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…

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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

Review + Book Tour: “Daughters of Northern Shores” by Joanne Bischof

On Tour with Prism Book Tours

About the Book

Daughters of Northern Shores (Blackbird Mountain #2) By Joanne Bischof

Christian Historical Romance from Thomas Nelson publishers

“The Norgaard brothers and their families will steal your heart.” —Catherine West, author of Where Hope Begins

Heartache and regret, boldness and sacrifice. What will restoration cost the beloved Norgaard family?

Aven Norgaard understands courage. Orphaned within an Irish workhouse, then widowed at just nineteen, she voyaged to America where she was wooed and wed by Thor Norgaard, a Deaf man in rural Appalachia. That the Lord saw her along the winding journey and that Aven now carries Thor’s child are blessings beyond measure. Yet while Thor holds her heart, it is his younger brother and rival who haunts her memories. Haakon—whose selfish choices shattered her trust in him.

Having fled the farm after trying to take Aven as his own, Haakon sails on the North Atlantic ice trade where his soul is plagued with regrets that distance cannot heal. Not even the beautiful Norwegian woman he’s pursued can ease the torment. When the winds bear him home after four years away, Haakon finds the family on the brink of tragedy. A decades-old feud with the neighboring farm has wrenched them into the fiercest confrontation on Blackbird Mountain since the Civil War. Haakon’s cunning and strength hold the power to seal many fates, including Thor’s which is already at stake through a grave illness brought to him as the first prick of warfare.

Now Haakon faces the hardest choice of his life. One that shapes a battlefield where pride must be broken enough to be restored, and where a prodigal son may finally know the healing peace of surrender and the boundless gift of forgiveness. And when it comes to the woman he left behind in Norway, he just might discover that while his heart belongs to a daughter of the north, she’s been awaiting him on shores more distant than the land he’s fighting for.

From Christy Award–winning author Joanne Bischof comes Daughters of Northern Shores: the highly anticipated sequel to her moving novel Sons of Blackbird Mountain.

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Review

I have come to expect a story from the pen of Joanne Bischof to be one that slices straight to the heart with its truth and tenderness. Daughters of Northern Shores is no exception. With its return of beloved characters and a message of trust at its center, it is one I will cherish upon recalling (and REREADING!).

With a balance of poignancy and vivid life, the story unfolds as one tentatively hopeful yet confronting pain, broken trust, trials, and jealousies of life. The rift left unsettled at the end of Sons of Blackbird Mountain is brought to light with Haakon’s wanderings and, eventually, steps to mend it. And oh, what a heart-trial that is!!! His prodigal journey is aided with wisdom from beloved women and the hesitant restoration of his brotherly relationships.

While Haakon seeks his place on Blackbird Mountain, Thor and Aven contend with fears and joys of their own. Again, Joanne Bischof handles subjects such as Thor’s Deafness, prejudice, and even childbirth with a delicate and reverent approach, honest when necessary and revelatory in manner with others. Reading this story is like witnessing the lives of the Norgaard family, being a part of their sorrows and sharing in their hope – most importantly, their trust in a Savior to see them through even the hardest of battles.

Daughters of Northern shores is a novel to treasure and one to make you think of the impact just one person can have. It is an encouraging story that reminds the reader to hope when there is no clear path ahead. And, to hold family and friends dear, always extending grace.

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

Other Books in the Series:

Sons of Blackbird Mountain (Blackbird Mountain #1) by Joanne Bischof

From the bestselling award-winning author of The Lady and the Lionheart

“Beloved author Joanne Bischof doesn’t disappoint with her latest beautifully written, heartrending tale . . . a quick favorite for historical romance readers.” —Elizabeth Byler Younts, author of The Solace of Water

A Tale of Family, Brotherhood, and the Healing Power of Love

After the tragic death of her husband, Aven Norgaard is beckoned to give up her life in Norway to become a housekeeper in the rugged hills of Nineteenth-Century Appalachia. Upon arrival, she finds herself in the home of her late husband’s cousins—three brothers who make a living by brewing hard cider on their three-hundred acre farm. Yet even as a stranger in a foreign land, Aven has hope to build a new life in this tight-knit family.

But her unassuming beauty disrupts the bond between the brothers. The youngest two both desire her hand, and Aven is caught in the middle, unsure where—and whether—to offer her affection. While Haakon is bold and passionate, it is Thor who casts the greatest spell upon her. Though Deaf, mute, and dependent on hard drink to cope with his silent pain, Thor possesses a sobering strength.

As autumn ushers in the apple harvest, the rift between Thor and Haakon deepens and Aven faces a choice that risks hearts. Will two brothers’ longing for her quiet spirit tear apart a family? Can she find a tender belonging in this remote, rugged, and unfamiliar world?

A haunting tale of struggle and redemption, Sons of Blackbird Mountain is a portrait of grace in a world where the broken may find new life through the healing mercy of love.

