Five Stars, Low Language, Low Romance, Low Violence, Moderate Religion

A Mysterious Read

In some things we sisters are very similar and in other things, like our love of certain holidays we are very, very different. Halloween would probably fall to number 6 out of my top 10 favorite holidays, and the only reason it’s even number 6 is because I enjoy dressing up.
But haunted houses, scary movies, books and corn fields I could do without, forever. I do not enjoy being scared even a little bit.
However, I do love a good mystery , Especially when it’s unpredictable.
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“When Aurelie Harcourt’s father dies in debtor’s prison, he leaves her just two things: his wealthy family, whom she has never met, and his famous pen name, Nathaniel Droll. Her new family greets her with apathy and even resentment. Only the quiet houseguest, Silas Rotherham, welcomes her company.
When Aurelie decides to complete her father’s unfinished serial novel, writing the family into the story as unflattering characters, she must keep her identity as Nathaniel Droll hidden while searching for the truth about her mother’s disappearance–and perhaps even her father’s death.”
 
Joanna Davidson Politano‘s novel is the prefect blend of mystery and romance. I appreciated that even though they were solving a murder and there was talk of ghosts, I could still read it at night before bed without needing to sleep with the light on.
The author’s character development was great. She stayed true to the characters true self. Even as they grew and changed it wasn’t like they were suddenly a different character all together.
The story was unpredictable in nature, but I did not even get close to guess the ending and there were twists and turns that I did not see coming. It is definitely a great read, and one you don’t want to read the ending of first. I’m talking to you Nikki. –MV
Five Stars, Joanna Barker, Low Language, Low Religion, Low Romance, Low Violence

Best Kept Secret

My husband is an awful secret keeper, like really bad. It’s actually quite reassuring as his wife that he’s such a bad liar, except when we’re planning a big surprise vacation for the kids. Here’s hoping we can make it the next month without him spilling his excitement.

This book however, is one surprise I’m willing to share. “Secrets and Suitors” by Joanna Barker is a surprising delight. This might possibly be my new favorite regency romance, it was that good.

41zQ9+F3mQL._SX328_BO1,204,203,200_Reluctantly returning to London for yet another Season, shy Nora Hamilton has nearly given up hope that she will ever find the love match she longs for. After all, the one man she does harbor feelings for—her closest friend, James—has made it perfectly clear he views her as just that: a friend. With James traveling half a world away and Nora’s father pressuring her to marry for wealth and status, Nora is forced to set aside her desire for love and accept the future she has always dreaded.

Until James returns unexpectedly and Nora’s feelings once again rush unbearably close to the surface. Determined to save what is left of their friendship, Nora ignores her own heart and allows herself to be swept up in the London Season, soon finding herself the object of two very different gentlemen’s affections. Though she should be thrilled, both men come with a glaring fault: neither is the one man who holds her heart.

I don’t even know where to start…Joanna wrote such a fascinating character in Nora. She’s shy and reserved, but not necessarily polite and demur. She yearns for romance, but is able to be practical. She can be both selfless and self serving. She was so very unique and yet so very human, I liked her immensely.

Each of Joanna’s books have immediately pulled me in, to not just the story, but the whole experience. A well written romance usually follows a pattern, and the more of them you read, the more you are able to anticipate the pattern. (ie. Cue appropriate tension, and this is the moment when they recognize their feelings for each other, and this is about when all heck breaks loose, and close with an excellent denouement.) A good story naturally follows this pattern, a great story follows the pattern without your anticipating or expecting it. This is how Joanna writes. I’m always curious where she’s going next.  On the other hand I never anticipate what’s coming, because I’m have too much fun with the page I’m on.  That largely has to do with her ability to write with so much emotion.

The thing I admire the most about Joanna’s writing, including this one, is her stories are not just romances.  At their roots, their about love; sisterly love, parental love, family heartbreak and healing. Though the chemistry is there, it’s more about connections, and that is what makes a story timeless.

Five Stars, Heather B. Moore, Low Language, Low Romance, Moderate Religion, Moderate Violence

Empowerment

Last night I had the privilege of being in the same room as some pretty incredible women. I felt slightly intimidated most of the night, but came away from the evening feeling empowered. Women have the potential to do such good in the world.

