Review: “Ever Faithful” by Karen Barnett

I have enjoyed all of the novels in Karen Barnett’s “Vintage National Parks” series for their wonderful natural settings and looks at life through varied park inhabitants – rangers, staff, tourists, guides, and artists. This series is more of a collection as each novel has told a unique, standalone story set in a different national park.

About the Book

Vibrant historic Yellowstone National Park comes to life in this romantic mystery about a man hiding the truth, braving the west to become something more–and the woman who must confront his deception.

A man who can’t read will never amount to anything–or so Nate Webber believes. But he takes a chance to help his family by signing up for the new Civilian Conservation Corps, skirting the truth about certain “requirements.” Nate exchanges the harsh Brooklyn streets for the wilds of Yellowstone National Park, curious if the Eden-like wonderland can transform him as well. 

Elsie Brookes was proud to grow up as a ranger’s daughter, but she longs for a future of her own. After four years serving as a maid in the park’s hotels, she still hasn’t saved enough money for her college tuition. A second job, teaching a crowd of rowdy men in the CCC camp, might be the answer, but when Elsie discovers Nate’s secret, it puts his job as camp foreman in jeopardy. Tutoring leads to friendship and romance, until a string of suspicious fires casts a dark shadow over their relationship. Can they find answers before all of their dreams go up in smoke?

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

The setting of Yellowstone comes alive in this “vintage” story of dreaming by Karen Barnett. A well-paced tale of friendship, strength, and a little adventure unfolds in a picturesque setting that makes me want to visit ! I thought it was an insightful and curious look at Depression era events and culture, too, with characters I want to be friends with! 

One small element of this story I really appreciate is the distinction between education as separate from wisdom and leadership abilities. One does not require the other. This is shown through a learning disability of one specific character. The way Karen Barnett presents this situation is considerate while it emphasizes the worth of this individual as a child of God.

I think Ever Faithful is a flowing, easy to read story. Character driven at its heart, it shows the journeys of Elsie and Nate as they experience a season of life with great changes and possibilities. The setting is vivid and wonderfully essential to bringing out the passion in the characters – Elsie’s desire to teach and Nate’s quest to prove himself. When their paths intersect, they develop a friendship that brings out the best in each other and shows them both their worth and God’s plan.

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

Review: “Just One Kiss” by Courtney Walsh

With author Courtney Walsh’s latest release, we return to the fictional town of Harbor Pointe for a story of second chances, family, and romance. Just One Kiss is the third book set in this quaint town and reads as a standalone, though you will delight over learning more about the straightforward and bright teenager, Jaden, who had an important role in book 2, Just Let Go.

About the Book

He broke her heart. Now, he’s back, and he’s determined to show her what they had isn’t over. . . and he can prove it with just one kiss.

Single mother Carly Collins likes predictability. However, when her son Jaden’s health is threatened, her neatly controlled world is tossed into a tailspin. Nothing is certain anymore, especially her feelings for Josh Dixon, Jaden’s father, her first love and the man responsible for shattering her heart sixteen years ago. 

When Josh Dixon walked out of Harbor Pointe, he left behind his only shot at a real family. Now a successful tech mogul, the town rebel has found a cause—ensure his son’s recovery and prove to Carly and Jaden that he’s not the same guy he was back then. 

Carly and Josh are forced to wade through messy emotions and questions that have gone unanswered for years, which would be easier if not for the pesky feelings, every bit as strong and impossible to ignore as they ever were. 

Will forgiveness win, giving Carly and Josh a second chance at love . . . or will the past prove too much to overcome?

A small town romance about first love second chances and how our most beautiful life might look nothing like we planned.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

Courtney Walsh never fails to make me smile, swoon over the romance, and cry over the deeply emotional moments in her stories. Just One Kiss is further proof! I loved it!

Part rekindled love, part family drama, and part small town charming, this story has no qualms with facing the hard questions of life, likes the “whys” and the challenges of extending grace for second chances.

I have read several reviews of this book noting it is Courtney Walsh’s best yet. While I can’t pick a favorite of her books (I have really loved them all!), I can say that Walsh is at the top of her storytelling game with Just One Kiss. The way it balances serious themes with lighthearted moments, just the right amount of drama and romance, surprises that really deepen the story, and even details like *showing* the backstory of Carly and Josh through flashback scenes all impress me. The combination of hallmark-like moments (dress shop!) with weighty moments in hospital waiting rooms and the vulnerability of opening your heart (letting go of anger) and offering someone a second chance all work to make this an impactful story.

Just One Kiss is a book I will return to and love just as much upon rereading. There is a relatable humanity in all of the characters, through their flaws, dreams, and questions, that makes it memorable and unique. Its message of forgiveness and the simplicity of grace is desperately needed in our world.

