Deception by Patricia Bradley – Book and Audiobook ~ (Tantor Media) Review

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💫 – 4.5 stars

Following an unfortunate incident involving a fellow officer, ISB Ranger, Madison Thorn, is done with the violent crimes division. The transition to white collar crimes is a safer alternative, and Madison’s good at it. But when a violent crime gets personal, Madison finds herself right back where she started from. She’s apprehensive about getting involved with violent crimes again, but she won’t be working the case alone. She’ll have capable National Park Ranger and fellow officer, Clayton Bradshaw, to assist her. Madison remembers Clayton as the childhood bully who, along with her cousins, taunted her mercilessly. Clayton remembers events differently. After setting Madison straight about how he actually stood up for her, she looks at him more favorably. But Clayton has a checkered past that involves a gambling problem and a reputation for charming the ladies. That’s all behind him now and he’s intent on keeping a vow he made to God. Can Clayton help Madison solve the case while simultaneously convincing her that she should take a chance on giving him her heart.

Deception was a smorgasbord of elements I like in a good suspense book—secrets, lies, intrigue, a few great twists, a smidgen of romance, and of course, deception.

I liked that the main character, Madison, was an ISB Ranger, a job that requires strength of character. Madison Thorn was a strong woman but she was also emotional and vulnerable at times. These characteristics made her realistic and human. Clayton was the foundation Madison needed to ground her spiritually, and to protector her. They were an excellent team and I was rooting for them.

Since this is Christian fiction there was clean dialogue and an absence of sexual content and gratuitous violence. The faith elements were mild, not preachy. That’s exactly what I like in a Christian book and Patricia Bradley delivered it perfectly.

Audiobook – Tantor Media – Read by Rachel Dulude
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💫 – 4.5 stars

I did a read/listen of Deception. Rachel Dulude did an excellent job bringing the characters to life. The male characters voices were convincing, and so were the various emotional states of the characters. Very well done.

I enjoyed this book immensely and look forward to reading more from Patricia Bradley.

Thank you, Revell Reads, for a complimentary copy of Deception.

Thank you, Tantor Media, for the free audio download.

Crossfire – (Extreme Measures – Book 2) by Lynette Eason ~ Audiobook ~ Tantor Audio

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ – 4 stars

Former police officer turned FBI Negotiator, Juliana Jameson, is called in to handle a hostage situation involving the perpetrator, a federal judge and a full courtroom. Juliana prides herself on having never lost a hostage and she feels the pressure to maintain that record especially since School Resource Officer Clay Fox’s sister is in there. The situation is tense, and when a seemingly copycat situation arises on its heels, Juliana’s skills are further put to the test. It appears that someone is out to get her, but even more alarming is that her teenage sister, Dottie, of whom Juliana is guardian, could also be a target. And if Juliana and Clay think they’ve got things all figured out they’d better think again because the worst is yet to come.

I‘m enjoying this series. It’s action packed and clean, no profanity. In Crossfire we meet Juliana Jameson who’s in law enforcement due to an incident from her past that she tries hard to suppress but doesn’t always succeed. Clay Fox, the SRO at Dottie’s school has a similar problem so it was nice to see how he and Juliana grew close enough to support one another through their trauma. Both have younger sisters that they are trying to protect from various threats, including a bully and some unstable individuals. There was a twist that I didn’t see coming. I liked how some of the characters from the first book in the series, Life Flight, were present in the story, especially Life Flight pilot, Penny Carlton. The Charlotte, NC, setting was great, too.

I had a niggle regarding the portrayal of one of the characters, André Wilson. Perhaps it is my own sensitivity so I won’t comment further about that.

The audiobook narrator, Sara Sheckells, does an excellent job!! Her narrating skills is one of the reasons why I was so eager to read this next book in the series. She brings the characters, including the villains, to life.

Thank you, Tantor Audio, for a free download of Crossfire.

Life’s Too Short for White Walls by Liz Flaherty

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ – 4 stars

When Jocelyn (Joss) Murphy learns of her husband’s infidelity, her life as she knows it is over. Not only is she losing the only man she’s ever loved, but even worse is finding out who his mistress is. Crushed from the betrayal, Joss’s instinct is to leave Tennessee and run back to the place where she feels safe, her grandparents’ farm in Banjo Bend, Kentucky. She longs for the happiness she enjoyed there spending time with her numerous cousins growing up. But when she arrives she finds that the farm is now a lackluster campground. The new owner, Ezra McIntyre, is a brooding, reticent man who’s kind enough to allow Joss to stay on the premises where she’ll do work that nobody else is much interested in taking on. She excels at it and Ezra is impressed. Before long Joss notices how handsome Ezra is and she could see herself falling for him. The feeling is mutual. But will Ezra’s past prevent him from making a commitment that could threaten the peace he’s so determined to protect?

********************

I enjoyed this book. Liz Flaherty’s books are often laced with mature words of wisdom pertaining to life’s situations and relationships. In life’s Too Short for White Walls we meet two people who are trying to find peace after suffering from traumatic events in their lives. Joss seems more resolved to forgive and move forward with her life, whereas Ezra struggles to make amends where he can, and prefers to keep his more difficult challenges to himself with the help of more drinks than he cares to admit. I liked seeing how their characters developed over the course of the story. I also enjoyed many of the secondary characters including Margaret, Ezra’s right-hand, knowledgeable employee who was once in love with Joss’s dad before he married Joss’s mother. And a few of Joss’s cousins that had unique personalities and professions.

Life’s Too Short for White Walls is a comforting read that brought about a range of emotions before culminating in a satisfying happily-ever-after that left me with a warm heart and happy smile.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review which I have given.

Everything Must Go by Camille Pagan

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💫 – 4.5 stars

Laine is having a crisis. She’s 38, married, and childless, but her husband doesn’t seem interested in children even though it’s been Laine’s desire since they got married over a decade ago. If that weren’t enough her sister tells her that she needs her to come back to Brooklyn, NY to help with their mom who seems to be exhibiting signs of dementia. Laine isn’t overly concerned. She believes her mother, Sally, misses their deceased father and is lonely, so Laine’s plan is to go to Brooklyn, placate her mother and then return to Michigan. But then her sister informs her that she ran into Laine’s childhood best friend, Ben, whom she had a falling out with many years ago and hasn’t spoken to since college. Her relationship with Ben was complicated then, and her feelings about him now could change the trajectory of her future. Meanwhile, Laine is torn between feelings of anger towards her mom because of a selfish decision her mother made that affected Laine’s life in a substantial way, verses the intense love she feels for her mother as Sally figures out how to navigate her uncertain future.

