3 1/2 Stars, Heidi Kimball, Jen Geigle Johnson, Low Language, Low Religion, Low Romance, Low Violence

It’s my Party

My husband and I are throwing a party this weekend. A game night (we’re kind of board game geeks) that we’re super excited about. Parties always involve a lot of house cleaning and shopping and food prep…not to mention finding a babysitter.  All of which is totally worth it, just busy.

Every time I read a book about a house party, I can’t imagine how they entertain that many people for that amount of time! The scheduling and food and cleaning that would have to go into a party of that magnitude blows my mind.

The authors of Regency House Party  gave us a little bit more of a glimpse into the behind the scenes of a regency house party in their newest series: “Havencrest”.

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All five books were fun quick reads, the hosts’ were particularly clever. A reluctant hostess adds all sorts of drama and amusement. 

Their previous house party series was released as a serial on their website. The chapters were posted weekly and flowed chronologically. I loved being able to see the same scene or sequence through five different perspectives. The character’s and stories flowed together to create a really fun over arching picture.

I liked each story in this series, individually. However, I had a harder time watching the overall story flow together. These were released monthly and you got the whole story all at once. For me too much time had passed until the next release that I had to remind myself what had happened and who was who.

As far as individual regency romances I enjoyed reading them and would definitely recommend them. I however, didn’t get the overall house party intrigue and character connection with this set as I did with the original. I think maybe if I read them all in a closer time frame instead of as they came out, it might have been different.

Here is my favorite thing about each of them:

Miss Marleigh’s Pirate Lord by Mindy Burbridge Strunk had my most favorite characters. Both Alex and Abi were well written, fun to read characters, with entertaining interactions.

 The Vexatious Widow by Michelle Pennington had really good tension between the two main characters.

Charmed by His Lordship by Jen Geigle Johnson had the most juxtaposition between characters. Jen created such differing characters in Felicity and Abraham it was fun to see her bring them together.

The Captain’s Lady by Sara Cardon had my favorite female heroine. Sara did a fantastic job creating Lucy Brooks and all the judgments and insecurities that would go along with her character.

The Marriage Bargain by Heidi Kimball was by far my favorite storyline. I was instantly pulled in, hook line and sinker. The story continued to give me all the feels up until the very end.

PS- they’re all available on KindleUnlimited!!

 

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Four Stars, Julie Wright, Low Language, Low Religion, Low Romance, Low Violence, Proper Romance

‘Wright’ from the Heart

There’s a line in the 90’s romcom “Never been Kissed” where Josie Geller says, “Someone once told me to write well, you must write what you know.” I often thought of this line while reading Julie Wright’s  recently released, “Glass Slippers Ever After and Me.”

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Charlotte Kingsley loves to write and dreams of having her reimagined fairy tales published, but she keeps getting rejected over and over. And to top it all off, her best friend, Anders, gets engaged, making her realize she s going to lose the Prince Charming who lives next door. After another rejection letter from a New York publisher, Charlotte decides to switch gears. What if she wrote a book about celebrating women for who they really are instead of trying to create a fantasy world for them to visit? She could call it The Cinderella Fiction, fill it with practical advice for living authentically, become ridiculously successful, and then find the confidence to tell Anders how she feels before it s too late.

Encouraged with her plan, Charlotte s new book practically writes itself and incredibly a small boutique publisher makes a quick offer to publish it. At first, Charlotte is excited to enter this fantasy world and play dress up, and Anders reluctantly agrees to go along with it, even though it means he’s largely out of Charlotte’s social media life and hidden from her public life entirely. 

The toll of her new life soon proves exhausting. Charlotte needs to decide what she believes in: the fairy tale persona, or the woman Anders has always loved before he’s gone forever.

At a conference earlier this year I had the privilege of taking a class from Julie Wright and her quirky and loveable characters began to make so much sense. Charlotte is eccentric, but instantly relatable. Julie wrote her in a way that allows you to see Charlotte’s growth and internalize it.

The relationship between her and Anders was more of a plot motivator than a driving force and that worked really well for this story. I especially appreciated the completely lack of cattiness between the two. The relationship supplemented the story without overwhelming it.

The author states in the acknoledgments that the book is not autobiographical, however “there were times where it felt like it might be a smidge more true” than any other book she’d written. I have to admit there were times while reading that I felt the author was talking more than Charlotte was and it pulled me out of the story.

However Charlotte’s emotions were tangible and real allowing the reader to be pulled right back in. I freely admit it wouldn’t have been so poignant if the author hadn’t spoken from experience and from the heart.

 

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.

Four Stars, Low Language, Low Religion, Low Romance, Low Violence

Disguises

I love Halloween! It’s taken all my self control to not already have my decorations up. My resistance is crumbling however. Saturday is calling my name. It’s not just the decorations I love, it’s the costumes! My family has been planning on going as Toy Story 4 characters since we saw it in July. Yes, we already have them purchased. Yes, I am unashamedly one of those people. I don’t know what it is about costumes and disguises, but I love them!

One of things that first caught my eye when I came across Anneka Walker‘s novel Love in Disguise, aside from the beautiful cover, was the title. I was fascinated with the idea of love being disguised in any way. I never anticipated it involving an actual disguise.

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“Marion Watt is set to embark on her first London Season, and her parents have spared no expense to help her secure a suitable husband. Unlike most of the social-climbing young women in her position, Marion has no desire to marry hastily or for anything less than love. But when she learns of her mother’s declining health, she knows she must keep an open mind and allow herself to be courted. What she does not anticipate, however, is that the attentions of the insufferable Lord William Everton will be placed squarely on her. He might be the most sought-after bachelor of the Season, but she sees in him nothing but a frivolous cad.