Thank you the the author for the review copy. This is my honest review.

Review: “Storm Rising” by Ronie Kendig

Action, adventure, and secrets that just might set off a world-altering chain of events — that’s what you can expect from page 1 of Ronie Kendig’s latest paramilitary thriller, Storm Rising. I am thrilled (pun intended) to be on her launch team and to be sharing my review of this epic story today!

About the Book

Once lost to history, the Book of the Wars has resurfaced, and its pages hold ancient secrets and dangers. Former Navy SEAL Leif Metcalfe has been tasked with capturing the ancient text, but a Bulgarian operative snatches it, determined to secure her freedom. When a series of strange storms erupt, they must form an alliance to thwart impending disaster.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

I’ve compared Ronie Kendig’s style and stories to fav movies (like Act of Valor and the A-Team). Storm Rising gets a little more Bourne and Indiana Jones-esque, with some other globe-trotting spy stuff thrown in! Fans of paramilitary thrillers and suspense will love this introduction to a series and in the modern world where history influences current events more than the characters anticipate.

For Leif’s whole team, the stakes are high and the adrenaline-laced action sequences are plenty. Just when you think Leif and the team are getting a break, a twist or adversary comes out of nowhere to change the game. A light humor and typical snarky banter are still present, just as I hoped. Along with a tiny start of a romantic relationship in the pauses of the gunfire and chase scenes. 🙂

Fans of Kendig’s recent “Tox Files” series will delight over familiar faces. We readers get a “look behind the curtain” to just what drives Leif, and it’s eye-opening. His dichotomous strength and fallibility, along with his skillset, combine to make him one heroic and enigmatic character.

And Iskra (the operative)! What a mystery, still, after “the end”. I really had fun reading the unfolding of her character, what motivates her and the secrets she was keeping. This thrill ride is just the start, I think, of the epic and mind-bending mission in store for this gang!

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

Review + Blog Tour: “The Work of Art” by Mimi Matthews

Review + Blog Tour: “The Work of Art” by Mimi Matthews

Welcome to the blog tour for The Work of Art by Mimi Matthews! You can read my review of this Regency romance below and enter the tour-wide giveaway!

The Work of Art
by Mimi Matthews

Publication Date: July 23, 2019
Perfectly Proper Press
Paperback & eBook

Genre: Historical Romance

READ AN EXCERPT

An Uncommon Beauty…

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

An Unlikely Hero…

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

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

“In her sixth historical romance, Matthews (The Pug Who Bit Napoleon; A Victorian Lady’s Guide to Fashion and Beauty) weaves suspense and mystery within an absorbing love story. Readers will be hard put to set this one down before the end. Highly recommended to historical romance and/or mystery buffs and especially animal lovers.” – Library Journal, Starred Review

Amazon | Apple | Barnes and Noble | Kobo

Review

Each new foray into historical England (and beyond!) with author Mimi Matthews is an immersive cultural and literary experience, brimming with historical accuracy to make any history nerd happy and a swoony romance to satisfy the heart. The Work of Art, Matthews’ first Regency novel, does this wonderfully as the unlikely friendship between Captain Arthur Heywood and Miss Philly Satterthwaite shifts into something more by necessity.

I absolutely loved witnessing these two characters shape each other and deepen their friendship. In particular, the way Arthur’s support gives Philly the security and happiness she has always wanted and the way she draws him out from what he sees as his inadequacies. The swoony moments in this story are thanks to Arthur’s protectiveness and care of her. He is a man of few words but oh, when Philly gets him to share, it is apparent that he feels deeply. His declarations of devotion are even more wonderful because his actions prove him to the true and faithful. *cue the heart eyed emoji*

The Work of Art is a Regency masterpiece to be appreciated. It has “much to recommend”, like its vividly portrayed setting, horseback rides, a pack of canines that prove the best of companions, gossip and the vanities of the social class, one heart-melting carriage ride, and a romance born of friendship and trust. I can highly recommend it to fans of clean historical fiction, mystery, or stories in the vein of the classics (think Austen with a few more kissing scenes, of course).

Content note for my blog audience: this book is a clean romance with some instances of very mild profanities.

Thank you to Netgalley and HF Virtual Book Tours for the review copy. This is my honest review.

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

Tuesday, July 23
Review at Bookish Rantings
Review at View from the Birdhouse

Wednesday, July 24
Review at The Green Mockingbird Blog

Thursday, July 25
Review at Gwendalyn’s Books

Friday, July 26
Review at Passages to the Past

Monday, July 29
Review at Red Headed Book Lady

Tuesday, July 30
Excerpt at Faery Tales Are Real

Wednesday, July 31
Review at The Lit Bitch

Giveaway

During the Blog Tour, one winner will receive a signed copy of The Work of Art! To enter, please use the Gleam form below.