Praise for Sons of Blackbird Mountain:

“Sons of Blackbird Mountain is a quiet gem of a historical romance. Refreshingly real and honest in its depiction of flawed but lovable individuals, it introduces characters readers will want to meet again.” – CBA Market

“. . . the novel provides an interesting glimpse of the time period and some complex social issues among neighbors in an area still recovering from the Civil War.” – Historical Novels Review

“VERDICT Christy- and Carol Award-winning author Bischof (The Lady and the Lionheart) creates endearing characters and a heartwarming story line in this unforgettable novel about the power of family, love, and the true meaning of home. Fans of Kristy Cambron, Julie Klassen, and Susan Meissner will love this one.” – Library Journal

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About the Author


Picture courtesy of https://joannebischof.com.

Joanne Bischof is an ACFW Carol Award and ECPA Christy Award-winning author. She writes deeply layered fiction that tugs at the heartstrings. She was honored to receive the San Diego Christian Writers Guild Novel of the Year Award in 2014 and in 2015 was named Author of the Year by the Mount Hermon conference. Joanne’s 2016 novel, The Lady and the Lionheart, received an extraordinary 5 Star TOP PICK! from RT Book Reviews, among other critical acclaim. She lives in the mountains of Southern California with her three children.

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Tour Schedule

Tour Giveaway

One winner will receive a print copy of DAUGHTERS OF NORTHERN SHORES and a Thomas Nelson/Zondervan custom tote bag (book and bag shown are examples, not actual prize) US only Ends March 20, 2019

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Review, Snippet, & Giveaway: “After the Rain” by Brandy Bruce ~ Blog Tour

Review, Snippet, & Giveaway: “After the Rain” by Brandy Bruce ~ Blog Tour

After the Rain Blog Tour

About the BookT

Series: Sequel to The Last Summer

Genre: Adult, Christian, Contemporary, Fiction, Inspirational, Romance

Publisher: Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas

Publication date: February 4, 2019

Debra Hart is moving on. Maybe. Hopefully. One day.

As a radio show host, Debra spends her mornings as Miss Lonely Heart on air, empathizing with all the broken hearts in the Denver metro area. She spends her evenings watching old musicals and trying not to think about the guy who broke up with her and subsequently fell in love with one of her best friends. Alone in a new city, Debra questions where she belongs and who she is now. When she stumbles into the indie music scene, Debra meets singer Ben Price. Rock star appeal, with a day job as a worship pastor, Ben is everything Debra wants to avoid. But he’s determined to be her friend, and it so happens she could really use one. Because try as she might, nothing seems to erase the anger and betrayal she feels. It’s time for a new dream. But how does she start over when she doesn’t even know what she wants anymore?

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About the Author

Bruceauthorphoto (2)

Brandy Bruce is a mom to three kids, a wife, a writer, a book editor, and someone who really loves dessert. She and her family make their home in the beautiful state of Virginia.

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Review

After the Rain is an emotional story that will grab your heart, all about GROWING. Much more than a romance, it is especially relevant for all 20-somethings searching for home and friendship. It’s one book I will reread with a happy smile (and I know I’ll see more layers of the characters upon a reread!).

I wasn’t sure I would 100% like Debra because of things that happened in The Last Summer, but wow how people (or characters) can be surprising! Seeing her life through her perspective not only made me think differently about events that happened in the previous book, but made me have more empathy and understanding of her behavior. This story, for her, meant change and pain and things that weren’t comfortable or what she expected, but by the story’s end, her identity is stronger and her life is a different kind of happy.

I especially enjoyed all the music aspects of this story, from a rockstar hero (who is the. kindest. ever.) to the music/theatreish quotes at the beginning of each chapter.

Let’s talk about the ROMANCE! It’s wonderful. Ben, the hero, is dimensional and complex, even though we never read things from his POV. (A feat worth noting because I think it requires major writing skills to write a main character this way!) The way Ben loves Debra just as she is mirrors God’s love for us, something not shied away from in the story. And Debra sure doesn’t make it easy for him. 😉 Faith and all its challenges, struggles, and even doubts are candidly expressed and remain an important part in Ben and Debra’s lives.

Amidst all the poignant complexity and slow growth of Debra’s relationships with her newfound friends, the adventurous side of Colorado living is included (rafting, hiking, zip lining, ohmy!)! I enjoyed this aspect, especially, because my family vacationed in CO many times when I was growing up.

I also really loved the friendships and “normal” things of the story, like falling asleep in the car on a long drive, toddler shenanigans, neighbors. Community. How change sometimes means discomfort and a new kind of normal. And how, through all of this, God remains constant, even when it’s hard to hear Him.

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

Snippet

Deb, I miss you. I think about you. Just wanted to say it again. I read the text from Lillian—Lily—Spencer as the elevator doors opened. Then I tucked the phone into my small purse. I walked toward the exit of the condominium building I called home now, catching a glimpse of myself in one of the mirrors on the wall.This woman—with short hair, ringlets barely brushing my shoulders. Dark colors, chocolate-colored eyeliner—nervous about a simple thing like going to a coffee bar. I didn’t recognize her. I stopped mid-hallway and leaned against the wall, my heart hurting.

