Love and Lavender by Josi S. Kilpack ~ Blog Tour and Review – **TOP PICK!!**

@ShadowMountn, @ProperRomance #HistoricalRomance #RegencyRomance

Hello, and welcome to my stop on the Love and Lavender blog tour. I hope you enjoy this review of my favorite book thus far of 2021.

MY REVIEW

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ – 5 stars

Although Hazel Stillman is of noble birth, her clubbed foot resulted in her family’s casting her aside from her youth. Her twin brother’s mismanagement and squandering of the family’s assets has made it necessary for Hazel to support herself by teaching arithmetic at a school for girls that’s rumored to be up for sale. Since advanced learning classes are not typical for young ladies, Hazel’s position and livelihood may be in jeopardy. Her predicament is a precarious one unless she marries and accepts her beloved uncle Elliott’s generous dowry of fifty thousand pounds. Hazel feels insulted that her benefactor is offering this large sum as though a man needs to be bought to marry her. But she knows her prospects are few to none because of her physical deformity. So what is she to do?

Meanwhile, Hazel’s “cousin,” Duncan Penhale, is in a somewhat similar situation. He, though, is not of noble birth, but is of the working class. However, “Uncle Elliott” is also his benefactor and Duncan could inherit property that would greatly benefit him if he marries a genteel woman. Duncan is content living his current regimented life, but his employment arrangement has become distressing to him. His inheritance will remedy that situation, but marriage would be challenging for Duncan because he is not an ordinary man. He has difficulties understanding peoples’ expressions and emotions, he angers quickly, paces when he’s excited or anxious, doesn’t like to be touched, is socially awkward, lacks tact and is direct to the point of embarrassment. His peculiar behavior would be difficult for any woman to tolerate, but Hazel seems to have the ability to cope with Duncan’s various odd mannerisms. She’d met Duncan once and they’d corresponded for more than a year, enjoying number riddles that each would solve in their next letter. But could it be enough familiarity to justify a marriage? Uncle Elliott’s stipulation requires cohabitation for at least one year as a married couple. Could Duncan and Hazel live together for a year as husband and wife in order to collect their respective inheritances and then move on to pursue their individual endeavors thereafter, free and clear? Or will their uncle and aunt Amelia’s clever manipulation change both their lives in a way that neither one expected?

Love and Lavender is my favorite book thus far of 2021. It was an impeccable story that I read eagerly from cover to cover, including the acknowledgements. The characters were magnificently written and it was easy to form a bond with them. I especially appreciated Duncan’s character. Although his condition is not stated in the story it’s apparent that he’s autistic, which accounts for his quirkiness. I loved his character!! His bluntness and literal interpretations made me chuckle. Duncan says what ordinary people would like to say but dare not for propriety’s sake. And although Hazel was sometimes appalled by his directness, she admittedly found his natural candidness refreshing at times. Duncan displayed odd behavior, but he also possessed many admirable qualities. His solicitousness towards Hazel was endearing…. always helping her navigate stairs or making sure she had a proper boot made by a skilled cobbler to ensure her comfort.

Another aspect of the book that I found refreshing was the secondary characters. Although some “ordinary” people might be put off by Duncan, there were those who cherished and appreciated his intellect and companionship. A doctor acquaintance, Dr. Randall, became a consultant and advisor to him and was patient and kind. Delores, who worked in the pub downstairs and made sure he had a warm meal to take upstairs to eat after work and fish for his cat, Elizabeth. Harry, Hazel’s twin brother whose shift in character warmed my heart. His acceptance of and willingness to be entertained, intellectually stimulated and unwittingly insulted by Duncan made me smile. Other notable characters were Amelia, Uncle Elliott’s wife, who was a tremendous help to Hazel. Sophie, Hazel’s wise and loyal friend, and Mrs. Randall, the doctor’s wife who assisted Hazel with her endeavors while she lived in Lavender House in Ipswich. Truly, a great cast of characters that I grew to love and admire.

I could talk about this book FOREVER! While reading the acknowledgements I came across this statement from the author…

“This book was written during the most difficult period of my life…”

I don’t know what the author was going through when she wrote Love and Lavender, but I have been inspired by her ability to concoct such a fine story during a time of trial.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a story with a great setting, fabulously developed characters and a conclusion that will make your heart scream with joy.

Tremendous thanks to Laurel Ann Nattress of Austenprose PR, Shadow Mountain Publishing and Josi S. Kilpack for a complimentary copy of Love and Lavender. My review of its content is strictly my own.

BOOK DESCRIPTION

Hazel Stillman is a woman of rare independence and limited opportunities. Born with a clubbed foot, she was sent away as a child and, knowing her disability means a marriage is unlikely, she devoted herself to scholarship and education.

Now working as a teacher in an elite private girls’ school, she is content with the way her story has unfolded. When her uncle Elliott Mayfield presents her with the prospect of a substantial inheritance if she marries, Hazel is offended. What kind of decent man would marry for her money? Besides, she loves her freedom as a professional, respected woman. When she hears rumors of the school possibly being sold, however, she knows she must consider all her options.

Duncan Penhale has a brilliant mind and thrives on order and process. He does not expect to marry because he likes his solitary life, shared only with his beloved cat. When Elliott Mayfield, his guardian’s brother, presents him with an inheritance if he marries a woman of social standing, Duncan finds it intrusive. However, with the inheritance, he could purchase the building in which he works and run his own firm. It would take an impressive and intellectual woman to understand and love him, quirks and all.

Hazel and Duncan believe they have found a solution to both of their problems: marry one another, receive their inheritances, and then part ways to enjoy their individual paths. But when Uncle Mayfield stipulates that they must live together as husband and wife for one year before receiving their inheritances, Hazel and Duncan reluctantly agree. Over time, their marriage of convenience becomes much more appealing than they had anticipated. At the end of the full year, will they go their separate ways or could an unlikely marriage have found unsuspecting love?

