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Saturday, September 30, 2023

A Storm of Infinite Beauty by Julianne MacLean (Review)

A Storm of Infinite Beauty by Julianne MacLean

 Julianne MacLean's latest release is perfect for readers who love well-written women's fiction. 

Book Details:

Title: A Storm of Infinite Beauty by Julianne MacLean
Category: Adult Fiction,  300 pages
Genre: Women's Fiction
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Release date: September 12, 2023
Content rating: PG-13 for mature subject matter 


From the bestselling author of Beyond the Moonlit Sea comes an atmospheric tale of how one woman’s search for the truth uncovers long-hidden secrets and rocks the very foundation of her world.

Scarlett Fontaine is a true Hollywood legend—a singer, actress, and beloved fashion icon. But Scarlett dies tragically at just thirty-six years old, leaving behind no children. Or so the story goes…

Gwen Hollingsworth is the curator at a museum dedicated to Scarlett’s life. She’s also the sole heir to Scarlett’s fortune as a descendant of the star. But all is not well in Gwen’s world. She’s dealing with a messy marital separation and is struggling to move forward. So when Peter Miller, a biographer, and photojournalist, comes to the museum with shocking claims about Scarlett—a life of exile in Alaska, a baby born in secret—Gwen’s whole world is turned upside down. Again.

Determined to uncover the truth, Gwen and Peter set out for Alaska together but soon find themselves on a path toward something far deeper and more meaningful than either of them ever expected.

A Storm of Infinite Beauty takes readers on a breathtaking journey from a lush vineyard in Nova Scotia to a rustic lodge in Alaska where old family secrets are revealed and the quest for true happiness begins.

My Review:
Reviewed by Laura Fabiani

This is the first time I read a book by Julianne MacLean and it won't be the last. This was an interesting dual-timeline story with a great setting: Alaska, which almost felt like a character in this novel.

Gwen is the museum curator of her late relative, Scarlett Fontaine's legacy. Scarlett is a legendary Hollywood star who died young. Gwen is separated and mourning a loss so deep she can't seem to get past it. Her world is suddenly jarred when a writer shows up at her museum with shocking rumors about Scarlett. Gwen is pulled in to search the past to verify if any of it is true. As she discovers aspects of Scarlett's life she never knew, she begins to heal from her own trauma.

I love Scarlett's story which takes place in the 1960s. She is sent from Nova Scotia to Valdez, Alaska because she is pregnant and disgraced in her parent's eyes. In a rustic lodge in Alaska, among the majestic mountains and glaciers, and a couple who love her as their own daughter, Scarlett discovers herself and what she wants in life. The book opens up with a heart-wrenching prologue scene in the 1964 Great Alaskan earthquake, so that throughout the story it builds suspense as to what really happens to Scarlett on that day.

This is a novel about family, young love, deep loss, reconciliation, and change. The author succeeds in creating believable characters that I cared about. I researched the Alaskan earthquake after reading this novel and appreciated the author's notes at the end of the book. I love it when authors share their inspiration for a story and include a historical event that is little known.

A Storm of Infinite Beauty is perfect for readers who love well-written women's fiction. I, for one, will be reading more from this author.

Disclosure: Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for this review copy. I was not compensated in any other way, nor told how to rate or review this product.

Buy the Book

About the Author:

Julianne MacLean is a USA Today bestselling author of more than thirty novels, including the popular Color of Heaven series. Readers have described her books as “breathtaking,” “soulful,” and “uplifting.” MacLean is a four-time Romance Writers of America RITA finalist and has won numerous awards, including the Booksellers’ Best Award and a Reviewers’ Choice Award from the Romantic Times. Her novels have sold millions of copies worldwide and have been translated into more than a dozen languages.

MacLean has a degree in English literature from King’s College in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and a business degree from Acadia University in Wolfville, Nova Scotia. She loves to travel and has lived in New Zealand, Canada, and England. She currently resides on the east coast of Canada in a lakeside home with her husband and daughter. Readers can visit her website at for more information about her books and writing life and to subscribe to her mailing list for all the latest news.

Connect with the author:

Tuesday, September 19, 2023

Every Time We Say Goodbye by Natalie Jenner (Cover Reveal!)

Cover Reveal

Last year I read Bloomsbury Girls and loved it. This upcoming spring (I know, I's so far away!) author Natalie Jenner is releasing her third novel Every Time We Say Goodbye with one of the characters from that book. It's set in post-war Rome, one of my favorite cities in the world. 

What was the author's inspiration for writing this novel? I'll let her tell you in this message to her readers:


Hello Dear Readers,

Every Time We Say Goodbye was the hardest book I will ever write, and the most rewarding.

It all started when I learned about the world-famous Cinecittà movie studio in Rome being used as a war refugee camp in the 1940s. People who had been stripped of everything—homes, possessions, even their most basic humanity—suddenly found themselves confined to life inside a “dream factory.” I decided to set my third novel during a very specific, very cool time in history—la dolce vita of mid 1950s Rome—while exploring the incredibly complex and haunting legacy of that city under German occupation during the Second World War.

