Thursday, December 28, 2023

Protecting Her Heart by Nancy Campbell Allen

Protecting Her Heart (Matchmakers #3)
By Nancy Campbell Allen
Published by Shadow Mountain
Publication Date: January 2, 2024

Description from the publisher:
London, 1887 When newly graduated medical doctor Charlotte Duvall receives word that her father has died, she immediately leaves America and returns home to see to her family's estate. Among her father's possessions is a box of her late mother's letters, which feels like a balm to Charlotte's grief-stricken heart. But the letters contain some inconsistencies that suggest there was more to her mother's death than Charlotte had been told. She turns to the one man she trusts more than anyone--her treasured friend and director of London's police force, John Ellis.
John Ellis has harbored feelings for Charlotte ever since he first met her. Tucked into his heart are thoughts of her sharp mind, quick wit, and remarkable beauty. Though he has not yet found the courage to share his feelings with the young doctor, he is eager to help her in her hour of need. Investigating the details of a death was not how Charlotte imagined she would find love, but as she and John work to unravel a dark web of secrets and lies, she finds herself relying on him more and more--and opening her heart to him in the process. As the danger draws ever closer, John vows to do everything in his power to protect Charlotte from harm. But he fears protecting her heart might come at the cost of breaking his own.

My review:
Fantastic! I completely devoured this book. From the get-go, I was drawn in by Charlotte and John and their story. I loved the friendship between them and how the attraction quickly flared up when they were together again. I also appreciated that there wasn't a whole bunch of dithering (e.g. oh, he can't possibly like me; oh, she's too good for me, etc.) but just a rather straightforward romance--yes, there were obstacles but they weren't pretending not to have feelings for each other. I loved their banter and the way they worked together. The mystery aspect and the details of Victorian life were also really engrossing.
5 stars.

Content note: This is a clean read as far as sexual content. It does get a bit gory as Charlotte delves into what happened to her mother.

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

Wednesday, December 27, 2023

Missing in Action

 I haven't posted in two months! I hit a bit of a lull in my reviewing schedule, and rather than seeking out a bunch of ARCs to review, I've been making my way through my to-read list on Goodreads as well as all those unread books on my tablet. It's been kind of awesome watching the number of unread books go down! I found a series that I loved and binge read (listened to) it, I read a bunch of cheesy but fun Christmas stories, and I started and then deleted a few that I've been waiting years to read just to find out they're not for me. It's been a long time since I've just plowed through a bunch of books without needing to write reviews, and I enjoyed the break, but I'm also excited to share reviews soon of books I have really enjoyed. I don't have a ton of books lined up for the first part of next year, yet, either, so I'll probably push forward with making a dent in my to-read lists, but I'll try to remember to review the best ones, too.

Friday, October 27, 2023

To Spark a Match by Jen Turano

To Spark a Match (The Matchmakers #2)
By Jen Turano
Published by Bethany House
Publication Date: November 14th, 2023

Description from the Publisher:
After five unsuccessful Seasons on the marriage mart, Miss Adelaide Duveen has resigned herself to the notion that she's destined to remain a spinster forever--a rather dismal prospect, but one that will allow her to concentrate on her darling cats and books. However, when she inadvertently stumbles upon Mr. Gideon Abbott engaged in a clandestine activity during a dinner party, Adelaide finds herself thrust into a world of intrigue that resembles the plots in the spy novels she devours.
Former intelligence agent Gideon Abbott feels responsible for Adelaide after society threatens to banish her because of the distraction she caused to save his case. Hoping to return the favor, he turns to a good friend--and one of high society's leaders--to take Adelaide in hand and turn her fashionable.
When danger surrounds them and Adelaide finds herself a target of the criminals in Gideon's case, the spark of love between them threatens to be quenched for good--along with their lives.

About the Author
Named one of the funniest voices in inspirational romance by Booklist, Jen Turano is a USA Today bestselling author, known for penning quirky historical romances set in the Gilded Age. Her books have earned Publishers Weekly and Booklist starred reviews, top picks from Romantic Times, and praise from Library Journal. She's been a finalist twice for the RT Reviewers' Choice Awards and had two of her books listed in the top 100 romances of the past decade from Booklist. She and her family live outside of Denver, Colorado. Readers can find her on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, and at

My review:
This book is packed with funny dialogue, even funnier mishaps, an entertaining plot, and endearing characters. I loved Adelaide and Gideon in the previous book (which you don't have to read to understand this one, but you should read because it's great), so I was happy to see them together in this book. I liked the mystery element quite a bit and was eager to see how that played out. There were some times when Adelaide's very long-winded conversations and escapades started to annoy me (but that could just be because of my mood and a reflection of how busy I am in life and don't have time for run-away conversations, not indication that something is wrong with the book), and I wish the underlying attraction between Gideon and Adelaide had been shown a bit more. Overall, though, this is a funny story that Turano fans will lap up.
4 stars.
I read an ARC provided by the author/publisher. All opinions are my own.

Order your copy here!

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Saturday, October 7, 2023

The Letter Tree by Rachel Fordham

The Letter Tree
By Rachel Fordham
Published by Thomas Nelson
Publication Date: October 31, 2023

Description from the publisher:
Mere words can’t end their families’ feud, but the Campbell heir and the Bradshaw heiress plan to write a future together. 

Buffalo, NY, 1924
Laura Bradshaw adores stories with happily ever afters. But since her mother died seven years ago, the Bradshaw Shoe Company heiress has been as good as locked away in a tower. Her overbearing father cares little for her dreams, throwing himself instead into his tireless takedown of his competitor, the Campbell Shoe Company. However, Laura has been gifted with a a mysterious friend with whom she’s been exchanging letters.
As heir to the Campbell Shoe Company, Isaac Campbell is a sought-after bachelor who has never felt an inkling of desire for the women who constantly bat their eyes at him. His thoughts are consumed by an oak tree in the Buffalo Zoo—or rather, the mystery woman he exchanges letters with courtesy of the tree. She’s been one of Isaac’s only joys in a life consumed by his father’s tireless hatred of Bradshaw. A hatred that, Isaac is coming to realize, may affect him more personally than he ever imagined.
When Laura’s father orchestrates a match between her and an important business owner, she resolves to pursue her only chance at freedom. But Isaac believes their story isn’t bound for a tragic ending. He’s certain there’s more to the Bradshaw-Campbell feud than meets the eye. And he won’t stop digging until he uncovers the truth that might bridge the divide between him and the woman whose words have captured his heart.

My Review:
This is a great choice for readers who like a slow, sweet romance with interesting historical details and a hint of mystery.  Laura and Isaac are just a sweet couple, and I liked seeing both of them learn to stand on their own feet and stand together, not just bow down to the expectations of their fathers. 

