisher. All opinions are my own. 

Tuesday, August 16, 2022

The Bachelor and the Bride (The Dread Penny Society #4) by Sarah M. Eden

The Bachelor and the Bride (The Dread Penny Society #4) 
By Sarah M. Eden 
Published by Shadow Mountain 
Publication Date: September 6, 2022 

London, 1866 
 Dr. Barnabus Milligan has always felt called to help people, whether that means setting a broken bone or rescuing the impoverished women of London from their desperate lives on the streets as part of his work with the Dread Penny Society. Three years ago, he helped rescue Gemma Kincaid by secretly marrying her to protect her from her family of notorious grave robbers. 
But six months after Gemma and Barnabus exchanged vows, she realized her love for her new husband was unrequited. To protect her heart, she left, telling Barnabus to contact her if his feelings for her ever grew beyond a sense of duty. When Barnabus sends a letter to Gemma inviting her to return home, she hopes to find a true connection between them. But unfortunately, he only wants her help to foil the Kincaids, who have been terrorizing the boroughs of London, eager to gain both money and power.
Heartbroken, Gemma agrees to help, but she warns Barnabus that she will not stay for long, and once she goes, he'll never see her again. Yet as the couple follows the clues that seem to connect the Kincaids to the Mastiff, the leader of London's criminal network, Gemma and Barnabus realize they might make a better match than either of them suspected. Perhaps the marriage that had once saved Gemma's life might now save Barnabus—and his lonely heart. But before the once-confirmed bachelor can properly court his secret bride, they'll need to evade the dangerous forces that are drawing ever closer to the hopeful lovers and the entire Dread Penny Society itself.

HOLY COW! I'll get to my real review soon, but WOW!!! I need the next book in the series to come out ASAP because I don't think I can handle waiting!! I NEED TO KNOW what happens next!!!!! 

I have thoroughly enjoyed this series and I of course jumped at the chance to read an ARC of this book. While normally the characters are what I enjoy best about pretty much any book, the plot sort of stole the show in this one. That's not a criticism of the characters--I liked Doc and Gemma and felt like they were well-developed, with believable motivations and very interesting backstories--but rather an indication that there a LOT going on in the plot, with twists and turns and danger that kept me guessing what was going to happen next! By the time you reach the last quarter of the book, you should definitely make sure you have time to just read straight through to the end because it's pretty much impossible to put it down at that point! There are some BIG twists, and maybe other readers saw them all coming but for me, there were a couple of jaw-dropping moments because I DIDN'T expect something to turn out the way that it did, and when I initially finished, I just had no words beyond "WOW!" So, yeah, the plot blew my mind a few times, the characters were great, and the setting was fantastic. Sarah Eden does such a fabulous job weaving details into the story and making Victorian England come alive. I seriously can't wait for the next book in this series! 

5 stars.

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

About the Auhor:
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. 
For author interview requests, please contact Callie Hansen at chansen@shadowmountain.com

