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Thursday, June 10, 2021

The Librarian of Saint-Malo by Mario Escobar (Review and Giveaway!)

A novel set in WWII France with the theme of a librarian passionate about saving books.

Book Details:

Title: The Librarian of Saint-Malo by Mario Escobar
Category: Adult Fiction, 384 pages
Genre: Historical fiction / Literary
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Release Date: June 1, 2021
Content rating: PG-13+ M (Situations of WWII)

Book Description:

Through letters with a famous author, one French librarian tells her love story and describes the brutal Nazi occupation of her small coastal village.

Saint-Malo, France: August 1939. Jocelyn and Antoine are childhood sweethearts, but just after they marry, Antoine is called up to fight against Germany. As the war rages, Jocelyn focuses on comforting and encouraging the local population by recommending books from her beloved library in Saint-Malo. She herself finds hope in her letters to a famous author.

After the French capitulation, the Nazis occupy the town and turn it into a fortress to control the north of French Brittany. Residents try passive resistance, but the German commander ruthlessly purges part of the city’s libraries to destroy any potentially subversive writings. At great risk to herself, Jocelyn manages to hide some of the books while waiting to receive news from Antoine, who has been taken to a German prison camp.

What unfolds in her letters is Jocelyn’s description of her mission: to protect the people of Saint-Malo and the books they hold so dear. With prose both sweeping and romantic, Mario Escobar brings to life the occupied city and re-creates the history of those who sacrificed all to care for the people they loved.

My Review:
Reviewed by Laura Fabiani

A novel set in WWII France with the theme of a librarian passionate about saving books immediately caught my attention and I was eagerly anticipating a great read. Oh, and that cover is just beautiful.

While I enjoyed the setting, and I have read a slew of WWII historical fiction, I have to say I struggled with this story. The elements were all in place for a gripping account and it did start well, but somehow it fell flat for me. I did not feel the great love story between Jocelyn and Antoine, and the other love interest seemed too quick, and unrealistic.

Published under a Christian publishing house, I noted inspirational themes of love that I did appreciate, gems of wisdom that the author was trying to portray.

Although this novel was translated, I thought it was well done. I think this is a novel that will strike a different chord with each reader depending on what you love about WWII historical fiction.

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About the Author

Mario Escobar Golderos has a degree in History, with an advanced studies diploma in Modern History. He has written numerous books and articles about the Inquisition, the Protestant Reformation, and religious sects. He is the executive director of an NGO and directs the magazine Nueva historia para el debate, in addition to being a contributing columnist in various publications. Passionate about history and its mysteries, Escobar has delved into the depths of church history, the different sectarian groups that have struggled therein, and the discovery and colonization of the Americas. He specializes in the lives of unorthodox Spaniards and Americans.

Connect with the Author:

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Ends June 16, 2021

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

The Poison Keeper by Deborah Swift (Review and Giveaway!)

If you like historical fiction with strong heroins, a feminist viewpoint and a fascinating topic, The Poison Keeper with its serious theme (and without offensive content) is a great summer read.

Book Details:

Title: The Poison Keeper by Deborah Swift
Category: Adult Fiction, 406 pages
Genre: Historical fiction
Publisher: Quire Books
Release Date: May 18, 2021
Content rating: PG-13+ M (spousal abuse, prostitution, drug use and murder) No sex or bad language.

Book Description:

Naples 1633

Aqua Tofana – One drop to heal. Three drops to kill.

Giulia Tofana longs for more responsibility in her mother’s apothecary business, but Mamma has always been secretive and refuses to tell Giulia the hidden keys to her success. When Mamma is arrested for the poisoning of the powerful Duke de Verdi, Giulia is shocked to uncover the darker side of her trade.

Giulia must run for her life, and escapes to Naples, under the shadow of Mount Vesuvius, to the home of her Aunt Isabetta, a famous courtesan. But when Giulia hears that her mother has been executed, and the cruel manner of her death, she swears she will wreak revenge on the Duke de Verdi.

The trouble is, Naples is in the grip of Domenico, the Duke’s brother, who controls the city with the ‘Camorra’, the mafia. Worse, her Aunt Isabetta, under Domenico’s thrall, insists that she should be consort to him – the brother of the man she has vowed to kill.

Based on the legendary life of Italian poisoner Giulia Tofana, this is a story of hidden family secrets, and how even the darkest desires can be vanquished by courage and love.

My Review:
Reviewed by Laura Fabiani

The Poison Keeper is a novel set in Renaissance Italy and based on the historical person named Giulia Tofana, renowned for having helped hundreds of desperate and abused women murder their husbands through her famous poison called Aqua Tofana. It was a fascinating read.

At its core, this is a story about the plight of women during an era where women had few rights. Giulia is a sheltered 23-year old innocent woman when her life is thrown upside down and she become a fugitive. To survive, she finally resorts to a livelihood she never expected, one that came because of difficult circumstances.

Giulia is a compelling character. She becomes stronger as the story evolves and she is faced with various situations. Renaissance Italy comes alive under Swift's deft penmanship and the plot moves along at a quick pace. Although I suspected an inevitable end, the author surprised me with a few twists, and an inspiring ending. I was unaware that this novel is part of a series, with the second book titled The Silkworm Keeper being released at the end of June and a third on the way. I look forward to reading them.

I also enjoyed the author's historical notes at the end, where she gives us more details about the real Giulia Tofana and on what facts she based her novel.

If you like historical fiction with strong heroins, a feminist viewpoint and a fascinating topic, The Poison Keeper with its serious theme (and without offensive content) is a great summer read.