I’m all about girl power, however I wouldn’t necessarily call myself a feminist. At least not in the way it’s used across social platforms today. My ability to do good and be good, does not in anyway diminish my husbands ability to do and be good, and it doesn’t mean I need him any less. One of the women on the panel last night said, when you allow yourself to shine, you make those around you shine brighter.

H.B. Moore was able to do exactly that with her character Deborah in the historical fiction Deborah: Prophetess of God.

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Deborah, a young Israelite woman, lives a quiet and isolated life with her father and brothers. As a shepherdess in the hills near her home, she knows well the perils of her work. But when faced with incredible danger, she witnesses a series of remarkable events that preserve her life. The hand of the Lord is apparent, and it is clear that hers will be no ordinary life.

Years later, Deborah is a faithful wife and mother when she learns that the Third Judge of Israel has died–and she has been called to take his place. It is a tumultuous time in history, and soon, Deborah–prophetess, judge, and military leader–faces a seemingly insurmountable task: alongside the commander of the Israelite army, Deborah must lead ten thousand soldiers in their final campaign against their Canaanite oppressors with only her faith in God to guide her.”

Heather Moore has taken a rather short story in the book of Judges and created a beautiful character and an empowering story.

Heather creates in Deborah a fascinating balance. Deborah is humble yet strong. She’s obedient, but strong willed.

The story it self is also a beautiful balance between women empowerment, family support, religious dedication and sweet romance.

I especially appreciated how she dealt with the relationship between Deborah and the men in her life. In spite of  her prestigious calling, Deborah was respectful, loving and empowering to her father, her brothers, her husband and the military commander Barak. This added not only historical accuracy, but depth to Deborah and the other characters.

The romance, the family and the connections all build a world that connects you to the heart of what the people may have been experiencing and the type of person Deborah may have been in order to lead her people to freedom.

Just a note: The author does a fantastic job of keeping this book non-denominational. Though it is a religious book, it isn’t geared to any one faith. It is a work of fiction so keep that in mind, but would be pertinent and enjoyable for anyone of any faith with a connection to this time in history.

or two: Deborah led her people into war, so though I wouldn’t label this book as violent,  it does have battles and moments of violent oppression.

 

Esther Hatch, Five Stars, Joanna Barker, Low Language, Low Religion, Low Romance, Low Violence, Sarah M. Eden

Christmas in July

When I was little my grandmother held a Christmas in July celebration. Her birthday was in July and one year she decided for her birthday, she wanted to celebrate Christmas, so she did, and I LOVED it.

When I received an ARC of  All Hearts Come Home for Christmas, in July, it wasn’t quite that level of amazingness, but it was pretty close. Though I love anthologies, I don’t always love every story in them, this one was the exception.

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I had already anticipated loving “Christmas as Falstone Castle”, I couldn’t imagine a better Christmas story than one that included the danger duke of Kielder, and I did not disappoint! However, I don’t think I could pick a favorite story out of the bunch. They were all equally entertaining and heart warming.

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

–Not only was it so fun to read about Christmas at Falstone Caslte, and I will warn you, you will fall in love with the dangerous duke all over again. However,  I loved that he wasn’t the focus. I love that we got a fresh look at the dowager duchess. This was a second chance story I could get behind. It wasn’t just a second chance at romance, but a second chance at being the mother she wanted to be, and it was beautiful.

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

–This story had a little bit of Cinderella magic, a little bit of Christmas magic and a whole lot of heart.

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

–I possibly laughed the most with this one. It had delightfully witty banter with just enough scandalous behavior to be both clean and entertaining.

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

–If I had to pick a favorite as far as story line went this one would possibly be it. Joanna always uses pertinent metaphors to pull you right into the story.  I loved how much character development and story building she was able to connect me to in such a short amount of pages.

I’m ready for Christmas, who’s with me??

