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.

A Life Once Dreamed by Rachel Fordham

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💫 – 4.5 stars

Circa 1870’s. What is a Buffalo, NY, girl doing in Penance, Dakota Territory? Agnes Pratt is running away from the man she loves, that’s what. Why? Because she doesn’t want to reveal a secret that’s sure to ruin their chances of ever being together. Accepting a teaching job in a remote territory where James Harris could never find her seemed the best option. But Agnes is no frontier woman, or so she thought. She’s managed to establish herself in Penance; gaining the admiration and respect of many of the residents in the small town. Just maybe she can say goodbye to the life she once dreamed of and hello to this new life. It’s been six years since she left NY. Surely she can accept her fate and embrace her role as teacher and spinster. That is until the new doctor shows up in Penance and threatens to change the trajectory of her future.

A Life Once Dreamed can be summed up with one word: delightful. It was a gentle read that took me on a journey to the Midwest and gave me Little House on the Prairie vibes that put me in a good mental space during this pandemic. It was well written with rugged, endearing characters and enough calamities and adventures to keep the story moving forward. I enjoyed reading it.

Thank you, Revell Books, for the gifted copy of A Life Once Dreamed. My review of it is entirely my own.

Montana Wishes – (The Blackwell Sisters ~ Book 2) by Amy Vastine

❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️ – 5 hearts **TOP PICK**

I…..LOVED…..THIS….BOOK!! Do you hear me? I LOVED it!! Montana Wishes has just become one of my absolute favorite Heartwarming books!!, and I’ve read A LOT of them. Amy Vastine knows how to write a sweet romance story. But this was even more than that. This book was full of surprises that were perfectly timed to provoke every emotion imaginable within me!! I was happy, sad, hopeful, mad, glad….it was like an emotional medley of feelings. If time had permitted, I could have read the entire book in one or two sittings. That’s how invested I was in the characters and their outcome, especially since I knew it would be a good one. Heartwarming books always result in a happily- ever-after. My imagination ran wild as I envisioned the various scenes—the road trip, the Blackwell ranch, the animals (including Amanda’s Irish Wolfhound, Clancy), the cowboys, the romantic tension, and finally, the unveiling of secrets…. it was creative and realistic and entertaining, and it made me want to jump on an airplane to Montana to meet each and every character 😊. They’ll all be alive in my memory where I’ll be hoping to revisit them in the next Blackwell Sisters installment, Montana Dreams, by Anna J. Stewart.

And now, my brief summary of what it’s all about…

In Montana Wishes, the focus is on Amanda Harrison, a triplet of five sisters; identical twin to Lily Harrison and fraternal twin to Georgie Harrison. Peyton is the oldest sibling, and Fiona, the youngest. Got that? These are actually The Blackwell Sisters, but that’s a story for another time. To say that Amanda is going through trying times in her life would be an understatement. This poor woman has received a quadruple whammy of distressing news and she’s trying to take it all in stride. She’s on her way to Montana from California to help her sister Lily who she believes is about to make the biggest mistake of her life. Meanwhile, she’s traveling with her best friend since middle school, Blake Collins, who’s the greatest catch ever, but who’s recently become engaged. Amanda’s harboring devastating news that she’s just received and will have to deal with when she returns from her trip, and she’s trying to come to terms with recent revelations about her family history. At 29, is Amanda’s life story a series of unfortunate events, or is there a light at the end of the tunnel?

I can’t say enough good things about Montana Wishes, or The Blackwell Sisters series thus far, other than that I highly recommend it. You won’t be disappointed.

The Blackwell Sisters series

Enjoy your week everyone!! Thanks for reading.

Me after reading Montana Wishes

Montana Welcome by Melinda Curtis

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ – 4 stars

I really enjoyed Montana Welcome. There was a satisfying mixture of comedy, adventure and sweet romance that I relished from beginning to end.

Lily Harrison becomes a bride on the run when she finds out, on her wedding day, that her groom to be isn’t in love with her. At almost the same time she learns that she’s not who she thinks she is, but a part of a much bigger family that she never could have imagined. She suddenly finds herself in a motor home on her way to Montana. She’s on a quest for answers about her true identity, but unbeknownst to herself there’s a search party closely following on her heels. Along the way Lily finds friendships in the form of two very dramatic young women; regains confidence in her abilities, acquires a horse and donkey and falls in love with a cowboy.

I love the Blackwell series, and this was a very good start to The Blackwell Sisters. It was great getting reacquainted with the elusive Big E (Elias Blackwell), and the rest of the Blackwell brothers who were sprinkled throughout the pages of Montana Welcome. I look forward to reading the next book in the series.

The Perfect Father by John Glatt – (Audiobook – Tantor Audio)

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💫 4.5 stars

This book tells the true story of Chris Watts and what happened leading up to that infamous day when he ended the lives of his family.

Chris Watts’ family seemed ideal from the outside looking in. He had a beautiful wife who was expecting their third child, and two adorable little girls, Bella and Celeste, who loved their father dearly. Chris’s wife, Shanann, appeared ecstatic about her relationship with her husband. Her Thrive business was successful and her constant social media presence portrayed a family that was the envy of those who knew her, as well as those who followed her online. So what went wrong? Why did Chris Watts end the lives of his beloved family? Sometimes things aren’t what they appear to be. People are known to hide the negative aspects of their life from those around them. In the Watts’s case, there was debt, control, in-law problems, illness, infidelity and other stresses that apparently contributed to the devastating outcome that shocked their family, friends and an entire nation.

When I saw this story on the news I was shocked and dismayed by what happened to pregnant Shanann and her two little girls. This book gives readers a behind-the-scenes look at the not-so-perfect Watts family, including the introverted, anti-social Chris Watts, who went from intensely loving his wife and children, to wanting nothing more than to be free of them.

This is how I felt while listening to this book…

Still many unanswered questions, but I suppose Chris Watts will take the absolute truth with him to his grave.

Thank you, Tantor Audio, for a complimentary download of The Perfect Father. All opinions expressed about it are my own.

Are you familiar with the Chris Watts story? What did you think of it? Were you in disbelief like I was?

California Girls by Susan Mallery

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💫 – 4.5 stars

Three sisters are dumped in the same week.

Finola, the eldest of the trio, is a morning-show host who’s blindsided by her husband’s betrayal with a young, famous singer, on her own television show! Just when she was ready to go ahead with a major plan for their marriage, it’s shattered in a moment.

Zennie, the middle sister, feels comfortable being alone. She dates, but always seems more satisfied relaxing at home by herself. She’s content with her job and her friends. Her recent sort-of boyfriend senses her lack of enthusiasm about their relationship and breaks off whatever it is they have together. Zennie is a bit caught off guard by this, but only mildly affected. A free agent, she decides to do her best friend a favor—she’s going to be her surrogate! But did she realize what she was getting herself into? And why does she find herself missing the man she pushed away?

Ali is the youngest of the three sisters and feels the smallest in comparison to Finola and Zennie, both in attractiveness and in accomplishments. Her fiancé didn’t even dump her for another woman, he just didn’t want to be with her anymore. To add insult to injury, he didn’t even have the decency to tell her himself, his brother broke the news to her, and he’s been so helpful in helping her get her life back on track. Why is he doing that?

I enjoyed this book about three sisters who reinvented their lives after breakups. While single they took a closer look at themselves and went after what they believed in, even if their actions weren’t immediately received favorably. But of course, in Susan Mallery fashion, each woman’s story ends on a positive note. ☺️

Have a great weekend everyone!