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.

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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.

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

“Aren’t Books Pure Joy?”

A few years back I picked up a book entitled Dear Mr Knightley, for obvious Jane Austen reasons. I was delightfully surprised to find a more Daddly-Long-legs story. Possibly the best version I’ve read. I was instantly pulled into the story and loved the entire book. I recently came across another book, also by Katherine Reay, and picked it up without hesitation.

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“One of Madeline Cullen’s happiest childhood memories is of working with her Aunt Maddie in the quaint and cozy Printed Letter Bookshop. But by the time Madeline inherits the shop nearly twenty years later, family troubles and her own bitter losses have hardened Madeline’s heart toward her once-treasured aunt—and the now struggling bookshop left in her care.

While Madeline intends to sell the shop as quickly as possible, the Printed Letter’s two employees have other ideas. Reeling from a recent divorce, Janet finds sanctuary within the books and within the decadent window displays she creates. Claire, though quieter than the acerbic Janet, feels equally drawn to the daily rhythms of the shop and its loyal clientele, finding a renewed purpose within its walls.

When Madeline’s professional life falls apart, and a handsome gardener upends all her preconceived notions, she questions her plans and her heart. Has she been too quick to dismiss her aunt’s beloved shop? And even if she has, the women’s best combined efforts may be too little, too late.”

I’ll admit I had a harder time getting into this book. It took effort to remember which character was attached to which background and story as she jumped back and forth. It was not an “easy” read, the pacing was a little slow. It was however, beautifully worded, and deeply moving. I loved all the book references, and the lovely description of the small town and its quaint bookshop.

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.

3 1/2 Stars, Low Romance, Low Violence, Moderate Language, Moderate Religion

Perspective

Confession for you all, I have always been more on the sensitive side I cry during movies, watching TV, and while reading books. Heavens, I’ve even cried watching facebook videos! Since having my first baby however, my hormones (lets just blame it on the hormones) have been out of control.

So Healed by Miranda Lotz may not have been the best choice, it is 100% a heart wrencher. I cried through more than half of it.

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“Stephanie knows God answers her prayers. Giving birth to her daughter after five miscarriages is proof of that. 

But when baby Abby is diagnosed with a rare form of epilepsy and treatments begin to spiral out of control, Stephanie is left to question why a God of miracles doesn’t guide her to heal Abby.

Stephanie’s husband, Jared, wants to try Mary’s Miracle–an organic CBD oil made from hemp–to treat Abby’s seizures, but Stephanie wants to know what God has planned for them.

As treatments dwindle and options run low, Stephanie must learn how to trust her instincts and follow her heart, finding a path forward for her daughter, and a path back to God for herself.”

The author did a beautiful job of reflecting all the pain hurt and struggle a family can go through when they find out hard news about their little angels. Miranda Lotz’s writing not only pulls on your heart strings, but gives you perspective. She did a very good job of making you feel and understand all the emotions.

I did struggle a little with the points of view it was written in, the chapters were labeled with the person’s name, but every now and then it seemed to switch to third person or even a completely different view.

Be aware of the sensitive nature of this book before you decide if it’s for you. Also a few other points: The book is very heavily religious as this family struggles in understanding why God would allow this, but it’s not preachy. There is heavier language than most books we read, so keep that in mind. Lastly, although there is no violence in the book its first chapter is pretty graphic in the telling of her delivery.

That all being said, this is a good book to turn to for perspective, for faith, and for a really good cry. –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.