Monday, June 18, 2018

Review/Giveaway: The Underground River by Martha Conway

Set aboard a nineteenth century riverboat theater, this is the moving, page-turning story of a charmingly frank and naive seamstress who is blackmailed into saving runaways on the Underground Railroad, jeopardizing her freedom, her livelihood, and a new love. 

It’s 1838, and May Bedloe works as a seamstress for her cousin, the famous actress Comfort Vertue—until their steamboat sinks on the Ohio River. Though they both survive, both must find new employment. Comfort is hired to give lectures by noted abolitionist, Flora Howard, and May finds work on a small flatboat, Hugo and Helena’s Floating Theatre, as it cruises the border between the northern states and the southern slave-holding states.

May becomes indispensable to Hugo and his troupe, and all goes well until she sees her cousin again. Comfort and Mrs. Howard are also traveling down the Ohio River, speaking out against slavery at the many riverside towns. May owes Mrs. Howard a debt she cannot repay, and Mrs. Howard uses the opportunity to enlist May in her network of shadowy characters who ferry babies given up by their slave mothers across the river to freedom. Lying has never come easy to May, but now she is compelled to break the law, deceive all her new-found friends, and deflect the rising suspicions of Dr. Early who captures runaways and sells them back to their southern masters. 

As May’s secrets become more tangled and harder to keep, the Floating Theatre readies for its biggest performance yet. May’s predicament could mean doom for all her friends on board, including her beloved Hugo, unless she can figure out a way to trap those who know her best.

Publication Date: June 20, 2017
Hardcover, eBook, AudioBook
Genre: Historical Fiction


It’s 1938 when The Underground River begins and Mary tells her story. It’s also 10 years before the Civil War begins where the Ohio River is the boundary separating free blacks from those not.

Martha Conley has definitely done her homework and was able to place me right there, I could visual and feel the tension that existed between the north and south. The feel of the landscape was clear as well as the way of life. I knew nothing about River Theatres and I found that aspect quite interesting.

It isn’t until the last half of the book where most of the action takes place that is described in the synopsis above.  I kinda wish that started a little sooner and went on longer to really show this part of history.  I'm sure there are more people like me that have heard of the underground railway but never the river being used as paths to freedom.

Again the author definitely knows her history and I'll be checking out her other books.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound | Books-a-Million | Powell’s

Martha Conway grew up in Cleveland, Ohio, the sixth of seven daughters. Her first novel was nominated for an Edgar Award, and she has won several awards for her historical fiction, including an Independent Book Publishers Award and the North American Book Award for Historical Fiction. Her short fiction has been published in the Iowa Review, Massachusetts Review, Carolina Quarterly, Folio, Epoch, The Quarterly, and other journals. She has received a California Arts Council Fellowship for Creative Writing, and has reviewed books for the Iowa Review and the San Francisco Chronicle. She now lives in San Francisco, and is an instructor of creative writing for Stanford University’s Continuing Studies Program and UC Berkeley Extension. She is the author of The Underground River.

For more information, please visit Martha Conway's website.

You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Goodreads.

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During the Blog Tour we will be giving away 5 custom-made coffee mugs!

To enter, please enter via the Gleam form below.
– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on July 26th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open to US residents only.
– Only one entry per household.
– Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen

The Underground River

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Review: The Mayflower Bride (Daughters of the Mayflower #1) by Kimberley Woodhouse

A New Series Begins for Lovers of History, Adventure, Romance, and Ancestry

 Mary Chapman boards the Speedwell in 1620 as a Separatist seeking a better life in the New World. William Lytton embarks on the Mayflower as a carpenter looking for opportunities to succeed—and he may have found one when a man from the Virginia Company offers William a hefty sum to keep a stealth eye on company interests in the new colony. The season is far too late for good sailing and storms rage, but reaching land is no better as food is scarce and the people are weak. Will Mary survive to face the spring planting and unknown natives? Will William be branded a traitor and expelled?

 Join the adventure as the Daughters of the Mayflower series begins with The Mayflower Bride by Kimberley Woodhouse.

