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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.

Connect with the Author:

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.

Connect with the Author: 

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End Nov 28, 2022

A Spying Eye Book Tour Giveaway

Monday, October 24, 2022

The Belle of Belgrave Square by Mimi Matthews (Review and Giveaway!)

I've read the first book in the series and it was one of my favorites by Mimi Matthews, and this one is just as good!


Title: The Belle of Belgrave Square: Belles of London (Book 2)
Author: Mimi Matthews
Genre: Historical Romance, Historical Fiction
Publisher: Berkley Romance (October 11, 2022)
Length: (432) pages
Format: Trade paperback, eBook, & audiobook
Tour Dates: October 3-23, 2022
Content: PG-13


A BookBub Best Romance of 2022

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

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

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

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

My Review:
Reviewed by Laura Fabiani

I love immersing myself in a Mimi Matthews novel because I know I will lose myself in a good story. Once again, as in many of her other books, the author explores a condition not understood well in the past: social anxiety. I cringe at the ignorance of the medical world at that time.

Julia does not like going to balls, she feels awkward and panicky, wishing to escape to go riding off on her beloved horse or ensconcing herself in her room where she can read books and not have to deal with the London season to find a suitable husband. Captain Blunt is a formidable man, with a disfiguring scar on his cheek that gives him a menacing look. He has his eyes set on Julia but she is at first terrified of him. But when he seems to be the answer to her problems, she makes a bold move, only to discover things are not as they seem.

I was pulled into this novel quickly and it was entertaining throughout. Julia was easy to like. Her family situation was sad, but she finds the courage to move forward even though this is very frightening for her. Captain Blunt is mysterious and I was intrigued by him. I liked the way they come together and fit into each other's lives. Matthews comes up with original plot twists that keep me turning the pages. Of course, the romance is always well done, in good taste, and swoon-worthy, even with atypical characters.

This was another winner by Mimi Matthews and I look forward to the next book in the series. Note that even though this is the second book in the series, it's definitely a stand-alone novel, making only references to some of the characters in the first book. If you like good historical romance novels, delve into a Mimi Matthews novel. You won't be disappointed.

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



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.


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

Ends Oct 30, 2022

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Monday, October 10, 2022

Attribution by Linda Moore (Book Spotlight & Author Interview)

Today I'm spotlighting a debut novel that has one of my favorite subjects (art) as one of its main themes. Check it out.

Book Details:

Title: Attribution by Linda Moore
Genre: Literary Fiction
Publisher: She Writes Press
Release date: October 11, 2022
Content rating: PG-13 

Book Description:

Art historian Cate Adamson, desperate to succeed to console her grieving parents, leaves the Midwest to complete her doctorate in New York—only to find herself assigned to an impossible sexist advisor. She struggles to impress him until she discovers a hidden painting, possibly a Baroque masterpiece. Risking her career, financial disaster, and further alienation from her family, she flees to Spain with the painting to consult art experts.

Antonio, an impoverished duke, meets Cate on the train to Seville and joins her search while attempting to rescue the decaying legacy of his family. They find clues and uncover evidence that will shock the titans of art history, may destroy her prospects as an art historian, and shatter her future with Antonio.

Written with vivid prose, rich references to seventeenth-century Spanish art, compelling characters, and a historical puzzle, Attribution is the story of one contemporary woman’s journey to understand the past and unlock her future.

Buy the Book:

Interview with Linda Moore:

LCR: When were you first inspired to write your debut novel, Attribution?

LM: Over twenty years ago, I attended a presentation by a former curator at Yale University who worked on attributing a painting from Spain’s golden age. I was riveted by all the components of the process—the science, the connoisseurship (using the educated eye), the history-- and the controversy it created. A little voice in my head said this would make a great novel, but I put it aside while I worked on something else. I began research and writing on what became Attribution about 2015, so seven years ago.

LCR: Can you tell me more about your new book Attribution?

