The Belle of Belgrave Square by Mimi Matthews – Belles of London (Book 2) – Book Tour ~ Review and Giveaway

QUICK FACTS:

  • Title: The Belle of Belgrave Square
  • Series: Belles of London (Book 2)
  • Author: Mimi Matthews
  • Genre: Historical Romance, Historical Fiction
  • Publisher: Berkley Romance (October 11, 2022)
  • Length: 432 pages
  • Format: Trade paperback, eBook, & audiobook
  • ISBN: 978-0593337158
  • Tour Dates: October 3 – 23, 2022

BOOK DESCRIPTION:

A BookBub Best Romance of 2022

A London heiress rides out to the wilds of the English countryside to honor a marriage of convenience with a mysterious and reclusive stranger.

Tall, dark, and dour, the notorious Captain Jasper Blunt was once hailed a military hero, but tales abound of his bastard children and his haunted estate in Yorkshire. What he requires now is a rich wife to ornament his isolated ruin, and he has his sights set on the enchanting Julia Wychwood.

For Julia, an incurable romantic cursed with a crippling social anxiety, navigating a London ballroom is absolute torture. The only time Julia feels any degree of confidence is when she’s on her horse. Unfortunately, a young lady can’t spend the whole of her life in the saddle, so Julia makes an impetuous decision to take her future by the reins—she proposes to Captain Blunt.

In exchange for her dowry and her hand, Jasper must promise to grant her freedom to do as she pleases. To ride—and to read—as much as she likes without masculine interference. He readily agrees to her conditions, with one provision of his own: Julia is forbidden from going into the tower rooms of his estate and snooping around his affairs. But the more she learns of the beastly former hero, the more intrigued she becomes…

MY REVIEW:

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💫 – 4.5 stars

A shy heiress who is introverted, socially awkward, prone to anxiety attacks and a lover of books? Yes, please. 👍🏽🙌🏽🙋🏽‍♀️

Julia Wychwood is not your typical heiress. She prefers books to balls and horse riding to musicales. She scarcely has time for either indulgence since these pastimes interfere with securing a husband, as her maid continually reminds her. And Julia’s sickly father wants to see her married off to an earl who lives in the vicinity of their home at Belgrave Square. This proximity will enable Julia to more readily provide care for her parents. The prospect is unthinkable to Julia, especially since Lord Gresham is disagreeable in every way. The only way out of her predicament is to marry a brute, Captain Jasper Blunt, the man whose reputation for being harsh and unyielding to his own soldiers precedes him. This is the same man Julia ran away from previously when being introduced to him at Lady Arundell’s ball. His prominently scarred face, along with her social anxiety got the best of her on that occasion. But since then it seems that Captain Blunt has come to her rescue during numerous unpleasant events. She can’t dispute his solicitousness towards her, even if he’s been forthcoming about his intentions to marry an heiress in order to fund the looming projects on his crumbling estate, Goldfinch Hall. If that weren’t enough, the man has three illegitimate children residing with him, and he possesses secrets that he refuses to divulge, even to a future wife. On the other hand, he is a book lover like herself. Ludicrous. It’s all too much to contemplate. But one more bloodletting session with the family doctor when Julia is simply feigning illness, just might kill her; along with continuing to live in a dark, dank home surrounded by her ailing parents with their real or imagined deteriorating health, mostly confined to their relative sickbeds, is too much to bear. What is Julia Wychwood to do?

The Belle of Belgrave Square was a delightful read. It’s full of dialogue-rich content that I enjoyed immensely. Julia Wychwood is a unique heiress with character traits I could readily identify with which made her relatable and easily likable. I applauded her development of courage and strength when faced with unimaginable challenges of which she had little to no experience in dealing with. This gave the story its engrossing quality. Captain Blunt is enigmatic and kept me guessing. Whenever I thought I had him figured out, new revelations had my mind pivoting in a different direction. He was a man of carefully concealed secrets. At times he was brooding and menacing, and at other times he was gallant and kind. He was highly tolerable of Julia’s attachment to her books, which made me very happy.

The Belle of Belgrave Square is a glorious, satisfying read that I thoroughly enjoyed. I very highly recommend it.

Thank you, Austenprose and Berkley Romance, for a complimentary copy of The Belle of Belgrave Square. All opinions expressed in this review are my own.