I also wanted to know why Vivien Lowry, a character from my book Bloomsbury Girls, had been so angry all the time! I wondered if a woman could make the biggest mistake of her life and move past the regret in a way that benefitted her and the world around her. I never intended to write a dual timeline. I had been working on Every Time We Say Goodbye for nearly a year when the voice of a young female Italian resistance fighter codenamed la scolaretta—the schoolgirl assassin—suddenly showed up on the page one day. Having witnessed the bravery and sacrifice of so many to keep us safe during our world’s most recent challenge, I wanted to pay tribute to them. How fortunate am I, through the intimate and emotional power of historical fiction, to have the opportunity to do so.

I packed everything I could into this book: love and conflict, faith and religion, censorship and resistance, art and moviemaking, fashion and food, and cameos by favorite actresses such as Sophia Loren and Ava Gardner and characters from both The Jane Austen Society and Bloomsbury Girls (I, myself am terrible at goodbyes!).

I hope, more than anything, that Every Time We Say Goodbye gives readers the entertainment, inspiration and food for thought that nourished me throughout its writing.

Best wishes, 

Thank you Natalie for giving us a glimpse of what promises to be another fantastic read. 

And now for the cover reveal:

Every Time We Say Goodbye by Natalie Jenner

Isn't that a stunning cover! I just love it, and it makes me so eager to read the novel. 


Title: Every Time We Say Goodbye by Natalie Jenner
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: St. Martin's Press (May 14, 2024)
Length: (336) pages
Format: Hardcover, eBook, & audiobook
ISBN: 978-1250285188


The bestselling author of The Jane Austen Society and Bloomsbury Girls returns with a brilliant novel of love and art, of grief and memory, of confronting the past and facing the future.

In 1955, Vivien Lowry is at a crossroads in life. Her latest play, the only female-authored play on the London stage that season, has opened in the West End to rapturous applause from the audience. The reviewers, however, are not as impressed as the playgoers and their savage notices not only shut down the play but ruin Vivien's last chance for theatrical success. With her future in London not looking bright, at the suggestion of her friend, Peggy Guggenheim, Vivien takes a job as a script doctor on a major film shooting in Rome’s Cinecittà Studios. There she finds a vibrant moviemaking scene filled with rising stars, acclaimed directors, and famous actors in a country that is torn between its past and its potentially bright future, between the liberation of the post-war cinema and the restrictions of the Catholic Church that permeate the very soul of Italy.

As Vivien tries to forge a new future for herself, she also searches for the long-buried truth of the recent World War and the fate of her deceased fiancé lost in battle. Every Time We Say Goodbye is a bold and moving exploration of trauma and tragedy, hope and renewal, filled with dazzling characters both real and imaginary, from the incomparable author who charmed the world with her novels The Jane Austen Society and Bloomsbury Girls.

(Every Time We Say Goodbye is linked to The Jane Austen Society, and Bloomsbury Girls by characters, but is a stand-alone novel.)


Natalie Jenner is the internationally bestselling author of The Jane Austen Society and Bloomsbury Girls, which have been translated into more than twenty languages worldwide. Born in England and raised in Canada, Natalie has been a corporate lawyer and career coach and once owned an independent bookstore in Oakville, Ontario, where she lives with her family and two rescue dogs.



Monday, August 7, 2023

The Benevolent Society of Ill-Mannered Ladies by Alison Goodman (Review)

The Benevolent Society of Ill-Mannered Ladies by Alison Goodman

The Benevolent Society of Ill-Mannered Ladies, with its catchy title and witty heroines, was a gem!

Book Details:

Title: The Benevolent Society of Ill-Mannered Ladies by Alison Goodman
Category: Adult Fiction, 464 pages
Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery, Historical Romance
Publisher: Berkley
Release date: May 30, 2023
Content rating: PG-13 for mature subject matter (child prostitution, ill-treatment of the mentally ill)

Book Description:

A high society amateur detective at the heart of Regency London uses her wits and invisibility as an ‘old maid’ to protect other women in a new and fiercely feminist historical mystery series from New York Times bestselling author Alison Goodman.

Lady Augusta Colebrook, “Gus,” is determinedly unmarried, bored by society life, and tired of being dismissed at the age of forty-two. She and her twin sister, Julia, who is grieving her dead betrothed, need a distraction. One soon presents itself: to rescue their friend’s goddaughter, Caroline, from her violent husband.

The sisters set out to Caroline’s country estate with a plan, but their carriage is accosted by a highwayman. In the scuffle, Gus accidentally shoots and injures the ruffian, only to discover he is Lord Evan Belford, an acquaintance from their past who was charged with murder and exiled to Australia twenty years ago. What follows is a high adventure full of danger, clever improvisation, heart-racing near misses, and a little help from a revived and rather charming Lord Evan.

Back in London, Gus can’t stop thinking about her unlikely (not to mention handsome) comrade-in-arms. She is convinced Lord Evan was falsely accused of murder, and she is going to prove it. She persuades Julia to join her in a quest to help Lord Evan, and others in need—society be damned! And so begins the beguiling secret life and adventures of the Colebrook twins.

