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.

Lakeshire Park by Megan Walker

Lakeshire Park by Megan Walker

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 5-stars

Amelia Moore and her younger sister, Clara, are in a terrible predicament. Both of their biological parents have passed on and the young women are living in Brighton under the charge of their stepfather, Lord Gray, who constantly reminds them that they are a burden, and that he cares for them financially solely because of the promise he made to their mother, Arabella. Amelia is determined to secure a husband for her younger sister before sickly Lord Gray perishes from his illness, leaving them destitute. Amid hopelessness, an invitation is finally extended to the young women by Sir Ronald Demsford of Hampshire to attend a house party. His estate is impressive, and the mere thought that Clara could find happiness with Sir Ronald as his wife, fills Amelia with exhilaration. Surely a match can be made. That is if the sniffy, impertinent Mr. Peter Wood doesn’t curtail Amelia’s plan for Clara with similar intentions for his own younger sister.

I…LOVED….this book!! 😃 What splendid writing! Ms. Walker’s Regency era novel exudes a freshness; its language is pleasant and easy to decipher, yet not simplistic. The scenes flow effortlessly, and the speech, manners, architecture, landscape and costumes all mirror the time period for which it was intended. I enjoyed the casual development of the admiration between Peter and Amelia; it was natural and convincing. The adept balance of wit and seriousness further compliments this artfully contrived story. Mr. Wood’s charismatic, and at times, impertinent manners gave me the giggles, and the glorious ending left me thoroughly contented and bubbling over with warmth and happiness amidst these uncertain times we’re currently living in.

Lakeshire Park is a lovely tale that I thoroughly savored from start to finish. I will be looking out for more books written by Megan Walker. Very highly recommended.

Thank you, Laurel-Ann Nattress and Shadow Mountain Publishing for a complimentary copy of Lakeshire Park. All opinions expressed in this review are my own.

Blog Tour: The Clergyman’s Wife ~ A Pride & Prejudice Novel by Molly Greeley – REVIEW

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💫 – 4.5 stars

In The Clergyman’s Wife we find ourselves intruding upon the lives of William and Charlotte Collins. This Pride and Prejudice-inspired novel begins a few years after Charlotte Lucas, Elizabeth Bennett’s cherished friend, marries awkward, harried Mr. Collins and settles down in the quaintly comfortable Hunsford parsonage in Kent. Charlotte, having hastily recommended herself for marriage to Mr. Collins when Elizabeth adamantly rejected him, has resigned herself to her melancholy existence as his wife. She’d perceived her marital prospects as slim given her lack of natural beauty and inconvenient social standing, which elevated her above the neighboring hopefuls thanks to her father’s favoring vanity over economic prudence, and now she recognizes the gravity of her impetuous decision. If this weren’t enough, their benefactress, Lady Catherine de Bourgh, of whom William Collins is ridiculously solicitous, diligently oversees nearly every aspect of their living arrangement, to Charlotte’s dismay. So when Charlotte witnesses her sister, Maria’s, excitement over her betrothal to the man she actually loves, irrespective of how their family or acquaintances view his humble profession of Apothecary, her own decision to settle for security over love leaves her with a degree of regret and sadness. Can anyone restore her initial grateful countenance?

Mr. Travis, a tenant farmer, has been commissioned by Lady Catherine de Bourgh, to beautify the Hunsford garden with roses. No botanist or gardener himself, but the son of one who painstakingly tended to the gardens of Rosing’s Park, Lady Catherine’s estate, Mr. Travis sets out to accomplish the task for which he’s been assigned. His work in the Hunsford garden necessitates regular visits to the Collins’ home of which Charlotte has grown accustomed. She is consciously aware of her anticipation of Mr. Travis’s visits and tries her utmost to appease herself with excuses for her imprudent feelings towards the man. Mr. Travis awakens her sensibilities in a way that her husband never has, and she is at once delighted by her thoughts and distressed by the impropriety associated with them. Charlotte is torn between loyalty to her well-meaning but emotionally distant husband and the anticipatory exhilaration in keeping congenial company with Mr. Travis. His apparent interest in her daughter, Louisa, her love of novels and sketching has enlivened Charlotte’s mundane existence, and has subsequently broadened her activities as a parson’s wife, impelling her to make visits upon the widows and elderly—bringing them gifts and conversing on a regular basis. Charlotte’s disposition has improved on account of Mr. Travis, and owing to this fact, her feeling of mortification and shame both chides her and spurs her on. What’s a loyal, morally upright woman to do?

