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Audiobook Review: Bloomsbury Girls

17 May

Bloomsbury Girls by Natalie Jenner is a sequel of sorts of the author’s highly acclaimed novel, The Jane Austen Society. One character from the first book is part of the story as the reader is transported to a book store in early 1950s London. It’s a must read for bibliophiles, but it so much more than books. 😉 I liked it very much. Find all the details and my thoughts below.

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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 fiancĂ© 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 

PURCHASE LINKS:

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

AUDIOBOOK

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

MY IMPRESSIONS:

I loved The Jane Austen Society, so when I heard Natalie Jenner had another book-related novel, I said yes, please! Bloomsbury Girls takes Evie Stone from Jenner’s first novel, and places her, along with a strong cast of characters, in the book shop Bloomsbury Books. Jenner does an admirable job of transporting the reader back to post-WWII England as many strive to find new lives in the ever-changing aftermath of the war. Class distinctions and the place of women and minorities in a new world are explored amid the bookshelves of a grand, but struggling bookstore. And for the bibliophiles among us, there are plenty of interactions with publishing notables and favorite authors. (My favorite, Daphne DuMaurier, plays an integral role.) The struggles of a society are mirrored in the microcosm of the bookstore. Characterization is a strong point of this book. Main and supporting characters alike are fully developed. I listened to the audiobook version of the novel which was excellently read by Juliet Stevenson. If you are a fan of audiobooks, I suggest you download this one soon.

Bloomsbury Girls is an outstanding general market novel that I won’t hesitate to recommend. Filled with historical detail, societal issues that make one think, and characters to love, it is a recommended read.

Recommended.

Audience: adults.

(I received a link to the audiobook from AustenProse. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

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 and has 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.

WEBSITE | TWITTER | FACEBOOK | INSTAGRAM | GOODREADS

A message from the author:


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 Girls continues 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

Audiobook Mini-Review: The Magnificent Lives of Marjorie Post.

16 May

Mrs. Post, the President and First Lady are here to see you. . . . So begins another average evening for Marjorie Merriweather Post. Presidents have come and gone, but she has hosted them all. Growing up in the modest farmlands of Battle Creek, Michigan, Marjorie was inspired by a few simple rules: always think for yourself, never take success for granted, and work hard—even when deemed American royalty, even while covered in imperial diamonds. Marjorie had an insatiable drive to live and love and to give more than she got. From crawling through Moscow warehouses to rescue the Tsar’s treasures to outrunning the Nazis in London, from serving the homeless of the Great Depression to entertaining Roosevelts, Kennedys, and Hollywood’s biggest stars, Marjorie Merriweather Post lived an epic life few could imagine.
 
Marjorie’s journey began gluing cereal boxes in her father’s barn as a young girl. No one could have predicted that C. W. Post’s Cereal Company would grow into the General Foods empire and reshape the American way of life, with Marjorie as its heiress and leading lady. Not content to stay in her prescribed roles of high-society wife, mother, and hostess, Marjorie dared to demand more, making history in the process. Before turning thirty she amassed millions, becoming the wealthiest woman in the United States. But it was her life-force, advocacy, passion, and adventurous spirit that led to her stunning legacy.
 
And yet Marjorie’s story, though full of beauty and grandeur, set in the palatial homes she built such as Mar-a-Lago, was equally marked by challenge and tumult. A wife four times over, Marjorie sought her happily-ever-after with the blue-blooded party boy who could not outrun his demons, the charismatic financier whose charm turned to betrayal, the international diplomat with a dark side, and the bon vivant whose shocking secrets would shake Marjorie and all of society. Marjorie did everything on a grand scale, especially when it came to love.

Bestselling and acclaimed author Allison Pataki has crafted an intimate portrait of a larger-than-life woman, a powerful story of one woman falling in love with her own voice and embracing her own power while shaping history in the process.

