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Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Review: Truths I Never Told You by Kelly Rimmer

“Fans of Jodi Picoult and Kristin Hannah now have a new go-to author.” —Sally Hepworth, bestselling author of The Secrets of Midwives

From the bestselling author of The Things We Cannot Say comes a poignant novel about the fault in memories and the lies that can bond a family together—or tear it apart.

With her father recently moved to a care facility for his worsening dementia, Beth Walsh volunteers to clear out the family home and is surprised to discover the door to her childhood playroom padlocked. She’s even more shocked at what’s behind it—a hoarder’s mess of her father’s paintings, mounds of discarded papers and miscellaneous junk in the otherwise fastidiously tidy house.

As she picks through the clutter, she finds a loose journal entry in what appears to be her late mother’s handwriting. Beth and her siblings grew up believing their mother died in a car accident when they were little more than toddlers, but this note suggests something much darker. Beth soon pieces together a disturbing portrait of a woman suffering from postpartum depression and a husband who bears little resemblance to the loving father Beth and her siblings know. With a newborn of her own and struggling with motherhood, Beth finds there may be more tying her and her mother together than she ever suspected.

Exploring the expectations society places on women of every generation, Kelly Rimmer explores the profound struggles two women unwittingly share across the decades set within an engrossing family mystery that may unravel everything they believed to be true.

Paperback, 352 pages
Expected publication: April 14th, 2020
by Graydon House
4.5/5

Sometimes starting a new book by an author that is also new (to me) can be daunting, especially when you hear great things about said author. It puts pressure not just on myself but on the book itself, which is precisely what happened here. Kelly Rimmer has written numerous books and this is my first with Truths I Never Told You.

There were many things that I enjoyed here:
1. The dual time period, it’s a favorite of mine.
2. Multiple points of view, it’s great to get different sides to a story.
3. The historical aspect, yes the 1950s is historical and getting a look at that time period makes me happy to be born when I was.

There are many layers that revolve around this group of 4 siblings with Beth playing center stage. Dementia and postpartum depression are some serious subjects to tackle and Kelly Rimmer did a great job. Whether she experienced them first hand herself or not I don’t know but she sure knew how to write with feeling and be authentic at the same time. It’s not that often that a book sprouts tears but this one did. Usually, I find myself favoring one time period over the other, but such wasn't the case here, I genuinely cared for all the characters and the various situations.

Truths I Never Told You is a story of love, heartache, and family.  There was mystery to keep me on my toes and an ending that was very satisfying (for this reader).

My thanks to Harper Collins Canada for an advanced copy of this book, which releases April 14th, in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Review: Recipe for a Perfect Wife by Karma Brown

" Recipe for a Perfect Wife is a bold, intoxicating, page-turner. Karma Brown has long been a favorite of mine and this book is proof she just keeps getting better and better. This is a thrilling, audacious story about women daring to take control."--Taylor Jenkins Reid, New York Times bestselling author of Daisy Jones and the Six

When Alice Hale reluctantly leaves a promising career in publicity, following her husband to the New York suburbs, she is unaccustomed to filling her days alone in a big, empty house. However, she is determined to become a writer--and to work hard to build the kind of life her husband dreams of, complete with children.

At first, the old house seems to resent Alice as much as she resents it, but when she finds an old cookbook buried in a box in the basement, she becomes captivated by the cookbook's previous owner: 1950s housewife Nellie Murdoch. As Alice cooks her way through the past, she begins to settle into her new surroundings, even as her friends and family grow concerned that she has embraced them too fully: wearing vintage dresses and pearls like a 1950s housewife, making elaborate old-fashioned dishes like Baked Alaska, and drifting steadily away from her usual pursuits.

Alice justifies the changes merely as research for her novel...but when she discovers that Nellie left clues about her own life within the cookbook's pages--and in a mysterious series of unsent letters penned to Nellie's mother--she quickly realizes that the housewife's secrets may have been anything but harmless. As she uncovers a more sinister side to Nellie's marriage and with pressure mounting in her own relationship, Alice realizes that to protect herself she must harbor and hatch a few secrets of her own...

Paperback, 336 pages
Published December 31st, 2019
by Viking
3.5/5

I think this is the 3rd book I've read so far this year from the 1950s, I'm not complaining, in fact, I rather enjoy it.  Women are still the minority with the role of housewife front and center, pity the woman who thinks otherwise.

Dual time periods are still my favorite.  Getting a taste of 2 stories and seeing what connects them, going on the journey alongside and seeing if I can undercover clues along the way.  With this book, I enjoyed the format.  Chapters that belong to Nellie back in 1952 usually start with sayings/quotes that one must take as comical (even though sad).
"Don't expect your husband to make you happy while you are simply a passive agent.  Do your best to make him happy and you will find happiness yourself. - Blanche Ebbutt, Don'ts for Wives (1913)"
With old magazines and a cookbook connecting these two women, add in an unsettling house Recipes was an engaging story.  Even though I wasn't really a fan of the characters that doesn't mean the book didn't work.  This is my first time reading Karma Brown and cant wait to read more.

This book was part of my 2020 Reading Off My Shelf Challenge (book 14).

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Review: A Desperate Fortune by Susanna Kearsley

The highly anticipated, brand-new timeslip romance from New York Times bestselling author Susanna Kearsley

For nearly 300 years, the mysterious journal of Jacobite exile Mary Dundas has lain unread-its secrets safe from prying eyes. Now, amateur codebreaker Sara Thomas has been hired by a once-famous historian to crack the journal's cipher.

But when she arrives in Paris, Sara finds herself besieged by complications from all sides: the journal's reclusive owner, her charming Parisian neighbor, and Mary, whose journal doesn't hold the secrets Sara expects. As Mary's tale grows more and more dire, Sara, too, must carefully choose which turning to take... to find the road that will lead her safely home.


Paperback, 528 pages
Published April 7th, 2015
by Sourcebooks Landmark
3/5

Susanna Kearsley is one of my favorite authors, her passion for history is evident with each book of hers that I have read. 

A Desperate Fortune is told with alternating viewpoints, each one unique.  The past is vividly portrayed and while it was interesting I found the pace way too slow.  To the point that I started out reading the book but after 110 pages switched over to the audiobook.  It helped a little. There are some nice author notes that talk about the real Mary Dundas, which is always a treat to read.

The present-day story actually kept my attention more so than the past.  Reading about someone with Asperger opened my eyes to what they struggle with and how those around perceive them.  A nice touch.

All in all, though this isn't one of my favorite Kearsley books she still will be one that I reach for when looking for timeslip historical stories.

This book was part of my 202 Reading of my Shelf Challenge (book 13).


Thursday, March 26, 2020

Review: The Last Bathing Beauty by Amy Sue Nathan

A former beauty queen faces the secrets of her past—for herself and the sake of her family’s future—in a heartfelt novel about fate, choices, and second chances.

Everything seemed possible in the summer of 1951. Back then Betty Stern was an eighteen-year-old knockout working at her grandparents’ lakeside resort. The “Catskills of the Midwest” was the perfect place for Betty to prepare for bigger things. She’d head to college in New York City. Her career as a fashion editor would flourish. But first, she’d enjoy a wondrous last summer at the beach falling deeply in love with an irresistible college boy and competing in the annual Miss South Haven pageant. On the precipice of a well-planned life, Betty’s future was limitless.