If you loved Pride & Prejudice, or enjoy historical novels, you won’t want to miss The Clergyman’s Wife. Ms. Greeley’s melodious prose is descriptive and atmospheric; I could smell the damp leaves on the forest floor and hear the rustle of the dry leaves in the trees as the wind kicked up before a menacing downpour. I could see the Hunsford garden’s vibrant flowers swaying in the breeze while toddler, Louisa, squealed while frolicking. Events in the book evoked feelings of poignancy and mirth, and there was a nice balance between the two. The Mr. Collins and Lady Catherine de Bourgh characters so accurately embodied their familiar personalities from Pride and Prejudice that I found myself chuckling at their mannerisms and dialog, which was a real treat.

The Clergyman’s Wife is an even-paced, gentle read that elicits a feeling of longing to transport oneself back to the Regency era where gentility and propriety were the norm.

Thank you, William Morrow, for a free ARC of The Clergyman’s Wife, in exchange for my honest review, which I have given.

Thank you for visiting!

The Ladies of Ivy Cottage (Book 2—Tales From Ivy Hill series) by Julie Klassen

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 5-stars

I was thrilled to be reconnecting with these courageous, strong and determined women. Rachel Ashford takes center stage in this book. She is a displaced gentlewoman of meager means since her deceased father’s estate is now home to his distant cousin, Nicholas Ashford, where he and his mother reside (entail laws and all that). Fortunately, Rachel has been invited to live with her friend, Mercy Grove, and her aunt Matilda at Ivy Cottage. With few other options available to her, Rachel accepts the generous offer and tries her hand at teaching the pupils at Mercy’s girls school on the premises, since she needs an occupation. That venture proves unsuccessful as she is not particularly skilled at the art of instruction. Meanwhile, Nicholas Ashford desires Rachel’s hand in marriage. Although accepting him would secure her future and place her back in the beloved Thornvale where she grew up, she continues to put him off. Meanwhile, there might be hope in the way of a proposal from Sir. Timothy Brockwell. Brockwell’s interest in Rachel is not new, and the circumstances surrounding the possible suitor seem more favorable now since they don’t involve her friend Jane Bell, the woman presumed to marry Sir Timothy. Their recently reconciled friendship is highly valued by both women. Still, Lady Brockwell has higher aspirations for her son in the way of a marriage partner. Rachel is fiery and feisty, dodging Lady Brockwell’s subtle assaults at her. But even if Sir Timothy defies his mother and asks for Rachel’s hand, how might it affect her friendship with Jane?

During her first meeting of the Ladies Tea and Knitting Society, Rachel’s impoverished predicament is shared with the attendees by Mercy Grove. These progressive women suggest that Rachel earn her livelihood by starting a much-needed circulating library in Ivy Hill with her father’s extensive library, which Rachel inherited but is forbidden to sell off. This endeavour proves promising and Rachel is on her way to sustaining herself in the meantime while living at Ivy Cottage.

Mercy Grove has more or less resigned herself to spinster status. She doesn’t think herself attractive and doubts that any man will find her so. Solace comes in the form of her recently attained ward, Alice, one of the little orphaned girls that attends her school. The two are attached to each other. So what will Mercy do when a person from Alice’s mother’s past threatens to sever their relationship?

I love the propriety, etiquette and decorum of the Regency period. The slow pace of life is a welcome diversion from today’s fast world. Despite the improprieties of the upper crust—their infidelities, indiscretions and scandals, Julie Klassen does not deliver them to us in the same way we’d receive them from a dime novel. In contrast, her prose is all manners and grace, indicative of the time period. The visual impact of her stories is what keeps me coming back to her books.

If you love historical fiction involving revitalized friendships, swoon-worthy romantic moments, an atmospheric setting with fully developed characters, this book is for you. But do yourself a favor and begin with the first book in the series, The Innkeeper of Ivy Hill. Highly recommended series.

Thank you Bethany House publishers for a complimentary copy of this book. In exchange I have provided an honest review.

Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful day.

Throwback Thursday – Bluebells in the Mourning by KaraLynne Mackrory

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Throwback Thursday is hosted by Renee of It’s Book Talk.  This meme was created to share old favorites and/or books published over a year ago.  Today I’m going to be sharing a Pride and Prejudice variation that I enjoyed immensely.  Bluebells in the Mourning by KaraLynne Mackrory.


Why I chose this book:

I was in the mood for a historical novel at the time so I requested this book from the publisher based on the description on the back cover. It sounded interesting. I didn’t know what to expect since I’d never heard of KaraLynne Mackrory. When I received the book I began reading and I was pleasantly surprised by this beautifully written Pride and Prejudice continuation. It blew me away with its tender, emotional scenes and lyrical prose. I couldn’t believe how incredible it was. See my review here.

I was particularly touched by a scene between Elizabeth Bennett and her mother, it made me feel like this …

Yes, it was deep. A poignant scene that truly moved me. Excellent writing.

I highly recommend this book if you enjoy historical fiction. It was an outstanding read for me. So much so that it’s stayed with me and brings back fond memories whenever I think about it. It remains on my bookshelf to this day.