Allison Pataki is the New York Times bestselling author of THE QUEEN’S FORTUNE, THE TRAITOR’S WIFE, THE ACCIDENTAL EMPRESS, SISI: EMPRESS ON HER OWN, WHERE THE LIGHT FALLS, as well as the nonfiction memoir BEAUTY IN THE BROKEN PLACES and two children’s books, NELLY TAKES NEW YORK and POPPY TAKES PARIS. Allison’s novels have been translated into more than twenty languages. A former news writer and producer, Allison has written for The New York Times, ABC News, The Huffington Post, USA Today, Fox News and other outlets. She has appeared on The TODAY Show, Good Morning America, Fox & Friends, Good Day New York, Good Day Chicago and MSNBC’s Morning Joe.

Allison graduated Cum Laude from Yale University with a major in English and spent several years in journalism before switching to fiction writing. A member of The Historical Novel Society, Allison lives in New York with her husband and family. To learn more and connect with Allison, please visit http://www.AllisonPataki.com or Twitter @AllisonPataki.

My Impressions:

I am a member of a book club that loves to read biographical fiction. Think fictionalized accounts of real people. We chose The Magnificent Lives of Marjorie Post because we have read and loved other of Allison Pataki‘s novels and because the subject character, Marjorie Merriweather Post, sounded fascinating. It got an unanimous thumbs up from us. The story is told in the first person voice of Marjorie Post, giving the reader an inside look into the workings of a very interesting woman. Smart, determined, resourceful — Marjorie took her company to new levels of success. She also had lots of marriages, and we felt that the one-sided viewpoint may have been a little biased. 😉 But we loved tagging along with Marjorie as she built Mar-A-Lago, wooed and wowed the DC elite, and rescued priceless Russian treasures. The audiobook version was well read, and made me find excuses to listen longer. If you are looking for an engaging read featuring a real-life person, I recommend this book. (Please note this is a general market novel.)

Recommended.

Audience: adults.

(I purchased the audiobook from Audible. All opinions expressed are mine.)

Children’s Corner: This Farm Is A Family

12 May

This Farm Is A Family by Dan McKernan and illustrated by Denise Hughes is a children’s storybook based on a real life sanctuary farm and its real life inhabitants. Kids will love the cute and quirky animals that have formed a family along with Farmer Dan. The animals all care about each other and are eager to welcome a new member into their family. Lessons on acceptance, patience, and love are played out within the pages of this book. If your child has a soft spot for animals, like my granddaughter does, I think this book would be a great choice for your family library. At the end of the book you and your child can learn more about Barn Sanctuary and ways to help in their rescue of abused and neglected farm animals.

Recommended.

Audience: children ages 4-8

(Thanks to Zonderkidz for a complimentary copy. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

In this adorable illustrated picture book for kids written by Dan McKernan (Saved by the Barn), the rescue farm animals at Barn Sanctuary decide to help a cow who is dealing with fear and anxiety in her new home. Children will learn the importance of friendship and compassion, as well as why it’s important to support others during hard times.

Inside this book, kids ages 4-8 will discover:

  • A positive message about friendship, kindness, and understanding others
  • How to show compassion to others
  • Ways of coping with difficult situations, including how to deal with fear and anxiety
  • A page with information on Barn Sanctuary and their rescue efforts, with information on ways you can support the real-life animals featured in the book

This Farm Is a Family follows a group of rescued farm animals who are living their best lives at Barn Sanctuary. Each one is eager to meet the newest arrival, Buttercup the cow, and show her all the fun things they can do together. But Buttercup doesn’t want to play–in fact, she doesn’t want anything to do with the other animals. So with a lot of love and understanding, the animals work together to help Buttercup discover she’s part of a new family and can leave her old fears behind.

Dan McKernan is the Founder of Barn Sanctuary and star of the popular Animal Planet series Saved by the Barn. In 2015, Dan left his tech job in Austin, Texas, to transform his family’s 140-year-old farm into a safe haven for farmed animals. That safe haven is Barn Sanctuary. Author of a forthcoming children’s book, “This Farm Is a Family,” Dan’s mission, through the work of Barn Sanctuary, is to change the way the world views farmed animals and help lead society towards a more compassionate and plant-based lifestyle.