I loved the setting in Buffalo, NY and the glimpses of the zoo and the happenings around the area in the 1920s, like a person going over Niagara Falls in a barrel. (The setting might have been my favorite thing about the story--although I'm biased because I grew up just two hours outside of Buffalo and miss upstate NY!) 

I also really liked the mystery element, with Laura and Isaac trying to figure out what caused the rift between their families. 

The story felt a bit slow sometimes, but overall, I really liked it! 4 stars.

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

Tuesday, September 12, 2023

Christmas Forevermore

Christmas Forevermore 
Published by Covenant Communications 
Publication Date: October 3, 2023 

Description from the publisher: 
“A Family Christmas” by Sally Britton: After years abroad, Cyril Grant worries about relating to his highborn relatives at the family’s holiday celebration. But an unexpected connection with a member of the household staff opens his heart―in more ways than one. 

“Christmas Forevermore” by Sarah M. Eden: In this reimagining of the beloved Charles Dickens tale A Christmas Carol, spinster Minna Schofield is inadvertently ensnared by a local matchmaker whose meddling launches Minna on a journey of self-reflection that could lead her to unexpected love. 

“Christmas at Cranfield” by Ashtyn Newbold: Though childhood friends Hannah and Samuel secretly adore one another, fate conspires to keep them apart. But after years of shared holidays and missed opportunities, this Christmas brings the hope that their stars will align. 

“A Thrill of Hope” by Karen Thornell: After a devastating loss, Christmas holds little appeal for Isabel Reid. But when a snowstorm traps her in the company of a surprising traveling companion, the perpetual winter of Isabel’s heart may just begin to thaw. 

My Review: 
What a delightful collection of stories! This was the perfect book to kick off my holiday reading! I loved each of them! 
"A Family Christmas" by Sally Britton--I loved seeing how cheerful Jane was and how she pulled Cyril into his own family. Their interactions were just adorable. 
"Christmas Forevermore" by Sarah M. Eden--Although it's tough to pick a favorite with four great stories, this one did manage to gain that title. I loved the nods to "A Christmas Carol." I also liked seeing Minna's introspection and journey toward healing. The banter between her and Rupert is fantastic. Just a wonderful story! 
"Christmas at Cranfield" by Ashtyn Newbold was a bit of a star-crossed lovers story, with the circumstances and timing not being quite right for Hannah and Samuel to have a romance. I was quite interested to see how they would bring about their happily ever after. 
"A Thrill of Hope" by Karen Thornell features my favorite type of hero--grumpy exterior, sweet interior. Both Isbal and Robert needed to do some healing, and I loved seeing that come for both of them and for them to let their true selves show, rather than just the guarded selves they'd revealed at first. 

All of these stories, despite being novellas and not full-length stories, featured well-developed characters and plot-lines. I thoroughly enjoyed this collection and hope I'll have time to revisit it soon! 
5 stars.

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

Monday, September 4, 2023

Under the Java Moon by Heather B. Moore

Under the Java Moon
By Heather B. Moore
Published by Shadow Mountain

Description from the publisher:
Based on a true story, this gripping WWII novel captures the resilience, hope, and courage of a Dutch family who is separated during the war when the Japanese occupy the Dutch East Indies.
Java Island, 1941
Six-year-old Rita Vischer cowers in her family’s dug-out bomb shelter, listening to the sirens and waiting for a bomb to fall. Her charmed life on Java—living with other Dutch families—had always been peaceful, but when Holland declares war on Japan and the Japanese army invades Indonesia, Rita’s family is forced to relocate to a POW camp, and Rita must help care for her little brother, Georgie.
Mary Vischer is three months pregnant when she enters the Tjident women’s camp with thousands of other women and children. Her husband, George, is somewhere on the Java Sea with the Dutch Navy, so she must care alone for her young children, Rita and Georgie, and her frail mother. The brutal conditions of the overcrowded camp make starvation, malaria, and dysentery a grim reality. Mary must do everything she can to keep her family alive.
George Vischer survives the bombing of his minesweeper but feels little hope floating on a small dinghy in the Java Sea. Reaching the northern tip of the Thousand Island would be a miracle. Focusing on the love of his life, Mary, and his two children, he battles against the sea and merciless sun. He’ll do whatever it takes to close the divide between him and his family, even if it means risking being captured by the Japanese.
Under the Java Moon highlights a little-known part of WWII history and the impact of war on Indonesia, its people, and the more than 100,000 Dutch men, women, and children who were funneled into prison camps and faced with the ultimate fight for survival.

My Review:
What a terrific book!
Interesting plot? Check.
Endearing characters? Check.
Excellent research? Check.
I love World War II books and have a read a ton of them, but I've never read one set in Indonesia, so I was super excited to read one now, particulary when I've read most of Heather B. Moore's books and know the research and details are always impeccable. That was definitely the case here; Moore brought the situations the Vischer family and others were under to life so clearly. It was so interesting to see how the Dutch in Indonesia were impacted by the war. I love the fact that this is based on a true story and that there's even an afterward from Marie (Rita) Vischer Elliott. It's an understandably somber book, as the Vischers are imprisoned in interment camps, but it also shows the resilience and kindness of so many.
4.5 stars.
I read an ARC provided by the publisher. All opinions are my own.

Wednesday, August 16, 2023

Voice of the Ancient (The King's Men # 1)

Voice of the Ancient
By Connilyn Cossette
Published by Bethany House

Description from the publisher:
As the eldest son of a Levite and a Philistine, Avidan is torn between his duty to his family legacy and the desire for something more. When Ammonites attack the city of Yavash-Gilead, he takes the opportunity to fight with his cousins for the newly crowned King Saul. But when one of the cousins goes missing during the battle, Avidan stays behind to search for him in hopes that he's still alive.
Keziah is the daughter of one of the most powerful clan chiefs in the territory of Manasseh. On the brink of a forced marriage to a loathsome man decades older than her, she has no choice but to run. Dressed as a boy, she takes her horse and heads for the south, hoping to find sanctuary with her mother's family.
Battling to survive the dangers surrounding them, Avidan and Keziah make a pact to travel together. As Keziah's true origins are revealed and Avidan's search for his cousin becomes increasingly futile, they must not only rely on each other to stay alive but learn to trust the true and eternal King of Israel to guide their every step.
With impeccable research and award-winning writing, bestselling author Connilyn Cossette brings to life the first years of King Saul's reign.