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About the Author:

Deborah Swift is the author of three previous historical novels for adults, The Lady’s Slipper, The Gilded Lily, and A Divided Inheritance, all published by Macmillan/St Martin’s Press, as well as the Highway Trilogy for teens (and anyone young at heart!). Her first novel was shortlisted for the Impress prize for new novelists.

She lives on the edge of the beautiful and literary English Lake District – a place made famous by the poets Wordsworth and Coleridge.

For more information, please visit Deborah Swift’s website. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter,
and Goodreads.

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Ends June 4, 2021

The Poison Keeper

Saturday, May 22, 2021

The Women of Chateau Lafayette by Stephanie Dray (Book Review)

Wow, this is the first book I read by Stephanie Dray, and it won't be the last!

Book Details:

Title: The Women of Chateau Lafayette by Stephanie Dray
Category: Adult Fiction, 576 pages
GenreL Historical Fiction
Publisher: Berkley Books
Release date: March 30, 2021
Content Rating: 

Book Description:

An epic saga from New York Times bestselling author Stephanie Dray based on the true story of an extraordinary castle in the heart of France and the remarkable women bound by its legacy in three of humanity's darkest hours.

Most castles are protected by powerful men. This one by women...

A founding mother...

1774. Gently-bred noblewoman Adrienne Lafayette becomes her husband's political partner in the fight for American independence. But when their idealism sparks revolution in France and the guillotine threatens everything she holds dear, Adrienne must choose to renounce the complicated man she loves, or risk her life for a legacy that will inspire generations to come.

A daring visionary...

1914. Glittering New York socialite Beatrice Astor Chanler is a force of nature, daunted by nothing--not her humble beginnings, her crumbling marriage, or the outbreak of war. But after witnessing the devastation in France and delivering war relief over dangerous seas, Beatrice takes on the challenge of a lifetime: convincing America to fight for what's right.

A reluctant resistor...

1940. French schoolteacher and aspiring artist Marthe Simone has an orphan's self-reliance and wants nothing to do with war. But as the realities of Nazi occupation transform her life in the isolated castle where she came of age, she makes a discovery that calls into question who she is, and more importantly, who she is willing to become.

Intricately woven and beautifully told, The Women of Chateau Lafayette is a sweeping novel about duty and hope, love and courage, and the strength we find from standing together in honor of those who came before us.

My Review:
Reviewed by Laura Fabiani

Wow, this is the first book I read by Stephanie Dray, and it won't be the last! I was captivated right from the start. It's an epic novel about three women who lived during different times, a triple timeline alternating throughout the book. I was amazed by how seamlessly the author moved from one era to the other. And the fact that two of the women were based on actual historical figures made the story all the more interesting. It was evident the book was well-researched and very well-written.

All three timelines were equally interesting to me and were connected by the Chateau Lafayette, a fortified manor house (it's a museum today) that is situated in France and is the birthplace of General Lafayette. I did not know much about Lafayette nor the role his wife played in politics. What an amazing woman she was! History tends to downplay women's roles, but the author brings them out through careful research and skillful writing. She succeeds in building unforgettable characters, strong women that took risks, that made a difference, that were devoted and avant-gardists.

This novel was like reading three books in one. There was never a dull moment. It's a long book with almost 600 pages and typed in small font. It's not a book you want to rush through. It's one that has a lot going on and that makes you invest in its characters and their stories. No fluff here.

If you are a serious historical fiction reader who loves epic well-written stories, look no further. Stephany Dray satisfies the thirst for sweeping era-based historical fiction novels that are sure to become classics.

Disclosure: Thanks to Netgalley for a copy of 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:

Stephanie Dray is a New York Times, Wall Street Journal, & USA Today bestselling author of historical women's fiction. Her award-winning work has been translated into eight languages. She lives near the nation's capital with her husband, cats, and history books.

Sunday, May 16, 2021

Paris in Ruins by M.K. Tod (Book Review)

Fans of historical fiction set in wartime Paris will have much to take away from this latest novel by M.K. Tod.

Book Details:

Title: Paris in Ruins by M.K. Tod
Category: Adult Fiction, 370 pages
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Heath Street Publishing
Release date: March 30, 2021
Contact Rating: PG-13 + M (Images of war, violence and devastation)

Book Description:

Paris 1870. Raised for a life of parties and servants, Camille and Mariele have much in common, but it takes the horrors of war to bring them together to fight for the city and people they love.

A few weeks after the abdication of Napoleon III, the Prussian army lays siege to Paris. Camille Noisette, the daughter of a wealthy family, volunteers to nurse wounded soldiers and agrees to spy on a group of radicals plotting to overthrow the French government. Her future sister-in-law, Mariele de Crécy, is appalled by the gaps between rich and poor. She volunteers to look after destitute children whose families can barely afford to eat.

Somehow, Camille and Mariele must find the courage and strength to endure months of devastating siege, bloody civil war, and great personal risk. Through it all, an unexpected friendship grows between the two women, as they face the destruction of Paris and discover that in war women have as much to fight for as men.

War has a way of teaching lessons—if only Camille and Mariele can survive long enough to learn them.

My Review:
Reviewed by Laura Fabiani

A few years back I read Time and Regret and loved it, listing it as one of my best reads for that year. So I was eagerly looking forward to Paris in Ruins, an historical fiction novel set in 1870s Paris when the Prussian army lays siege to Paris after the abdication of Napoleon III. I must admit I knew little of this time period in France's history.

Once again, M.K. Tod's research is evident as she describes the political atmosphere and the devastation that Paris suffers during the Franco-Prussian war. Later Prussia gets incorporated into the German empire. There are so many books with the setting of France during WWI or WWII, but this is the first I've read during this time period, making it unique as far as wartime settings.

