Monday, July 15, 2019

Review: Meet Me in Monaco by Hazel Gaynor & Heather Webb

Set in the 1950s against the backdrop of Grace Kelly’s whirlwind romance and glamorous wedding to Prince Rainier of Monaco, New York Times bestselling author Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb take the reader on an evocative sun-drenched journey along the Côte d’Azur in this page-turning novel of passion, fate, and second-chances.

 Movie stars and paparazzi flock to Cannes for the glamorous film festival, but Grace Kelly, the biggest star of all, wants only to escape from the flash-bulbs. When struggling perfumer Sophie Duval shelters Miss Kelly in her boutique, fending off a persistent British press photographer, James Henderson, a bond is forged between the two women and sets in motion a chain of events that stretches across thirty years of friendship, love, and tragedy.

 James Henderson cannot forget his brief encounter with Sophie Duval. Despite his guilt at being away from his daughter, he takes an assignment to cover the wedding of the century, sailing with Grace Kelly’s wedding party on the SS Constitution from New York. In Monaco, as wedding fever soars and passions and tempers escalate, James and Sophie—like Princess Grace—must ultimately decide what they are prepared to give up for love.

Kindle, 384 pages
Expected publication: July 23rd, 2019
by William Morrow Paperbacks
***

Three years ago I was in Cannes as they were preparing for the Film Festival as well as Monaco where I paid my respects at Grace Kelly’s graveside. So it only stands to reason that I jumped when the opportunity presented itself to read this one. Also, I really enjoyed the authors' previous collaboration Last Christmas in Paris.

Beginning in 1955 with Cannes, the French Riveria is alive as stars of Hollywood make their appearance while photographers hover and hide behind walls vying for the best pics. With a chance meeting, Grace and Sophie are introduced and a friendship is formed.

Meet Me in Monaco is the perfect beach read, it was quick, a little predictable but entertaining.  I learned a little about what Kelly went through but this book was focused more on Sophie - her life, relationship with both Kelly and photographer James. I wasn’t a fan of the ending, I just felt with the flow of the story it could have ended a little different, but then that’s just my opinion. 

If you haven't had a chance to read Last Christmas in Paris, check it out, click on the cover below for my review.

My thanks to the publisher (via Edelweiss) for an advanced copy.

Friday, July 12, 2019

Audio Review: The Bronze Horseman (The Bronze Horseman #1) by Paullina Simons

The golden skies, the translucent twilight, the white nights, all hold the promise of youth, of love, of eternal renewal. The war has not yet touched this city of fallen grandeur, or the lives of two sisters, Tatiana and Dasha Metanova, who share a single room in a cramped apartment with their brother and parents. Their world is turned upside down when Hitler's armies attack Russia and begin their unstoppable blitz to Leningrad.

 Yet there is light in the darkness. Tatiana meets Alexander, a brave young officer in the Red Army. Strong and self-confident, yet guarding a mysterious and troubled past, he is drawn to Tatiana—and she to him. Starvation, desperation, and fear soon grip their city during the terrible winter of the merciless German siege. Tatiana and Alexander's impossible love threatens to tear the Metanova family apart and expose the dangerous secret Alexander so carefully protects—a secret as devastating as the war itself—as the lovers are swept up in the brutal tides that will change the world and their lives forever.

Hardcover, 637 pages
Audiobook, Audible 30+ hours
Published September 8th, 2009
by William Morrow
***  1/2

Here is a book that has been getting rave reviews citing as an epic historical love story. It’s the love story part that had me hesitate to pick up and of course all the hype. In the end I grabbed the audiobook which comes in just over 30 hours. John Lee is the reader and he did a stellar job, though I wonder sometimes if his emotional presentation might have been over the top a few times (refers to comments below).

It’s 1941 when 17-year-old Tatiana’s story begins in Leningrad. The war is in full swing and this book gave a great glimpse of what was like for its citizens. What transpires is horrible and the author describes it authentically and with feeling. The characterization was spot on, those I loved, those I didn’t and I could feel the desperation. The plot played out nicely and I loved the uniqueness of the storyline.

Then I hit somewhere around the 50/60% mark and wham! Everything changed, now I’m not a prude, I get sex in books - when it’s warranted but jiminy cricket, a 100 or so pages of it was just way-way too much. I got the message the first time and really didn’t need to be hit over the head again and again. It changed my feeling for one of the characters, in a bad way - I could say more but that would send me into spoiler mode. I know I am going way against the flow with this one, so many 5 star reviews, but that disrupted the flow and I struggled to be invested like I was previously.

I really enjoyed the historical aspect a lot, it’s rare that I read much from the Russian side of the war so this was a treat. The last 10% picked up again, leaving a sequel necessary. In time I might read it but not right away.

This book was part of my 2019 reading of my shelf challenge.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Review: Someone We Know by Shari Lapena

The new domestic suspense novel from New York Times bestselling author, Shari Lapena 

 Maybe you don't know your neighbors as well as you thought you did. . .

 "I'm so sorry. My son has been getting into people's houses. He's broken into yours."

 In a quiet, leafy suburb in upstate New York, a teenager has been sneaking into houses--and into the owners' computers as well. Learning their secrets, and maybe sharing some of them, too.