My Review
Reviewed by Laura Fabiani

The Benevolent Society of Ill-Mannered Ladies, with its catchy title and witty heroines, was a gem! It was better than I expected, keeping me up late at night as the Colebrook twins became embroiled in dangerous adventures that highlighted their smarts and feminist views.

Lady Augusta and Lady Julia are two "spinster" twin sisters who, at the mature age of forty-two, are bored with high society and are too smart to sit back and do nothing when opportunities present themselves to help out women disadvantaged by their position or status. I love historical fiction with women who are ahead of their time. The sisters perform daring rescues, but the one that takes place in an insane asylum, as they were called back then, was an eye-opening read, as the author does not spare us the abhorrent treatment of its patients.

There is much to like about this novel. First off, it's witty, with a clever plot and memorable characters. There's a bit of romance too. It's well written with never a dull moment. And it's fun for a change to have the heroines be of a more mature age.

This first book in the series starring the Colebrooke sisters is off to a fantastic start. Don't let the page count deter you. I raced through this one and it turned out to be one of my best reads this year. If you like entertaining historical fiction with worthy themes, adventure, mystery, and heart-pounding rescues, you will love this book.

Disclosure: Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing this book for review. I was not compensated in any other way, nor told how to rate or review this product.

Buy the Book

About the Author 

Alison Goodman lives in Australia with her husband and their terrier, Buckley. Her latest book is The Dark Days Deceit, the final in the Dark Days Club trilogy which Alison calls Pride and Prejudice meets Buffy (or Georgette Heyer goes demon hunting!). She is happily learning how to dance the quadrille, hoist herself into boned stays, and handle a small sword...all in the name of research.

Alison is also the author of New York Times Bestsellers, EON and EONA (also known as The Two Pearls of Wisdom and The Necklace of the Gods). The award-winning fantasy duology is set in a mythical China and has sold into 20 countries, and translated into 12 languages.

Alison's other novels are the SF thriller, Singing the Dogstar Blues, and her wickedly dark adult crime novel, A New Kind of Death, which has just been re-released as a Kindle e-book. Her artist husband painted the cover, which is - Alison says without any bias, whatsoever - totally brilliant and the best cover she has ever had on any of her books.

Visit Alison's website at

Saturday, August 5, 2023

Appointment in Bath by Mimi Matthews (Review)

Appointment in Bath by Mimi Matthews

Book Details:

Title: Appointment in Bath (Somerset Stories, Book 4) by Mimi Matthews
Category: Adult Fiction, 298 pages
Genre: Historical Romance, Historical Fiction
Publisher: Perfectly Proper Press
Release date: June 27, 2023
Content rating: G

Book Description:

A chance meeting between the sheltered daughter and the forward-thinking son of rival Victorian families sparks a forbidden romance in USA Today bestselling author Mimi Matthews’s fourth book in her acclaimed Somerset Stories series.

Shy and stammering Meg Burton-Smythe has spent the whole of her life living on the fringes of local society. She’s more comfortable with her daydreams than she is with people. But when a dashing, golden-haired hero rides to her rescue one morning, she dares to hope that her dreams might finally come true. There’s only one problem: her handsome rescuer is the son of her father’s sworn enemy.

Ivo Beresford doesn’t believe in clinging to the past. Freshly returned from a lengthy grand tour, he’s looking to the future, eager to spearhead the building of a new railway extension in Somersetshire. But an unexpected encounter with Meg Burton-Smythe, the isolated only daughter of his parents’ oldest foe, sets the past and the future colliding.

Resolved to put ancient grudges to rest—at least where innocent young ladies are concerned—Ivo encourages lonely Meg to embark on a secret friendship. After all, what harm can a friendship do? It isn’t as though there’s any danger of the two of them falling in love…

My Review
Reviewed by Laura Fabiani

I love reading Mimi Matthews' books because I know I will encounter a well-written romance with beautifully flawed characters whose personal dilemmas drive the story forward. I enjoyed Appointment in Bath but I did not love it. 

Ivo Beresford and Meg Burton-Smythe, come from neighboring families who are considered enemies. Ivo and Meg become friends in secret and their feelings for one another begin to grow. This Romeo and Juliette theme could have produced some good angst and moments of real tension, but for me, it ended up flat. I felt that the internal and external conflicts were too easily resolved when there was potential for more stirring of the reader's emotions. As it was, nothing much seemed to be happening and the big climax didn't really happen. 

This book didn't stand out for me as much as some of the other books I've read by Mimi Matthews. However, if you're looking for a clean historical romance, or a quick read, this one will do.

Disclosure: Thanks to Netgalley for a review copy. I was not compensated in any other way, nor told how to rate or review this product.

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About the Author:

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

Connect with the Author:

Monday, June 12, 2023

In This Moment by Gabrielle Meyer (Review)

In This Moment by Gabrielle Meyer

Having read a lot of time travel novels, I found this one to be quite original. A new favorite series!

Book Details:

Title: In This Moment (Book 2 Timeless Series) by Gabrielle Meyer
Category: Adult Fiction, 400 pages
Genre: Historical Romance, Historical Fiction
Publisher: Bethany House Publishers
Release date: May 2, 2023
Content rating: G

Book Description:

Maggie inherited a gift from her time-crossing parents that allows her to live three separate lives in 1861, 1941, and 2001. Each night, she goes to sleep in one time period and wakes up in another. Until she turns twenty-one, when she will have to forfeit two of those lives--and everyone she knows in them--forever.

