Tag Archives: historical mystery fiction

Book Review — The Barrister And The Letter of Marque

22 Sep

I loved Todd M. Johnson‘s contemporary suspense novels, so when I saw he had a new release set in Regency England I knew I needed to read it. It was great! A well-told mystery with wonderful historical details, The Barrister And The Letter of Marque gets a highly recommended rating from me. My interview with Johnson is HERE.

As a barrister in 1818 London, William Snopes has witnessed firsthand the danger of only the wealthy having their voices heard, and he’s a strong advocate who defends the poorer classes against the powerful. That changes the day a struggling heiress, Lady Madeleine Jameson, arrives at his door.

In a last-ditch effort to save her faltering estate, Lady Jameson invested in a merchant brig, the Padget. The ship was granted a rare privilege by the king’s regent: a Letter of Marque authorizing the captain to seize the cargo of French traders operating illegally in the Indian Sea. Yet when the Padget returns to London, her crew is met by soldiers ready to take possession of their goods and arrest the captain for piracy. And the Letter—-the sole proof his actions were legal—has mysteriously vanished.

Moved by the lady’s distress, intrigued by the Letter, and goaded by an opposing solicitor, Snopes takes the case. But as he delves deeper into the mystery, he learns that the forces arrayed against Lady Jameson, and now himself, are even more perilous than he’d imagined.

Todd M. Johnson is the author ofthree legal thrillers: The Deposit Slip (2012), Critical Reaction(2013), and Fatal Trust (2017), and The Barrister and the Letter of Marque (2021), his first foray into historical mystery. He has been a practicing attorney for over 30 years, specializing as a trial lawyer. A graduate of Princeton University and the University of Minnesota Law School, he also taught for two years as adjunct professor of International Law and served as a US diplomat in Hong Kong. He lives outside Minneapolis, Minnesota, with his wife and daughter.

WEBSITE | TWITTER | FACEBOOK | INSTAGRAM | BOOKBUB | GOODREADS

My Impressions:

Todd M. Johnson’s contemporary suspense novels checked all the boxes for me — complex legal wrangling, underdog characters to cheer for, and page-turning mystery. I found all that and more in his newest novel, The Barrister And The Letter of Marque. This historical mystery set in Regency England features a clever barrister with a reputation for creativity in the courtroom. Barrister William Snopes and his colleagues take on a case of piracy involving a missing Letter of Marque from the Crown. Mysterious and highly influential people in society seem to be behind the case, and Snopes must uncover their identities before it’s too late for his client.

I found the legal aspects of The Barrister And The Letter of Marque fascinating. This is not a modern-day setting with Miranda rights and presumption of innocence. Johnson does a great job of bringing the 19th century English judicial system to life. Sleeping jurors, a hostile judge, and all the weight of the Crown join together to make Snopes’ job next to impossible. I loved how the characters had to use their wits and experience without modern forensics and communication. I think this is one of the reasons I could not put this book down. Another reason was the view of British society of the time — both the glittering ballrooms and the back alleys. The reader sees the veneer and the underbelly. Of course, the characters were wonderfully drawn — main and secondary. I loved how the author included historical figures in the novel, making me use my Google search and ponder the what-ifs of their stories. Barrister Snopes is a character to love — earnest and sincere with a heart that is both tender and calloused. His story is unfinished, hinting at more to come. I can’t wait!

If you are a fan of courtroom drama, historical details, and a complex story, then The Barrister And The Letter of Marque is the book for you. While set in an earlier era, the book will definitely appeal to fans of Sherlock Holmes (books and TV series/movies). I am passing this book on to my husband, a fan of all things British mystery. Can’t wait to hear his thoughts.

Highly Recommended.

Audience: adults.

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

First Line Friday — The Barrister And The Letter of Marque

20 Aug

Happy Friday — it’s been a soggy and muggy week with Fred’s journey through the usually sunny South. But I am looking forward to some better conditions as I travel to my cabin in the mountains. Hopefully a lot of reading is on the horizon too!

This week I am featuring The Barrister And The Letter of Marque by Todd M. Johnson. I have loved his contemporary suspense, and this Regency-era mystery is up my alley too. Here’s the first line —

Early evening shadows blanketed the study lit only by desk candles and a sputtering fire in the hearth.

As a barrister in 1818 London, William Snopes has witnessed firsthand the danger of only the wealthy having their voices heard, and he’s a strong advocate who defends the poorer classes against the powerful. That changes the day a struggling heiress, Lady Madeleine Jameson, arrives at his door.

In a last-ditch effort to save her faltering estate, Lady Jameson invested in a merchant brig, the Padget. The ship was granted a rare privilege by the king’s regent: a Letter of Marque authorizing the captain to seize the cargo of French traders operating illegally in the Indian Sea. Yet when the Padget returns to London, her crew is met by soldiers ready to take possession of their goods and arrest the captain for piracy. And the Letter—the sole proof his actions were legal—has mysteriously vanished.

Moved by the lady’s distress, intrigued by the Letter, and goaded by an opposing solicitor, Snopes takes the case. But as he delves deeper into the mystery, he learns that the forces arrayed against Lady Jameson, and now himself, are even more perilous than he’d imagined.

Todd M. Johnson is the author of three legal thrillers: The Deposit Slip (2012), Critical Reaction(2013), and Fatal Trust (2017), and The Barrister and the Letter of Marque (2021), his first foray into historical mystery. He has been a practicing attorney for over 30 years, specializing as a trial lawyer. A graduate of Princeton University and the University of Minnesota Law School, he also taught for two years as adjunct professor of International Law and served as a US diplomat in Hong Kong. He lives outside Minneapolis, Minnesota, with his wife and daughter.