ADVANCE PRAISE

• “A grand cross-class romance, a twisty mystery, and emotional internal struggles combine to excellent effect…fans and new readers alike will root for this well-earned love story.”— Publishers Weekly(starred review)

• “[C]ombines deception, risk, and a resourceful heroine to create an intoxicating, suspenseful romance. Highly recommended.”— Library Journal (starred review)

• “If you’re a fan of Beauty and the Beast, this regency romance will rapidly become a new favorite of yours. Wallflower meets an infamous war hero in this fascinating and intriguing love story.”— BuzzFeed

• “Mimi Matthews never disappoints, with richly drawn characters and couples whose individual shortcomings become strengths, when paired together. In this Beauty and the Beast retelling, we get to root for two underdogs who get to rewrite their own stories.”— Jodi Picoult, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Wish You Were Here

PURCHASE LINKS:

AMAZON BARNES & NOBLE | BOOK DEPOSITORY | BOOKSHOP | GOODREADS

AUTHOR BIO:

USA Today bestselling author Mimi Matthews writes both historical nonfiction and award-winning proper Victorian romances. Her novels have received starred reviews in Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, Booklist, and Kirkus, and her articles have been featured on the Victorian Web, the Journal of Victorian Culture, and in syndication at BUST Magazine. In her other life, Mimi is an attorney. She resides in California with her family, which includes a retired Andalusian dressage horse, a Sheltie, and two Siamese cats.

WEBSITE | TWITTER | FACEBOOK | PINTEREST | BOOKBUB | GOODREADS

VICTORIAN READING ROOM:

Join Mimi at her Victorian Reading Room Facebook Group for exclusive access as she shares her love of writing, historical romance, Victorian fashion, brooding heroes, independent heroines, and of course, her beloved pets!

READ AN EXCLSUIVE INTERVIEW WITH MIMI MATTHEWS:

Discover intriguing insights into The Belle of Belgrave Square and Mimi’s writing life in this exclusive interview at austenprose.com.

GIVEAWAY:

Giveaway period: October 3 – October 30

Terms & Conditions:

Giveaway hosted by Mimi Matthews. No Purchase Necessary. Entrants must be 18 years or older. Open to US residents only. All information will remain confidential and will not be sold or otherwise used, except to notify the winner and to facilitate postage of the book to the winner. Void where prohibited.

Giveaway Details:

1 winner (selected at random by Rafflecopter) receives a paperback copy of The Belle of Belgrave Square, signed and annotated by the author with personal comments, underlining of her favorite lines, and other highlights by Mimi Matthews. 

Giveaway is open from 12:01 am Pacific time 10/03/22 until 11:59pm Pacific time on 10/30/22. 

The winner will be announced on Mimi’s blog on 10/31/22.

Rafflecopter Form:

Link: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/92989f07662/?

SOCIAL MEDIA:

• Twitter handles: @MimiMatthewsEsq, @BerkleyRomance, @Austenprose

• Twitter hashtags: #TheBelleofBelgraveSquare, #HistoricalRomance, #NewBooks, #BookTwitter,#MimiMatthews, #BookTour, #AustenprosePR

• Instagram handles: @mmimatthewsesq, @berkleyromance, @austenprose

• Instagram hashtags: #TheBelleofBelgraveSquare, #HistoricalRomance, #NewBooks, #Bookstagram, #MimiMatthews, #BookTour, #AustenprosePR

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

QUICK FACTS

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

BOOK DESCRIPTION

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

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

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

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

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

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

BOOK TRAILER:

AUDIOBOOK:

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

AUDIOBOOK EXCERPT

MY REVIEW:

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ – 5 stars

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ADVANCE PRAISE

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

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

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

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

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

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

PURCHASE LINKS:

PRINT & DIGITAL BOOK

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

AUDIOBOOK:

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

AUTHOR BIO:

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

A MESSAGE FROM AUTHOR NATALIE JENNER

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

WEBSITE | TWITTER | FACEBOOK | INSTAGRAM | GOODREADS

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

⭐️⭐️⭐️💫- 3.5 stars

Spring at Tribbley Hall by Sian Bessey

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

Love Of My Heart by Sarah M. Eden

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

Miss Smith Goes to Wiltshire by Rebecca Connolly

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

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

Audiobook: ⭐️⭐️⭐️💫 – 3.5 stars

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

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

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

Love and Lavender by Josi S. Kilpack ~ Blog Tour and Review – **TOP PICK!!**

@ShadowMountn, @ProperRomance #HistoricalRomance #RegencyRomance

Hello, and welcome to my stop on the Love and Lavender blog tour. I hope you enjoy this review of my favorite book thus far of 2021.