In 1861, Maggie is the daughter of a senator at the outbreak of the Civil War, navigating a capital full of Southern spies and wounded soldiers. In 1941, she is a navy nurse, grappling with her knowledge of the future when she joins a hospital ship going to Pearl Harbor. And in 2001, she's a brilliant young medical student, fulfilling her dream of becoming a surgeon.

While Maggie has sworn off romance until she makes her final choice, an intriguing man tugs at her heart in each era, only complicating the impossible decision she must make, which looms ever closer. With so much on the line, how can Maggie choose just one life to keep and the rest to lose?

My Review:
Reviewed by Laura Fabiani

As soon as I saw this book, I wanted to read it. Time travel with a twist? I'm in. So I promptly bought the first book When The Day Comes, and I loved it! And you know what, I loved this second book in the series even more. If there is a third book, based on the ending of this one, I know it's going to be even better, because, with each new book, the author adds a new element to the time travel plot. In case you're wondering, each book is a stand-alone novel with no cliffhanger endings. 

Having read a lot of time travel novels, I found this one to be quite original. The main character Maggie simultaneously lives three different lives in three different time periods. She falls asleep in one time period and wakes up in another, but only until she turns 21 at which time she will choose which time period to continue her life for the rest of her days. This adds an element of suspense to the story because we become so invested in all three of her lives that we wonder how she will choose when she has so much to lose in her other lives! I loved this fantastical element of the story.

I must applaud the author for skillfully writing about Maggie's life in each time period with all the challenges Maggie faced. What impressed me was how in each time period, Maggie is authentically herself, yet also a woman of that particular era, understanding the societal expectations and what is to come because of her foreknowledge of the future, yet not being able to change history. There aren't many books that surprise me in the historical fiction genre but in both books, I was surprised at the strong emotions I felt and at the twist in the endings. So well done.

If you like time travel, time-slip, and time-crossing novels, with strong characterization, unpredictable plots, and good historical settings, this one adds novelty to this popular genre. Highly recommended for a fun satisfying read.

Disclosure: Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for sending me this book for review. I was not compensated in any other way, nor told how to rate or review this product.

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About the author:

Gabrielle lives on the banks of the Upper Mississippi River with her husband and four children. As an employee of the Minnesota Historical Society, she fell in love with the rich history of her state and enjoys writing historical and contemporary novels inspired by real people, places, and events. The river is a constant source of inspiration for Gabrielle, and if you look closely, you will find a river in each of her stories.

When Gabrielle is not writing, you might find her homeschooling her children, cheering them on at sporting and theatrical events, or hosting a gathering at her home with family and friends.

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Friday, June 2, 2023

I Feel Your Stare: An Autobiography by Cheryl Gillespie (Review)

I Feel Your Stare

An autobiography of a Canadian woman who continues to overcome a crippling disease so she can lead her best life.

Book Details:

Title: I Feel Your Stare: An Autobiography by Cheryl Gillespie
Category: Adult Non-fiction, 242 pages
Genre: Autobiography
Publisher: Fingertip Books
Release date: July 22, 2022
Content rating: G

Book Description:

Imagine yourself in a position of maneuvering through aspects of our everyday living we simply take for granted. Would we see our existence as a beautiful opportunity to explore and live our moments fully, or spend our time lamenting our perceived hardships? Throughout I FEEL YOUR STARE you will be transported to a place in time whereby Cheryl Gillespie’s descriptive scenes allow the reader a glimpse into a life of an individual assuming control of her future, and who excels far beyond the most hopeful of expectations. ~Mary McGinley

My Review:
Reviewed by Laura Fabiani

It's not often I read autobiographies, but when I do it's because a particular aspect of the person's life has grasped my attention. In I Feel Your Stare, it was the fact that Ms. Gillespie has suffered from a chronic illness since childhood that led to her blindness. And she is Canadian.

The author begins her story from childhood and it is filled with her memories of family events, life in the Maritimes (eastern Canada), her experiences at the School for the Blind away from her home, and the profound role her mother played in her life.

I enjoyed reading Ms. Gillespie's life story. It's easy to read because it feels like she is sitting in front of you telling her story. It's not a long autobiography since the author does not go into many details about some aspects of her life, but there is enough to learn that resiliency, determination, and courage are needed to overcome large obstacles and build a satisfying life no matter what the circumstances.

This book pulled at my heartstrings because as a mother myself, I know some decisions we make believing to be the best option for our children, are not always easy to make. The author recognized that her parents did the very best they could for her at a time when the Internet and online learning did not exist. I think this book is an ode to her mother, and the writing process a way to reflect and come to terms with the PTSD triggered by her multiple surgeries, hospital stays, and time away from her loving family. 

One of the best lines from this book: We are all a little broken, that's how the light trickles in.

This autobiography shows us the impact of chronic childhood illnesses and how the love of family and friends, and one's own inner strength, plays a significant role in helping such children lead successful lives.