My Review:
Great piece of Biblical fiction and great opener to a new series--it left me totally wanting to read the subsquent books in the series to find out what will happen to Avi's cousins (who I presume will be the male protagonists in the rest of the series).
I really liked seeing Avi's journey, both physically as he searched for his cousin and spiritually as he came to know more both about Yahweh and himself, and how he came to figure out what he wanted to do with his life. I found Keziah, an Israelite who had unknowingly strayed from truly following God, coming to know Yahweh, to be quiet compelling as well. I quite enjoyed learning a bit about this period in history. I think my favorite elements of the book, though, were the reminders that Yahweh is the God who Sees and the God who Hears--and that no one is beyond His view or His hearing.
4 stars.
I read an ARC publisher via NetGalley. All opinions are my own.

The Queen and the Knave AND The Dread Penny Society by Sarah M. Eden

The Queen and the Knave 
By Sarah M. Eden 
Published by Shadow Mountain 
Publication Date: September 5, 2023 

Description from the publisher: 
Romance and mystery come full circle in the fifth and final book of Sarah M. Eden’s best-selling Victorian Proper Romance series. 

London, 1866 
Móirín Donnelly has spent the last five years working in the shadows for the Dread Penny Society, a secret fraternity of penny dreadful authors who use their profits, influence, and street smarts to protect the poor and vulnerable of Victorian London. But spending so much of her life in secret is taking its toll on her soul—and her heart. When members of the Dread Penny Society begin disappearing, Móirín turns to her friend Detective Constable Fitzgerald Parkington for help. The two have developed a friendly rapport, and Móirín feels like she can trust him, though perhaps not with all of her secrets.

Fitzgerald Parkington has a sixth sense when it comes to tracking down criminals, which is why he’s recently been transferred to the Detective Department at Scotland Yard. But when roadblocks and red tape keep him from tracking down the criminal mastermind known as “The Tempest,” he must rely on the one woman who has unexpectedly captured his heart—the brash, bold, and fiery Irish lass, Móirín Donnelly. 

As the Tempest’s deadly reach threatens to overwhelm all of London, Móirín and Fitz are caught in an elaborate game of cat and mouse that leads down back alleys, through dark London buildings, and right to the gates of Kensington Palace. Móirín has one chance to save Fitz and the Dread Penny Society from the Tempest, and she might have to sacrifice her one chance at love to do so. 

My Review: 
First, let me emphatically state that this series MUST be read in order, so if you haven't read the earlier books, stop reading this review and get a copy of The Lady and the Highwayman and dive in! 
If you need a quick review of the other books in the series, take a look here: 
Now, my review...
I love everything about this book! This has been my most-anticipated book of the year, and I'm happy to report that it exceeded my very high expectations. 
Characters--Móirín Donnelly is just a fantastic lead character. I've loved every glimpse of her throughout the series and was so stoked when I first found out that she'd get her own book, and this totally exceeded any expectations I had. Detective Constable Fitzgerald Parkington hasn't had as many appearances in the series, but seeing him alongside Móirín, I totally adored him. They are perfect for each other. They're terrific at supporting each other and teasing each other. I absolutely adore a book with good banter, and Sarah M. Eden does banter better than just about anyone! Secondary characters are also great; I love seeing all of my favorite characters from the earlier books in the series.

Plot--Holy cow! I reread all of the previous books right before reading this one so everything would be fresh in my mind, and while that's not strictly necessary to enjoy the book, I'm so glad I did because it just made it that much more intriguing as I tried to guess what would happen next based on what had happened before. I'm so impressed by how everything came together. 

Setting--This series piqued my interest in Victorian England, and it's only grown since the first book. I love seeing what life was like for various classes of people in Victorian England. 

Writing--Sarah M. Eden is my favorite author; I just really love her writing style. Everything is planned out so well and the writing is smart, fast, and engaging. (I also love the fact that she's an avid researcher so I can trust that the details are right!) I know there are some readers who don't love having the penny dreadfuls thrown into the books, but I've enjoyed each one. I love seeing the parallels between the penny dreadfuls and the plots as well as seeing what the penny dreadfuls reveal about the character who is authoring each one. (I also think it's totally brilliant of Sarah Eden to keep the voices of each distinct, rather than making each penny dreadful sound like every other one.)

So, again, I loved this book and the series. I think this was a practically perfect ending to the series, and I can't wait to re-read it. 
5 stars. Not only is this one of my picks for one of the best books of the yea, it gets the title of my favorite book of the year.

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

The Dread Penny Society
By Sarah M. Eden
Published by Shadow Mountain

Description from the publisher: 
This beautiful, cloth-covered hardcover collector’s anthology compiles all the penny dreadful short stories from Sarah M. Eden’s five-book Victorian romance series. Included in this edition are three new, never-before-released stories. Each short story is written in the style of the Victorian fiction that became so popular during that time period. From ghost stories to adventures to mysteries, Sarah weaves these gothic tales among her romantic storylines, making it the perfect way to celebrate the Dread Penny Society series.

My Review:
I think it's so cool that these stories are gathered together--and I was especially excited that one of the three new stories is by Stone--he's one of my favorite characters. I'd love to have seen him get his own book, but since that didn't happen, this is the next best thing. The penny dreadfuls are so fun to read, both for the parallels to the main books and for the insights into the "author's" of each's personality. (As mentioned above, I think the fact that Sarah Eden could give each author a distinctive style and voice in an excellent illustration of her amazing writing skills!) I thoroughly enjoyed each story and each character. So well done!

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

So, there you have it. This whole is absolutely fabulous. I've loved each book, and I can't wait to re-read them!

Sunday, July 30, 2023

The Art of Love and Lies by Rebecca Anderson

The Art of Love and Lies 
By Rebecca Anderson 
Published by Shadow Mountain 

Description from the publisher: 
  A free-spirited artist teams up with a no-nonsense detective to capture a thief who has stolen a priceless Michaelangelo painting. 

Manchester, England, 1857 
Rosanna Hawkins is one of Manchester’s finest artists, even though no one knows her name. She reproduces “parlor versions” of classic masterpieces with near-perfect precision, which her employer then sells to the emerging upper-middle class families. 
When the largest art exhibition ever to be held in England opens in Manchester, Rosanna is excited to visit. She meets the handsome Inspector Martin Harrison, who is head of security, and is immediately intrigued by his charm, confidence, and portrait-worthy good looks. The two spend many a flirtatious afternoon exploring the exhibition hall, discussing art, and sharing their secret hopes. Rosanna dreams of painting something original and meaningful, and Martin hopes to one day shed the shadow of his father’s notorious past. 
But when they discover the theft of some of the paintings—and all the evidence points to Rosanna—she must convince Inspector Harrison she is innocent and proposes a plan to capture the real art thief. 
It is a daring race to catch the criminal before he disappears with the most priceless piece in the collection—Michaelangelo’s The Manchester Madonna. If Rosanna and Inspector Harrison fail, not only will the painting be lost forever but so will their chance to paint their own happily ever after. 