 Who is he, and what might he have uncovered? As whispers start to circulate, suspicion mounts. And when a woman down the street is found murdered, the tension reaches the breaking point. Who killed her? Who knows more than they're telling? And how far will all these very nice people go to protect their little secrets?

In this neighborhood, it's not just the husbands and wives who play games. Here, everyone in the family has something to hide. . .

 You never really know what people are capable of.

Paperback, 304 pages
 Expected publication: July 30th 2019
 by Pamela Dorman Books
****

My second book by Shari Lapena releases at the end of the month.

How far will a parent go to protect their child? As a parent, I know how far I’d go but watching someone else is an entirely different story.

Someone We Know is a book of secrets, oh its secrets!! It’s about relationships, insecurities and so much more. I wore my sleuth hat and was thoroughly invested. I will admit that sometimes these thriller 'gotta read' type books don’t always work for me and I'll also confess to being a picky reader especially when it to plausibility, anything too far fetched or unrealistic just ruins it for me.  I am happy to report that this one worked for me.

Someone We Know has many layers, many characters and at times had a Desperate Housewives feel. It’s a book that kept me guessing right till the end, there were many twists and turns and surprisingly not hard to keep straight. I read this in a matter of days and yes I did have to enlist my son to BBQ one night.

Heading back now to see what else Shari Lapena has written that I've missed.

My ARC was won from Doubleday on Twitter 

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Review: Severed Knot by Cryssa Bazos

Barbados 1652. In the aftermath of the English Civil War, the vanquished are uprooted and scattered to the ends of the earth. 

 When marauding English soldiers descend on Mairead O’Coneill’s family farm, she is sold into slavery. After surviving a harrowing voyage, the young Irish woman is auctioned off to a Barbados sugar plantation where she is thrust into a hostile world of deprivation and heartbreak. 
Though stripped of her freedom, Mairead refuses to surrender her dignity. 

 Scottish prisoner of war Iain Johnstone has descended into hell. Under a blazing sun thousands of miles from home, he endures forced indentured labour in the unforgiving cane fields. 

As Iain plots his escape to save his men, his loyalties are tested by his yearning for Mairead and his desire to protect her. With their future stolen, Mairead and Iain discover passion and freedom in each other’s arms. Until one fateful night, a dramatic chain of events turns them into fugitives. Together they fight to survive; together they are determined to escape.

Severed Knot by Cryssa Bazos

Publication Date: June 7, 2019
W.M. Jackson Publishing
Genre: Historical Fiction/Romance
*****

The first word in the synopsis grabbed me right away, Barbados, one of my favorite vacation spots.  The '1652' just clinched it!  I love to read from places I've been, just getting a better feel for the place and its history.

The Civil War has taken its toll, not just the destruction of the land but its treatment of the enemy was cringe-worthy at times.  Severed Knot is a book of courage when things are at their absolute worst it's the perseverance of the characters that kept me going. While suspenseful it is also a book that tugs at the heartstrings seeing the cruelty of some and compassion of others.

It's quite evident that Cryssa Bazos has done a lot of research for this book.  She has taken a piece of history, forced slavery of Irish and Scottish, and created an atmospheric story which placed me in the middle watching it play out. I know how hot it can get in Barbados and with this book I could feel the heat, the smell, visualize the fields of sugar cane and understand how the market worked.

Historical fiction is my favorite and go-to genre and this book did not disappoint, I learned a lot of history from both England and Barbados while being entertained at the same time.

Definitely an author I will read more of.  

Available on Amazon

Cryssa Bazos is a historical fiction writer and 17th Century enthusiast, with a particular interest in the English Civil War (ECW). She blogs about English history and storytelling at her blog, the 17th Century Enthusiast, and is an editor of the English Historical Fiction Authors blog site.

 Cryssa’s debut novel, Traitor’s Knot, a romantic tale of adventure set during the English Civil War. Traitor’s Knot is the first in a series of adventures spanning from the ECW to the Restoration and is now available from Endeavour Press. The second book in the series, Severed Knot, will be released in June 2019.

 For more information visit Cryssa’s website.

You can also connect with her on FacebookTwitter, and Goodreads.


Thursday, July 4, 2019

Review: The Chef's Secret by Crystal King

A captivating novel of Renaissance Italy detailing the mysterious life of Bartolomeo Scappi, the legendary chef to several popes and author of one of the bestselling cookbooks of all time, and the nephew who sets out to discover his late uncle’s secrets—including the identity of the noblewoman Bartolomeo loved until he died. 

 When Bartolomeo Scappi dies in 1577, he leaves his vast estate—properties, money, and his position—to his nephew and apprentice Giovanni. He also gives Giovanni the keys to two strongboxes and strict instructions to burn their contents. Despite Scappi’s dire warning that the information concealed in those boxes could put Giovanni’s life and others at risk, Giovanni is compelled to learn his uncle’s secrets. He undertakes the arduous task of decoding Scappi’s journals and uncovers a history of deception, betrayal, and murder—all to protect an illicit love affair.

 As Giovanni pieces together the details of Scappi’s past, he must contend with two rivals who have joined forces—his brother Cesare and Scappi’s former protégé, Domenico Romoli, who will do anything to get his hands on the late chef’s recipes. With luscious prose that captures the full scale of the sumptuous feasts for which Scappi was known, The Chef’s Secret serves up power, intrigue, and passion, bringing Renaissance Italy to life in a delectable fashion.