Disclosure: Thanks to the author for sending me this book for review. I was not compensated in any other way, nor told how to rate or review this product.

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About the Author:

In her home province of New Brunswick, Canada, Cheryl Gillespie, along with her cat Mattie, will often be found basking on the backyard deck beneath the warm sunshine, the very spot where many of the chapters for "I Feel Your Stare" were written.

A childhood diagnosis of Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis, with associated blindness, coupled with physical and societal barriers, has proven only to strengthen her resolve. Following graduation from Fredericton High School, Cheryl advanced in her private studies through the Royal Conservatory of Music, attaining First Class Honours in piano, theory and history.

Today, well established in her teaching career, she takes pride in the education of her students, highlighted by a two-time provincial medal winner through Mount Allison’s Local Centre Examinations Department of Music. Through her active role within the Fredericton Music Teachers’ Association, Cheryl has built invaluable, longstanding friendships with her colleagues. In 1993, Cheryl was the recipient of the Stanley B. Cassidy Memorial Award, presented by the Fredericton Music Society, recognizing her dedication to excellence and personal achievements.

Cheryl’s first work for adults, "I Feel Your Stare" was preceded by her children’s book, "Tigger and Jasper’s New Home."

Thursday, March 16, 2023

The Three Lives of Alix St. Pierre by Natasha Lester (Review)

The Three Lives of Alix St. Pierre by Natasha Lester

If you love WWII historical fiction and the fashion world, this book blends both very well. A very good read!

Book Details:

Title: The Three Lives of Alix St. Pierre by Natasha Lester
Category: Adult Fiction, 432 pages
Genre: Historical Romance, Historical Fiction, WWII Fiction
Publisher: Forever
Release date: January10, 2023
Content rating: PG-13

Book Description:
An unforgettable and “fascinating tale” of an orphan turned WWII spy turned fashion icon in Paris (Kate Quinn, New York Times bestselling author of The Diamond Eye).

Alix St. Pierre. An unforgettable name for an unforgettable woman. She grew up surrounded by Hollywood glamor, but, as an orphan, never truly felt part of that world. In 1943, with WWII raging and men headed overseas to fight, she landed a publicity job to recruit women into the workforce. Her skills—persuasion, daring, and quick-witted under pressure—catch the attention of the U.S. government and she finds herself with an even bigger assignment: sent to Switzerland as a spy. Soon Alix is on the precipice of something big, very big. But how far can she trust her German informant…?

After an Allied victory that didn’t come nearly soon enough, Alix moves to Paris, ready to immerse herself in a new position as director of publicity for the yet-to-be-launched House of Dior. In the glamorous halls of the French fashion house, she can nearly forget everything she lost and the dangerous secret she carries. But when a figure from the war reappears and threatens to destroy her future, Alix realizes that only she can right the wrongs of the past …and finally find justice.

My Review:
Reviewed by Laura Fabiani

I've been wanting to read a novel by Natasha Lester and I'm happy to have read The Three Lives of Alix St. Pierre. It was immersive, atmospheric, thought-provoking, and at times heartbreaking. Alix St. Pierre with the perfect name for the fashion world, but practically penniless, arrives in Paris ready to lead a new life. With her quick wit and determination, she works for the new House of Dior and helps launch it with her brilliant marketing strategies. But Alix is haunted by her past as a WWII spy.

The novel goes back and forth through several time periods which at times I found confusing because I read this as an ebook, which for me, made it cumbersome to quickly go back and forth in the book. However, despite this, and the length of the book, I found this novel captivating because it was not at all predictable. Alix is a feminist at heart, a survivor, fiercely proud but broken, at the cusp of an era when women who had stepped up to help with the war effort (many as spies) are now forgotten and expected to go back to housewife roles. It opened my eyes to what women lived through in the late 1930s into 1940s.

If you love WWII historical fiction and the fashion world, this book blends both very well. Best of all, we get to see the aftermath of the war through one woman's many transformations, hence the title. This was a very good read.

Disclosure: Thanks to the publisher for sending me this book for review via NetGalley. I was not compensated in any other way, nor told how to rate or review this product.

Buy the Book

About the Author:

Natasha Lester was a marketing executive for L'Oréal, managing the Maybelline brand, before returning to university to study creative writing. She completed a Master of Creative Arts and has written several novels including A Kiss From Mr. Fitzgerald, Her Mother's Secret, and The Paris Seamstress. Her sixth novel, The French Photographer, will be published in April 2019.

In her spare time, Natasha loves to teach writing, is a sought-after public speaker, and can often be found playing dress-up with her three children. She lives in Perth.

For all the latest news from Natasha visit:

Twitter: @Natasha_Lester

Instagram: natashalester

Facebook: NatashaLesterAuthor

Monday, March 13, 2023

Chris Crossed Murder by Lauren Carr (Review and Giveaway!)

Chris Crossed Murder by Lauren Carr

As soon as I read the title with its clever play on words, I cracked a smile. Carr has delivered another twisty and complex mystery in her fourth book in the Chris Matheson Cold Care Mystery series!