Paris in Ruins is the story of Camille and Mariele, two different women who discover their strength and bravery through circumstance and opportunity. They are both women of privilege who use their station in life to make a difference during a time when socialite women were seen as dutiful wives who had no place in politics. Through these women's actions and the plot, 1870s Paris comes alive.

It took awhile for me to become invested in this novel. I enjoyed the characters but never became too attached to them. The theme was heavy, of course, because of the war, and some scenes were just plain hard to read. I cannot explain it but I felt the war theme overshadowed the characters. Unlike Time and Regret, this one was not a page-turner for me, however, I seem to be in the minority of readers who felt this way. 

Fans of historical fiction set in wartime Paris will have much to take away from this latest novel by M.K. Tod.

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About the Author

Paris In Ruins is M.K. Tod’s fourth novel. Mary began writing in 2005 while living as an expat in Hong Kong. What started as an interest in her grandparents’ lives turned into a full-time occupation writing historical fiction. Her other novels are Time and Regret, Lies Told in Silence, and Unravelled. Beyond writing novels, Mary’s award-winning blog, features the reading and writing of historical fiction. When she’s not writing or thinking about writing, you can find her hiking, golfing, traveling, or hanging out with friends and family. Mary is married and has two adult children and two delightful grandchildren.

For more information visit M.K. Tod's website. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Goodreads.

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Isabelle and Alexander by Rebecca Anderson (Book Spotlight)

Book Details:

Title: Isabelle and Alexander (Proper Romance Victorian) by Rebecca Anderson
Genre: Historical Fiction, Inspirational Fiction, Victorian Romance
Publisher: Shadow Mountain Publishing (May 4, 2021)
Format: Trade paperback, eBook, & audiobook (368) pages
Tour Dates: May 3-16. 2021
Content rating: G

Book Description:

Isabelle Rackham knows she will not marry for love. Though arranged marriages have fallen out of fashion, hers has been settled for some time to combine the upper-middle-class wealth of her father's coal mines with Alexander Osgood's prospering Northern country textile mills. Though not a man prone to romantic gestures, Alexander is well-known as an eligible bachelor. His good looks have turned more than one head, so Isabelle is content to think of herself as Alexander's wife.

However, her marriage is not what she expected. Northern England is nothing like her home farther west in the lake country. Cold, dreary, and dark, the soot from the textile mills creates a gray hue that seems to cling to everything in the city of Manchester. Alexander is distant and aloof, preferring to spend his time at the mill rather than with her at home. Their few conversations are brief, polite, and lacking any emotion, leaving Isabelle lonely and desperately homesick.

Sensing his wife's unhappiness, Alexander suggests a trip to his country estate. Isabelle hopes this will be an opportunity to get to know her new husband without the distractions of his business. But the change of scenery doesn't bring them any closer. While riding together on horses, Alexander is thrown from his and becomes paralyzed. Tragedy or destiny? The help and care that Alexander now needs is Isabelle's opportunity to forge a connection and create a deep and romantic love where nothing else could.

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About the author:

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

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

Saturday, April 17, 2021

The Forsaken Children by Naomi Finley (Book Review and Giveaway!)

The Forsaken Children

The Forsaken Children is an unforgettable dramatic read

Book Details:

Title: The Forsaken Children by Naomi Finley
Series: The British Home Children Book 1
Category: Adult Fiction, 306 pages
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Huntson Press
Release date: April 13, 2021
Contact Rating: PG-13 + M (Parental abandonment, child abuse, child labour, poverty, child emigration movement, childhood trauma)

Book Description:

A riveting tale of endurance and resilience, illustrating the spirit of a child and the bond between siblings.

It’s 1922. Fifteen-year-old Hazel Winters and her six-year-old brother, William, are placed on a ship by an organization that relocates British orphans and children of poverty to new homes in Canada. Arrivals in the new land are exported to distributing houses, where devastation and heartache greet the youngsters as headmistresses govern their fate.

The assurance of a better life across the ocean is far from what Hazel experiences. Through hardships and loneliness, she is determined to survive. Finding refuge in memories of the past, she clings to the dream of returning to her homeland while preserving a reunion in her heart.

In 1890, orphaned Charlotte Appleton and her sister Ellie were scooped up from London’s streets and sent to new homes across the ocean. Although mere miles kept them apart, Charlotte never knew her sister’s whereabouts until a chance interaction reunites them. Together the siblings vow to make a difference for the families and home children of an institution in Toronto, Ontario.

Can an unexpected guardian give Hazel renewed strength and resolve for a future of promise?

Based on the child emigration movement that occurred from 1869 through the late1930s, this poignant tale follows the lives of siblings who were burdensome byproducts of Britain’s poverty.

My Review:
Reviewed by Laura Fabiani

This book caught my attention from the first page when I was introduced to the spunky Hazel Winters, a 15-year-old girl whose family fell into poverty after her father returned from WWI with injuries and later died, leaving his family destitute. I couldn't put this book down even though it was so heartbreaking and had me trembling with rage at the injustices the British home children suffered at the hands of Canadians.

When things get worse and their mother could no longer feed or take care of them, Hazel Winters and her 6-year-old brother William are left by their mother at an orphanage with the promise that she would return. But the orphanage sent them across the ocean to receiving institutions that placed them on farms to work. Hazel has a good heart and a strong love for her brother. It is this familial love that keeps her spirit alive when she is placed in a farm home and treated cruelly.

I think the author does a great job of bringing the plight of the British home children to life through the story of Hazel. There is no sugar coating of the harsh reality, but hope, resilience, and the will to survive are beacons of light in this sad tale. Although this is fiction, the fact that it is based on historical facts made this a very compelling read. The characters jump off the page and the story flows well. As a reader, I rooted for Hazel as I experienced an emotional journey with her. The book ends with the possibility of a continued story, and since this is marketed as Book 1, I am thinking the unanswered questions I have will be answered in the sequel.