Decades later, the choices of that long-ago season still reverberate for Betty, now known as Boop. Especially when her granddaughter comes to her with a dilemma that echoes Boop’s memories of first love, broken hearts, and faraway dreams. It’s time to finally face the past—for the sake of her family and her own happiness. Maybe in reconciling the life she once imagined with the life she’s lived, Boop will discover it’s never too late for a second chance.

 Kindle Edition, 300 pages
Expected publication: April 1st, 2020
by Lake Union Publishing
4.5/5

Amy Sue Nathan is a new author for me, she is a Tall Poppy Writer (check out the website for some awesome writers here) and I'm thrilled to be one of their reviewers.

Summer isn’t here yet but this would be a perfect beach read. It took me to the Catskills of the Midwest (didn’t even know they had one) in 1951. Betty planned it to be her last summer of fun before starting at Barnard’s in the fall. Her future is all planned out.

Current day Betty is...well, older but wiser? Forced to acknowledge that fateful summer reveals memories buried and secrets revealed.

As I was getting into this book I started to worry that this was going to be another predictable story and for a bit it was, until it wasn’t. Weaving back and forth in time with the majority taking place at a Jewish Summer Resort run/owned by the grandparents of Betty. The Last Bathing Beauty is a well written story with authentic characters and multiple layers. It’s not just about first love but forbidden love, family and secrets (just to name a few).

This book releases next week and will be available on different platforms. I recommend this book to those that enjoy coming of age stories as well as taking a peek at a bygone era.

My thanks to the author for an advanced e copy (via Netgalley) in exchange for an honest review

Friday, March 20, 2020

Review: Veiled in Smoke (The Windy City Saga #1) by Jocelyn Green

Meg and Sylvie Townsend manage the family bookshop and care for their father, Stephen, a veteran still suffering in mind and spirit from his time as a POW during the Civil War. But when the Great Fire sweeps through Chicago's business district, they lose much more than just their store.

The sisters become separated from their father, and after Meg burns her hands in an attempt to save a family heirloom, they make a harrowing escape from the flames with the help of Chicago Tribune reporter Nate Pierce. Once the smoke clears away, they reunite with Stephen, only to learn soon after that their family friend not only died during the fire--he was murdered. Even more shocking, Stephen is charged with the crime and committed to the Cook County Insane Asylum.

Though homeless, injured, and suddenly unemployed, Meg must not only gather the pieces of her shattered life, but prove her father's innocence before the asylum truly drives him mad.

Paperback, 416 pages
Published February 4th 2020
by Bethany House Publishers
****

Ever since reading The Mark of the King, Jocelyn Green has become one of my go-to authors.  She writes her books around real historical events that haven't been getting much attention.

Coming in at 400 pages there is great detail to the aftermath of The Great Fire, not all of it necessary but it did paint a picture of what life was like, the struggles that were encountered with the winter approaching.

But it wasn’t just about the fire, it was about people struggling with their own internal demons. It’s about PTSD back when it was called a Soldier Heart, the treatment and social stigma that went with it. It’s the story of two sisters, who run a bookshop, searching for love and meaning. When the dust settles it’s also about a murder and the search for truth.

Once again Jocelyn Green has done extensive research and written a compelling story based on historical events. I love how she has taken me off the beaten path with a unique book that appears to be the first in The Windy City Saga. Released last month it is readily available in all formats.

This book was part of my 2020 reading off my shelf challenge.






Monday, March 16, 2020

Review: A Curse So Dark and Lonely (Cursebreakers #1) by Brigid Kemmerer

In a lush, contemporary fantasy retelling of Beauty and the Beast, Brigid Kemmerer gives readers another compulsively readable romance perfect for fans of Marissa Meyer.

Fall in love, break the curse.

It once seemed so easy to Prince Rhen, the heir to Emberfall. Cursed by a powerful enchantress to repeat the autumn of his eighteenth year over and over, he knew he could be saved if a girl fell for him. But that was before he learned that at the end of each autumn, he would turn into a vicious beast hell-bent on destruction. That was before he destroyed his castle, his family, and every last shred of hope.

Nothing has ever been easy for Harper. With her father long gone, her mother dying, and her brother barely holding their family together while constantly underestimating her because of her cerebral palsy, she learned to be tough enough to survive. But when she tries to save someone else on the streets of Washington, DC, she's instead somehow sucked into Rhen's cursed world.

Break the curse, save the kingdom.

A prince? A monster? A curse? Harper doesn't know where she is or what to believe. But as she spends time with Rhen in this enchanted land, she begins to understand what's at stake. And as Rhen realizes Harper is not just another girl to charm, his hope comes flooding back. But powerful forces are standing against Emberfall . . . and it will take more than a broken curse to save Harper, Rhen, and his people from utter ruin.

Paperback, 496 pages
Published January 28th, 2019
by Bloomsbury YA
4.5/5

This is my first time reading Brigid Kemmerer, it’s a nice sized book to get lost in. Between a gorgeous cover plus a Beauty and the Beast retelling what can go wrong? Right?!

Told with the alternating voices of Rhen and Harper this is the first book in a planned trilogy. Right from the get-go I was kept on my toes and absorbed in the pages. When Harper finds herself in a world not her our she doesn’t take things lightly. Her feisty spirit, logical thinking, and fiery determination keeps not just Rhen but Grey on their toes. Who is Grey you ask? Read the book!

Rhen has been the crown prince of Emberfall for years and years and years, could this be his final season? Time will tell. I loved his story, his thoughts, getting inside his brain to connect to the real Rhen.

Coming in just shy of 500 pages (yea it might have been a tad too long) I was thoroughly entertained, A Curse so Dark and Lonely is a book of discovering oneself. It’s about taking a stand and seeing what you are made of. It was a unique story and a great retelling. A book I  highly recommend.

Book two is A Heart so Fierce and Broken, my copy is in the hands of Canada Post at the moment winging its way from the Bookdepository in the UK - did you know they offer free shipping?

This book was part of my 2020 reading off my shelf challenge (book 12 so far).

Saturday, March 14, 2020

Review: Stars Across the Ocean by Kimberley Freeman

The powerful new novel from Kimberley Freeman.

A rich and satisfying story of two women with indomitable spirits and the high costs they have to pay for being strong-minded, from the author of the bestselling LIGHTHOUSE BAY and EMBER ISLAND.

A story about love, motherhood, and learning whom you belong to in the world.

In 1874, wild and willful Agnes Resolute finally leaves the foundling home where she grew up on the bleak moors of northern England. On her departure, she discovers that she was abandoned with a small token of her mother: a unicorn button. Agnes had always believed her mother to be too poor to keep her, but Agnes has been working as a laundress at the foundling home and recognizes the button as belonging to the imperious and beautiful Genevieve Breakby, daughter of a local noble family. Agnes had only seen her once but has never forgotten her. She investigates and discovers Genevieve is now in London. Agnes follows, living hard in the poor end of London until she finds out Genevieve has moved to France.

This sets Agnes off on her own adventure: to Paris, Agnes follows her mother's trail, and starts to see it is also a trail of destruction. Finally, in Sydney she tracks Genevieve down. But is Genevieve capable of being the mother Agnes hopes she will be?

