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

Historical Spymance

I love history and I learning little details, but I’m finding there is a very fine line that must be walked between the history and the fiction. Too heavy on either end and it comes across as too dry or not believable. Laura Beers did a great job of blending the historical and the fictional in her novel The Baron’s Daughter.

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Lord Morgan Easton is, first and foremost, an agent of the Crown. To achieve his purposes, he has become Society’s golden boy, and a renowned rake. When it’s discovered that notorious French spy, Genet, is attending a house party in a small seaside village, he is tasked to infiltrate the gathering and arrest the spy. But first, he must convince a certain woman to become his partner and pose as his wife. The challenge is that she would rather see him dead.

Miss Josette Northcott guards her secrets fiercely, trusts few, and enjoys the anonymity that goes along with being the headmistress of a private school in the rookeries. When Lord Morgan offers her a deal she can’t refuse, she makes it clear that this is nothing more than a business arrangement. No man, no matter how charming or infuriatingly handsome he is, can know the truth of her sordid and twisted past.  

Morgan and Josette must learn to trust each other however, trust does not come easily to either agent, and when the truth of Josette’s past is finally unveiled, will they be able to accept that not only is their mission on the line, but their hearts, as well?

Though I have read some of the Beckett Files, I haven’t read them all. And unfortunately for me I had not yet read book 5 when I was sent book 6. I wish I would’ve read that one first, though not strictly necessary, I do find there were some plot holes that could have helped my understanding of the characters personalities and current situations at the opening of the story.

Despite the missing pieces of the main character’s history together, I didn’t love them any less. They were well written and engaging. The mystery was intriguing enough that though I guessed Genet’s identity early on, I was never one hundred percent sure I was correct in my guess.

Laura Beers presented the side characters so well that you were always guessing at their allegiance and trying to piece together the puzzle, a mark of a great spy novel.

I always read the book blurb before I read the book, this time I wish I hadn’t. I mistakenly assumed more about Josette’s past than it entailed, but it was a pleasant surprise, one I was happy to be wrong about. I think I would like to read it again with out the assumptions I went in with the first time.

I was intrigued with her pieces of history. On a side note, this was one of few regency books that not only discussed The Whigs and The Tories, but gave you a very good layman’s description of the difference between the two. It was a well researched and delightfully mysterious regency spy novel.

Don’t you think that should be a genre? We have a whole section on our Pinterest Reviews board dedicated to them, we call it Historical Spymance, you should check it out!

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.

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

Always Greener

I have the tendency to be swept up into feelings akin to that old phrase “the grass is always greener,” always wanting.

When I was a young teen I wanted to be 16 so I could drive; then it was, all I want is to graduate and be done with school. After graduation I was a bit boy crazy and all I could think of was how much I wanted to be married. I got married and wanted nothing more than to have a baby. I finally achieved that and not long after having our little bundle of joy I found myself again in the wanting.

Who knew babies would be such work ;). I don’t have the time to just read when ever I want to any more I can barley get myself ready for the day. I hate being cooped up in the house, I want him to be just a little older then we can go places and do things just have a bit more freedom. Now I don’t know about you but the never ending wanting is a thing that can just suck you till your dry.

Then I read Hunted by Meagan Spooner.

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“Though Yeva grew up with the city’s highest aristocrats, far from her father’s old lodge, she knows that the forest holds secrets and that her father is the only hunter who’s ever come close to discovering them. 

So when her father loses his fortune and moves Yeva and her sisters back to the outskirts of town, Yeva is secretly relieved. Out in the wilderness, there’s no pressure to make idle chatter with vapid baronessas…or to submit to marrying a wealthy gentleman. But Yeva’s father’s misfortune may have cost him his mind, and when he goes missing in the woods, Yeva sets her sights on one prey: the creature he’d been obsessively tracking just before his disappearance. 

Deaf to her sisters’ protests, Yeva hunts this strange Beast back into his own territory–a cursed valley, a ruined castle, and a world of creatures that Yeva’s only heard about in fairy tales. A world that can bring her ruin or salvation. Who will survive: the Beauty, or the Beast?”