LM: Cate Adamson struggles to deal with her family’s grief over Cate’s brother’s death and she leaves the Midwest to complete her art history doctorate in New York in an attempt to focus her parents on the future. An impossible faculty advisor blocks her dissertation, and she despairs she will fail the program until she finds a painting in the basement of the university. She believes the artwork is a Baroque masterpiece and she takes it to Spain to search for experts and documents to prove it.

LCR: What was the most surprising thing you learned in creating your characters?

LM: I completed the novel with the subplot about Cate’s younger brother drowning. I know you might find this hard to believe, but when I’d finished that draft, it hit me that this was my story, my younger sister drowned in the north of Spain when she was twenty. While I wrote it, I did not think consciously about that connection. It was a story that came from deep inside me and obviously, I needed to tell it.

LCR: Is there a work of art that you love. Why? Have you ever visited it in person?

LM: Many, so many. Some are in my home and I say hello to them every morning. I love Velázquez's Rokeby Venus or Venus at Her Mirror a detail of which appears on ATTRIBUTION's cover. It's in The National Gallery, London and I have seen it many times. The painting has many unanswered questions: Who was the model? Whose face likely not the model by the angle, is in the mirror? How did Velázquez manage to paint a nude in the religious Spanish court where he had his studio? Did he paint it in Italy? In the early 1900s, a suffragette entered the gallery and slashed the canvas with a knife because she felt the work objectified women.

LCR: When choosing a vacation, do you prefer a City or Rural destination? Why?

LM: I am a city girl who enjoys museums, restaurants, and yes, shopping, but I enjoy untouched remote places like Antarctica where I have been three times. I have been to over 100 countries and that sounds like a lot but there are, depending on how you count, over 200 countries. I want to see places I have not visited like the Gobi desert in Mongolia, Tunisia and oh, Turkey, would love to go to Istanbul.

LCR: What is your most memorable travel experience?

LM: One standout is Aldabra Island in Seychelles. Seven researchers live with 100,000 giant land tortoises who roam this atoll. The lagoon stretches twenty-four miles across and each day empties with the tide and refills again. Unlike anywhere. I have a long list of memorable experiences from all the continents and over 100 countries I’ve visited.

About the Author:

Linda Moore studied art history in the Prado while at the University of Madrid. She earned degrees at the University of California and Stanford before opening an art gallery that showcased contemporary Hispanic artists. She has served on art museum boards, edited and published exhibition catalogs, contributed to anthologies, and written for art journals. Born in the Midwest, she enjoys traveling the world, spending time in Kauai with her grandchildren, and she lives in California with her husband. Attribution is her first novel.

Thursday, June 30, 2022

The Nurse's Secret by Amanda Skenandore (Review and Giveaway!)

The Nurse's Secret by Amanda Skenandore

I love it when I find a new author that captivates me, that knows how to spin a good story with flawed realistic characters and a good historical setting. This is the first book I read by Amanda Skenandore and it won't be the last.

Book Details:

Title: The Nurse's Secret by Amanda Skenandore
Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery
Publisher: Kensington Books
Release date: June 28, 2022
Content rating: PG-13 + M (for a few religious expletives and graphic medical procedures) 

Book Description:

From acclaimed author and registered nurse Amanda Skenandore, The Alienist meets The Light of Luna Park in a fascinating historical novel based on the little-known story of America’s first nursing school, as a young female grifter in 1880s New York evades the police by conning her way into Bellevue Hospital’s training school for nurses…

In the slums of 1880s New York, Una Kelly has grown up to be a rough-and-tumble grifter, able to filch a pocketbook in five seconds flat. But when another con-woman pins her for a murder she didn’t commit, Una is forced to flee. Running from the police, Una lies her way into an unlikely refuge: the nursing school at Bellevue Hospital.

Based on Florence Nightingale’s nursing principles, Bellevue is the first school of its kind in the country. Where once nurses were assumed to be ignorant and unskilled, Bellevue prizes discipline, intellect, and moral character, and only young women of good breeding need apply. At first, Una balks at her prim classmates and the doctors’ endless commands. Yet life on the streets has prepared her for the horrors of injury and disease found on the wards, and she slowly gains friendship and self-respect.

