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!
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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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Five Stars, Low Language, Low Religion, Low Romance, Low Violence, Sally Britton

Meet Cute

As much as I love having an audio book in the background while I work on my house, they don’t always have my full attention. Getting sick over Spring Break was a blessing in disguise. I finally had an excuse to ignore anything that needed to be worked on and lie in bed, and just read.

I’d been saving some of my more anticipated books for a time when I could dive into the book without my focus being split. One of those  was Sally Britton‘s Courting the Vicar’s Daughter.

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Harry Devon, son of a wealthy gentleman who cared more for money than his family, has returned to the family estate at last. Without direction, and lacking the knowledge necessary to run his estate, Harry is prepared to leave it to others to make the difficult decisions. Until he meets the vicar’s daughter. 

Augusta Ames, who much prefers the childhood nickname Daisy, is preparing to open a school for daughters of poor tenant farmers. In the habit of serving others, Daisy determines to help Harry find his path and place in their community. When he embraces her plan with enthusiasm, their friendship begins to blossom into something more. 

But the Devon legacy is regarded with suspicion, thanks to the greed and cruelty of Harry’s late father. When the neighborhood finds reason to turn on Harry, will Daisy trust her heart enough to love him still?

Sally Britton writes some of the cutest first meeting scenes, and this one was no exception. They pull you right in so you are immediately invested in the outcome of her main character’s relationships.

Many regency novels write about the life of wealthy gentlemen, balls, and glittering debutants. Which, if done well, take us away to a different time and place. We escape through our reading. But a great author can also get you to escape into a quite village with country dances and simple farmers, Sally Britton did just that in this novel. I loved the simplicity of life she conveyed in this novel, but it didn’t make it any less difficult or real.

She writes with such wit,  that though she expertly gets her characters to grapple with life, you don’t feel bogged down with the weight of it all. Underlying it all is a beautiful understanding of real love that pervades her novels. Harry’s story was a delightful end to this series.

 

 

 

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

It’s in the Past

Usually books about revenge are dark and heavy. Right from the beginning I knew Julie Daines‘ book From Ash and Stone was going to be unique. 41QUfAaBxzL

Lady Margaret Grey of Hartfell wants for nothing. The daughter of a knight, she has a loving family, wealth, and even a secret romance with the blacksmith’s son. But all that is torn from her one fateful night when her home is attacked and her family killed. She is left with nothing but bitterness, an unwavering mistrust of men, and a strange and mysterious curse that allows her to feel the thoughts of anyone who touches her.

Now, after six years away, Margaret is returning home for one reason: revenge. She hopes that by avenging her family’s deaths, she will somehow be freed from her curse. But it won’t be easy. The identities of the raiders are still unknown, she has little left to her name, and traveling alone in the Northumbrian hills during the border wars is dangerous. Matters are further complicated by handsome Angus Robson, a Scotsman whose charm threatens to distract her from her plans. But the raiders are closer than she knows, and Margaret soon realizes that what she believed to be a curse may be the key to finding those she seeks. One touch will reveal the truth . . .

Not only was the story delightfully unexpected, it had humor and a quick pace that flowed well.

I loved the depths she gave to her characters. She gave them insight that many surface characters are lacking. Margaret saw how each choice led her to where she was and how it affected not only her, but others as well. It was more a story of changing the futures and pulling down internal walls, then it was about changing the past. I truly loved it. –M.V.

Five Stars, KM Shea, Low Language, Low Religion, Low Romance, Low Violence, Melanie Cellier

A New Chapter

We are currently in the process of selling our house! We’re excited about this new chapter in our lives, but don’t necessarily relish the work that we have to wade through to get there. I’ve been elbow deep in mudding, painting and packing, making it really easy to pop in my head phones and get lost in a book. It doesn’t lend a lot of time for sitting at my computer. However, I’ve recently read three books I just had to take a quick break from house craziness to share with you. One is the first published work of a new author. The other two are old favorites, but new series’.

Two young adult authors I love recently launched new series’.

Technically K.M. Shea’s is a new series, The Fairy Tale Enchantress, but it ties into her Timeless Fairy Tales books telling the story of Angelique, finally! 🙂

Apprentice of Magic (The Fairy Tale Enchantress Book 1) by [Shea, K. M.]

Angelique hates her magic. Her war-like ability to control any weapon has earned her nothing but the fear and scorn of fellow students and instructors. 