I really loved this book. It touched me in many ways. There were difficult situations, heartbreaks, relationship dilemmas and other hard realities of life that kept me thoroughly engaged in the story. Camille Pagan’s books speak to me. Everything Must Go took me back to how much I’d enjoyed reading my first Pagan book, Life and Other Near Death Experiences. I was amazed at how funny she could make a tragic situation. Similarly, there were sensitive situations in this book but Pagan managed to keep them from being depressing in that unique way she’s able to accomplish that. The only reason I deducted a half star from it being five stars is because I felt it ended a little abruptly. But maybe there will be a sequel. I sure hope so.

AUDIOBOOK: I have to mention that I listened to this book because the main audio narrator, Amy McFadden, did an incredible job. She read in a lackadaisical, slothful tone that fit the main character perfectly. She has a knack for communicating expressions in a way that made me laugh out loud numerous times. I kept rewinding the recording to listen to how some of the characters expressed their feelings. She truly brought them to life. I can still hear their voices in my mind.

Overall, this book was very enjoyable and I recommend it.

The Sweet Life by Suzanne Woods Fisher

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ – 5 stars

Dawn and her mother, Marnie, are at a crossroads in their lives. Both have suffered traumatic events and are about to make life-altering changes to their future. This is more Marnie’s idea than Dawn’s. Marnie is free-spirited and spontaneous, while Dawn is a pragmatist and makes well thought-out decisions after entertaining the what-ifs first and foremost. If it were up to Dawn she would not be joining her mother in this new impetuous endeavor of hers—Marnie is forever starting things that she doesn’t finish. But instead Dawn finds herself supporting her mother as new owner of a run-down ice-cream shop on Cape Cod island that Marnie happens to purchase on a whim while vacationing with her daughter who’s trying to heal from being dumped by her fiancé weeks before their wedding. In fact, this is where they were supposed to be honeymooning. Marnie knows little to nothing about making ice-cream. Dawn knows everything about it, but the thought never crossed her mind to give up her successful career as a CPA on her way to making partner to making ice-cream in a small town. Until…

This story is about an unfulfilled dream brought to life from a least expected entrepreneur, and an even lesser expected supporter; how they learn to accept each others differences and overcome very difficult challenges together and move forward, with the help of a few new friends along the way. In the process they transform a ramshackle ice cream shop that served terrible-tasting ice-cream into a welcoming gathering spot for the locals where they can eat delicious ice-cream and feel a sense of pride in their little Cape Cod town of Chatham, MA.

I love a good happily-ever-after story and this one delivered. The Sweet Life was a charming read with captivating characters that warmed my heart and left me wanting more. The quaint setting of Cape Cod added to its charm. The book wasn’t lengthy at 283 pages, but I became acquainted enough with the characters to want to know how they get on in the future. I’m eager to visit again with the cast of which I assigned these designations: The Pollyanna, The Nervous Nelly, The Debbie Downer, The Lingering Ex, The Good Samaritan, The Chatty Kathy and the Killjoy. What a great cast of characters they were!! A sweet story indeed.

Thank you, Revell Reads, for a complimentary copy of The Sweet Life. All opinions expressed about it are my own.

Bloomsbury Girls by Natalie Jenner – BOOK TOUR and REVIEW ~ (Book and Audiobook)

QUICK FACTS

• Title: Bloomsbury Girls: A Novel
•Author: Natalie Jenner
•Genre: Historical Fiction, Women’s Fiction
•Publisher: ‎St. Martin’s Press (May 17, 2022)
•Length: (368) pages
•Format: Hardcover, eBook, & audiobook •ISBN: 978-1250276698
•Tour Dates: May 2-29, 2022

BOOK DESCRIPTION

Natalie Jenner, the internationally bestselling author of The Jane Austen Society, returns with a compelling and heartwarming story of post-war London, a century-old bookstore, and three women determined to find their way in a fast-changing world in Bloomsbury Girls.

Bloomsbury Books is an old-fashioned new and rare bookstore that has persisted and resisted change for a hundred years, run by men and guided by the general manager’s unbreakable fifty-one rules. But in 1950, the world is changing, especially the world of books and publishing, and at Bloomsbury Books, the girls in the shop have plans:

Vivien Lowry: Single since her aristocratic fiancé was killed in action during World War II, the brilliant and stylish Vivien has a long list of grievances–most of them well justified and the biggest of which is Alec McDonough, the Head of Fiction.

Grace Perkins: Married with two sons, she’s been working to support the family following her husband’s breakdown in the aftermath of the war. Torn between duty to her family and dreams of her own.

Evie Stone: In the first class of female students from Cambridge permitted to earn a degree, Evie was denied an academic position in favor of her less accomplished male rival. Now she’s working at Bloomsbury Books while she plans to remake her own future.

As they interact with various literary figures of the time–Daphne Du Maurier, Ellen Doubleday, Sonia Blair (widow of George Orwell), Samuel Beckett, Peggy Guggenheim, and others–these three women with their complex web of relationships, goals and dreams are all working to plot out a future that is richer and more rewarding than anything society will allow.

BOOK TRAILER:

AUDIOBOOK:

Narrated by esteemed stage and screen actress Juliet Stevenson, enjoy the full unabridged edition of Bloomsbury Girls. “Stevenson delivers the satisfying triumph at the end with perfect polish.” —AudioFile Magazine

AUDIOBOOK EXCERPT

MY REVIEW:

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ – 5 stars

It’s post-war London and three women of varying backgrounds and ages find themselves working together at Bloomsbury Books. Vivien, an outspoken aspiring writer is behind the cash counter; Grace, a mother and discontented wife to a man scarred by the war is Secretary to the General Manager; and Evie Stone, a young female graduate of Cambridge who was recently passed over for a research assistant position in favor of a less qualified male, is hired at Bloomsbury Books to catalogue the rare books on the third floor. These three intelligent, abundantly capable women are desirous of more meaningful positions in the shop, but their fresh, innovative ideas are often hastily dismissed; their ambitions and creativity stifled by the men in charge even though their combined efforts create a beneficial symmetry that cannot be denied. This is especially true of the General Manager whose fifty-one rules govern Bloomsbury Books and must be abided by—rules that have deprived the shop of profit to the dismay of its owner, the Earl, Lord Jeremy Baskin. Lord Baskin is confident in the womens’ abilities to effect positive change in the shop, however, he’s reluctant to usurp any authority he has entrusted to his male management team. But when a bad decision on the part of one of his trusted male employees causes a chain of events that will change the trajectory of all of their lives, the women prove to be more shrewd than anyone expected.