Children’s Corner: How High Is Heaven

9 May

I really liked the children’s book, How High Is Heaven by Linsey Davis. The author takes a difficult subject, the death of a loved one, and creates a hope-filled book that will speak to the hearts of children ages 4-8. With rhyme and vivid illustrations, this storybook tells of a young boy’s honest questions of how he can see his grandmother again. This is not a sad book at all, but a celebration of life here on earth as well as in heaven. I loved the last line — One day I’ll see gran, but until that time . . . I’ll enjoy heaven here on earth. If your family is going through the loss of a family member, I highly recommend this book. It speaks to a child’s honest questions and the promises they can find in God.

Highly Recommended.

Audience: children ages 4-8.

(Thanks to Zonderkidz for a complimentary copy. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

Children ask A LOT of questions when it comes to heaven, particularly when they’ve experienced the loss of a loved one. In this uplifting, imaginative picture book, How High Is Heaven? inspires hope and comfort in readers young and old, that heaven can be experienced here and now and is open for us all. 

Bestselling author and ABC News correspondent Linsey Davis invites children to explore age-appropriate questions about heaven. Kids (and their parents) can celebrate that, thanks to God’s grace, heaven is a place we can look forward to while finding moments of heaven here on earth.  

How High Is Heaven? is the perfect books for parents and grandparents to read aloud and provides an uplifting message for kids ages 4-8, delivering: 

  • Read-aloud, lyrical rhymes  
  • Whimsical, engaging illustrations by Lucy Fleming 
  • Answers to children’s questions about heaven
 and a safe place to ask them  
  • Comfort to those who have lost a loved one 

Linsey Davis is an Emmy Award winning ABC News Correspondent, filing reports for World News, Good Morning America, 20/20 and Nightline. She has covered major news stories around the globe, and is excited to share her latest story, THE WORLD IS AWAKE with the world. 

For Davis her three-year-old son served as her inspiration, and Psalm 118:24 is the blueprint of the book: “This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” 

“Almost daily he takes my hand and he leads me into the world around him with fresh eyes, and it serves as a subtle reminder of all the reasons to rejoice and anticipate each new day. The World is Awake is a whimsical look at all that is extraordinary in an ordinary day. It is an exploration of the splendor and majesty of God’s blessings all around us through the lens of young people.”

In addition to her role at ABC, she is a Christian, wife, mother and author. She is also a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc and the National Association of Black Journalists.

Book Review: The Murder of Mr. Wickham

5 May

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

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

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

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

PURCHASE LINKS

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

WEBSITE | TWITTER | FACEBOOK | INSTAGRAM | BOOKBUB | GOODREADS

MY IMPRESSIONS:

For Jane Austen fans, The Murder of Mr. Wickham by Claudia Gray is a must read. Not only because one of the most odious of all literary characters meets his end, but because Gray gives the reader a credible look at what might have happened to Austen’s main characters after the curtain is drawn on their stories. Gray explores the what-ifs of Darcy and Elizabeth, Fanny and Edmund, Emma and Knightley, Marianne and Colonel Brandon, Anne and Captain Wentworth, as well as two original characters in Juliet Tilney and Jonathan Darcy. While the murder mystery is interesting with sufficient twists, turns, and surprises, the beyond-the-wedding stuff is great. However, the most interesting character of all is Jonathan Darcy, eldest son of Fitzwilliam and Elizabeth Darcy. I won’t disclose too much, but he decidedly does not fit into the standards of Regency England. His characterization is fascinating, especially through a Regency lens. Gray keeps her writing style true to Austen’s too. You will feel you are right back in Highbury with all your favorites.

Clever imagining of the later lives of the Austen characters all with Mr. Wickham’s murder — what more could a Janeite want? 😉 The Murder of Mr. Wickham is a recommended read.

Recommended.

Audience: Adults.

(Thanks to AustenProse for a complimentary copy. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

Book Review: Then Sings My Soul

27 Apr

My book club read Then Sings My Soul by Amy K. Sorrells this month. It actually got some mixed reviews — one of our group’s members said that she had a love-hate relationship with the book 😉 . Although beautifully written, there are a lot of hard things included. It’s a look at historical events and an exploration of grief, sorrow, and redemption. I liked it a lot, but found it a hard read, if you know what I mean. Find out about the book, author, and my impressions below.