Saturday, August 6, 2022

Hearts of Briarwell by Krista Jensen

Hearts of Briarwell
By Krista Jensen
Published by Shadow Mountain

Lydia Wooding is fascinated by the latest inventions the new century brings, including motorcars. She longs for the independence they represent and believes that women should have a say in the future of the industry—just as they should have a say in suffrage, adventure, and, of course, love.
Spencer Hayes is a man of practicality and innovation, but he lacks the financial backing to make his dream a reality. When he contacts his childhood friend, Andrew Wooding, about a promising business venture, he is invited to Briarwall Manor to discuss the terms. Once there, he is surprised to find that Andrew's once shy, younger sister, Lydia, has grown into a young woman of beauty, wit, and a bit of fire. Even better, the two share a passion for motorcars.
Andrew, however, is wary of cars, having lost his parents in a tragic auto accident when he and Lydia were young. And he's not sure a relationship between his sister and Spencer is the best idea—not when Sir Lawrence is available and could match both Lydia's social status and her fortune.
Torn between risking their hearts and being loyal to their dreams in an era of whirlwind change, Spencer and Lydia anchor themselves with the determination they both share: to live life to its fullest.
It took me a little while to get into this book--Lydia and her friends were a bit much, Lydia's brother was somewhat off-putting, and I just wasn't drawn in a lot initially. But as Spencer and Lydia started being together more, I found myself smiling so much at their interactions. As the book progressed, I came to appreciate Lydia's friends and brother more and want to read more about them in future books. I haven't read many books set in this time period before, but I thought I loved the details about cars, the suffrage movement, and more. This one might have been a little slow to grow on me, but I ended up enjoying it quite a bit and had a lot of fun reading it.
I read an ARC provided by the publisher via NetGalley. All opinions are my own.
About the Author
Award-winning author KRISTA JENSEN works and plays in the Pacific Northwest with her spunky little dog and anyone else who wants to tag along. When she’s not exploring the outdoors, she can likely be found with her laptop, a pretty spiral notebook, and a Pilot Precise V7, writing about love, triumph, and really great kisses. Either that or she’s switching laundry wondering who keeps wearing all these clothes. (It’s her.)
For book info and other good things, follow Krista on Instagram @kristajensenbooks.
For author interview requests, please contact Callie Hansen at chansen@shadowmountain.com

Advance Praise:
“Ebullient Edwardian romance...Recurrent motif about attraction and self-empowerment...intriguing discussions about how women's rights dovetail with their personal desires. Chaste interactions tinged with meaningful undertones. Through their clever hot-and-cold exchanges, their relationship mirrors the period: energized by modern possibilities, yet is still bound by traditional propriety. When setbacks loom, it's people's sincere resolve about love being worth saving that resounds. An entertaining historical romance.” —Foreword Reviews “Satisfying Edwardian debut pairs a suffragette and an entrepreneur. Lydia's bubbly, forward-thinking friends and the unusual backdrop of the early automotive industry breathe life into the story. Readers will be excited to see what Jensen does next.”
—Publishers Weekly “This thoroughly satisfying read is as smart as it is charming and is as thought-provoking as it is sigh-worthy. This romance is filled with a cast of characters who 'seize the opportunity to fly' in all the best ways.” —Julie Wright, author of A Captain for Caroline Gray

Upcoming Appearances: August 11, 2022
5-7 PM
Deseret Book
City Creek
45 W S Temple
Salt Lake City, UT 84101
With Proper Romance authors, Josi S. Kilpack, Arlem Hawks, Julie Wright, and Becca Wilhite.

Wednesday, June 1, 2022

Praying with the Enemy by Steven T. Collis

Praying with the Enemy
By Steven T. Collis
Published by Shadow Mountain
Publication Date: June 7th, 2022

Description from the publisher: 
Based on the true story of an American POW during the Korean War and a North Korean soldier who become unlikely allies united in their shared faith in God during a daring escape to freedom. 
When pilot Captain Ward Millar is forced to eject over enemy territory in North Korea, the ejection explosion snaps both of his ankles. Unable to walk, he is easily captured by North Korean and Chinese soldiers who interrogate, threaten, and starve him for strategic wartime information. He feeds the enemy false information while plotting his escape. But it's only a matter of time before they discover his lies. He knows it will take a miracle to gain his freedom, but his previous self-reliance on his own capabilities has never included appealing to a higher power. If only he had faith like his wife, Barbara, whose firm belief in God can move mountains. 
North Korean soldier Kim Jae Pil was raised to believe in the power of prayer, but, knowing the Communist Party's views on religious groups, Kim and his family must keep their Christian faith secret. He is desperate to escape the army, return to his family, and then flee to South Korea. 
With Millar imprisoned and unable to walk, and the North Korean army increasingly suspicious of Kim's actions, it seems impossible that either man will find the freedom they so desperately desire. But when these wartime foes cross paths, they find in each other an unlikely ally. Despite speaking different languages, Millar and Kim find common ground in their fragile faith and must rely on each other to undertake a daring escape. 
Praying with the Enemy is a story of courage, determination, unlikely friendship, and enduring faith.