A powerful story about women with indomitable spirits, about love and motherhood, and about learning whom you belong to in the world.Praise for Kimberley Freeman's writing:

Paperback, 449 pages
Published May 1st, 2017
by Hachette Australia
4/5

Kimberley Freeman is one of my go-to authors, with a flair for dual time periods she reminds me of Kate Morton with intricate plots and great writing.

Agnes Resolute is a feisty character, and getting to know her and her traits are what makes this novel work. One coincidence after another works for her as it did for this reader.

This is another dual time period story revolving between current day and 1874, traveling to many locales. Most of the book centers in the past with its adventure, family drama and maybe a touch of romance. As Agnes tries to discover who she is this journey of self-discovery leads her where she least expects.

Present-day is shorter but equally interesting to read. Traveling clear across the globe Victoria makes some discoveries of her own which set in motion changes she never saw coming.

I love Freeman’s writing style, she knows how to grab this reader till I am absorbed in not just the story but the characters as well. I’ve yet to be disappointed in any of her books. If you haven’t read her I highly recommend both print and audio formats work great.

This book is part of my 2020 reading off my shelf challenge.

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Review: The Orphan House by Ann Bennett

As she looks at the baby wriggling in her father’s arms, a bolt of recognition goes through her and she takes a step back. And it’s in that moment that she begins to protect her father’s secrets.

1934, Weirfield-on-Thames. Connie Burroughs loves living in the orphanage that her father runs. Exploring its nooks and crannies with her sister, hearing the pounding of a hundred pairs of feet on the wooden stairs, having a father who is doing so much good. But everything changes the day she sees him carrying a newborn baby that he says he found near the broken front gate. A baby she recognizes…

Present-day. Arriving at her father’s beloved cottage beside the river, Sarah Jennings is hoping for peace and quiet, to escape her difficult divorce. But when she finds her father unwell and hunched over boxes of files on the orphanage where he was abandoned as a child, she decides to investigate it herself.

The only person left alive who lived at Cedar Hall is Connie Burroughs, but Connie sits quietly in her nursing home for a reason. The sewing box under Connie’s bed hides secrets that will change Sarah’s life forever, uncovering a connection between them that has darker consequences than she could ever imagine.

A heartbreaking but ultimately uplifting tale inspired by the lives of the children who lived at the author’s great-grandfather’s orphanage. Fans of Before We Were Yours, The Orphan’s Tale and The Orphan Train will be hooked.

 Kindle, 322 pages
Expected publication: February 28th, 2020
by Bookouture
3/5

This is my first time reading anything by Ann Bennett, I thought the synopsis sounded like a great read.  With so many great reviews I hunkered down to read about an old house, secrets and this baby Connie recognized so clearly.

The Orphan House is a multi-POV story that centers around an old house with secrets to share. Told from the perspective of 3 women it was the past storylines that I was really drawn to. Connie goes back and forth in time as she sits in a nursing home, her story was interesting enough and piqued my curiosity.

Sarah is running from a marriage that seemed fine one day and the next in shambles, I would have loved to be privy to more details along the way about what happened. I struggled to come to grips with this storyline at times, it felt a little disjointed at times.

The concept for the book was great but I wasn't as captivated as I usually am with dual time period mysteries, it didn't have the same emotional impact.

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



Monday, March 9, 2020

Review: The Flatshare by Beth O'Leary

What if your roommate is your soul mate? A joyful, quirky romantic comedy, Beth O'Leary's The Flatshare is a feel-good novel about finding love in the most unexpected of ways.

Tiffy and Leon share an apartment. Tiffy and Leon have never met.

After a bad breakup, Tiffy Moore needs a place to live. Fast. And cheap. But the apartments in her budget have her wondering if astonishingly colored mold on the walls counts as art.

Desperation makes her open minded, so she answers an ad for a flatshare. Leon, a night shift worker, will take the apartment during the day, and Tiffy can have it nights and weekends. He'll only ever be there when she's at the office. In fact, they'll never even have to meet.

Tiffy and Leon start writing each other notes - first about what day is garbage day, and politely establishing what leftovers are up for grabs, and the evergreen question of whether the toilet seat should stay up or down. Even though they are opposites, they soon become friends. And then maybe more.

But falling in love with your roommate is probably a terrible idea...especially if you've never met.

Paperback 366 pages
Published May 28th 2019
by Flatiron Books
5/5

I received this book through my Valentines SweetReadsBox and to be honest, it was an impulse purchase -I’m not into books labeled romance. Historical romance is good because I usually get a history lesson at the same time. Rom/Com is something new for me and being in the mood for something lite, but not too cute and fluffy, I grabbed this to take on a recent cruise and I loved it! Making my favorites list as well.

Told with alternating POV between Tiffy and Leon they communicated via post-it notes and texts. It was witty and made me smile, it felt natural and totally believable. Both of them have baggage they don’t share and were struggling to deal with.

What I really enjoyed were the many layers, it wasn’t just a romance story but dealt with other issues that included abuse and gaslighting. These serious subject matters were handled with the right balance and not minimized but brought upfront and center, it takes a talented author that can do that in the midst of a rom/com.

This is Beth O’Leary’s debut, she has set a high bar for herself. Her second book releases next month, The Switch and I can’t wait to read it.

This book is part of my 2020 reading of my shelf challenge.

Saturday, March 7, 2020

Review: Darling Rose Gold by Stephanie Wrobel

Mothers never forget. Daughters never forgive.

In her compulsive, sharply-drawn debut, Stephanie Wrobel peels back the layers of the most complicated of mother-daughter relationships.

For the first eighteen years of her life, Rose Gold Watts believed she was seriously ill. She was allergic to everything, used a wheelchair and practically lived at the hospital. Neighbors did all they could, holding fundraisers and offering shoulders to cry on, but no matter how many doctors, tests, or surgeries, no one could figure out what was wrong with Rose Gold.

Turns out her mom, Patty Watts, was just a really good liar.

After serving five years in prison, Patty gets out with nowhere to go and begs her daughter to take her in. The entire community is shocked when Rose Gold says yes.

Patty insists all she wants is to reconcile their differences. She says she's forgiven Rose Gold for turning her in and testifying against her. But Rose Gold knows her mother. Patty Watts always settles a score.

Unfortunately for Patty, Rose Gold is no longer her weak little darling...

And she's waited such a long time for her mother to come home.

“Sensationally good - two complex characters power the story like a nuclear reaction...”—Lee Child, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Blue Moon

“Dazzling, dark and utterly delicious”—J P Delaney, New York Times bestselling author of The Girl Before

“One of the most captivating and disturbing thrillers I've read this year. An astonishing debut”— Samantha Downing, USA Today bestselling author of My Lovely Wife 

Kindle Edition, 320 pages
Expected publication: March 17th, 2020
by Simon & Schuster
2.5/5

I think it was the cover that drew me to this book, plus seeing it out and about over social media. I loved the sounds of a thriller that would keep me on my toes.

I'll start by saying I know nothing of the news story that inspired this book and to be honest I have no intention of googling it because the thought, as a mom, is just mind-boggling. That being said be forwarned I am going against the flow with my short review. But I will start at the beginning.

This book got off to a great start, it was intriguing and got me curious as to 'the why' of Rose taking her mother in.  Told with alternating POV's between Mom, Rose and a younger Rose I was given a clear picture of what transpired.  While the book was well written the deeper I went the more I found it disturbing and really didn't like the characters anymore.  Unlike others, I did not feel an emotional connection to Rose.  I felt like a deer in the headlights and couldn't turn away, I had to see how it would end.  Ultimately the book ended in a way that left me feeling unsatisfied.