AUTHOR BIO

Josi S. Kilpack has written more than thirty novels, a cookbook, and several novellas. She is a four-time Whitney award winner, including Best Novel 2015 for “Lord Fenton’s Folly, and has been a Utah Best of State winner for Fiction. Josi loves to bake, sleep, eat, read, travel, and watch TV–none of which she gets to do as much as she would like. She writes contemporary fiction under the pen name Jessica Pack.

Josi has four children and lives in Northern Utah. 

WEBSITE | FACEBOOK | TWITTER | INSTAGRAM | GOODREADS

ADVANCE PRAISE

“What a lovely romance. The historical details, the depth of the authentic characters, and the realistic dialogue all contribute to an immersive story. [A] beautiful and inspirational story about loving people just as they are.”— Katie Jackson, Regency Proofreading

“Phenomenal. This book was phenomenal. The very best in the series.”— Lyssa Armstrong, For Where Your Treasure Is

“This love story was unique and such an uncommon take on a marriage of convenience! [S]weet and well worth the wait!”— Ashley Johnson, Bringing Up Books

“Beautifully written, sensitive, poignant addition to the Mayfield Family series.”— Susan K., The Flipped Page

PURCHASE LINKS

AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE | BOOK DEPOSITORY | BOOKSHOP | GOODREADS

Labyrinth of lies by Irene Hannon

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💫 – 4.5 stars

St. Louis County detective Cate Reilly can’t believe she’s agreed to work undercover again. Her trafficking assignment was dreadful enough, but admittedly she’s the best candidate for this current job. An Ivy Hill Academy boarding school student, Stephanie Laurent, age 17, has disappeared. Her boyfriend is missing as well, and Cate has been assigned to go undercover to find out what happened to them. Thankfully, her youthful appearance is an asset to the investigation. At 33, she’s not looking forward to becoming a student again, especially since she’ll be working on the case with her ex, Zeke, who practically abandoned their relationship eight years prior to pursue a career opportunity. Cate was devastated, and collaboration on their assignments at Ivy Hill is more than she bargained for. But illegal activities are taking place at the school, and Cate and Zeke have already been targeted and attacked while trying to crack their individual cases, leading them to believe that Stephanie’s disappearance is likely linked to the school. It won’t be easy keeping up the pretense of teenage student, and pretending not to have feelings for Zeke, but if foul play is involved in Stephanie’s disappearance, Cate is determined to stay the course.

Labyrinth of lies was a page-turner. Suspicious key characters were introduced almost immediately and drew me right into the story. The intrigue and suspense held up until the mystery was solved. Cate’s teenager persona was convincing and fun to observe, along with her attempts to deny interest in her ex. The secondary characters had questionable intentions and kept me guessing as to whether any of them were involved in Stephanie’s disappearance. Ultimately, there was a twist I didn’t see coming that led to a satisfying conclusion.

Labyrinth of Lies was an excellent read that I truly enjoyed. An added bonus was that it was free of any foul language or sexual content. If you like fast moving suspenseful books with a romantic element and characters that will keep you riveted from the first page to the last, then you’ll want to read Labyrinth of Lies. Definitely recommended.

Thank you, Revell Books, for a complimentary copy of Labyrinth of Lies. My opinions of it are strictly my own.

Everybody’s Best Friend by Ken Englade – (Audiobook ~ Tantor Audio)

Craig Rabinowitz was everybody’s best friend, and then he wasn’t. Deception, betrayal, lies and then the ultimate confession severed the ties he worked so hard to establish. His apparent loyalty to his wife and baby daughter was so convincing that his network of friends supported him until they finally saw him for what he was, a dishonest man who took advantage of them and committed the ultimate crime.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💫- 4.5 stars

Craig and Stephanie Rabinowitz seemed like an odd pairing from the start. Stephanie was interested in obtaining higher education and went on to become an attorney. Craig had little to no aspirations to become anything. After Stephanie gave birth to their daughter she began working part time while Craig made money with his latex glove “business.” From outward appearances Craig and Stephanie had a great life. Craig was solicitous towards his wife and seemed to adore their little girl. The couple shared a small network of friends who supported and loved them even when Craig’s behavior was at times a little peculiar or immature. Things were normal in the Pennsylvania town where they lived until tragedy struck. Stephanie, at only twenty nine years of age, drowned in her bathtub while her husband was at home. No one in Craig’s close circle of friends believed he had anything to do with it, but detectives and prosecuting attorneys disagreed. Of course, Craig adamantly denied having anything to do with his wife’s death, and his friends supported him in every way possible, including financially, until digging into his past unearthed secrets and lies that cast doubt on his innocence. Craig was quickly going from everybody’s best friend to no one’s.

This story was told in a format that was easy to follow and understand. It was sad to see how greed and the lack of industriousness on the part of Craig Rabinowitz led to the obliteration of his family’s assets, and the desperation that resulted in an unthinkable criminal act.  A good portion of the book was devoted to building a case against Craig Rabinowitz by the prosecution.  It was interesting learning how that’s done. The audio narrator brought the book to life. If you’re a fan of shows like Dateline or  Investigation Discovery (ID), you’ll appreciate this story.

Thank you, Tantor Audio, for a complimentary download of Everybody’s Best Friend. All opinions stated about it in this review are my own.