Advanced Reviews: 
“Enchanting. An art thief can't prevent love from blooming.” —Foreword Reviews, starred review
“Exciting historical romance. A tender love story.” —Library Journal 
“The romantic escapades of this unlikely duo will keep readers eagerly turning pages.” —Publishers Weekly

My Review:
I think my favorite part of this book might actually have been the setting--I'm totally intrigued by Victorian England and love learning new things about it, so getting glimpses of the Art Treasures Exhibition in Manchester in 1857 was really cool. I also like the banter between Martin and Rosanna; they were quite cute together! There were a few plot points that were a little hard to believe (like how Rosanna escapes a couple of situations), but all in all, this romance was fun to read.
3.5 stars.

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

Wednesday, July 19, 2023

Swimming in a Sea of Stars by Julie Wright

Swimming in a Sea of Stars 
By Julie Wright 
Published by Shadow Mountain
Publication Date: August 1, 2023

Description from the publisher:

A single kindness can save a life.

Journal entry: Heading to school. I know what everyone will say. There goes the girl who tried to kill herself. 

Addison is no stranger to feeling stressed, insecure, and sad. Her therapist recommended she keep a journal to help her understand those feelings better, which she really needs today. It’s her first day back to school, several weeks after she survived her suicide attempt. She knows there are rumors about why she did it: A lousy home life? Bullying? Heartbreak? None of them are true, but it doesn’t matter because Addison still feels like she’s drowning. She still holds secrets she’s not ready to share. 

During the school day, Addison encounters four other students struggling with their own secrets: 
Booker is anxious about seeing Addison. They were sort of a couple until he tried to kiss her. She fled and then tried to end her life. Those two things couldn’t be related, could they? 

Celia feels trapped by her mother’s abusive boyfriend. She can guess why Addison did what she did.

Damion is TikTok-famous and thinks befriending Addison could boost his followers. But what no one knows is he needs the world to remember him since his sick mom doesn’t anymore. 

Avery is considered a loner and doesn’t know Addison, but they have neighboring lockers. With Avery’s older brother in jail for dealing drugs, Avery is desperate for meaningful human connection. 

Swimming in a Sea of Stars is a poignant and gripping novel about how we’re all interconnected, like the stars in the night sky that form constellations and map out the universe, and if even one star goes missing, the effect is profound.

 My review:
This book totally drew me in from the first page. I don't always like books with several narrators, but I liked each of the five here. I also really enjoyed seeing how their interactions impacted each other, just small things or words that were just the nudge that another character needed to think about things (including each other) differently. I appreciated the honesty of the emotions. I think that's my favorite think about a well-written YA book; the emotions are palpable. In a book that covers topics of attempted suicide, abuse, cancer, etc., those emotions and the plot could have become overwhelming, but I think Julie Wright did a great job of finding the balance of not making them too much for the reader while still making them real and not sugarcoated or overly simplistic. I also liked the feeling of hope as the book progressed. With a book that covers so much--and all occurs in one day--realistically, we're not going to see everything resolve perfectly, but I think where it ended for each character was hopeful. Part of me really wanted an epilogue because I'd love to know what happened to each character, but I also wonder if it could have felt believable; the characters still have a lot of emotional work to do and skipping that to include an epilogue might have diluted their experiences and the power of their processes of coping and learning and growing.

This book covers important topics and is very well-written. I definitely recommend this to teens and adults alike. 4.5 stars.
I read an ARC provided by the publisher. All opinions are my own.

Monday, June 5, 2023

Fairest of Heart (Texas Ever After #1) by Karen Witemeyer

Fairest of Heart (Texas Ever After #1)
By Karen Witemeyer
Published by Bethany House

Synopsis (provided by the publisher):
Beauty has been nothing but a curse to Penelope Snow. When she becomes a personal maid for a famous actress whose troupe is leaving Chicago to tour the West, she hides her figure beneath shapeless dresses and keeps her head down. But she still manages to attract the wrong attention, leaving her prospects in tatters--and her jealous mistress plotting her demise.
After his brother lost his life over a woman, Texas ranger Titus Kingsley has learned to expect the worst from women and is rarely disappointed. So when a young woman found in suspicious circumstances takes up residence with the seven old drovers living at his grandfather's ranch, Titus is determined to keep a close eye on her.
With a promotion hanging in the balance, Titus is assigned to investigate a robbery case tied to Penelope's acting troupe. The evidence points to her guilt, but Titus's heart divines a different truth--one that might just get Penelope killed.
An enchanting Western take on the classic Snow White fairy tale, Fairest of Heart will sweep you away from once upon a time to happily ever after.

My Review: 
I love fairy tale retellings, and even though I’m not a Snow White fan in general, I had no doubt Karen Witemeyer would write a story I adored—and I was right. The characters are fantastic, the plot is interesting, and the writing kept me grinning. 
In some versions of Snow White, the main character seems pretty bland and passive, but I loved Penelope. She’s just GOOD. She’s cheerful and just keeps working hard, hoping for the best. I think it can be easy to dismiss characters like her as being simple or unrealistic, but I really liked her. She reminds me of me ten-year-old daughter—just a sweetheart who keeps going and tries to stay positive. So, I really liked Penelope even if I myself might be a little more like Jeb (more about him in a minute…) 
As for Titus....oh, boy! He's a terrific leading man. His backstory was interesting and made his determination to do his duty toward Penelope but not get involved realistic--and that made it all the more fun to see him falling for her and his growth along the way. 
Now, the "dwarves." In most versions of Snow White I've seen or read, they're not really that interesting. In this book, they are a HOOT. I loved them. They kept me laughing. They're all wonderful, although I'm a little partial to Jeb, the "Grumpy" character. (If I believed in reincarnation, I’d believe I’d been a grumpy old man in another life or be aiming to be one in a future life, because I just relate to them so well! Haha!) 
The plot was really interesting! There's a little bit of mystery and danger (totally fitting for the wild Texas setting!) Seeing some scene's from the POV of Narcissa (the evil queen) and what made her tick was neat; she's not a good person but seeing what made her tick and getting a glimpse of why she did the things she did added some depth to her character. 
I liked the scriptures and messages of faith throughout the story as well. I really enjoyed seeing how Titus and Penelope relied on their faith, thought about their feelings toward God, etc. Their reflection and growth on their journey was totally believable and resonated with me because of how I try to rely on my faith in God in my own life. 
From the opening page to the last, I found this book to be engrossing, entertaining, and just terrific! 5 stars--and one of my picks for the best of 2023!