Publication Date: February 12, 2019
Atria Books
Hardcover, Paperback, Audiobook, eBook
Genre: Historical Fiction

****


The Chef's Secret is a yummy (pun intended) mystery filled with food, forbidden love and murder that revolves around a set of journals and secret letters. How appetizing does that sound?

Bartolomeo Scappi is a chef right out of the history books. He lived from 1500-1577 and served many Popes and was even the author of a best selling cookbook, which he dedicated to his nephew Giovanni. The author used that as the base for this book and I loved the direction it went.

Giovanni plays center stage as he tries to discover a past that he wasn’t meant to see. There are many layers here that kept the suspenseful pace going. I learned a lot about the times and it was refreshing to read in Rome without being overpowered by the Borgias or Medici families.

I love reading about lesser known characters in history and this fit the bill very nicely. Rome is one of my favorite places to visit and it was brought to life not just the edible part but visually as well as getting a feel for the lifestyle amongst the different social classes.  

This is my first time reading Crystal King, her knowledge and passion of the era are evident.  Definitely will be reading more of her books.

My thanks to Amy at Historical Fiction Blog Tour for the invite to be part of this tour and a complimentary ebook (via Netgalley) in exchange for an honest review.


Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound


Crystal King is the author of THE CHEF'S SECRET and FEAST OF SORROW. A culinary enthusiast and social media professional, her writing is fueled by a love of history and a passion for the food, language and culture of Italy. She has taught classes in writing, creativity and social media at Harvard Extension School, Boston University, Mass College of Art, UMass Boston and GrubStreet, one of the leading creative writing centers in the US. A Pushcart-nominated poet and former co-editor of the online literary arts journal Plum Ruby Review, Crystal received her M.A. in Critical and Creative Thinking from UMass Boston, where she developed a series of exercises and writing prompts to help fiction writers in medias res. She resides in Boston.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram


Giveaway

During the Blog Tour, one winner will receive a set of Feast of Sorrow and The Chef's Secret! To enter, please use the Gleam form below. Giveaway Rules – Giveaway ends at 11:59 pm EST on July 5th. You must be 18 or older to enter. – Giveaway is open to US only. – Only one entry per household. – All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspicion of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion. – The winner has 48 hours to claim prize or a new winner is chosen.    The Chef's Secret



 


Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Review & Giveaway: The Storyteller's Secret by Sejal Badani

From the bestselling author of Trail of Broken Wings comes an epic story of the unrelenting force of love, the power of healing, and the invincible desire to dream.

Nothing prepares Jaya, a New York journalist, for the heartbreak of her third miscarriage and the slow unraveling of her marriage in its wake. Desperate to assuage her deep anguish, she decides to go to India to uncover answers to her family’s past. Intoxicated by the sights, smells, and sounds she experiences, Jaya becomes an eager student of the culture. But it is Ravi—her grandmother’s former servant and trusted confidant—who reveals the resilience, struggles, secret love, and tragic fall of Jaya’s pioneering grandmother during the British occupation.

Through her courageous grandmother’s arrestingly romantic and heart-wrenching story, Jaya discovers the legacy bequeathed to her and a strength that, until now, she never knew was possible.


Category: Adult Fiction, 399 pages
Genre: Literary
Publisher: Lake Union
Release date: September 2018
Tour dates: June 3 to July 12, 2019
Content Rating: PG-13 (There are some non-explicit sex scenes)


I was attracted to this book not just because of the cover but the location as well.  India is a place that I rarely venture and with my self proclaimed goal to read outside of my usual neighborhoods I jumped at the chance to be part of this blog tour.  I was not disappointed.

The Storyteller's Secret is a dual time period story.  Beginning in the summer of 2000 Jaya is a mess, her life is not going in the direction is hoped and I could feel her despair as she suffers yet another miscarriage.  I have never experienced that so I can only imagine the disappointment and heartache, I felt for Jaya. Add in the mystery of family estrangement where very little is ever said of the reasoning had me intrigued.

Then we have Amisha beginning in the 1930's India, occupied by the British.  Her story was equally captivating where women's role is to serve her husband - who she will meet for the first time at their wedding.  Amisha was a woman ahead of her time but living in a place where they are only valued to service her husband and bear children.

I loved the setting and got a true picture of the country, both the good and the bad. Definitely the author's research showed in her writing, it was atmospheric along with some interesting characters.  They rounded out the story nicely, especially Ravi, he was a favorite of mine.

My thanks to IRead Book Tours for the invite to be part of this blog tour - in exchange for an honest review.

To read more reviews, please visit Sejal Badani's page on iRead Book Tours.



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Meet the Author:


A former attorney, Sejal Badani left the law to pursue writing full time.

She is a USA Today, Washington Post & Amazon Charts bestselling author, Goodreads Fiction Award Finalist and ABC/DISNEY Writing Fellowship Finalist.

Connect with the author: 

Website ~ Twitter ~ Facebook ~ Pinterest ~ Instagram







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Monday, July 1, 2019

Audio Review: Mission: Jimmy Stewart and the Fight for Europe by Robert Matzen

Get to know the real George Bailey.