There’s so many great elements comprising this book. Each chapter heading begins with one of the fifty-one rules from the shop and then proceeds with how that particular rule is broken by mostly the female staff at Bloomsbury Books. 😂 I thought this was a clever way to formulate the narrative. I enjoyed the womens’ tenacity in shaping their professional and personal lives and their determination to change the impressions of a woman’s worth. My heart leapt at the mention of famous female authors who attended the literary luncheons the ladies orchestrated, along with discussions of their published books, some of which I’ve read and enjoyed during my lifetime. The name dropping of famous authors, bookstores, classic books and well known publishers excited me. 😃

The women of the shop triumph with their intuitive ideas on how to bring recognition and popularity to the status quo Bloomsbury Books. I was rooting for them in life and in love.

While I wouldn’t consider Bloomsbury Girls a sequel to The Jane Austen Society (one of my favorite Top Pick books of 2021, also by Natalie Jenner), characters from that book are present in it, including one of the main characters, Evie Stone. Although it can most definitely be read as a stand-alone, you can’t go wrong reading The Jane Austin Society first. I recommend this book wholeheartedly.

Audiobook – Juliet Stevenson
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ – 5 stars

Excellent narration!! The distinct voices of each character drew me into the story and made it so believable and enjoyable to listen to. The narrator’s speed, tone, pitch and inflection made it a pleasurable, memorable experience.

Thank you Laurel Ann Nattress of Austenprose PR, St. Martin’s Press and Natalie Jenner for the privilege of a complimentary book and audiobook download of Bloomsbury Girls. All opinions expressed about it are my own.

ADVANCE PRAISE

“Jenner follows The Jane Austen Society (2020) with another top-notch reading experience, using the same deft hand at creating complex, emotionally engaging characters [against] a backdrop chock-full of factual historical information… Fans of Christina Baker Kline, Kate Quinn and Pam Jenoff [will] appreciate this gem.” —Booklist (starred review)

“An illuminating yarn… Fans of emotional historical fiction will be charmed.” —Publishers Weekly

“Bloomsbury Girls is an immersive tale of three women determined to forge their own paths in 1950s London. Jenner has proven to be a master at spinning charming, earnest characters and paints a vivid picture of postwar England. I wanted to stay lost in her world forever!” —Stephanie Wrobel, internationally bestselling author of Darling Rose Gold

“Bloomsbury Girls is a book lover’s dream, one of those rare reads that elicits a sense of book-ish wistfulness and nostalgia. Jenner has created a colorful cast of characters in a story about friendship, perseverance, and the ways that determined women can band together in a man’s world. You’re in for a treat.” —Sarah Penner, New York Times bestselling author of The Lost Apothecary

“In a London still reeling from the ravages of World War II and the changes war has brought to English society, three young women take their futures into their own hands. With Bloomsbury Girls, Natalie Jenner has penned a timely and beautiful ode to ambition, friendship, bookshops, and the written word.” —Janet Skeslien Charles, New York Times bestselling author of The Paris Library

“In post-war London, Bloomsbury Books survived The Blitz until Vivien Lowry, Grace Perkins, and Evie Stone set off their own bomb on the stuffy all-male management. What ensues is the most delightful, witty, and endearing story you will read this year. Natalie Jenner, bestselling author of The Jane Austen Society, proves that she was not a one hit wonder. Like Austen, her second book is even better than the first.” —Laurel Ann Nattress, editor of Jane Austen Made Me Do It  

PURCHASE LINKS:

PRINT & DIGITAL BOOK

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

AUDIOBOOK:

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

AUTHOR BIO:

Natalie Jenner is the author of the instant international bestseller The Jane Austen Society and Bloomsbury Girls. A Goodreads Choice Award runner-up for historical fiction and finalist for best debut novel, The Jane Austen Society was a USA Today and #1 national bestseller andhas been sold for translation in twenty countries. Born in England and raised in Canada, Natalie has been a corporate lawyer, career coach and, most recently, an independent bookstore owner in Oakville, Ontario, where she lives with her family and two rescue dogs. Visit her website to learn more.

A MESSAGE FROM AUTHOR NATALIE JENNER

Dear readers, I am immensely grateful for the outpouring of affection that so many of you have expressed for my debut novel The Jane Austen Society and its eight main characters. When I wrote its epilogue (in one go and without ever changing a word), I wanted to give each of Adam, Mimi, Dr. Gray, Adeline, Yardley, Frances, Evie and Andrew the happy Austenesque ending they each deserved. But I could not let go of servant girl Evie Stone, the youngest and only character inspired by real life (my mother, who had to leave school at age fourteen, and my daughter, who does eighteenth-century research for a university professor and his team). Bloomsbury Girlscontinues Evie’s adventures into a 1950s London bookshop where there is a battle of the sexes raging between the male managers and the female staff, who decide to pull together their smarts, connections, and limited resources to take over the shop and make it their own. There are dozens of new characters in Bloomsbury Girls from several different countries, and audiobook narration was going to require a female voice of the highest training and caliber. When I learned that British stage and screen actress Juliet Stevenson, CBE, had agreed to narrate, I knew that my story could not be in better hands, and I so hope you enjoy reading or listening to it. Warmest regards, Natalie

WEBSITE | TWITTER | FACEBOOK | INSTAGRAM | GOODREADS

The Murder of Mr. Wickham by Claudia Gray – BOOK TOUR and REVIEW

#ClaudiaGray #BookTour #JaneAusten #Vintageanchorbooks #Cozymystery #Historicalmystery

BOOK FACTS:

  • Title: The Murder of Mr. Wickham
  • Author: Claudia Gray
  • Genre: Historical Mystery, Cozy Mystery, Austenesque
  • Publisher: ‎Vintage (May 3, 2022)
  • Length: (400) pages
  • Format: Trade paperback, eBook, & Audiobook
  • ISBN: 978-0593313817
  • Tour Dates: April 25-May 8, 2022

BOOK DESCRIPTION

A summer house party turns into a thrilling whodunit when Jane Austen’s Mr. Wickham—one of literature’s most notorious villains—meets a sudden and suspicious end in this brilliantly imagined mystery featuring Austen’s leading literary characters.