After I finished the book I was curious about the British home children and did research. I came across this website that says: From the late 1860s right up to 1948, over 100,000 children of all ages were emigrated right across Canada, from the United Kingdom, to be used as indentured farm workers and domestics. Believed by Canadians to be orphans, only approximately 12 percent truly were. I knew nothing about the role my country played in the mistreatment of children in need of a home and support.

If you like stories based on the resilience of the human spirit in the face of injustice and cruelty, this one is an unforgettable dramatic read. I will always remember the beautiful character of Hazel Winters.

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About the Author

Naomi is an award-winning author living in Northern Alberta. She loves to travel and her suitcase is always on standby awaiting her next adventure. Naomi’s affinity for the Deep South and its history was cultivated during her childhood living in a Tennessee plantation house with six sisters. Her fascination with history and the resiliency of the human spirit to overcome obstacles are major inspirations for her writing and she is passionately devoted to creativity. In addition to writing fiction, her interests include interior design, cooking new recipes, and hosting dinner parties. Naomi is married to her high school sweetheart and she has two teenage children and two dogs named Egypt and Persia.

For more information, please visit Naomi Finley’s website. You can also find her on FacebookInstagram, and Goodreads.

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Ends April 23, 2021

The Forsaken Children

Monday, April 12, 2021

The Indebted Earl by Erica Vetsch (Book Review and Kindle Giveaway!)

The Indebted Earl is the third book in the Serendipity & Secrets series by Erica Vetsch. I loved all the books and this one ended up being the best one for me. Check out my review and enter the giveaway to win a Kindle HD Fire!

Book Details:

Title: The Indebted Earl by Erica Vetsch
Category: Adult Fiction, 288 pages
Genre: Historical Romance, Regency Romance, Christian Fiction
Publisher: Kregel Publications
Release date: March 2, 2021
Contact Rating: G

Book Description:

Can Captain Wyvern keep his new marriage of convenience all business--or will it turn into something more?

Captain Charles Wyvern owes a great debt to the man who saved his life--especially since Major Richardson lost his own life in the process. The best way to honor that hero's dying wish is for Wyvern to escort the man's grieving fiance and mother safely to a new cottage home by the sea. But along the way, he learns of another obligation that has fallen on his shoulders: his uncle has died and the captain is now the Earl of Rothwell.

When he and the ladies arrive at his new manor house in Devon, they discover an estate in need of a leader and a gaggle of girls, all wards of the former earl. War the new earl knows; young ladies and properties he does not. Still wishing to provide for the bereaved Lady Sophia Haverly, Charles proposes a marriage of convenience.

Sophie is surprised to find she isn't opposed to the idea. It will help her care for her betrothed's elderly mother, and she's already fallen in love with the wayward girls on the Rothwell estate. This alliance is a chance to repay the captain who has done so much for her care, as well as divert her attention from her grief. When Wyvern returns to his sea commission, she'll stay behind to oversee his property and wards.

It sounds so simple. Until the stalwart captain is arrested on suspicion of smuggling, and Sophie realizes how much he's come to mean to her. Now she'll have to learn to fight, not only for his freedom but also for his love.

My Review:
Reviewed by Laura Fabiani

The Indebted Earl is the third book in the Serendipity & Secrets series by Erica Vetsch. I enjoyed the first book The Lost Lieutenant and I loved the second book The Gentleman Spy and this third one was the best out of all three for me. Such a great story! The books are all stand-alone so you can enjoy them in whatever order you read them.

This engaging historical romance features Lady Sophia Haverly, the sister of Marcus, the main character from the second book, who makes a short appearance in this one too. Sophia's fiancé Rich dies overseas of battle wounds. His naval captain and friend, Charles Wyvern, returns to England after the war ends and visits Sophia to fulfill his promise to Rich that he would take care of her and his mother. Charles unexpectedly inherits an earldom and becomes guardian to three young girls. Sophie and Charles agree to a marriage of convenience and their life suddenly becomes filled with so much possibility.

I loved the premise of this story that had not one dull moment in it. Vetsch does such an amazing job bringing both the main characters and the secondary characters of the girls and Mamie, the mother-in-law to life. Such good character development, with bits of humor interspersed throughout. The characters are realistic, flawed, and grow with the arc of the story. I was touched by several scenes in this book. 

Vetsch writes very well with a good knowledge of the era and its language. The story moved along at a good pace and I could not help but want to read it quickly. I enjoyed it thoroughly from beginning to end. 

A feel-good marriage of convenience tale that is sure to please fans of historical romance with a touch of Christian elements. I'm a fan of Erica Vetsch and eagerly look forward to her next book!

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About the Author:

Erica Vetsch is a New York Times best-selling and ACFW Carol Award–winning author. She is a transplanted Kansan now living in Minnesota with her husband, who she claims is both her total opposite and soul mate.

Vetsch loves Jesus, history, romance, and sports. When she’s not writing fiction, she’s planning her next trip to a history museum and cheering on her Kansas Jayhawks and New Zealand All Blacks.

A self-described history geek, she has been planning her first research trip to England.

Learn more about Erica Vetsch and her books at She can also be found on Facebook (@EricaVetschAuthor), Instagram (@EricaVetsch) and Pinterest (Erica Vetsch).

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Ends April 20, 2021

Monday, April 5, 2021

A Captain for Caroline Gray by Julie Wright (Book Review)

I enjoyed this Proper Romance story and recommend it to fans of clean Regency romances who enjoy adventurous stories on the high seas.