Yukon Justice by Dana Mentink

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💫 – 4.5 stars

Someone is stealing reindeer off of Katie Kapowski’s aunt Addie’s Family K Reindeer ranch, and her reluctant aunt needs Katie’s help to apprehend the perpetrator, Addie’s estranged brother, Terrence. Leaving her dream job in Anchorage, Alaska as assistant to the Alaskan K-9 Unit, no thanks to Brayden Ford who thought her incapable of handling the job and denied recommending her for it, Katie is on her way from Anchorage to Palmer to assist the woman who raised her since she was ten years old after a tragedy changed Katie’s life forever. Realizing that she can’t capture a homicidal lunatic on her own, Katie knows she will need help. She didn’t expect that help to come in the form of Trooper Brayden Ford, the man who felt humiliated by what Katie revealed to him regarding the woman he loved. Brayden is the last person she wants helping her, but her uncle is hurting people she cares about and she can’t let him win. Terrence is relentless, and Katie is determined to get the stolen reindeer back and save the Family K Ranch even if she has to wrestle with her feelings about Brayden Ford while doing it.

Dana Mentink is a highly skilled suspense writer. Yukon Justice has just the right amount of suspense to keep the pages turning. When you consider the gentle development of romance and subtle Christian theme it wins on all levels. I truly enjoyed this book and look forward to reading others like it.

I received a complimentary copy of Yukon Justice from the author for my honest opinion which I have given.

The Secret Keepers of Old Depot Grocery by Amanda Cox

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️- 5 stars

The Secret Keepers of Old Depot Grocery is a dual-timeline novel that opens in the present day and shortly thereafter transports us back in time to 1965. Glory Ann, a young girl of nineteen, finds herself expecting and thrust into the hands of a shopkeeper who has agreed to marry her in the wake of her fiancé’s tragic death in Vietnam to preserve her family’s good name and reputation. Glory Ann’s heart is shattered along with her hopes and dreams of a life with Jimmy who is no more. But can the passing of time help to mend a broken heart?

Present Day – Three generations of women—Glory Ann, Rosemary and Sarah, have come to the realization that their Old Depot Grocery has fallen victim to the appeal of larger chain stores with their extensive variety and modern conveniences. The store is barren and customers are sparse. Sarah, who has recently arrived back in Tennessee after suffering a loss is dismayed by the condition of the store that her mother and grandmother are still struggling to maintain, the store she grew up in. What she observes now does not coincide with her cherished memories. Old Depot Grocery is still appreciated by many in the small town of Brighton for its friendly atmosphere and the owners’ exceptional customer service, but it’s not nearly enough to keep the family business, that dates back decades, afloat. Will the three women fight to preserve the family’s legacy, or will they give in to Old Depot’s inevitable future?

Unfortunately, the decision to preserve the shop at all costs is not a unanimous one amongst the women. Although fond memories are linked to the store, so are tragic ones.  For Rosemary, burying the past along with anything associated with its painful memories seems the more favorable option.  She can ensure that her mother, Glory Ann, will be financially set in her old age, and there will be no reason for Sarah to give up her life as a successful city girl and be forever tied to the old debilitating store the way she was. 

Each woman has her reasons for wanting to save or relinquish Old Depot Grocery, but they’re all also harboring many secrets that, once revealed, will either draw them closer together or possibly break them forever apart.

The Secret Keepers of Old Depot Grocery was AMAZING!! I was glued to its pages from start to finish. There was heartbreak, secrets, guilt, revelations, unconditional love, redemption, forgiveness and so much more. Amanda Cox weaves together all of the various elements of the story flawlessly. When you’ve read the last page you won’t believe how she accomplished tidying up all the loose ends into a perfectly fulfilling and satisfying conclusion. Glory Ann, Rosemary and Sarah were great characters along with some of the supporting players. My thoughts about them lingered each time I put the book down. By the end everyone exposes their secrets, comes to terms with their inner demons, and learns that while there is still breath in their lungs they can move forward in life towards their dreams. Even Old Depot can be transformed.

The Secret Keepers of Old Depot Grocery touched my heart and moved me to tears several times. I highly recommend this book. A phenomenal read.

Thank you, Revell Books, for a complimentary ARC of The Secret Keepers of Old Depot Grocery. All opinions of it are my own.

Have a great weekend everyone, and thanks for stopping by. 😊

The Good Sister by Sally Hepworth

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💫 4.5 stars

Rose and Fern Castle are fraternal twins. Fern relies heavily on her sister Rose and trusts her to keep her calm and in control. Fern, while fully capable of working and living on her own, has a disorder that causes her to experience sensory overload when exposed to too much light, sound or commotion. Rose knows how to rescue her sister from those unpleasant situations and comforts her, and Fern is grateful. Rose is Fern’s “person.”

Rose and Owen’s marriage is in trouble. Rose wants a baby so badly that it’s put a strain on her marriage. Fern could give her beloved sister that special gift. Her new beau, Wally, would be a good candidate. He’s incredibly smart and financially set. He understands Fern’s behavior and still accepts her and cares deeply for her. But one thing he disagrees with Fern on is Rose’s character. Wally doesn’t trust Rose. What if Rose isn’t so special after all?

Secrets, lies, deceit, suspense, excellent characterization and a surprising ending, The Good Sister has a mix of elements that makes it hard to put down.  I liked the structure—short chapters composed of present day and intermittent journal entries by each sister. I particularly loved Fern’s character. She was quirky and straight-forward. The book kept me guessing about Rose and Fern—which one was the good sister? I truly enjoyed trying to figure out which sister I could trust. I would have given the book five stars but the ending, although good, was lacking something. I can’t quite put my finger on it but I wanted a little more.

Overall, I loved The Good Sister and highly recommend it.

A Woman Like Her by Marc Levy

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ – 5 stars

Deepak is an elevator operator who works a building in Manhattan, 12 Fifth Avenue, for the past thirty nine years and takes his job very seriously. Deepak lives a quiet, routine life with his wife Lali in Spanish Harlem. His wife’s nephew, her deceased brother’s son whom she’s never met, comes to visit from Mumbai and Lali immediately puts him up in the spare room. She wants to know everything about their family in India since she hasn’t been back there for decades. Initially, Deepak is skeptical of the young man and assumes he’s broke and there to freeload. However, Sanji is not what Deepak expects, and his presence will change all of their lives in various ways.