Until William inherits his father’s title and seat in parliament, he must rely on his own devices to change the world. Dressing like a ridiculous dandy serves its purposes, but he is certain his newest disguise will help him find a wife to please his parents and further his own agenda. From among the glittering group of debutantes, William finds only one woman who passes his test. Unfortunately, the perfect choice is the only woman in all of London who despises him.”

I was instantly pulled into the book by the situational conflict created within the first few pages. The tension and discomposure between the two characters kept me hooked almost to the very end. There was a decision Marion makes near the end of the book that felt out of character to me and pulled me out of the story. The story slowed a bit pacing wise for me at this point too.

However, I loved the wrap up and their declarations of love were beautifully written and heart warming. I really enjoyed the book and am excited to see what comes next from this debut author. I definitely look forward to reading more of her in the future.

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.

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

Your Escape

Last week I escaped to my sister’s house. Our kids are similar ages and they easily occupy each other. Leaving us free to read, talk books and just chill. It was amazing. One book we had both recently read was Chalon Linton‘s Escape to Everly Manor.

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“Nineteen-year-old Lizzy and her young brother, Thomas, find themselves orphaned after a tragic accident claims the lives of their parents. Their estranged Uncle Cline arrives to claim his inheritance, and his roguish ways cast a shadow over the manor. Both the family estate and guardianship of his niece and nephew were left to him, and diabolical Uncle Cline is determined to indulge in his newfound wealth and rid himself of his charges. Desperate to save her brother from a dangerous life at sea, and herself from being married off to a detestable old gentleman, Lizzy knows there is only one choice left—they must run.

Lizzy and Thomas sneak away and find refuge in an abandoned cabin. There they remain hidden—until fate acquaints Lizzy with Mr. Barton, a charming gentleman who is immediately intrigued by the mysterious young woman. Concealing her identity, Lizzy is unaware that there is much more to this compassionate man than meets the eye. Through his kindness to herself and her brother, Lizzy begins to trust him. Soon Lizzy realizes Mr. Barton may be her best hope for a life in which she can live—and love—as she chooses . . .”

Sometimes when you read a lot of books in the same genre they can start to seem slightly repetitive in their tropes and even some of the subplots. It can be easy to see where the story is headed. Chalon Linton’s story was uniquely it’s own and went in unexpected directions. I loved that.  The plot was a little heavy on the drama for my tastes, and there were a few plot points that were a little confusing, but the story moved at a good pace and held my interest.

Chalon Linton has excellent character development and I was delightfully surprised that the story turned out to be from both points of view.  The author’s description of Lizzy’s emotions made you feel as if you were in Lizzy’s head without being in first person. You’ll quickly fall in love with the characters and root for them through to the end.

 

4 1/2 stars, Joanna Barker, Low Language, Low Religion, Low Romance, Low Violence

Charades

My family and I are currently living in a state of displacement. We sold our current home rather quickly, consequently our next house isn’t quite ready for us. So we are living off the generosity of those who will let us impose on them until it is.

We are vacationing and visiting family and trying to make it more of an adventure for our kids. With each person we impose upon and with so many people under one roof, I rather feel like we’re going from one house party to another.

I think maybe I’ll convince the kids to play charades, or lawn bowls with me tomorrow. Though if we played it as they do in Joanna Barker‘s Miss Adeline’s Match, according to the regency era’s use of the word, they might wonder why they were hearing riddles instead of acting something out.

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Miss Adeline Hayes is the perfect lady’s companion: pleasant, conversational, and unceasingly proper. But when her closest friend, Charity Edgeworth, breaks off her arranged marriage without explanation, even Adeline’s superior skills are put to the test. Charity’s father banishes the two young women to the country, sending Adeline with a charge to find Charity a husband—or suffer dire consequences.

As Adeline takes on the role of reluctant matchmaker, she discovers more than one obstacle in her path. Not only does Charity prefer escaping in books to socializing, but Adeline soon finds her own attentions distracted by the standoffish—and irritatingly handsome—Mr. Evan Whitfield. Amidst an eventful foxhunt and the unexpected arrival of Charity’s former betrothed, Adeline simply doesn’t have time for a battle of wits with Evan. But the two are continually drawn together until Adeline begins to question her tightly guarded convictions about love and marriage.

However, when secrets are revealed and truths made known, Adeline must face her most fearsome obstacle yet: herself.

I loved how Joanna developed Adeline’s character. Even though the story was from her point of view, so often she was acting a charade, that the reader was slowing learning about as she was learning about herself.

Often when you have a book written in first person the personalities of the other characters is over shadowed by the emotions and thoughts of the main characters. I didn’t get that feeling in this book. Even though you’re reading from Adeline’s point of view, the other characters clearly have their own tone and voice. It added depth to not just the characters, but the whole plot.

I love Joanna’s stories, the story lines are always unique and unpredictable.  They fall under what I like to call realistic fairy tales. They have all the magic of a romance, while being wholly realistic about human nature and failings. The hero and heroine are people you can relate to and root for.

There was a point where I wanted to shout, “Duh, Adeline! The answer is staring you right in the face”… and I loved it! I had gotten so entrenched in the story and the characters that I was attempting to have a persuasive conversations with fictional characters. Having that kind of pull over a reader is some awesome writing my friends.