Just as she finds her footing, Una’s suspicions about a patient’s death put her at risk of exposure and will force her to choose between her instinct for self-preservation, and exposing her identity in order to save others.

Amanda Skenandore brings her medical expertise to a page-turning story that explores the evolution of modern nursing—including the grisly realities of nineteenth-century medicine—as seen through the eyes of an intriguing and dynamic heroine.

A spellbinding story, a vividly drawn setting, and characters that leap off the pages. This is historical fiction at its finest!” – Sara Ackerman, USA Today bestselling author of The Codebreaker’s Secret

My Review:
Reviewed by Laura Fabiani

I love it when I find a new author that captivates me, that knows how to spin a good story with flawed realistic characters and a good historical setting. This is the first book I read by Amanda Skenandore and it won't be the last.

Una Kelly is a young woman who had a rough childhood and who now survives as a con woman, pickpocketing and selling the stolen goods as a means of living. But one night, an encounter goes terribly wrong and she partially witnesses a murder that later she is accused of having committed. Una manages to escape and hide. Using all the skills and knowledge she acquired from the years of studying people and conning them, she succeeds in passing the interview to get into the nursing school at Bellevue Hospital. Although she never dreamed of being a nurse, the slums of New York City in the late 1800s became the school of hard knocks, that in some way paved the way and led her to a vocation that would build her character and heal the pain from her past.

I was captivated from the first page down to the last. Una was a multi-layered character, hardened by life's brutal lessons that she carried like a shield. She was quick-witted, resourceful, and a survivor. This made her partly selfish and able to spring back from failed attempts. But it also made for a lonesome life without honesty, love and altruism. Nursing helped Una understand responsibility, teamwork, and discipline. I loved how friendship and love were the positive forces for change in Una's life.

The Nurse's Secret had a good plot, great secondary characters, a bit of romance, a murder mystery, an excellent setting of a nursing school in 1880 NYC with its limited understanding of medicine, and a spunky heroine. I was engaged and entertained throughout. As a woman, I bristled at the disrespectful and insulting manner of doctors toward women's intellect. The pandemic has made my respect for the nursing profession increase a hundredfold. This book seamlessly exposes the beginnings of nursing as a respected profession, and how difficult it was to practice it among a dominant male-only mentality in the world of medicine. Kudos to the women who trumped these men!

Fans of historical fiction will be very pleased with this latest novel from Amanda Skenandore.

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.

Buy the Book:
About the Author:

Amanda is the author of Between Earth and Sky, winner of the American Library Association’s 2019 Reading List Award for Best Historical Fiction, and The Undertaker’s Assistant, released from Kensington in July 2019.

She grew up in the mountains of Colorado and sang and danced her way through 68 cities on both sides of the Atlantic with the service organization Up with People before starting college. Her love of historical fiction started early with the stories of Kenneth Thomasma, Mark Twain, and Laura Ingalls Wilder.

When she’s not writing, Amanda works as an infection prevention nurse. She lives in Las Vegas with her husband and their pet turtle Lenore.

Amanda Skenandore is a historical fiction writer and registered nurse. Between Earth and Sky was her first novel. She lives in Las Vegas, Nevada. Readers can visit her website at You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, BookBub, and Goodreads.

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Ends on July 22, 2022

The Nurse's Secret

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

The Art of Revenge by Joe Giordano (Review)

The Art of Revenge

Fans of crime fiction, Italian mob stories, and well-written thrillers will certainly enjoy the Anthony Provati thrillers including this one.

Book Details:

Title: The Art of Revenge (An Anthony Provati Thriller Book 3) by Joe Giordano
Category: Adult Fiction,  pages
Genre: Thriller, Crime Fiction
Publisher: Rogue Phoenix Press
Release date: June 1, 2022
Content rating: PG-13 + M (for a few graphic violent scenes associated with organized crime, no sex, no f-words.)

Book Description:

The Art of Revenge is a riveting, action-packed, suspenseful and at times terrifying chase around the world that will have gritty thriller lovers salivating for more - a must-read for those who like hanging on the edge of the cliff by only their fingers.

