Mini Review: “Lady of a Thousand Treasures” by Sandra Byrd

Today I’m sharing my thoughts on a novel I read earlier this year! This is a beautiful story; one I would recommend to anyone who enjoys historical romance or the Victorian era.

About the book: The death of a longtime client, Baron Lydney, offers an unexpected complication when Eleanor is appointed the temporary trustee of the baron’s legendary collection. She must choose whether to donate the priceless treasures to a museum or allow them to pass to the baron’s only living son, Harry—the man who broke Eleanor’s heart.

Eleanor distrusts the baron’s motives and her own ability to be unbiased regarding Harry’s future. Harry claims to still love her and Eleanor yearns to believe him, but his mysterious comments and actions fuel her doubts. When she learns an Italian beauty accompanied him on his return to England, her lingering hope for a future with Harry dims.

With the threat of debtor’s prison closing in, Eleanor knows that donating the baron’s collection would win her favor among potential clients, saving Sheffield Brothers. But the more time she spends with Harry, the more her faith in him grows. Might Harry be worthy of his inheritance, and her heart, after all? As pressures mount and time runs out, Eleanor must decide whom she can trust—who in her life is false or true, brass or gold—and what is meant to be treasured.

Goodreads | Amazon

My thoughts: Lady of a Thousand Treasures is a beautiful, detailed, and sometimes-mysterious Victorian romance. I really appreciated the subtlety of this story; how the romantic relationship built on a history already established, how the slight mystery and story twists all flowed seamlessly, how the themes of eternal worth and value featured prominently. This is the first novel I’ve read by Sandra Byrd, and I have to say that I want to catch up now!

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

Review: “Miss Milton Speaks Her Mind” by Carla Kelly

I have discovered a new fav Regency author! Thanks to Rachel McMillan who always has the best recommendations. This is the second book I’ve read by Carla Kelly — I also enjoyed The Wedding Journey (see my review for it on Goodreads here).

About the Book

Orphaned as a child, Miss Jane Milton lives to serve her Stover cousins, tending to their every need. Her beloved cousin Blair suffered a slow and painful death from wounds received at the Battle of Waterloo, and now, ten months later, Miss Milton feels utterly forlorn. Her one solace is caring for Lord Canfield’s orphaned son, Andrew, a sad boy dogged by rumors that he was conceived before Lord Canfield married his mother. Is the source of these rumors Miss Milton’s second cousin, the imperious Lady Carruthers, who seems determined to disinherit Andrew in favor of her own profligate son? If only Miss Milton could stand up to the horrid woman and her insults.

Miss Milton finds herself spending more and more time in the company of her neighbor, a handsome tradesman. Mr. Butterfield, said to “smell of the shop,” in fact smells deliciously of lavender. He has an encouraging effect on Miss Milton, helping her to understand that her world will not collapse if she learns to speak her mind.

As her regard for her neighbor grows, Miss Milton remains aware of the many reasons they cannot be together. Fifteen years older, Mr. Butterfield is dangerously liberal-minded and earns his fortune through hard work. And she, whose aristocratic relatives look down on men of his ilk, is an impoverished spinster, almost thirty years old. In truth, the real gulf between them lies in the many guilty secrets they and others seem determined to guard at all costs.

Goodreads

Review

I just want to gush over the deep characterization and perfect construction of this novel! It has family secrets, twists, and an interconnnectedness to it all which I didn’t anticipate at the very beginning but some of which I slowly suspected as the story progressed. Still, it was presented in a manner to engage emotions.

Mr. Butterworth (or Mr. B) is the most delightfully quiet and good-natured hero. His encouragement means so much to Jane, both as her character changes and as her confidence grows. And when he finally FINALLY declares himself to her, he shows that he can be sweetly articulate. His role is often important for all his actions and things unsaid as they are his choices.

Then there’s JANE! The novel is all from her point of view. I really liked that she’s not suddenly someone new at the end of the story, she just finds the courage and necessary wisdom to tactfully make her opinions known. Mr. B sees her — really sees her– when she feels like she hasn’t been noticed. She has, though, and part of the beauty of this story is her realization of the value and friendships she does have, along with the themes of forgiveness, both of self and of others, that intertwine with Jane and Mr. B’s paths.

I want to point out similarities between this novel and a fav, NORTH AND SOUTH. Her name is Milton. He is a cotton mill owner, of “working class”, sometimes brooding and shy to express himself. She is subject to her family and their need of her more than her own free choices. While considering the era, Thornton would be a product of Mr. B’s generation, but there are still similarities that made me happy to ponder and want to rewatch the miniseries for the 58th time.

Content note: this is a clean historical romance with just a very few mild expletives uttered by gentlemen.

Audiobook Review: “Something New” by Joanne Bischof

Newly released as a novella on its own, Something New by Joanne Bischof is a sweet story that historical romance fans will adore. In particular, fans of Bischof’s “Blackbird Mountain” series might recognize a character or two!