Book Details:

Title: A Captain for Caroline Gray (Proper Romance Regency) by Julie Wright
Category: Adult Fiction, 336 pages
Genre: Historical Romance, Regency Romance, Inspirational Fiction
Publisher: Shadow Mountain Publishing 
Release date: March 2, 2021
Format: Trade Paperback, eBook, & audiobook
Contact Rating: PG 

Book Description:

Caroline Gray would rather be daring and intelligent than demure and insipid, which is why she is still unmatched after her third season in London. Her family’s threadbare finances leave Caroline with only one choice to secure her future: sail with the Fishing Fleet to India, where the son of a family friend is willing to consider an engagement to her.

Captain Thomas Scott loves the open sea as much as he despises the three-month, twice-yearly trip his ship makes as he ferries young English girls across the ocean. He can’t imagine what family would allow an innocent young woman to be matched up with the Englishmen of questionable reputation who work and live in India.

But when Miss Gray boards the HMS Persistence, all of Captain Scott’s plans are upended. Miss Gray’s fiery spirit can’t be contained, and he is shocked and secretly delighted at her boldness—and her beauty. But the rest of his passengers aren’t so kind.

Caroline finds herself an outcast among her peers, but Captain Scott becomes an unlikely ally. They share the same passions and interests, creating an undeniable attraction. But they both know any relationship between them is impossible. After all, Caroline has obligations to fulfill in India.

Caroline has until the end of the voyage to decide if she is going to marry a man she has never met or be brave enough to love a sea captain who just might break her heart.

My Review:
Reviewed by Laura Fabiani

A Captain for Caroline Gray is an entertaining Regency romance about a bluestocking and a sea captain. Most of the story takes place on Captain Thomas Scott's ship. 

Caroline Gray is a beautiful intelligent woman who scares away potential husbands when she boldly speaks her opinions on politics and most topics that genteel women do not engage in. Because of her family situation, Caroline must marry or be destitute. She therefore feels she has no good option but to accept a proposition to meet the son of a family friend in India for the possibility of marriage. However, during her three-month journey, she begins to have feelings for Thomas, the captain of the ship. And he begins to have feeling for her until his pride gets stung over a misunderstanding and threatens to separate the duo for good.

This was a fun quick read. It's a clean romance with adventure and witty dialogue. I liked Caroline and Thomas, but I wanted to shake Thomas a few times for his immature behaviour. This was the first time I heard about the Fishing Fleet women who left their homes in hopes of finding a husband among the British officers in India.  I thought this made for an interesting backdrop to the story.

I enjoyed this Proper Romance story and recommend it to fans of clean Regency romances who enjoy adventurous stories on the high seas.

Buy the Book:

Praise for A Captain for Caroline Gray:

"A charming historical romance in which smarts and sass are vindicated."— Foreword Reviews

"…a delightful, not exactly traditional Regency romance. Teen readers will enjoy this adventurous journey with its proactive heroine and exotic settings."— Booklist, starred review

"An unconventional woman finds herself at home at sea in this stirring Regency from Julie Wright…This adventure is sure to entice fans of historical romance."— Publishers Weekly

About the Author:

Julie Wright wrote her first book when she was fifteen and has written over twenty novels since then. She is a Whitney Awards winner for best romance with her books Cross My Heart and Lies Jane Austen Told Me, and she is a Crown Heart recipient for the novel The Fortune Café.

She has one husband, three kids, one dog, and a varying amount of fish, frogs, and salamanders (depending on attrition). She loves writing, reading, hiking, playing with her kids, and watching her husband make dinner.

She hates mayonnaise.

Connect with Julie:

Friday, April 2, 2021

The Girl in the Painting by Tea Cooper (Book Review)

Well-written, with suspense and mystery, this historical novel is a good read. 

Book Details:

Book Title: The Girl in the Painting by Tea Cooper
Category: Adult Fiction, 384 pages
Genre: Historical Fiction / Mystery
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Release date: March 9, 2021
Content Rating: PG

Book Description:

A young prodigy in need of family. A painting that shatters a woman’s peace. And a decades-old mystery demanding to be solved.

Australia, 1906

Orphan Jane Piper is nine years old when philanthropist siblings Michael and Elizabeth Quinn take her into their home to further her schooling. The Quinns are no strangers to hardship— having arrived in Australia as penniless immigrants, they now care for others as lost as they once were.

Despite Jane’s mysterious past, her remarkable aptitude for mathematics takes her far over the next seven years, and her relationship with Elizabeth and Michael flourishes as she plays an increasingly prominent part in their business.

But when Elizabeth reacts in terror to an exhibition at the local gallery, Jane realizes no one knows Elizabeth after all—not even Elizabeth herself. As the past and the present converge and Elizabeth’s grasp on reality loosens, Jane sets out to unravel Elizabeth’s story before it is too late.

From the gritty reality of the Australian goldfields to the grand institutions of Sydney, this compelling novel takes us on a mystery across continents and decades as both women finally discover a place to call home.

My Review:
Reviewed by Laura Fabiani

The Girl in the Painting is an enjoyable historical fiction novel set in Australia in the late 1800s during the Gold rush, with a dual timeline alternating with the early 1900s. Usually, I enjoy one timeline more than the other but in this case, I was equally interested in both and they come together beautifully by the end of the story.

This is both Jane's story as it is brother-and-sister duo Michael and Elizabeth's story. Jane is an orphan who is discovered to be a prodigy in math. She is taken under the wings of Michael and Elizabeth who further her schooling. As she grows into a young woman, Jane begins working alongside them in their business. When Elizabeth begins to have strange reactions to the art in an exhibit, and her mental health deteriorates, Jane's quick mind tries to gather the clues to try to discover what exactly happened to Elizabeth as a child and what mysterious past the duo has kept secret.