The Art of Revenge features two unlikely heroes. Anthony Provati is a jazz pianist, art gallery owner, and sailor, who has a mob boss uncle. Valentina Esposito was orphaned at birth but is rewriting her destiny by becoming a brilliant computer programmer. They undertake a global pursuit of murderous Russian and North Korean operatives to foil a terrorist plot funded by forgeries and the ransom of stolen paintings.

My Review:
Reviewed by Laura Fabiani

I was eagerly anticipating the third book in the Anthony Provati thriller series after having read the first two books. I enjoy Giordano's writing style and the way he can so easily create flawed characters we care about. With a few bold phrases, crisp descriptions, and smart dialogue, he can seamlessly transport us into another country and easily shift the mood from one scene to the next.

In this third novel, Anthony's story continues from where it left off in the previous novel, Drone Strike. His baby daughter Angelica and his former girlfriend Nori are in Portugal. Nori needed some space after her accident and Anthony is still trying to adjust to her fall into depression and the fact that he is now a father. Typical of Anthony, he gets mixed up in unsavory business in Greece and ends up running to New York, where his Uncle Frank, a Mafia underboss, resides. But trouble always follows Anthony, and he once again gets in over his head. Fortunately, he has help from newcomer Valentina, a kickass and whip-smart female protagonist.

One of the things Giordano does best is characterization. Each character is distinct and jumps off the page. He knows how to create memorable characters, both good and bad. I could very well see this novel as a movie. Interspersed throughout the narrative are moments of humor, and for me who understands the Italian culture, I couldn't help but smile at some of the expressions. I never know what to expect when it comes to the plot because it's unpredictable with great twists, except that it will be satisfying with a very good ending and no loose plot threads. And if you are an art aficionado, this particular plot will satisfy all the more.

Fans of crime fiction, Italian mob stories, and well-written thrillers with lots of action will certainly enjoy the Anthony Provati thrillers including this one. Although this is a stand-alone novel, I suggest starting with the first book Appointment with ISIL to increase your enjoyment of the core characters who show up in all three books.

If you want to know more about the first two books in the Anthony Provati thrillers, here are my reviews: Appointment with ISIL and Drone Strike

Note:  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:

About the Author:

Joe Giordano was born in Brooklyn. His father and grandparents immigrated to New York from Italy. He and his wife Jane now live in Texas.

As a former 3M International Executive Vice President, Joe experienced the global cultures and locations he writes about.

Joe’s stories have appeared in more than one hundred magazines including The Saturday Evening Post, and Shenandoah. His novel, Birds of Passage: An Italian Immigrant Coming of Age Story (2015), and Appointment with ISIL: an Anthony Provati Thriller (2017) were published by Harvard Square Editions. Rogue Phoenix Press published Drone Strike in 2019 and his short story collection, Stories and Places I Remember, in 2020.

Joe was among one hundred Italian American authors honored by Barnes & Noble to march in the 2017 Manhattan, Columbus Day Parade.

Visit Joe’s website at

Monday, June 20, 2022

Midnight's Budding Morrow by Carolyn Miller (Review and Giveaway!)

Midnight's Budding Morrow

A well-written Christian novel focusing on the themes of belonging, loss, forgiveness, and redemption.

Book Details:

Title: Midnight's Budding Morrow by Carolyn Miller
Category: Adult Fiction, 312 pages
Genre: Historical Christian Fiction 
Publisher: Kregel Publications
Release date: May 31, 2022
Content rating: PG - 13 (for serious subject matter, attempted suicide)

Book Description:

Can real love grow between a wallflower and an unrepentant rogue?

Sarah Drayton is eager to spend time with her best friend at her crumbling Northumberland castle estate. Matrimony is the last thing on her mind and the last thing she expects to be faced with on a holiday. Yet she finds herself being inveigled into a marriage of convenience with her friend's rakish brother.