I’m starting all over.

No.

I closed my eyes. I’d cried all the tears already. None were left. But the pain didn’t stop. A reminder of how much I’d loved Luke Andersen. How ready I’d been to link my story to his for forever. But he’d chosen my friend Sara. Quiet, lady-like, sophisticated, predictable Sara. “Debra?” My eyes opened. Cassidy and Jake, my neighbors, stood in the hallway, looking worried. I must have seemed ill. With one hand, Jake carried a baby car seat, inside it their five-month-old daughter, Gilly, slept soundly. I pushed myself off the wall. “I’m okay,” I said without eye contact. I walked straight out of the building, to my car, and drove downtown.

Giveaway

ATR Blog Tour Giveaway

Giveaway includes the following:

  • Print copy (or e-copy if they want)
  • Umbrella
  • After the Rain guitar-pick necklace
  • DVD of Grease
  • Beatles quote mug
  • Coffee warmer
  • Earbuds
  • After the Rain bookmark
  • Notepad
  • Candy

Enter the giveaway HERE. Giveaway is subject to policies HERE.

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Review + Giveaway: “Christmas at the Red Door Inn” by Liz Johnson

Book Cover & Tree

This Christmas season, author Liz Johnson takes us back to Prince Edward Island and the famous Red Door Inn with a new sweet Christmas romance in a short novella. I love this story SO MUCH I’m giving away a Kindle copy! Be sure to enter the giveaway after you read about the book.

About the Book

One blizzard. Two friends. Three days to fall in love. 

Lifelong islander Brooke Kane doesn’t know what to do with her college degree, her dreams, or her future, but she knows better than to venture far from home when there’s a storm brewing. But a promise to check on Rose’s Red Door Inn prompts Brooke to venture out. By the time she arrives at the inn, the snow is knee-deep and visibility almost non-existent. She settles in to spend a few days alone at the inn until a familiar figure appears at the door. 

Father Chuck O’Flannigan has never felt like a bigger fool. So focused on his recent decision to leave Prince Edward Island, he’s caught unaware by the blizzard while on a walk. He can only see the inn’s red door, a promise of safety. But when he discovers that Brooke—the only woman who could tempt him to stay on the island—is also taking refuge there, he knows he’s in trouble. 

With Christmas only three days away, Brooke is determined that they’ll celebrate—even if it’s just the two of them. Happy to play Scrooge to her Tiny Tim, Chuck wiles away his hours dreaming of a return to Ireland—praying that God may have plans for him there. After all, God seems to have forgotten him in North Rustico. But as Brooke brings Christmas to life, her joy makes him wonder if God may not have forgotten him. In fact, God may have big plans for both of them—if they can only survive Christmas at the Red Door Inn.

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Review

In a mere span of chapters you will fall in love with this story and its enchanting characters: the woman back in her hometown, trying to find her place in the world and the man experiencing a season of change, questioning his role in life, too. And boy, does one blizzard throw them for a loop! Maybe there’s something about close quarters, no running water, borrowed Christmas things, and the emotional vulnerability that comes with the Christmas season…. whatever the case, this combination proves just what Brook and Chuck need to experience something brand new (yet years-in-the-longing). 

Liz Johnson’s way with romance just “clicks” and makes the reader instantly empathize with the characters. There’s something about the purity in her approach that’s a prime example of why I adore the Christian fiction genre (and what sets it apart along with its Biblical worldview). The beauty of romance (with all its attraction and spark) is still very present, but it is related in a way that keeps it realistic, swoony, and with a certain innocence. I could say the same for the previous books in the “Prince Edward Island Dreams” series or her newest novel, A Sparkle of Silverfrom earlier this year (hello, favorite first kiss of the year!!!! Ben ❤ Millie ).

I hope you have the chance to read a book by Liz sometime soon! I love this story so much I’m giving away a copy! Enter via the Rafflecopter form below.

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Open internationally. Must be 18 or older. Giveaway ends 12/19/2018, 12am CT time. Void where prohibited.

Review, Book Blitz + Giveaway: “The Christmas Book Shoppe” by Miranda Atchley

Welcome to the Book Blitz! I’m happy to share my thoughts today about The Christmas Book Shoppe, a lovely little Christmas novella, as well as an excerpt and the info for Miranda Atchley’s #GIVEAWAY! 

Review

The Christmas Book Shoppe is a sweet story of a small town, little joys, trust, and all things BOOKISH! From the quaint small town setting to the quirky cast of characters, this little novella offers a glimpse into the life of Trudy as she faces the sale of her book shop (and livelihood).

How does one react to such a drastic change? With a chocolate shake and British dramas, of course! Oh, and there’s Reed, who offers Trudy quiet encouragement and hints at a happily-ever-after.