 MISSION: JIMMY STEWART AND THE FIGHT FOR EUROPE [GoodKnight Books, October 24, 2016] provides the first in-depth look at the military career of Hollywood actor James M. Stewart, beginning with his family “mission” passed on from his grandfather (a Civil War hero) and father (who served in World War I) that military service in time of war was mandatory for the Stewarts. Jim tailored his life to this eventual outcome, learning to be a pilot so he could serve as an aviator in the war.

 MISSION describes Stewart’s childhood, college years at Princeton, Broadway career, and meteoric rise to Academy Award-winning actor in Hollywood. People today can’t imagine that Stewart was a ladies’ man, but he had a reputation as one of the most active bachelors in Hollywood, with a list of lovers that includes the A-list of female movie stars.

 In 1941, before America entered World War II, Jim was drafted into the Army and gleefully left Hollywood behind to fulfill that family mission. What happened to him in the service has never been covered in detail because he refused to talk about his experiences afterward. MISSION begins and ends with production of the first film Stewart made after returning from the war: It's a Wonderful Life, which in December 2016 will celebrate its 70th anniversary.

 MISSION also includes the stories of three other supporting characters, a radio man who flew with Stewart, a German civilian girl, and the German general in charge of fighter aircraft. They provide perspective on what Stewart was attempting to do and why.

 Audible Audio, Unabridged (11 hours and 45 minutes)
Peter Berkrot (Narrator)
Published April 10th,2017
 by Blackstone Audio, Inc.
****

I have always liked Jimmy Stewart, he acted in an era with some of the greats and eluded class and dignity. I knew nothing about his personal life and grabbed the audiobook as soon as I heard about this book. I shared the experience with my husband during a couple of road trips.

While the majority of this book revolved around the war and his experience there it was interesting to hear of his life before and after the war. It’s been stated that Stewart was a private man, not wanting to share the things that took place during the war and his climb up the ranks. He flew over 30 missions, witnessed untold tragedy and lost so many friends and comrades it’s no wonder it affected him the way it did. I don’t think I will be able to watch the bar scene in Its a Wonderful Life and not be reminded of all he went through.

Parts of the war years were written with the author sharing Stewart’s emotional struggles and fears, I am left to wonder where the author got that info from. It was common knowledge Stewart never divulged those years. Those parts of the book read more as HF verse non-fiction.

But all in all an eye opener to a Hollywood legend who gave his all during a dark time in history.

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Review: Home for Erring and Outcast Girls by Julie Kibler

An emotionally raw and resonant story of love, loss, and the enduring power of friendship, following the lives of two young women connected by a home for “fallen girls,” and inspired by historical events.

 In turn-of-the-20th century Texas, the Berachah Home for the Redemption and Protection of Erring Girls is an unprecedented beacon of hope for young women consigned to the dangerous poverty of the streets by birth, circumstance, or personal tragedy. Built in 1903 on the dusty outskirts of Arlington, a remote dot between Dallas and Fort Worth’s red-light districts, the progressive home bucks public opinion by offering faith, training, and rehabilitation to prostitutes, addicts, unwed mothers, and “ruined” girls without forcibly separating mothers from children. When Lizzie Bates and Mattie McBride meet there—one sick and abused, but desperately clinging to her young daughter, the other jilted by the beau who fathered her ailing son—they form a friendship that will see them through unbearable loss, heartbreak, difficult choices, and ultimately, diverging paths.

A century later, Cate Sutton, a reclusive university librarian, uncovers the hidden histories of the two troubled women as she stumbles upon the cemetery on the home’s former grounds and begins to comb through its archives in her library. Pulled by an indescribable connection, what Cate discovers about their stories leads her to confront her own heartbreaking past, and to reclaim the life she thought she'd let go forever. With great pathos and powerful emotional resonance, Home for Erring and Outcast Girls explores the dark roads that lead us to ruin, and the paths we take to return to ourselves.

 Kindle Edition, 368 pages
 Expected publication: July 30th, 2019
 by Crown
***

I was drawn to this book by its cover and a synopsis that sounded intriguing.  Stories around real historical events are a favorite of mine and this one appears to have a unique twist.  Rather than having unwed mothers separated from their newborn they were offered a place to recover, build a new life that included their infant. Usually, babies were separated, adopted out and moms told to forget about them. This home changed that and I was curious to read about it.

Told in dual time periods, it's 1904 when Lizzie and Mattie are introduced and tell of how they ended up at Berachah Home.  Their friendship takes off as they get closer and go through a lot together.

Current day we have Cate and I was really interested in her story.  Her fascination with the Berachah Home and her mysterious past kept me reading.

The first half of the story had me intrigued but after that, it kinda flattened out, not for lack of plot but maybe because the characters just didn't talk to me anymore or a plot while still interesting but not enough to keep me glued to the pages.  It doesn't usually take me 2 weeks to finish a book but I didn't have that burning desire to know the outcome.

I did love the author's descriptions, the amount of research is evident as she vividly portrayed the times at the turn of the century, the poverty, struggles, and hardships that women went through. I know I am going against the flow here, it started out as 4 star read but even though I am giving it 3 stars still means I liked it.  I have heard good this about Julie Kibler's previous book Calling Me Home and will read it at some point.