This was a good slow-burn mystery story with characters that are well-developed and a setting that taught me some Australian history. Jane was my favorite character and she propels the mystery forward. This is also an immigrant story brought to life when a young Michael and his little sister boarded a ship to go meet their parents in Hill's End, the rough Gold rush town filled with eager prospectors and Chinese immigrants. 

I particularly enjoyed how the author explored the psychological beliefs of certain behaviors, not yet understood at the time by the medical community. Well-written, with suspense and mystery, this historical novel is a good read. 

Disclosure: Thanks to Historical Fiction Blog Tours 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.

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About the Author:

Tea is an award-winning Australian author of historical fiction. In a past life, she was a teacher, a journalist, and a farmer. These days she haunts museums and indulges her passion for storytelling. She is the bestselling author of several novels, including The Horse Thief, The Cedar Cutter, The Currency Lass, The Naturalist’s Daughter, The Woman in the Green Dress, and The Girl in the Painting.

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Wednesday, March 17, 2021

It Happened in Tuscany by Gail Mencini (Book Review and Giveaway!)

It Happened in Tuscany was a very pleasant quick read.

Book Details:

Book Title: It Happened in Tuscany by Gail Mencini
Category: Adult Fiction, 408 pages
Genre: Mainstream Fiction, Historical Fiction
Publisher: Capriole Group
Release date: Feb 18, 2020
Tour dates: Mar 8 to Apr 2, 2021
Content Rating: PG-13. The novel includes violence in war scenes and non-explicit sex scenes. No bad language.

Book Description:

From the multiple-award-winning author of To Tuscany with Love comes a captivating story of the epic tug of war between honor and duty, the irrepressible power of love, and the concept of family.

In 1945, Will Mills and his fellow soldiers in the 10th Mountain Division scaled Italy’s treacherous Riva Ridge in the frigid night to break through the nearly impenetrable German line of defense. Severely wounded, Will was rescued by Italian partisans and one, a beautiful girl, tended his injuries until he had the strength to rejoin the U.S. troops.

Tormented and haunted by his decisions and actions during wartime, Will knows he has unfinished missions in Italy to complete. The passage of time and years of carrying this unfulfilled need have molded Will into a bitter, angry man.

Seventy-five years later, Will’s spunky thirty-two-year-old neighbor, Sophie Sparke, faces disaster in her life. Everything is going wrong—her job, her love life, even her dog. Part of the problem is that confident and fiercely independent Sophie lets her quick mouth get her into trouble.

Grouchy, mean-spirited Will finagles Sophie into traveling with him to Tuscany to find the partisan who saved his life. Will also secretly hopes to confront the demons his wartime actions created. Sophie and Will comb enchanting Tuscan hill towns on an improbable and unfolding mission with few clues to aid them. Will’s passionate tenacity drives their quest and in the process exposes their darkest secrets. The journey alters the course of their lives, and Will and Sophie find more than they had imagined in the hills of Tuscany.

Book Review:
Reviewed by Laura Fabiani

It Happened in Tuscany was a very pleasant read with short chapters that moves the story along quickly. I loved the premise of an American soldier going back to Italy after a lifetime to search for a lost love and answers. Will and Sophie are neighbors, but they are often at odds with each other because Will is grumpy and gripes at Sophie. Both have lost family and are lonely. Will convinces Sophie to embark on a journey with him to Italy. Sophie is reluctant because Will is over ninety, but Will is determined and soon they are off to Tuscany.

The story starts in 1945 with Will fighting the Germans in the Italian Alps. Just when it was getting very interesting, it switches to the present day and unfortunately does not go back to that time. Both Will and Sophie have hidden emotional burdens they carry, which come to light once they are in Italy. This was a really good story, however, I feel that it could have been longer, with more backstory scenes of both Sophie and Will's past, which I found were glossed over in exchange for more lighthearted cooking and touring scenes. I was hoping to discover more about Will's relationship with his first love Francesca, but we know very little of her. Also, I'm not a fan of insta-love so I thought the romance between Sophie and Niccolo was a little too quick.

Apart from this, the story flowed well and I enjoyed the setting and the Tuscany history. Will was my favorite character and grew on me as the story progressed. I wanted to get to know him better as a soldier in Italy. 

If you like quick reads set in Italy with romance and adventure, this one is a fun read.

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Meet the Author:

Gail Mencini is the acclaimed author of It Happened in Tuscany and To Tuscany with Love, both of which are Denver Post #1 bestsellers and award winners. Gail grew up in DeWitt, Nebraska, graduated from Wartburg College with a BA in Accounting and Economics, and earned a master of taxation degree from the University of Denver. A frequent visitor to Tuscany and a homegrown gourmet cook, Gail has toured Italy by car, train, bus, Vespa, and foot. She lives in Colorado with her husband.

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Monday, March 15, 2021

War at the Ice Cream Store by Dave Gibson and Cheryl DaVeiga (Book Review and Giveaway!)

War at the Ice Cream Store is a super fun book with a great message. Scroll down to read my review and to enter the giveaway to win a copy!

Book Details:

Book Title: WAR AT THE ICE CREAM STORE by Cheryl DaVeiga and Dave Gibson
Category: Children's Fiction (Ages 3-7), 32 pages
Genre: Children's Picture Book
Publisher: Cheryl DaVeiga and Dave Gibson
Release date: January 2021
Content Rating: G

Book Description:

The first of the Frank TL Frogg and Friends series, War at the Ice Cream Store tells the story of one night at the Frozen Frogg, when Mustachio Pistachio and his “flavorite” flavor friends teach Bully Vanilli a lesson in kindness and acceptance.