Have you heard of KaraLynne Mackrory or read any of her books, including this one?  What did you think?  I’d love to know your thoughts.

Thank you for visiting. Happy reading.

An Extraordinary Union by Alyssa Cole

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💫 4.5 stars

The Civil War is raging. Ellen “Elle” Burns, once a slave along with her parents, is a free negro living in the North. She’s chosen to relinquish that freedom to become an undercover spy for the Loyal League, Union supporters, posing as a mute slave girl in a confederate Senator’s home in Richmond, VA. The Loyal League’s mission is to help destroy the Confederacy. Elle’s assignment in Senator Caffrey’s home is to use her eidetic (photographic) memory to expose secessionists’ secrets. Elle is hopeful that her efforts will contribute to the end of slavery in the south. It’s risky business, but “anything for the Union,” she continually recites in her mind to dispel the hatred she has working as a slave under a cruel and exacting mistress, the Senator’s daughter, Susie. Susie is intent on vexing her daily—spewing racial epithets and making derogatory comments and accusatory statements that undermine Elle’s true character and nature. The condescension is almost beyond what she can bear. And with no way to defend herself, the mental pain inflicted is agonizing. Repressing her abhorrence for the oppression and denigration she’s experiencing, along with fellow slaves working in the Senator’s household, is excruciatingly difficult for Elle since she is highly intelligent and in reality, free. If that weren’t enough, Senator McCaffrey has got a new friend, Malcolm McCall, a confederate soldier who makes recurring visits to the Senator’s home. Initially terrified that Malcolm’s kindness towards Elle is a ploy to have his way with her, a common practice, Elle soon learns that McCall is also an undercover spy, working for Mr. Allan Pinkerton’s secret service, also Union supporters. The two must act wisely so as not to blow each others cover. This proves to be more difficult for Malcolm as he is almost immediately besotted by Elle’s beauty and her unique abilities as an undercover spy.

At first Elle views the Scotsman much the same as any other white man, an oppressor of her people, especially since his disguise consists of a grey confederate uniform, a stark reminder of the subjugation and brutality that her people endure by men who look like him. But his continued good-naturedness towards her gradually chips away her gruff, reticent exterior and before long she begins to fall for the man who can’t resist her. But they can’t allow their feelings for one another to supersede their mission. And there’s another problem. The senator’s daughter is continually making advances at Malcolm and wondering why he isn’t reciprocating. She’s becoming enraged and desperate because of his rejection, but Malcolm can’t bring himself to betray Elle, not even for the cause. The dejected woman’s actions culminate in an unthinkable act that threatens to ruin their mission. Can Malcolm and Elle do whatever it takes in support of the Union, exposing the secessionists and relaying vital information back to the Capital before it’s too late, or will their love prove to be a hindrance to the cause they’ve both been so committed to?
This book was suspenseful, educational, thought provoking, and poignant. The blatant racism was difficult to stomach. I had to continue to remind myself that this was the norm in those days, but I couldn’t help thinking about the prejudice and racism that still exists today.

I was rooting for Malcolm and Elle. Their forbidden love was difficult for me to envision because of the time period. They were well aware of the challenges it would cause, and the obstacles they faced seemed insurmountable. Their tenacious spirits and determination to fulfill their mission while preserving their secret relationship was inspiring.

Overall I enjoyed this book. There was lots of action and tense scenes that engaged me. I liked the idea of a romance between Malcolm and Elle, but I would have appreciated a more wholesome approach to it. Their scenes together were mostly lustful in nature, and that was disappointing to me since I prefer reading tender, wholesome romances. I skipped over the racy stuff. I guess I expected a more mellow romance with this one. Aside from that, a very good read.

Review: The Innkeeper of Ivy Hill

The Innkeeper of Ivy Hill
The Innkeeper of Ivy Hill by Julie Klassen
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ When I need a little Regency indulgence to feed my Anglophilic yearnings, I can count on complete satisfaction with a Julie Klassen book. Atmospheric in its descriptions of English village life and the goings-on of its people, The Innkeeper of Ivy Hill captures the very essence of Regency era living. And now about the book…

Jane Bell’s husband John died and left her The Bell, a coaching Inn that she has no interest in running. Complicating matters, Jane learns that The Bell is saddled with debt which leaves her more eager to dispense with it. Her mother-in-law, Thora Bell, an austere woman who has never cared much for Jane in her estimation, was originally landlady of The Bell (or The Angel as it was then called), it being her family’s establishment. However, due to marital entitlement laws and such during that time, which ultimately curtailed a woman’s financial freedom, it eventually became the property of her husband, then her son, and now her daughter-in-law, Jane. Thora Bell has returned to the Inn to assess matters and to stay on and help out, she hopes. When the book opens it’s been about a year since John’s death and The Bell has fallen into neglect, an exorbitant loan is due, and because of the subpar service, mediocre accommodations, and its neglected state, The Bell is no longer profitable. Jane can sell at a loss, allow her brother-in-law Patrick, who also resides at The Bell, to assume the place along with the debt, or she can proceed at trying to salvage the Inn herself. Feeling defeated, she’s leaning towards options 1 and 2. But when one of her employs makes a dramatic statement causing her to reconsider her original inclinations, Jane realizes that more is at stake than her ability to pursue and secure her own livelihood. The Bell must be salvaged, and what’s clear is that for the most benefit to be achieved she should be the one to take charge of it.