WEBSITE | TWITTER | FACEBOOK | INSTAGRAM | BOOKBUB | GOODREADS

Book Spotlight And Author Interview — The Barrister And The Letter of Marque

11 Aug
  • Title: The Barrister and the Letter of Marque: A Novel 
  • Author: Todd M. Johnson
  • Genre: Historical Mystery, Suspense, Inspirational Fiction 
  • Publisher: Bethany House Publishers (August 3, 2021)
  • Length: (416) pages
  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-0764239137
  • Trade Paperback ISBN: 978-0764212369
  • eBook ASIN: B08LG91Y95
  • Audiobook ASIN: B0983VZ6XZ

BOOK DESCRIPTION

As a barrister in 1818 London, William Snopes has witnessed firsthand the danger of only the wealthy having their voices heard, and he’s a strong advocate who defends the poorer classes against the powerful. That changes the day a struggling heiress, Lady Madeleine Jameson, arrives at his door.

In a last-ditch effort to save her faltering estate, Lady Jameson invested in a merchant brig, the Padget. The ship was granted a rare privilege by the king’s regent: a Letter of Marque authorizing the captain to seize the cargo of French traders operating illegally in the Indian Sea. Yet when the Padget returns to London, her crew is met by soldiers ready to take possession of their goods and arrest the captain for piracy. And the Letter—-the sole proof his actions were legal—has mysteriously vanished.

Moved by the lady’s distress, intrigued by the Letter, and goaded by an opposing solicitor, Snopes takes the case. But as he delves deeper into the mystery, he learns that the forces arrayed against Lady Jameson, and now himself, are even more perilous than he’d imagined.

PURCHASE LINKS

AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLEBOOK DEPOSITORY | BOOKSHOP 

| GOODREADS

ADVANCE PRAISE

“Johnson debuts with a tense story of powerful interests teaming up to thwart a legal challenge in Georgian-era England…Johnson steeps his story in legal maneuvering, layers of intrigue, midnight chases, and even a hint of romance. While faith elements are subtle, this enthralling novel will appeal to fans of both legal thrillers and historical inspirationals.”— Publishers Weekly

“… a mystery worthy of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. This richly historical and lively paced story has all the makings of a modern classic.”— Jocelyn Green, Christy Award-winning author of Shadows of the White City 

“At once atmospheric and gripping, Johnson’s latest is a luminous and refreshing new offering in inspirational historical fiction.”— Rachel McMillan, bestselling author of The London Restoration, and The Mozart Code

“A fascinating glimpse into a Regency London readers seldom see.”— Roseanna M. White, bestselling author of Edwardian fiction

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Todd M. Johnson is the author ofthree legal thrillers: The Deposit Slip (2012), Critical Reaction (2013), and Fatal Trust (2017), and The Barrister and the Letter of Marque (2021), his first foray into historical mystery. He has been a practicing attorney for over 30 years, specializing as a trial lawyer. A graduate of Princeton University and the University of Minnesota Law School, he also taught for two years as adjunct professor of International Law and served as a US diplomat in Hong Kong. He lives outside Minneapolis, Minnesota, with his wife and daughter.

WEBSITE | TWITTER | FACEBOOK | INSTAGRAM | BOOKBUB | GOODREADS

Q & A WITH TODD M. JOHNSON

Many authors say that they have always been a writer — making up stories as a child. When did you first become a writer?

Always been a writer? Could I convince you that I can still recall smuggling a pen and paper into my play pen and musing late into naptime on plot points drawn from my long road of experience?

Seriously, storytelling has been a long journey for me. From imaginary childhood friends to stories told to schoolmates, I started pretty early. I first began scribing when a good friend and I got together to write short stories in fifth grade or so, reading our finished works to one another over Cokes and cookies. (I wish I still had those stories, his and mine!) As I grew older, I continued writing fiction whenever I could convince a schoolteacher that a “short story” was an appropriate response to an assignment – like the rewrite I did of a chapter in A Separate Peace by John Knowles from ‘Finny’s’ perspective. In eighth grade, a teacher intern was excited enough about my writing that she volunteered to be my “agent”, setting me up in a classroom after school to write stories under her supervision. I’m sure she went on to be a marvelous teacher. Unfortunately, I hadn’t the patience to stick with it at that young age. 

I got away from writing after college, focusing on the more practical career path of law—only to return to the typewriter (now transformed into a keyboard) about twelve years ago when I realized the dream I’d always nurtured of being a novelist was getting away from me. That led to my fortunate intersection with Bethany House and my four novels (and more in the pipeline).   

Can you tell us a little about what inspired The Barrister and the Letter of Marque?

When I first landed with Bethany House, it was wisely suggested that I “write about what I knew”. As a longtime trial attorney, I dove first into writing contemporary legal mysteries, particularly in the courtroom (The Deposit Slip, Critical Reaction and Fatal Trust).  Each of those first three books were very exciting and rewarding to write. Except …

The fact is that I am nearly as passionate about history as I am about writing. Not only was history an emphasis in college, but historic non-fiction and fiction alike have been my “go to” reads ever since. My poor wife and children have long experienced my obsession as I careen off the road on car trips to catch the latest roadside historical marker (now “hysterical markers” in my family, a term suggested by an equally obsessive friend and history buff). 

The Barrister and the Letter of Marque was inspired by a desire to combine my passion for history with my abiding love of writing. That, along with my great love of Dickens and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and their writings about life in nineteenth century England. 

What does Marque mean? What other Regency lingo can you explain for us?

