First Line Fridays # 26: “A Table by the Window” by Hillary Manton Lodge

It’s time for a new edition of First Line Fridays hosted by the Hoarding Books blog!

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This has been the kind of week requiring some comfort stories. (I had to say goodbye to one of my beloved kitties who was very sick.) SO, I sought out something familiar, easy to read, and cozy in its own way. Hillary Manton Lodge’s “Two Blue Doors” series is just that! A favorite of mine, I started with the middle story, intending to reread just it. Well…. after reading it, most of book 1, and favorite scenes in book 3, I think it’s safe to say I revisited the series.

Here, I’m sharing the first line of A Table by the Window, the book that started it all. The family secrets. The blend of French and Italian cuisine. The restaurant culture, friendships, family banter, and the sweetest long distance romance. If you’re curious, I highly recommend this whole series! (I’ll link my reviews below.)

“I can’t believe she left you the prep table,” my brother Nico groused as he and my oldest brother, Alex, carried the piece up the stairs to my apartment.

Reviews: A Table by the Window | Reservations for Two | Together at the Table

Your turn! What’s your first line? Do you have a go-to, favorite “comfort” series or book?

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Review: “Far Side of the Sea” by Kate Breslin

I LOVE when I learn something from fiction. And, when that’s combined with a riveting story, I’m a happy reader. Kate Breslin NEVER disappoints in this respect. Her latest novel, Far Side of the Sea, takes the reader on a European quest during WWI, complete with spies, tricks, pigeons, and a sweet friendship-to-romance story.

About the Book

In spring 1918, Lieutenant Colin Mabry, a British soldier working with MI8 after suffering injuries on the front, receives a message by carrier pigeon. It is from Jewel Reyer, the woman he once loved and who saved his life–a woman he believed to be dead. Traveling to France to answer her urgent summons, he desperately hopes this mission will ease his guilt and restore the courage he lost on the battlefield.

Colin is stunned, however, to discover the message came from Jewel’s half sister, Johanna. Johanna, who works at a dovecote for French Army Intelligence, found Jewel’s diary and believes her sister is alive in the custody of a German agent. With spies everywhere, Colin is skeptical of Johanna, but as they travel across France and Spain, a tentative trust begins to grow between them.

When their pursuit leads them straight into the midst of a treacherous plot, danger and deception turn their search for answers into a battle for their lives 

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

Far Side of the Sea is an absolutely riveting tale of history, adventure, and romance. Set against the backdrop of WWI, Colin’s story begins as a tentative journey for honor and grows more complex and layered as intrigue and danger heighten. When he meets the “other” Reyer sister, Johanna, his life is turned on end and their quest becomes an urgent and noble one — one that takes them across Europe!

Kate Breslin pens the most vivid character personalities (even side characters we meet)! Colin’s intelligence and seriousness are perfectly matched with Johanna’s wits and fortitude, making them a couple to cheer for – and one whose friendship holds more than a few surprises.

I also loved learning more about history and the use of carrier pigeons in WWI. It was such a daring and interesting tactic! I was delighted by Breslin’s extensive author’s note that shed more light on the historical facts of the story. I love to learn through fiction 🙂

Along with the action of this novel, the characters themselves grow and change through their experiences. I was rooting for Colin to heal and realize his value, something Johanna helps him to see. Likewise, Johanna experiences the beginnings of faith and the peace in knowing she is never truly alone as a child of God.

This novel is definitely on my list of favorite WWI stories! I was delighted with the glimpses of familiar characters from Breslin’s novel Not by Sight. I am eager for whatever era or story Kate writes about next (and I’m hoping we see Marcus again? 😉 ).

Thank you to Bethany House Publishers for the review copy. This is my honest review.

Review, Interview, & Giveaway! “A Modest Independence” by Mimi Matthews + Blog Tour

When I realized the sequel to The Matrimonial Advertisement was being released early this year, I immediately searched out an early copy and devoured it. Taking secondary characters from book one on a world-traveling adventure, A Modest Independence by Mimi Matthews surpassed my expectations and earned a spot on my favorites list! Read on for my review, interview with Mimi, and an opportunity to win a copy of the novel courtesy of HFVBT tours.