When James Langley returns to his family's estate, he can't be bothered to pay attention to his responsibilities as the heir. War is raging and he wants only distraction, not serious tethers. But his roguish ways have backed him into a corner, and he has little choice but to obey his father's stunning decree: marry before returning to war, or else. Suddenly he finds himself wedded to a clever and capable woman he does not love.

Sarah craves love and a place to belong, neither of which James offered before returning to the battlefront. Now everyone around her thinks she married above her station, and they have no intention of rewarding her for such impertinence. It isn't until her husband returns from war seemingly changed that she begins to hope they may find real happiness. But can she trust that this rake has truly reformed?

When tragedy strikes, this pair must learn to trust God and his plans. Will they be destroyed . . . or will they discover that even in the darkest depths of night, the morning still holds hope?

Click here to read an excerpt.

My Review:
Reviewed by Laura Fabiani

Midnight's Budding Morrow is part of the Regency Wallflower series. It is well-written and focuses on the themes of belonging, loss, forgiveness, and redemption. I enjoyed it, for the most part, however, this story may be difficult to read for readers dealing with depression and grief.

Sarah Drayton is invited to stay with her former schoolgirl friend Beatrice, who lives in the impressive dark run-down Langly castle by the sea. One thing leads to another, and Sarah gets duped into marrying Beatrice's brother James Langley, an irresponsible, hard-drinking, rake who runs back to the army the day after his wedding. He returns ten months later, seemingly a changed man because he has learned the ways of God from a captain friend in the army.

Sarah was an interesting character. She was an orphan who was kind and humble and longed for a place to belong. She was clever, but at the same time naive. She was bold, yet lacked confidence in herself. She was hard-working, yet paralyzed by those who thought less of her. She loved deeply and suffered deeply too. I truly felt her pain. James on the other hand was unlikable and his sudden change a little unrealistic. He had a lot of changes to make in his life and these changes were not easy, and they would take time. I struggled with his character, and I thought Sarah's recovery and trust came too quickly when her despair had been directly linked to his actions. 

Although it had a Gothic setting, I did not feel this atmosphere in the novel as fully as I had expected. It had the potential for it, however, with unsavory secondary characters, a crumbling castle, the mysterious death of its former mistress, etc. What's more, those unsavory characters were an unresolved plot point in the novel, without any consequences for their bad behavior.

Apart from these issues, I was invested in this novel because the author succeeded in hooking my emotions, particularly through Sarah. I was also very curious to see how it would all turn out, with one bad event after another happening at the castle. 

For fans of historical Christian fiction who like emotional stories with broken characters who heal together.

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.

Buy The Book:

About the Author:

Carolyn Miller is an inspirational romance author who lives in the beautiful Southern Highlands of New South Wales, Australia, with her husband and four children.

A longtime lover of romance, especially that of Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer’s Regency era, Carolyn holds a BA in English literature and loves drawing readers into fictional worlds that show the truth of God’s grace in our lives. She enjoys music, films, gardens, art, travel, and food.

Miller’s novels have won a number of RWA and ACFW contests. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and Australasian Christian Writers.

Learn more about Carolyn at, or find her on Facebook (Carolyn Miller Author), Instagram (@CarolynMillerAuthor), and Twitter (@CarolynMAuthor).

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Ends June 28, 2022

Monday, May 30, 2022

Bloomsbury Girls by Natalie Jenner (Review)

The Bloombury Girls by Nathalie Jenner

Fans of women's fiction who love stories that take place in bookstores, and post-war London will have much to love about this one. 

Book Details:

Title: Bloomsbury Girls by Natalie Jenner 
Category: Adult Fiction, 368 pages
Genre: Women's Fiction, 20th Century Historical Fiction
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Release date: May 17, 2022
Content rating: PG 

Book Description:

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Review:
Reviewed by Laura Fabiani

Bloomsbury Girls is a spin-off of the author's first novel The Jane Austen Society since it continues the story of Evie Stone from where she left off in the first book. There are enough references and explanations that I did not have to read the first book to enjoy Bloomsbury Girls. However, fans of the first book will certainly love this one too.