My thanks to the publisher (via Netgalley) for an advanced ebook copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Review: The Last Resort by Marissa Stapley

“Marissa Stapley’s writing is a gift.”—Pam Jenoff, New York Times bestselling author of The Orphan’s Tale

 The Harmony Resort promises hope for struggling marriages. Run by celebrity power couple Drs. Miles and Grace Markell, the "last resort" offers a chance for partners to repair their relationships in a luxurious setting on the gorgeous Mayan Riviera.

 Johanna and Ben have a marriage that looks perfect on the surface, but in reality, they don’t know each other at all. Shell and Colin fight constantly: after all, Colin is a workaholic, and Shell always comes second to his job as an executive at a powerful mining company. But what has really torn them apart is too devastating to talk about. When both couples begin Harmony's intensive therapy program, it becomes clear that Harmony is not all it seems—and neither are Miles and Grace themselves. What are they hiding, and what price will these couples pay for finding out?

 As a deadly tropical storm descends on the coast, trapping the hosts and the guests on the resort, secrets are revealed, loyalties are tested and not one single person—or their marriage—will remain unchanged by what follows.

 Marissa Stapley is a journalist and the author of the acclaimed novel Things to Do When It's Raining. She writes page-turning, deeply emotional fiction about families, friends and women's lives. Visit her at marissastapley.com or follow her on Twitter, @marissastapley.

 Paperback, 368 pages
Published June 18th, 2019
by Graydon House
****

Marissa Stapley is a new-to-me author, but one I have heard about through social media. When the opportunity presented itself to attend an author event (thank you TheBakingBookworm) I took that as a sign to grab this her latest book.

With the setting in the Mayan Riviera how can one not help but be captivated?  I wasn’t sure what to expect at first, there were a couple different format methods the author used - different POV’s, news stories and an interview with unknown people weaved throughout, this is where the reader has to trust that the author knew what she was doing. She did and it all worked out nicely and I even found myself looking forward to the changes. As the guests make their appearance the author didn’t waste time but dove right in with their characterization,  and the story just took off.

The Last Resort is as much a mystery as it is suspenseful, it’s a story of secrets, relationships, and trust - not just of others but yourself also. With the twists and turns I was entertained and thankful to discover another author and more books to add to my TBR pile.

This book was from my personal library and part of my ‘2019 reading off my shelf’ challenge.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Review: The Gilded Hour by Sara Donati

The year is 1883, and in New York City, it’s a time of dizzying splendor, crushing poverty, and tremendous change. With the gravity-defying Brooklyn Bridge nearly complete and New York in the grips of anti-vice crusader Anthony Comstock, Anna Savard and her cousin Sophie—both graduates of the Woman’s Medical School—treat the city’s most vulnerable, even if doing so may put everything they’ve strived for in jeopardy.

 Anna's work has placed her in the path of four children who have lost everything, just as she herself once had. Faced with their helplessness, Anna must make an unexpected choice between holding on to the pain of her past and letting love into her life.

 For Sophie, an obstetrician and the orphaned daughter of free people of color, helping a desperate young mother forces her to grapple with the oath she took as a doctor—and thrusts her and Anna into the orbit of Anthony Comstock, a dangerous man who considers himself the enemy of everything indecent and of anyone who dares to defy him.

  Hardcover, 741 pages
 Published September 1st 2015
 by Berkley
**** 1/2

Sara Donati wrote the Into The Wilderness Series and I loved it! Six big books to get lost in, that follow the lives of Nathaniel and Elizabeth Bonner. The Gilded Hour is a stand-alone but it continues many, many, many years later with descendants of the Bonner's.

One of first things I love is the blurb, there is no hint possibility of spoilers but just enough to whete the senses.

Originally I had planned on going the audio route but read it instead. I'm glad for that decision, not just for the number of characters but the many layers to this story. Sara Donati is a wonderful storyteller, her words put me right in New York City in the year 1883. Anthony Comstock is a real historical figure (as are a few others) and one unknown to me and I love reading about the past, learning the history and being served a great story.  As I said many layers here and without revealing too much The Gilded Hour is a story of mystery, suspense, perseverance, heartache and love.  It’s about relationships and a city that can’t take care of their own and those that step in to help.

The character development was spot on, getting to know not just Anna but other key players - seeing what made them tick and the unique personalities. A woman doctor was a rare thing and not easily accepted by some. Times are changing but not quickly enough for some and too quickly for others.

I had been hesitant to pick this up because of its size - 730 pages, but they flew by. With the sequel, Where the Light Enters, set to release September 10th, 2019 I knew it was time.  This book ended with some unresolved issues making a sequel necessary and I am truly grateful my wait won’t be as long as those that read this at its release.

Sara Donati is an author I highly recommend, especially to those that love an epic-sized series that takes the reader to different places.

This book is part of my 2019 Reading off my shelf challenge. 

Monday, June 24, 2019

Audio Review: The Cottingley Secret by Hazel Gaynor

The author of The Girl Who Came Home turns the clock back one hundred years to a time when two young girls from Cottingley, Yorkshire, convinced the world that they had done the impossible and photographed fairies in their garden. Now, in her newest novel, international bestseller Hazel Gaynor reimagines their story.