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

Saturday, June 3, 2023

Along a Breton Shore by Arlem Hawks

Along a Breton Shore
By Arlem Hawks
Published by Shadow Mountain
Publication Date: 6/6/23

Synopsis (from the publisher):
A soldier and a young woman, on opposite sides of the revolution, must run for their lives across a war-torn France in this gripping novel of friendship, love, and survival.
France, 1794

Maxence Étienne, a soldier for the République, believes fiercely in the revolution that is bringing liberty to France. But even though the monarchy has fallen and Maxence is part of a great cause, he is still searching for a place to belong.
Armelle Bernard is a young woman from Breton whose father was sentenced to death for hiding counterrevolutionaries. She decides to confront the priest who betrayed her father, and as the conflict escalates, she herself is ordered to be executed—an order to be carried out by Maxence.
Maxence has seen his share of violence and bloodshed, but he also carries a tragic secret and can’t bring himself to carry out his assignment. In allowing Armelle to escape, he is forced to combat a fellow soldier, who dies in the struggle.
Though Armelle and Maxence are strangers and on opposite sides of the revolution, they find themselves united as fugitives of the new republic. Now they must find a way to trust each other as they search for a path to peace, and to freedom.

About the Author:
ARLEM HAWKS began making up stories before she could write. Living all over the western United States and traveling around the world gave her a love of cultures and people and the stories they have to tell. She has a bachelor’s degree in communications, with an emphasis in print journalism, and she lives in Utah with her husband and four children.

Advance Praise:
“Hawks continues to brilliantly mine the political turmoil in France during its bloody revolutionary years. When soldier Maxence Étienne refuses to shoot Armelle Bernard for throwing a bucket at a comrade, Armelle decides it is only fair that she, in turn, try to save Maxence’s life. With some help from her family and friends, Armelle organizes Maxence’s escape from prison, where he has been flung for refusing to follow orders. However, Armelle has another reason for helping break Maxence out of jail; she's hoping that he can provide her with information that could be the key Armelle needs to locate her fugitive father. Hawks creates compelling story lines that not only vividly bring this dramatic era to life but also allow readers to experience it intimately through individual characters and their search for love, happiness, and security amidst radical political change.”
My Review:
Arlem Hawks is a talented writer and I've greatly enjoyed the other books I've read by her, so I opted to read this one even though the French Revolution is definitely not one of my favorite time periods to read about. I liked the contrasts between Armelle and Maxence, both in regards to their personalities and their beliefs. So many of their interactions made me laugh, even in the midst of such a dark setting. The book was a bit slow at times, but overall, this was a highly enjoyable book.
4 stars.
I read an ARC provided by the author. All opinions are my own. .

Friday, April 28, 2023

A Heart Worth Stealing by Joanna Barker

Synopsis (from the publisher)
Little Sowerby, England, 1802 
 Miss Genevieve Wilde—a magistrate’s daughter and independent heiress—is determined to meet life’s challenges all on her own, just as her late father had taught her. So when her father’s pocket watch is stolen, she will do anything to get it back, especially when the local authorities prove incompetent. 

Upon reading an advertisement in the paper, she takes a chance and contacts a thief-taker to find the watch. It’s a choice Ginny regrets when former Bow Street officer Jack Travers arrives on her doorstep. He is frustratingly flirtatious, irritatingly handsome, and entirely unpredictable, and Ginny wonders if she’ll be able to resist such a man. 

But after Ginny discovers that the missing watch is just a small part of a larger, more frightening plot against her, she needs Jack’s help more than ever. To protect her home and her reputation, the two enter into a risky charade—pretending Jack is her cousin so he can begin his investigation, starting with the household staff. As they work together to unravel the mystery, Ginny finds herself falling fast for her charismatic thief-taker, leaving her heart in just as much danger as her life.

About the Author
JOANNA BARKER firmly believes that romance makes everything better, which is why she has fallen in love with writing Regency romances. When she’s not typing away on her next book, she’s listening to podcasts, eating her secret stash of chocolate, or adding things to her Amazon cart. Joanna’s books have received praise from Publishers Weekly, the Historical Novel Society, Readers’ Favorite, and more. She thinks being an author is the second-best job in the world—right after being a mom. She is just a little crazy about her husband and three wild-but-loveable kids. For author interview requests, please contact Callie Hansen at 

Advance Praise
“Opposites attract in this adorable Regency romance. When the authorities refuse to believe Miss Genevieve “Ginny” Wilde’s claims that the watch bequeathed to her by her late father, a magistrate, was stolen, not misplaced, Ginny hires thief-taker Jack Travers to investigate. To preserve Ginny’s reputation, they’re forced to pretend to be cousins while he’s residing at her estate—but their lingering stares and obvious attraction threaten the ruse. Jack proves easy to crush on: he’s witty, sweet, and thoughtful, with just a touch of a bad boy persona. Unique characters and a fast-paced mystery add flavor to this sweet romance.” —Publishers Weekly 

“Barker does an admirable job conveying Jack and Ginny’s passionate chemistry without revealing too much, while the side cast, including a disapproving butler, an unconventional set of friends, and a rival suitor for Ginny’s affections, are all thoroughly enjoyable. An excellent choice for readers who love both traditional Regencies and detective mysteries.” —Library Journal

“Beguiling. Pairs an unusual, independent young woman with a compelling investigator to captivating effect.” —Foreword Reviews

Upcoming Appearance 
Saturday, May 6 
Layton Deseret Book 
754 N Main St, Layton, UT 84041 
1-3 PM 
Games, Giveaways, and more! 
 With authors, Arlem Hawks, Heidi Kimball, Esther Hatch, Jennifer Moore, and Nancy Campbell Allen

A Heart Worth Stealing is the 50th installment in the Proper Romance® series, a collection of award-winning, clean romance novels written by 13 authors across a wide spectrum of genres, including Regency, Victorian, and Contemporary. These stories feature relatable heroines, handsome heroes, obstacles to overcome and happy endings. Learn more at

My Review
Oh my goodness, I loved this book so much! I seriously smiled so much as I read it. It just has it all--great writing, a compelling plot, a great setting, amazing characters, and fantastic banter. Oh man, I love characters who are intelligent and witty and have good banter, and Ginny and Jack both fit the bill. Ginny is my favorite type of heroine--she's smart and independent and not about to sit by while Jack does all of the work. And Jack is my favorite type of hero--he's got a little bit of the bad boy element to him but has a good heart and tries to support Ginny rather than hold her back. The only thing that might have made this book any better is if we had some chapters from Jack's POV. It is adorable as it...but man, even a few scenes from his POV would have been amazing. (Actually, I'd love to see ALL of the scenes from his POV as well as Ginny's. I'm sure that wouldn't ever happen, but maybe the author will give us a bonus scene sometime in the future...I can only hope!) Easily one of my favorite books of the year and one I definitely want to re-read soon!
5 stars and one of my picks for Best of 2023.