This book starts slowly, building its characters and its momentum like a train. It then picks up speed and comes to a very satisfying end. So many themes run through this book: post-war effects on men and women and their roles in society, friendships, feminism, racism, gender equality, love of literature, books, and bookstores. 

All three women who work at the bookstore, Vivien, Grace, and Evie, have dreams of their own thwarted by circumstance and the very fact that they are women pushing for change after their country has survived WWII. I thought Vivien was confident, self-assured, and stuck; Grace was stoic, wise, and long-suffering, while Evie was brilliant, motivated, and awkward. Together, they discover their strengths and the real possibility of accomplishing their dreams.

I thoroughly enjoyed their stories, their individuality, and their tenacity. Post-war London was a great setting. The bookstore, too, which was almost a character in itself, undergoing change along with the arc of the characters. I couldn't help but root for these women, whose talents were undermined and overlooked simply because they were women.

Fans of women's fiction who love stories that take place in bookstores, and post-war London will have much to love about this one. Well researched and including real historical figures, this novel is entertaining and a testament to the power of female friendships.

About the Author:

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


Monday, May 23, 2022

Old Loves Die Hard by Lauren Carr (Review and Giveaway!)

Old Loves Die Hard

This was a good murder mystery and a great sequel to the first book!

Book Details:

Book Title: Old Loves Die Hard by Lauren Carr
Series: A Mac Faraday Mystery (Volume 2)
Category: Adult fiction, 318 pages
Genre: Murder Mystery
Publisher: Acorn Book Services
Release date: April 23, 2011
Tour dates: March 28 to June 24, 2022
Content Rating: PG-13 - Lauren Carr's mysteries are murder mysteries. Sometimes, the murder does happen on stage. There is no graphic violence or explicit sex. There is some very mild language (hell or damn, very few and far between) No F-Bombs!

Book Description:

In Old Loves Die Hard, Carr picks up where she left off in It’s Murder, My Son. Mac Faraday is settling nicely into his new life at Spencer Manor when his ex-wife Christine shows up—and she wants him back! Before Mac can send her packing, Christine and her estranged lover are murdered in Mac’s private penthouse suite at the Spencer Inn, the five-star resort built by his ancestors.

The investigation leads to the discovery of case files for some of Mac’s murder cases in the room of the man responsible for destroying his marriage. Why would his ex-wife’s lover come to Spencer to dig into Mac’s old cases?

With the help of his new friends on Deep Creek Lake, Mac must use all of his detective skills to clear his name and the Spencer Inn’s reputation, before its five stars—and more bodies—start dropping.

My Review:
Reviewed by Laura Fabiani

This is the second book in the Mac Faraday Mystery series. I've read 7 of the 14 volumes in this series, having read all of the latest ones but slowly catching up on the earlier novels. In Old Loves Die Hard, we learn more about Mac's past life when his ex-wife shows up. The story centers on her murder and touches on how this affects Mac, a hard-boiled private investigator who now becomes the prime suspect.

Mac is still adjusting to his changed lifestyle, having gone from a struggling PI to the heir of a large fortune left to him by his famous mother. He has fallen in love with Archie and has finally found a measure of happiness after his first wife cheated on him and kicked him out of their home. But old loves die hard, as they say, especially when they come creeping back into your life unexpectedly.

It never ceases to amaze me how Carr can create a diverse cast of characters, throw clues in every scene, lead the reader on twists and turns, and tie every loose end nicely with a bow by the end. And of course, there is Gnarly, the infamous German Shepherd kleptomaniac too smart for his own good. His antics always crack me up. Dog lovers will be delighted with the scenes involving Gnarly.

This was a good murder mystery and a great sequel to the first book. For me, it was fun to go back to the roots of the Mac Faraday mystery novels and I plan on reading more of the earlier volumes. They are entertaining and get the reader thinking hard to try to solve the murder mystery. Fans of this genre can look forward to seeing fresh covers of earlier novels that are now also available in various formats, including audiobook.

About the Author:

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—over twenty-five 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, 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.