Not too long ago, I was thinking about how, with as many books as I've read about the American Civil War, WWI, and especially WWII, I might need to branch out, and I was particularly interested in finding a book about the Korean War, which I know so little about. So when I was given the chance to read an advance copy of Praying with the Enemy, I was eager to get started--and once I started, I was eager to keep reading. I really liked how the book had both American Ward Millar and Korean Kim Jae Pil as narrators; seeing things from each perspective was so fascinating. (We also got glimpses from Ward's wife's POV, which I also appreciated.) I loved learning about the different philosophies driving the communists and the capitalists and why different people might be drawn to each, I also appreciated seeing Ward's journey of faith, starting out not believing in God but coming to believe, and how Kim Jae Pil was already a believer but had his moments of doubt. This was just to interesting to read. I will say, I was expecting the two men to meet WAY earlier in the book than they actually did, so that threw me off a little bit, but not so much to make the book unenjoyable in any way. 

4 stars.

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

Monday, May 30, 2022

In Honor's Defense by Karen Witemeyer


In Honor's Defense (Hanger's Horsemen #3)
 By Karen Witemeyer
Published by Bethany House
Publication Date: June 7, 2022 

Description from publisher:
He's faced countless perils on the battlefield, but nothing so dangerous as falling in love. 

Luke Davenport has been fighting all his life—for respect, for country, and for those unable to fight for themselves. But now that his Horsemen brothers are domesticated, he's left alone to battle the wildness within. When an opportunity arises to take a job on his own, tracking down a group of rustlers, he jumps at the chance. 

Damaris Baxter has mastered the art of invisibility. Plain and quiet, she hides in books and needlework, content to be overlooked. Until her brother dies suddenly, leaving her custody of her nephew. She moves to Texas to care for Nathaniel, determined to create the family for herself that she never thought she'd have and to give him the family he desperately needs. 

When Nate finds himself knee-deep in trouble, Luke's attempt to protect him leaves Damaris feeling indebted to the Horseman. But suspicions grow regarding the mysterious death of Damaris's brother. And the more questions they ask, the more danger appears, threatening the family Luke may be unable to live without. 

Oh, man, Luke Davenport is exactly my type of hero, with the rough past that makes him not quite believe in himself, combined with the heart of gold who will do anything to protect those who he cares about. I LOVED him so much. And I'm thrilled to say I loved Damaris just as much and found her to be a perfect match for him. She also has her insecurities but she pushed herself to do and be her best, to be stronger than she thought she was, and I really liked her. I loved their interactions with one another, how they supported and helped each other so much. Besides characters who stole my heart, this book also has fabulous plot--I really enjoyed the mystery element and seeing what was going to happen and who was really behind everything. I just devoured this book...and while I've loved the previous books in the series, this one just slightly edged them out as my very favorite of the three. This is definitely one of my choices for the best books of 2022. 

5 stars. 

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

Monday, May 9, 2022

Places We've Never Been by Kasie West


Places We've Never Been 
By Kasie West 
Published by Random House Children's, Delacorte Press 
Publication date: May 31, 2022 

A sweet and swoony contemporary Young Adult novel about a cross-country family road trip that puts one girl and her childhood best friend on an unexpected road to romance! 

Norah hasn’t seen her childhood best friend, Skyler, in years. When he first moved away, they'd talk all the time, but lately their relationship has been reduced to liking each other’s Instagram posts. That’s why Norah can’t wait for the joint RV road trip their families have planned for the summer. 
But when Skyler finally arrives, he seems...like he’d rather be anywhere else. Hurt and confused, Norah reacts in kind. Suddenly, her oldest friendship is on the rocks. 
An unexpected summer spent driving across the country leads both Norah and Skyler down new roads and to new discoveries. Before long, they are, once again, seeing each other in a different light. Can their friendship-turned-rivalry turn into something more? 

This was such a cute book! It totally hooked me, and I just wanted to read more and more! Norah was a really fun narrator--I liked how she was both driven and nervous. She knew what wanted (especially with regards to her college/career plans), but also worried about how she came across to other people, which I think made her feel totally realistic and relatable. This book was just lots of fun to read. although the ending was a little more abrupt than I would have liked. I highly recommend this to those looking for a quick, upbeat escape. 
4 stars.
I read an ARC provided by the publisher via NetGalley. All opinions are my own.