About the Book

After waiting four years for her best friend to return from sea, Wren Cromwell’s dream of building a life with Tate Kennedy has wilted during his unexpected absence. Then, just as suddenly as he departed the mountain of their childhood, he returns, bringing with him tales of Norway’s icy fjords and his time aboard ship on the North Sea. As spring unfurls around them, so unfolds a new hope in Wren’s heart, and a new chance at love on the horizon. But with Tate’s longing for exciting voyages still alive, will he vanish to the high seas again, or will this land he’s returned to, and Wren’s steadfast love, be enough to nurture his adventurous spirit?

From Christy and Carol Award-winning author, Joanne Bischof, comes a newly repackaged novella once featured in the historical compilation, Heirloom Brides.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

A beautiful novella! Joanne Bischof’s poetic prose-like style shines (once again!) in this short little story. Romantic in its simplicity, this story of Wren and Tate carries a bountiful message of hope, dreams longed for and realized, and the power of trust and restoration. I listened to the audio presentation of this story, and it was perfection! The Appalachian accents, the sweet moments of the story, all delivered with emotion and tenderness by the narrator, Jelyne Helms.

Many thanks to the author for the audiobook access. This is my honest review.

Mini Review: “The Viscount and the Vicar’s Daughter” by Mimi Matthews

I’m over here reading my way through Mimi Matthew’s backlist of books and LOVING IT! She writes historically accurate Victorian fiction like no other.

About the Book

A WORLD-WEARY RAKE

After years of unbridled debauchery, Tristan Sinclair, Viscount St. Ashton has hit proverbial rock bottom. Seeking to escape his melancholy, he takes refuge at one of Victorian society’s most notorious house parties. As the Christmas season approaches, he prepares to settle in for a month of heavy drinking…until an unexpected encounter changes his plans—and threatens his heart.

A PRIM VICAR’S DAUGHTER

Valentine March is not the drab little spinster she appears to be. When her new job as a lady’s companion lands her smack in the middle of Yorkshire with England’s most infamous rake, she resolves to keep her head down and her eyes fixed firmly on her future—a future which most definitely does not include a sinfully handsome viscount.

A MATCH MADE IN SCANDAL

A friendship is impossible. An affair out of the question. But when one reckless act binds them together, will two star-crossed souls discover there’s more to each other than meets the eye? Or will revelations from the past end their fragile romance before it begins?

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

The Viscount and the Vicar’s Daughter has the makings of a scandalous romance but what is found between its pages is a sweet romance and story of friendship. Tristan and Valentine have an unconventional beginning, but as their identities tie them together and more is revealed about their characters, an intriguing story of romance and second chances unfolds. Mimi’s subtle style of weaving all story elements together shines through in this novel, particularly where Valentine’s surprising history is concerned.

And oh, the themes of this story! How a person cannot be forced to change — it must be a personal choice. How faith in someone can encourage and uplift. How forgiveness, second chances, and love are all possibilities, no matter the negativity of circumstances. I also really loved the inclusion of Bible verses as a particular element and how they conversationally figure into the dynamic between Tristan and Valentine.

I was particularly happy to read this novel as it was hinted to as a distant and early-planned connection to her latest story, The Work of Art, in her draft of Art if it were to have been a Victorian piece. Alas, The Work of Art was rewritten for the Regency Era and it is a GEM of a story! But I had no qualms imaging Tristan’s story as a later-set version of Captain Arthur Heywood’s brother. (I hope all of these ramblings/gushings make sense!)

If you haven’t indulged in a Mimi Matthews novel yet, what are you waiting for?!

Content note: this novel is a clean romance but has a few mild expletives (all era appropriate) throughout.

Review: “The Gryphon Heist” by James R. Hannibal

Brace yourself for my thoughts on a new thrilling novel of espionage I’d recommend to any fans of military fiction or suspense! I anticipate The Gryphon Heist is the start of a new remarkable series from author James R. Hannibal.

About the Book

Talia Inger is a rookie CIA case officer assigned not to the Moscow desk as she had hoped but to the forgotten backwaters of Eastern Europe–a department only known as “Other.” When she is tasked with helping a young, charming Moldovan executive secure his designs for a revolutionary defense technology, she figures she’ll be back in DC within a few days. But that’s before she knows where the designs are stored–and who’s after them. With her shady civilian partner, Adam Tyler, Talia takes a deep dive into a world where only criminal minds and unlikely strategies will keep the Gryphon, a high-altitude data vault, hovering in the mesosphere.

Even Tyler is more than he seems, and Talia begins to wonder: Is he helping her? Or using her access to CIA resources to pull off an epic heist for his own dark purposes?

In this Ocean’s Eleven-meets-Mission Impossible thriller, former tactical deception officer and stealth pilot James R. Hannibal offers you a nonstop thrill ride through the most daring heist ever conceived. 

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

The Gryphon Heist is an action-packed thriller of a novel! One that should require a seatbelt warning 😊. The synopsis aptly references Ocean’s 11 meeting Mission: Impossible, and I must agree. I’d also add a comparison to the high stakes, globe-trotting, and gadgetry of a James Bond film with a few more espionage and psychology elements.