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

Saturday, March 11, 2023

Carnival Quest (The Candy Shop Wars #3) by Brandon Mull

Carnival Quest (The Candy Shop War #3)
By Brandon Mull
Published by Shadow Mountain
Publication Date: March 14th, 2023

 Watch the Book Trailer:

The Blue Falcons is a secret kid’s club that fights against a family of villainous magicians. Using an impressive arsenal of magical candy, Nate, Summer, Trevor, and Pigeon defeated Belinda White, a sinister candy shop owner who almost seized control of their town, and her brother, Jonas White, a maniacal arcade operator who tried to turn the planet into his personal puppet.
Now, the Blue Falcons believe they must battle the third sibling—Camilla, who has brought the Dreams and Screams International Carnival to their town of Colson, California.
Rumors are spreading about the new carnival. Those who visit feel compelled to return. Some who enter the labyrinthine Fun House disappear for days. And the Big Top is said to bewitch audience members.
The Blue Falcons think they know who is responsible and are ready to fight, but the carnival blocks any outside magic. Without their favorite enchanted treats, how can the kids save their town?
When weird dreams start to plague everyone who has visited the carnival, the worlds of magic and reality collide. With the help of a new magical enforcer, the Blue Falcons will need to learn to use the magic of the carnival against itself, including a host of new magical carnival candies, and tap into the power of their own dreams to battle their greatest adversary yet.
When I saw this book was available for review, I decided to request it, even though I hadn't read the other books in the series, because my nine-year-old son had read them--and I figured he'd think I was cool if one of the books I reviewed was one he was interested in! Haha, I really did request it because of my son's interest in this series, and he really was impressed that I got to read an advanced copy of the third book--he excitedly told his friends at school about it. (I DID read the other two books before I started this one, although I don't think it would have been entirely necessary to understand and enjoy this one.) 
For me as a reader, this is probably a 3-star book: the plot and setting are well-developed and very detailed; the characters are relatively flat (I'm a character-driven reader so that was a bit of let-down for me) and the language/writing style is all right. It's great that there's a carnival map at the beginning of the book to help readers see where everything is. There aren't as many new magic candies in this book, which was something I really enjoyed about the previous books. (The ones in this book also didn't seem as appealing--clown lips? YUCK!) So, as an adult reader of a middle grade book, this book is good; as a parent, this is definitely a book I'd give to my kids. And for the intended audience (at least my son), this book is a hit.
For my son, this is a 5-star book. This is his review:
"I liked how it's exciting and they have to use their brains to figure out what's happening and how to solve the problems. I liked how the carnival expanded and that there lots of hidden things about it. I like the names of the characters, and I think Nate is funny. I like that they can use magic to turn into different things and have different powers. I like the stuff about dreams. I like that there's a bunch of different characters, and it's really interesting."
So, he really enjoyed it and has started asking when Brandon Mull's next signing event is so he can see him and get his books signed! So, with it getting 3 stars from me and 5 stars from him, we'll average at 4 stars.
I read an ARC provided by the publisher. All opinions are my own.

About the Author: 
BRANDON MULL is the #1 New York Times best-selling author of the Fablehaven, Beyonders, and Five Kingdoms series. A kinetic thinker, Brandon enjoys bouncy balls, squeezable stress toys, and popping bubble wrap. He lives in a happy little valley in Utah with his wife, Erlyn, their eleven children, and a dog named Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Brandon loves meeting his readers and hearing about their experiences with his books. 

For author interview requests, please contact Callie Hansen at 

Other Books by Brandon Mull: 
The Candy Shop War Series 
The Candy Shop War 
The Candy Shop War: Arcade Catastrophe 

Fablehaven Series 
Rise of the Evening Star 
Grip of the Shadow Plague 
Secrets of the Dragon Sanctuary 
Keys to the Demon Prison 

Dragonwatch Series 
Wrath of the Dragon King 
Master of the Phantom Isle 
Champion of the Titan Games 
Return of the Dragon Slayers 

Five Kingdoms Series 
Sky Raiders 
Rogue Knight 
Crystal Keepers 
Death Weavers 
Time Jumpers 

Beyonders Series 
A World without Heroes 
Seeds of Rebellion 
Chasing the Prophecy 

Advance Praise: “A fun fantasy novel in which plucky children explore an evil-infused carnival to save the world from its creepy embrace.” —Foreword Reviews 
“Magical minions of various (and sometimes gross) abilities, Mull trots his twist-laden plot forward to a well set-up climax. He dishes up a crowd-pleaser as delicious—if not so weird— as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory." —Kirkus, from book 1 
“A delectable fantasy adventure where magical candies give four friends super powers to save their town.” —Foreword Reviews, from book 1 

Saturday, March 4, 2023

Bash (vol 1) by Rudy Gobert

Bash! (vol. 1)
Written by Rudy Gobert and Hellef Bay
Illustrated by Vince Serrano
Published by Titan Books

Synopsis (from the publisher):
Young Rudy comes from the poor neighborhood of Nevilia, but dreams of a being a BASH star, and his talent might just make it happen: but can he make it while threats come from every corner of the galaxy? 

Throughout the universe, there’s one sport that everyone’s a fan of: BASH! A brutal, high-octane version of basketball: its players are rockstars, legends, gods, and for young Rudy, a poor kid from Nevilia, his only dream is to be one of them. 
Rudy’s got talent, but talent is nothing without practice and so he sets out to become the best BASH player in the galaxy, always training, always reaching for jut one more dunk. And while Rudy is starting to get noticed by the teams and the talent scouts, other, more sinister forces have started to creep out from the shadows, jealous of this rising young star. 

I'll start out with a few disclaimers: my family are lifelong Utah Jazz fans and we were quite disappointed when Rudy Gobert was traded away in the off-season, and Gobert is my daughter's favorite player. So, I'm probably inclined to like this book--but at the same time, as a former librarian and an avid bibliophile, I've read a LOT of books and will be (kindly) honest if I don't like a book. So, that said, when I saw that Gobert had a graphic novel coming out, I immediately went to NetGalley to see if I could get an eARC to read it early; the publisher graciously granted my request. I did have issues with the formatting--the book displayed sideways and split pages into two--no matter what device I tried to read it on. So, it wasn't the smoothest reading experience, and I definitely want to get my hands on a physical copy to read, but I still got a good enough feel for the book to give an honest review. 