 1917… It was inexplicable, impossible, but it had to be true—didn’t it? When two young cousins, Frances Griffiths and Elsie Wright from Cottingley, England, claim to have photographed fairies at the bottom of the garden, their parents are astonished. But when one of the great novelists of the time, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, becomes convinced of the photographs’ authenticity, the girls become a national sensation, their discovery offering hope to those longing for something to believe in amid a world ravaged by war. Frances and Elsie will hide their secret for many decades. But Frances longs for the truth to be told.

 One hundred years later… When Olivia Kavanagh finds an old manuscript in her late grandfather’s bookshop she becomes fascinated by the story it tells of two young girls who mystified the world. But it is the discovery of an old photograph that leads her to realize how the fairy girls’ lives intertwine with hers, connecting past to present, and blurring her understanding of what is real and what is imagined. As she begins to understand why a nation once believed in fairies, can Olivia find a way to believe in herself?

Audio 10 hours, 9 minutes
Paperback, 383 pages
Published August 1st, 2017
by William Morrow
*** 1/2

I thought that Hazel Gaynor was a relatively new author for me, but in going back I see there are 3 of her books I have already read - see below for covers with links.  The Cottingley Secret piqued my interest not just for the stunning cover but the interesting plot. It's one of the treads in her books that I enjoy, those unknown pieces of history that make for unique stories.

Told in dual time periods the author takes us back to 1917 in a little place called Cottingley during World War 1. Drawing on real historical events and the story of 2 young girls and fairies, was it real or a hoax? Even the famous Sir Arthur Conan Doyle got involved (though only with cameos throughout).

I loved the quaint little villages, the easy way of life but with these smaller places everyone knows everyone and their story.

The current story is a journey for Olivia as she comes to grip with her future while discovering a past she knew nothing about. I enjoyed taking this journey with her as she came into her own.

The Cottingley Secret is a story of self-discovery, of secrets and friendship, it isn't filled with insta- love which I really appreciated.

Though I went with the audiobook I followed along with my print copy and is part of my 2019 reading off my shelf challenge:




Saturday, June 22, 2019

Audio Review: The Traitor's Wife by Allison Pataki

A riveting historical novel about Peggy Shippen Arnold, the cunning wife of Benedict Arnold and mastermind behind America’s most infamous act of treason . . .

 Everyone knows Benedict Arnold—the Revolutionary War general who betrayed America and fled to the British—as history’s most notorious turncoat. Many know Arnold’s co-conspirator, Major John André, who was apprehended with Arnold’s documents in his boots and hanged at the orders of General George Washington. But few know of the integral third character in the plot: a charming young woman who not only contributed to the betrayal but orchestrated it.

Socialite Peggy Shippen is half Benedict Arnold’s age when she seduces the war hero during his stint as military commander of Philadelphia. Blinded by his young bride’s beauty and wit, Arnold does not realize that she harbors a secret: loyalty to the British. Nor does he know that she hides a past romance with the handsome British spy John André. Peggy watches as her husband, crippled from battle wounds and in debt from years of service to the colonies, grows ever more disillusioned with his hero, Washington, and the American cause. Together with her former love and her disaffected husband, Peggy hatches the plot to deliver West Point to the British and, in exchange, win fame and fortune for herself and Arnold.

 Told from the perspective of Peggy’s maid, whose faith in the new nation inspires her to intervene in her mistress’s affairs even when it could cost her everything, The Traitor’s Wife brings these infamous figures to life, illuminating the sordid details and the love triangle that nearly destroyed the American fight for freedom.

  Audiobook, 16 hours, 11 minutes
Paperback, 482 pages
Published April 29th, 2014
by Simon Schuster Audio
(first published January 1st, 2014)
***


I have had this book on my TBR pile since it was released back in 2014. Not knowing anything about Benedict Arnold I wanted to know his past and what he did to earn him the traitor title.

I have read the author’s subsequent books, The Accidentally Empress and Sisi both of which I enjoyed as well and her nonfiction Beauty in the Broken Places,  as she talks candidly about her husband's stroke and the next year of their lives.

It’s 1778 when The Traitor’s Wife begins with a smattering of 1780 thrown in, told from the POV of Peggy Shippen’s maid/servant. If the author’s intent was to portray Peggy as a spoiled, self indulgent immature girl (she was only 18 years old) then she did that spot on. I didn’t like her at all, her obsession with herself got on my nerves, as did the endless clothing discussions. The first 100 plus pages were devoted to 2 balls, making me glad I went the audio route - it might have been a dnf at that point. I know I am going against the flow with my feeling here but wouldn’t life be boring if we all shared the same thoughts.

While I did learn from this book, intrigued in the historical aspects and how it played out I felt it could have been a little shorter.


 click on cover to see my review




Friday, June 21, 2019

Spotlight/Giveaway: Lacewood by Jessica James

Lacewood by Jessica James

Publication Date: June 18, 2019
Patriot Press
eBook; 348 Pages
Genre: Historical Fiction

Sometimes love is just too powerful for one lifetime…

Part love story, part ghost story, Lacewood is a timeless novel about trusting in fate, letting go of the past, and believing in things that can’t be seen.

 MOVING TO A SMALL TOWN in Virginia is a big change for New York socialite Katie McCain. But when she stumbles across an abandoned 200-year-old mansion, she’s enthralled by the enduring beauty of the neglected estate—and captivated by the haunting portrait of a woman in mourning.

