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.
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.
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.
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ – 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.
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?
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.
“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
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.
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 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. 😊
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.
When Joshua Carlson comes to stay at the Black Bear Inn for an entire month Faith is surprised. Most guests only stay for a quick weekend of skiing. That name, Carlson, sounds familiar to Faith, but Joshua isn’t saying much about who he is or why he’s there. She won’t press. After all, he did help her out in a tremendous way respecting her young daughter, Bella, as soon as he’d arrived.
Eventually, Faith finds out about Joshua’s real intentions and she’s heartbroken.
Presently, living in the little cottage on the Inn’s property has been home for Faith and Bella. Thinking about having to say goodbye to the property is overwhelming. But focusing on that while trying to manage the Inn’s restaurant is counterproductive, so instead Faith pours her energy into finding a way to keep her home.
Bella is getting attached to Joshua, and Faith is getting worried. But is she concerned about little Bella’s feelings for “Mr. Joshua,” or her own?
There’s so much to love about A Father for Bella. The wintry setting drew me in with its ski resort and cozy inn. Little Bella was adorable, and Faith’s reluctance to let go of the memory of her deceased husband while also fighting her attraction to Joshua kept me engaged in the story until the end. Add to that an accident, a calamity and a bit of mystery, and you’ve got a story that will keep you guessing and entertained until the final page.
If you enjoy a sweet read with a HEA that will leave you feeling relieved and fully content, then A Father for Bella is for you.
And if you enjoy Jill’s book, look out for her current release, A Mother for His Twins. I just spied it in my local Walmart. 😊
My recent absence from Cozynookbks
For those of you who have been following my blog for a while you will have noticed that I haven’t posted here for about two months. My mother suddenly became critically ill and we almost lost her. Since receiving that dreadful news I haven’t had the presence of mind or the time to read books. Since my mom was living over eight hours away at the time it was very difficult trying to balance everything. She was in the hospital for about six weeks and completed rehabilitation about a week ago. I am so happy to report that she is alive and making bits of progress each day.
Thank you for reading, and I hope to be catching up on the host of books and audiobooks that have been patiently waiting for me. I sure have missed all of you. 😊
EXCELLENT writing!! This story is a gradual build-up. I felt like the writer was taking me on a leisurely stroll through time, casually relating events in the lives of three women, blood relatives. As we continued to walk along I could feel the tension mounting until it reached a crescendo, and I couldn’t bear to abandon it until I turned the last adventure-filled page!
We Hope for Better Things is set in and around Detroit, MI, and follows a triple timeline—Lapeer County, 1861 (civil war); the 1960’s (civil rights movement and Detroit riots); and modern day Detroit.
When Journalist, Elizabeth Balsam, is given a camera and the promise of some old photographs to deliver to a great aunt she’s never known, by a black man who claims his uncle was married to her aunt, her interest is piqued. The photos, which were allegedly taken during the ‘67 Detroit riots, are just the thing Elizabeth could use to develop the kind of story that aligns with her reputation as one who exposes corruption and neglect. Recently fired, Elizabeth is eager to get her hands on the elusive photographs, but first she has to visit with their rightful owner, her old great aunt, Nora Balsam. Nora lives in the old family house in Lapeer County, Michigan, which was also the home of Nora’s great-grandmother, Mary Balsam. All three women, Mary, Nora and Elizabeth, are linked by blood, and as Elizabeth stays on at the Lapeer house and gets to know Nora through the many objects in her home, where she finds treasures from the attic to the cellar, she’s intrigued. What does it all mean? Close-lipped thus far, Elizabeth hopes that in time Nora will open up and contribute to her story in her own words. As time goes on, and Nora starts talking, secrets about the past overshadow Elizabeth’s career ambitions and she becomes more determined to devote herself to contributing to her family’s legacy.
Forbidden relationships, racism, secrets, lies, betrayals, tragedy. Yup, it’s all in there, cleverly constructed with each little fragment eventually coming together to form a unique, atmospheric tale that was impressive. I couldn’t believe this was the author’s first book.
Here’s another thing that I loved. Although there were tumultuous scenes and turbulent times depicted, there was not one profane word or gruesome account. That’s what I call excellent writing. When I can envision what a riot must be like through dialog or prose, without having it described to me in expletives, I consider that the mark of a great writer. Very highly recommended.
Thank you, Revell Books, for a complimentary copy of We Hope for Better Things. All opinions expressed about it are my own.
Thank you, Baker Publishing Group and Revell Books, for a complimentary paperback copy of A Sparkle of Silver.
And Tantor Audio, for the free audio download.
This pairing made for a perfect book reader experience. ☺️
Camilla “Millie” Sullivan is heartbroken. She’s being forced to move her beloved grandma Joy from the assisted living facility where she’s being cared for because her memory loss has worsened, necessitating more specialized care. Millie is strapped financially and can hardly afford to take care of herself. She’s out of options and feeling hopeless and dejected until her grandma mutters details about a long-held family secret that might help Millie to get the funds she needs. It involves her great grandmother, Ruth, an opulent Chateau and a diary containing a treasure map that’s hidden somewhere within the Chateau’s walls. Fortunate to get part-time employment at the Chateau, Millie sets about snooping to locate Ruth’s diary. Her efforts are thwarted when security guard, Ben Thornton, catches her and threatens to expose her. Desperate to escape dismissal, Millie recruits Ben to help her, promising to split whatever treasure she finds with him. Ben, carrying his own load and in need of money as much as Millie, agrees to help her. Together, Ben and Millie become a formidable team, uncovering more than a few secrets, and in the process, learning that love is more valuable than money.