The happily married Mr. Knightley and Emma are throwing a party at their country estate, bringing together distant relatives and new acquaintances—characters beloved by Jane Austen fans. Definitely not invited is Mr. Wickham, whose latest financial scheme has netted him an even broader array of enemies. As tempers flare and secrets are revealed, it’s clear that everyone would be happier if Mr. Wickham got his comeuppance. Yet they’re all shocked when Wickham turns up murdered—except, of course, for the killer hidden in their midst.

Nearly everyone at the house party is a suspect, so it falls to the party’s two youngest guests to solve the mystery: Juliet Tilney, the smart and resourceful daughter of Catherine and Henry, eager for adventure beyond Northanger Abbey; and Jonathan Darcy, the Darcys’ eldest son, whose adherence to propriety makes his father seem almost relaxed. In this tantalizing fusion of Austen and Christie, from New York Times bestselling author Claudia Gray, the unlikely pair must put aside their own poor first impressions and uncover the guilty party—before an innocent person is sentenced to hang.

My Review:

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💫 – 4.5 stars

When George Wickham interrupts the Knightley’s house party, the hosts as well as the guests are stunned. The guests are none other than the principal characters from Jane Austen’s beloved novels. Wickham has managed to lure many of them into his schemes with his cunning, charismatic charm, causing financial ruin to some, along with the accompanying shame and embarrassment that such a circumstance could bring about.

Aahhh… that beguiling Mr. Wickham. Few can deny him.

Wickham is determined to collect from his debtors, even if it means settling in for several nights at the Knightley’s estate, where inclement weather has forced the hosts to reluctantly accommodate him as an unwelcome guest. Even under these peculiar circumstances Wickham’s mischievous, wicked ways are still manifest. He thinks he’s outdone himself again with his exploits, but what he least expects is to be done in instead.

The Murder of Mr. Wickham is a mellow, historical murder mystery devoid of extreme violence or profanity. I truly appreciated that. I enjoyed revisiting many of Jane Austen’s main characters from her novels along with some of their progeny and seeing how their lives were faring. I liked the introduction of the Darcy’s teenage son, Jonathan, who along with a young woman associated with Northanger Abbey, Miss Juliet Tilney, becomes keenly interested in investigating Wickham’s murder. They possess similar strategies in their investigative techniques and Jonathan is decidedly more comfortable with Juliet than he is with his other peers. From the beginning we are made aware that Jonathan Darcy is different. He is prone to sensory overload, is socially awkward and would rather keep company with the servants than those of his own rank. But even though he paces and rocks back and forth when agitated, Juliet doesn’t seem overly bothered by his behavior. I loved their camaraderie.

The other members of the house party have ties to Wickham in some way or other, but not all are forthcoming regarding their involvement. The mystery evolves as more details come to light. I liked seeing the rawness of the characters with all of their flaws, insecurities and vulnerabilities.

The Murder of Mr. Wickham moved along at a comfortable, leisurely pace and kept me interested as Juliet and Jonathan uncovered more clues and the characters became more suspicious. When the murderer was revealed I was surprised and thoroughly satisfied.

If you are a fan of cozy, historical mysteries or Jane Austen variations you will likely enjoy The Murder of Mr. Wickham. Definitely recommended.

Thank you, Laurel Ann Nattress of Austenprose PR, Vintage Anchor Books and Claudia Gray for a complimentary copy of The Murder of Mr. Wickham. All opinions expressed are my own.

WEBSITE | TWITTER | FACEBOOK | INSTAGRAM | BOOKBUB | GOODREADS

AUTHOR BIO

Claudia Gray is the pseudonym of Amy Vincent. She is the writer of multiple young adult novels, including the Evernight series, the Firebird trilogy, and the Constellation trilogy. In addition, she’s written several Star Wars novels, such as Lost Stars and Bloodline. She makes her home in New Orleans with her husband Paul and assorted small dogs.

ADVANCE PRAISE

“Had Jane Austen sat down to write a country house murder mystery, this is exactly the book she would have written. Devotees of Austen’s timeless novels will get the greatest possible pleasure from this wonderful book. Immense fun and beautifully observed. Delicious!” —Alexander McCall Smith

“What a splendid conceit! . . . Gray provides plenty of backstory and enough depth to her characters that even those who mix up their Pride and Prejudice with their Sense and Sensibility will delight in the Agatha Christie–style mystery. . . . There’s so much fun to be had in this reimagined Austen world—and the mystery is so strong—that one can only hope, dear reader, that more books will follow.” —Ilene Cooper, Booklist (starred review)

“[An] enchanting mystery. . . . Gray perfectly captures the personalities of Austen’s beloved characters. This is a real treat for Austenites.” —Publishers Weekly

“Who would NOT want to read a book in which one of literature’s most notorious rakes meets his final demise? . . . A delightful Agatha Christie meets Jane Austen romp.” —Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

PURCHASE LINKS

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

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Antique Auctions Are Murder by Libby Klein – (A Poppy McAllister Mystery #7) ~ Book (Kensington) and Audiobook (Tantor Audio) REVIEW – *** TOP PICK***

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ – 5 stars

Butterfly House B&B owner and gluten free baker, Poppy McAllister, and her aunt Ginny, are at the Cold Spring village antique show. Poppy is interested in bidding on an armoire for the B&B. She’s also curious about the mystery antique piece that Auggie Whipple of Whipple’s Antique Emporium is supposed to present at the show. Rival antique dealer, Grover Prickle, claims the surprise piece was stolen from him. When the antique show gets under way a body falls out of the armoire that Poppy wanted for the B&B and she finds herself in the middle of a murder investigation once again to the irritation of her childhood nemesis, Amber, and Amber’s new colleague, Viola Washington, of the police department. Poppy feels an obligation to help solve the murder. But when an ominous warning is left at the B&B for all eyes to see, Poppy realizes she’d better get to the bottom of this murder mystery before she becomes the next victim.

I have to admit that I was at first a little intimidated by the length of this cozy mystery, 434 pages. I needn’t have worried. The hilarity of all the characters, including the furry ones, never stopped. For me it was all about the journey rather than the destination in this cozy mystery. The multitude of characters, including the B&B guests and employees, aunt Ginny’s friends, the resident cat Figaro along with the guests’ pets, the police department, Poppy’s Italian beau, Gia, and his family members…. all contribute to the laughs that easily propel the story towards the conclusion of the whodunnit. I don’t want to downplay the mystery aspect of this cozy. I was committed to finding out who killed the man in the armoire and that revelation did not disappoint.