The Innkeeper of Ivy Hill’s pace is like a walk through pristine English gardens on a balmy Spring day, parasol in hands and a companion by your side. At times an unexpected gust of wind sends you hastening for shelter from the impending storm. So many enthralling elements within this book. The entrepreneurial spirit that existed during a time when women weren’t highly considered, relative to matters of business, was inspiring. I loved Jane’s gumption as she sought advice from experienced businessmen, merchants and friends. Her commitment to transform The Bell into an establishment reminiscent of its former glory and reputation showed her strength when faced with what appeared to be insurmountable odds. I loved the growth of her character. I appreciated how Jane refused to adopt the old ways of doing things; ways that her mother-in-law approved of, but instead opted to pursue more innovative techniques to improve the Inn’s appeal. The transformation of the relationship between Thora and Jane was endearing. In fact, so many of the characters were three-dimensional that I felt particularly interested in the thoughts, motivations and actions of most of them. I cared about them – from the potboy to the magistrate. There was mention of stately as well as stubborn old horses, lovely manor homes, thriving hotel establishments, the Royal Mail service, female businesswomen, love interests and much more. A plot fully fleshed out and an absolute joy to savor.

In conclusion, I can’t say enough about how much I enjoyed this book. I anxiously await book 2 in the series which I believe will be out in December, 2017. The characters are not easily forgotten, and I’m eager to learn of their eventualities. The Innkeeper of Ivy Hill is outstanding! Most highly recommended.

If you’d like to know about the setting for The Innkeeper of Ivy Hill, as well as the characters and other research relating to the book, Julie Klassen has a website exclusively for that purpose. It’s Talesfromivyhill.com, and it’s definitely worth viewing. Beautiful photos, videos, a map of Ivy Hill and lots more.

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Review: A Haven on Orchard Lane

A Haven on Orchard Lane
A Haven on Orchard Lane by Lawana Blackwell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ This is my first book by Lawana Blackwell and she’s been added to my list of favorite authors. I was beaming with pleasure while reading A Haven on Orchard Lane. What a delightful historic tale it was, filled with characters of substance that I could envision so clearly; and beautiful, refreshing dialogue that made this book the epitome of comfort and warmth. To be honest, I had taken a break from historic novels because I was growing weary of the same plot lines and scenarios. This book has caused me to regain faith in the genre. The story was unique and unlike any other book I’ve read in this category, with writing that spoke to my heart and nourished my soul. I was always ready to pick up where I’d left off. Now a little of what it was about….
Mrs. Charlotte Fosberry was a highly respected actress in her former days. Now at 50, she’s no longer on stage, but married to Lord Fosberry who did not marry her for love. Presuming she possessed more wealth than was the case, he confessed his true motives for marrying her and has grown critical and mentally abusive to Charlotte; making off-color comments about her weight and such. She desperately needs a way out and it comes by way of a theater part that she is called upon to play. Knowing that Lord Fosberry won’t allow her to just walk away from their marriage, Charlotte must devise a scheme to make her exit. Things don’t turn out the way she expects regarding her big break on stage, and she finds herself at the mercy of her estranged daughter, Rosalind, who Charlotte did not raise. Forgiveness is the order of the day, and Rosalind will learn almost immediately that her mother isn’t the person she’s made her out to be. In fact, Charlotte has much to contribute to many secondary characters by way of wisdom, and even theatrical experience. There’s a little mystery and intrigue in the story, a love triangle and ultimately the most wonderfully fulfilling ending.
Ms. Blackwell does Christian Fiction right. There are a few brief scriptural references to bible passages and characters, and a mention here and there of the folks making their way to worship services. But happily it wasn’t a lesson in Christianity or didactic in any way (I attend my own worship services for that). Oftentimes when reading a Christian Fiction novel I find that the author’s views don’t align with my personal beliefs and ultimately upset my delicate sensibilities related to religion. Because of this I find it difficult to review these preachy books objectively. This was not so with A Haven on Orchard Lane. What little I didn’t agree with wasn’t enough to affect my enjoyment of the book. It was mainly just solid story-telling without profanity, violence or graphic sexual scenes. What I personally expect from a Christian Fiction novel. I loved it!! HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

Thank you Bethany House for a free copy of this book. I have not received any payment for my honest opinions about it.