To win a free Copy of “All Hearts Come Home For Christmas” enter the rafflecopter below:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

Five Stars, Jen Geigle Johnson, Low Language, Low Religion, Moderate Romance, Moderate Violence

It’s Official

We are officially in our new place, school has officially started and I’m officially behind on my reviews. But those first two things should help with the later.
I’m also officially a history nerd. I love learning about the details of the past; what made them great and what made them hard. Jen Geigle Johnson has a way of not only making history come to life, but making it relevant to the reader.
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“Molly O’Malley, lady’s maid to the progressive Lady Amanda Halloway, is determined to continue the life’s work of her lost love, killed in the Peterloo Massacre. But when her efforts and a trip to Lady Halloway’s charitable orphanage culminate in her own abduction, Molly’s eyes are opened to the horrifying crimes transpiring in the city’s slums. Despite the risks, she broadens her mission and is drawn ever closer to the peril all around them. 

Thomas Flaherty, a footman in the Halloway household, has been with Molly from the beginning, but he fears she will never trust him with her heart. Even though her cause and happiness are of foremost importance to him, his loyal patience is tested by the fears that keep her at a distance. But with their safety on the line, Thomas is resolved to sacrifice everything for the woman he loves. 

Risking their lives and their love, Molly and Thomas and a team of nobles on their side will stop at nothing to empower the powerless, no matter the personal cost.”

I loved the juxtaposition this book created against it’s predecessor, A Nobleman’s DaughterWhere the heroine and hero in that story were bold and fearless these were quite and somewhat reluctant heroes who grew into their roles and purpose. Both kinds of people have a place in this world and I loved that representation.
There was not one, but two relationships developing in this book and both added dimension to the story. It was beautiful to see Molly’s struggle with guilt, and the realization that it is possible to love again after loss.
Overall the story kept and held my attention, I felt invested in the characters success and a desire to learn more about this time in history. I officially love Jen Johnson’s historical romances and can’t wait for more!
Five Stars, Low Language, Low Religion, Low Romance, Low Violence, Sarah M. Eden

Shattered Notions

About 12 years ago my sister and I decided we wanted to learn something new, so we went to our local rock climbing gym and got belay certified, thus began a love affair with rock climbing. We found we love to go in the mountains far more than in the gyms. We love the nature and the challenge. We especially love that since we have the gear, it’s free. I must admit though, I had no idea about the history of rock climbing, or how far back it went.

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I have looked forward to Holy Harry’s book for far too long, and it did not disappoint. Not only was the history of rock climbing fascinating, but making Harry a rock climber just fit so well. However I would have never thought, oh I bet Harold Jonquil likes to climb things. That sounds ridiculous. Which is why Sarah Eden is such a phenomenal writer.

From the first few pages of the book every preconceived notion I’d ever had about Harry were cracked in two. Then, the more I learned about him, the more I loved him and rooted for him to become the man both Sarahs new him to be.

This story is not just a beautiful character journey. Harold’s journey was enveloped in a tender second chance romance. As well as complex family dynamics that draw you further and further into the arms of the Jonquil family. This may have been my favorite Jonquil book yet.

With that in mind, switch gears with me to Sarah Eden’s upcoming release The Lady and the Highway Man.

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From the first page this book shattered all my preconceived notions of Sarah Eden’s writing. If I hadn’t been fully aware that the book I was reading was a Sarah Eden book, I never would have guessed it.

The writing and the plot were so very different from the Sarah Eden I was used to, and yet wholly delightful. The story was incredibly quirky and a little on the dramatic side, both of which fit the whole perfectly.  I was entirely entertained and captivated.

The two stories within the story pulled me out a little the first time or two, but the more I was pulled into the characters, the more I loved the added character development they provided.

This is why I love Sarah Eden’s writing, it continually surprises and enchants me. Every, single, time.

Five Stars, Low Language, Low Religion, Low Romance, Moderate Violence, Nancy Campbell Allen

Dream

Nancy Campbell Allen is a master of comic relief. Though I don’t often pick the more intense books too read, I love hers because of how well she balances the tense moments with the often dry, spot on, humor.
She gave the Rapunzel story a genius twist while pulling in all the great concepts we love from various originals.
The family connection she develops in the book was brilliant. The ability she had to develop both of their characters through Hazel was great writing. I love how the two girls balanced each other’s strengths and weaknesses.
The romance was beautifully written, a wonderful slow burn that leaves you anxious for more.
Loved this story! The author always does a great job of teasing the next characters so you are anxiously waiting the next book.