Deepak’s elevator job is in jeopardy, and he is feeling unappreciated for all of the hard work and dedication he’s put into caring for the needs of the tenants of 12 Fifth Avenue for so many years. But things take a turn and Deepak’s devotion is acknowledged after all.

A Woman Like Her was a charming read that I thoroughly enjoyed! It was a refreshing deviation from what I’m accustomed to reading. The story was unique, heartwarming and original. The little tidbits about Indian culture and cuisine increased my admiration for this book. I highly recommend it.

This was a Kindle Unlimited audiobook selection. The narrator was excellent.

Wish Me Home by Kay Bratt

⭐️⭐️⭐️💫 – 3.5 stars

Cara and her twin sister, Hana, grew up in the foster care system. The experience was less than ideal so when they were offered the opportunity to stay in the system if they went to college, their adamant refusal released them into the world. Cara is now nearing thirty and homeless; she’s hiding something and she’s on the run. She trusts no one and she’s cautious about everyone. Cara thinks about her sister frequently, but where she is and why they haven’t spoken or seen each other in such a long time is unknown to the reader at this point.

Along her trek to Key West, the destination Cara has chosen because of her love of Hemingway, she encounters a stray dog that refuses to depart from her and names him Hemi. Continuing on her way to Key West with Hemi in tow, Cara unintentionally becomes acquainted with several people who are eager and willing to help her. Even though she’d rather keep to herself, she accepts the much needed help. As she does she learns that there are indeed kind people in the world, and that despite her prior experiences in life, she can be happy.

I enjoyed this book….sorta. The first part had my undivided attention. I liked how Cara’s distrust of people, because of her experiences in the foster care system, began to dissipate as she met genuinely kind individuals who helped her. Hemi, and the other animals in the book were a joy to read about. The mystery of what happened to Cara’s sister, Hana, kept me interested. However, after the mystery was revealed about three quarters of the way through the book, my interest began to wane. Finally, the ending was abrupt and I was left feeling underwhelmed.

Overall, the book is well written and I could see why people would like it, but once it lost steam during the second half I was eager for it to be over. The inspiration faded. 😔

A Dog of Many Names by Douglas Green

⭐️⭐️⭐️ – 3 stars

Fred and Myrna Corbett live in an unpopular part of California and struggle to make ends meet. Their only real asset is their pedigree German Shepherd, Greta. So they breed her, producing puppies that bring them a respectable amount of money annually. When somebody wasn’t looking, Greta became pregnant by some other canine interloper. Rascal was the runt of that litter. She’s a skittish little pup that the owners can’t quite figure out. But their young daughter, Angela, who gave the little puppy it’s name loves her. Rascal’s behavior generally consists of a mixture of excitement and fear. She both relishes and recoils at affection. She hides under flowering bushes in the yard instead of doing normal dog things. But still Angela adores her.

Flash forward a little and the Corbetts, no longer profiting from Greta, are once again falling on hard times. The last thing they need is a dog that’s contributing to their hardship so little rascal is discarded like trash and left to fend for herself.

A Dog of Many Names is about Rascal’s attempts at survival in a sometimes harsh and cruel world. She bounces from place to place and her name changes with each new human she temporarily finds herself with. She’s confused and unsure why she keeps getting mistreated by these humans that seemed to care about her. The adversity is strengthening her and summoning her animal instincts to protect her, and she’s learning how to navigate her harsh reality.

I love animals, and I’m a sucker for a good dog story, especially one featuring a German Shepherd, so I was immediately interested in reading this book. However, I should have paid more attention to the description. I was anticipating more of a Lassie type story, but what I got was very different. Rascal’s quest for survival involved the hunting of innocent animals and violent, brutal and bloody fights with others. Not my thing. I understand the food chain and all that, but hey, everyone has their preferences for reading material.

Overall, the story wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t for me. And admittedly, I did put the book down and almost DNF’d it earlier on before the more violent scenes because my interest waned. I struggled to connect with it. But I decided to pick it back up and finish it since it was a relatively short book.

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for a complimentary copy of A Dog of Many Names.

A Home for Her Daughter by Jill Weatherholt

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ – 5 Stars

Janie Edmiston and Drew Brennan haven’t seen each other since High School. They couldn’t have predicted they’d be brought together in such an odd way so many years later, but now they share a responsibility that requires them to work closely together. Even though they’d always been just friends, the chemistry between them is evident. However, both Janie and Drew have a past that keeps them from wanting to commit to a relationship. Janie knows in her heart that her young daughter, Riley, could use a stable home and family, but after enduring a mentally and physically abusive marriage, she’s not sure if she can trust any man. After a tragedy for which Drew blames himself, shattered his hopes and dreams to pieces, the thought of a new family is out of the question. How could he protect them when he couldn’t even keep his late wife and daughter safe?

This story drew me right in from the atmospheric setting to the complicated lives of the characters. I love how Jill Weatherholt incorporates adventure into her inspirational tales.  It really amps up the storyline and increases the entertainment factor. Either I was on the edge of my seat during the perilous scenes or I was imagining the beautiful surroundings during the more peaceful times. Not only was I getting an engaging emotional story, but the dappling of dramatic elements kept me fully alert while fervently turning pages. The angst appears at all the right times and propels the story forward. I was invested in the MC’s, Drew and Janie. Janie was guarded because of her insecurities brought about by her ex-husband’s abuse. Drew lived in isolation and blamed himself for the accident that claimed the lives of his wife and daughter. And yet, the two found peace and healing in each other’s presence. They only needed to realize together is where they belonged.