 More to come in the Daughters of the Mayflower series: The Pirate Bride by Kathleen Y’Barbo - set 1725 New Orleans (coming April 2018) The Captured Bride by Michelle Griep - set 1760 during the French and Indian War (coming June 2018)

 Kindle, 256 pages
Published February 1st 2018
by Barbour Books

Daughters of the Mayflower series begins with The Mayflower Bride. Coming in at 256 pages it’s a relatively quick read chronicling the voyage in 1620 of the Mayflower to the New World.

I enjoyed the historical setting and was interested as these Separatists wanted to start over in a place where they have the freedom to worship as they saw fit. Most of this book takes place on the ship and it's where the real test of endurance takes place.  There are lots of themes to this book - survival, love and loss, faith and the day to day struggles on a voyage that brought heartache and tested so many.

While I didn’t always connect to the characters and would have loved a little more depth to the story The Mayflower Bride was an enjoyable read and a series I will continue to read.

Thanks to the publisher (via Netgalley) for an arc in exchange for honest review.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Spotlight/Giveaway: The King's Justice by E.M Powell

Publication Date: June 1, 2018
Thomas & Mercer
Paperback & eBook; 288 Pages
Series: Stanton and Barling #1
Genre: Historical Mystery

A murder that defies logic—and a killer on the loose.

England, 1176. Aelred Barling, esteemed clerk to the justices of King Henry II, is dispatched from the royal court with his young assistant, Hugo Stanton, to investigate a brutal murder in a village outside York. The case appears straightforward. A suspect is under lock and key in the local prison, and the angry villagers are demanding swift justice. But when more bodies are discovered, certainty turns to doubt—and amid the chaos it becomes clear that nobody is above suspicion. Facing growing unrest in the village and the fury of the lord of the manor, Stanton and Barling find themselves drawn into a mystery that defies logic, pursuing a killer who evades capture at every turn.

Can they solve the riddle of who is preying upon the villagers?

And can they do it without becoming prey themselves?

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | IndieBound

E.M. Powell’s historical thriller Fifth Knight novels have been #1 Amazon and Bild bestsellers. The King’s Justice is the first novel in her new Stanton and Barling medieval murder mystery series. She is a contributing editor to International Thriller Writers’ The Big Thrill magazine, blogs for English Historical Fiction Authors and is the social media manager for the Historical Novel Society. Born and raised in the Republic of Ireland into the family of Michael Collins (the legendary revolutionary and founder of the Irish Free State), she now lives in North-West England with her husband, daughter and a Facebook-friendly dog.

Find out more by visiting

You can also find him on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

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During the Blog Tour we will be giving away 6 paperback copies of The King's Justice!

To enter, please enter via the Gleam form below.

Giveaway Rules
– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on July 13th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open INTERNATIONALLY.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.
 – Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.

  The King's Justice

Monday, June 11, 2018

Review: The Love Letter by Rachel Hauck

With the colonies at war and his country divided, Hamilton Lightfoot must choose sides: Fight for the British Crown or for the Independence of America. But after witnessing the death of his family at the hands of redcoats, he fears he’ll fight for revenge instead of honor. On the verge of a great battle, he pens a letter to Esther, the woman he loves.

 Esther Longfellow is in love with Hamilton, but her father is a loyalist, living in upcountry South Carolina and working for a wealthy British lord. When the Revolutionary War comes to her doorstep she is forced to choose between devotion to her father and her love for Hamilton.

 Chloe Daschle is the daughter of Hollywood royalty—a great director and an Oscar-winning actress. Yet her career has taken an unexpected turn: She’s the queen of death scenes. Trying to break out, she accepts a supporting role in a revolutionary war film. But she longs for the perfect role and the perfect real-life romance. Does happily ever after only exist in the movies?

 After a life-changing tragedy, MIT graduate Jesse Gates decides to leave his life behind and move to LA to try his hand at acting and screenwriting. When he finds a page from one of his ancestor’s letters, he becomes consumed with the love he finds there. Determined to help his grandfather find happiness at the end of his life, Jesse writes and sells a screenplay based on the events surrounding the lost love of previous generations.