The book spent a lot of time on backstory (which makes sense, as it's the first volume in a series), so there's not a ton of action but enough to keep it interesting. There are appealing storylines--the main character wanting to excel at Bash, a hyped-up basketball-like sport; his father having left the family years before and the impact on him and his mother; as well as the political storm that he has no idea is coming, as earth's colonial rule Sybelius is sending a delegation to find that missing father, who is more than he seemed. All of those will draw readers in and want them to know more. There are really cool details--like the rules of bash, which include environmental changes during the game--and the illustrations are terrific. There were some clichés--a parent who doesn't love the game that the main character loves, an opponent with a pretty girlfriend that he doesn't treat well--as well as some ideas that weren't developed as well as I would have liked (I didn't find the mother's reasons for blaming the bash to be strong enough, and the reason why so many people love this game even though it can lead to death didn't come through). Characters are mostly flat, and sometimes the writing felt stilted, with an over-reliance on dialogue to explain things that happened in the past, which didn't quite feel like realistic conversations, as well as moments that the language seemed to reflect the fact that English isn't Gobert's native tongue. None of those are huge problems, and readers who are looking solely for entertainment rather than planning to write a review might well skip right over them. 

Overall, I think it's an interesting book that will appeal to a lot of teenagers as well as fans of basketball and of Gobert himself. I definitely want to continue the series to see what happens next! 

4 stars!

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

Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Wyoming Wild by Sarah M. Eden

Wyoming Wild (Savage Wells #3) 
By Sarah M. Eden 
Published by Shadow Mountain 
Publication date: March 7, 2023


Hearts collide when a sheriff’s daughter asks a hardened US Marshal to join her fight for justice and rid a small town of her corrupt father.

Wyoming Territory, 1876

US Marshal John “Hawk” Hawking is one of the most respected lawmen in the West, so when a telegram arrives from the small town of Sand Creek warning him of a death threat against him, he immediately begins an investigation.

Posing as a farmer, Hawk heads to Sand Creek, a town ruled by a violent and corrupt sheriff. Only one person is trying to stop him—Liesl, the sheriff’s own daughter. When she meets the self-assured and attractive new farmer, John, she hopes he might help her in the fight for justice.

John is completely unfazed by Sheriff Hodges’s attempts at intimidation, and Liesl is quickly swept up by Hawk’s courage and integrity. Just as quickly, Hawk finds himself falling for Liesl’s strength and bravery, as well as her grace and beauty.

When Liesl discovers John’s true identity, she feels betrayed. Despite her lingering distrust of him, Liesl agrees to work with him to enact a dangerous plan that will put the criminals away forever. Liesl must put her life, and her heart, in the hands of his lawman if she has any hope of saving her family and her town.

About the Author:

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

Advance Praise:

"Page-turning historical romance. The well-matched pair bond as they band together to fight crime, with gruff Hawk revealing his sweet side and admirable Liesl displaying her strength. Packed with memorable, complex characters, this thoroughly satisfying, G-rated romance will have readers on the edge of their seats." —Publishers Weekly, starred review

"With lots of danger and intrigue, Eden's latest will keep readers on the edge of their seats. Fans of Eden's The Sheriffs of Savage Wells will be happy to see so many familiar faces return to action here."

Library Journal

My Review:

This is another terrific book by Sarah M. Eden! Hawk and Liesl are both such great characters, each with their own worries and burdens. I liked seeing how they worked together and were able to open up throughout the book. The chemistry between them wasn't quite as pronounced as it was between the couples in the previous books in the series, but they're such a good match for each other and they just felt right together. I love the secondary characters, too--I don't think it's possible to read one of her books and not find at least one character you hope will be getting his/her own book in the series soon, and that definitely happened here. The plot was really interesting and the pacing was good. Just all around totally enjoyable. After reading this one, I want to go back to the beginning of the series and re-read all three books! 
4.5 stars. 
 I read an ARC provided by the publisher. All opinions are my own. 

Upcoming Appearances: 
February 16, 2023 
 An Evening of Proper Romance 
6-9 PM 
Wadley Farms
 Lindon, UT 
Tickets sold out 

March 7, 2023 
12-2 PM CST 
Latter-day Book and Gifts 
Houston, TX 

March 8, 2023 
12-2 PM CST 
LDS Books 
Dallas, TX 

March 11, 2023 
1-3 PM MST
Deseret Book 
Denver, CO 

March 14, 2023 
5-7 PM MDT 
Seagull Book 
Spanish Fork, UT 

March 15, 2023 
5-7 PM MDT 
Seagull Book 
South Jordan, UT 

March 16, 2023 
4-6 PM MDT 
Deseret Book 
Layton, UT 

March 18, 2023 
11-1 PM MDT 
Deseret Book 
Logan, UT

Wyoming Wild is the 48th installment in the Proper Romance® series, a collection of award-winning, clean romance novels written by 12 authors across a wide spectrum of genres, including Regency, Victorian, and Contemporary. These stories feature relatable heroines, handsome heroes, obstacles to overcome and happy endings. Learn more at

 Shadow Mountain Publishing is a publisher of New York Times bestselling books and series. We cultivate stories worth telling, questions worth exploring, and beauty worth sharing to improve the lives of families, children, and our society. Learn more at

Thursday, January 19, 2023

A Match in the Making (The Matchmakers #1) by Jen Turano

A Match in the Making (The Matchmakers #1)
By Jen Turano 
Published by Bethany House 
Publication Date: February 21. 2013 

Description (from the author's website):
Miss Gwendolyn Brinley accepted a temporary paid companion position for the Newport summer season, believing it would be a lark to spend the summer in America’s most exclusive town. She suddenly finds her summer turning anything but amusing when her employer expects her to take over responsibilities as an assistant matchmaker. Tasked with the daunting prospect of attaining advantageous matches for her clients, Gwendolyn soon finds herself in the company of Mr. Walter Townsend, the catch of the Season, but a gentleman Gwendolyn finds beyond annoying.
Walter is reluctantly in search of a wife for the sake of his unruly motherless children. What he wasn’t expecting was Miss Brinley, who turns his quest for a new wife into a complete and utter debacle.
The more time they spend together throughout the Newport Season, the harder it is for Gwendolyn to find Walter a wife when she realizes his perfect match might be...her.
USA Today bestselling author Jen Turano’s trademark wit, sweet romance, and hilarious mischief will keep you turning the pages of this lively Gilded Age tale.

About the Author:
Named one of the funniest voices in inspirational romance by Booklist, Jen Turano is a USA Today bestselling author, known for penning quirky historical romances set in the Gilded Age. Her books have earned Publishers Weekly and Booklist starred reviews, top picks from Romantic Times, and praise from Library Journal. She's been a finalist twice for the RT Reviewers' Choice Awards and had two of her books listed in the top 100 romances of the past decade from Booklist. She and her family live outside of Denver, Colorado. Readers can find her on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, and at

Jen Turano's books are always a delight to read! They are so funny, and this one is no exception. In the hands of a lesser storyteller, the eccentricities of some characters and the shenanigans of others could quickly become tiresome, but Turano does a fabulous job of making even over-the-top situations believable and humorous rather than annoying. 
I'm very much a character-driven reader and I've read all of Turano's books, so it's pretty big thing when I say that Gwendolyn might very well be my favorite of ALL of her heroines. She is just my sort of person--intelligent, capable, and direct. I love how she says the things that need to be said without beating around the bush and how she so adeptly solves problem after problem and refuses to bow to society's expectations. Walter was a bit of a dolt initially (not a good parent, not believing in love, etc.), but in an endearing way, and I loved seeing him change throughout the book. Walter's children, especially Oscar, just stole my heart. I'm hoping we'll see more of secondary characters Gideon and Adelaide in the next book, especially as one another's love interests, because I really liked both of them as well.
I highly recommend this book to any fans of historical romance, rom-coms, and super fun books!
4.5 stars.