In this book we find treasure hunts, thefts, homicide, scandal, romance, and lots of mystery. I enjoyed the dual narrative aspect, taking us from the present and back to 1929, just before the Great Depression when Millie’s great-grandmother, Ruth, and her friend, Jane, both bank tellers, were invited to be summer guests at the Dawkins Chateau on St. Simons Island, GA, by Mr. Dawkins’s “particular friend,” 🙄 Lucille Globe. (Mr. Dawkins’s wife and child were back in Chicago at their permanent residence.) The elusive diary describes Ruth’s activities in and around the Chateau during her visit.
The juxtaposition of high-society socialites and the working class guests mingling at the Chateau was fun to observe—the common folks enamored with the lives of the elite. Ruth was a poor farm girl from Central Georgia. Nineteen at the time, she was a fickle young girl who was confused about where she should direct her affection. I anxiously awaited which way Ruth’s heart would steer her. Would it be towards the lowly, solicitous gardener, George? Or the handsome, debonair, wealthy Claude?
This book is categorized as Christian fiction, but it is not strewn with bible verses or dominated by the author’s own interpretations of scripture, which I appreciated. It was not didactic at all, but simply lacked foul language, violence and immoral activity.
Audiobook: The audio narrator’s sugary sweet southern accent took some getting used to initially, but once I acclimated myself to it I was able to relax and enjoy her performance. She did a very good job with the characters’ voices and her pace was just right.
I loved this story that required me to suspend disbelief; to accept the far-fetched plot and coincidences. I liked the balance of unscrupulous characters and benevolent ones throughout the story, and how the romances within were convincingly developed. Recommended.
Thanks for visiting everyone! Have a beautiful day. 😊
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.
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 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.
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 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.
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Dangerous Tidings is a solid suspense novel with pulse-racing action from start to finish.
Veterinarian Donna Gallagher is convinced that her father’s fatal car crash was no accident, and she’s determined to prove it. Meanwhile a young woman, Pauline Mitchell, has gone missing and Donna’s investigating efforts have led her to believe that the two incidents are somehow related since her father, a private eye, had an active case file in his office with Pauline’s name on it. Donna’s suspicions are shared by Pauline’s brother Brent who is looking for Pauline but who may just be the prime suspect in her disappearance. Can Brent be trusted, and will Donna put aside her growing attraction for the man so the two can find out what happened to their loved ones before they wind up the next victims?
I can always count on a riveting edge-of-my-seat suspense when I read Dana Mentink’s books. Suspense writing is her forté and Dangerous Tidings was another thoroughly enjoyable read. I love how Dana ends her chapters, often with a surprise or a hint of something that makes it difficult to put the book down. This book is marketed as Love Inspired Suspense (Christian Fiction), so there is no foul language, sex or gratuitous violence, just a great story, which is why I choose to read this particular genre. There are some occasional references to God and the alluding to biblical scriptures (which I have to admit differ in some respects from my interpretation of the Bible), however, since this is a minor portion of the book’s contents I was able to tolerate it without much perturbation. Overall, Dangerous Tidings is yet another gratifying read from Dana Mentink and I highly recommend it to lovers of alacritous, action-packed suspense.
Thank you Dana Mentink for a copy of this book. In exchange I have provided an honest review.
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Carly Mason made a promise to herself that she would never again form close personal bonds to children under her tutelage after she’d failed Allison, a teenage girl to whom she was counselor while employed at Sparrow House for troubled teens, who was now missing thanks to a bad judgment call on Carly’s part. Although Carly’s faith reminds her that God forgives her, she just can’t forgive herself. Meanwhile, her resolve to never again form attachments is shaken when she finds little 5-year old Penny Tremaine in a shopping mall where she’s wandered away from her family. Penny suffers from a form of FASD (Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder), and needs someone with Carly’s expertise to come look after her. Ryan Tremaine has had 4 nannies in the past 6 months and Carly seems to be the perfect candidate for the job. When Carly finally acquiesces to Dr. Ryan Tremaine’s prodding, she not only defies herself, but she takes on far more than she bargained for. Nobody’s perfect, and Ryan committed an indiscretion that tore his family apart and resulted in the birth of his special needs daughter, Penny. Although he may need to loosen up a bit and learn to enjoy life more with his 3 kids, Carly eventually sees that Ryan is in fact a decent man who’s made a mistake he sorely regrets, and who deserves a chance at a new life. As more and more of his good qualities come to the fore, Carly reluctantly begins to fall for the handsome, caring and sensitive doctor. There’s only one very BIG problem. Ryan Tremaine does not share her faith, and faith is central to Carly’s life. This presents challenges, the biggest of which is Ryan’s struggle to embrace the concept of an Almighty God, and Carly’s own doubts that arise about her beliefs when Ryan forces her to confront the reasons why she can’t learn to forgive herself, even though her religion dictates that her faith in God and his grace should allow her to do so. What will she do?
Together With You is an inspirational story about two people struggling with their flaws and imperfections, but who eventually gain the ability to forgive themselves and accept the love they both need and deserve. I like to see characters develop and grow to the point where they can resolve their inner conflicts and go on to lead more fulfilling, productive and happy lives. That was the case with just about every character in this book and that was a plus for me. The only minus was that some of the scriptural explanations in the book differ from my interpretation and understanding of Bible texts, but I tried to overlook those bothersome portions since I know that Bible interpretations vary among Christians. Overall, Together With You was an enjoyable read and I believe that people who relish Christian Fiction will find it uplifting and satisfying.
I received a free copy of this book from Bethany House publishers in exchange for an honest review which I have given.
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 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.
• 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
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.