1904, Chudniv, Ukraine. Playing hide-and-seek in bucolic fields of sunflowers, young Jakob never imagines the horrific secrets he will carry as he and his brother escape through genocide-ridden Eastern Europe.

1994, South Haven, Michigan. At age 94, time is running out for any hope that Jakob can be free from his burden of guilt.

When Jakob’s wife dies, he and his daughter, Nel, are forced to face the realities of his worsening dementia―including a near-naked, midnight jaunt down the middle of main street―as well as emerging shadows Nel had no idea lay beneath her father’s beloved, curmudgeonly ways.

While Nel navigates the restoration and sale of Jakob’s dilapidated lake house, her high school sweetheart shows up in town, along with unexpected correspondence from Ukraine. And when she discovers a mysterious gemstone in Jakob’s old lapidary room, Jakob’s condition worsens as he begins having flashbacks about his baby sister from nearly a century past.

As father and daughter race against time to discover the truth behind Jackob’s fragmented memories, the God they have both been running from shows that he redeems not only broken years, but also the future.

Amy K. Sorrells is a novelist who believes in the power of story to change lives. Praised by reviewers for the way they both poetically and accurately portray hardship and hope, Amy’s novels are inspired by social issues that break her heart and finding hope in the midst of them. In addition to being a writer, Amy is also grateful to be a practicing registered nurse at a busy suburban hospital. She and her husband have raised three young-adult sons and live in central Indiana. 

Connect with Amy at amyksorrells.com, or find her on Facebook (@amyksorrells), Twitter(@AmyKSorrells1), TikTok (@amyksorrells), and Instagram (@amyksorrells).

My Impressions:

When the war in Ukraine began earlier this year, I was reminded of a book that had been on my TBR list way too long. Then Sings My Soul by Amy K. Sorrells tells the story of Jakob Stewart, a 90-something American man who has ties to Ukraine. Through scenes from his past, and the explorations of of his daughter Nel 90 years later, a story of human suffering and horror unfolds. But more than that it is a story of how events shape a person. Jakob was a small boy of four when he is forced with his elder brother to flee Ukraine. He battles guilt and grief all of his life. Nel, who cherishes the memory of her parents and her growing up years, also lets events shape her. I found it very interesting how some in the story stay grounded in faith, while others seem to drift. Sorrells’ complex storytelling allows the reader to experience Jakob and Nel’s lives. I felt their pain, loss, and ultimately their redemption. I admit I ugly cried at the end. 😉 This was a difficult book to read. The writing is well-done, the narrative seems to flow effortlessly, yet the subject matter hurt my heart. I was immediately drawn into the lives of the main characters — they felt so much like someone I knew — so the connection with them felt so personal. I think this is the strongest aspect of the novel. Historical details, as well as information on lapidary arts, taught me too. The book ends well, but . . . there are unanswered questions that made me ponder how the characters’ journey would progress. Some don’t like unfinished stories, but Then Sings My Soul provided me with a means to finish the story how I wanted it to go. 😉

Another great book by Sorrells! Then Sings My Soul will make you feel and think. It also generated a great discussion with my book club.

Highly Recommended.

Great for Book Clubs.

Audience: Adults.

(I purchased this book from Amazon. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

Book Review: Shadows in A Mind’s Eye

21 Apr

I have been anticipating Janyre Tromp‘s debut novel for a long time — it was well worth my wait! Tromp has created a masterful story in Shadows in The Mind’s Eye. Find out all the details below, along with my impressions. There’s a link to a fabulous giveaway at the end of the post — don’t miss it!

Charlotte Anne Mattas longs to turn back the clock. Before her husband, Sam, went to serve his country in the war, he was the man everyone could rely on—responsible, intelligent, and loving. But the person who’s come back to their family farm is very different from the protector Annie remembers. Sam’s experience in the Pacific theater has left him broken in ways no one can understand—but that everyone is learning to fear.

Tongues start wagging after Sam nearly kills his own brother. Now when he claims to have seen men on the mountain when no one else has seen them, Annie isn’t the only one questioning his sanity and her safety. If there were criminals haunting the hills, there should be evidence beyond his claims. Is he really seeing what he says, or is his war-tortured mind conjuring ghosts?