MY REVIEW

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ – 5 stars

Although Hazel Stillman is of noble birth, her clubbed foot resulted in her family’s casting her aside from her youth. Her twin brother’s mismanagement and squandering of the family’s assets has made it necessary for Hazel to support herself by teaching arithmetic at a school for girls that’s rumored to be up for sale. Since advanced learning classes are not typical for young ladies, Hazel’s position and livelihood may be in jeopardy. Her predicament is a precarious one unless she marries and accepts her beloved uncle Elliott’s generous dowry of fifty thousand pounds. Hazel feels insulted that her benefactor is offering this large sum as though a man needs to be bought to marry her. But she knows her prospects are few to none because of her physical deformity. So what is she to do?

Meanwhile, Hazel’s “cousin,” Duncan Penhale, is in a somewhat similar situation. He, though, is not of noble birth, but is of the working class. However, “Uncle Elliott” is also his benefactor and Duncan could inherit property that would greatly benefit him if he marries a genteel woman. Duncan is content living his current regimented life, but his employment arrangement has become distressing to him. His inheritance will remedy that situation, but marriage would be challenging for Duncan because he is not an ordinary man. He has difficulties understanding peoples’ expressions and emotions, he angers quickly, paces when he’s excited or anxious, doesn’t like to be touched, is socially awkward, lacks tact and is direct to the point of embarrassment. His peculiar behavior would be difficult for any woman to tolerate, but Hazel seems to have the ability to cope with Duncan’s various odd mannerisms. She’d met Duncan once and they’d corresponded for more than a year, enjoying number riddles that each would solve in their next letter. But could it be enough familiarity to justify a marriage? Uncle Elliott’s stipulation requires cohabitation for at least one year as a married couple. Could Duncan and Hazel live together for a year as husband and wife in order to collect their respective inheritances and then move on to pursue their individual endeavors thereafter, free and clear? Or will their uncle and aunt Amelia’s clever manipulation change both their lives in a way that neither one expected?

Love and Lavender is my favorite book thus far of 2021. It was an impeccable story that I read eagerly from cover to cover, including the acknowledgements. The characters were magnificently written and it was easy to form a bond with them. I especially appreciated Duncan’s character. Although his condition is not stated in the story it’s apparent that he’s autistic, which accounts for his quirkiness. I loved his character!! His bluntness and literal interpretations made me chuckle. Duncan says what ordinary people would like to say but dare not for propriety’s sake. And although Hazel was sometimes appalled by his directness, she admittedly found his natural candidness refreshing at times. Duncan displayed odd behavior, but he also possessed many admirable qualities. His solicitousness towards Hazel was endearing…. always helping her navigate stairs or making sure she had a proper boot made by a skilled cobbler to ensure her comfort.

Another aspect of the book that I found refreshing was the secondary characters. Although some “ordinary” people might be put off by Duncan, there were those who cherished and appreciated his intellect and companionship. A doctor acquaintance, Dr. Randall, became a consultant and advisor to him and was patient and kind. Delores, who worked in the pub downstairs and made sure he had a warm meal to take upstairs to eat after work and fish for his cat, Elizabeth. Harry, Hazel’s twin brother whose shift in character warmed my heart. His acceptance of and willingness to be entertained, intellectually stimulated and unwittingly insulted by Duncan made me smile. Other notable characters were Amelia, Uncle Elliott’s wife, who was a tremendous help to Hazel. Sophie, Hazel’s wise and loyal friend, and Mrs. Randall, the doctor’s wife who assisted Hazel with her endeavors while she lived in Lavender House in Ipswich. Truly, a great cast of characters that I grew to love and admire.