Its a really good retelling of a classic “Beauty and The Beast” with a wonderful twist and message. Now I don’t want to spoil to much but I have to say I love how she used the story to portray that cycle I was in and how detrimental it can be to ones health and sanity.

Meagan did a wonderful job of pulling me into a well known story, yet still have me questioning things. I enjoyed that she touched on that slightly mocked part of beauty and the beast where people say its not love, its called Stockholm syndrome; and made the reason for beauty’s need to return a little more believable.

Needless to say this book was not only a wonderful retelling but an eye opener into my need to be happy where I am and with what I have in the now. -A.B.

High Violence, Low Language, Low Religion, Moderate Romance, Two Stars

A Whole New World

I confess I love getting into new worlds, being sucked into a fantasy so removed that I can just escape. However, if the world created by the author doesn’t have some common threads with reality it can be too hard to see yourself there and connect with the characters.

The world Somaiya Daud creates in Mirage is fascinating, but the words were so far removed from reality that I had a hard time remembering who was who and where was what.

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“In a world dominated by the brutal Vathek empire, eighteen-year-old Amani is a dreamer. She dreams of what life was like before the occupation; she dreams of writing poetry like the old-world poems she adores; she dreams of receiving a sign from Dihya that one day, she, too, will have adventure, and travel beyond her isolated home.

But when adventure comes for Amani, it is not what she expects: she is kidnapped by the regime and taken in secret to the royal palace, where she discovers that she is nearly identical to the cruel half-Vathek Princess Maram. The princess is so hated by her conquered people that she requires a body double, someone to appear in public as Maram, ready to die in her place.

As Amani is forced into her new role, she can’t help but enjoy the palace’s beauty―and her time with the princess’ fiancé, Idris. But the glitter of the royal court belies a world of violence and fear. If Amani ever wishes to see her family again, she must play the princess to perfection…because one wrong move could lead to her death.”

The timeline was a little confusing as well. I know there is such thing as too much detail of the past, but this almost had too little. I often was unsure if things they were mentioning were recent events or happened decades ago.

I’m not always turned off by violence, but this was a bit much, right from the get go. Though the overall story was interesting and in the genre of books that I like, the details were distracting enough to pull me out of the story again and again.

I’m a bit of a sucker for a well written make out session and the author did a wonderful job with the romance. The author described their emotions and interactions to create several swoon worthy scenes, but I never found myself completely immersed in the world she created. –A.B.

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.

 

 

 

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

Second Chance Love

I have a confession: when I hear a book is a Second Chance love story, I’m more inclined not to read it. Which is odd, my own love story (which I adore) is a second chance love story. However my particular story wasn’t accompanied by any betrayal or anger or wretched sadness that they usually entail. When we got our second chance, it was natural and easy, I’m very lucky. There is enough heartache and pain in the lives of those around me, sometimes I’m just not in the mood to read about it in the pages of a book; unless of course it’s as beautifully written as A Gaurded Heart by Heidi Kimball. 

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Three years after a shocking scandal destroyed her family and forced her into isolation, Eleanor Hayward finally has an opportunity to put her painful history and dashed hopes behind her. But reentering society is no simple task. In her cousin’s glittering ballroom, Eleanor is stunned when she comes face-to-face with the man who broke her heart those years before.

Edmund Fletcher thought he had laid the past to rest until he unexpectedly encounters the woman who so nearly became his wife. Soon to be engaged to another, Edmund knows he must let go of the complicated feelings he harbors for Eleanor. However, when the Hayward scandal resurfaces and the truth behind their parting is revealed, Eleanor and Edmund are left reeling. Tormented by thoughts of what could have been, they realize it is impossible to rewrite history. But is there a future in which they might both find happiness—and true love?

Heidi Kimball has delightfully entertaining descriptions. Emotions are hard to describe, but they’re even harder to show. Heidi Kimball does a great job of showing outwardly what her characters are feeling inwardly.

She gave her characters individual and unique struggles to grapple with, and her characters were engaging. I loved Marianne, even her side characters brought life to the novel.

Eleanor and Edmund’s love story, while difficult, was also beautiful, definitely worth the read.

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.