 When Jesse meets the woman he has cast to play Esther Longfellow—his grandfather’s one true love—the stories of all four collide across time and space. The love letter from the past might have more power to affect the future than any of them could have imagined.

Kindle, 352 pages
Expected publication: June 12th 2018
by Thomas Nelson

Authors probably cringe when a review starts with something like ‘I am really not a fan of ‘such and such genre ‘ when I see that myself my first thought is why are you even reading it then? So here so, I am not a big fan of romance novels, but I am a big fan of historical and dual time period stories. Ever since reading Rachel Hauck's books The Wedding Dress and The Writing Desk I have become a fan. Both those books grabbed me with the unique stories and characters.

The Love Letter follows along with its dual time period but this time it was a bit softer, quieter almost in the plots.  I wasn't totally absorbed in the present day story there were times it was a little too neat and tidy.  The historical aspects is usually what draws me right in and I found the letter interesting as well as the connection to Jesse.  I would have loved more of that time flushed out.

 Faith played a big part in both story lines.  The characters are flawed, carrying around a load of guilt.  Ultimately The Love Letter is a story of discovering oneself, letting go of baggage and of course love.  I can't say I enjoyed this as much as her 2 previous books but she is still an author I will continue to read more of.

My thanks to Thomas Nelson (via Netgalley) for an advanced copy in exchange for honest review.  The Love Letter can be found on at your favorite bookstores starting tomorrow (June 12th).

Friday, June 8, 2018

Review: The Summer I Met Jack by Michelle Gable

New York Times bestselling author imagines the affair between JFK and Alicia Corning Clark - and the child they may have had.

 Based on a real story - in 1950, a young, beautiful Polish refugee arrives in Hyannisport, Massachusetts to work as a maid for one of the wealthiest families in America. Alicia is at once dazzled by the large and charismatic family, in particular the oldest son, a rising politician named Jack.

 Alicia and Jack are soon engaged, but his domineering father forbids the marriage. And so, Alicia trades Hyannisport for Hollywood, and eventually Rome. She dates famous actors and athletes and royalty, including Gary Cooper, Kirk Douglas, and Katharine Hepburn, all the while staying close with Jack. A decade after they meet, on the eve of Jack’s inauguration as the thirty-fifth President of the United States, the two must confront what they mean to each other.

 The Summer I Met Jack is based on the fascinating real life of Alicia Corning Clark, a woman who J. Edgar Hoover insisted was paid by the Kennedys to keep quiet, not only about her romance with Jack Kennedy, but also a baby they may have had together.

Kindle Edition, 448 pages
Expected publication: May 29th 2018
 by St. Martin's Press

Michelle Gable is a new author to me, her book The Paris Apartment has been sitting very patiently waiting but instead I grabbed this, her latest. I was given an ARC from the publisher (with my sincere thanks) but time just got away from me. The Summer I Met Jack was released last week. I grabbed the audio version and my kindle alternating between the two.

Beginning in 1951 when Alicia meets Jack Kennedy. I don’t know a lot of Jack's history but I’ve gleamed enough over the years to get a feel for his character. It’s obvious that a lot of research went into this book. Based on fact the author filled in the gaps nicely to create this fictional account of Alicia and Jack's long affair. There were lots of well known names dropped and the Kennedy’s were a powerful family that took care of themselves. Told from Alicia's side of the story it wasn't hard to feel her plight, from immigration, to friends, to the Kennedy's and just surviving in this new country.

“ goal was to make the story plausible” and that Michelle Gable did very nicely.

Thank you to St. Martin Press (via Netgalley) for an advanced copy.

Monday, June 4, 2018

Review: Jar of Hearts by Jennifer Hillier

A compelling story of murder, betrayal, and the secrets of the past… Georgina, known as Geo, is a 30-year-old rising executive when her world comes crashing down. Her high school boyfriend has been identified and arrested for a series of serial murders, including Angela, Geo's best friend in high school. Angela disappeared without a trace at 16 and her body has just been found. Now Geo is under arrest for helping her then-boyfriend cover it up. And it's one of her other close friends from high school, Kaiser Brody, who arrests her.