Connect with the author: 

Enter the Giveaway!
Ends July 1, 2022

SHADOW OF MURDER (Mac Faraday Mysteries) Tour Giveaway

Thursday, May 12, 2022

Every Summer After by Carley Fortune (Review)

Every Summer After by Carley Fortune

If you love stories of first love, missed opportunities, second chances, and redemption with an atmospheric summer setting, this one is sure to please.

Book Details:

Title: Every Summer After by Carley Fortune
Category: Adult Fiction, 320 pages
Genre: Women's Fiction, Contemporary Romance
Publisher: Berkley
Release date: May 10, 2022
Content rating: R for explicit sex scenes and language

Book Description:

"A radiant debut."—Emily Henry,#1 New York Times bestselling author of People We Meet on Vacation


Six summers to fall in love. One moment to fall apart. A weekend to get it right.

They say you can never go home again, and for Persephone Fraser, ever since she made the biggest mistake of her life a decade ago, that has felt too true. Instead of glittering summers on the lakeshore of her childhood, she spends them in a stylish apartment in the city, going out with friends, and keeping everyone a safe distance from her heart.

Until she receives the call that sends her racing back to Barry’s Bay and into the orbit of Sam Florek—the man she never thought she’d have to live without.

For six summers, through hazy afternoons on the water and warm summer nights working in his family’s restaurant and curling up together with books—medical textbooks for him and work-in-progress horror short stories for her—Percy and Sam had been inseparable. Eventually, that friendship turned into something breathtakingly more, before it fell spectacularly apart.

When Percy returns to the lake for Sam’s mother’s funeral, their connection is as undeniable as it had always been. But until Percy can confront the decisions she made and the years she’s spent punishing herself for them, they’ll never know whether their love might be bigger than the biggest mistakes of their past.

Told over the course of six years and one weekend, Every Summer After is a big, sweeping nostalgic story of love and the people and choices that mark us forever.

My Review:
Reviewed by Laura Fabiani

It's been a while since I read a coming-of-age story that was so emotional, nostalgic, and full of love angst. Every Summer After is a great beach read. I read it in the sun, sitting on my porch, with summer just around the corner and it made me long for hot summer days. The summer cottage setting had me reminiscing of summer days spent at rented summer cottages next to Quebec lakes.

Percy Fraser finally returns to Barry's Bay where she used to spend her teenage summers at the cottage by the lake next door to Sam and his brother Charlie. Sam and Percy had been best friends; they grew up together, swimming and frolicking in the lake, watching scary movies, and sharing each other's dreams. They ended up falling in love, but eventually, distance, school, and life insecurities got the better of them. More devastating, though, was that Percy makes a life-altering mistake that keeps her away from Sam for twelve long years.

The story is told from Percy's point of view and it alternates between her teen years at the summer cottage and her life in the present at age 30. This is well done as the stories from the past meet up to finally merge with the present and help us to understand the emotional baggage both Percy and Sam carry. Stories of first love, missed opportunities, second chances and redemption always appeal to me. I had a hard time putting this book down. I was so caught up in their story!

Percy was a great character because we saw her through her own narrative as she grew up, experiencing true friendship, the first flush of love, accomplishing her swimming feats, discovering her writing talent, and navigating her insecurities. She was relatable. I have to admit my heart ached for Sam and Percy for their missed years together. One mistake can cost years of pain.
It's hard to believe this is Fortune's debut novel. The book's pacing was spot on without any dull moments, and she succeeds in creating believable and memorable characters. Regarding content, there are a few explicit sex scenes and some f-bombs. These happened three quarters into the book when I was heavily invested in the book.

If you like small-town coming-of-age stories set during hot summer days with a good romance story, you won't want to miss this one.

Disclosure: Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley 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:

About the Author:

Photo: © Jenna Marie Wakani

Carley Fortune is an award-winning Canadian journalist who’s worked as an editor for Refinery29, The Globe and Mail, Chatelaine, and Toronto Life. She lives in Toronto with her husband and two sons. Every Summer After is her first novel. Connect with her:

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