“Marque” was originally French for “Mars, God of War”.  The phrase “Letter of Marque” has, for centuries, described the device by which a sovereign granted power to a privateer captain (or merchant captain) to take ships of other nations as though the holder of the letter was part of the sovereign’s navy. In practice, it empowered those privateers to take foreign ships without the risk of being deemed a “pirate” – which would subject them to prosecution and hanging for their actions.  

The authority to grant such power continues to this day: it is, in fact, enshrined in the American Constitution, although an American Letter of Marque must be granted by the government. The Letter of Marque which appears in the opening pages of The Barrister and the Letter of Marque was drafted by me from an actual letter issued by the British Crown in the eighteenth century. 

A smattering of other examples of Regency lingo include:

Gaol:  The nineteenth century English spelling for “jail”.

Mulled wine: A favored drink in nineteenth century England (and much earlier), made by combining warmed red wine with sweeteners (sugar, oranges, maple syrup or honey) and adding cinnamon, cloves and/or anise.

Brag: A betting card game played in the Regency period England in which the players each receive three cards instead of the five cards typical of modern poker.

Hosteler: A person who took care of horses at an inn – not to be confused with an “hosteller”, originally a monk who cared for guests, but now a hotel manager.

 Can you share your thoughts on your hero and his challenges in the story?

The principal hero of The Barrister and the Letter of Marque is William Snopes, a barrister in his late thirties practicing in Regency Period London. Barrister Snopes came from money, power and privilege: his father was wealthy and a member of the House of Lords. 

But sadly, his father was also unprincipled, as revealed in the opening pages of the book – so much so that William was driven from home after his mother’s death, turning his back on the money and station he would otherwise have enjoyed. He channeled the resulting anger and revulsion into representing debtors and the lower classes who could not afford representation.

The challenges William faces in The Barrister are personal, professional and spiritual. William is asked to represent the imprisoned captain of a privateer who claims to have operated under a Letter of Marque from Regent Prince George, a letter which has disappeared. The captain and his cousin, Lady Madeleine Jameson, now in dire financial straits, are members of the very class from which barrister Snopes had retreated. Nonetheless, he is drawn to the case by the inequities in power between his potential clients and the forces arrayed against them – and the injustices they are suffering. As he goes deeper into the case, he is forced to examine his own methods in court which, while effective, edge a line of morality, ethics and propriety. How far will he go to save the captain and his cousin? What lines will he be willing to cross? 

I created William Snopes to be his “own man”, but the character is influenced by Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes and the modern television barrister “Rumpole of the Bailey”. Like barrister Snopes, both characters were very creative and insightful, but also flawed and (like us all) hobbled in judging their own shortcomings.  

Why did you choose to write a historical mystery?

As I mentioned elsewhere, history is a great passion for me. Drawing from my own

courtroom experience, I thought it would be fascinating to follow a nineteenth century barrister as he not only fights to solve a mystery but struggles to prove a man’s innocence in the roughhewn courtrooms of the Regency Period – burdened by the knowledge that a man’s life, and the estate of a woman he admires, is at stake.   

What type of research did you pursue of Regency London and detectives during this era?

l read many books and more articles to prepare The Barrister, some of which I’ve

identified in a video I posted a few weeks ago.  There was much about the Regency Period (1811-1820) I wanted to master: social mores, cultural norms and expectations, the court and prison systems, the selection and training of barristers, clothing of the period, eating and entertaining, the Far East tea trade, the economy of post-Napoleonic War England, and more. I also needed to understand the geography of London two hundred years ago. To that end, I bought several map books about the roads, buildings and neighborhoods of Regency London. Finally, I researched some of the great personalities of the period who appear in the book, including Beau Brummell, Princess Charlotte, Regent Prince George, Admiral Nelson and many others. I even used contemporaneous documents and doctoral dissertations to calculate the likely cost of a merchant brig at the time, as well as the likely tonnage of tea that could be stored in its hold.     

One of my favorite resources was an autobiography of an early Victorian period barrister (a decade and a half after the Regency period). That barrister’s description of his early years living and practicing in London was absolute gold.  

As for detectives of the period, there were none with one notable exception: the Bow Street Runners. This was a group of crime fighters organized in the mid-eighteenth century to capture thieves and other criminals for a reward from the government and the victim. Operating until the 1830s, it was very successful – and featured in The Barrister.  

What do you want your readers to take away with them after finishing it.

My hope is that readers will be entertained and find William Snopes and his compatriots of the period to be complex, witty, interesting – and worthy of following in future adventures in Regency England. I also hope they will recognize the inspirational underpinning of the story and characters, as they grapple with and strive to overcome the discouragement of corruption and the imperfection of any system of justice.  

Readers always want to know what is next for an author. Do you have any works in progress you can share about?

I do. I am just finishing edits of an historic novel about Ernest Hemingway in

Cuba in the early 1960s, as he and a young girl he’s befriended are pursued by Cuban intelligence due to knowledge they’ve acquired of secret Russian missiles aimed at America. 

I have also commenced a sequel to The Barrister and the Letter of Marque featuring William Snopes and Lady Madeleine Jameson, with a working title The Barrister and the Mad Duchess.  

****************************

Join the virtual book tour of THE BARRISTER AND THE LETTER OF MARQUE, Todd M. Johnson’s highly acclaimed historical mystery, August 2-15, 2021. Over twenty-five popular on-line influencers specializing in historical mystery, suspense, and inspirational fiction will join in the celebration of its release with an interview, spotlights, exclusive excerpts, and reviews of this new Regency-era novel set in London, England. 

