The Swallow’s Nest by Emilie Richards

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 5-Stars


Sometimes the unpredictability of life can sabotage our best laid plans…..
What would you do if your beloved husband’s mistress showed up at your door during his cancer remission party that you were hosting for him, and thrust their love child into your arms, then left? This is a glimpse into the scene that Lilia Swallow finds herself in. Reeling from this new revelation, Lilia takes refuge with her family in Hawaii, and in doing so receives a few words of wisdom from family members, and her best friend Regan, that gives her the fortitude to return home to California and reconsider her new circumstances. But just when Lilia thinks she can get past the trials that almost destroyed her marriage, life throws a few more curve balls that threaten to derail her future.

Lilia Swallow

Three women. One baby. The Swallow’s Nest takes us into the lives of a wife, a mistress, and a mother-in-law. All desire to lay claim to the child that Lilia’s husband, Graham, fathered with his mistress, Marina. The exploration into each woman’s life exposes emotions that plague each of them—feelings of failure, betrayal, ineptness and unworthiness. Nevertheless, working through those emotions for Toby’s sake is a challenge that each woman is willing to tackle. The question is, which of the three will get him? And will each woman find a way to accept the outcome, and one another?

The Swallow’s Nest was extraordinary. Emilie Richards succeeded in holding my attention through to the conclusion of this 500+ page novel. And the fact that she was capable of doing it without sex scenes, violence or profanity takes real skill.

All of the characters possessed distinct qualities and characteristics that kept me interested in the way their lives would ultimately turn out. I loved how Lilia eventually handled her very difficult situation, and how each of the women comes to recognize the strengths they possess within themselves. Definitely recommended.

Thank you Emilie Richards for a free ARC of The Swallow’s Nest. In exchange I have provided an honest review.

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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.

Real Neat Blog Award

Thank you Kathy of Katiescottagebooks for nominating me for the REAL NEAT BLOG AWARD.  I’m honored. Kathy’s blog is the neatest!!

Here are the questions Kathy has chosen for me to answer….

1.) What is your favorite genre?

That’s a tough one because I really enjoy three genres equally—mystery, historical romance and contemporary fiction.  If forced to choose one, I guess it would be contemporary fiction.

2.) If you could spend one day with a fictional character, who would that character be?

Pollyanna, because it would be nice to be in the presence of a person who’s so optimistic and views life through rose-colored glasses.

And, the incredibly smart horse, Sundown, in Nora Roberts’s book, Come Sundown. I got such a kick out of his intelligence and tricks, and I’ve always wanted to spend quality time with a horse, since they’re so majestic to me.

3.) If you could spend your summer vacation in a fictional land, where would you go for the summer?

Wherever Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory is located.  And, The Emerald City of the Land of Oz.

4.) What is the thickest/biggest/most ginormous book you’ve ever read?

The Bible. I think the second thickest book I’ve ever read was Julie Klassen’s The Secret of Pembrooke Park. It was 400+ pages. That’s a lot for me. It might tie with Come Sundown, which was also over 400 pages.

5.) Do you enjoy contemporary westerns or westerns set in the old west? If you don’t care for westerns, why don’t you like them?

Come Sundown by Nora Roberts was set in Montana. That’s the closest I’ve come to reading a contemporary western. There were cowboys in it, Stetson hats, a Ranch and horses. There was line dancing. It was the first book I’ve read that was set in the West and I LOVED it!! The setting was amazing, and now I look forward to reading more books set in the West. I’ve never read actual westerns. I’m not sure why, but after reading Nora’s book, I’d definitely check one out.

6.) What female fictional character are you most like?

I’m not like any fictional characters I can think of, but I’m sure I’m out there somewhere. I just haven’t found me yet.  If you know of anyone who is a silly, sentimental hot mess—obsessed with their iPhone, unwilling to go to sleep at night, and likes to live in the past, that’s me.

7.) Do you enjoy children’s chapter books?

Yaaaassss!!  Anne of Green Gables, Heidi, Pollyanna and The Secret Garden are a few of my favorites.

So there you have it, my humble little answers. I’d like to nominate the following bloggers for the Real Neat Blog Award, because I think their blogs are, well, real neat:

TheBookGeekWearsPajamas

The Grand World of Books

Wendy Unsworth

These are the seven questions I’ve chosen for my nominees:

  1. What’s the greatest satisfaction you get from reviewing books?
  2. What do you think is key to a successful book blog?
  3. Who’s your favorite author, and why? (If more than one, include all of them, up to three.)
  4. How long does it typically take for you to read an average sized book?
  5. What’s your favorite way to read?
  6. Have you ever considered writing a book, or have you ever written a book? If you have, what’s the name of it (or the name of your favorite one if you’ve written more than one), and what’s it about?
  7. If you had the opportunity to meet your favorite author, what would you ask he/she?

Thank you in advance, blogger nominees, for allowing us to get to know you and your blog through the Real Neat Blog Award, if you’re able to participate.

Those participating should ~

-Put the award logo on your blog.
-Thank the people who nominated you, linking to their blogs.
-Answer 7 questions asked by the person who nominated you.
-Nominate any number of bloggers you like, linking to their blogs.
-Let them know you nominated them (by connecting on their blog, etc.)
-Ask your nominees 7 questions.