One of my favorite parts of this novella was the setting. It’s in ARKANSAS, ya’ll! Not many stories are set in my state. While the town of Christmas is fictional, it’s not too far from me considering the Ozarks hills and proximity to Fayetteville. It was super fun to see places referenced that I know like the back of my hand (ahem, the Barnes & Noble in Fayetteville).

If you love bookstores, Christmas, or light Christmas novellas, this is a quick read you are sure to enjoy!

Thanks to the author for a review copy. This is my honest review.

About the Book

Keeping her book store might take a Christmas miracle… Trudy Gallagher is quite content with her simple life. For the past five years, she has lived and worked at The Christmas Book Shoppe, a new and used book store formerly owned and operated by her great-aunt. She loves nothing more than spending her days in the Victorian house filled with books, surrounded by her cat and loved ones. As Christmas, her favorite day of the year approaches, she begins the season with her usual verve and excitement.

Yet when her landlord threatens to sell The Christmas Book Shoppe, she is devastated. She cannot imagine life without the book store she calls home. As she struggles to create a plan to keep the book store open, it seems as if her whole word is turned upside down and her every attempt to save the store fails.

Can she find a way to keep the store she loves?

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About the Author

MIRANDA ATCHLEY has written several novels, both historical and contemporary, one of which was a finalist for an indie writing award. When she isn’t writing, Miranda loves getting lost in a good book and watching period dramas. She lives in a small town in Arkansas. Visit her blog and subscribe to her mailing list at:

arealwriterslife.blogspot.com

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Enjoy an excerpt from The Christmas Book Shoppe

As she placed the last ornament on the Christmas tree, Trudy Gallagher stood back and looked at her handiwork with a gratified smile. It was the Monday after Thanksgiving, and she had spent the majority of the day decorating The Christmas Book Shoppe for the holiday.Like every other year, she and her assistant Marge had placed the eight foot artificial Christmas tree before the front window in the foyer, and Trudy had happily wrapped it in lights and tinsel, placing book themed ornaments along the branches.

“A little early to be putting up a Christmas tree, don’t you think?” Mr. Scranton, a regular patron at the book store–and the town’s resident curmudgeon–asked when he came to donate yet another stack of used books.

“Well, Thanksgiving was last Thursday,” Trudy replied in the kindest tone she could muster. It was tradition at The Christmas Book Shoppe to decorate for the holidays the Monday after Thanksgiving. After all,they were The Christmas Book Shoppe,a store that carried a mix of new and used books and was housed in the historic district of a small town called Christmas, Arkansas–which was named for the town’s settler as opposed to the holiday, as most out of towners understandably believed. They had to embrace the spirit of Christmas, just like most other businesses in town did. Yet there was always someone who accused them of decorating too early. Trudy couldn’t help but wonder; what would Mr. Scranton say if he knew that she had decorated her apartment on November first?

Scoffing at her, Mr. Scranton turned and went on his way,his pace slow as his cane assisted him. Trudy could have sworn she’d heard him mutter “bah humbug” under his breath as he exited through the front door, his harsh tone clashing with the twinkling bell above the door. Though that could have simply been her imagination, which, given all the novels she read, was usually quite overactive.

Trudy shrugged as she placed the two heavy plastic bags full of moldy paperbacks on the desk and began to sort through them.

Really, who could blame her for embracing the Christmas spirit as fully as she did? After enduring long humid Arkansas summers that often started as early as April and boasted weeks of temperatures in the high nineties and low hundreds, it was a relief to have cooler weather. When the heat of summer was too much to bear, she often daydreamed about the Christmas season just to distract herself from the reality of living in such a humid climate.

But it wasn’t just the cold weather she enjoyed. She loved everything about Christmas. Watching classic Christmas movies, drinking hot cocoa while reading a light and cheery Christmas novella, and listening to Christmas songs all December were some of her favorite things. And there was just something about all the pretty decorations and lights that made the whole town of Christmas, Arkansas look like the inside of a snow globe…minus all the snow. It was simply a magical time of year.

“I’m glad you enjoy decorating the tree so much,” said Marge when Trudy made her way back to the front desk. With a deep sigh, she added, “Putting that tree up just wears me out.”

Looking up from the copy of Thoreau’s Walden she’d been inspecting, Trudy offered a smile and said, “Well, I’m happy to do it.”

With raised eyebrows, Marge shook her head. “I can certainly tell.”

Marge was a middle aged woman who had been working at The Christmas Book Shoppe for the last few years. While she was a good employee,she didn’t share Trudy’s excitement about literature and holidays and found her boss’s enthusiasm rather tiring. It was amazing that the two got along as well as they did.

Trudy once again smiled and then took the newly arrived books and began to shelve them. It was a little curious that Mr. Scranton had donated so much as of late. Counting what he’d brought in today, he’d donated a total of ten bags full of books in two weeks. Trudy wondered how many books he had in that old, somewhat off-putting house he lived in on the edge of town.