I loved everything about this book! The length, dialog, scenery, animals, intrigue, Janie’s sweet daughter, the main characters—EVERYTHING. There was just the right amount of conflict, emotional elements and the perfect setting to inspire me. And it also reminded me of one of my favorite movies, so that was a plus, too. I definitely recommend it.

The Stepsisters by Susan Mallery

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💫 – 4.5 stars

Daisy, stepsister to Sage and Cassidy, has got a lot going on. Her husband has left her for reasons unknown to her, and she’s trying to care for their two kids while holding down a challenging job as a nurse anesthesiologist. The last thing she needs is her perfect stepsister, Sage, invading her life. The two were never close. Although Daisy was excited about inheriting a sister when her dad married Sage’s mom when they were young, Sage and her mother were always mean to Daisy. Now Sage, beautiful and worldly, is back in California. How will Daisy keep her shaky marriage to Jordan a secret from Sage, who happens to be Jordan’s former fiancé!

Meanwhile, Cassidy, their stepsister in common (Daisy’s dad and Sage’s mom’s child) of whom Daisy is also not at all close to, has been in an accident and needs to move into the 15,000 sq. ft. family home that Daisy inherited from her biological mother upon her death, and where she currently lives with her husband, Jordan, before he moved out. Daisy’s dad wants his youngest daughter to recuperate there and Daisy isn’t happy about it. Sage and Cassidy were always the close sisters, but even they have drifted apart somewhat over the years. How will these three siblings find peace after nearly two decades of friction?

The stepsisters tells the story of Daisy, Sage and Cassidy. They’ve had issues over the years but now that they’re adults and dealing with challenging circumstances in their individual lives, they begin to realize how much they need each other.  As they draw closer together they learn of the reasons that lead to their disjointed relationships, many of which were instigated by Sage and Cassidy’s selfish, conniving mother, and they find it in their hearts to forgive one another.  A strong bond grows but is severely tested when one sister makes an almost unforgivable mistake. Will the new bond of love and friendship be short lived?

I enjoyed this book. Mainly I liked how the stepsisters found unity, friendship and love for one another.  They had to work through many of their own insecurities and reluctance to form sustainable relationships with their significant others because of incidents that occurred during their adolescent years. Toward the end of the book their growth was evident, although one sister suffered a setback. I found this book to be relatively tame for Susan Mallery and I was glad for that, too. It held my attention and felt realistic. A good listen.

NARRATORThe audiobook narrator, Tanya Eby, is good. Carla from Carla Loves to Read defined her perfectly when she said, “There are times that her voice is a bit saccharine, but for the most part, her voice, expression and emotion bring this story to life.” I couldn’t agree more. Thanks, Carla. 😉

Starting Over at Acorn Cottage by Kate Forster

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💫 – 4.5 stars

MY REVIEW

When Clara Maxwell finds out about her boyfriend’s secret she’s devastated. Feeling hurt and betrayed she makes the rash decision to buy and move into a little country cottage, sight unseen, in the village of Merryknowe. when it turns out to be a dilapidated mess and she needs help to get the cottage in habitable condition, she recruits Henry Barnett, a widow and handyman, who lives in a converted van with his six-year-old daughter, Pansy. Henry is still clinging to the memory of his dead wife and he won’t let Pansy out of his sight, not even to start school. He’s got many issues of his own to work through.

Meanwhile, as Clara becomes familiar with village life in Merryknowe, she takes note of a young woman, Rachel Brown, who’s working in her mother’s bakery and tearooms making delicious cakes and pies. Rachel, only in her mid-twenties, always looks tired, battered and older than her years. Although Rachel is a common sight to others in the village, Clara takes an interest in finding out what’s going on in the young woman’s life. In doing so she makes friends with an elderly acquaintance, Tassi, who lives across the street from the bakery and tearooms and knows about Rachel’s situation. As Clara gets a clearer picture of Rachel’s circumstances she becomes determined to help the young woman.

While Henry works on Clara’s cottage, both begin to realize that pain and loss is a part of each of their narratives, and that with Tassi’s help they might find a way out of their own grief and fear, and into each other’s arms.

Starting Over at Acorn Cottage was an enjoyable story. The book focused on the lives of three of the characters, all of whom needed help to cope with the traumas that were ruining them. Each character had a complex situation which held my interest—I wanted to learn what would become of each one of them. The author delivered in concocting a story that kept me engaged to the very end.

My only niggle was with the ninety-year-old character, Tassi. She was very superstitious in nature and commonly spoke about the future or what different objects or animals meant. I had no interest in hearing her talk of the dead or anything else relevant to it, and I found myself feeling irritated whenever she spoke in the book. All the superstitious rhetoric became tiresome to me. While this was not a predominant element of the book, it was enough to annoy me. I wish she was just a wise old lady possessing practical wisdom that was doled out when necessary to help the other characters with their lives.

Overall, Starting Over at Acorn Cottage was a very good book that I enjoyed reading.

Thanks so much for reading. 🙂

Death in an Elegant City – Murder on Location – Book 4 by Sara Rosett – (AUDIOBOOK ~ Tantor Audio)

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ – 4 stars

From GOODREADS…

Sightseeing can be murder…

Location scout Kate Sharp is thrilled to be part of a scouting trip to the historic city of Bath, England to research the location for a Jane Austen documentary. But before Kate gets a chance to stroll the elegant boulevards where Austen once lived, murder cuts the sightseeing short. Now Kate must rearrange her itinerary and find the killer before she and the production are shut down permanently.

My Review

Kate Sharp is a location scout. She’s currently back in England working on a Jane Austen documentary in Bath. She’s thrilled to be back in England and working, but unfortunately the crew that she works with, specifically the Producer, Elise, and the Director, Cyrus, are at it again. They don’t agree on aspects of this particular production and it’s making the rest of the crew miserable listening to their verbal sparring sessions.