Giveaway Rules

– Giveaway ends at 11:59 pm EST on July 31st. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open 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.

The Work of Art
https://js.gleam.io/e.js

Review: “The Printed Letter Bookshop” by Katherine Reay

Reay book stack

I’m sharing a review of Katherine Reay’s latest standalone novel, The Printed Letter Bookshop. This novel leans towards character-driven women’s fiction with a gorgeous nod to books and faith and even looks at the roles of women in family, career, and relationships of all kinds. Simply put, is a novel for #booknerds.

Bonus fun: this book has been showing up on all kinds of online bookish lists, like this “8 of the Best Books About Books” list at Book Riot, Goodreads, and more! This makes me happy!

About the Book

Love, friendship, and family find a home at the Printed Letter Bookshop

One of Madeline Cullen’s happiest childhood memories is of working with her Aunt Maddie in the quaint and cozy Printed Letter Bookshop. But by the time Madeline inherits the shop nearly twenty years later, family troubles and her own bitter losses have hardened Madeline’s heart toward her once-treasured aunt—and the now struggling bookshop left in her care.

While Madeline intends to sell the shop as quickly as possible, the Printed Letter’s two employees have other ideas. Reeling from a recent divorce, Janet finds sanctuary within the books and within the decadent window displays she creates. Claire, though quieter than the acerbic Janet, feels equally drawn to the daily rhythms of the shop and its loyal clientele, finding a renewed purpose within its walls. When Madeline’s professional life takes an unexpected turn, and when a handsome gardener upends all her preconceived notions, she questions her plans and her heart. She begins to envision a new path for herself and for her aunt’s beloved shop—provided the women’s best combined efforts are not too little, too late.

The Printed Letter Bookshop is a captivating story of good books, a testament to the beauty of new beginnings, and a sweet reminder of the power of friendship.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

The Printed Letter Bookshop is part philosophical view of human nature and part love letter to books and stories, all expressed on a journey of three unlikely friends steeped in grace. Katherine Reay is a reader and clearly knows her craft. The love of books is prominent in all of her stories, coupled with a storytelling style that reveals just enough of a complex situation and each character’s plight bit by bit, drawing the reader in to their stories and hearts.

With The Printed Letter Bookshop, three lives intersect because of the legacy of another woman. This legacy impacts them in unforeseen ways, all living through and learning the about life’s challenges, the pain that sometimes accompanies love, how to grow and forgive, and even the joys and laughter found in unlikely kinship.

One of the best parts of this story is the slowly unfurling love story that’s magnetic and unlike anything from Reay thus far. The romance is less prominent in this than her typical style but still integral to the story. When Madeline and a certain someone are in the same scene, it sparkles. Along with the “new” romance of Madeline’s, I appreciate how Claire and Janet’s POVs explore different stages of romance, even complacency and loss, through a lens of relationship and love.

This is truly a book to lose yourself in and yet find the wonder of story again. With nods and references to countless stories (and a lovely reading list at the back!), I found myself adding to my to-be-read list every few chapters. If you’re a return Reay reader, you might spot a few references to her other fictional characters in the pages!

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

Review: “Wooing Cadie McCaffrey by Bethany Turner #woocam

I have finally put into words my feelings and love for Bethany Turner’s latest standalone novel, Wooing Cadie McCaffrey! In one word, it is a delight!

About the Book

After four years with her boyfriend, Cadie McCaffrey is thinking of ending things. Convinced Will doesn’t love her in the “forever” way she loves him, Cadie believes it’s time for her to let him go before life passes her by. When a misunderstanding leads to a mistake, leaving her hurt, disappointed, and full of regret, she finally sends him packing.

But for Will, the end of their relationship is only the beginning of his quest to figure out how to be the man Cadie wanted him to be. With the dubious guidance of his former pro-athlete work friends and tactics drawn from Cadie’s favorite romantic comedies, Will attempts to win her back. It’s a foolproof plan. What could possibly go wrong?

Bethany Turner is back with more of the heart and humor readers love. Anyone who enjoys a good romance or binges romantic comedies on Netflix will devour this delightful story.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

Wooing Cadie McCaffrey (or WooCaM, as the fandom calls it) is a resonating story that will make you laugh out loud, fall in love with the characters, and experience all of the emotions ever defined right along with them. It’s truly a story for movie lovers, with too many romcom references to count. It lovingly makes fun of some classic film moments and even draws truths from a few, using such light elements to deal with the deeper, more serious veins of the story.