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Review: Yours Forevermore, Darcy

Yours Forevermore, Darcy
Yours Forevermore, Darcy by KaraLynne Mackrory
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💫 4.5 stars. A great read!!  Mr. Darcy is befuddled. Miss Elizabeth Bennet has refused his proposal of marriage, administering a stern rebuke along with it. Downtrodden and dejected, Darcy confides his situation to his cousin Anne who reveals to him that his proposal, while sincere, lacked tact and therefore exuded an air of impudence, resulting in Miss Bennet’s rejection. While acknowledging his goodness, she nevertheless recommends that Darcy take steps to improve his character.  In her estimation he interferes unnecessarily in the affairs of others, an impertinent gesture on his part, namely with regard to dissuading his friend Mr. Bingley from courting Elizabeth Bennet’s sister Jane, another factor contributing to Miss Bennet’s refusing him. Reflecting on the matter Darcy concludes that Anne is correct in her estimation, but it appears too late to reverse the outcome. Elizabeth’s bad opinion of Darcy is sealed and his dreams of betrothal to the lady are ruined. Or are they?  Darcy is incredulous, and as such he is anxious to quit Rosings Park immediately to avoid any further encounters with Elizabeth, preferring instead to placate himself by writing letters to his beloved which he never intends to mail.  But when Mr. Collins louses up Miss Bennet’s travel plans, placing Darcy in the awkward position to offer assistance, will the debacle give way to new opportunities for them?  Or perhaps will future encounters shed light on Darcy’s true character, improving his ill-fated lot with Miss Elizabeth?
KaraLynne Mackrory has a gift for writing Regency romance and she delivers it with ease in the most eloquent way. This is the second book I’ve read by this author and I truly enjoyed it. Those who’ve enjoyed Pride and Prejudice, and retellings thereof, will very likely appreciate Yours Forevermore, Darcy. Definitely a recommended read.
Thank you Meryton Press for a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review which I have given.

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Review: Sprig Muslin

Sprig Muslin
Sprig Muslin by Georgette Heyer

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ THIS WAS AN AUDIOBOOK. Sprig Muslin is a delightful Regency era tale that begins with Sir Gareth Ludlow, a widow who lost his beloved wife Clarissa to a tragic accident. Convinced that he will never truly love again, he sets out to marry an amiable and respectable long-time friend, Hester Theale, whom his sister regards as old (at 29) and insipid. En route to propose marriage to Hester, Sir Gareth encounters a young woman unchaperoned at an Inn, Miss Amanda “Smith”, a feisty, pretty and high-spirited girl of about 16 who puts him in mind of his young niece.  Determined not to allow this spunky but innocent, gentile young lady to fend for herself in a public Inn without an escort, he takes on the role of guardian with the intention of delivering her back to the safety of her grandfather, who Amanda is running away from since he will not permit her to marry her beloved Neal.  Amanda’s age and Neal’s station in life being a major factor in his decision. Reluctantly Amanda accompanies Sir Gareth until she realizes his scheme to return her to her grandfather. From this point a series of blunders, falsehoods and unbelievable situations take the story in directions that excite, shock and ultimately leave you in such a satisfied state of mind that you will no doubt long remember it for many days, weeks or even months to come.  This was my first Georgette Heyer book and I am hooked. There was wit, charm and characters of great depth that regaled me from beginning to end.  A masterful writer of the Regency period, I will be looking forward to reading more of her books in the future.
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Review: A Noble Masquerade

A Noble Masquerade
A Noble Masquerade by Kristi Ann Hunter
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Lady Miranda Hawthorne, sister of Griffith Hawthorne, Duke of Riverton, fears that she will never secure a suitable marriage mate and as a consequence will be relegated to a life of spinsterhood. Her younger and decidedly prettier sister, Georgina, is about to embark on her first Season, while Miranda is heading to her fourth. Miranda has survived her mother’s harrowing “lady lessons” over the years by writing letters which she never intends to mail to her brother’s friend the Duke of Marshington, who Griffith always spoke of when corresponding with Miranda while he was away at school. Affectionately known as Marsh, the Duke was more than a friend, he was Griffith’s protector, and his character appealed to Miranda. The letters she wrote and kept hidden away provided an escape. She could pour out her heart and release the anguish, discouragement and discontent she endured to a man who she had come to know and respect through Griffith’s missives; ever careful not to mail the letters, which would be committing the ultimate breach in the rules of etiquette, that of writing to a man of whom she has no family relation. Her brother Griffith is home now and he has brought a most interesting new valet, Marlow, to replace old Herbert. While Miranda has practically accepted her fate as a future doting aunt, and not wife and mother, she begins to admit to herself that Marlow is quite captivating indeed. But there’s a niggling feeling that something is amiss, and when she finds out the truth about this mysterious man all of the lady lessons involving rules of gentility, propriety and decorum will be tossed to the wind.