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Written on the Wind by Elizabeth Camden


Written on the Wind (The Blackstone Legacy #2)
By Elizabeth Camden 
Published by Bethany House 
Publication Date: May 3, 2022 

 Natalia Blackstone is a rarity in Gilded Age America. As a trusted analyst for her father's bank, she is helping finance the legendary Trans-Siberian Railway. From her office in New York City, Natalia relies on a charming Russian aristocrat to oversee the construction of the railroad on the other side of the world. 
But while overseeing the work, Count Dimitri Sokolov witnesses the deadly result of the Russian Monarchy's will to see the railway built. To silence him, the state has stripped Dimitri of his title, his lands, and his freedom . . . but Dimitri has a key asset the czar knows nothing about: his deep and abiding friendship with Natalia Blackstone. 
From the steppes of Russia to the corridors of power in Washington, Natalia and Dimitri will fight against all odds to save the railroad and share the truth of what happened, but how can their newfound love survive the ordeal? 

What an interesting book! I love the political and historical setting for this book, with the details about Russia, the building of the Trans-Siberian Railway, the social and political machinations in both Russia and the U.S., and more. I really liked Natalia; she was a great leading lady, both strong and kind. I alternated between thinking Dimitri was charming and being irritated by him. There were times where he totally made me laugh, but others where he bugged me a little because it seemed that Natalia was always doing things for him, but he didn't seem to reciprocate much. And when she faced a major disappointment, despite having worked so hard to help him, his internal dialogue indicated he was upset, but his actions didn't so much. I felt like she did so much for him and his mission and didn't get much return from him throughout a lot of the book, and that bothered me-- but I know other readers have really loved him and am sure many more will as well. There were lots of interesting side characters to like or loathe (I so cannot wait for Liam's story!), and I look forward to reading the third book in the series. 
As a fun point of interest, Dimitri makes a stop in my hometown--Springville, Utah--on his journey. I loved his observation that it was misnamed and wanted to be able to tell him it's actually named for the freshwater springs in the vicinity, not for spring-like weather! 
I read an ARC provided by the author/publisher. All opinions are my own.

Sunday, April 17, 2022

Turn to Me by Becky Wade


Turn to Me 
 By Becky Wade 
 Published by Bethany House 
Publication Date: May 3, 2022 

Guilt has defined Luke Dempsey's life, but it was self-destructiveness that landed him in prison. When his friend and fellow inmate lay dying shortly before Luke's release, the older man revealed he left a string of clues for his daughter, Finley, that will lead her to the treasure he's hidden. Worried that she won't be the only one pursuing the treasure, he gains Luke's promise to protect her until the end of her search. 

Spunky and idealistic, Finley Sutherland is the owner of an animal rescue center and a defender of lost causes. She accepts Luke's help on the treasure hunt while secretly planning to help him in return--by coaxing him to embrace the forgiveness he's long denied himself. As they draw closer to the final clue, their reasons for resisting each other begin to crumble, and Luke realizes his promise will push him to the limit in more ways than one. He'll do his best to shield Finley from unseen threats, but who's going to shield him from losing his heart? 

I've been looking forward to reading Luke's story. I have to admit that I had a soft spot for a reformed bad boy--or even better, a reforming bad boy who is finding out who he's going to be, what sort of man he really wants to be. The message of being able to be forgiven and move forward is one I just love. So, I was thrilled to read Luke's story, and I loved him as the hero of this book. I didn't quite click with Finley as female lead, though. I can't put my finger on why, but I just wasn't drawn in by her. I liked the side story of Ben and Akira--they were super cute--but I was put off by other side characters (specifically, Finley's other employees, who were so annoying!). I also wasn't totally drawn in by the treasure hunt. It just didn't enjoy this one as much the earlier books in the series, but I think plenty of other readers will totally adore it. 