TOUR SCHEDULE

Aug 02 The Readathon(Review)

Aug 02 From Pemberley to Milton(Excerpt)

Aug 02 Austenprose—A Jane Austen Blog(Review) 

Aug 03 Life of Literature(Review)

Aug 03 Captivated Reading(Spotlight)

Aug 04 Laura’s Reviews(Review)

Aug 04 The Green Mockingbird(Review) 

Aug 05 My Jane Austen Book Club(Spotlight)

Aug 05 Reading is My Superpower(Review) 

Aug 06 Among the Reads(Excerpt) 

Aug 06 The Blue Stocking (Review) 

Aug 07 Gwendalyn’s Books (Review) 

Aug 07 Reading with Emily (Review) 

Aug 08 Storeybook Reviews (Spotlight)

Aug 08 Rosanne E. Lortz (Review)

Aug 09 Heidi Reads (Excerpt)

Aug 09 Bookworm Lisa (Review) 

Aug 10 The Caffeinated Bibliophile (Spotlight)

Aug 10 Wishful Endings (Review) 

Aug 10 My Bookish Bliss (Review) 

Aug 11 By the Book (Interview)

Aug 11 A Bookish Way of Life (Review)

Aug 12 Books, Teacups, & Reviews (Review)

Aug 12 A Darn Good Read (Review) 

Aug 13 Fire & Ice (Review) 

Aug 14 The Lit Bitch (Spotlight)

Aug 14 The Book Diva Reads(Spotlight)

Aug 15 Vesper’s Place (Review) 

Book Spotlight — The Last Gasp

17 Jun

About The Book

Book:  The Last Gasp

Author: Chautona Havig

Genre: Christian Historical Mystery, Fairytale retelling

Release date: July 6, 2021

At the pinnacle of his Hollywood career, Garrison Prince’s reign ends tonight.

As plain old Gary Prinz, he can pursue his Bible education, buy a bungalow in Pasadena, acquire a few chickens, and marry the girl of his dreams. He just never imagined trading the silver screen for a pulpit would wreak such havoc.

A cigarillo girl, Lucinda Ashton spends her days with her boyfriend, Gary, and her evenings selling candy and “gaspers” to the Hollywood elite at the Taj Mahal Theater.

However, when gunshots ring out just as intermission begins, Lucinda finds herself smack-dab in the middle of a brouhaha that leaves three dead, and no one has a clue why.

All the police know is that the evidence points to Lucinda as the killer and Gary as the intended target.

Four new friends, one young orphan, and a potluck of clues that don’t seem to fit anywhere leave the police baffled, Lucinda in fear for her freedom, and Gary ready to trade in his acting shoes for gumshoes if it’ll save his “Cinda.”

The first book in the Ever After Mysteries combining beloved fairy tales and mysteries, The Last Gasp. This Cinderella retelling blends a murder with enough crime and story clues to keep you on the edge of your seat.

BOOK EXCERPT

Gary Prinz stepped out of the California sunshine and into the role of Garrison Prince, rising Hollywood royalty.

An unfashionably buxom receptionist bustled toward him in miserable-looking tweed. “Oh, Mr. Prince. Everyone’s waiting! So exciting. Come, come…” A second glance at him hinted she disapproved of his trousers, rolled-up shirtsleeves, and lightweight sweater vest. “You might have worn a sport coat at least.”

Everyone’s waiting? Sport coat? What for?

A few people waved as the woman trotted down the hallway, chattering about her excitement regarding the night’s premiere. “I won’t have tickets, of course, but I just know everyone will love The Stolen Title. It’s sure to be your best work yet!”

“I hope so, Miss Fischer. I hope so.”

The way she paused, as if for dramatic effect before flinging the door open, provided a hint of warning. Mr. Walker greeted him—Werner, if anyone did any digging, but German surnames were still out of fashion in America after the Kaiser and The Great War. “Come in, come in, Garrison. Our prince has arrived… We even have Eva here to celebrate with you. No champagne, of course. Must comply with Volstead, but…”

Purchase HERE.

ADDITIONAL EXCERPTS

Simple Harvest Reads

Susan K. Beatty

Montana Made

Blossoms And Blessings

Artistic Nobody

Cheri Swalwell

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Author of the bestselling Aggie and Past Forward series, Chautona Havig lives in an oxymoron, escapes into imaginary worlds that look startlingly similar to ours and writes the stories that emerge. An irrepressible optimist, Chautona sees everything through a kaleidoscope of It’s a Wonderful Life sprinkled with fairy tales. Find her at chautona.com and say howdy — if you can remember how to spell her name.

First Line Friday — The Red Ribbon

30 Oct

I’m headed up to the North Georgia mountains again this weekend — that is definitely my happy place! And again I am taking a book set in the Blue Ridge, this time Virginia. The Red Ribbon by Pepper Basham is part of the True Colors series. With Pepper’s Appalachian roots, this book is sure to be a perfect read for my time at the cabin.

Here’s the first line:

The coming dusk cast gray shadows across the box-shaped buildings of Main Street, Hillsville, as Ava Burcham kept a vigilant watch toward Beaver Dam Road.

 

An Appalachian Feud Blows Up in 1912
 
Step into True Colors — a new series of Historical Stories of Romance and American Crime
 
In Carroll County, a corn shucking is the social event of the season, until a mischievous kiss leads to one of the biggest tragedies in Virginia history. Ava Burcham isn’t your typical Blue Ridge Mountain girl. She has a bad habit of courtin’ trouble, and her curiosity has opened a rift in the middle of a feud between politicians and would-be outlaws, the Allen family. Ava’s tenacious desire to find a story worth reporting may land her and her best friend, Jeremiah Sutphin, into more trouble than either of them planned. The end result? The Hillsville Courthouse Massacre of 1912.