Smart, witty, suspenseful, intriguing, illustrative, endearing and inspiring are all words that readily come to mind when describing A Noble Masquerade, a delightfully charming read. There was sufficient historical knowledge and verbiage to keep me stimulated and informed about the time period, but not to the point where a dictionary was constantly needed. And although this book is labeled inspirational fiction, it is not at all preachy or oversaturated with scriptural texts. I prefer this sort of mild christian fiction because I don’t have to be concerned about gratuitous violence, sex or foul language. I can safely enjoy the story without those distasteful elements. Also, I become highly perturbed when scriptures are misapplied or spiritual anecdotes seem to be thrown in for good measure, without any real basis for them. This was not the case with A Noble Masquerade. In fact I was only subtly reminded of its Christian aspects throughout reading, which was a plus for me.

In conclusion, Kristi Ann Hunter’s prose was a welcoming diversion to the pressures of everyday life and consumed me until forced to abandon it until the next opportune reading time. A great book that’s highly recommended. In fact, I was so pleased by it I immediately visited her website and then downloaded a novella that she’s written based on a couple who were secondary characters in A Noble Masquerade.

Thank you Bethany House Publishers for a copy of this lovely book in exchange for an honest review which I have given.

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Review: Bluebells in the Mourning

Bluebells in the Mourning Bluebells in the Mourning by KaraLynne Mackrory
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ A Pride and Prejudice continuation, this book was astounding!!  Seriously, I was blown away by the lyrical prose that captured the very essence of a Jane Austen inspired fiction novel.  What a pleasant surprise from this new to me author, KaraLynne Mackrory.  I requested this book on the back cover summary alone and cannot believe how utterly engaging and phenomenal it was. The story opens shortly after Elizabeth becomes privy to Mr. Darcy’s foiling of Mr. Bingley’s attempts to form an attachment to her sister Jane. Elizabeth is furious that Darcy would be the cause of her sister’s distress at losing Bingley and thus she despises Darcy. Mr. Darcy is unaware that Lizzy knows what he has done, forbidding his friend Bingley to form an attachment to Jane.  All the while Darcy has since fallen in love with Elizabeth, unbeknownst to her, and is on his way to her to profess his undying love. Meanwhile, the Bennett family suffers a tragic loss when their youngest daughter, Lydia, dies from an accident. This new development thwarts Darcy’s plan to propose to Elizabeth. Instead he offers to convey Elizabeth and her best friend Charlotte’s sister, Maria, back to Longbourn to grieve with Lizzy’s family. Darcy offers accommodations at his home, Darcy House, to Elizabeth and Maria rather than the Inn that they are prepared to stay in on their way back home, and Elizabeth reluctantly acquiesces.  While determined to remain wrathful towards Darcy her attitude begins to change when she observes his manners while at Darcy House. His care and concern for his guests, his tender affection for his sister Giorgiana, and the warm familiarity that exists even amongst his servants towards him causes Lizzy to re-think his character.  And oh is he handsome!! Mr. and Mrs. Bennett’s backstory is revealed and we’re enlightened as to how the flame in their marriage died down to a mere flicker. I love how the author orchestrated this. A tired and distressed Fanny Bennet opens up to her daughter Elizabeth about her past with Mr. Bennet, and the poignancy of that revelation was both moving and deeply affecting. I could feel Mrs. Bennet’s sorrow and pain over the sustained tragedies she’d endured and I developed a profound respect for her.  Of course I won’t give away the details, but I believe you will come away with the same impression yourself if you read this delightful book.  The chase is on for the dastardly and elusive Wickham, and this lends an air of intrigue and suspense that enhances the story.  Mr. Darcy is determined once and for all to know if Wickham was in any way involved in the death of Lydia Bennet. Oh how I admire Mr. Darcy. His charm and gallantry shines throughout Bluebells, and he is portrayed as the perfect gentleman—swoon worthy and without blemish.  Anyone who loves Jane Austen’s works or Pride and Prejudice inspired books should read Bluebells in the Mourning. I recommend it highly. I will be looking for more books by KaraLynne Mackrory.  Thank you, Meryton Press for a review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review which I have given.

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The Secret of Pembrooke Park by Julie Klassen

IMG_3823-0 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ My synopsis:  When a reversal in financial circumstances causes Abigail Foster’s family to sell their cherished family home in London’s trendy Grosvenor Square, and remove to the dilapidated and foreboding Pembrooke Park in Berkshire, a manor house that has stood uninhabited for 18 years, Abigail wonders what the future holds for herself and her family. But as mysterious and sinister occurances associated with the old house come to light, her once somewhat optimistic view of residing at Pembrooke Park begins to change.