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


Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Auto Review: The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See

From #1 New York Times bestselling author Lisa See, “one of those special writers capable of delivering both poetry and plot” (The New York Times Book Review), a moving novel about tradition, tea farming, and the bonds between mothers and daughters.

In their remote mountain village, Li-yan and her family align their lives around the seasons and the farming of tea. For the Akha people, ensconced in ritual and routine, life goes on as it has for generations—until a stranger appears at the village gate in a jeep, the first automobile any of the villagers has ever seen.

The stranger’s arrival marks the first entrance of the modern world in the lives of the Akha people. Slowly, Li-yan, one of the few educated girls on her mountain, begins to reject the customs that shaped her early life. When she has a baby out of wedlock—conceived with a man her parents consider a poor choice—she rejects the tradition that would compel her to give the child over to be killed, and instead leaves her, wrapped in a blanket with a tea cake tucked in its folds, near an orphanage in a nearby city.

As Li-yan comes into herself, leaving her insular village for an education, a business, and city life, her daughter, Haley, is raised in California by loving adoptive parents. Despite her privileged childhood, Haley wonders about her origins. Across the ocean, Li-yan longs for her lost daughter. Over the course of years, each searches for meaning in the study of Pu’er, the tea that has shaped their family’s destiny for centuries.

A powerful story about circumstances, culture, and distance, The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane paints an unforgettable portrait of a little known region and its people and celebrates the bond of family.

Paperback, 371 pages
Published April 3rd, 2018
by Scribner
5/5

This is my second book by Lisa See, the first being The Island of the Sea Women (which I loved). This book has come highly recommended to me by my favorite book buddy Laurie aka TheBakingBookworm so I jumped into the audio version and was not disappointed.

One of the reasons I love historical fiction is the learning aspect, this one was full of not just tea history but the culture of Li-yan’s people. Their practices and superstitions and how strongly they influenced their lives.

It isn’t until halfway through the book that it turns into a dual narrative. So much was brought to the table from the adoptees' side, it gave me a better perspective at understanding the process and struggles they encountered.

I once had the privilege of going to an author event and meeting Lisa See. She talked about her research, travels to locales, meeting the people, it gave a great insight into her writing process. With this book the acknowledgments show again her dedication to her stories, her accuracy and passion just shine through. I have so much respect for what she does to be authentic and deliver such wonderful stories.

The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane is a coming of age story with so many layers - the relationship between mother & daughter, heritage, self-discovery and how good a great cup of tea is.

While I am a new Lisa See reader, already I have a nice little pile that I can’t wait to dig into.

This book was part of my 2020 reading off my shelf challenge.

click on cover to see my review

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Review: A Murderous Relation (Veronica Speedwell #5) by Deanna Raybourn

Veronica Speedwell navigates a dark world of scandal and murder in this new adventure from New York Times bestselling and Edgar Award-nominated author Deanna Raybourn.

Veronica Speedwell and her natural historian colleague Stoker are asked by Lady Wellingtonia Beauclerk to help with a potential scandal so explosive it threatens to rock the monarchy. Prince Albert Victor is a regular visitor to the most exclusive private club in London, known as the Club de l'Etoile, and the proprietress, Madame Aurore, has received an expensive gift that can be traced back to the prince. Lady Wellie would like Veronica and Stoker to retrieve the jewel from the club before scandal can break.

Worse yet, London is gripped by hysteria in the autumn of 1888, terrorized by what would become the most notorious and elusive serial killer in history, Jack the Ripper--and Lady Wellie suspects the prince may be responsible.

Veronica and Stoker reluctantly agree to go undercover at Madame Aurore's high-class brothel, where another body soon turns up. Many secrets are swirling around Veronica and the royal family--and it's up to Veronica and Stoker to find the truth before it's too late for all of them.

Kindle Edition, 336 pages
Expected publication: March 10th, 2020
by Berkley
3.5/5

Veronica Speedwell and Stoker have been one of my favorite couples since reading A Curious Beginning, the sexual tension, with its sarcastic dialogue between these two and the situations they find themselves in makes for an entertaining read.

 In anticipation of this release (the 5th in series) I did a reread via audiobook, they are excellent and I highly recommend, I was able to put voices to these unique individuals. I don’t feel this book would work as a stand-alone, there are lots of backstories that would be confusing and make for an unenjoyable read.

Beginning where book 4 left off and I gotta say the author sure knows how to start a book, what a hoot! The synopsis above does a great job outlining the story, and yes there is action and adventure that is to be expected with these two, but this one just lacked a little something that I can't quite put my finger on. It had the twists and turns that surprised me and went in a direction I didn't anticipate.

I read this on my kindle which features the dictionary. Veronica has a vocabulary (as does the author) that had me looking up words without interrupting the flow. A Murderous Relation had Jack the Ripper and Prince Eddy making appearances and brought back fictional characters from previous books. If you haven't read this series yet I highly recommend it.

  My thanks to Berkley (via Netgalley) for an advanced e-arc in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, March 1, 2020

Review: The Secret of White Stone Gate (Black Hollow Lane #2) by Julia Nobel

In this exciting sequel to The Mystery of Black Hollow Lane, Emmy's adventures dealing with a sinister organization, a missing father, and secrets she's not sure who to trust with continue.

After spending the summer at home in Connecticut, Emmy cannot wait to return to Wellsworth for the new school year and reunite with her best friends, Lola and Jack. Before she leaves Emmy receives a note from her father telling her to hide the remaining relics The Order of Black Hollow Lane are after—and to trust no one.

When Lola is framed for a serious crime she didn't commit, Emmy knows that she and her friends are not safe. The Order wants Emmy to give up her father's location... if she doesn't, those she loves will pay the price.

Emmy and Jack need to figure out a way to clear Lola's name without bending to the Order's sinister demands. And Emmy needs to figure out who she can trust with her secrets before it's too late.

Kindle Edition, 320 pages
Expected publication: March 3rd, 2020
by Sourcebooks Young Readers
3/5

The 2nd book continues a few months after the conclusion of book 1, The Mystery of Black Hollow Lane. I really enjoyed that book, it set the stage for this series with its many layers, interesting characters, and plot. While being familiar with most of the players there were a few new ones that added interest, intrigue and had me wondering if I could trust any of them.

That being said I didn’t find this one as captivating as the first one, I missed the many layers and a number of plot points reminding me too much of Harry Potter (which is a series I adore).

I’m not sure how many books are in this series, I will continue as I am curious about what will happen to Emmy and her friends.

My thanks to Sourcebooks (via NetGalley) for a digital ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Saturday, February 29, 2020

Review: The Kennedy Debutante by Kerri Maher

A captivating novel following the exploits of Kathleen "Kick" Kennedy, the forgotten and rebellious daughter of one of America's greatest political dynasties.

London, 1938. The effervescent "It girl" of London society since her father was named the ambassador, Kathleen "Kick" Kennedy moves in rarified circles, rubbing satin-covered elbows with some of the 20th century's most powerful figures. Eager to escape the watchful eye of her strict mother, Rose, the antics of her older brothers, Jack and Joe, and the erratic behavior of her sister Rosemary, Kick is ready to strike out on her own and is soon swept off her feet by Billy Hartington, the future Duke of Devonshire.