I loved everything about this cozy. I laughed out loud so many times that I can officially say that this series is an absolute favorite of mine. Don’t let the length deter you, you will love every minute of this wild, hilarious ride.

AUDIOBOOK review (Tantor Audio) – Read by Callie Beaulieu – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ – 5 stars

I did a read/listen of Antique Auctions Are Murder and Callie Beaulieu does a phenomenal job narrating this series. I admit that when I started this series I didn’t think the narrator’s voice matched the description I’d created in my mind of Poppy McAllister. However, over the course of the series she’s owned the Poppy character in my head, and in addition, her talent and skillful depiction of the secondary characters is incredible. Callie Beaulieu is able to imitate characters’ accents, their ages (young and old), mannerisms, audible gestures and everything in between. The audiobook was a definite enhancement to my reading experience.

I highly recommend this book and the entire series.

Thank you Kensington and Tantor Audio for a complimentary book and audiobook download of Antique Auctions Are Murder. In exchange I have provided a review in which all opinions are exclusively my own.

Her Country Gentleman (Timeless Georgian Collection) – Book and Audiobook – REVIEW

⭐️⭐️⭐️💫- 3.5 stars

Spring at Tribbley Hall by Sian Bessey

Charlotte and her grandmother leave their home in London to escape from all the fanfare and hubbub surrounding Charlotte’s sister’s upcoming wedding. They visit one of grandmama’s friends who lives in the country, close to the sea. Her son is a baron, Lord Cheston. Shortly after arriving and while exploring the grounds, Charlotte meets the baron but mistakes him for a farmhand. It’s lambing season and Lord Cheston is busy tending to the sheep whilst trying to understand how many have turned up missing. It’s a race to find out who is behind the vanishing sheep with Charlotte as the last person Lord Cheston would have thought could be of assistance.

Love Of My Heart by Sarah M. Eden

Cordelia and Seraphina Wakefield are anxious to enter society in London. They love London and all it has to offer. It’s all they’ve ever known since birth. Unfortunately, when they’re informed that the family will have to retrench by moving to a rural area in Scotland their hearts melt. Cordelia finds some delight in painting the nearby landscape where Sebastian, the home farmer works. There’s something about Sebastian that’s different from the area residents. As Cordelia spends more time in his company she allows herself to confide her concerns about her family’s overindulgent spending. She’s comfortable with the home farmer but her parents are not at all enthused. But Sebastian has a secret that could change everything.

Miss Smith Goes to Wiltshire by Rebecca Connolly

Young Martha Smith is determined to marry for love. Her mother disagrees with her assertions to this effect and believes that banishing her from her home in London to visit with her common cousin Eliza and her multitude of children in the country for several weeks, might change her mind. Eliza married for love. Martha has never been far away from London and the country is foreign to her. She immediately notices it’s beauty during her travels, and newly appointed Lord Hillier (Benjamin Steele) of the crumbling Pontcaster Estate notices Martha. Even though she’s of the gentry she’s not afraid to feverishly ride horses or get dirty. And she sees the diamond in the rough that is Pontcaster Estate, which encourages Benj. Will Martha’s casting away actually lead her directly to what her mother wished her to avoid, a marriage of love?

Three sweet stories comprise this anthology and they soothed my fretful soul during these unsettling times in which we live. The recurrent theme of a country gentleman was pleasant and the HEA’s brought a smile to my face. I found all three authors’ stories to be of equal or similar caliber. If you like shorter stories that take place over a brief space of time you will likely enjoy Her Country Gentleman.

Audiobook: ⭐️⭐️⭐️💫 – 3.5 stars

I found the audiobook narrator’s delivery a bit overly emphatic and a little too sugary for my taste. It had the tendency to become cloying if I listened for extended periods. I kept thinking it was better suited to a children’s book narration. The senior characters’ voices were raspy and I pictured them as haggard-looking, bedraggled townsfolk who’d spent their lives chain smoking, and not the genteel ladies that I imagined given the setting and their station in life.

Overall, the narration wasn’t bad, just not particularly my taste.

Thank you Austenprose PR and Mirror Press for a complimentary book, and an audiobook download, of Her Country Gentleman. The thoughts I expressed about them are my own.

Her Country Gentleman – TIMELESS GEORGIAN COLLECTION (BOOK 1) ~ by Sian Ann Bessey • Sarah M. Eden • Rebecca Connolly – BLOG TOUR with EXCERPT

Hello, and welcome to my stop on the Her Country Gentleman Blog Tour. This book is comprised of three novellas, and I am pleased to share an excerpt with you from Rebecca Connolly’s Miss Smith Goes to Wiltshire. Please scroll down for the excerpt. Stay tuned for my review which will post in a few weeks.

Her Country Gentleman is available now. You won’t want to miss this anthology of beautiful stories from the Georgian era. Enjoy the excerpt! Thank you for visiting.

BOOK FACTS:

  • Title: Her Country Gentleman
  • Series: Timeless Georgian Collection (Book 1)
  • Authors: Sian Ann Bessey, Sarah M. Eden, & Rebecca Connolly
  • Genre: Historical Romance, Georgian Romance, Inspirational Fiction
  • Publisher: Mirror Press (March 8, 2022)
  • Length: (300) pages
  • Format: Trade paperback, eBook, & audiobook
  • ISBN: 978-1952611216
  • Tour Dates: March 7-20, 2022

ABOUT THE SERIES:

The Timeless Georgian Collection is a new series featuring novellas set in England during the Georgian era (1714 – 1830). It is part of A Timeless Romance Anthology series published by Mirror Press — a curated collection of novellas and short stories featuring bestselling authors from the contemporary and historical romance genres. The collection has hit the USA TODAY bestselling list and charted at #1 at Amazon.com. Learn more about the series and other anthologies published by Mirror Press at their website.

BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Her Country Gentleman is the first book in the Timeless Georgian Collection, a new anthology series from Mirror Press. The book features three novellas from bestselling historical romance authors whose stories reveal that not all love is found in London.

Spring at Tribbley Hall – by Sian Ann Bessey

When Charlotte’s grandmother invites her to accompany her to Norfolk, Charlotte jumps at the chance to visit the sea and escape the fuss surrounding her sister’s wedding preparations in London. Lord William Cheston, on the other hand, is most unhappy when his mother informs him that her old friend and a granddaughter are coming to stay. Not only is it lambing season, but he’s also dealing with the mysterious loss of several sheep. The last thing he needs is a child underfoot. When Charlotte and William first meet, he does not realize that the lovely young lady is the granddaughter in question, and she assumes that the man dressed in work clothes in the barn is a servant. Soon afterward, however, Charlotte stumbles upon a clue to William’s sheep’s disappearance, and when her life is placed in jeopardy, William is forced to choose between saving his unwanted houseguest and catching the thief.