REVIEW:  When the book unfolds we find Abigail Foster and her family getting ready to attend a going-away party that their long-time neighbors and friends are hosting for their son Gilbert, who’s leaving for a year to study abroad. Abigail has formed an attachment beyond friendship to Gilbert, and expects a proposal upon his return; but as the night progresses Abigail witnesses Gilbert with her younger sister Louisa engrossed in a tête-à-tête. Gilbert appears interested in Louisa and Abigail is crushed. To make matters worse, during dinner Gilbert’s father addresses Mr. Foster, alluding to financial woes involving one of the Fosters’ recent investments.  This painful development further saddens poor Abby, especially since she feels principally responsible for her family’s financial predicament.

When the worst is realized and the Fosters are forced to retrench, they are concerned about where they will take up residence. Fortunately their situation is remedied when a distant but undisclosed relative conditionally offers them the use of their vast, uninhabited, decrepit manor house, Pembrooke Park.  When they agree to the stipulations, Abigail and her father head to Pembrooke Park to assist the servants with readying it for habitation. Things seem to be looking up for the Fosters until Abigail begins receiving cryptic torn-out journal entries and letters from an anonymous source, warnings from neighbors of treasure hunters, mysterious visitors around the estate, footsteps in the house at night, and other unexplained phenomena. Although these are unexpected challenges, Abby is determined to stay at Pembrooke Park, and the local curate, William Chapman, is quickly becoming an incentive to remain. Is he the man she thinks he is or is he possibly seeking the hidden treasure rumored to be in her new home?  Can the servants be trusted?  The neighbors? Are the journal entries and missives she receives, seemingly chronicling her goings on inside the house, proof that someone is watching her?

MY FEELINGS: Extraordinary!! I found this book to be a cleverly crafted story, somewhat of an amalgam of several of Jane Austen’s brilliant novels, and at times reminiscent of Charlotte Bronté’s Jane Eyre. For me this was by far a good thing as I am an admirer of both authors.  Reading The Secret of Pembrooke Park was like consuming the most decadent dessert, each layer richer and more succulent than the one before it. This regency period, semi-gothic, historical romance and inspirational fiction novel (whew), involving an old manor house, family secrets, obscure identities, hidden rooms and lost treasure engrossed me from beginning to end. And although this book is considered Christian Fiction which I appreciate for the lack of profanity, explicit sexual content, vulgar language and wanton violence, I don’t necessarily appreciate an influx of scriptural references, heavy doses of doctrine or preachiness. Klassen did a superb job at balancing scriptural content. Whereas there was mention made regarding things of a theological nature, it fit in with the plot and did not supersede the storyline. I will admit I was apprehensive when I saw the size of the book, 456 pages, which is normally a bit lengthy for my taste.  However, I found it was surprisingly well sequenced and fluently paced to the degree that it kept me fully absorbed and in eager expectation of the next reading opportunity.  In fact, it was actually hard to put down, and I read it in about the same time it ordinarily takes for me to read a book about half its size.

If you relish the masterful storytelling of authors like Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronté, then I expect you will find The Secret of Pembrooke Park a thoroughly enriching experience. I absolutely LOVED it!!

Thank you Laurel Ann Natress of Austenprose for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review which I have given. Thank you Bethany House and Julie Klassen for providing this publication for my enjoyment.

QUICK FACTS:

• Title: The Secret of Pembrooke Park
• Author: Julie Klassen
• Tour Dates: February 16 – March 02, 2015
• Genre: Regency Romance/Gothic Romance/ Historical Fiction/Austenesque/Inspirational Fiction
• Publisher: Bethany House Publishers (December 02, 2014)
• Trade paperback ISBN: 978-0764210716
• eBook ISBN: 9781441264824
• Audio: B00QXKRDZ6
• Video Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-X4nLZlzBSQ&feature=youtu.be

IMG_3819AUTHOR BIO:

Julie Klassen loves all things Jane—Jane Eyre and Jane Austen. A graduate of the University of Illinois, Julie worked in publishing for sixteen years and now writes full time. Three of her books have won the Christy Award for Historical Romance. She has also been a finalist in the Romance Writers of America’s RITA Awards. Julie and her husband have two sons and live in St. Paul, Minnesota. Learn more about Julie and her books at her website, follow her on Twitter, and visit her on Facebook and Goodreads.