Pepper Basham is an award-winning author who writes romance peppered with grace and humor with a southern Appalachian flair. Her books have garnered recognition in the Grace Awards, Inpsys, and the ACFW Carol Awards, with The Thorn Healer selected as a 2018 finalist in the RT awards. Both her contemporary and historical romance novels consistently receive high ratings from Romantic Times, with Just the Way You Are as a Top Pick. Most recently she’s introduced readers to Bath, UK through her novellas, Second Impressions and Jane by The Book, and taken readers into the exciting world of WW2 espionage in her novella, Façade. The second novel in The Pleasant Gap series, When You Look at Me, arrives in October and her contribution to Barbour’s wonderful My Heart Belongs series hits the shelves in January 2019 with My Heart Belongs in the Blue Ridge. Her books are seasoned with her Appalachian heritage and love for family. She currently resides in the lovely mountains of Asheville, NC where she is the mom of five great kids, a speech-pathologist to about fifty more, and a lover of chocolate, jazz, hats, and Jesus.

You can get to know Pepper on her website, http://www.pepperdbasham.com, on Facebook, Instagram, or over at her group blog, The Writer’s Alley.

 

For more First Line Friday fun, head over to Hoarding Books.

 

Book Review: The Woman in The Green Dress

6 Aug

A cursed opal, a gnarled family tree, and a sinister woman in a green dress emerge in the aftermath of World War I.

After a whirlwind romance, London teashop waitress Fleur Richards can’t wait for her new husband, Hugh, to return from the Great War. But when word of his death arrives on Armistice Day, Fleur learns he has left her a sizable family fortune. Refusing to accept the inheritance, she heads to his beloved home country of Australia in search of the relatives who deserve it more.

In spite of her reluctance, she soon finds herself the sole owner of a remote farm and a dilapidated curio shop full of long-forgotten artifacts, remarkable preserved creatures, and a mystery that began more than sixty-five years ago. With the help of Kip, a repatriated soldier dealing with the sobering aftereffects of war, Fleur finds herself unable to resist pulling on the threads of the past. What she finds is a shocking story surrounding an opal and a woman in a green dress. . . a story that, nevertheless, offers hope and healing for the future.

Tea Cooper is an Australian author of historical and contemporary fiction. In a past life she was a teacher, a journalist and a farmer. These days she haunts museums and indulges her passion for storytelling.

Website: http://www.teacooperauthor.com
Blog: http://www.teacooperauthor.com/blog.html
Twitter: @TeaCooper1
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/TeaCooper
Newsletter sign up: http://eepurl.com/LtrSn

 

My Impressions:

I chose The Woman in The Green Dress as my book club’s surprise selection for a number of reasons. We read a lot of contemporary suspense because my group likes a puzzling mystery, but we rarely read historical fiction because of the first statement. 😉 So I decided to find a book that would combine history with mystery plus had something a bit different. Hence Tea Cooper’s Australian-set, dual timeline, history/mystery. I usually have a good idea going into our discussions how my group will like a book — we have been meeting for years and years. But I am unsure what their reaction will be to this complex and sometimes weird book. It has a great gothic vibe going on, the characters are well-drawn, the setting cannot be better, and the two plots are tangled in creative ways.

Australia is a place I would love to visit, but probably won’t because of the distance and expense. The Woman in The Green Dress brings the reader to a past Australia with its natural beauty, yet ugly social structure. I found a lot of parallels with the policies and prejudices of the US during the same time periods. Cooper’s detailed descriptions helped me envision the flora and fauna and the plight of the Darkinjung people. Main characters Della and Stefan from 1853 and Fleur from 1919 are complexly written, but I have to say that Bert, a supporting character that spans both story lines is perfect in his portrayal. The story revolves around the death of Fleur’s husband in WWI and a missing opal in 1853, but there really is so much more to the book. I found the mysteries interesting, but the characters were what kept me reading.

I listened to the audiobook of The Woman in The Green Dress. The narrator does a wonderful job of making the setting and characters come to life. The novel is published by Thomas Nelson, however, there is some language that traditional readers of Christian fiction may find offensive. I didn’t like it, but it didn’t make me stop reading either. Overall, I would recommend this novel, but perhaps not to every reader.

Recommended with some caveats. (Language)

Audience: adults.

(I purchased the paperback and audiobook from Amazon/Audible. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

 

August Book Club Selection — The Woman in The Green Dress

3 Aug

This month’s book club selection is The Woman in The Green Dress by Australian author Tea Cooper. This novel full of mystery and history has a dual timeline — 1853 and 1919 — and is set almost entirely in Australia. I have already read the book (I listened to the excellent audiobook edition) and will be reviewing it soon. Although I usually can judge these things, I am really not sure how my group will like this book. All I will say right now, is that it has a lot of interesting elements.

Have you read it? We would love to know your thoughts.

 

 

A cursed opal, a gnarled family tree, and a sinister woman in a green dress emerge in the aftermath of World War I.

After a whirlwind romance, London teashop waitress Fleur Richards can’t wait for her new husband, Hugh, to return from the Great War. But when word of his death arrives on Armistice Day, Fleur learns he has left her a sizable family fortune. Refusing to accept the inheritance, she heads to his beloved home country of Australia in search of the relatives who deserve it more.