When the crew finally settles into the Bath Spa Hotel and begins their scouting work for the production, one of the crew members winds up dead and leaves them all scrambling to clear their names.

I almost forgot how much I enjoyed the first book in this series. Even though this is book 4 and I skipped ahead, it was still easy to follow and could easily be a standalone. I loved all the references to Jane Austen’s life and books throughout the story. The location, Bath, heightened my interest in the mystery. I’ve enjoyed several of Jane Austen’s books and I fondly reflected on those memories as I listened. The descriptions of locations in Austen’s books was a plus.

The mystery itself played out well. With almost every character there was at least a hint of suspicion. The actual revelation was clever and believable.

The audio narrator has a voice suitable to cozy mysteries. It’s calm and soothing and excellent for this series. I looked forward to hearing her tell the story.

Overall, this was an enjoyable read and I would definitely recommend the Murder on Location series.

Thank you, Tantor Audio, for a complimentary download of Death in an Elegant City. My opinions stated in this review are entirely my own.

Isabelle and Alexander by Rebecca Anderson ~ Blog Tour and Review

@BeccaWilhite, @ShadowMountn
#IsabelleAndAlexander, #HistoricalFiction, #VictorianRomance, #InspirationalFiction, #RebeccaAnderson, #BlogTour

QUICK FACTS:

Title: Isabelle and Alexander (Proper Romance Victorian)

Author: Rebecca Anderson

Genre: Historical Fiction, Inspirational Fiction, Victorian Romance

Publisher: Shadow Mountain Publishing (May 4, 2021)

Format: Trade paperback, eBook, & audiobook (368) pages

Tour Dates: May 3-16. 2021

Hello, and welcome to my stop on the Isabelle and Alexander blog tour. I hope you enjoy my review of this astounding book.

MY REVIEW:

It’s Isabelle Rackham’s big day. She’ll be departing her family’s home in the country to reside with her soon-to-be new husband, Alexander Osgood, a handsome, financially secure man who, although a bit taciturn in nature, seems adequate in affability. Even though her beloved cousin, Edwin, regards Alexander as “chilly”, Isabelle isn’t overly concerned. Compared to her cousin’s warmth and character anyone could be considered cold. An arranged marriage can hardly meet every expectation at the start. The families’ business interests are of primary importance, not Isabelle’s personal preferences. Of this she manages to convince herself.

Once at home with her husband, Alexander is practically mute in Isabelle’s presence, and she’s growing more lonely every day. She misses her Edwin. Her husband is only interested in work at his cotton mill. Isabelle is trying hard to be noticed by her aloof husband-—initiating conversation and dressing up for his arrival home from the mill. And although she believes she detects a glimmer of interest during her attempts to cajole Alexander, he always reverts back to his stoic and brooding nature. Isabelle is confused. Alexander’s house staff and doctor regard him in a much more favorable light. There must be good in him. Why can’t she be the one to bring it out?

A trip to Alexander’s country estate, Wellsgate, brings some promise. There may be hope for their union after all. But then tragedy strikes and new challenges of which Isabelle is not well equipped are presented to the couple. During this formidable time Isabelle learns of the reasons for her husband’s acerbic nature from his gracious family doctor. Armed with these new revelations, Isabelle is determined to do all that’s necessary to care for and win her husband’s love, and in the process she might just learn a few life lessons of her own.
—————-
Isabelle and Alexander was a delightful read. I relished the time spent looking on as the couple navigated the many obstacles they faced, wondering if they had the fortitude and inner strength to overcome them. Alexander was a complicated character that required patience and understanding to break through the rough exterior that ultimately overshadowed his true self. I admired Isabelle. The challenges she faced required an immediate maturity, and she rose to the occasion. In doing so she adopted a new perspective on life, as well as her relationships, including the one she shared with her cousin, Edwin.

A few words about some of the secondary characters…

The house staff, mill workers and friends that made appearances throughout the book contributed nicely to the development of the plot. Collectively, they played a significant role in propelling the story forward, maintaining my interest. One of the characters, a young girl named Glory who had some challenges of her own, but was nevertheless a great asset in many ways, was unique, complex and very likable. My favorite characters were the family doctor, Dr. Kelley, followed by the housekeeper, Mrs. Burns. Her gentle words of wisdom, along with Dr. Kelley’s, were like a healing balm to Isabelle. Glory’s parents, the Kenworthy’s, are also noteworthy. Their obvious love for Glory and their warm regard for Alexander moved me. Also, Yeardley, Mr. Osgood’s faithful butler, while mainly quiet and relegated to the background, was a loyal servant who was of great help on many occasions involving Mr. Osgood. Mr. Connor, Alexander’s engineer, also deserves an honorable mention. His dedication to the Osgood Mill gave new meaning to the words Work Ethic. I have hurriedly dismissed from my mind the two villainous characters, Dr. Fredericks and Nurse Margaret. I shudder thinking of them. Their gruff demeanors and heartless treatment of their patient left much to be desired. Even the Osgood Mill was like a character in my mind’s eye. The description of the various features and functions brought it to life. I could hear the noise and smell the pungent materials within its walls. The efficient way it operated, and the workers’ genuine concern for its owner was heartwarming.

In conclusion, I loved Isabelle and Alexander, and I highly recommend it. I believe the ending certainly leaves the door open for a sequel, and if that is the case, I will look forward to reading it. I’d love to know what further becomes of Alexander and Isabelle, as well as Edwin and his enigmatic bride, Charlotte.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💫 – 4.5 stars

A huge thank you to the Publisher, Shadow Mountain, and blog organizer, Laurel Ann Nattress of Austenprose, for a complimentary copy of Isabelle and Alexander. My opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.