I could talk about this book FOREVER! While reading the acknowledgements I came across this statement from the author…

“This book was written during the most difficult period of my life…”

I don’t know what the author was going through when she wrote Love and Lavender, but I have been inspired by her ability to concoct such a fine story during a time of trial.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a story with a great setting, fabulously developed characters and a conclusion that will make your heart scream with joy.

Tremendous thanks to Laurel Ann Nattress of Austenprose PR, Shadow Mountain Publishing and Josi S. Kilpack for a complimentary copy of Love and Lavender. My review of its content is strictly my own.

BOOK DESCRIPTION

Hazel Stillman is a woman of rare independence and limited opportunities. Born with a clubbed foot, she was sent away as a child and, knowing her disability means a marriage is unlikely, she devoted herself to scholarship and education.

Now working as a teacher in an elite private girls’ school, she is content with the way her story has unfolded. When her uncle Elliott Mayfield presents her with the prospect of a substantial inheritance if she marries, Hazel is offended. What kind of decent man would marry for her money? Besides, she loves her freedom as a professional, respected woman. When she hears rumors of the school possibly being sold, however, she knows she must consider all her options.

Duncan Penhale has a brilliant mind and thrives on order and process. He does not expect to marry because he likes his solitary life, shared only with his beloved cat. When Elliott Mayfield, his guardian’s brother, presents him with an inheritance if he marries a woman of social standing, Duncan finds it intrusive. However, with the inheritance, he could purchase the building in which he works and run his own firm. It would take an impressive and intellectual woman to understand and love him, quirks and all.

Hazel and Duncan believe they have found a solution to both of their problems: marry one another, receive their inheritances, and then part ways to enjoy their individual paths. But when Uncle Mayfield stipulates that they must live together as husband and wife for one year before receiving their inheritances, Hazel and Duncan reluctantly agree. Over time, their marriage of convenience becomes much more appealing than they had anticipated. At the end of the full year, will they go their separate ways or could an unlikely marriage have found unsuspecting love?

AUTHOR BIO

Josi S. Kilpack has written more than thirty novels, a cookbook, and several novellas. She is a four-time Whitney award winner, including Best Novel 2015 for “Lord Fenton’s Folly, and has been a Utah Best of State winner for Fiction. Josi loves to bake, sleep, eat, read, travel, and watch TV–none of which she gets to do as much as she would like. She writes contemporary fiction under the pen name Jessica Pack.

Josi has four children and lives in Northern Utah. 

WEBSITE | FACEBOOK | TWITTER | INSTAGRAM | GOODREADS

ADVANCE PRAISE

“What a lovely romance. The historical details, the depth of the authentic characters, and the realistic dialogue all contribute to an immersive story. [A] beautiful and inspirational story about loving people just as they are.”— Katie Jackson, Regency Proofreading

“Phenomenal. This book was phenomenal. The very best in the series.”— Lyssa Armstrong, For Where Your Treasure Is

“This love story was unique and such an uncommon take on a marriage of convenience! [S]weet and well worth the wait!”— Ashley Johnson, Bringing Up Books

“Beautifully written, sensitive, poignant addition to the Mayfield Family series.”— Susan K., The Flipped Page

PURCHASE LINKS

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

Isabelle and Alexander by Rebecca Anderson ~ Blog Tour and Review

@BeccaWilhite, @ShadowMountn
#IsabelleAndAlexander, #HistoricalFiction, #VictorianRomance, #InspirationalFiction, #RebeccaAnderson, #BlogTour

QUICK FACTS:

Title: Isabelle and Alexander (Proper Romance Victorian)

Author: Rebecca Anderson

Genre: Historical Fiction, Inspirational Fiction, Victorian Romance

Publisher: Shadow Mountain Publishing (May 4, 2021)

Format: Trade paperback, eBook, & audiobook (368) pages

Tour Dates: May 3-16. 2021

Hello, and welcome to my stop on the Isabelle and Alexander blog tour. I hope you enjoy my review of this astounding book.

MY REVIEW:

It’s Isabelle Rackham’s big day. She’ll be departing her family’s home in the country to reside with her soon-to-be new husband, Alexander Osgood, a handsome, financially secure man who, although a bit taciturn in nature, seems adequate in affability. Even though her beloved cousin, Edwin, regards Alexander as “chilly”, Isabelle isn’t overly concerned. Compared to her cousin’s warmth and character anyone could be considered cold. An arranged marriage can hardly meet every expectation at the start. The families’ business interests are of primary importance, not Isabelle’s personal preferences. Of this she manages to convince herself.