But their love is forbidden, as Kick's devout Catholic family and Billy's staunchly Protestant one would never approve their match. When war breaks like a tidal wave across her world, Billy is ripped from her arms as the Kennedys are forced to return to the States. Kick gets work as a journalist and joins the Red Cross to get back to England, where she will have to decide where her true loyalties lie--with family or with love . . .

Kindle Edition, 384 pages
Published October 2nd 2018
by Berkley
*** 1/2

I don’t know too much about the Kennedy family so I jumped at the chance to read this book about Kathleen ‘Kick’ Kennedy, and again to be honest I didn't know that there were even Kennedy sisters.

Beginning before the onset of WW2 I was introduced to Kick’s years in England, her mindset as she was trying to discover herself at the same time as being influenced from her family. Influenced seems a mild word given she is one of Joe and Rose Kennedy’s daughters and they had high standards for their children whether they liked it or not.

The author portrayed a brave young woman who searched, found purpose and love in a country not her own. Her struggles, heartache, and growth were depicted here as was her relationship with the family.  By the end, I was googling to learn more about her and other members of the family.

I struggled at the beginning but it ended up being an enjoyable read.  This is my first time reading Kerri Maher and will be on the lookout for more of her books.

My thanks to Berkley (via Netgalley) for an e-arc in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Review: The Witches of New York by Ami McKay

The beloved, bestselling author of The Birth House and The Virgin Cure is back with her most beguiling novel yet, luring us deep inside the lives of a trio of remarkable young women navigating the glitz and grotesqueries of Gilded-Age New York by any means possible, including witchcraft...

The year is 1880. Two hundred years after the trials in Salem, Adelaide Thom (Moth from The Virgin Cure) has left her life in the sideshow to open a tea shop with another young woman who feels it's finally safe enough to describe herself as a witch: a former medical student and gardien de sorts (keeper of spells), Eleanor St. Clair. Together they cater to Manhattan's high society ladies, specializing in cures, palmistry and potions--and in guarding the secrets of their clients. All is well until one bright September afternoon, when an enchanting young woman named Beatrice Dunn arrives at their door seeking employment. Beatrice soon becomes indispensable as Eleanor's apprentice, but her new life with the witches is marred by strange occurrences. She sees things no one else can see. She hears voices no one else can hear. Objects appear out of thin air, as if gifts from the dead. Has she been touched by magic or is she simply losing her mind? Eleanor wants to tread lightly and respect the magic manifest in the girl, but Adelaide sees a business opportunity. Working with Dr. Quinn Brody, a talented alienist, she submits Beatrice to a series of tests to see if she truly can talk to spirits. Amidst the witches' tug-of-war over what's best for her, Beatrice disappears, leaving them to wonder whether it was by choice or by force.

As Adelaide and Eleanor begin the desperate search for Beatrice, they're confronted by accusations and spectres from their own pasts. In a time when women were corseted, confined and committed for merely speaking their minds, were any of them safe?

Paperback, 504 pages
Published July 4th, 2017
by Vintage Books Canada
** 1/2


Be forewarned I am going against the flow with this book. I didn't read the blurb before I started, it’s on my shelf meaning at some point in time I did read it and decided this was a book for me. This book is over 500 pages long and covers so much of life in New York City, yes I got to know these 3 women but I also felt that I was given snippets of what was happening around them, though they might have been relevant to the story there were just too many that thinned out the actual plot.

I liked these women, which saved this from being a DNF, I liked the atmospheric feel. The Cleopatra’s Needle was an interesting tidbit of historical fact. But I found the story itself very slow-moving.

There is a lot of magic that takes place, some eerie, some interesting and others spooky. Spells and incantations and of course there are those that support these witches and those that don’t. I finally read the blurb only to discover plot points mentioned that didn’t happen till the last quarter of the book (to me that is a spoiler - a pet peeve of mine).

I just felt Witches lacked suspense and emotion, it was a slow burn where the ending didn’t really satisfy me. I understand there is a sequel that I will most likely pass on.

This book is from my personal library and part of my 2020 Reading of my Shelf Challenge.

Friday, February 14, 2020

Review: The Forgotten Home Child by Genevieve Graham

The Home for Unwanted Girls meets Orphan Train in this unforgettable novel about a young girl caught in a scheme to rid England’s streets of destitute children, and the lengths she will go to find her way home—based on the true story of the British Home Children.

2018

At ninety-seven years old, Winnifred Ellis knows she doesn’t have much time left, and it is almost a relief to realize that once she is gone, the truth about her shameful past will die with her. But when her great-grandson Jamie, the spitting image of her dear late husband, asks about his family tree, Winnifred can’t lie any longer, even if it means breaking a promise she made so long ago...

1936

Fifteen-year-old Winny has never known a real home. After running away from an abusive stepfather, she falls in with Mary, Jack, and their ragtag group of friends roaming the streets of Liverpool. When the children are caught stealing food, Winny and Mary are left in Dr. Barnardo’s Barkingside Home for Girls, a local home for orphans and forgotten children found in the city’s slums. At Barkingside, Winny learns she will soon join other boys and girls in a faraway place called Canada, where families and better lives await them.

But Winny’s hopes are dashed when she is separated from her friends and sent to live with a family that has no use for another daughter. Instead, they have paid for an indentured servant to work on their farm. Faced with this harsh new reality, Winny clings to the belief that she will someday find her friends again.

Inspired by true events, The Forgotten Home Child is a moving and heartbreaking novel about place, belonging, and family—the one we make for ourselves and its enduring power to draw us home.

Paperback, 384 pages
Expected publication: March 3rd, 2020
by Simon & Schuster
*****

Many years ago I began a search of Canadian HF, I wanted to read more about this great country. Little did I know how hard it would be to find.  Then Genevieve Graham came out with Tides of Honour and I haven't looked back.  Her last 4 books have given me exactly what I was looking for - Canadian history with a wonderful story.

On March 3rd The Forgotten Home Child releases. Told from the POV of a younger and older Winny along with her friend Jack.  It's a heart-wrenching story that I couldn't turn away from, I needed to know the outcome. Home Child is more than a story of Dr. Barnardo's Home but friendship plays center stage, when family fails you your friends are there and that bond between this group was so nice to read. It was authentic and as with Graham's previous books, her passion for history shines through in her writing.

One of the things that hit close for me were the locales throughout this book. Places that have meaning for myself and others I've visited which always makes the story more relatable.

A Note to Readers at the end of the book was equally interesting to read, with pictures and historical facts I was captivated. The Forgotten Home Child is a part of our history that I never learned about in school (I wasn't sleeping in history class because others I've talked to about this book were in the dark also). Kinda makes me wonder what else I might be clueless about.

I have not read Graham's first books (a series, The MacDonnell's) but her last 5 books are ones that I highly recommend. 