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

Friday, April 1, 2022

All That It Takes by Nicole Deese

All That It Takes 
By Nicole Deese 
 Published by Bethany House 

When the ever-cautious Val Locklier finally agrees to a cross-country move with her nine-year-old son to take a job with her best friend, Molly, everything she had planned for the future unravels within the first week. After pushing aside her anxieties about renting an apartment from Molly's twin brother, whom she barely knows, she accepts an invitation for an elite filmmaker's mentorship. Caught between her insecurities and new possibilities, she feels completely unprepared for the challenges ahead. 
Pastor Miles McKenzie returns home from abroad to discover that not only does he have an intriguing new tenant living upstairs, he's been banished to a ministry on life support. Disillusioned and restless, he pursues a relationship with Val without stopping to consider the timing or asking God to direct his steps. 
 As Val struggles to stop hiding behind the camera and Miles wrestles with shattered expectations, they'll find that authentic love and sacrifice must go hand in hand. 

I loved everything about this book! The main characters, Val and Miles, are fabulous; they just feel REAL, with depth and real struggles and real strengths and weaknesses. They were so relatable as they had to deal with disappointments and fears and figuring out their paths in life. The plot also really pulled me in right from the get-go and there weren't any moments that dragged. The messages in this book--including seeing how God leads us through disappointments or change sin plans to end up exactly where we want to be, how our talents can help us find our personal ministries, and the need for connections and help from others in our lives. were powerful but not heavy-handed. This book is just so well-written, with humorous moments to balance out the serious topics--and the ending was just perfect! 
5 stars.

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

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Her County Gentleman (A Timeless Romance Georgian Anthology)

Her County Gentleman
Published by Mirror Press

This anthology features three novellas set in the Georgian era.

When Charlotte's grandmother invites her to accompany her to Norfolk, Charlotte jumps at the chance to visit the sea and escape the fuss surrounding her sister's wedding preparations in London. Lord William Cheston, on the other hand, is most unhappy when his mother informs him that her old friend and a granddaughter are coming to stay. Not only is it lambing season, but he's also dealing with the mysterious loss of several sheep. The last thing he needs is a child underfoot. When Charlotte and William first meet, he does not realize that the lovely young lady is the granddaughter in question, and she assumes that the man dressed in work clothes in the barn is a servant. Soon afterward, however, Charlotte stumbles upon a clue to William's sheep's disappearance, and when her life is placed in jeopardy, William is forced to choose between saving his unwanted houseguest and catching the thief.
LOVE OF MY HEART by Sarah M. Eden
Cordelia Wakefield has never lived anywhere but London and is not overly happy when her family is forced to retrench to a small estate near Teviotbrae, Scotland. An ill-fated game of battledore and shuttlecock brings her face-to-racquet with Sebastian, who runs the home farm at nearby Teviot Castle. What begins as a clash of personalities, expectations, and preferences, soon leads to a friendship neither had expected. As the magic of Teviotbrae weaves its spell, the possibility of something more than friendship begins to blossom. But what future is there for a lowly farmer and a London lady?
Martha Smith wants to marry for love, and will not be persuaded otherwise. She is highly sought after in Society for her beauty and status, but refuses to consider any suitor whose only claim is that his prospects meet with her mother's approval. Her widowed mother has had enough of Martha's romantic sensibilities, and is sending her to stay with unfortunate cousins in Wiltshire to show her that marrying for love is a risk that is too great. Benjamin Steele, Lord Hillier, is working on his new and dilapidated estate when he first catches sight of the striking Martha Smith. Becoming Lord Hillier has only brought him a house that needs significant repairs, tenant farms that had been abandoned, and only the money he'd already possessed. He wants meaning in his life, and he's more than willing to work for it. Though worlds apart in all else, on this point they can agree: a life of meaning would change everything.

 I really enjoyed each of these stories! As much as I love a story with a good ball or such, the country setting for these stories was perfect! I loved seeing the details of life in each story, from caring for lambs to dealing with an estate in poor condition. Each story had characters whom I immediately liked, people who felt real and who you'd want to be friends with. It was easy to cheer for them to each find their own happily-ever-afters. All three stories are very well written and engaging; I can't pick a favorite because they were all delightful. For the Audible version, I enjoyed the narrator's expressive reading. Wonderful collection! 