After Mr. Scranton’s donations were situated on the shelves, Trudy took to straightening the book cases, and in the process she found herself somewhat distracted, reading the synopsis scrawled on the back covers of titles that caught her attention. She often found herself similarly distracted while working here at the shop and realized that this was one reason why her to-be-read pile was growing entirely out of control.

When she found a particularly interesting novel set in the Edwardian era, she flipped open the cover and read the first few pages. Soon her mind was thousands of miles and a hundred years away, caught up in a world of lords and ladies.

“That a good book?”

With a gasp, she slammed the book shut. Looking up, she saw her friend, Reed Thornton. A roughish smile twisted his mouth, making him look more like Downton Abbey’s Tom Branson than ever.

“You scared me to death,” she said, taking a deep breath in an attempt to steady her heart rate. “And yes, it is a good book. I think I’ll keep it for myself.”

In his hands, she saw a stack of books, all bearing familiar titles. The Great Gatsby, Wuthering Heights, Persuasion. In Trudy’s world, it was unusual for most guys to even like reading. But for a guy to pass up science fiction and thrillers for classic romance? That was just unheard of.

“Looking for a good romance, are we?” she asked as they made their way back to the front desk.

He gave her the same exasperated expression he offered each time she made a wise crack about his reading habits. “It’s required reading for my classic lit class.”

Trudy smiled skeptically. She knew Reed had in fact enrolled in a classic lit class at the university after recently going back to college in order to earn a master’s degree in literature. Yet she also knew that Reed had always been a sucker for classic literature, just like her. They’d taken literature classes in high school together and their mutual love of the classics was one reason why they’d been such good friends for most of their lives.

“You know there isn’t any shame in guys reading romance novels, right?” With a snort she added, “I mean, look at Nicholas Sparks. His novels have been giving women false hopes for years now. And Fitzgerald was a guy, and he wrote The Great Gatsby.Besides, haven’t you already read that?”

“When we were seniors in high school,” he said with a half frown. “But that was a long time ago. I’ve read too many books since then to remember all I need to know about it for this class.”

“Well, it is a pretty good one to revisit,” she said as she rounded the corner of the front desk.

As she scanned the barcode on Persuasion, she cocked an eyebrow at Reed.

He sighed as he dug his wallet out of his back pocket. “It’s the only Austen I haven’t read yet.”

She chuckled as she placed the stack of books in a bag bearing the store’s emblem.

“Do you give all your customers this hard of a time?” he asked as he accepted the bag.

She simply laughed in reply.

“You know, I could just buy my books on Amazon. I’d get a lot less cheek if I did.”

“Yeah, but you’d pay a lot more. Plus, you wouldn’t get this sparkling customer service that brings in customers from miles around.”

Chuckling, he rolled his eyes, took his bag and left.

Giveaway

One winner will receive a Kindle download of The Christmas Book Shoppe. The giveaway begins December 4 and ends December 7. Open internationally to anyone who can receive a Kindle download via email. Must be 18 or older to participate.

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Review + Blog Tour: “When You Look At Me” by Pepper Basham

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Welcome to the Blog Tour & Giveaway for When You Look at Me by Pepper Basham, hosted by JustRead Publicity Tours. I’m delighted to be sharing my review of this sweet contemporary romance novel, along with the tour. Read on for the giveaway info and my thoughts!

About the Book

When You Look At Me

When You Look at Me

Series: Pleasant Gap Romance #2

Author: Pepper Basham

Publisher: Woven Words Publications

Release Date: October 25, 2018

Genre: Inspirational Contemporary Romance

An unexpected mother-to-be

A romance-leery composer

And a forgotten melody from the past that holds the keys to their futures

When Julia Jenkins’ great aunt dies and leaves her a Victorian mansion with decades of secrets, Julia never expects to unearth a World War 2 espionage mystery. Struggling with her own past since an assault left her pregnant, her future as a solo parent leaves her dreams uncertain. The inheritance from her great aunt gives Julia the ability to take a step back into her future, but also sends her into the discovery of a love story she’d never anticipated. As she goes through her aunt’s treasured possessions, Julia uncovers some oddly written piano music with a musical code she can’t decipher on her own. Not to worry, introverted Englishman and composer, Henry Wright, is thrust on the scene by a pair of homespun matchmakers who know the ‘right’ man for Julia’s wounded heart.

Henry arrives in Pleasant Gap with the task of composing the soundtrack for his best mate’s newest film. The Jenkins’ family’s southern welcome and gregarious personalities set his reticent nature on edge, but he’s inexplicably drawn to his gentle and music-loving hostess, Julia. Uncertain how to build a friendship with the wounded woman, and rather hopeless in communicating well through words, the bond of music becomes a

bridge between her uncertainty and his awkwardness.

But her broken past and his families’ expectations build a wall much greater than the culture that separate them. As they work together to solve a musical mystery from the grave, will an unlikely romance from the past inspire their hearts to trust in a God who’s written the perfect melody for their lives?