I have so many FEELINGS about this story! Mostly, I love the balance of hilarity AND real life. Author Bethany Turner doesn’t shy away from realities, handling some tough topics with a delicate candor. I think that’s what I like best about this story! The decisions Will and Cadie make are not always the best, and that’s ok, because it highlights the dilemmas, temptations, and even the mixed signals of modern relationships. All of this makes Will and Cadie’s love story more meaningful because they deal with messy, real-life stuff. And learn about forgiveness. And what it means to have authentic faith. And the importance of honesty, a boombox, and best friends to see you through.

If you’re looking for a romcom with a hint of faith, I highly recommend WooCaM! It has a few surprises that are refreshing and brave for the genre, along with expected hilarity, a colorful cast of characters, and the BEST banter and chapter titles ever. (Case in point: see my above photo.)

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

Review: “Murder in the City of Liberty” by Rachel McMillan

Hamish in Italy! He visited the country of his “heritage” with me.

How many words are too many words for a book review!? Because I have a LOT to say about Rachel McMillan’s latest historical novel, Murder in the City of Liberty. I always have a lot to say about Rachel’s stories 😉 I highly recommend reading the previous book in this series (Murder at the Flamingo) for the best reading experience!

About the Book

Hamish DeLuca and Regina “Reggie” Van Buren have a new case–and this one brings the war in Europe dangerously close to home.

Determined to make a life for herself, Regina “Reggie” Van Buren bid goodbye to fine china and the man her parents expected her to marry and escaped to Boston. What she never expected to discover was that an unknown talent for sleuthing would develop into a business partnership with the handsome, yet shy, Hamish DeLuca.

Their latest case arrives when Errol Parker, the leading base stealer in the Boston farm leagues, hires Hamish and Reggie to investigate what the Boston police shove off as a series of harmless pranks. Errol believes these are hate crimes linked to the outbreak of war in Europe, and he’s afraid for his life. Hamish and Reggie quickly find themselves in the midst of an escalating series of crimes that seem to link Boston to Hamish’s hometown of Toronto.

When an act of violence hits too close to home, Hamish is driven to a decision that may sever him from Reggie forever . . . even more than her engagement to wealthy architect Vaughan Vanderlaan.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

Murder in the City of Liberty whisks you away on a mystery and adventure that’s really about the characters and friendships. Loyalty, romance, relationships and their ties to the past, grace, and social justice are all themes displayed in an immersive setting of Boston with its cobblestones and steeples. I feel like I could map Boston from the descriptions Hamish and Nate give!

Rachel McMillan writes stories for the romantic at heart. I’m not referring to “love stories”, though a hefty dose of starry eyes, dancing, and the delights of attraction are all found in the pages of this story. I’m referring to the slight idealist slant of her stories with characters to root for and eventual happy endings. A balance of realism is always present, too, portrayed through the realities of the era and their parallels to today’s social and cultural challenges. HOPE is always present.

I ❤ Reggie’s comebacks!

You probably know I’m here for the romance. Especially this slow-building, delicious connection and camaraderie between Hamish and Reggie. I thought I wanted Reggie to have an “Aha!” moment, but I was wrong. What Rachel gives readers is a gradual recognition where Reggie’s concerned, the sparks finally making sense with just how intertwined Hamish is with her daily life and happiness. And with her “journal of independence”. It is perfect!

Within the romantic aspect of the story, the truth of how Reggie is changing and realizing her path in life is magnificent. I really like how she reconciles her past with her identity, embracing how her choices were not in vain but a part of herself, part of what makes her tick and what determines the life she is meant to choose.

Let’s talk about two of the secondary characters: Nate and Luca. They couldn’t be more different, but both have a deep and meaningful connection with Hamish. Both are catalysts for Hamish’s growth. I have liked Nate from the very beginning, but this story makes him one of my very favorite secondary characters who gets to steal the scene more than once! I appreciated the way he reminds Hamish that patience is required for change. And I liked how a particular thing surprised Nate near the end 🙂

And Luca. He brings the theme of loyalty to the forefront. It’s funny how he shapes, defines, even dictates the progression of the story yet he’s hardly “present” on the page. Only a strongly written character can have that kind of presence through a story, to be both likable and disruptive at the same time.

The brave thing Rachel McMillan is doing with these characters is shining a light on mental illness and bringing awareness through the HERO of the story. In this second book, we often see Hamish through the lens of his closest circle, showing both their familiarity with him and the grace they extend as they embrace each other’s imperfections. The maturing in this is twofold: growing Hamish as a person and McMillan’s story style and presentation developing alongside.

I could go on and on about this story, how it incorporates current events of its era, how it handles prejudice and war, how it shows the fallacy and strength of human nature. Wit, baseball, cannolis, smart banter, nods to classic films, end-of-the-world-kisses, and blue eyes are just the icing on top of this one-of-a-kind adventure that I’m sure to love even more upon rereading!

Review of book 1: Murder at the Flamingo

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