 Purchasing the property on a whim, Katie attempts to fit in with the colorful characters in the town of New Hope, while trying to unravel the mystery of the “widow of Lacewood.” As she pieces together the previous owner’s heartrending story, Katie uncovers secrets the house has held for centuries, and discovers the key to coming to terms with her own sense of loss.

 The past and present converge when hometown hero Will Durham returns and begins his own healing process by helping the “city girl” restore the place that holds so many memories. As the mystic web of destiny is woven, a love story that might have been lost forever is exposed, and a destiny that has been waiting in the shadows for centuries is fulfilled.

 Rich in emotion and poignant in its telling, Lacewood is an unforgettable story about love and loss, roots and belonging…and spirits of the past that refuse to be quieted.

A haunting story from award-winning author Jessica James that connects the past with the present—and the present with eternity.

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | IndieBound



About the Author

Jessica James is an award-winning author of suspense, historical fiction, and military fiction ranging from the Revolutionary War to modern day. Her highly acclaimed Civil War novel Shades of Gray won numerous national literary awards, and is often compared to Gone with the Wind. By weaving the principles of courage, devotion, duty, and dedication into each book, James attempts to honor the unsung heroes of the American military--past and present--and to convey the magnitude of their sacrifice and service. Her novels appeal to both men and women and are featured in library collections all over the United States including Harvard and the U.S. Naval Academy. James resides in Gettysburg, Pa., and is a member of the Military Writers Society of America, NINC, Sisters in Crime, and the Romance Writers of America. She is a two-time winner of the John Esten Cooke Award for Southern Fiction, and was featured in the book 50 Authors You Should Be Reading, published in 2010.

 Sign up for her free newsletter at www.jessicajamesbooks.com and ask for a free copy of From the Heart: Civil War Love Letters and Stories.

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


Giveaway

During the Blog Tour, we will be giving away a $10 Amazon Gift Card! To enter, please use the Gleam form below. Giveaway Rules – Giveaway ends at 11:59 pm EST on June 28th. You must be 18 or older to enter. – Giveaway is open to US only. – Only one entry per household. – All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspicion of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion. – The winner has 48 hours to claim prize or a new winner is chosen.

  Lacewood

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Spotlight/Giveaway: Of Knights and Dogfights: A WWII Novel by Ellie Midwood



Of Knights and Dogfights: A WWII Novel by Ellie Midwood

Publication Date: January 4, 2019
eBook & Paperback; 426 Pages
Genre: Historical Fiction


“Has it ever occurred to you, Johann; the fact that we’re fighting on the wrong side?”

 Austria, 1938

 On the verge of the most devastating war of all times, four young men found themselves sharing a room in a flying school dormitory. A bohemian Berliner, a Flieger-Hitlerjugend member, a prodigy pilot, and a butcher’s son, with nothing in common but their love for the Luftwaffe and the freedom the sky has to offer. The bond they develop is put to the test by what might be a stronger adversary - war itself.

Over the English Channel, in the dusty skies of Africa, on the brutal Eastern front, they will discover where their loyalty lies, and what true bravery means. “It’s Großdeutsches Reich, soldier. When one has a family at home, it doesn’t leave him many chances for the revolt.”

 As the war progresses, Willi and Johann grow more and more disillusioned with the regime they’re protecting with their lives. An SS unit appearing on their base to claim one of their own; bits of conversation revealing the truth about the extermination program accidentally overheard during the official reception - the pieces of the puzzle are slowly coming together, but it’s too late to do anything but fight to the bitter end, whatever it may bring.

 Set during one of the bloodiest wars in history, “Of Knights and Dogfights” is the story of the shattered illusions of youth, tyranny and freedom, friendship and love guiding one out of the darkest hell of Soviet captivity.

Amazon | Barnes and Noble


About the Author

Ellie Midwood is a best-selling, award-winning historical fiction writer. She's a health-obsessed yoga enthusiast, a neat freak, an adventurer, Nazi Germany history expert, polyglot, philosopher, a proud Jew and a doggie mama. Ellie lives in New York with her fiancé and their Chihuahua named Shark Bait. Readers' Favorite - winner in the Historical Fiction category (2016) - "The Girl from Berlin: Standartenfuhrer's Wife" Readers' Favorite - winner in the Historical Fiction category (2016) - "The Austrian" (honorable mention) New Apple - 2016 Award for Excellence in Independent Publishing - "The Austrian" (official selection)

 For more information on Ellie and her novels, please visit her website.

You can also find her on Facebook, Amazon, and Goodreads.



Giveaway


We have one paperback copy of Of Knights and Dogfights up for grabs! To enter, please use the Gleam form below. Giveaway Rules – Giveaway ends at 11:59 pm EST on June 21st. You must be 18 or older to enter. – Giveaway is open to US only. – Only one entry per household. – All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspicion of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion. – The winner has 48 hours to claim prize or a new winner is chosen.

  Of Knights and Dogfights


Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Review: Dear Wife by Kimberly Belle

From the bestselling author of The Marriage Lie and Three Days Missing comes a riveting new novel of suspense about a woman who, in a fight for survival, must decide just how far she'll go to escape the person she once loved

 Beth Murphy is on the run...