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

When You Look at Me is one of the sweetest romances I’ve ever read! Balancing humor and a boisterous family with two lead-character introverts, this story shows the heart of people who trust God to give them strength and lead them to good things, even in the midst of a painful and imperfect world. The friendship-growing-into-romance deserves all the hearts, cupcakes, and happy sighs!

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I loved watching Julia and Henry grow, learn from each other, and just be together in so many moments of everyday life. The story felt like a glimpse of their lives with its special moments AND hard things, and through it all their relationship progressed naturally. Little moments I loved: midnight teas, piano duets, family dinners, stress-baking, musical puns, messy hair, old letters, and “The Princess Bride” references.

It was fun to “catch up” with Wes and Eisley (from book 1!!!!!) and see where their journey is headed. Eisley gives good advice, too. 😉

Seeing Henry’s personality and purpose come to life and Julia’s journey to bravery and the discovery of love’s worth was a delight. With a thread of a family mystery, humorous moments that made me giggle, and a prominent theme of music weaving it all together, this is one Britallachian contemporary romance not to miss!

My review of book 1: Just the Way You Are

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

About the Author

pepper  basham

Pepper Basham is an award-winning author who writes historical and contemporary romance novels with grace, humor, and culture clashes. She͛s a Blue Ridge Mountain native and an anglophile who enjoys combining her two loves to create memorable stories of hope. Pepper is also a mom of five, a speech-language pathologist, and a lover of Jesus and chocolate. She resides in Asheville, North Carolina with her family.

CONNECT: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Instagram


wylam  blog  giveaway

TOUR GIVEAWAY

(1) winner will receive:

  • print copy of Just The Way You Are (Pleasant Gap Romance #1)
  • print copy of When You Look at Me (Pleasant Gap Romance #2)
  • a plaque which says: Once in a while, right in the middle of an ordinary life…. love comes along and brings you a fairy tale

Enter via the Rafflecopter giveaway below. Giveaway will begin at midnight October 22, 2018 and lasts through 11:59pm October 29, 2018. Void where prohibited by law. US addresses only. Winners will be notified within a week of close of the giveaway and given 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. Giveaway is subject to the policies found here.

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Follow along at JustRead Tours for a full list of stops!

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Review, Character Interview + Giveaway: “Rose in Three Quarter Time” by Rachel McMillan

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I have the immense pleasure of sharing a review today of a novella written by an author who has also become a dear friend: Rachel McMillan. Her new contemporary novella, Rose in Three Quarter Time, releases today (happy book birthday!). It is one of THE MOST ROMANTIC books I’ve read this year (instant favorites shelf status). The second in her “Three Quarter Time” series, it takes readers back to Vienna for a marriage-of-convenience story that hits all the right notes with its story of friendship, music, and a rose-colored look at the picturesque city itself.

Lead character Oliver Thorne has also stopped by the blog for an interview! Also, Rachel has graciously offered a Kindle ebook giveaway to one of my blog readers, so be sure to stick around and enter it, too!

About the Book

Some people marry for love; others marry for music…

Rose in Three Quarter Time

Rose McNeil is rising the ranks at the Mozarteum in Salzburg as a violinist to watch. Her musical Nova Scotian heritage has loaned an unparalleled technique to her interpretation of some of the most beautiful compositions in the world. The opportunity of a first chair assignment to the Rainer Quartet under the tutelage and baton of Oliver Thorne is a dream come true— until her student visa expires and the threat of leaving Vienna looms. As much as she grieves the prospect of leaving Vienna and the quartet, it is Oliver—with his dry sense of humour and unexpected charm- she will miss most.

British ex-pat Oliver Thorne’s recent appointment as conductor to the Rainer Quartet make him the youngest in the role during its prestigious history. But it wasn’t the path he wanted. A tragic accident years ago forbade him from ever playing his beloved cello again. Now he spends his life conducting for premiere orchestras at the Musikverein. When he first hears Rose McNeil play, all the dreams he left by the wayside are reborn with her unexpected talent. When Rose learns she may have to leave Vienna, Oliver has to come up with a solution. Losing his first violinist is unfortunate, losing her is unimaginable.

So he comes up with a crazy idea: A marriage on paper only. She’ll take his name and his citizenship. They’ll split rent money and coin toss to decide who takes the bed or the futon every night. They’ll keep their secret from the orchestra. She’ll play and he’ll conduct and, most importantly…she’ll stay.

Unbeknownst to each other, Rose is in love with Oliver and Oliver is in love with Rose. They might even find a happy ending, if only their pesky marriage doesn’t get in the way.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

Rose in Three Quarter Time is an exquisitely gorgeous love story. Set against the romantic backdrop of Vienna, Oliver and Rose traverse hot chocolate, friendship, and a witty and wonderful marriage of convenience for the sake of their passion: music. What neither expects, to the reader’s sheer delight, is to realize their mutual love is romantic in nature. Their journey is full of the details that make up everyday life, from loss to joy to selfless choices and 12 kinds of cereal. The references to music and composing alone are brilliant and work wonderfully in a world of timeless classical music. (You will want to read this with YouTube open to have a deeper “listening” experience for all of the works referenced. Rachel has even made playlist!)