We’ll get to Talia and Tyler in a moment, but first I want to talk about the cast of characters! The supporting characters are some of the most vivid and memorable I can recall from an ensemble cast in the vein of Ronie Kendig or Susan May Warren. I enjoyed getting to know their quirks and skillsets! Hannibal’s style balances such a large cast admirably, complete with accents I could “hear” through the succinct phrasing.

Even with all the action, the story is deep and layered.  Talia is a compelling heroine whose emotions and personal journey to grace are handled extremely well and realistically. The secrets and twists she deals with unfold in surprising ways, and Tyler plays a significant role as an enigmatic leader in all of it. I couldn’t predict ANYTHING about the finally-revealed villain or real plot behind the subterfuge. The end is intriguing, to say the least, and I anticipate another surprising and high stakes story with the sequel releasing early next year!

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

Review: “The Spice King” by Elizabeth Camden

One thing I always love about Elizabeth Camden’s novels are her intelligent heroines who illuminate aspects of women’s roles in society during the setting’s era. In her latest novel, The Spice King, a tenacious botanist is finding her place in 1900 Washington, DC. There happens to a hero to this story, too, as evidenced by the handsome cover….

About the Book

Gray Delacroix has dedicated his life to building his very successful global spice empire, but it has come at a cost. Resolved to salvage his family before it spirals out of control, he returns to his ancestral home to save his brother and sister before it’s too late.

As a junior botanist for the Smithsonian, Annabelle Larkin has been charged with the impossible task of gaining access to the notoriously private Delacroix plant collection. If she fails, she will be out of a job and the family farm in Kansas will go under. She has no idea that in gaining entrance to the Delacroix world, she will unwittingly step into a web of dangerous political intrigue far beyond her experience.

Unable to deny her attraction to the reclusive business tycoon, Annabelle will be forced to choose between her heart and loyalty to her country. Can Gray and Annabelle find a way through the storm of scandal without destroying the family Gray is fighting to save?

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

The Spice King is an intelligent historical romance!
Things I loved about this novel:

  • the tenacious heroine! She’s capable and wonderfully feminine, yet she still proves her ability and right to work in an environment history traditionally viewed as a place for men. And she loves her sister so much!
  • a brooding and fiercely loyal hero, whose facade begins to melt when he sees the potential for a dream for companionship and family unrealized (both in a romantic way and the relationships restored with his siblings)
  • political intrigue and secrets! Historically accurate WASHINGTON and the White House!
  • themes truth, loyalty, patriotism, trust
  • I enjoyed learning new things about exotic spices & foods we take for granted today!
  • the friendship and rapport between Gray and Annabelle. It’s a dynamic and subtle relationship. He is attracted to her intelligence and she greatly respects him!
  • Gray’s relationship with his siblings! I’m excited about more to come… and hopefully some answers to the twists of the story.
  • THE SWOONY COVER. I’M IN LOVE. And the hero very much matches the cover, so extra points for matchy accuracy!
  • the romance-that’s-way-smart. The romance is central to the story, yes, but even more so is the simple mature friendship that develops between Gray and Annabelle. Camden doesn’t dwell on the physical dynamic between them, that’s done well and subtly just so the reader senses the attraction. The appeal in their romance is more about camaraderie, intelligence, a recognition that each compliments the other, and a mutual respect. This elevates the story to a higher level, I think!

I am excited for the rest of this “Hope and Glory” series! I know we will see more of Gray and Annabelle.

Thanks to Bethany House for the review copy. This is my honest review.

Audiobook Review: “Wedded to War” by Jocelyn Green

Wedded to War is a fascinating, layered, and quite serious look at the front lines of women’s foray into nursing during the beginning of the Civil War. Jocelyn Green has written an epic story that encompasses many true-life historical figures and accurate events that serve as characters in themselves as heroines Charlotte Waverly, Ruby O’Flannery, and others work as part of the Sanitary Commission to aid, nurse, and manage the ghastly aftermath of war in their very own country. As Charlotte finds her purpose in showing compassion and grace to everyone around her, she also matures over the timeline of the story into a capable woman of character. The hint of a romance between Charlotte and the hero was happily fitting and complimentary to her role, and I was delighted to learn that the couple is based on a real historical couple! Ruby, too, is a compelling heroine. I wondered, at times, how the twisting and sad threads of her story were going to work into the whole, but like the theme of the novel, all of it works toward the surprising good and satisfying end to the story.

The research and work that went into this novel is obvious. I am in awe of what the real-life heroines who inspired this story did to sacrifice and serve in a time of war.

The audio presentation of this novel, in particular, is well-told and riveting. The narrator clearly and skillfully does different intonations and accents for the different characters, including Ruby’s Irish one!

THANK YOU to the author for the audiobook version of this novel for the purpose of a review. This is my honest review.

Wedded to War on Goodreads | Amazon | Audible