Sian Ann Bessey

Born in Cambridge, England, but grew up on the island of Anglesey off the coast of North Wales, Sian left her homeland to attend university in the U.S. and earned a bachelor’s degree in communications with a minor in English.

She began her writing career as a student, publishing several magazine articles while still in college. Since then, she has published historical romance and romantic suspense novels, along with a variety of children’s books. She is a USA Today bestselling author, a Foreward Reviews Book of the Year finalist, and a Whitney Award finalist.

She loves to travel and experience other cultures, but when she’s home, her favorite activities are spending time with her family, cooking, and reading.

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Love of My Heart – by Sarah M. Eden

Cordelia Wakefield has never lived anywhere but London and is not overly happy when her family is forced to retrench to a small estate near Teviotbrae, Scotland. An ill-fated game of battledore and shuttlecock brings her face-to-racquet with Sebastian, who runs the home farm at nearby Teviot Castle. What begins as a clash of personalities, expectations, and preferences, soon leads to a friendship neither had expected. As the magic of Teviotbrae weaves its spell, the possibility of something more than friendship begins to blossom. But what future is there for a lowly farmer and a London lady?

Sarah M. Eden

Sarah M. Eden is a USA Today bestselling author of multiple historical romances, including AML’s “2013 Novel of the Year” and Foreword Review’s 2013 “IndieFab Book of the Year” gold medal winner for Best Romance, Longing for Home, and the Whitney Award’s “2014 Novel of the Year,” Longing for Home: Hope Springs.

Combining her obsession with history and affinity for tender love stories, Sarah loves crafting witty characters and heartfelt romances set against rich historical backdrops. She holds a bachelor’s degree in research and happily spends hours perusing the reference shelves of her local library. Sarah lives with her husband, kids, and mischievous dog in the shadow of a snow-capped mountain she has never attempted to ski.

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Miss Smith Goes to Wiltshire – by Rebecca Connolly

Martha Smith wants to marry for love and will not be persuaded otherwise. She is highly sought after in Society for her beauty and status but refuses to consider any suitor whose only claim is that his prospects meet with her mother’s approval. Her widowed mother has had enough of Martha’s romantic sensibilities and is sending her to stay with unfortunate cousins in Wiltshire to show her that marrying for love is a risk that is too great. Benjamin Steele, Lord Hillier, is working on his new and dilapidated estate when he first catches sight of the striking Martha Smith. Becoming Lord Hillier has only brought him a house that needs significant repairs, tenant farms that had been abandoned, and only the money he’d already possessed. He wants meaning in his life, and he’s more than willing to work for it. Though worlds apart in all else, on this point they can agree: a life of meaning would change everything.

EXCERPT:

Chapter 1

No one of sense married for love.

Apparently.

Martha Smith was unconvinced of the assertion her mother had attempted to engrain into her mind for the last six months, if not more, but she could certainly concede that it was not the standard nature of Society’s marriages. The majority of her acquaintances who had made matches since they’d all been presented at court had done so for connection, for fortune, for status, and even for appearances, but no one, as far as she knew, had married for love. Or even affection. 

It was a commoners’ match, her mother insisted, and hardly a mark of good breeding. She had not married for love, and her marriage had been all the more successful for it, she claimed. Martha’s father could not refute or support the statement, as he had been deceased for ten years now, but as he had been at least twenty years more senior than Martha’s mother, it was not difficult to presume that he felt the same.

Why, then, did Martha feel so convinced she ought to marry for love?

It was a question that had been shouted throughout her home in London, usually in her mother’s voice, and asked within Martha’s own mind at a much more reasonable volume. Her life might have been infinitely more simplehad she given up such an idea and made a match for a less fanciful reason, but every attempt to do so had left her cantankerous and sullen. She did not want to have a marriage for appearances or to tolerate her spouse on the occasions required of her.

She wanted to feel as though she were flying when she was with him.

According to her mother, this was likely due to entirely too much reading of novels.

That might have been true, but it did not follow that Martha should have to ignore the impulse.

The fight that had ensued with her mother on the very subject had led to her present position, sitting in a coach heading for the country, riding post, and being jostled into the shoulder of the dozing lady beside her. She had been sent with no chaperone, shockingly enough, though the aforementioned slumbering woman had insisted on acting the part when they’d been introduced at the coaching station. It hadn’t proved all that necessary as yet, as all other occupants of the coach were presently sleeping or attempting to, but it was a pleasant comfort all the same.

Martha could not sleep, which she might regret upon arrival at her final destination, but it was not even a consideration for her. She had never been very far outside of London in her known life, and now she was going into Wiltshire. Every glimpse of rolling hills and streams, every acre of ground not containing a building, was of intense interest to her. Her adoptive companion, Mrs. Rhoades, had grown weary of her questions about the country, and the driver was now accustomed to her inquiries as to their present county at every change of horses.

Thus far, she had seen London, Sussex, Surrey, Hampshire, and Berkshire. They’d stayed the night at a coaching inn in Reading, wherein she had shared the room with Mrs. Rhoades to save them both the cost, and the entire company had again caught the morning post to continue on. The last change of horses at Swindon had seen them in Wiltshire at last, and this was what captured Martha’s attention most.

Wiltshire, the county she had been exiled to for six weeks at minimum. The punishment her mother had devised for Martha’s romantic sensibilities, if not for her outright refusal of Mr. Standish and Sir Charles Stark last Season. From what Martha was now seeing through the windows of the stagecoach, it did not seem a particularly poor exchange.

The countryside was beautiful, and she wished there were a better word to describe it. She had never seen so much green, and in so many natural shades. It was better than any landscape she had seen captured in art, and more fascinating than anything she had conjured up in her mind. She had heard so many complaints about the country from her companions in Society, but felt unable to contribute to any conversation on the topic, as she had no knowledge or experience in any such thing. 

pages 203-205

Rebecca Connolly

Rebecca Connolly is the author of more than two dozen novels. She calls herself a Midwest girl, having lived in Ohio and Indiana. She’s always been a bookworm, and her grandma would send her books almost every month so she would never run out. Book Fairs were her carnival, and libraries are her happy place.

She has been creating stories since childhood, and there are home videos to prove it! She received a master’s degree from West Virginia University, spends every spare moment away from her day job absorbed in her writing, and is a hot cocoa addict.