My thanks to Simon & Schuster CA and the author for a print ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Spotlight/Giveaway: Far Away Bird by Douglas A. Burton

Far Away Bird by Douglas A. Burton

Cover art illustration by George Frei

Publication Date: February 6, 2020
Silent Music Press LLC
Paperback; 394 Pages
Genre: Historical Fiction

Inspired by true events, Far Away Bird delves into the complex mind of Byzantine Empress Theodora. This intimate account deftly follows her rise from actress-prostitute in Constantinople's red-light district to the throne of the Byzantine Empire. Her salacious past has left historians blushing and uncomfortable. Tales of her shamelessness have survived for centuries, and yet her accomplishments as an empress are unparalleled. Theodora goes on to influence sweeping reforms that result in some of the first ever Western laws granting women freedom and protection. More than a millennium before the women's rights movement, Theodora, alone, took on the world's greatest superpower and succeeded. Far Away Bird goes where history classrooms fear to tread in hopes that Theodora can finally take her seat among the greatest women in history. Theodora seems impossible--yet her transcendence teaches us that society can't tell us who we are deep down. Before there was a legendary empress, there was a conflicted young woman from the lower classes. And her name was Theodora.

Award Winner!

Grand Prize Winner 2019 Manuscript Contest for historical fiction-Writers' League of Texas
Bronze Medal for Best Debut Novel in historical fiction-The Coffee Pot Book Club
Gold Medal Book of the Year historical fiction- The Coffee Pot Book Club

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | IndieBound

Douglas Alan Burton is a speaker, author, and expert storyteller whose work depicts heroic figures and their deeper connection to the human experience. Doug blogs about heroes, heroines, and villains in pop culture with some unexpected and refreshing perspective. He grew up in what he describes as “the heroic boyhood culture of late Generation X” that has gone mainstream around the world. He also shares strategies with fellow writers for writing compelling heroic characters in fiction. Douglas recently began outlining a breakthrough storytelling model that reveals a fascinating “heroine-centric” model for story structure he calls The Heroine’s Labyrinth. He believes a powerful new archetype is emerging for women in fiction. His forthcoming novel, Far Away Bird, which centers on the early life of Byzantine Empress Theodora, won the 2019 Manuscript Content for Historical Fiction from the Writers’ League of Texas and will be published in February of 2020.

 Follow Doug on Facebook and Twitter and stay in the conversation, and follow his blog at www.douglasaburton.com.

Giveaway

During the Blog Tour, we are giving away two copies of Far Away Bird by Douglas Burton! To enter, please use the Gleam form below. Giveaway Rules – Giveaway ends at 11:59 pm EST on February 14th. You must be 18 or older to enter. – Paperback giveaway is to the US only. – Only one entry per household. – All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspicion of fraud will be 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.

  Far Away Bird

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Review: The Borgia Confessions: A Novel by Alyssa Palombo

'Under Palombo’s skillful hand, the entangled world of the Borgias comes vividly to life, exposing the dark facets of class structure and the all-consuming greed that comes with ambition--and love." - Heather Webb, internationally bestselling author of Last Christmas in Paris and Meet Me in Monaco

During the sweltering Roman summer of 1492, Rodrigo Borgia has risen to power as pope. Rodrigo’s eldest son Cesare, forced to follow his father into the church and newly made the Archbishop of Valencia, chafes at his ecclesiastical role and fumes with jealousy and resentment at the way that his foolish brother has been chosen for the military greatness he desired.

Maddalena Moretti comes from the countryside, where she has seen how the whims of powerful men wreak havoc on the lives of ordinary people. But now, employed as a servant in the Vatican Palace, she cannot help but be entranced by Cesare Borgia’s handsome face and manner and finds her faith and conviction crumbling in her want of him.

As war rages and shifting alliances challenge the pope’s authority, Maddalena and Cesare's lives grow inexplicably entwined. Maddalena becomes a keeper of dangerous Borgia secrets and must decide if she is willing to be a pawn in the power games of the man she loves. And as jealousy and betrayal threaten to tear apart the Borgia family from within, Cesare is forced to reckon with his seemingly limitless ambition.

Alyssa Palombo's captivating new novel, The Borgia Confessions, is a story of passion, politics, and class, set against the rise and fall of one of Italy's most infamous families--the Borgias.

Kindle Edition, 432 pages
Published February 11th, 2020
by St. Martin's Griffin
****

Cesare Borgia was a teen with dreams of military life but when your father is Rodrigo Borgia, the Pope, well your life isn't your own.  When the Pope tells you what to do there is no arguing.  Such is the life of Cesare, bowing to his father (literally).  It was a nice change to have a male POV, he might not be all that likable but getting a sense of his turmoil and desires made his story authentic.  It wasn't a pretty story - these are the Borgia's after all, but seeing it from his perspective didn't justify his behavior but one could understand it better.  Actually, that isn't correct, who can really understand the things they did.

The other POV was that of Maddalena, she is a fictional character, maid to Cesare's sister Lucrezia. With desires of her own, secrets to keep and guilt to overcome she is caught up in the Borgia net and gets more than she bargained for.

This is only my second time reading Alyssa Palombo and I find her writing style gripping.  I am placed in the halls of The Vatican or in the dark alleys.  She brings to life a time of unrest with her research shining through along with her passion for the time period. 

If you haven't read Alyssa Palombo I highly recommend this book along with her previous release The Spellbook of Katrina Van Tassel: A Story of Sleepy Hollow.

My thanks to St. Martin's Griffin (via Netgalley) for an advanced digital copy in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Review: The Guinevere Deception (Camelot Rising #1) by Kiersten White

There is nothing in the world as magical and terrifying as a girl.

Princess Guinevere has come to Camelot to wed a stranger: the charismatic King Arthur. With magic clawing at the kingdom's borders, the great wizard Merlin conjured a solution -- send in Guinevere to be Arthur's wife... and his protector from those who want to see the young king's idyllic city fail. The catch? Guinevere's real name -- and her true identity -- is a secret. She is a changeling, a girl who has given up everything to protect Camelot.

To keep Arthur safe, Guinevere must navigate a court in which the old -- including Arthur's own family -- demand things continue as they have been, and the new -- those drawn by the dream of Camelot -- fight for a better way to live. And always, in the green hearts of forests and the black depths of lakes, magic lies in wait to reclaim the land. Arthur's knights believe they are strong enough to face any threat, but Guinevere knows it will take more than swords to keep Camelot free.

Deadly jousts, duplicitous knights, and forbidden romances are nothing compared to the greatest threat of all: the girl with the long black hair, riding on horseback through the dark woods toward Arthur. Because when your whole existence is a lie, how can you trust even yourself?

From the New York Times, bestselling author Kiersten White comes a new fantasy series reimagining the Arthurian legend, set in the magical world of Camelot.

Hardcover, Owlcrate Exclusive Edition, 337 pages 
Published November 5th 2019 
by Delacorte Press
****

One of my goals for 2020 is going outside my comfort zone and trying different genres with the hope of adding variety to my reading life.  Not knowing exactly where to start in the YA fantasy genre I opted to try the OwlCrate YA monthly box.  Have you tried any of these monthly boxes?  I have and they are addicting.  This basically means the YA Owlcrate is a monthly subscription for me and this book, The Guinevere Deception came in my December box (and it's signed to boot!!)

 I'll confess to being totally confused over the whole Arthur/Merlin/Guinevere story, is it real and based on history, is it a fairy tale gone bad or what?  Letting my brain let go of all my questions I sat back and took in this story. This was my first time reading Kiersten White and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. Told from the perspective of Guinevere and while the beginning was a tad slow it didn't take long to let go of my preconceived notions of fantasy being confusing and too outlandish that I was caught up in this story. It was intriguing, kept me on my toes and there were a few twists and turns I didn't see coming.

The characters fit the story nicely, it was hard for me to decide whom to trust, some I liked and others not so much. 

