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.