Jane Austen’s First Love by Syrie James

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MY REVIEW:

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ What a delightful surprise this book was!! A lovely, charming and beautifully written account of Jane Austen’s first love interest, Edward Taylor, inspired by true events. Jane Austen is 15 years old when the book opens and excited when she learns that she is to accompany her mother, sister, and younger brother to visit her elder brother Edward, who resides with Thomas and Catherine Knight of Godmersham Park, Kent. Edward is recently engaged to Ms. Elizabeth Bridges of Goodnestone Park, and the family is invited there to celebrate a month-long multitude of festivities, to Jane’s overwhelming delight. As they got underway to Goodnestone their carriage met with peril and was nearly upset, leaving them virtually stranded on the road. When circumstances begin to look grim, Edward Taylor appears and rescues them. This is where Jane and Edward make their acquaintance, and she is at once smitten by his smart appearance. Jane eventually learns that Edward is highly accomplished; at 17 he’s traveled the world and been educated by many Masters, speaks several languages, been in the company of numerous influential people including princes, ambassadors and lords. She’s enamored by his opinions and thought processes regarding various subjects, and appreciates how his insights encourage her to think differently about some of her own deeply entrenched ideas. He is also somewhat of an enigmatic fellow and likes to take risks, challenges commonly accepted practices, and prefers not to inherit and manage his father’s estate. The daredevil in him is somewhat displeasing to Jane on more than one occasion. Nevertheless, Jane feels certain that she truly loves Edward. Or does she?
I was enraptured and caught away by the mention of balls, picnics, garden parties, long walks and similar activities that the family engaged in. The visual detail of the aforementioned was splendid and I felt transported back in time where I could be a spectator of Jane’s young life. Character development was excellent and I could easily envision many of the key family members, friends and acquaintances that were met with while I read along. It was nice to see the close bond that was evident between Jane and her older sister Cassandra, and also her younger brother Charles. I also liked how the book reminded me of Jane Austen’s book Emma, and her disastrous match-making attempts. Mostly I loved watching how Jane and Edward’s attachment unfolded.
This was the first book I’ve read by Syrie James and I was truly impressed!! So much so that I immediately looked into her other books and purchased one in audiobook format. If you enjoy Jane Austen inspired works, I trust you will be thrilled when you read Jane Austen’s First Love. MAGNIFICENT, and highly recommended!
Thank you Laurel Ann Nattress of Austenprose, and Syrie James, for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review, which I have given.

 

Longbourn by Jo Baker

IMG_3581.JPG⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💫 4.5 stars. Longbourn is a cleverly written, Pride and Prejudice variation told from the standpoint of the servants below stairs. I’ve owned this book for many months but was reluctant to read it because of the varied reviews. In spite of some of the negative reviews I decided I wanted to read it and I am sure glad I did. I loved the author’s writing style which captivated me rather quickly. And while some of the words were unfamiliar to me, I saw this as an opportunity to expand my vocabulary rather than a nuisance. I really liked how some of the the more memorable events of Pride and Prejudice were weaved into the Longbourn narrative; instances such as when Mr. Bingley arrives at Netherfield, when Lydia runs away with Wickham, and when Darcy and Elizabeth fall for each other and marry. I was afraid that Jo Baker might mar my idealistic notions of the Bennet girls, particularly Jane and Elizabeth. There were instances where Elizabeth was portrayed in a less favorable light than Jane, but not so much as to ruin my memories of the beloved classic I so fondly remember. Sarah, one of the housemaids, was an interesting character, and most of the book revolved around her. She was a spirited, curious, mischievous, responsible and sometimes rebellious young girl who was eager to experience the life she could only dream of having; a life that didn’t involve serving others. I loved her character.

In conclusion I felt that this was a very nicely written story that I would recommend to those who enjoy Pride and Prejudice retellings. This book is a part of my personal library.

Sense and Sensibility

Sense and SensibilitySense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ I loved this book!! This is my fourth Jane Austen novel and it’s one of my favorites. I loved the characters, plot and ending. There were twists and turns that I didn’t anticipate, as well as laugh out loud moments throughout the book. This is Regency period drama at its best. But then again it’s Jane Austen so how could I expect any less? If you loved Pride and Prejudice you will probably love this book too.

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The Darcys of Pemberley

The Darcys of Pemberley (The Darcys of Pemberley, #1)The Darcys of Pemberley by Shannon Winslow

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ The Darcy’s of Pemberley was an exquisite continuation of Pride and Prejudice. The essence of the original characters were captured precisely, and the book carried the dignity and writing style of a Jane Austen novel. It was like meeting up with dear old friends again. Since the writing was so true to Ms. Austen’s style, my imagination whisked me right back to where Pride and Prejudice left off. The transition was flawless and thus I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Whereas when devouring a Jane Austen novel an annotated version can be helpful, Ms. Winslow’s The Darcy’s of Pemberley was less complicated and may only occasionally require a dictionary if the reader is not already familiar with Regency era language and expressions; this is just my opinion. Additionally, I found that the book started off at a slower pace but quickly gained momentum and kept me engrossed to the very last page.

I completely enjoyed this book and recommend it highly. I was so pleased by it that I am looking forward to reading Return to Longbourn. Excellent!!

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