 For nearly a year, Beth has been planning for this day. A day some people might call any other Wednesday, but Beth prefers to see it as her new beginning--one with a new look, new name and new city. Beth has given her plan significant thought because one small slip and her violent husband will find her.

 Sabine Hardison is missing...

 A couple hundred miles away, Jeffrey returns home from a work trip to find his wife, Sabine, is missing. Wherever she is, she's taken almost nothing with her. Her abandoned car is the only evidence the police have, and all signs point to foul play.

 As the police search for leads, the case becomes more and more convoluted. Sabine's carefully laid plans for her future indicate trouble at home and a husband who would be better off with her gone. The detective on the case will stop at nothing to find out what happened and bring this missing woman home. Where is Sabine? And who is Beth? The only thing that's certain is that someone is lying and the truth won't stay buried for long.

Kindle, 384 pages
 Expected publication: June 25th, 2019
 by Park Row
**** 1/2

Dear Wife releases June 25th and is a wonderful mix of mystery, suspense, and intrigue. With one woman, Beth, on the run and another, Sabine, missing there is plenty that kept me on my toes.

The characters are flawed, believable and even unlikeable - this is a story of dysfunction and abuse, of relationships, secrets and fresh starts. I read this one in a matter of days and again Kimberly Belle did not disappoint, she kept me glued right till the last page.

My thanks to the publisher (via NetGalley) for an advanced digital copy in exchange for an honest review.









Spotlight: The Impaler's Wife by Autumn Bardot

The Impaler's Wife by Autumn Bardot

Publication Date: April 2, 2019
Flores Publishing
eBook; 452 Pages
Genre: Historical Fiction/Romance

Legend, history, and passion collide in this gritty, evocative, and sensual story about history's most notorious price and the woman who paid love's ultimate price.

 The year is 1464, and young King Matthias controls Hungary, his family, and the fate of the world’s most notorious political prisoner, Prince Vlad Dracula.

 Ilona Szilágy, the king’s cousin, is young and ambitious. Dracula is determined to marry into the Hunyadi family. It is love at first sight…but the king has other plans. The Impaler Prince, however, never takes no for an answer.

 This begins Ilona’s journey into the treacherous world of court intrigues, family betrayals, and her husband’s dark desires. Eager to become Vlad’s trusted confidant, Ilona soon discovers that marriage to a man tortured by his past comes with a price.

 Woven throughout is a peek into the life and times of one of the world’s most enigmatic and maligned rulers…the man before the legend.

 With Bardot’s decadent period detail and a cast of gritty evocative characters, The Impaler’s Wife offers a fierce yet sensuous glimpse into the violent 15th century.


Available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble

About the Author

Autumn Bardot writes historical fiction and erotica about sassy women and daring passions! Her erotic fiction includes Legends of Lust, Erotic Myths from around the World, published by Cleis Press. Confessions of a Sheba Queen (erotica) will be available Jan 2020. The Impaler's Wife is her debut historical fiction, releasing in April 2019. Autumn has a BA in English literature and a MaEd in curriculum and instruction. She’s been teaching literary analysis for fourteen years When Autumn’s not writing or working, you'll find her hanging out with her ever-growing family, spoiled husband, and pampered rescue pooch. Her favorite things include salty French fries, coffee, swimming, and a great book.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest


Giveaway

During the Blog Tour, we will be giving away one paperback copy of the Impaler's Wife! To enter, please use the Gleam form below. Giveaway Rules – Giveaway ends at 11:59 pm EST on July 5th. You must be 18 or older to enter. – Giveaway is open to US only. – Only one entry per household. – All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspicion of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion. – The winner has 48 hours to claim prize or a new winner is chosen. 



Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Cover Reveal: The Work of Art by Mimi Matthews

The Work of Art by Mimi Matthews

Publication Date: July 23, 2019
Perfectly Proper Press
Genre: Historical Romance


An Uncommon Beauty…

Hidden away in rural Devonshire, Phyllida Satterthwaite has always been considered more odd than beautiful. But in London, her oddity has made her a sensation. Far worse, it’s caught the eye of the sinister Duke of Moreland—a notorious art collector obsessed with acquiring one-of-a-kind treasures. To escape the Duke's clutches, she’s going to need a little help.

  An Unlikely Hero…

Captain Arthur Heywood’s days of heroism are long past. Grievously injured in the Peninsular War, he can no longer walk unaided, let alone shoot a pistol. What use can he possibly be to a damsel in distress? He has nothing left to offer except his good name.

 Can a marriage of convenience save Philly from the vengeful duke? Or will life with Arthur put her—and her heart—in more danger than ever?


Available for Pre-Order: 

Amazon | Apple | Barnes and Noble | Kobo


About the Author

USA Today bestselling author Mimi Matthews (A Victorian Lady’s Guide to Fashion and Beauty, The Matrimonial Advertisement) writes both historical non-fiction and traditional historical romances set in Victorian England. Her articles on nineteenth century history have been published on various academic and history sites, including the Victorian Web and the Journal of Victorian Culture, and are also syndicated weekly at BUST Magazine. In her other life, Mimi is an attorney. She resides in California with her family, which includes an Andalusian dressage horse, two Shelties, and two Siamese cats.

 For more information, please visit Mimi Matthews’ website and blog.

You can also connect with her on FacebookTwitterBookBubPinterestGoogle+, and Goodreads.