My Review:
Reviewed by Laura Fabiani

War at the Ice Cream Store is a super fun book with a great message. I read the interactive multimedia version, which included videos of Frank TL Frogg and friends narrating the story with every turn of the page. At the end of the book, there is a song sang in a Southern tune summarizing the story. The song is quite catchy and is sure to be a hit with kids. I found myself singing along!

The story is about the ice cream flavor vanilla (Bully Vanilli) who bullies the flavor pistachio (Mustachio Pistachio) because he is the least favorite. But Bully learns a valuable lesson when the other flavors, toppings, and ice cream tools show Bully Vanilli that he thinks too highly of himself. Without them, he is quite plain.

Parents reading this book with their young ones will enjoy the many witty puns used throughout the narrative. I chuckled a few times. What a fun book! The authors' talents are quite evident in this colorful book full of imagination and community feeling. The Frozen Frog ice cream store is filled with interesting characters that rallied together to bring about change.

I know my kids (now grown) would have loved this book because of the puppet characters that come alive on video to tell them the story. I think interactive books are a good way to get an immersive experience for children, especially those who are reluctant readers or who like songs related to a book they read.

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Meet the Authors:

Cheryl DaVeiga

Cheryl is an award-winning songwriter, children's song recording artist (as the cartoon character CADi Grace), and the co-creator of the puppet musical and comedy show, The Waterhole Bunch. After the success of The Waterhole Bunch, Cheryl along with co-creator Dave Gibson, spun off the main character, Frank TL (The Lucky) Frogg, into a children’s entertainment concept, Frank TL Frogg and Friends, featuring the puppets in a magical town called Lucky Fork, Tennessee. Frank TL Frogg and Friends includes books, songs, videos, games, and more for younger audiences. War at the Ice Cream Store is the first of the Frank TL Frogg and Friends children’s book series.

Dave Gibson

Dave is an award-winning Nashville-based songwriter, having written hundreds of hit songs for artists including Alabama, Montgomery Gentry and Marie Osmond. Dave’s own group, The Gibson/Miller Band, won the Academy of Country Music (ACM) Award for a best new group in the early nineties. He is the co-creator of the puppet musical and comedy show, The Waterhole Bunch. After the success of The Waterhole Bunch, Dave, along with co-creator Cheryl DaVeiga, spun off the main character, Frank TL (The Lucky) Frogg, into a children’s entertainment concept, Frank TL Frogg and Friends, featuring the puppets in a magical town called Lucky Fork, Tennessee. Frank TL Frogg and Friends includes books, songs, videos, games, and more for younger audiences. War at the Ice Cream Store is the first of the Frank TL Frogg and Friends children’s book series.

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Ends April 2, 2021

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Friday, March 12, 2021

Relentless Solution Focus by Dr. Jason Selk and Dr. Ellen Reed (Book Review)

If you are motivated to make changes in the way you think so that you can clarify and achieve your goals as you strengthen your mind, this book can certainly help you with this.

Book Details:

Book Title: Relentless Solution Focus by Dr. Jason Selk and Dr. Ellen Reed
Category: Adult Non-Fiction, 256 pages
Genre: Psychology, Self-help
Publisher: McGraw-Hill Education
Release dates: January 7, 2021
Content Rating: G

Book Description:

From bestselling author and mental toughness expert Jason Selk comes a mind-training regimen for reframing every problem into an opportunity for productive action.

The most common cause of failing to reach our professional and personal goals is hardwired in us: Humans instinctively focus on problems. Over millennia, our very survival relied on our ability to be alert to any potential dangers that could threaten our existence. But today this negativity bias significantly limits our potential and increases stress, pressure, and underperformance.

The one characteristic all phenomenally successful people share is mental toughness. Mentally tough people are better at making decisions more quickly and with better results. They possess the uncanny ability to control what goes on between their ears. Instead of allowing their minds to focus on their problems when adversity strikes, the most successful people have learned to direct their thoughts in a systematic manner that produces positive emotions and productive actions: they have a Relentless Solution Focus.

In this book, top performance coach Dr. Jason Selk, former Director of Mental Training for the World Series champions St. Louis Cardinals, and his colleague Dr. Ellen Reed provide the insight, tools, and proven step-by-step framework for you to do the same. When you have Relentless Solution Focus, you think better. Your decisions garner positive results. You take action and follow through, every time. And when you do get off track, you get back on with less effort and less drama. Weakness shrinks and strength grows, creating confidence and momentum, taking you and your team to higher levels of performance and achievement.

My Review:
Reviewed by Laura Fabiani

I'm a firm believer in the branch of positive psychology and neuroplasticity. I haven't read any of Dr. Selk's previous books but I was curious about his latest release. Relentless Solution Focus (RSF) is his three-step process to developing mental strength. In a nutshell, it trains you to 1) Recognize when negative thinking sets in, 2) Replace negative thinking with positive thoughts, and 3) Retrain your mind to be more solution-focused and positive. 

I've read enough books on the subject to know that this is nothing new, however, this book is easy to read and is infused with the authors' own experiences working with elite athletes and business leaders. Therefore, it is very much performance-based and perfect for the target audience of those in competitive environments.

I am the type of person that I love to learn the same subject from different perspectives, and I did enjoy very much the method outlined in this book with the anecdotes that gave me a fresh perspective on my own way of doing things. Furthermore, the keyword is relentless. In other words, consistency in retraining your mind and using your new skill set. This is the growth mindset, striving to improve oneself continuously. I paid particular attention to the section on prioritizing and perfectionist mentality because I know I need to work on these on a regular basis. I realized I need to focus on less so that I can achieve more of what is important to me. I've just got too much going on in my life. 