Book Details:

Book Title: Chris Crossed Murder by Lauren Carr (A Chris Matheson Cold Case Mystery #4)
Category: Adult Fiction, 422 pages
Genre: Murder Mystery, Books in a Series
Publisher: Acorn Book Services
Release date: Feb 22, 2023
Tour dates: Feb 22 to March 31, 2023
Content Rating: PG (Lauren Carr's books are murder mysteries, so there are murders involved. Occasionally, a murder will happen on stage. There is sexual content, but always behind closed doors. Some mild swearing (a hell or a damn few and far between). No F-bombs!

Book Description:

It proves to be a Christmas to remember when the Matheson family receives the horrendous news that Chris Matheson’s body has been found in the woods near an international airport.

Everyone is stunned—especially Chris Matheson.

The mystery deepens when they discover the victim has Chris’s federal agent badge and appears to have been investigating one of his old cases.

The Geezer Squad’s latest case is not only a whodunit but who-got-dun. Is this a case of mistaken identity? Was Chris the intended victim? If not, then they must identify the murder victim to find his killer.

With Christmas days away, join the Chris Matheson and the Geezer Squad as they race to piece together the clues to their most puzzling case yet.

My Review:
Reviewed by Laura Fabiani

As soon as I read the title with its clever play on words, I cracked a smile. Not only is the title a good pun but this novel is the fourth book of one of my favorite series, the Chris Matheson Cold Case Mysteries. Once again, Lauren Carr creates a good mystery within a mystery. How she can keep it all straight makes me marvel. For readers, the list of characters at the front of the book is helpful, especially for this one where there are also multiple aliases!

An unidentifiable body is found with Chris Matheson's federal agent badge on him. Who is this person and why does he have Chris's ID on him? As they dig deeper, they discover the body is somehow connected to one of Chris's cold cases, the murder of a young actress named Sky Belmont. The Geezer Squad gets busy looking for leads and using their know-how to help Chris solve this mystery. Carr ties all the loose ends by the end of the story except one unlikely escape that was never explained, but then again this is fiction. I loved the way it ends though! I suspected it because I caught on to some clues, and it was clever as a twist.

Of course, as in all her stories, the animals have their star moments. Sterling, Chris's service dog was a great detective. Chompers cracked me up. I'm still trying to warm up to Helen, Chris's wife. She annoys me with her sarcastic remarks and the snatching of papers out of Chris's hand on more than one occasion. I would have liked a quick review of the members of the Geezer Squad since it's been a while I read the last book. Apart from these small things, this was another entertaining read from a fun series.

I hope Carr has another book in the works with more cold cases to solve for Chris and his Geezer Squad. If you're looking for a mystery series with good themes of friendships, family, and team spirit, this is a good one. Start from the beginning, it's worth it.

Here are my reviews for the first three books in the series:

Disclosure: I bought a copy of this book and also chose to participate in this tour. I was not compensated, nor told how to rate or review this product.

Buy the Book:
add to Goodreads

Meet the Author:

Selling over half a million books worldwide, Lauren Carr is the international best-selling author of the Mac Faraday, Lovers in Crime, Thorny Rose, Chris Matheson Cold Case Mysteries, and Nikki Bryant Cozy Mysteries—thirty titles across five fast-paced mystery series filled with twists and turns!

Book reviewers and readers alike rave about how Lauren Carr seamlessly crosses genres to include mystery, suspense, crime fiction, police procedurals, romance, and humor.

The owner of Acorn Book Services and iRead Book Tours, Lauren is also a publishing manager, consultant, and virtual book tour coordinator for independent authors.

Lauren is a popular speaker who has made appearances at schools, youth groups, and on author panels at conventions.

She lives with her husband, and two spoiled rotten German shepherds on a mountain in Harpers Ferry, WV.

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Thursday, February 23, 2023

The Maid of Ballymacool by Jennifer Deibel (Review)

The Maid of Ballymacool

The Maid of Ballymacool is a lovely story that is part romance part mystery set in the town of Ballymacool, Ireland in the 1930s.


Title: The Maid of Ballymacool by Jennifer Deibel
Category: Adult Fiction, 352 pages
Genre: Historical Romance, Historical Fiction, Inspirational Fiction
Publisher: Fleming H. Revell Co 
Publication date: February 21, 2023
Format: Hardcover, Trade Paperback, & eBook
Rating: PG for theme physical and emotional abuse


Brianna Kelly was abandoned at Ballymacool House and Boarding School as an infant. She has worked there since she was a wee girl and will likely die there. Despite a sense that she was made for something more, Brianna feels powerless to change her situation, so she consoles herself by exploring the Ballymacool grounds, looking for hidden treasures to add to the secret trove beneath the floorboards of her room.

When Michael Wray, the son of local gentry, is sent to Ballymacool to deal with his unruly cousin, he finds himself drawn to Brianna, immediately and inescapably. There is something about her that feels so . . . familiar. When Brianna finds a piece of silver in the woods, she commits to learning its origins, with the help of Michael. What they discover may change everything.

Fan favorite Jennifer Deibel invites you back to the Emerald Isle in the 1930s for this fresh take on the Cinderella story, complete with a tantalizing mystery, a budding romance, and a chance at redemption.