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Hazel Hughes has spent her life believing she is a Medium—someone who can talk to ghosts. But as of yet, that skill has remained frustratingly elusive. She is also suffering from a reoccurring childhood dream of someone who looks almost exactly like Hazel, but this dream version of herself is slowly going mad.

Sam MacInnes is a talented surgeon who runs in the highest social circles thanks to his family’s position and history. When Sam hires Hazel to assist him with his medical practice, he is immediately drawn to her intelligence, wit, and beauty. Their potential relationship is derailed one evening when a mysterious count arrives in London and reveals to Hazel the truth about her past: she was abducted at birth and her twin sister has fallen dangerously ill.

Hazel agrees to travel to Romania with Count Petrescu in order to save her sister, and Sam insists on accompanying her. The count has secrets, though, and the journey grows more sinister with every mile that draws Hazel closer to her homeland. Even as her feelings for Sam become deeper and more complicated, she fears she might not survive the quest to save her sister with her heart intact, not to mention her life. She must learn to draw on gifts she doesn’t know she has if they are going to ever return home again.

Hazel and Sam must fight their way past dark magic, clockwork beasts, and their own insecurities as they try to reach her sister in the impenetrable Coppergate Tower before time runs out.

Five Stars, Low Language, Low Religion, Low Romance, Low Violence

A Proper Surprise

I’ve been in a bit of a funk lately where I’d rather binge watch Netflix than read. *Gasp* I know. The other day I finally decided I was done with shows and needed a good read. I picked up, A Proper Scandal by Esther Hatch. I loved this sweet story.
If you recall, if you don’t maybe I shouldn’t remind you… but, we didn’t love Esther Hatch’s debut novel The Roses of Feldstone.
However, I did not even hesitate to pick this one up, I knew that sometimes not loving a book has absolutely nothing to do with the author. Some of my very favorite authors have books I don’t love.
We loved this one!
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Grace Sinclair has been callously cast out of her home. And though taken in as an orphaned child by the vicar and his wife, her unsurpassed beauty makes it impossible for her to remain in the vicar’s household—with two daughters of their own about to enter Society, the vicar and his wife see Grace as nothing but competition. Thankfully, Grace’s estranged Aunt Bell has agreed to take her in to her home in London. But Grace soon learns her situation has just gotten much worse.
It takes only a moment’s acquaintance for Grace to ascertain that her aunt has married a detestable rake. And Aunt Bell, recognizing the danger of having her lovely niece too near her husband, gives Grace an ultimatum: the young woman has two weeks to find a man to marry, after which she will be turned out. With no experience in the art of attracting a husband, Grace quickly realizes that a worthy suitor might not be so easy to ensnare.
I love how she wrote Grace’s character so up front and honest. Her story line was a different take than I had read before and I love how she didn’t hold back.
 I would love to know more about Lord Bryant. He could have a really interesting story. The side characters were written really well, interesting enough to round out the book, but not distract from it.
The author also did a great job of writing from the male perspective. It’s no surprise that men often lead with the physical. Often an author leaves it at that and doesn’t  develop the man’s perspective beyond that; which leaves you with a very two dimensional character. I really like how Esther made him still very much a man, but well balanced.
There are so many re-readable scenes in this book. I would read more of Esther Hatch in a heartbeat.  –M.V.
Five Stars, Josi S. Kilpack, Low Language, Low Religion, Low Romance, Low Violence

Just Friends

I’ve been richly blessed in my life to have some of the best people as friends. I’m twice blessed. When one of those friends expressed interest in me and I told him, “I think we should just be friends” (no joke, those cringe worthy words came out of my mouth) he allowed it, and even embraced it. It took me two more years of friendship to realize I couldn’t live without him, but I married him and have loved our love story ever since.

That’s probably why stories with a friends to lovers trope hold a special place in my heart. Especially ones that are done as well as Josi Kilpack‘s Daisies and Deovotion.

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Timothy Mayfield has nearly given up on his search for a wife. Then his Uncle Elliott presents to him a solution: participate in his “marriage campaign,” and upon approval of his choice for a wife, Timothy’s inheritance will be his.

Freed from the constraints of having to marry for money, Timothy is ready to marry for love instead. And he knows exactly what he wants in a wife. His friend, Maryann Morrington, an heiress in her own right, tells him outright that his expectations are ridiculous–no such woman exists. 