If you are motivated to make changes in the way you think so that you can clarify and achieve your goals as you strengthen your mind, this book can certainly help you with this. Written in the first-person, the author coaches you along in an easy-going manner, making this a pleasure to read as well. A good resource for all readers with an eagerness for improvement.

Disclosure: Thanks to TLC Book Tours for providing this book for review. I was not compensated in any other way, nor told how to rate or review this product.

About Dr. Jason Selk

Dr. Jason Selk, one of the nation’s premier performance coaches, has worked with business titans and superstar athletes. As Director of Mental Training for the St. Louis Cardinals, he played an important role in the team’s first World Series victory in over 20 years, in 2006, and their second in 2011. He is the bestselling author of Executive Toughness, 10-Minute Toughness, Organize Tomorrow Today, and Lead Any Team to Win.

Find out more about Dr. Selk on his website, and follow him on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

About Dr. Ellen Reed

Dr. Ellen Reed has worked side by side with Dr. Selk for 15 years, and has extensive experience in mental training for consistency, accountability, and execution in business, athletics, academics, and the performing arts. She helps business leaders and elite athletes reach their peak performance by developing the mental toughness necessary for success.

Thursday, March 11, 2021

The Secret Life of Sofonisba Anguissola by Melissa Muldoon (Book Review)

This is the fourth book I read by Melissa Muldoon, and once again she succeeded in transporting me to another time in history. 

Book Details:

Book Title: The Secret Life of Sofonisba Anguissola by Melissa Muldoon
Category: Adult Fiction, 345 pages
Genre: Historical Fiction, General Fiction
Publisher: Matta Press
Release date: December 2020
Content Rating: PG-13 + M includes mature themes (suicide, adultery, sexual relations, murder)

Book Description:

Set in the sixteenth-century, The Secret Life of Sofonisba Anguissola tells the story of a woman’s passion for painting and adventure. In a world where women painters had little to no acknowledgment, she was singled out by Michelangelo and Vasari who recognized and praised her talent. Gaining the Milanese elite’s acclaim, she went on to become court painter to Spanish King Philip II and taught his queen to paint. 

One can’t live such an extraordinary life without having stories to tell, and tell them Sofonisba does to Sir Anthony Van Dyke, who comes to visit her toward the end of her life. During their meeting, she agrees to reveal her secrets but first challenges the younger painter to find the one lie hidden in her tale. In a saga filled with intrigue, jealousy, buried treasure, unrequited love, espionage, and murder, Sofonisba’s story is played out against the backdrop of Italy, Spain, and Sicily. Throughout her life, she encounters talented artists, authoritative dukes, mad princes, religious kings, spying queens, vivacious viscounts, and dashing sea captains—even a Barbary pirate. But of all the people who fell in love with Sofonisba, only one captured her heart. 

The painter may have many secrets but the truth of her life is crystal clear from the beginning. Always a strong, passionate woman with a dream, she was an intelligent artist who knew her self-worth and in the end, as Michelangelo had done for her, Sofonisba passed her brush to a new generation.

My Review:
Reviewed by Laura Fabiani

This is the fourth book I read by Melissa Muldoon, and once again she succeeded in transporting me to another time in history. Her books just keep getting better and better! This time, under Muldoon's deft penmanship, 16th century Italy and Spain came to life as she brings forth from obscurity yet another strong female historical figure. If there is one thing I can be certain of when I pick up one of Muldoon's books is that I will learn more about the world of Renaissance art.

This time Muldoon writes a fictionalized tale (based on known life events) of Sofonisba Anguissola, the first female painter to achieve fame and respect in the 16th century. Her father recognized her talent, encouraged it, and let her study under the tutelage of several painting masters. She became known for her portraits and went on to become the court painter to Spanish King Philip II. This allowed her to forge a friendship with Elizabeth his queen whom she taught to paint too.

Muldoon succeeds in taking these facts from Sofonisba's life and weaving a good story filled with art, court intrigue, love, murder, and adventure. I enjoyed reading this story very much and was motivated to do more research on this feminist historical figure who put her painting career above marriage and children. She was intelligent, talented, ambitious, and an inspiration to other artists. The author brings her to life beautifully with a story that flows well and gets better as it unfolds, especially in the last third of the book. I couldn't wait to see how it would all end.

If you love stories with strong female characters based on real historical figures, The Secret Life of Sofonisba Anguissola is sure to please. This medieval tale set in Renaissance Italy and Inquisition Spain kept me turning the pages until the satisfying end.

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Meet the Author:

Melissa Muldoon is the author of four novels set in Italy: Dreaming Sophia, Waking Isabella, Eternally Artemisia, and The Secret Life of Sofonisba Anguissola. All four books tell the stories of women and their journeys of self-discovery to find love, uncover hidden truths, and follow their destinies to shape a better future for themselves. Melissa is also the author of the Studentessa Matta website, where she promotes the study of Italian language and culture through her dual-language blog written in Italian and English ( Studentessa Matta means the “crazy linguist” and has grown to include a podcast, Tutti Matti per l’Italiano and the Studentessa Matta, YouTube channel, Facebook page and Instagram feed. Melissa also created Matta Italian Language Immersion Programs, which she co-leads with Italian schools in Italy to learn Italian in Italy. Through her website, she also offers the opportunities to live and study in Italy through Homestay programs. Melissa has a B.A. in fine arts, art history, and European history from Knox College, a liberal arts college in Galesburg, Illinois, as well as a master’s degree in art history from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana. She has also studied painting and art history in Florence. She is an artist, designer, and illustrated the cover art for all four of her books. Melissa is the managing director of Matta Press

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