In spite of her reluctance, she soon finds herself the sole owner of a remote farm and a dilapidated curio shop full of long-forgotten artifacts, remarkable preserved creatures, and a mystery that began more than sixty-five years ago. With the help of Kip, a repatriated soldier dealing with the sobering aftereffects of war, Fleur finds herself unable to resist pulling on the threads of the past. What she finds is a shocking story surrounding an opal and a woman in a green dress. . . a story that, nevertheless, offers hope and healing for the future.

This romantic mystery from award-winning Australian novelist Tea Cooper will keep readers guessing until the astonishing conclusion.

 

Tea Cooper is an Australian author of historical and contemporary fiction. In a past life she was a teacher, a journalist and a farmer. These days she haunts museums and indulges her passion for storytelling.

Website: http://www.teacooperauthor.com
Blog: http://www.teacooperauthor.com/blog.html
Twitter: @TeaCooper1
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/TeaCooper
Newsletter sign up: http://eepurl.com/LtrSn

 

Top 10 Tuesday — Book Titles That Make Me Smile, Chuckle, Snicker . . .

14 Jul

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday prompt is Books That Make Me Smile. I am going with book titles that caused me to smile, a smirk, or LOL! Cute titles always catch my eye and make me want to know more. My list seems to be heavy on mysteries, southern, and women’s fiction, so if you like those genres you are all set! 😉

What about a book makes you smile?

 

For more Top Ten Tuesday fun, check out That Artsy Reader Girl.

 

Top Titles That Made Me Smile, Smirk, Snicker . . .

 

The Bachelor Girl’s Guide to Murder by Rachel McMillan

Charlotte Figg Takes over Paradise by Joyce Magnin

The Fine Art of Insincerity by Angela Hunt

Five Miles South of Peculiar by Angela Hunt

A Fool And His Monet by Sandra Orchard

For Whom The Wedding Bell Tolls by Nancy Mehl

Murder, Mayhem, And A Fine Man by Claudia Mair Burney

Pretty Is As Pretty Does by Debby Mayne

Secrets over Sweet Tea by Denise Hildreth Jones

Truelove And Homegrown Tomatoes by Julie Cannon

Top Ten Tuesday — Forgotten TBR

9 Jun

This week’s Top 10 Tuesday prompt is books you have added to the TBR, but can’t remember why. I remember why I have purchased a book, I just don’t always remember it is on my shelf! 😉 Last week I got new carpeting in my office/library which caused me to move a whole lot of books off the shelves. This made me reorganize all the shelves that fill rooms all through my house. A big, but enjoyable, task. The double parked books kept many hidden from view. It was like Christmas finding gems I didn’t remember I had. I limited the list to the proscribed 10 — yes I had more than that!

Do you have any books on your shelves and don’t know why?

 

For more TBR confessions, check out That Artsy Reader Girl.

 

10 Forgotten Gems on the TBR Shelves

 

Blood Sisters by Melody Carlson

After losing her family, Judith Blackwell seriously considers ending her life … until a mysterious letter captures her attention. Opening the envelope, she is shocked to discover the obituary of Jasmine, her childhood friend. Shaken out of her valley of darkness, Judith journeys to her hometown and uncovers more than she bargained for. When she confides the truth to a handsome detective, they form a plan that will save the community … or trap them in the heart of danger.

A riveting novel, Blood Sisters demonstrates how God brings His own from the edge of darkness into His incredible light.

The Cairo Brief by Fiona Veitch Smith

Intrepid reporter sleuth Poppy Denby is invited to attend the auction of the Death Mask of Nefertiti. The auction is to be held on the country estate of Sir James Maddox, a famous explorer and Egyptologist. Representatives of the world’s leading museums will be bidding on the mask which was found, in Egypt, under murderous circumstances. Poppy and her colleagues from The Daily Globe, who are trying to stay one step ahead of their rivals from The London Courier, dismiss rumours of an ancient curse. But when one of the auction party is murdered, and someone starts stalking Poppy, the race is on to find the killer before ‘the curse’ can strike again.

Death at Thorburn Hall by Julianna Deering

Drew Farthering arrives in idyllic Scotland for the 1935 British Open at Muirfield hoping for a relaxing holiday, but he soon finds a mystery on his hands. Lord Rainsby, his host at Thorburn Hall, fears his business partner may be embezzling and asks Drew to quietly investigate. Before Drew can uncover anything, Rainsby is killed in a suspicious riding accident.

Thorburn Hall is filled with guests, and as Drew continues to dig, he realizes that each might have had a motive to put Raisnby out of the way. Together with Madeline and Nick, he must sort through shady business dealings, international intrigue, and family tensions to find a killer who always seems to be one step ahead.

The First Gift by Ruth Logan Herne

Kindergarten teacher Kerry McHenry is nobody’s fool. She sees her own tough upbringing in the face of a poverty stricken child and she’s willing to do whatever it takes to make things better.

At the same time, she finds herself torn between a commitment-phobic doctor and Phillipsburg’s widowed deputy sheriff, a complicated man who is still angry with God.

As the stakes grow higher and the characters’ lives intersect in unexpected ways, each will face a true test of faith—and come face to face with indisputable evidence of God’s love.

The Half-Stitched Amish Quilting Club by Wanda E. Brunstetter

As Amish widow Emma Yoder contemplates the task ahead, her thoughts center on one: What if she fails? Longing to remove a burden from her family by becoming self-sufficient, Emma has offered to hold quilting classes in her home. But when she sees the patchwork of faces assembled for the first lesson, her confidence dwindles as doubt takes hold.
 