Annie desperately wants to believe her husband. But between his irrational choices and his nightmares leaking into the daytime, she’s terrified he’s going mad. Can she trust God to heal Sam’s mental wounds—or will sticking by him mean keeping her marriage at the cost of her own life?

Debut novelist Janyre Tromp delivers a deliciously eerie, Hitchcockian story filled with love and suspense. Readers of psychological thrillers and historical fiction by Jaime Jo Wright and Sarah Sundin will add Tromp to their favorite authors list.

To read an excerpt of Shadows in the Mind’s Eye, click here

Janyre Tromp (pronounced Jan-ear) is a historical suspense novelist who loves spinning tales that, at their core, hunt for beauty, even when it isn’t pretty. She’s the author of Shadows in the Mind’s Eye and coauthor of It’s a Wonderful Christmas

A firm believer in the power of an entertaining story, Tromp is also a book editor and published children’s book author. She lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan with her husband, two kids, two crazy cats, and a slightly eccentric Shetland Sheepdog. 

You can find her on Facebook (@JanyreTromp), Instagram (@JaynreTromp), Twitter (@JanyreTromp), and her website, www.JanyreTromp.com where you can download a free copy of her novella, Wide Open

My Impressions:

Shadows in The Mind’s Eye is a complexly composed post-WWII novel that kept me turning the pages. There is so much to unpack about this book, and I am afraid I will not do it justice. Let me just say it kept me turning the pages while making me stop and ponder. Sounds contradictory? Perhaps. 😉 But I wanted so much to find out what was up and to understand what the characters were going through. The two main characters — Sam and Annie — are finding their way back to each other following Sam’s return from war. Sam returns with lots of demons and Annie has not shed all that she brought into their marriage years before. The relationship aspect of the novel gave it a wonderful intimacy, especially since the novel is told in Sam and Annie’s first person POV. As if that wasn’t enough, Tromp delivered an intensely vivid story with lots of tension and suspense and twists and turns. I never knew who to believe or trust. While Annie and Sam struggled with their relationship and their faith, they had a great example of reliance on the goodness of God in Dovie May, Sam’s mother. Although a secondary character, Dovie May provided a spiritual structure for the rest of the characters. There were also great historical details of Hot Springs, Arkansas in the mid-to-late 1940s that gave the novel a grounded sense of place and time.

Not your ordinary historical novel, Shadows in The Mind’s Eye is a personal glimpse into the struggles of returning WWII servicemen and the impact on family and community. It also is a riveting, suspense-filled story that will keep you up way past your bedtime! 😉

Highly Recommended.

Audience: adults.

(Thanks to Kregel for a complimentary copy. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

Giveaway!

The prize pack includes:

– A copy of Shadows in the Mind’s Eye,

– A custom made silver peach tree necklace inspired by the book,

– A “Light speaks through the broken places” t-shirt also inspired by the book.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Audiobook Review — Her Country Gentleman

19 Apr

Love historical romance? Then you should definitely check out the novella collection, Her Country Gentleman (Timeless Georgian Collection, Book 1) by Sian Ann Bessey, Sarah M. Eden, and Rebecca Connolly. I listened to the audiobook, and it was the perfect accompaniment for my morning walks and chores. All the details and my thoughts are below.

Not all love is found in London . . .

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

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

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

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

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

Although Sian doesn’t have the opportunity to speak Welsh very often anymore, she can still wrap her tongue around, “Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch.” She loves to travel and experience other cultures, but when she’s home, her favorite activities are spending time with her family, cooking, and reading.

You can visit Sian on the web at http://www.sianannbessey.com

Sarah M. Eden is a USA Today bestselling author of multiple historical romances, including AML’s “2013 Novel of the Year” and Foreword Review’s 2013 “IndieFab Book of the Year” gold medal winner for Best Romance, Longing for Home, and the Whitney Award’s “2014 Novel of the Year,” Longing for Home: Hope Springs. Combining her obsession with history and affinity for tender love stories, Sarah loves crafting witty characters and heartfelt romances set against rich historical backdrops. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in research and happily spends hours perusing the reference shelves of her local library. Sarah lives with her husband, kids, and mischievous dog in the shadow of a snow-capped mountain she has never attempted to ski.