A Modest Independence by Mimi Matthews

Publication Date: April 23, 2019

Perfectly Proper Press

Series: Parish Orphans of Devon (Book #2) Genre: Historical Romance    

 

 

He Needed Peace…

Attorney Tom Finchley has spent his life using his devious intellect to solve the problems of others. As for his own problems, they’re nothing that a bit of calculated vengeance can’t remedy. But that’s all over now. He’s finally ready to put the past behind him and settle down to a quiet, uncomplicated life. If only he could find an equally uncomplicated woman.

She Wanted Adventure…

Former lady’s companion Jenny Holloway has just been given a modest independence. Now, all she wants is a bit of adventure. A chance to see the world and experience life far outside the restrictive limits of Victorian England. If she can discover the fate of the missing Earl of Castleton while she’s at it, so much the better.

From the gaslit streets of London to the lush tea gardens of colonial India, Jenny and Tom embark on an epic quest—and an equally epic romance. But even at the farthest edges of the British Empire, the past has a way of catching up with you…

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | iTunes | Kobo

Review

Mimi Matthews balances charm, adventure, and romance amidst vividly painted exotic locales in this Victorian novel. It matches a spunky and daring heroine to her perfect complement of a hero whose thoughtful nature and intelligence make their story one of friendship and familiarity not often plumbed within such an era– and their romance all the more meaningful for its resilience and selfless nature.

There are so many things I love about this novel that make it one of my favorites in its Victorian niche: the layers of the story, the wonderful world travel, the smart friendship between Jenny and Tom, the important secondary characters, the romantic tension (that. is. always. there.), and the fact that their romance is apart from the course of their lives.

I love that Jenny’s sense of identity never changes. She is a strong character whose journey is not about “finding herself”, but about her dreams changing and how the surprise possibility of love makes her see herself and choices differently without diminishing the value of her initial stance. She and Tom face their romance head-on, which I also appreciated, fully sharing their feelings and doubts in a straightforward manner. Tom, in turn, grows and reconciles his childhood and some of his past choices because he bends to see life through Jenny’s eyes.A Modest Independence and tea

While I’m on the subject of Tom Finchley, let’s just talk about how his intelligence is SO attractive. I mean, his demeanor + the era make the simplicity of being on a first name basis just downright intimate.  In various situations, he goes above and beyond to see after Jenny, all while respecting her abilities and wishes. 

With A Modest Independence, Mimi Matthews has established herself as a must-read author when it comes to historical romance. Her practiced and timeless style is proves her to be a contemporary of a Victorian voice. I am eager for what’s next in this series!!!

Content note: overall a clean read, especially concerning the romance element, but there are some very mild expletives, mostly uttered by the characters in the company of gentlemen. 🙂

Thank you to Netgalley for the review copy. This is my honest review.

Interview

What inspired you to write A Modest Independence?

I knew early on that the second Parish Orphans of Devon book was going to be set, at least partially, in colonial India. I really wanted to do the country justice. I also wanted to write a heroine who struggles with some of the same issues women struggle with in relationships today; primarily, how much we’re willing to compromise of our own dreams—our own independence—in order to be with the ones we love.

What is the inspiration behind Jenny’s personality? Tom’s?

There was no one thing that went into either character. For Jenny, her adventurous spirit and determination to remain independent were as much inspired by adventurous women of the period as they were by my own experiences with travel and romance. As for Tom, he was partly inspired by Mr. Tulkinghorn in Charles Dickens’ Bleak House. He’s also a bit modern in the sense that he truly respects women and is—ultimately—capable of introspection and change.

What message or theme do you want to communicate to readers with this story?

Hmm. That’s a difficult one. Perhaps that dreams and goals can change in light of new experiences, and that a little compromise in life and love isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

What was most challenging about writing a story set in the Victorian era with such varied locations?

The research. Definitely, the research. It was grueling.

Did anything you learned surprise you while researching for this book?     

I wouldn’t say it surprised me, but I did love learning about the steamship and railway accommodations. Some of the ships were incredibly luxurious.

Which character was your favorite to write?

Tom Finchley.

Just for fun:

Do you have any hobbies? 

Binge reading. Binge watching a good series. Shopping for pretty things I don’t need.

If you could live in any other time period in history, which would it be and why?

I’d stay in this one, purely because at the moment women have the most rights they’ve ever had. We’re still nowhere near where we should be, but it’s a lot better than it was in the 19th century.

What are you currently reading?

Bear No Malice by Clarissa Harwood. It’s set in the Edwardian era. I highly recommend it (and the first book in the series, Impossible Saints).