Oliver and Rose are endearing and charming with their flaws and virtues. Oliver’s story of personal loss and Rose’s pursuit of a dream intersect and act as a catalyst that deepens their relationship’s common ground. Add Godiva chocolate, plenty of whipped cream, knee-weakening kisses, and a Shirley Temple or two, and their time together unfurls like the sweetest symphony of romance borne of friendship.

This is a book I will reread again and again, savoring it with some whipped cream and Mozart of my own.

Readers and fans of the first novella of the “Three Quarter Time” series will be ecstatic to see Klaus and Evelyn on occasion! Oh, and this story features one of my favorite fictional cats ever: Parcheesi. ❤

Thank you to the author for an advance copy of this novella. This review is my honest opinion.

Character Interview with Oliver Thorne

Welcome to my blog, Oliver! After reading your story, I’d like to know more about you and Rose, so I have a few questions…

When did you know your feelings for Rose ran deeper than friendship?
I knew in the third bar of Bach’s Partita #2 that I was feeling differently than I ever had before. And I have seen a lot of performances. But, Rose was special. Not just the way she looks (which, truth be told, is gorgeous. She is a beautiful woman. Far more beautiful than should be attached to myself—though fortunately for me, she doesn’t seem to see that) but the way she connects with a piece as she is playing it. She loves it the way I loved to play. But, I truly believe it was when I saw her sipping a Shirley Temple. We work in a world of pandering to crowds and pandering to other musicians and patrons. Rose was so pure. Here was a girl…no…a woman… who had just played with several scouts in the audience: people who could change her life. She must have been terrified and then relieved and she orders a Shirley Temple of all things. When I saw her play, I knew she was special. But, when I saw her alone playing with a toy umbrella in her drink when she might have been working a crowd, I knew she was different. She played because she loved it. And she wasn’t trying to be anything but who she was. I had spent too much of my life with people who treated connections as a stepping stone toward personal gain. Rose wasn’t like that. I loved her immediately for that. Then we had hot chocolate at a nearby café and I spoke with her more easily than anyone I ever had in my life. People may think that my accident and its ramifications led to certain social limitations. That is an erroneous assumption. I have always been somewhat shy.

Shaun Evans from IMDB

Actor Shaun Evans resembles Oliver Thorne

What would Rose say is your best quality? Annoying habit? What about hers?
I like to think Rose thinks my best quality has to do with my work. At least I believe that this is so. She has also told me on occasion that I have a propensity to listen to people carefully and use the information they give me to make them comfortable. She was quite taken, she told me, by the fact that I made sure Parcheesi (our cat) had a space of his own when she moved in and that I had procured numerous options of breakfast cereal for her. I didn’t understand why this was so magnanimous. Listening to Rose is the easiest thing in the world. And after meeting her, you want to make her happy in whatever way you can… large or small.
Rose hates how I can immediately turn on what she calls my “conductor mode” and freeze out everything and act like (again, this is her perspective, I think I am doing just fine, thank you) “an automaton”. I just separate my personal life from music. I can flip it on and off like a switch. So, when we’re in rehearsal or in a performance, I don’t see Rose, per se, I just see a cog in the wheel that needs to turn in order to create a perfect experience for the audience and to honour the piece we are playing. Of course, there was one rehearsal when she was ill and it turned my world upside down. I don’t fancy that experience again. I need to have control of the world I am creating with each piece and so I can’t afford to focus on Rose no matter how distracting she is under the chandeliers of the Brahms Saal.
Rose’s most annoying habits? Her pop song alarms every morning. They’re so loud and she sings to them. Off-key, I might add. She also does a preposterous job of making the bed every morning she wins it from our nightly toonie-toss (it decides who gets the bed and who gets the futon in the studio). She often puts a milk or orange juice carton back in the refrigerator with just a smidgeon left. Who does that?
She also wears a lot of cat-themed clothing and she snores. But don’t think for an instant that any one of her habits would tear me away from her. I love her completely.

What is it like living with Rose (and a feline)?
I think that Parcheesi might just be the smartest of all of us. Rose has her habits but I love knowing she is there; especially because I came so close to losing her completely. Just to hear her humming while she’s washing dishes or see her on the sofa reading one of those romance novels she loves while eating cereal out of the box. Of course, I get to hear her play. A lot. And I love listening to her. It tends to get a little bit difficult (I supposed that’s an understatement) living with a woman I am madly attracted to and in love with knowing she solely married me for friendship and a piece of paper. That has its moments. She is very close. Always. And she smells like coconut (her shampoo and body wash, turns out).