Rebecca Anderson

AUTHOR BIO:

Rebecca Anderson is the nom de plume of contemporary romance novelist Becca Wilhite, author of Wedding Belles: A Novel in Four Parts, Check Me Out, and My Ridiculous Romantic Obsessions. Isabelle and Alexander is her debut historical romance novel.

High school English teacher by day, writer by night (or very early morning), she loves hiking, Broadway shows, food, books, and movies. She is happily married and a mom to four above-average kids.

WEBSITE | TWITTER | FACEBOOK | INSTAGRAM |

PURCHASE LINKS:

AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE BOOK DEPOSITORY | BOOKSHOP

| DESERET BOOK | GOODREADS

ADVANCE PRAISE:

“Anderson’s first foray into historical romance is an atypical, yet satisfying story set in Victorian Manchester’s upper middle class. Hand this to readers looking for a book that navigates the peaks and valleys of two strangers attempting to make a life together despite the hardships life throws at them.”— Library Journal

“Isabelle transitions from an unaware, leisure-class woman to a more enlightened spouse and supporter of the working class. Intimacy and romance develop between Isabelle and Alexander because of simple gestures, like a long look or a thoughtful gift, and their conversations. Their slow, stately courting is reader appropriate for any age or audience. Manchester also gets its due as a place of grit and incredible production. Descriptions of bustling mills reveal their impact on the couple’s family and its fortunes. Isabelle and Alexander is an intimate and touching romance novel that focuses on women’s lives in the business class of industrial England.”— Foreword Reviews

“Isabelle must use her quiet spunk, busy mind, and compassionate spirit to woo her husband in a wholly new way. Anderson’s debut is a lovely northern England Victorian romance about confronting the seemingly impossible and the power of empathy. Anderson also addresses the time period’s treatment of physical and intellectual disabilities. Most of all, she beautifully depicts love in its many forms beyond romance, such as compassion, patience, and vulnerability; and her characters illustrate the ways that these expressions of love carry us through even the darkest hours. Isabelle’s loving and persevering fervor and devotion will resonate with any caregiver’s heart.”— Booklist

The Broken Spine by Dorothy St. James (Audiobook ~ Tantor Audio)

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💫 – 4.5 stars

The Cypress library in South Carolina is about to fall victim to a technology overhaul which will eliminate all of its physical books, replacing them with a digital catalog. The head and assistant librarians, as well as many of the patrons, are not happy about this new development. Although their disapproval is openly expressed, their feelings fall on deaf ears. The library conversion will take place. But in the midst of this transition the town manager who was in favor of the new changes is found dead, crushed under the weight of an overturned shelf of DVD’s. There are several suspects, including the assistant librarian, Trudell Beckett, who loved the library’s precious books. Admittedly, Tru has some secrets of her own, but she insists she’s innocent of this crime. Nevertheless, she remains on the suspect list. Tru has a few theories of her own about who may have killed Duggar Hargrove, and sadly her best friend, Tori, is on her list of suspects. So when someone is arrested and taken into custody for the murder, Tru should be relieved. Unfortunately, she isn’t convinced of the culprit’s guilt, and she’s intent on finding who the real killer is. Will she get to the bottom of what really happened before someone shuts her up for good?

I enjoyed this cozy mystery. The cast of characters were lively and diverse—from young to old, ditzy to feisty. Their personalities were entertaining and I found myself chuckling out loud on quite a few instances. I had difficulty determining who the murderer was which added to my enjoyment of the book. A number of the characters had motive, and the revelation at the end was both believable and creatively executed. And what’s a cozy mystery without an animal’s presence? Dewey (short for Dewey Decimal), Trudell’s brown tabby cat, was a nice addition to the story.

The audiobook narrator had a pleasant voice and I was impressed by how well she performed both male and female characters, young and old. My only complaint is that her breathy inhalation’s were noisy and distracting at times. If editing could somehow remedy this issue I would give her an A+.

Overall, I was very pleased with The Broken Spine and would definitely recommend it.

Thank you, Tantor Audio, for a complimentary download of The Broken Spine. My opinion of the book expressed in this review is entirely my own.

The Secrets We Keep by Kate Hewitt

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ – 4 stars

Currently, Tessa’s home life isn’t the greatest, so she’s hopeful about her escape to the Finger Lakes in Upstate New York with her two children, Katherine and Ben, for the summer. She’s left her husband, Kyle, at home. Pine Cottage doesn’t compare to the sprawling beach homes surrounding it, but Tessa is determined to show the kids a good time. And things might be looking up. Rebecca Finlay is vacationing in one of those large houses next to Pine Cottage, and she has three kids: Zoe, Charlotte and Max, who are in the same age range as her two kids. Rebecca and Tessa couldn’t be more different. Rebecca is perfect in every way—incredibly poised and always impeccably dressed, self-assured and confident with an air of sophistication, attractive and well-off financially. Tessa, on the other hand, is none of those things. Yet, she’s attempting to form enough of a connection with her next door vacation neighbor so that the following three months will be tolerable, maybe even enjoyable, for her and her kids. But things aren’t always what they appear to be. As the summer progresses on both women will have to face troubling realizations about their lives, and they’ll pay a heavy price doing it.

The Secrets We Keep pulled me right in. Kate Hewitt is one of my favorite authors so that didn’t surprise me. There was an element of suspense that intrigued me and kept me glued to its pages. I could feel the tension building as I read on and I couldn’t wait to see what would happen. But then the focus shifted in a direction I wasn’t expecting and things slowed down a little for me. The book was still good but I felt like the narrative lingered in some parts and wasn’t comprehensive enough in others. I was left with questions that needed answers. I hope there’s a sequel. It felt like a lot of leading up to what I thought would be this tantalizing revelation, but that fell a little flat for me in the end. 

The Secrets We Keep is still a solid four stars and I did enjoy reading it.