Thank you SO MUCH for taking the time to answer my questions, Mimi!!!! I appreciate you! (And I heartily agree 🙂 Clarissa Harwood’s books are wonderful.)

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 Facebook, Twitter, BookBub, Pinterest, Google+, and Goodreads.

Blog Tour Schedule

Wednesday, May 1 Review & Interview at Passages to the Past

Thursday, May 2 Interview at Bookish Rantings

Friday, May 3 Review at Based on a True Story

Saturday, May 4 Feature at What Is That Book About | Review & Interview at The Green Mockingbird

Sunday, May 5 Feature at Comet Readings

Monday, May 6 Review at Pursuing Stacie

Tuesday, May 7 Feature at CelticLady’s Reviews

Wednesday, May 8 Excerpt at Myths, Legends, Books & Coffee Pots

Thursday, May 9 Review & Excerpt at The Book Junkie Reads

Friday, May 10 Review at Amy’s Booket List | Review at A Chick Who Reads | Feature at View from the Birdhouse

Giveaway

During the Blog Tour, we have two signed copies of A Modest Independence up for grabs! To enter, please see the Gleam form below.

Giveaway Rules – Giveaway ends at 11:59 pm EST on May 10th.

  • You must be 18 or older to enter.
  • Giveaway is open to US residents 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 new winner is chosen.

A Modest Independence Giveaway

Top Ten Tuesday: 10 (More) Favorite Book Quotes About Books

It’s another Top Ten Tuesday, now hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl!

Top Ten Tuesday at The Green Mockingbird

Today’s official topic: Inspirational/Thought Provoking Book Quotes

A while back, I used a freebie TTT topic to share 10 favorite book quotes about books. With so many bookish characters out there, I wanted to share more of my favorites. I have discovered most of these since making that initial list. 😉 (book titles linked to my reviews!)

10 (More) Favorite Book Quotes About Books

“A plate of apples, an open fire, and ‘a jolly goode booke’ are a fair substitute for heaven.” –The Blue Castle by L. M. Montgomery

“Something about the books, the stories – they spoke to her, whether they were nearly two centuries old or brand new. Each one had something to say, and she longed to absorb the wisdom held in the secret places of each page. The ink soaked from the pages into her soul.” –The Secrets of Paper and Ink by Lindsay Harrel

“It was one of the virtues of having lived in a book for so long: his imagination painted its perimeters everywhere.” –Murder at the Flamingo by Rachel McMillan

“…I like reading books that relate to my own struggles and how people overcome them with their faith.” -Titus in Jane By the Book by Pepper Basham

“P.S. I’ve been sitting in my living room organizing my books. It’s so quiet and dark, but I don’t feel lonely. I feel safe. How could I not? All my friends are here. You should see them lined up.” – Dear Mr. Knightley by Katherine Reay

“Forget diamonds. Books are this girl’s best friend.” – Brunch at Bittersweet Cafe by Carla Laureano

“This was not a book that called into question whether or not our lovebirds would end up together. Of course they would. From the opening line, through all of the ups and downs, there could never be any doubt that there would be a happily ever after. But what sort of people would they become before they reached the finish line? Some scars would be healed, sure, but some new injuries were just as certain. It was all about the journey, not the inevitable outcome.” –The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck by Bethany Turner

“Millie read the last four pages of the hardback in her hands one more time. …she needed this. Just a moment with her book.” –A Sparkle of Silver by Liz Johnson

“…there’s nothin’ quite like fallin’ into the world of a good book.” –My Heart Belongs in the Blue Ridge: Laurel’s Dream by Pepper Basham

“Fiction is a way to express mankind’s deepest heart. His fears. His hopes. His failings. His successes. Fiction is truth… in a pretty wrapping.” –A Name Unknown by Roseanna M. White

Your turn!!! What kind of book quotes did you share for TTT? Do you have any favorites to add to my list?

Mini Review: “Not By Sight” by Kate Breslin

I really like it when authors connect stories or characters in more than one standalone book. This allows for more depth of story and sometimes revisiting beloved characters even though books might not be a series. With the recent release of Kate Breslin’s Far Side of the Sea, I knew I wanted to read Not By Sight first because it introduces the Mabry family. Now you know what I’m reading next 🙂

Not By Sight

About the book: With Britain caught up in WWI, Jack Benningham, heir to the Earl of Stonebrooke, has declared himself a conscientious objector. Instead, he secretly works for the Crown by tracking down German spies on British soil, his wild reputation and society status serving as a foolproof cover.

