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 

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.