Miss Shaw appears to fulfill every single item on Timothy’s list. But when Timothy and Miss Shaw begin courting, Timothy realizes something profound. He’d rather spend his time with Maryann. Timothy must convince Maryann that she is the very woman he’d been looking for all along before it is too late.

This story pulled me right in sooner than some of her others have. I fell in love with Timothy and Maryann’s relationship right away.  Their honesty with each other made the novel refreshing and their relationship more meaningful. There were some beautifully written transitions in the development of their relationship.

I loved how Timothy’s character was written; I both loved him and wanted to shake him. Josi did a fantastic job of making his complete and utter lack of awareness believable and ridiculously adorable.  I liked him so well there were times I felt like the perspective was a little heavy on Maryann’s point of view. I’d turn to a new chapter and be slightly disappointed that we were still in Maryann’s head, and wishing for more from Timothy.

The focus on Maryann however allowed Josi to pull you more fully into Maryann’s emotions. The way Josi wrote Maryann’s emotions made them so real, in a way that allowed you to feel her hurt. Her unrequited love was written so well it was painful, and yet endearing.

There was only one thing that pulled me out of the story a few times. Maryann’s frequent lack and then need for a chaperone was a little confusing. I couldn’t figure out why she sometimes needed one and sometimes didn’t. However, it didn’t detract enough for me to not come away completely loving this book! I’m so excited to see what comes next in this series.

Five Stars, Low Language, Low Romance, Moderate Religion, Moderate Violence

You’re Welcome

My daughter, like every other little girl in the world got caught up in the Frozen saga, the costumes, the dolls, the songs. I’ll be the first to admit I enjoyed both the movie and the soundtrack, but there is a limit to how many times you can press repeat until you just can’t anymore. That’s until Moana came out.

If I got a nickle for every time I heard one of my three kids say “Alexa, play shiny,” “Alexa, play You’re Welcome.” I would be a very rich woman. That I actually didn’t mind too much, it’s adorable to hear a toddler say Alexa, but everything has a limit. Thankfully that phase ended too, but the songs came back very quickly as I read Ilima Todd‘s A Song for the Stars.41wGq01L-LL

“Inspired by a true story

Hawaiian Islands, 1779

As the second daughter of a royal chief, Maile will be permitted to marry for love. Her fiancé is the best navigator in Hawaii, and he taught her everything he knows—how to feel the ocean, observe the winds, read the stars, and how to love.

But when sailors from a strange place called England arrive on her island, a misunderstanding ends in battle, and Maile is suddenly widowed before she is wed.

Finding herself in the middle of the battle and fearing for her life, Maile takes John Harbottle, the wounded man who killed her fiancé, prisoner, and though originally intending to let him die, she reluctantly heals him. And in the process, she discovers the man she thought was her enemy might be her ally instead.

John has been Captain James Cook’s translator for three voyages across the Pacific. He is kind and clearly fascinated with Maile’s homeland and her people—and Maile herself. But guilt continues to drive a wedge between them: John’s guilt over the death he caused, and Maile’s guilt over the truth about what triggered the deadly battle—a secret she’s kept hidden from everyone on the island.”

I’ve never been to Hawaii, it’s definitely on my bucket list though. However Ilima Todd’s imagery painted such a beautiful picture, I felt like I was there. Her descriptions were not just visible either. I felt like I could smell the flowers, hear the waterfall, and feel. I could feel so much, you can tell that this novel contains all of Ilima Todd’s heart, it bleeds through ever page.

That includes Maile. I could feel her confusion, her naivety, and her strength. The switch between John’s journal and Maile’s first person narrative was a perfect way to convey the clash of cultures the misunderstandings and the growing feelings between the two. All were handled so well I found myself laughing and crying and yes even sighing.

I loved how she had John and Maile start out on so completely opposite sides, the conflict between them added depth and a beautiful heartache to the story.

The only thing I struggled with was the wayfaring. For the most part, it was fascinating. I loved how something that was so special to her and Ikaika also brought her closer to John. However there were a few moments when I felt like the wayfaring details slowed down the story right when I felt like it was picking up. This however didn’t take away from the beauty of the novel.

This should definitely be on the top of your TBR pile, you’ll thank me. So in advance… You’re Welcome.

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