Reviewed by Laura Fabiani

The Maid of Ballymacool is a lovely story that is part romance part mystery set in the town of Ballymacool, Ireland in the 1930s. Ballymacool House actually exists, and the author expounds more on this in her notes at the end of the book which I also enjoyed reading.

Brianna Kelly is an orphan who is mistreated by the schoolmistress of the Ballymacool House and Boarding School where she was raised from infancy and where she now works hard as a maid. Despite the lack of parental love in her life, Brianna's spirit is not broken because she loves the woods and nature and finds refreshment for her soul there. She is a lovely character and my heart ached for her. When Michael Wray is sent to the school to see about his young mischievous cousin, he meets Brianna and is immediately attracted to her. 

Yes, this has the definite feel of a Cinderella story and I was curious about the mystery surrounding Brianna, which kept me engaged in the story. Irish history comes alive as the author describes life in the boarding school and small town, with its characters, some of which make an appearance from her previous book A Dance in Donegal, which I read. The dialogue is interspersed with Gaelic expressions, which I liked, but they were not followed by a translation so I had no idea at times what the phrase meant.

The ending was very satisfying and finally, Brianna goes through an emotional period as she comes to understand what was taken from her. Throughout the story, she seemed accepting of her mistreatment and never rebelled against the schoolmistress, but as the plot moves along we finally get to see how Brianna is truly affected by all that has happened to her and how she gains the courage to stand up for the respect of which she is deserving as a human being.

This was a quick and enjoyable read, but may be triggering for those who've experienced physical and emotional abuse. However, the themes of jealousy, isolation, self-respect, resilience, and justice make this an interesting novel, especially after coming out of a global pandemic.

Disclosure: Thanks to the publisher for sending me this book for review. I was not compensated in any other way, nor told how to rate or review this product.



Jennifer Deibel is the author of A Dance in Donegal (winner of the Kipp Award for Historical Romance) and The Lady of Galway Manor (a Parable Group bestseller). Her work has appeared on (in)courage, on The Better Mom, in Missions Mosaic magazine, and in other publications. With firsthand immersive experience abroad, Jennifer writes stories that help redefine home through the lens of culture, history, and family. After nearly a decade of living in Ireland and Austria, she now lives in Arizona with her husband and their three children.


Sunday, January 8, 2023

The Rose and the Thistle by Laura Frantz (Review)

The Rose and the Thistle by Laura Frantz

I really enjoyed this Scottish historical fiction romance! And that book beautiful.

Book Details:

Title: The Rose and the Thistle: A Novel by Laura Frantz
Category: Adult Fiction, 416 pages
Genre: Historical Romance, Historical Fiction, Inspirational Fiction
Publisher: Fleming H. Revell Co
Release date: January 3, 2023
Content rating: G

Book Description: 

In 1715, Lady Blythe Hedley's father is declared an enemy of the British crown because of his Jacobite sympathies, forcing her to flee her home in northern England. Secreted to the tower of Wedderburn Castle in Scotland, Lady Blythe awaits who will ultimately be crowned king. But in a house with seven sons and numerous servants, her presence soon becomes known.

No sooner has Everard Hume lost his father, Lord Wedderburn, than Lady Hedley arrives with the clothes on her back and her mistress in tow. He has his own problems--a volatile brother with dangerous political leanings, an estate to manage, and a very young brother in need of comfort and direction in the wake of losing his father. It would be best for everyone if he could send this misfit heiress on her way as soon as possible.

Drawn into a whirlwind of intrigue, shifting alliances, and ambitions, Lady Blythe must be careful whom she trusts. Her fortune, her future, and her very life are at stake. Those who appear to be adversaries may turn out to be allies--and those who pretend friendship may be enemies.

My Review:
Review by Laura Fabiani

It's been a while since I read a very good Scottish historical fiction novel. Intelligently written, with a plot set during the Jacobite rebellion, The Rose and the Thistle is a slow-burn romance with a cast of likable characters and an interesting storyline. 

Lady Blythe isn't the typical high society lady. She is a bookworm and a historian. She is also an only child and heiress to a large fortune. Lord Wedderburn, on the other hand, is the eldest of seven siblings, all brothers, with the youngest, Orin, being only eight years old. I think he was my favorite character.

After a bit of a slow start, the story picks up the pace when Lady Blythe escapes for her life in Scotland. She is hidden in Lord Wedderburn's castle tower and has a few good spats with him, she being English and he Scottish. Neither like the situation they are in. But it's hard to keep a lady hidden in a house full of men, and soon Lady Blythe's kindness seeps into Lord Wedderburn's life.

This was a good clean read. The author skillfully transports us to a time in Scottish history well-known for its succession of Jacobite risings. If you like well-written historical fiction without graphic scenes, this book is a very good read. And isn't that a beautiful book cover?

Disclosure: Thanks to the publisher for sending me this book for review. I was not compensated in any other way, nor told how to rate or review this product.