Rebecca Connolly is the author of more than two dozen novels. She calls herself a Midwest girl, having lived in Ohio and Indiana. She’s always been a bookworm, and her grandma would send her books almost every month so she would never run out. Book Fairs were her carnival, and libraries are her happy place. She has been creating stories since childhood, and there are home videos to prove it! She received a master’s degree from West Virginia University, spends every spare moment away from her day job absorbed in her writing, and is a hot cocoa addict.

My Impressions:

Her Country Gentleman, a collection of 3 romance novellas set during the Victorian-era in England, was just what I needed for my morning walks. This book had just the right mixture of romance, suspense, whimsy, and Victorian touches to keep me engaged and listening (I had a copy of the audiobook). I liked that each novella was about 2+ hours long — I could get my exercise in, do a few chores, and look forward to the next installment the next day. Before you think the books were just time fillers, let me tell you that they were well-crafted with interesting historical details and characters that I truly liked! Although each novella has its own unique voice due to the different authors, they each revolve around finding love and purpose in the countryside of England. There’s no stuffy London drawing rooms to be found, but there are plenty of sheep! LOL! Seriously, I enjoyed the suspense Bessey created in Spring at Tribbley Hall, the focus of being true to oneself in Love of My Heart by Eden, and the fun and love found in Miss Smith Goes to Wiltshire by Connolly. I loved traveling outside of London and getting into the fresh air of the countryside with the plucky heroines and their dashing love interests.

This fresh voiced collection is perfect for those who love historical romance. Whichever version of the collection you choose, I can promise you will be swept up in all three stories.

Recommended.

Audience: adults.

(Thanks to AustenProse for a complimentary audiobook. All opinions expressed are my own.)

Audiobook Mini-Review — Bride Of A Distant Isle

13 Apr

I listened to Bride of A Distant Isle, a historical romance set in Victorian England, a while back and failed to post a review! As always Sandra Byrd does a wonderful job of capturing settings. This audiobook was unturnoffable 😉 ! I loved the main character’s grit as she seeks to keep her independence and uncover the many secrets surrounding her family. If you need an audiobook for a road trip, this one is perfect.

An unforgettable romance set in Victorian England, Bride of A Distant Isle is the engrossing story of Annabel Ashton, who fights to save her family home and her mother’s honor while trying to figure out if the man she loves wants her—or just wants to use her to achieve his own ambitions.

Miss Annabel Ashton is a teacher at the Rogers School for Young Ladies in Winchester when she takes a brief visit to her family home, Highcliffe Hall at Milford-on-Sea. She believes her stay will be short but soon learns that she will not be returning to the safety of the school. Instead, she remains at Highcliffe, at the mercy of her cousin, Edward Everedge.

Annabel protests, but as the illegitimate daughter of a woman who died in an insane asylum, she has little say. Edward is running out of money and puts the house up for sale to avoid financial ruin. He insists that Annabel marry, promising her to a sinister, frightening man. But as the house gets packed for sale, it begins to reveal disquieting secrets. Jewelry, artifacts, and portraits mysteriously appear, suggesting that Annabel may be the true heir of Highcliffe.

She has only a few months to prove her legitimacy, perhaps with assistance from the handsome but troubled Maltese Captain Dell’Acqua. But does he have Annabel’s best interests at heart?

And then, a final, most ominous barrier to both her inheritance and her existence appears: a situation neither she nor anyone else could have expected. Will Annabel regain her life and property—and trust her heart—before it’s too late?

Sandra Byrd‘s first series of historically sound Gothic romances launched with the best-selling Mist of Midnight, which earned a coveted Editor’s Choice Award from the Historical Novel Society. The second book, Bride of a Distant Isle, has been selected by Romantic Times as a Top Pick. The third in the series, A Lady in Disguise, was named by the American Library Association’s Booklist as one of the Top Ten Inspirational Fiction Books of the year.