So I first (of 2020) foray into YA fantasy was a success.  This is the 1st book in The Camelot Rising Series with book #2 due out sometime in 2020 - it's untitled but added to my TBR pile.

This book is part of my 2020 Reading Off My Shelf Challenge.


Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Review: Whisper Me This by Kerry Anne King

Single mother Maisey Addington has always fallen short of her own mother’s expectations—never married, a bit adrift, wasting her high IQ on dead-end jobs. The only thing Maisey’s sure she’s gotten right is her relationship with her twelve-year-old daughter, Elle…until a phone call blows apart the precarious balance of their lives. Maisey’s mother is in a coma, and her aging father faces charges of abuse and neglect.

Back at her childhood home, Maisey must make a heartrending life-or-death decision. Her confused father has destroyed family records, including her mother’s final wishes. Searching for answers, Maisey uncovers one unspeakable secret after another when she stumbles upon a shattering truth: a twin sister named Marley.

Maisey’s obsession with solving the mystery of her sister forces her to examine her darkest memories and triggers a custody battle with Elle’s father. Will Maisey’s love for her daughter be strong enough to break a cycle of abuse and create a new beginning for them all?

Hardcover, 368 pages
Published August 1st, 2018
by Lake Union Publishing
**** 1/2

I won this book from the lovely and talented Barbara Claypole White and am kicking myself for waiting so long to read it.  Kerry Anne King is a new to me author, I am now searching for her previous books so I can enjoy more of her writing.

Whisper Me This is a book I dived into without reading the blurb and I instantly connected not just with Maisey and her daughter Elle but the author's writing.  It was authentic and maybe because I at one time was a caregiver it hit closer for me.  There are many triggers in this book, abuse (both verbal and physical) along with guilt and anger.
“And still, through all this overwhelming grief and fear and loss, my anger is an ever-present demon. It tangles itself in all the other emotions, stealing the sweetness from my love, poisoning my fear. I watch from the doorway, until finally everything stops.” 
 Told from the POV of Maisey, letters her mother wrote and also Tony, the fireman and former schoolmate of Maisey. Whisper Me This is a journey for both Maisey and Tony, it's about overcoming demons, letting go and letting others in. There is mystery here and while at times it might have been predictable to a certain degree, I was still anxious for the details to be revealed and things to click into place.

Kerry Anne King is an author I will recommend to those that love beautiful covers, family drama and getting sucked into a good book.


This book is from my personal library and part of my 2020 reading my shelf challenge.

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Review: Cartier's Hope by M.J. Rose

From M.J. Rose, New York Times bestselling author of Tiffany Blues, “a lush, romantic historical mystery” (Kristin Hannah, The Nightingale), comes a gorgeously wrought novel of ambition and betrayal set in the Gilded Age.

New York, 1910: A city of extravagant balls in Fifth Avenue mansions and poor immigrants crammed into crumbling Lower East Side tenements. A city where the suffrage movement is growing stronger every day, but most women reporters are still delegated to the fashion and lifestyle pages. But Vera Garland is set on making her mark in a man’s world of serious journalism.

Shortly after the world-famous Hope Diamond is acquired for a record sum, Vera begins investigating rumors about schemes by its new owner, jeweler Pierre Cartier, to manipulate its value. Vera is determined to find the truth behind the notorious diamond and its legendary curses—even better when the expose puts her in the same orbit as a magazine publisher whose blackmailing schemes led to the death of her beloved father.

Appealing to a young Russian jeweler for help, Vera is unprepared when she begins falling in love with him…and even more unprepared when she gets caught up in his deceptions and finds herself at risk of losing all she has worked so hard to achieve.

Set against the backdrop of New York’s glitter and grit, of ruthless men and the atrocities they commit in the pursuit of power, this enthralling historical novel explores our very human needs for love, retribution—and to pursue one’s destiny, regardless of the cost.

 Kindle Edition, 336 pages
Expected publication: January 28th, 2020
by Atria Books

It’s 1910 in NYC and the Gilded Age is in full swing as the Hope Diamond arrives amid its reputation of bad luck and superstition. MJ Rose placed me right in the midst of the times with her vivid pose that I have come to love. As an undercover reporter, Vera Garland highlighted some of the women’s issues of the time, poverty and march for equal rights, to name a few.

What I struggled with was the development of the plot, while Vera's goal/mission took root early on at about  the 70% mark I was still left wondering when anything would transpire in that department, the story seemed to meander. It was like the author forgot about the direction and left this reader wanting. I wasn't a big fan of the ending for reasons I can't really explain without spoiling the ride for someone else.

For the beautiful writing it’s 4 stars but the story was just 3 stars, averaged out to 3.5.

My thanks to Atria Books for an advanced copy (via Netgalley) in exchange for honest review.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Spotlight & Giveaway: The King’s Greatest Enemy Series by Anna Belfrage

The King’s Greatest Enemy Series by Anna Belfrage is one of my favourite series (as is her Graham Saga). Be sure to scroll down for an amazing giveaway.

A weak king, a rebellious baron. A kingdom on the brink of civil war, an adulterous wife and an ambitious royal favourite. A blackmailed bride and an honourable knight, torn apart by his loyalties to his lord, his wife and his future king. Welcome to the world of Adam de Guirande!


 Book I: In the Shadow of the Storm

 Adam de Guirande owes his lord, Roger Mortimer, much more than loyalty. He owes Lord Roger for his life and all his worldly goods, he owes him for his beautiful wife – even if Kit is not quite the woman Lord Roger thinks she is. So when Lord Roger rises in rebellion against the king, Adam has no choice but to ride with him – no matter what the ultimate cost may be.

England in 1321 is a confusing place. Edward II has been forced by his barons to exile his favourite, Hugh Despenser. The barons, led by the powerful Thomas of Lancaster, Roger Mortimer and Humphrey de Bohun, have reasons to believe they have finally tamed the king. But Edward is not about to take things lying down…

Adam fears his lord has over-reached, but Adam has other matters to concern him, first and foremost his new wife, Katherine de Monmouth. His bride comes surrounded by rumours concerning her and Lord Roger, and he hates it when his brother snickers and whispers of used goods.

Kit has the misfortune of being a perfect double of Katherine de Monmouth – which is why she finds herself coerced into wedding a man under a false name.

Domestic matters become irrelevant when the king sets out to punish his rebellious barons. The Welsh Marches explode into war, and soon Lord Roger and his men are fighting for their very lives. When hope splutters and dies, when death seems inevitable, it falls to Kit to save her man – if she can.

In the Shadow of the Storm is the first in Anna Belfrage’s new series, The King’s Greatest Enemy, the story of a man torn apart by his loyalties to his lord, his king, and his wife.

Book II: Days of Sun and Glory 

Adam de Guirande has barely survived the aftermath of Roger Mortimer’s rebellion in 1321. When Mortimer manages to escape the Tower and flee to France, anyone who has ever served Mortimer becomes a potential traitor – at least in the eyes of King Edward II and his royal chancellor, Hugh Despenser. Adam must conduct a careful balancing act to keep himself and his family alive. Fortunately, he has two formidable allies: Queen Isabella and his wife, Kit.

England late in 1323 is a place afflicted by fear. Now that the king’s greatest traitor, Roger Mortimer, has managed to evade royal justice, the king and his beloved Despenser see dissidents and rebels everywhere – among Mortimer’s former men, but also in the queen, Isabella of France.