While Geo is sent to prison for her part, Calvin escapes from custody and is on the run. Geo, now thirty-five, is about to be released from prison to try and start over. But someone has started killing people and dumping their bodies in her old neighborhood, with some of the markers of the missing Sweetbay Strangler—her old boyfriend Calvin. Is these killings some kind of message from Calvin? Are they some of revenge? Is she herself now in danger?

 Everything turns on what really happened that tragic night back when Geo and Angela were high schoolers. Everyone thinks they know the truth, but there are dark secrets buried deep within other secrets, and it may be too late for anyone to survive the truth.

Jar of Hearts is a compelling edge-of-your-seat thriller that grabs readers from the very beginning and holds them rapt, as the truth of both the past and the present is skillfully unfolded, until the very last page.

 Kindle Edition, 320 pages
 Expected publication: June 12th 2018
 by Minotaur Books
*** 1/2

Jennifer Hillier is a new author to me, Jar of Hearts releases next week and already its garnered a huge amount of 4/5 star ratings. In terms of anticipation I can see that, I was flipping the pages in my kindle to see what would happen next, trying to figure it out myself. I knew there were twists and turns coming and I was genuinely curious about the outcome. But there were just a few things that bogged me down and the thing is I really cann't say anything more for fear of spoiling someone else's ride. These are things not mentioned in the synopsis but if you are really interested check out this review on Goodreads where I can hide behind the spoiler button.

Having said that I enjoyed how the author went back and forth in time, it was smooth and each tidbit of the past only heightened my curiosity. I found it hard at times to connect with the characters, I just didn’t feel the emotional side of them or understand some of their actions.

Jar of Hearts is a book of secrets, heartache and survival.  While it wasn't perfect I would still recommend it to those that like a good mystery. 

My thanks to the publisher (via Netgalley) for an advance copy.

Friday, June 1, 2018

Review: I'll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman's Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer by Michelle McNamara

The haunting true story of the elusive serial rapist turned murderer who terrorized California during the 70s and 80s, and of the gifted journalist who died tragically while investigating the case—which was solved in April 2018.

 Introduction by Gillian Flynn • Afterword by Patton Oswalt

 “A brilliant genre-buster.... Propulsive, can’t-stop-now reading.” —Stephen King

 For more than ten years, a mysterious and violent predator committed fifty sexual assaults in Northern California before moving south, where he perpetrated ten sadistic murders. Then he disappeared, eluding capture by multiple police forces and some of the best detectives in the area.

 Three decades later, Michelle McNamara, a true crime journalist who created the popular website, was determined to find the violent psychopath she called "the Golden State Killer." Michelle pored over police reports, interviewed victims, and embedded herself in the online communities that were as obsessed with the case as she was.

 I’ll Be Gone in the Dark —the masterpiece McNamara was writing at the time of her sudden death—offers an atmospheric snapshot of a moment in American history and a chilling account of a criminal mastermind and the wreckage he left behind. It is also a portrait of a woman’s obsession and her unflagging pursuit of the truth. Utterly original and compelling, it has been hailed as a modern true crime classic—one which fulfilled Michelle's dream: helping unmask the Golden State Killer.

 Paperback, 352 pages
 Published February 27th 2018
by Harper

I caved to social media pressure to read this one, everywhere I looked I saw this book. Especially when news reports of an arrest started coming through.

Michelle McNamara had a blog called TrueCrimeDiary and had a fascination (to put it mildly) with unsolved murders and the EAR/Golden State Murders is the focus of this book. She writes with grace and respect for the victims, she didn’t glorify the acts but protected the innocent. Her research is almost obsessive and it’s sad that in her passing she was not able to see his arrest.

This book presented the era, the various locations with detail as well as the criminal procedures in a time before DNA testing. This is a gripping story and for those that sleep uneasy you might want to have your dog close by, I read a lot of this while alone for a weekend and I think I even made my dog nervous. But really what did I expect, it’s a book about some absolutely horrible crimes.

I don't read a lot of true crime, nonfiction book and am trying to rectify that this year.  My copy was from my personal library.