Her contemporary adult fiction debut, Let Them Eat Cake, was a Christy Award finalist, as was her first historical novel, To Die For: A Novel of Anne Boleyn. To Die For was also named a Library Journal Best Books of the Year Pick, as was The Secret Keeper: A Novel of Kateryn Parr.

Victorian Ladies, a new series, offered its first title, Lady of a Thousand Treasures, in 2018. Sandra has also authored many books for teens, tweens, and devotionals for both adults and children.

Connect with Sandra at http://www.sandrabyrd.com or http://www.sandrabyrdbookcoach.com.

My Impressions:

Gothically delicious! Yes it’s a thing — when it involves an historical novel by Sandra Byrd. I found the audiobook of Bride of A Distant Isle to be unturnoffable! This novel has it all — a determined heroine who rises above her circumstances and faces danger steadily, a mysterious and exotic love interest, appearing and disappearing personal items, and some very dastardly villains and creepy lechers. I was soon swept up in the plight of Annabel Ashton as she seeks to uncover the truth about her mother, while dodging marriage arrangements. The setting is all Victorian England with some nods to Malta. I promise you will be caught up in the narrative wondering how a happily-ever-after can ever be pulled off. Kudos to Byrd for a wonderful story!

Recommended.

Audience: adults.

(I borrowed the audiobook from Libby through my local library. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

Book Review — All That It Takes

11 Apr

I read Before I Called You Mine last year, and with that book Nicole Deese made my must-read list. So I jumped at the chance to read All That It Takes. It’s a contemporary romance. It’s women’s fiction at its finest. It’s a book with heart and soul. It’s a highly recommended read!

When the ever-cautious Val Locklier moves cross-country with her son for a secure job, everything she’d planned unravels within the first week. After Val reluctantly agrees to rent an apartment from her best friend’s brother, an unexpected chance at an elite filmmakers’ mentorship ignites fresh hope for a dream career. But as Val’s community begins to expand, so do her insecurities, especially those heightened by her growing attraction to a certain friendly landlord. 

Pastor Miles McKenzie returns home from a short-term mission trip to discover that not only does he have an intriguing new tenant living upstairs, he’s also been reassigned to a local ministry on life support. Disillusioned and restless, he distracts himself by throwing his energy into a host of new projects–not the least of which is pursuing Val–without stopping to consider the future. 

As Val struggles to stop hiding behind the camera and Miles wrestles with shattered expectations, they’ll find that authentic love and sacrifice must go hand in hand.

Nicole Deese is a Carol Award winner and a RITA and INSPY Award finalist. When she’s not working on her next contemporary Christian romance novel, she can usually be found reading one by a window overlooking the inspiring beauty of the Pacific Northwest. She lives in small-town Idaho with her happily-ever-after hubby, two rambunctious sons, and princess daughter with the heart of a warrior. Find her online at http://www.nicoledeese.com.

My Impressions:

After reading Before I Called You Mine, I knew that any novel written by Nicole Deese should be on my must-read list. All That It Takes just solidified this talented author’s place on that list. It is contemporary romance with heart and soul. Not just romance, this book also can be labeled great women’s fiction as it checks the boxes for deep themes and issues that will speak to women. I know it spoke to me. The story revolves around Val, her 10 year old son Tucker, and her landlord/best friend’s brother, Miles. The two have instant attraction, but they are both in places where romance should be secondary. I loved how Deese made their first priority getting right with God’s purposes in their lives. Miles is a confident guy who trusts his own plans. Val is a careful woman, who struggles with vulnerability and doubts. Together they are great, but only when they put God first. Secondary characters added a lot to this book — I fell in love with them too. The desire to be known is a strong theme and the many characters and situations in the book illustrated it well. I laughed a little. I cried a little (ok maybe a lot 😉 ). And I loved this book a lot.

I picked up All That It Takes not knowing that it is a sequel of sorts to All That Really Matters. I was not lost and didn’t feel like I was missing anything. I do know that All That Really Matters is now on my TBR list. A great book that kept me thinking and wishing I could talk about it with someone, All That It Takes would make a great book club selection. It is definitely highly recommended.

Highly Recommended.

Audience: adults.

(Thanks to Bethany House for a complimentary copy. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)