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

Buy your copy now:
Baker Book House (40% off and FREE shipping) 

Giveaway!! Enter to win a free copy of the book on Goodreads!

Can't wait for release day? Read a sneak peak! (Just look for the "Free Preview" button at the bottom.) And if you need more of Jen's writing to tide you over until the book comes out, check out my reviews of several of her other amazing stories!

Sunday, January 15, 2023

My First Veggie Bible Stories

My First Veggie Bible Stories
Written by by Pamela Kennedy and Anne Kennedy Brady
Illustrated by Jerry Pittenger
Published by Worthy Publishing

Description from the publisher:
Join the VeggieTales characters as they share favorite Bible stories and introduce young readers to the Bible.
Guaranteed to appeal to little ones, My First Veggie Bible Stories brings fans a collection of twelve favorite Bible stories. With retellings of stories selected from the Old and New Testaments, this book serves as an ideal introduction to the Bible for little ones, with the signature charm of a brand beloved by kids and long trusted by parents.
Told with simple, engaging language, the stories are accompanied by bright, colorful illustrations featuring Bob, Larry, Junior Asparagus, Laura Carrot, and other favorite VeggieTales characters. This padded board book is just the right companion for little ones, perfect for on-the-go reading or family storytime.

What a cute book! I pulled it out intending to read it with my three-year-old, but before I had a chance, my nine-year-old twins and my six-year-old each read it on their own! And when I did get a chance to read it with my three-year-old, my older children listened in, even though they'd previously read it. All of my children agreed that it has great pictures and they liked the stories that were chosen and that it was easy to understand what the stories were about. Even my three-year-old good recite back details from each story after we read them, so I love how it's helping her learn Bible stories at a young age. My nine-year-old son said it would be awesome if there were even more stories in the book because he wanted to read more! As a parent, I found it to be very accessible to young children as well as engaging for them. I love each of the twelve stories included and love this easy way to start a discussion with my children about what we can learn from them. The only thing I might have changed is to include the story of Jesus Christ's death because the final story talks about His resurrection (but it's not a big deal that it wasn't included; it was just a small thing that I noticed). All in all, I think the book is excellent, and my kids all agree!
5 stars.
I read a copy of the book provided by the publisher. All opinions are my own.

Friday, January 13, 2023

Hearts of Steel (Blackstone Legacy #3) by Elizabeth Camden

Hearts of Steel (Blackstone Legacy #3)
By Elizabeth Camden
Published by Bethany House

Description from the publisher:
Maggie Molinaro survived a hardscrabble childhood in the downtrodden streets of Manhattan to become a successful businesswoman. After a decade of sacrifice, she now owns a celebrated ice cream company, but when she offends a corrupt banker, she unwittingly sets off a series of calamities that threaten to destroy her life's work.
Liam Blackstone is a charismatic steel magnate committed to overhauling factory conditions for the steelworkers of America. Standing in his way is the same villain determined to ruin Maggie. What begins as a practical alliance to defeat a common enemy soon evolves into a romance between two wounded people determined to beat the odds.
A spiraling circle of treachery grows increasingly dangerous as Liam and Maggie risk their lives and fortune for the good of the city. It will require all their wit and ingenuity to navigate the dangerous waters ahead, but their crusade could cost them everything.

I was already in the middle of three books when this one arrived in the mail, but I paused all of them and started this one because I've been eagerly awaiting Liam's story. I knew from the first book in the series that I would like his book the best, and I was totally right. Normally it takes me a few days to get through a book because I don't have large chunks of time to read, but I devoured this one and finished it in less than two days--every spare minute I had, I grabbed my copy to continue reading.
Liam and Maggie are quite possibly my favorite of Elizabeth Camden's characters ever (and I've read all of her books). I just loved them. Liam just felt so real, with his flaws and his temper and his numerous mistakes--and with his huge heart that keeps him fighting for those he cares about. Maggie was a great complement to him--hard-working and practical and determined. I loved them each individually as well as together.
I also loved the historical details--it was just fascinating to get a glimpse at how Maggie made ice cream, how ice was delivered, and how other businesses worked. I also found it fascinating that Liam and Maggie's enemy was actually a real person in history. The details were rich and woven so well into the story. This book hooked me from the start, and my interest never waned. Just an exciting, entertaining read from start to finish!
5 stars!

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

Monday, January 2, 2023

The Earl's Hideaway, No Ladies Allowed (Romance of Rank #2) by Esther Hatch

The Earl's Hideaway, No Ladies Allowed (Romance of Rank #2)
By Esther Hatch

If there is one woman Samson Rutherford, Earl of Riverton, can’t abide, it is his meddling sister. He has spent his whole life being a pawn in her plans and tricks, but when one of her schemes leaves him dressed in women’s clothing, he has finally had enough. He cannot beat her at her games, or even say no to her, his only option to save his sanity and pride is to run away--and fortunately, his solicitor knows just the place…
Catherine Wallace wasn’t born to be a governess, but with her family’s fall from grace, she has become one. A good one. However, when the chance arises to stay at her uncle’s home so she can care for his horticulture project while he is absent, she jumps at the chance. Leaving her position, she plans to gather her sisters together so they can be a family again--even if it is only for a little while.
But the last thing Catherine expected to find upon her arrival was her childhood friend. Samson has sequestered himself at the cottage and claims to have been invited to watch over her uncle’s business while he is away. But Catherine insists that’s what she’s been asked to do. The quiet retreat is what they both need, but who will get to stay?
Not Samson, because he has never gotten the better of a woman, not since… well, not since Catherine let him kiss her years ago…
Come to think of it, perhaps it is time for Samson to win after all.
Poor Samson! His sister really was a lot to handle! I would have gotten sick of her a lot sooner than he did! In fact, at the outset of the book, I think I felt more strongly (negatively) toward Dru than I did positively toward either Samson or Catherine; I just wasn't very invested in them early on. As I read on, I did connect with them more, and I really wanted to see them figure things out! I totally loved the ending of the book. If you like books that are humorous (in a bit of a madcap way) with great kissing scenes, this is for you! 
4 stars.

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