There’s Star Stephens, a young woman yearning for stability; Pam and Stuart Johnston, a struggling couple at odds in their marriage; Paul Ramirez, a widower hoping to find solace in finishing a quilt; Jan Sweet, a rough and tough biker doing creative community service; and Ruby Lee Williams, a preacher’s wife looking for relaxation amid mounting parish problems.
 
While Emma grows to realize her ability to share her passion for quilting and her faith, the beginning quilters learn to transform scraps of fabric into beauty. And slowly, their fragmented lives begin to take new shape — some in unexpected ways — with the helping hands of each other and the healing hand of God.

An Irishwoman’s Tale by Patti Lacy

Far away from her Irish home, Mary Freeman begins to adapt to life in Midwest America, but family turmoil and her own haunting memories threaten to ruin her future. It takes a crisis in her daughter’s life — and the encouragement of Sally, a plucky Southern transplant — to propel Mary back to the rocky cliffs of her home in County Clare, Ireland.

 

 

Light from Distant Stars by Shawn Smucker

When Cohen Marah steps over his father’s body in the basement embalming room of the family’s funeral home, he has no idea that he is stepping into a labyrinth of memory. As the last one to see his father, Cohen is the primary suspect.

Over the next week, Cohen’s childhood memories come back in living color. The dramatic events that led to his father being asked to leave his pastoral position. The game of baseball that somehow kept them together. And the two children in the forest who became his friends–and enlisted him in a dark and dangerous undertaking. As the lines blur between what was real and what was imaginary, Cohen is faced with the question he’s been avoiding: Did he kill his father?

In Light from Distant Stars, master story weaver Shawn Smucker relays a tale both eerie and enchanting, one that will have you questioning reality and reaching out for what is true, good, and genuine.

The Long Journey Home by Sharlene MacLaren

After divorcing her abusive husband, single mother Callie May is still nursing the scars of a
painful past. The last thing she needs in her life is another man, so she’s less than thrilled
when a handsome but brooding stranger moves into the apartment across the hall.
Dan Mattson may be attractive, but his circumstances certainly aren’t: a former church
pastor, he abandoned his flock in Michigan and fled to the Chicago suburbs after the death
of his beloved wife and baby daughter in a tragic automobile accident. Embittered by his
loss, Dan turns his back on God.

Callie mistrusts men, and the angry Dan often gives her good reason to. Both are weighed
down by the scars and disappointment in their pasts. When Callie’s ex–husband shows up to
wreak more havoc in her life, Dan finds himself coming to her defense—and facing his own
demons in the process. Will Dan and Callie be able to get past their baggage and give love
another chance? Can they come to see life’s apparent tragedies as part of God’s perfect plan?
Can the power of God change their hearts and mend their hurts?

Sidney Chambers And The Shadow of Death by James Runcie

It is 1953, the coronation year of Queen Elizabeth II . Sidney Chambers, vicar of Grantchester and honorary canon of Ely Cathedral, is a thirty-two-year-old bachelor. Tall, with dark brown hair, eyes the color of hazelnuts, and a reassuringly gentle manner, Sidney is an unconventional clerical detective. He can go where the police cannot.

Together with his roguish friend, inspector Geordie Keating, Sidney inquires into the suspect suicide of a Cambridge solicitor, a scandalous jewelry theft at a New Year’s Eve dinner party, the unexplained death of a jazz promoter’s daughter, and a shocking art forgery that puts a close friend in danger. Sidney discovers that being a detective, like being a clergyman, means that you are never off duty, but he nonetheless manages to find time for a keen interest in cricket, warm beer, and hot jazz-as well as a curious fondness for a German widow three years his junior.

With a whiff of Agatha Christie and a touch of G. K. Chesterton’s Father Brown, The Grantchester Mysteries introduces a wonderful new hero into the world of detective fiction.

The Unquiet Bones by Mel Starr

Hugh of Singleton, fourth son of a minor knight, has been educated as a clerk, usually a prelude to taking holy orders. However, feeling no certain calling despite a lively faith, he turns to the profession of surgeon, training in Paris and then hanging out his sign in Oxford. A local lord asks him to track the killer of a young woman whose bones have been found in the castle cess pit. She is identified as the impetuous missing daughter of a local blacksmith, and her young man, whom she had provoked very publicly, is in due course arrested and sentenced at the Oxford assizes. From there the tale unfolds, with graphic medical procedures, droll medieval wit, misdirection, ambition, romantic distractions and a consistent underlying Christian compassion.

 

Which of these books would you read next?

 

Book Review: The Gray Chamber

30 Jan

About The Book

Book:  The Gray Chamber

Author: Grace Hitchcock

Genre:  Christian Historical / Suspense

Release Date: January, 2020

The Gray ChamberWill Edyth prove her sanity before it is too late?
Step into True Colors—a new series of Historical Stories of Romance and American Crime

On Blackwell’s Island, New York, a hospital was built to keep its patients from ever leaving.

With her late parents’ fortune under her uncle’s care until her twenty-fifth birthday in the year 1887, Edyth Foster does not feel pressured to marry or to bow to society’s demands. She freely indulges in eccentric hobbies like fencing and riding her velocipede in her cycling costume about the city for all to see. Finding a loophole in the will, though, her uncle whisks Edyth off to the women’s lunatic asylum just weeks before her birthday. And Edyth fears she will never be found.

At the asylum she meets another inmate, who upon discovering Edyth’s plight, confesses that she is Nellie Bly, an undercover journalist for The World. Will either woman find a way to leave the terrifying island and reclaim her true self?

 

Click here to get your copy!