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Tremendous thank you to Sian Ann Bessey, Sarah M. Eden, Rebecca Connolly, Mirror Press, and Austenprose PR for a complimentary copy of Her Country Gentleman.

 

Life Flight by Lynette Eason (Extreme Measures 1) – Audiobook – Tantor Audio ~ **TOP PICK**

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ – 5 stars

Life Flight begins with a heart pounding action scene and sustains the allure with each subsequent page.

EMS helicopter pilot, Penny Carlton, is in trouble. Her chopper has been compromised by flying debris during a raging storm necessitating an emergency landing on Mount Mitchell in Asheville, NC. Even with the nurse practitioner and critical care transport paramedic aboard, Penny needs to find help quickly or her wounded passenger could die from her injuries. It’s up to Penny to get help before it’s too late.

Meanwhile, there’s an escaped serial killer loose on Mount Mitchell who’s desperately trying to take cover from the FBI, namely Special Agent Holt Satterfield, who’s hot on his tail. When Penny and Holt believe they’ve gotten their man, the outcome takes a devastating turn and the pair wind up back at square one.

Life Flight has so many great elements worthy of recommendation. The action, suspense, intensity, twists and turns kept me glued to its pages from beginning to end. Penny’s occupation as a highly skilled EMS helicopter pilot kept me riveted. She excelled at her job and I felt like I was along for the ride as she carried out each perilous rescue. The sweet romantic connection between Penny and Holt was heartwarming. Their relationship developed organically and convincingly—none of that insta-love stuff.

The performances of the secondary characters are not to be minimized. Their varied backgrounds contributed to the success of this story. Some had trauma-filled pasts while others left me with a niggling feeling of doubt regarding their true nature. With my speculations eventually resolved, I was thoroughly entertained and satisfied by the story’s conclusion. The setting was a bonus since I am grossly familiar with neighboring Asheville, NC., which my family visits regularly.

It’s hard to imagine how this book about the hunt for a serial killer could be written so tastefully, without foul language or gore, but it was. I was thoroughly impressed by the well-developed and engrossing plot. A testament to the fact that a talented writer can concoct an amazing story without filling it with expletives, sexually mature themes and excessive violence. Great job!! 👏🏽👏🏽👏🏽

Last, but certainly not least, Sara Sheckells was an EXCELLENT audio narrator!! My enjoyment of Life Flight was definitely enhanced by the narration. The voice portrayal of the diabolical serial killer on the loose was perfection. Both male and female voices were artfully done. The characters were brought to life in a way that connected me to them. She nailed it.

Life Flight was so good that I visited the author’s website to see if or when book two in the series would be released. I was thrilled to find that book two, Crossfire, is set to be released in August, 2022. Yay!! 😀 Highly recommended.

Thank you Tantor Audio for a complimentary audiobook download of Life Flight. My opinions about it are exclusively my own.

Jane and the Year Without a Summer by Stephanie Barron ~ (Being A Jane Austen Mystery – Book 14) Blog Tour and Review – **TOP PICK**

Welcome to my stop on the Jane and the Year Without a Summer Blog Tour. Many, many thanks to Austenprose PR for the invitation!!

BOOK INFO:

  • Title: Jane and the Year Without a Summer
  • Series: Being a Jane Austen Mystery (Book 14)
  • Author: Stephanie Barron
  • Genre: Historical Mystery, Austenesque
  • Publisher: Soho Press (February 8, 2022)
  • Length: (336) pages
  • Format: Hardcover, eBook, & audiobook
  • ISBN: 978-1641292474
  • Tour Dates: February 7-20, 2022

BOOK DESCRIPTION:

May 1816: Jane Austen is feeling unwell, with an uneasy stomach, constant fatigue, rashes, fevers and aches. She attributes her poor condition to the stress of family burdens, which even the drafting of her latest manuscript—about a baronet’s daughter nursing a broken heart for a daring naval captain—cannot alleviate. Her apothecary recommends a trial of the curative waters at Cheltenham Spa, in Gloucestershire. Jane decides to use some of the profits earned from her last novel, Emma, and treat herself to a period of rest and reflection at the spa, in the company of her sister, Cassandra.

Cheltenham Spa hardly turns out to be the relaxing sojourn Jane and Cassandra envisaged, however. It is immediately obvious that other boarders at the guest house where the Misses Austen are staying have come to Cheltenham with stresses of their own—some of them deadly. But perhaps with Jane’s interference a terrible crime might be prevented. Set during the Year without a Summer, when the eruption of Mount Tambora in the South Pacific caused a volcanic winter that shrouded the entire planet for sixteen months, this fourteenth installment in Stephanie Barron’s critically acclaimed series brings a forgotten moment of Regency history to life.

MY REVIEW:

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ – 5 stars

Jane Austen is feeling poorly, so at her apothecary’s suggestion she quits Chawton Cottage with her sister Cassandra (and her niece who will be deposited with her brother James and his wife), and heads to Cheltenham Spa in Gloucestershire for a fortnight. Drinking the curative waters there is expected to restore the unwell back to good health. Even though this is a financially precarious time for Jane and her family, she uses the proceeds from her book, Emma, to spend the time away to acquire some rest and relaxation, and to hopefully be cured from what ails her. What she doesn’t expect, however, is to encounter mischief, mayhem and murder amongst the lodgers and acquaintances in her midst.

I LOVED this book!! It is masterfully written and I still can’t stop thinking about it weeks after reading it!! There’s all the makings of a classic British whodunnit suffused with wit, excellent characters, atmospheric charm, and an intriguing plot. Jane Austen narrates this tale. Her detailed account of the mystery in the making sent me into chuckles and brought a mature Jane Austen to life in the most delightful way. The author nails the stirring, emotional ending. 🥲

I adored the characters which consisted of a doomsday cleric and his judgmental, gossipmonger wife and their little pug, Thucydides; a young invalid prone to swooning and hysterics; a theater instructor with secrets; a Captain with a dodgy leg, amongst others, and even a formerly acquainted suitor for Jane who makes an appearance in Gloucestershire to Jane’s astonishment and delight.

The language was reminiscent of the era and I employed my dictionary on several occasions to more fully understand certain words and phrases. My knowledge grew and I benefited greatly whilst reading this book. Even the title of the book was an education. The Year Without a Summer refers to 1816, the year following the eruption of Mount Tambora in the South Pacific which occurred in 1815 and caused average global temperatures to decrease resulting in severe climate anomalies. Jane’s trip to Cheltenham is affected by this weather phenomenon. It is continually raining. A clever backdrop to this mystery.