I read/listened to an copy provided by the author/publisher. All opinions are my own.

Friday, February 11, 2022

Jane and the Year Without a Summer Book Tour (excerpt only)

 Jane and the Year Without a Summer (Being a Jane Austen Mystery Book 14) \
By Stephanie Barron 
Published by Soho Press 
Blog Tour Dates: February 7-20, 2022 

May 1816: Jane Austen is feeling unwell, with an uneasy stomach, constant fatigue, rashes, fevers and aches. She attributes her poor condition to the stress of family burdens, which even the drafting of her latest manuscript—about a baronet's daughter nursing a broken heart for a daring naval captain—cannot alleviate. Her apothecary recommends a trial of the curative waters at Cheltenham Spa, in Gloucestershire. Jane decides to use some of the profits earned from her last novel, Emma, and treat herself to a period of rest and reflection at the spa, in the company of her sister, Cassandra. 
Cheltenham Spa hardly turns out to be the relaxing sojourn Jane and Cassandra envisaged, however. It is immediately obvious that other boarders at the guest house where the Misses Austen are staying have come to Cheltenham with stresses of their own—some of them deadly. But perhaps with Jane’s interference a terrible crime might be prevented. Set during the Year without a Summer, when the eruption of Mount Tambora in the South Pacific caused a volcanic winter that shrouded the entire planet for sixteen months, this fourteenth installment in Stephanie Barron’s critically acclaimed series brings a forgotten moment of Regency history to life. 

The intelligent reader of gossip-sheets and scandal-rags will be wondering, I am sure, why Cheltenham, and not the far more celebrated watering hole of Bath, has been our object. Were Cassandra and I as determinedly bent on pleasure as I took pains to suggest to my brothers, the concerts and card-parties of the far more ancient town, as well as the delights of the Abbey and the Pump Room, the shops of Pulteney and the paths of Sydney Gardens, must have been unrivaled by any attractions Cheltenham Spa may offer. The latter is to Bath what a heedless country maid is to a dowager; lacking in refinement and dignity, and prone to a good deal of untempered noise. 
And indeed, as we achieved the outskirts of the town late on Saturday, our carriage side-windows streaming with wet, Cassandra remarked on the differences from Bath: the crescents of new houses, girded with stone paving not yet mellowed by time; the raw mud splashed on foundations and walls; the fresh roadways branching from the High Street, where a once-modest village has in recent decades swelled to something greater. … 
But neither my sister nor I have any deep love for Bath, where we resided for some years. Bath must be forever associated in our minds with the loss of our home—and of Papa, too, as he passed from this life in our lodgings at Green Park Buildings. 
But I have another reason, one of considerable delicacy, for wishing to avoid the place; there is a widowed gentleman of my acquaintance presently residing there, in the company of his daughter, whom I hesitate to meet. 
Mr. Raphael West—who claims as parent the celebrated artist, Mr. Benjamin West—is a valued acquaintance, tho’ our friendship is of recent formation. Possessed alike of an excellent understanding and a distinguished countenance, he is fully capable of engaging any woman’s heart. At the mere thought of him now, I felt a warmth steal over my frame and my pulse quicken—a sharp longing for his gaze that felt as deep as hunger. But it would not do; I closed my eyes and resolved that it would not do. 
 When I was last in his company… Mr. West earnestly informed me of his intent to visit Bath, and his hope that I might do the same. There was that in his looks and manner that suggested I was dear to him—that our friendship was viewed on his side, at least, as capable of something more. But the sad events of this winter, the collective misfortunes of my brothers, and my dubious health, for a period of months put travel beyond my power. 
Moreover, the lowering weeks of relentless rain, confining me within-doors, and the oppression of my own thoughts, urged me to confront certain truths: I am over forty years of age. My mother, my beloved sister, and our companion Martha Lloyd look to me for support in our collective household, where the modest earnings of my pen contribute greatly to the comforts of each. With every financial calamity gathering over Chawton Cottage and its defenceless inhabitants this year, the mite of income I supply is surety against future want. Could I be so selfish as to run away to Bath and the attractions of Mr. West’s society, abandoning duty and the claims of those who rely upon me?
I cannot. 
And a glance in the mirror confirms what my flagging energy and vanished appetite already apprehend: the few charms remaining to my person are swiftly waning under the influence of ill-health. My countenance is sallow and dull, my eyes shadowed, my cheeks gaunt. I feel the jut of my hip bones with gloved fingers through the cambric of my traveling gown. 
I should be ashamed for Raphael West to see me as I now am. Indeed, my lips compress with mortification when I consider the picture: a hag-ridden spinster descending upon Bath, to parade the Pump Room in hopes of a chance encounter with the darkly handsome Mr. West. The gentleman, at first surprized and distressed, recovering to lift his hat and offer an introduction to his daughter—only to move on in a matter of moments, with the words, “Poor creature! She is sadly altered since I saw her last!” 
Chapter 4, pages 26-28