Once at home with her husband, Alexander is practically mute in Isabelle’s presence, and she’s growing more lonely every day. She misses her Edwin. Her husband is only interested in work at his cotton mill. Isabelle is trying hard to be noticed by her aloof husband-—initiating conversation and dressing up for his arrival home from the mill. And although she believes she detects a glimmer of interest during her attempts to cajole Alexander, he always reverts back to his stoic and brooding nature. Isabelle is confused. Alexander’s house staff and doctor regard him in a much more favorable light. There must be good in him. Why can’t she be the one to bring it out?

A trip to Alexander’s country estate, Wellsgate, brings some promise. There may be hope for their union after all. But then tragedy strikes and new challenges of which Isabelle is not well equipped are presented to the couple. During this formidable time Isabelle learns of the reasons for her husband’s acerbic nature from his gracious family doctor. Armed with these new revelations, Isabelle is determined to do all that’s necessary to care for and win her husband’s love, and in the process she might just learn a few life lessons of her own.
—————-
Isabelle and Alexander was a delightful read. I relished the time spent looking on as the couple navigated the many obstacles they faced, wondering if they had the fortitude and inner strength to overcome them. Alexander was a complicated character that required patience and understanding to break through the rough exterior that ultimately overshadowed his true self. I admired Isabelle. The challenges she faced required an immediate maturity, and she rose to the occasion. In doing so she adopted a new perspective on life, as well as her relationships, including the one she shared with her cousin, Edwin.

A few words about some of the secondary characters…

The house staff, mill workers and friends that made appearances throughout the book contributed nicely to the development of the plot. Collectively, they played a significant role in propelling the story forward, maintaining my interest. One of the characters, a young girl named Glory who had some challenges of her own, but was nevertheless a great asset in many ways, was unique, complex and very likable. My favorite characters were the family doctor, Dr. Kelley, followed by the housekeeper, Mrs. Burns. Her gentle words of wisdom, along with Dr. Kelley’s, were like a healing balm to Isabelle. Glory’s parents, the Kenworthy’s, are also noteworthy. Their obvious love for Glory and their warm regard for Alexander moved me. Also, Yeardley, Mr. Osgood’s faithful butler, while mainly quiet and relegated to the background, was a loyal servant who was of great help on many occasions involving Mr. Osgood. Mr. Connor, Alexander’s engineer, also deserves an honorable mention. His dedication to the Osgood Mill gave new meaning to the words Work Ethic. I have hurriedly dismissed from my mind the two villainous characters, Dr. Fredericks and Nurse Margaret. I shudder thinking of them. Their gruff demeanors and heartless treatment of their patient left much to be desired. Even the Osgood Mill was like a character in my mind’s eye. The description of the various features and functions brought it to life. I could hear the noise and smell the pungent materials within its walls. The efficient way it operated, and the workers’ genuine concern for its owner was heartwarming.

In conclusion, I loved Isabelle and Alexander, and I highly recommend it. I believe the ending certainly leaves the door open for a sequel, and if that is the case, I will look forward to reading it. I’d love to know what further becomes of Alexander and Isabelle, as well as Edwin and his enigmatic bride, Charlotte.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💫 – 4.5 stars

A huge thank you to the Publisher, Shadow Mountain, and blog organizer, Laurel Ann Nattress of Austenprose, for a complimentary copy of Isabelle and Alexander. My opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.

Rebecca Anderson

AUTHOR BIO:

Rebecca Anderson is the nom de plume of contemporary romance novelist Becca Wilhite, author of Wedding Belles: A Novel in Four Parts, Check Me Out, and My Ridiculous Romantic Obsessions. Isabelle and Alexander is her debut historical romance novel.

High school English teacher by day, writer by night (or very early morning), she loves hiking, Broadway shows, food, books, and movies. She is happily married and a mom to four above-average kids.