 

My Impressions:

The Gray Chamber is the second novel I have read by Grace Hitchcock. Her debut, The White City, was a treat, but this novel exceeded my expectations. Hitchcock has grown as a writer, and I am so very pleased because now I have another must-read author of historical mystery/suspense to add to my list! The Gray Chamber is part of the True Colors series which draws inspiration from true life crimes in our nation’s history. In this installment, the book centers on the horrific conditions of the mental health industry of the late 19th century. Nellie Bly exposed the abuses in her newspaper expose’ and subsequent book. Hitchcock took those experiences (and used Bly as a secondary character) to create a very personal portrayal of the arbitrary, and sometimes sinister, nature of commitment to the notorious Blackwell’s Island in NYC. Main character Edyth Foster is delightful in her eccentricities and independence, but those traits land her in the mad house. The abuses she faces and the peril she seeks to escape kept my attention riveted. This book was unputdownable. Her love interest was also especially swoony and a true hero as he seeks to free her. The historical details were spot on, and I found myself googling to find out more. The Gray Chamber was intense at times, and to counter that Hitchcock added a bit of levity at just the right moments. Edyth’s spunk and perseverance won my heart. As Edyth’s situation became more and more desperate, her reliance on God became more pronounced. Trust at the darkest of moments was difficult, but the truth that God fights for us when we cannot shines through.

I highly recommend The Gray Chamber for those interested in true crime, historical fiction, or just a really good story. I look forward to more from this talented author.

Highly Recommended.

Audience: Adults.

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

 

About The Author

GraceHitchcock_BWGrace Hitchcock is the author of three novellas in The Second Chance Brides, The Southern Belle Brides, and the Thimbles and Threads collections with Barbour Publishing. The White City is her debut novel and releases March 2019 with Barbour Publishing. She holds a Masters in Creative Writing and a Bachelor of Arts in English with a minor in History. Grace lives in southern Louisiana with her husband, Dakota, and son. Visit Grace online at GraceHitchcock.com.

 

More from Grace

I am thrilled to share with you my second novel in the True Colors series, The Gray Chamber, which is set in New York City in 1887. I loved writing about Edyth Foster, our cat-rescuing, spunky heroine who spends her days painting, fencing with her dreamy instructor, and avoiding society at all costs, which as you can imagine, comes back to haunt her before the end. I’ve never written about a character who despised reading, so that was a new one for me. Edyth just doesn’t like to sit still long enough to finish a book, but you’ll find out why later.

 

I am pretty certain the librarians at my local branch are wondering what in the world my hobbies are, judging from the stacks of fencing books for beginners, histories of New York crime in the 19thcentury, and Nellie Bly’s Ten Days in a Mad-House, and more that I have continuously checked out since moving back to Louisiana.

 

The inspiration for this book came from Nellie Bly’s scandalous exposé for Joseph Pulitzer’s newspaper, The World. In reading Nellie’s articles, I was shocked at the grounds by which the asylum would commit women and that’s when I discovered a tiny mention about an heiress with family members who had her tucked away so they could have her fortune. . .and Edyth Foster was born.

 

I hope you will enjoy reading about our eccentric leading lady and her fencing master hero, Raoul “Bane” Banebridge. If you are interested in seeing pictures of the asylum and to see what I pictured the characters looking like, check out my Pinterest board here.

 

Thank you for joining the fun for the Celebrate Lit tour! Join my author newsletter for more bookish news and to find out what is coming next! Just enter your e-mail address and name here. Happy Reading!

 

“With beautiful description and shiver-worthy scenes, Grace Hitchcock has penned an incredible fiction story based on true history. The Gray Chamber was a fascinating and chilling read. Edyth’s story had me glued to the pages. But as I journeyed with the heiress and her eccentricities, the greed of her family which saw her locked up in an asylum against her will made me grateful for the freedoms I have today. And made me pray that my voice would never be silenced. The nightmare was brought to life so vividly that I found myself holding my breath and then cheering on Bane as he never gave up on Edyth. This is a story that will stick with me for a long time…”

 

~Kimberley Woodhouse – Carol-Award winning and Best-Selling Author of more than twenty books, including: MissTaken Identity, The Express Bride, The Golden Bride, The Patriot Bride, and The Mayflower Bride.

Blog Stops

A Reader’s Brain, January 20

Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations, January 20

Texas Book-aholic, January 20

Emily Yager, January 21

All-of-a-kind Mom, January 21

Older & Smarter?, January 21

Bigreadersite, January 22

Inklings and notions, January 22

For Him and My Family, January 22

Genesis 5020, January 23

deb’s Book Review, January 23

Blogging with Carol, January 23

Christian Bookaholic, January 24

KarenSueHadley , January 24

Mary Hake, January 24

For the Love of Literature, January 25

Truth and Grace Homeschool Academy, January 25

Godly Book Reviews, January 26

Stephanie’s Life of Determination, January 26

The Becca Files, January 26

Through the Fire Blogs, January 27

Daysong Reflections, January 27

Back Porch Reads, January 28

Robin’s Nest, January 28

Connie’s History Classroom, January 28

Betti Mace, January 29

Rebecca Tews, January 29

Vicky Sluiter, January 29

By The Book, January 30

Hallie Reads, January 30

Book Bites, Bee Stings, & Butterfly Kisses, January 30

Blossoms and Blessings, January 31

A Baker’s Perspective, January 31

Remembrancy, February 1

To Everything There Is A Season, February 1

With a Joyful Noise, February 1

Locks, Hooks and Books, February 2

Pause for Tales , February 2

Giveaway

To celebrate her tour, Grace is giving away the grand prize package of a $25 Amazon gift card and a free copy of The Gray Chamber!!

Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click HERE to enter.