 Advance Praise:
“Outstanding...Barron fans will hope Jane, who died in 1817, will be back for one more mystery.”— Publishers Weekly (starred review) 

 “No one conjures Austen's voice like Stephanie Barron, and Jane and the Year Without a Summer is utterly pitch-perfect.”— Deanna Raybourn, bestselling author of the Veronica Speedwell Mysteries 

“…a page-turning story, imbued with fascinating historical detail, a cast of beautifully realized characters, a pitch-perfect Jane Austen, and an intriguing mystery. Highly recommended.”— Syrie James, bestselling author of The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen 

“Jane and the Year Without a Summer is absolute perfection. Stephanie Barron expertly weaves fact and fiction, crafting a story that is authentically Austen in its elegance, charm, and wit. The characters and setting will enchant you, and the mystery will keep you guessing to the last page. This Regency-set gem is truly a diamond of the first water.”— Mimi Matthews, USA Today bestselling author of The Siren of Sussex

Purchase Links: 

About the Author: 
Francine Mathews was born in Binghamton, New York, the last of six girls. She attended Princeton and Stanford Universities, where she studied history, before going on to work as an intelligence analyst at the CIA. She wrote her first book in 1992 and left the Agency a year later. Since then, she has written twenty-five books, including five novels in the Merry Folger series (Death in the Off-Season, Death in Rough Water, Death in a Mood Indigo, Death in a Cold Hard Light, and Death on Nantucket) as well as the nationally bestselling Being a Jane Austen mystery series, which she writes under the penname, Stephanie Barron. She lives and works in Denver, Colorado.

Saturday, February 5, 2022

Until Leaves Fall in Paris by Sarah Sundin


Until Leaves Fall in Paris 
By Sarah Sundin 
Published by Revell Books 

As the Nazis march toward Paris in 1940, American ballerina Lucie Girard buys her favorite English-language bookstore to allow the Jewish owners to escape. Lucie struggles to run Green Leaf Books due to oppressive German laws and harsh conditions, but she finds a way to aid the resistance by passing secret messages between the pages of her books. 
Widower Paul Aubrey wants nothing more than to return to the States with his little girl, but the US Army convinces him to keep his factory running and obtain military information from his German customers. As the war rages on, Paul offers his own resistance by sabotaging his product and hiding British airmen in his factory. After they meet in the bookstore, Paul and Lucie are drawn to each other, but she rejects him when she discovers he sells to the Germans. And for Paul to win her trust would mean betraying his mission. 
Review: This book was fabulous from start to finish! I was hooked from the very beginning, and my interest never waned; I was just captivated by everything, from the terrific characters to the plot to the historical details. Everything about it just drew me in! I really liked seeing the contrast between serious, business-minded Paul and artsy, creative Lucie and how they complimented each other. I adored sweet Josie and her stories. I am not a book-crier--I just don't cry when reading books very often at all--but this one got me! I was just invested in the story and the characters who felt so real. This book is easily one of my picks for the best books of 2022 and the one I've enjoyed most so far this year. 
5 stars.
I read an ARC provided by the publisher via NetGalley. All opinions are my own.