Review: Come Sundown

Come Sundown
Come Sundown by Nora Roberts
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ A member of the Bodine family, Alice Bodine, has been missing for 25 years prior to the opening of the story. During the time she’s been gone, The Bodine Ranch and Resort, resided on by four generations, has grown into a thriving enterprise. Alice Bodine’s name is scarcely mentioned by the family because of the differing opinions regarding her hasty departure from their Montana home. On the day she left at age 18, leaving behind no more than a scribbled goodbye note, it was her sister’s wedding day. The family heard from her from time to time at first, and then nothing for decades. Little do they know that Alice was on her way back to Bodine Ranch three years after she left, but was abducted and held captive for 25 years. When she’s found, the entire family welcomes her back, sympathetic to her plight, and does everything in their power to help rehabilitate Alice. While her progress is slow initially, she begins to gradually come around and relief is felt by everyone. But the mystery of who abducted and brutally mistreated Alice for so many years still remains. Could the individual who took her be responsible for the deaths of two other young women who were found on Bodine property? Will Alice’s abductor be back to exact revenge on her for getting away from him?

Come Sundown was outstanding!! The parallel plot structure, excellent character development and amazing Northwest setting kept me engaged in the story. Getting a peek into life on a working ranch and resort in Montana was an educational experience that I enjoyed because it was formerly unfamiliar to me, and I loved learning so much about it, as well as the western part of the U.S.—the recreational activities there, the lingo, cowboys, horses, the humor and attire were all fascinating and fun lessons that will stay with me for a long time. The close-knit Bodine family and the camaraderie they shared was a true highlight, and anyone who reads this book is sure to be taken in by the endearing characters, especially the cowboy, Callen Skinner, whose gentlemanly ways and boyish charm won me over. By the time I was finished with the book I was ready to take a trip to Montana.

I highly recommend this book to those who would enjoy a romance/thriller. Excellently written and difficult to put down, Nora Roberts delivers with Come Sundown. This was my first Nora Roberts book, and now I know what all the hoopla’s about. She’s an amazing storyteller.

I received a free ARC of this book from the publisher, St. Martin’s Press, and in exchange I have provided an honest review. The free ARC in no way influenced my thoughts or opinions of the book.

 

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Review: Two Down, Bun to Go


Two Down, Bun to Go by H.Y. Hanna My rating: 5 of 5 stars

💜💜💜💜💜

Professor Quentin Barrow is found dead, stabbed to death with an Egyptian Dagger. Gemma’s former Oxford chum and still good friend, Seth Browning, is charged with the murder. Seth was seen arguing with professor Barrow before the body was discovered. A staunch advocate for the homeless and other such causes, Seth was getting pushback from the professor regarding a piece of college donated property that would have benefited the homeless. Barrow’s pompous, elitist attitude disgusted Seth, and his repulsion for the man was evident. Gemma knows her friend could not have committed the murder, although she must admit his current odd, uncharacteristic and mysterious behavior is quite alarming. But how can she prove his innocence when there is so much circumstantial evidence pointing to Seth? With the help of handsome CID Detective and former boyfriend, Devlin O’Connor, contending beau, Lincoln Green, and the meddlesome but lovable Old Biddies, Gemma uncovers a slew of others who might have killed the unpopular professor. The question is, which one of them actually did?

I don’t know how H.Y. Hanna manages it, but each successive book in her Oxford Tearoom Mystery series is better than the last. Don’t let the whimsical, cute little cover fool you. They rival other renowned and beloved writers of British mysteries hands down. Her characters’ magnetic personalities captivate; from the endearing to the villainous, they’re all equally entertaining. The way in which she describes her mother’s witty charms and hapless adventures, the antics of the Old Biddies, and little Muesli the cat, never fails to elicit chuckles. The plot moves along effortlessly as the reader is immersed in English life and subtly educated about the peculiarities and uniqueness of the University of Oxford—a real treat and added bonus.

Read it, you’ll LOVE it. And if you want an even greater experience, do yourself a favor and listen to the audio version. The narrator does a stupendous job of bringing the characters to life. Very, very highly recommended.

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Review: Home to Stay


Home to Stay by Kate James
My rating:            5 of 5 stars

💚💚💚💚💚

Home to Stay is San Diego K-9 Unit Book 4.

Sawyer Evans’s four-year-old son, Dylan, was kidnapped from their campsite while vacationing with family.  San Diego K-9 unit officer, Shannon Clemens, is called upon with her search and rescue dog, Darwin, to try to locate the missing child. The initial search is unsuccessful and Sawyer is livid. Shannon’s emotions are stirred by Sawyer’s deep agony over his son’s disappearance, and because of her own prior personal experience with loss, she feels compelled to help Sawyer find Dylan. In time, the distraught father and caring, compassionate officer develop feelings for one another. But when another incident causes tension between the couple, their connection is strained. Will the feelings they’ve developed be enough to overcome the obstacles they’re currently facing?

Home to Stay was thoroughly engrossing from the start.  As new developments in the abduction case surfaced, the suspense and intensity continued to build, keeping me interested and engaged in the story. The intriguing mystery surrounding Dylan’s disappearance propelled the plot forward. I was put in the mind of a romantic suspense novel—albeit a milder approach to the romance and suspense elements, making it suitable for a wholesome romance book. The relationship and dialog between Sawyer and his son was endearing—so sweet and pleasant to read. Dylan was a darling little boy, and I looked forward to scenes where he was present. The relationship between Sawyer and Shannon was at times complex because of surrounding circumstances and I kept trying to envision how things would turn out for the two of them.

Riveting and imaginative, I enjoyed this book immensely. An intriguing mystery, suspense, police procedurals, a strained romance and HEA, are some of what you’ll get in Home to Stay. Very highly recommended.

I received a free copy of this book from the author. In exchange I have provided an honest review.

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