Blinded by patriotism and concern for her brother on the front lines, wealthy suffragette Grace Mabry will do whatever it takes to assist her country’s cause. When she sneaks into a posh London masquerade ball to hand out white feathers of cowardice, she never imagines the chain of events she’ll set off when she hands a feather to Jack. 

And neither of them could anticipate the extent of the danger and betrayal that follows them–or the faith they’ll need to maintain hope.

Goodreads | Amazon

My thoughts: Not By Sight is a layered, enchanting WWI tale of intrigue and patriotism all wrapped up in a love story that touches on the importance of faith and the strength of the truth. I LOVED the Beauty & The Beast elements, which made the story somewhat of a retelling. Jack’s prickly nature and Grace’s fortitude make their growing (unlikely) friendship one that underscores the overarching sacrificial themes of the story. I also liked the role of the secondary characters in showing the importance of encouragement and friendship.

Review: “Knox” by Susan May Warren (Montana Marshalls #1)

It’s been quiet lately in my little corner of the blogging world, but it is NOT for lack of good books! I have been reading some great stories and will be sharing more about them soon.

One novel I finished this week was the first in Susan May Warren’s new independently-published series: The “Montana Marshalls” series. Knox kicks off the family saga with a ‘gallop’ straight into action and drama with more stories to come.

About the Book

He’s not looking for trouble…

Montana rancher Knox Marshall’s danger years are behind him. A former bull-rider, he now runs the Marshall family ranch, raising champion bucking bulls for the National Professional Bullrider’s Expo (NBR-X). Wealth and success are his, but life is stable, expected, and…ordinary.  But he wants more from life… 

But trouble is looking for her…

Kelsey Jones just wants a safe life, a family, a home. Onstage, the beautiful rising star of the Yankee Belles becomes the person she longs to be – vivacious and confident – burying the brokenness she carries from a violent assault. Becoming NBR-X’s next country act is key to outrunning her past and achieving the success and security she craves. 

When trouble finds them both…

Knox and Kelsey’s paths collide when an explosion at an NBR-X event traps them in the rubble and leaves them reeling. Kelsey’s crippling nightmares return, but for Knox, an obsession to find the bomber is ignited. 

What will it cost him to protect her? 

When Kelsey’s past threatens Knox’s family, he’ll have to choose between saving the Marshall legacy or becoming the protector he’s always longed to be. 

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

Equal parts family drama, modern western, and romantic suspense, the first installment in Susan’s new Marshall Family series, Knox, sets the bar and the excitement level high for the rest of the series to come!

Susan May Warren always manages to perfectly balance story, character development, and strong themes all in a fast-paced package. In this case, action, ranching, and life as a rising country band combine with the steadiness of Knox and the strength of Kelsey; likable and supportive (in a friendship and brotherhood way) secondary characters; and themes of compassion and the steadfastness of God’s love.

I was thrilled to encounter cameos and mentions of some favorite characters from Susan’s previous series, some of which I know I still need to read! Also, the references to music, TV westerns, and pop culture (hello, Kevin Costner and Bodyguard) were wonderfully incorporated into the story and just plain fun.

Oh, and since Susan’s stories are all wonderfully connected and layered, the next book is set up well. With the way THIS ONE ENDS, I need Tate’s story NOW!

Thanks to Relz Author Support for the review copy. This is my honest review.

First Line Friday #25 :”The Blue Castle” + Readalong fun!

It’s time for a new edition of First Line Fridays hosted by the Hoarding Books blog!

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Today is a day for classic literature! I’m sharing the first line of The Blue Castle by L. M. Montgomery because I’m about to read it (for the first time) for a readalong! Author Rachel McMillan is hosting/moderating a Facebook group to discuss as we read through it during the month of April.

If you are interested or you’d like to join, head over Rachel’s page or to the group here!

Rachel is also lending her experience and knowledge of L.M. Montgomery to add context to the story and setting as we go! Basically, it will be an in-depth look at the book and its world (published in 1926), plus an all around fangirling session over the story, Valancy, Barney, and the cats. (Rachel tells me there are 2 adorable fictional felines! Yay!)

Of all the covers I’ve seen, this is my favorite!

First Line:

If it had not rained on a certain May morning Valancy Stirling’s whole life would have been entirely different.

Your turn! Find the book closest to you and share your first line in the comments! Then, head over to Hoarding Books for the linky and visit other FLF posts!