Musikverein, Vienna

The Musikverein in Vienna

Do you have any “must listen” music recommendations? (Classical and contemporary?)
My favourite composer is Dmitri Shostakovich (though he is probably angry with me right now beyond the grave at an arrangement I did with one of his cello concertos). I like Shostakovich because he is a universe of music in so many different styles. And everyone is unexpected and tells a story. With the Rainer, my home orchestra, everything is pretty much Baroque and Baroque sounding. Safe. When I guest conduct Shostakovich I feel like there is something spiraling me away from myself. No two pieces are exactly the same and I love the energy. It is so different from my day to day world in the Rainer.
I love Coldplay. They have an intense musicality about them and really classical and baroque constructs. I think that is why when Viva La Vida came out, everyone called them “Chamber Pop”
Rose has me listening to music from her home in Cape Breton. The type played in ceilidhs and kitchen parties and there is a celtic flavour to it and it is really quite beautiful. It is this music that taught her her skill on the violin and I appreciate it for that. She listens to a lot the Rankin Family and a group from Newfoundland called Great Big Sea and everytime I hear this music’s flavour, I feel I am stepping into Rose’s past.
Living with Rose means living in close proximity to a million and one pop tunes on her iphone. I suppose I have learned that there is something in Celine Dion –an over the top pageantry and artistry —that is not unlike going to the Staatsoper to see Verdi.

You left your country, England, and chose Austria as your home. Why is Vienna so special?
Vienna is the city of music. The mecca of composers and musicians and has been for centuries. I was drawn to the beautiful concert halls I had played as a cellist and am meeting again as a conductor. The Viennese also don’t mind if you are quiet or not effusive. The culture here is polite and reserved which works wonders for someone like myself who is not adept at meeting people — but has to in high social gatherings. Once I step out from a meeting or a party or a concert, I can lose myself in the city and shrug off all of the social expectations like a coat.
But I also wanted to choose a place so completely different from London –where it happened. Where my life changed. To start over, perhaps. Too many places in London reminded me of playing and thinking about playing. I needed a fresh start. Now, Vienna is special because it is a constant reminder of Rose: turning and seeing her wearing a baroque get up and peddling a concert, accidentally running into her at the U-Bahn station, taking her for a birthday dinner at the Sacher Hotel. Everything in Vienna is Rose now. Which is pretty perfect for me.

What should readers expect from your love story?
Take the one thing you have loved more than anything else in the world. It could be a talent. A hobby. A pursuit. A purpose. Then multiply it by 20 thousand. This love story is one shaped around my realizing that I love a person more than I could ever anticipate loving anything in the realm of my control: music.
For years of my life, music was my compass. My center. You never feel, as a musician, you could love anything more than music, the art, the craft. Turns out, I love Rose more.
I also think readers can expect a lot of awkwardness. When two close friends get married (for whatever reason), there is bound to be some challenges.
There are so many stories (in films, on television) where something tragic or dark or secretive gets in the way. I love Rose for many reasons, one of which being she is kind and good. There is nothing sordid in my past. Nor hers.

The Dowager Countess (Downton Abbey)

A Dowager meme for Oliver!

Do you have anything to say about Downton Abbey?
How do you know that? Rose swore to secrecy on that. Well, having watched it through twice now, I have two stand out thoughts: Why did Lady Sybil have to die? I would very much like to take Mr. Carson for a pint.

Your role as a musician has been a challenging one, changing from proficiency at the cello to that of conducting a world-famous orchestra. How has that shaped you?
I had to relearn how to live life after my accident. Not just learning how to live with the use of only one hand (it is just as difficult as it seems. For years later, I would go to do something and still forget that I had this limitation. It becomes so natural), but how to live in a spotlight. In order to stay in the world of music (and there was really no option for me but to stay in the world of music, truth be told), I had to take center stage. Sure, I could teach; but conducting still allows me to be a part of the magic of the whole thing. The performance. The adrenaline and the sound. And to have control over music in proxy with the players. This role clashes with my natural disposition, though. I am not altogether comfortable with people and in front of a crowd. Hiding behind a big cello was one thing, when I could look down and just concentrate on the instrument. Now I am the focal point of concert goers. So I was shaped by two things: relearning life when the thing I loved most about it and poured my heart and soul into was taken away and learning how to be in the spotlight.

Rachel McMillan

What is it like working with Rachel McMillan?
She giggles a lot. And she talks to me. She thinks I look like a fellow from the telly. One of those detective shows. I googled him once, I can’t be as dour as all that! Besides, his eyes are blue and mine are grey.

I have to agree with Rachel! I think you look like “that detective”, too. Thank you SO much, Oliver (and Rach!), for taking the time to answer my questions. It was delightful to hear your thoughts on music, Rose, and especially Downton Abbey 😉 !

Giveaway

Author Rachel McMillan has graciously offered a kindle ebook giveaway of Rose in Three Quarter Time! Click the link below to enter the giveaway!

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Open internationally. Giveaway ends 10/04/2018, 12am CT time.