About the Author:

Christy Award-winning author, Laura Frantz, is passionate about all things historical, particularly the 18th-century, and writes her manuscripts in longhand first. Her stories often incorporate Scottish themes that reflect her family heritage. She is a direct descendant of George Hume, Wedderburn Castle, Berwickshire, Scotland, who was exiled to the American colonies for his role in the Jacobite Rebellion of 1715, settled in Virginia, and is credited with teaching George Washington surveying in the years 1748-1750. Proud of her heritage, she is also a Daughter of the American Revolution. When not at home in Kentucky, she and her husband live in Washington State.

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Sunday, November 6, 2022

A Spying Eye by Michelle Cox (Review and Giveaway!)

The latest book in the Henrietta and Inspector Howard series is another winner by Michelle Cox!
Book Details:

Book Title: A Spying Eye: A Henrietta and Inspector Howard Novel by Michelle Cox
Category: Adult Fiction, 365 pages
Genre: Historical Mystery
Publisher: She Writes Press
Release dates: Oct 25, 2022
Content Rating: R: There are some swear words peppered throughout (not many) and 2 explicit sex scenes (tasteful, but more than a PG-13 scene)

Book Description:

In A Spying Eye, Clive and Henrietta return to Europe in an attempt to resurrect their failed honeymoon. While in London, they are approached by their old friend, Inspector John Hartle, who convinces them to search for the missing panel of the Ghent Altarpiece, a famous Renaissance painting, of which Hitler’s top men are also in pursuit.

Meanwhile, back in Chicago, Oldrich Exley threatens to cut off financial support for the entire Von Harmon brood if Elsie continues with her plan to marry Gunther―a situation made worse by the sudden appearance of one Heinrich Meyer, who claims to be little Anna’s father and threatens to take her away. Desperate, Elsie seeks the help of Clive’s sister, Julia, who is herself the victim of domestic abuse and who has fallen under the spell of a handsome Texas millionaire bent on acquiring a rare painting from the Howard collection.

​Clive and Henrietta’s search takes them to Chateau du Freudeneck in Strasbourg, France―the ancient seat of the Von Harmons and home to three eccentric distant relatives. What begins as a wild goose chase turns decidedly more deadly when several Nazi officers also arrive at the chateau in search of a “valuable item.” When Henrietta and Clive attempt to flee after Henrietta uncovers a shocking truth, they are forced to trust themselves to a suspicious French servant who seems all-too willing to help . . .

My Review:
Reviewed by Laura Fabiani

I have been a fan of the Henrietta and Inspector Howard series since I opened the pages of the first book A Girl Like You. I was eagerly anticipating this 6th book, and once again, I enjoyed being totally immersed in the 1930s with one of my favorite couples. Although these books can be read as stand-alone, I think it's better to read them in order since the stories continue from where the previous books ended. Also, these characters have become so familiar to me because I have been following their stories and character development throughout, but a new reader may not get that without reading the rich history of these characters.

Clive and Henrietta return to Europe and this time visit Chateau du Freudeneck to meet Henrietta's long-lost relatives on her father's side, the Von Harmons. While in Europe, they are also asked to investigate the whereabouts of a missing agent who was searching for a lost painting. Of course, not being able to resist getting involved in a mystery case, Clive and Henrietta accept and become embroiled in far more than they expect with the Nazis in hot pursuit. As is her trademark, Cox revs up the danger and action, as we try to figure out who the villain is. I loved that the plot revolved around a famous missing Renaissance altarpiece painting with a fascinating history. I appreciated the author's notes at the end of the book giving the reader information and additional reading on this topic.

Interspersed in Clive and Henrietta's story is also the continuation of Elsie's (Henrietta's sister) and Julia's (Clive's sister) stories. I have to admit, both these secondary characters' own personal dilemmas caught my attention, especially Julia's. But this book was a tad shorter than the previous books and by the end of the novel there were several loose plot I'm guessing book 7 will resolve that. I have to admit I was disappointed not to have everything resolved in this book.

As in all her other books, the author includes references to past events and gives the backstory from the previous books so they were fresh in my mind and added to my enjoyment of the series. I read so many books that it's easy to forget details when reading books in a series, but Cox skillfully adds these past details without bogging the story down, making her series a pleasure to read.

Cox has become one of my favorite authors and I look forward to her next book in this series...or any other novel she writes. With vivid scenes, unforgettable characters, and twisty plots, this book, and this well-written series are a must for historical mystery lovers.

Disclosure: Thanks to the author for sending me this book for review. I was not compensated in any other way, nor told how to rate or review this product.

Buy the Book

See my other reviews:

Book 5: A Child Lost

Meet the Author:

Michelle Cox is the author of the Henrietta and Inspector Howard series as well as “Novel Notes of Local Lore,” a weekly blog dedicated to Chicago’s forgotten residents. Her books have won over 50 international awards and have been praised by Kirkus, Library Journal, Publishers Weekly, Booklist, Foreword, Elle, Redbook, Brit&Co., POPSUGAR, Buzzfeed, and many others.

Unbeknownst to most, Michelle hoards board games she doesn’t have time to play and is, not surprisingly, addicted to period dramas and big band music. Also marmalade. She lives in Chicago with her husband, three children, and one naughty Goldendoodle and is hard at work on her latest novel.

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