Until Enchanter Evariste appears. The mysterious prodigy takes Angelique as his apprentice and shows her more kindness than she ever hoped to receive. 

But things are changing in the world. Dark things. Evil things. 
Once upon a time is about to become very real…

I loved the background she created for Angelique. Her emotions and her motivations were written so well I felt them with every turn of the page. I especially love how she handled the interactions between Angeliqe and Evariste, she set up the story so well I’m on the edge of my seat waiting for book two which doesn’t come out until April 12th!

Melanie Cellier is one of my top five favorite young adult authors and she recently started a completely new series. The Spoken Mage Series. Voice of Power and Voice of Command are both out now. Voice of Dominion come out April 20th.

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For those of you who liked some of the concepts of Red Queen but like me, were turned off by the violence or the love triangle, you will love this series! It has heart and adventure and back and forth politics, in a good way. All with the fantastic writing that I always find in Melanie Cellier’s books.

Now, onto a brand new author. A Beautiful Love: A Regency Fairy Tale Retelling is the first published work of Megan Walker, it comes out on Wednesday, and I’m giving you the heads up now, this in an author you want to keep tabs on.

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Preston Blake had it all—wealth, a picturesque estate, and a growing affection with his childhood best friend Caroline Avery—until an unfortunate accident leaves him badly scarred in more ways than one. Isolated by the cruel eyes of society, Preston’s only wish is to find where he now belongs.

Caroline Avery is recently out in society, and thanks to Preston Blake’s broken promises, finds herself being chased by a determined earl instead of courted by her best friend. When, after a year’s absence, Preston finally accepts an invitation to visit her family’s estate, Caroline is determined to feign indifference to his company.

But being back together proves more challenging than either friend conceived. Caroline longs to return to the past, but Preston cannot let go of his fears. How could they possibly have a future together?

Megan Walker took the tale of The Ugly Duckling that’s not often retold, and brought it to life. Her conversations are witty and engaging. Her characters had both hope and depth. She wrote with such emotion that I found myself siding with both Preston and Caroline. When she pulled in inner battles to the stories struggle it made the tale that much more beautiful. I’m definitely a fan.

I shouldn’t have been surprised considering the company she keeps. This story is part of the Forever After Retellings Series which already includes stories from Sally Britton whose writing I’ve adored for almost a year since her first release last May. (Harry’s book comes out next week and I’m am so excited!) Joanna Barker who is a new favorite, her second book comes out April 1st! Heidi Kimball whose writing I became acquainted with through the Regency House Party, and whose novel A Guarded Heart is currently sitting on my kindle waiting for the next round of painting to begin. Her contribution is the last in this series and releases in April. (Man my tbr list is going to be full of goodness).

These ladies including an author who made her debut with this series, Arlem Hawks, make up the Love Letter Press and will continue to be a beautiful force in the writing community.

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

No More Reading Rut

Do you ever get in a reading rut? You enjoy what you’re reading, but you aren’t really connecting to any stories or characters on a deeper level? This book, totally broke my reading rut. 41AwUCn-65L

William Barlow’s life has been forever altered: his estranged father is dead, and William has inherited the title of Viscount Farleigh. Along with the title comes a neglected estate, an enormous amount of gambling debt, and one astounding acquisition that will turn William’s world upside down . . .

It is her first London Season, and Lady Louisa Hargreaves could not be more pleased. She has attracted the attention of the Earl of Kerridge, and the two are on the cusp of an official betrothal. That is, until she learns of a generations-old family debt: her grandfather gambled her hand in marriage and lost, and now Louisa must pay the price. She will marry not the earl but a man she just met, who has taken her freedom in one fell swoop. Even as she struggles to understand the handsome and aloof man she is to wed, Louisa is irresistibly drawn to him—and he to her.

But she soon realizes he is harboring secrets, and as her wedding day approaches, she must discover what her future husband is hiding before she makes the gravest mistake of her life.

Karen Tuft‘s characters were not only delightful, but had depth. William’s moral goodness and his motives to help the people under his care contrasted well with his decision to enforce the debt. Louisa’s decision to honor the debt coming from a place of duty gave a well written contrast to her desire to be loved. I especially loved Louisa’s brothers, they added such a fun layer to the overall story line.

The author wrote with such emotions that you’re drawn into their world. The scenes were wonderfully written. The story is sweet and you just want to nestle into their world and stay till the very end. Which she handled beautifully. It was a skillfully written happily ever after ending. –M.V.