The Jane Austen Society by Natalie Jenner – *Top Pick*

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ – 5 stars

What does an actress, village doctor, servant girl, lawyer, farmhand, teacher, spinster and auctioneer have in common? A love of Jane Austen and a strong desire to preserve her legacy. When these people from all walks of life come together to attempt to keep Jane Austen’s memory alive in Chawton, Hampshire, (the place where she spent the final decade of her life), by forming The Jane Austen Society, they are met with various forms of opposition. It won’t be easy competing against the greed-filled motives of others who are more interested in profit than in keeping Jane Austen alive through the valuable remnants she’s left behind. Add to it the Society members’ own inner struggles, conflicts and tragedies, and you have an astounding tale that will keep you eagerly turning pages into the night. And this is before the unexpected twist that took me by surprise and elevated my initial impression to an even higher level of delight!!

I LOVED this book!! Initially, I have to admit, I was hesitant to read it. It had been compared to another book which story I was not particularly drawn into, so foolishly I declined an ARC of The  Jane Austen Society.  That was a mistake I now regret. 🤦🏽‍♀️ Thankfully, I’d received a complimentary audiobook copy for review and decided one day to give it a listen. Not only was the story completely engrossing, but the narrator, Richard Armitage, is MAGNIFICENT!! His was the perfect voice to tell this incredible story. He managed to transport me back to a bygone era and awakened my inner Jane Austen. I found it very comforting during these difficult, uncertain times.

I highly recommend this book. The setting, characters and, if you decide to listen to it, the narration, will be worth every minute you spend on it.  I had the greatest feeling inside when it was done, and I’m sure you will, too.

Thank you, Laurel Ann Natress, for arranging a complimentary audiobook of The Jane Austen Society for my review. My opinion of it is entirely my own.

Montana Match (The Blackwell Sisters ~ Book 4) by Carol Ross

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💫 – 4.5 stars

Fiona Harrison (Blackwell), the youngest of the Harrison clan, has gone to Montana where her extended Blackwell family resides, seeking a husband. She’s using the dating app, PartnerUp, to find someone with a lucrative career who’s marriage material. She wants to please her father, Rudy, who thinks she sets her dating standards too low. Arranging to meet her dates at the Silver Stake, a local restaurant and bar where handsome bartender Simon Clarke works, isn’t helping her dilemma.  When he criticizes her use of the dating app to find a suitable partner and agrees to find dates for her, she’s a bit stupefied by the gesture. After all, Simon would make a great match if only he was more ambitious.  Fiona senses a mutual attraction, but she can’t contemplate marriage to a bartender as part of her future; she needs someone with higher aspirations to please her dad.  But Simon has a secret, and when it’s divulged Fiona feels betrayed.  Was the love of her life right in front of her all along, or is he shaping up to be just like the rest of the disappointments she’s given up on?

It was a joy returning to Montana and visiting with the Blackwell clan. Fiona’s navigation through the shaky start with her newfound relatives, along with her quest to find the perfect guy, kept me engrossed in the story. The appearance of Big E and Rudy in the book is always a highlight of this series, and the exciting ending has me looking forward to the fifth and final book in the series, Montana Wedding by Cari Lynn Webb. I enjoyed Montana Match and recommend it highly.

Montana Dreams by Anna J. Stewart – (The Blackwell Sisters~Book 3)

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💫 – 4.5 stars

Montana Dreams by Anna J. Stewart is the third installment in the Blackwell Sisters series and it focuses on Peyton Harrison (Blackwell). Peyton is the workaholic sister who prefers her world neat and orderly. But a complication arises when her life is suddenly in jeopardy. And if being assigned a bodyguard, albeit a very attractive one, weren’t enough, Peyton’s life is about to change in an even more substantial way. Her boss insists that she take a short leave from her city job for her own protection, as well as her colleagues’; and she won’t take no for an answer. But how will Peyton do that? Where will she go? Someone knows exactly where Peyton will go, and she’s not happy about it one bit.

I love it when Big E makes an appearance in these books!! He just seems to pop up out of nowhere, and his presence as a character is so believable that it feels as though he’s a true, living person. Anna Stewart’s description of the Montana Ranch caused me to put the book down and ruminate on the beauty I could visualize in my mind’s eye. She brought the characters and landscape to life. Reading about the horses and the details she provided made it seem as though someone with real horse experience wrote those pages, or a good amount of research was involved in writing them. I relished reading about the time that was spent between Matteo the bodyguard and his son, Gino. Gino’s youthful speech was spot-on, and his father’s obvious pride in, and adoration of his son was endearing. Add to that a mystery that kept the pages turning, and of course a happily-ever-after, and you have all the elements that make for a tender, heartwarming read. Loved it.

The Nantucket Inn by Pamela Kelley

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 4-stars

The Nantucket Inn is the story of widowed mother, Lisa Hodges, and her four grown children: twins Kate and Kristen, son Chase, and youngest daughter, Abby. Now that Lisa’s husband is gone, she’s struggling to stay afloat in her home on Nantucket Island. Brian, her late husband, made poor choices resulting in financial ruin for Lisa. Her age and skill set are not exactly working in her favor, but since she’s an excellent cook with a home that has unused rooms, she accepts the idea of turning her beloved home into an Inn. In doing so she finds more than just a way to keep her finances in order.

The Nantucket Inn is a clean, fast-moving, simple read. It’s the kind of book that’s uncomplicated and tells a nice, comforting story. Lisa and her female adult children’s lives are the focal point. Since that’s four separate scenarios I at times had to pause a moment to keep everyone straight, but happily it wasn’t difficult. Lisa’s male son didn’t have much space in the book, but I think he occurs more prominently in at least one of the subsequent books.

I enjoyed this book. The length was just right, the audio narrator was pleasant, and overall it was mellow and satisfying.