I became so enamored with this book that I looked into the author’s backlist to add others of hers to my future reading, and have since purchased the first book of the series. I can’t imagine anyone who has an affinity for Jane Austen and/or mysteries to be disappointed by this book. It is splendid, and very highly recommended!!

Special thanks to Laurel Ann Nattress of Austenprose PR, Stephanie Barron and Soho Press for a complimentary copy of Jane and the Year Without A Summer and the incredibly generous swag, none of which influenced my opinions of this book which are exclusively my own.

ADVANCE PRAISE:

“Outstanding…Barron fans will hope Jane, who died in 1817, will be back for one more mystery.”— Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“No one conjures Austen’s voice like Stephanie Barron, and Jane and the Year Without a Summer is utterly pitch-perfect.”— Deanna Raybourn, bestselling author of the Veronica Speedwell Mysteries

“…a page-turning story, imbued with fascinating historical detail, a cast of beautifully realized characters, a pitch-perfect Jane Austen, and an intriguing mystery. Highly recommended.”— Syrie James, bestselling author of The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen 

“Jane and the Year Without a Summer is absolute perfection. Stephanie Barron expertly weaves fact and fiction, crafting a story that is authentically Austen in its elegance, charm, and wit. The characters and setting will enchant you, and the mystery will keep you guessing to the last page. This Regency-set gem is truly a diamond of the first water.”— Mimi Matthews, USA Today bestselling author of The Siren of Sussex

AUTHOR BIO:

Francine Mathews was born in Binghamton, New York, the last of six girls. She attended Princeton and Stanford Universities, where she studied history, before going on to work as an intelligence analyst at the CIA. She wrote her first book in 1992 and left the Agency a year later. Since then, she has written twenty-five books, including five novels in the Merry Folger series (Death in the Off-Season, Death in Rough Water, Death in a Mood Indigo, Death in a Cold Hard Light, and Death on Nantucket) as well as the nationally bestselling Being a Jane Austen mystery series, which she writes under the penname, Stephanie Barron. She lives and works in Denver, Colorado.

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Wine Tastings Are Murder by Libby Klein – (Audiobook ~ Tantor Audio)

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💫 – 4.5 stars

Poppy McAllister is preparing for the upcoming wine and cheese happy hour that she and aunt Ginny are hosting for a wine tour group. Some of the members of the group that are staying at Poppy’s Butterfly Wings B&B are checked in and anticipating the upcoming wine tour. It’s a mixed bag of guests with peculiar circumstances, but Poppy is happy to oblige the pesky, unusual clan. But when the wine tasting tour turns deadly for one of the guests staying at her B&B, Poppy and her friends are determined to find out who the killer is before her B&B business goes belly up.

I loved Wine Tastings are Murder. Libby Klein never disappoints with this series and Wine Tastings are Murder is no exception. The humorous lines and scenes are abundant, and on numerous occasions I broke out into fits of spontaneous laughter. I love the Cape May, NJ setting of this cozy mystery. I vacationed there many years ago and it brought back fond memories. It was fun envisioning the wacky cast of characters in this setting and the never ending comedic scenes involving the tour guests, Figaro the cat, the visiting teacup pom Tammy Faye Baker, Aunt Ginny and her friends the biddies, the Ukrainian narcoleptic chambermaid named Victory, a pseudo social media fanatic, and Poppy’s nemesis, Amber the cop, who’s heading up the murder investigation.

Amidst the chaos of this bedlam, the time has come for Poppy to choose which beau will be her forever after. We’ve been waiting for this moment since earlier in the series. Will it be Tim or Gia? The answer in the end will amaze you.

The revelation of the murderer at the conclusion of this cozy mystery was creative brilliance, and the final line of the book whet my appetite exceedingly for the next installment in the series.

If you’d like a cozy mystery that features food, a feisty senior citizen, a naughty cat, a wacky cast of characters, lots of laughs and a thoroughly satisfying ending, then I highly recommend Wine Tastings are Murder. I listened to the audiobook version and Callie Beaulieu does an excellent job narrating the various characters. I kept laughing at her interpretation of Victory the Ukrainian chambermaid and the Italian, Gia.

Thank you, Tantor Audio, for a complimentary audiobook download of Wine Tastings are Murder. All opinions expressed in this review are my own.

The Girl Who Could Breathe Under Water by Erin Bartels

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ – 4 stars

REVIEW:

Kendra Brennan’s debut novel is a great success. Subsequently, she decides to spend time at her grandfather’s secluded, quiet cabin in Hidden Lake, Michigan to complete her second book. She’s got writer’s block stemming from a Disappointed Reader who disapproved of Kendra’s first book, so she’s returned to her childhood summer home at the cabin to retrace events involving her best friend Cami’s brother that happened many years ago and that she chronicled in her novel. Kendra hasn’t spoken to Cami since they had a falling out years ago, so she’s surprised when Cami’s mother, Beth, who’s always been rather cool towards Kendra, writes to her asking if she’s heard from her. Although Kendra has never been close to Beth, she regards Cami’s father, an accomplished author, as a mentor. While they all spend time at Hidden Lake for the summer, secrets will be revealed. And while searching for answers about others, Kendra will discover many things she also didn’t know about herself.

I enjoyed The Girl Who Could Breathe Under Water. It took me a moment to realize that the narrator, Kendra, was telling the story to her missing friend. Once I figured that out I began to really take in the many elements that kept me engaged. This book possesses an atmospheric tone with its lake, cabins and fishing boats. Each time I picked it up the general outdoor theme immersed my imagination in the stimulating setting.

The characters came to life and I could easily envision each one. I particularly liked how the author portrayed Kendra’s German translator, Andreas. He brought an element of calm, reasonableness and trustworthiness to a cast of characters that had secrets and questionable motives. Ike Fenton, the WW2 vet, was a creative character that I found entertaining. Even the antagonist’s story was told in such a way that I vacillated between revulsion and pity.

The story itself was one that could be a trigger for some. In the Author’s Note at the conclusion of the book, Erin Bartels discloses her personal experience which is reflected in this novel. The Girl Who Could Breathe Under Water was a way for her to tell her own story.

Overall, I thought this book was well written. I wanted a little more detail in the end, but aside from that I really enjoyed it.

Thank you, Revell Reads, for a complimentary copy of The Girl Who Could Breathe Under Water. In exchange I have provided my honest review.

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.