WEBSITE | TWITTER | FACEBOOK | INSTAGRAM |

PURCHASE LINKS:

AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE BOOK DEPOSITORY | BOOKSHOP

| DESERET BOOK | GOODREADS

ADVANCE PRAISE:

“Anderson’s first foray into historical romance is an atypical, yet satisfying story set in Victorian Manchester’s upper middle class. Hand this to readers looking for a book that navigates the peaks and valleys of two strangers attempting to make a life together despite the hardships life throws at them.”— Library Journal

“Isabelle transitions from an unaware, leisure-class woman to a more enlightened spouse and supporter of the working class. Intimacy and romance develop between Isabelle and Alexander because of simple gestures, like a long look or a thoughtful gift, and their conversations. Their slow, stately courting is reader appropriate for any age or audience. Manchester also gets its due as a place of grit and incredible production. Descriptions of bustling mills reveal their impact on the couple’s family and its fortunes. Isabelle and Alexander is an intimate and touching romance novel that focuses on women’s lives in the business class of industrial England.”— Foreword Reviews

“Isabelle must use her quiet spunk, busy mind, and compassionate spirit to woo her husband in a wholly new way. Anderson’s debut is a lovely northern England Victorian romance about confronting the seemingly impossible and the power of empathy. Anderson also addresses the time period’s treatment of physical and intellectual disabilities. Most of all, she beautifully depicts love in its many forms beyond romance, such as compassion, patience, and vulnerability; and her characters illustrate the ways that these expressions of love carry us through even the darkest hours. Isabelle’s loving and persevering fervor and devotion will resonate with any caregiver’s heart.”— Booklist

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!

We Hope for Better Things by Erin Bartels

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ – 5-stars

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.

Thanks for reading!! 😊

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.

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: 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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Gwendolen by Diana Souhami

Gwendolen by Diana Souhami – 4 of 5 stars

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Gwendolen is written in the form of an undelivered letter to her love Daniel Deronda.  The letter recounts her life beginning from roughly the time just before she makes eye contact with Deronda while gambling feverishly at a roulette table in Homburg, Germany, to when Gwendolen is probably in her late twenties to early thirties.  Gwendolen Harleth is witty, bright, full of verve, beautiful and desirable to nearly every man she comes into contact with. Nevertheless, she’s aloof to the idea of marriage, but her family’s recent financial downturn resultant from their land agent’s negligence necessitates that she accept the proposal of Henleigh Mallinger Grandcourt, a man she neither loves or feels affection for, but whose riches can save her family from certain destitution. Repulsed and dejected by the idea of marriage to this man she runs away to Homburg with vacationing relatives and tries her hand at roulette where a man, Daniel Deronda, watches her scornfully and repulsively from a distance. Gwendolen is disturbed by this man’s judgment of her but is somehow equally charmed by him. She becomes so entranced by his gaze that her winning streak is lost along with her money. In a desperate attempt to acquire the much needed funds to help her family, she pawns a necklace given to her by her long deceased father, only to have it returned to her with a note from Daniel Deronda. Although she can’t seem to dismiss her thoughts related to this man, she is beckoned to return home immediately and face the inevitability of her circumstances, betrothal to Grandcourt. Gwendolen’s instincts are correct.  Grandcourt expects subservience, is abusive and taciturn, and harbors a ghastly secret. As she goes about life with her brutish husband she retains hope by reflecting on her one true but unrequited love interest, Daniel Deronda.

Overall Gwendolen was an enjoyable read.  I wasn’t initially pulled into the story, but as it progressed I found my interest piqued and was held almost to the end. The reason I say this is because there were characters introduced closer to the end of the book that I neither connected with nor particularly cared about. Perhaps this was because I wasn’t acquainted long enough with them, or they weren’t developed enough for me to become interested in them or see their relevance to the overall story. This is where the book began to drag a bit to me; to become disjointed. I would have appreciated it more had the last 40 pages or so of the book been condensed or perhaps omitted. However, I still think the book was well written and altogether noteworthy. The chronicling of Gwendolen’s adventurous life, along with the many initial friends and acquaintances that were a part of it certainly made for entertaining reading. Although she struggled much with decisions she’d made, I liked that by the end of the book she seemed to have matured to the point where she was finally at peace with herself and was able to put her internal demons to rest and get on with her life. If you enjoy historical novels you will probably like Gwendolen.
Thank you LibraryThing and Henry Holt and Company for a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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.