Yet again, Kit and Adam are forced to take part in a complicated game of intrigue and politics. Yet again, they risk their lives – and that of those they hold dear – as Edward II and Mortimer face off. Once again, England is plunged into war – and this time it will not end until either Despenser or Mortimer is dead.

Days of Sun and Glory is the second in Anna Belfrage’s series, The King’s Greatest Enemy, the story of a man torn apart by his loyalties to his lord, his king, and his wife.

Book III: Under the Approaching Dark 

Adam de Guirande has cause to believe the turbulent times are behind him: Hugh Despenser is dead and Edward II is forced to abdicate in favour of his young son. It is time to look forward, to a bright new world in which the young king, guided by his council, heals his kingdom and restores its greatness. But the turmoil is far from over.

England in the early months of 1327 is a country in need of stability, and many turn with hope towards the new young king, Edward III. But Edward is too young to rule, so instead it is his mother, Queen Isabella, and her lover, Roger Mortimer, who do the actual governing, much to the dislike of barons such as Henry of Lancaster.

When it is announced that Edward II has died in September of 1327, what has so far been a grumble grows into voluble protests against Mortimer. Yet again, the spectre of rebellion haunts the land, and things are further complicated by the reappearance of one of Adam’s personal enemies. Soon enough, he and his beloved wife Kit are fighting for their survival – even more so when Adam is given a task that puts them both in the gravest of dangers.

Under the Approaching Dark is the third in Anna Belfrage’s series, The King’s Greatest Enemy, the story of a man torn apart by his loyalties to his lord, his king, and his wife.

Book IV: The Cold Light of Dawn

 After Henry of Lancaster’s rebellion has been crushed early in 1329, a restless peace settles over England. However, the young Edward III is no longer content with being his regents’ puppet, no matter that neither Queen Isabella nor Roger Mortimer show any inclination to give up their power. Caught in between is Adam de Guirande, torn between his loyalty to the young king and that to his former lord, Roger Mortimer.

Edward III is growing up fast. No longer a boy to be manipulated, he resents the power of his mother, Queen Isabella, and Mortimer. His regents show little inclination of handing over their power to him, the rightful king, and Edward suspects they never will unless he forces their hand.

Adam de Guirande is first and foremost Edward’s man, and he too is of the opinion that the young king is capable of ruling on his own. But for Adam siding with his king causes heartache, as he still loves Roger Mortimer, the man who shaped him into who he is.

Inevitably, Edward and his regents march towards a final confrontation. And there is nothing Adam can do but pray and hope that somehow things will work out. Unfortunately, prayers don’t always help.

Available on Amazon


Had Anna been allowed to choose, she’d have become a time-traveller. As this was impossible, she became a financial professional with three absorbing interests: history and writing.

Anna has authored the acclaimed time travelling series The Graham Saga, set in 17th century Scotland and Maryland, as well as the equally acclaimed medieval series The King’s Greatest Enemy which is set in 14th century England. (Medieval knight was also high on Anna’s list of potential professions. Yet another disappointment…)

With Jason and Helle, Anna has stepped out of her historical comfort zone and has loved doing so.

Find out more about Anna by visiting her website, www.annabelfrage.com,

You can also connect with Anna on Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, and Goodreads.


During the Blog Tour, we are giving away a set of The King’s Greatest Enemy Series in eBook!

Giveaway Rules
  – Giveaway ends at 11:59 pm EST on January 24th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Paperback giveaway is open internationally.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspicion of fraud will be 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.

 Embed Code: King's Greatest Enemy Blast

Friday, January 17, 2020

Review: The Other Mrs. by Mary Kubica

Sadie and Will Foust have only just moved their family from bustling Chicago to small-town Maine when their neighbor, Morgan Baines, is found dead in her home. The murder rocks their tiny coastal island, but no one is more shaken than Sadie, who is terrified by the thought of a killer in her very own backyard.

But it’s not just Morgan’s death that has Sadie on edge. It’s their eerie old home, with its decrepit decor and creepy attic, which they inherited from Will’s sister after she died unexpectedly. It’s Will’s disturbed teenage niece Imogen, with her dark and threatening presence. And it’s the troubling past that continues to wear at the seams of their family.

As the eyes of suspicion turn toward the new family in town, Sadie is drawn deeper into the mystery of Morgan’s death. But Sadie must be careful, for the more she discovers about Mrs. Baines, the more she begins to realize just how much she has to lose if the truth ever comes to light.

Kindle, 405 pages
Expected publication: February 18th, 2020
by Park Row
**** 1/2

So the lovey Laurie (aka TheBakingBookworm - click on link for her blog) and I did our first Buddy Read - what fun! We started on Monday planning to read 20% a day and finish on Friday. Monday we read 19%, Tuesday we got to 51% and Wednesday we both decided we couldn’t wait till Friday and basically planned to stay up late to read, it was time get all these puzzle pieces put together. We chatted, we questioned this and that and shared our theories. It was a blast!

The Other Mrs is atmospheric with its setting on a little island 3 miles off the coast of Maine. There is an old house with its dark history, a teen who resents the intrusion then add a little murder and it’s the perfect recipe for the mayhem that follows.

I’m a new Mary Kubica reader and actually went into this book blind. I didn't know what to expect and loved this experience. Told from 3 different POVs, with distinct voices, I found myself immersed in their stories. Some characters I would have liked to hear more from and others I wasn’t crazy about (which always adds that extra oomph).

As for the story, well that was some ride. It was fast-paced, full of twists and turns to keep me on my toes. Just when I thought I had things figured out, wham comes another clue to mess with my brain.

Definitely a book I will recommend and if you think you won’t have time to read it, you will because once you start it’s hard to put down.

My thanks to Park Row Books for a digital ARC (via NetGalley) in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Review: The Hidden Light of Northern Fires by Daren Wang

A novel rooted in the remarkable, but little-known, true history of the only secessionist town north of the Mason Dixon Line.

When escaped slave, Joe Bell, collapses in her father’s barn, Mary Willis must ward off Confederate guerillas and spies, Joe’s vengeful owner, and even her own brother to help the handsome fugitive cross to freedom.

Mary has always been an outcast, an outspoken abolitionist woman in a town of bounty hunters and anti-Union farmers. Helping runaways is the only thing that makes her life in Town Line bearable. As the countryside is riled by the drumbeat of civil war and the promise of an extravagant bounty for the wounded fugitive, Mary finds herself drawn to the stranger in forbidden ways. When rebels cross from nearby Canada intent on killing him, they bring the devastation of the brutal war to the town and the farm and threaten to destroy all that Mary loves.

Kindle Edition, 304 pages
Published August 29th, 2017
by St. Martin's Press
***

Released in 2017 this is Daren Wang's debut bringing to light another glimpse into the Underground Railway.

The Hidden Light of Northern Fires is told from multiple pov's, which when done right can be wonderful.  But for some, it can be distracting and confusing at times.  This book fits right in the middle, there were times I had to stop and think who was who, where they were and which side they were on.  The characters themselves I found interesting, getting the different perspectives, the reasoning and such opened my eyes a little wider to this time in history.

I think it was the location that really drew me in, especially the latter half of the book where some of the action happened literally in my backyard - who doesn't love to read local history?

All in all a solid debut with a gorgeous cover.

My thanks to St. Martin's Press for a digital copy in exchange for an honest review.