Review: “The Prince of Spies” by Elizabeth Camden

Luke & #SockSunday

Today I’m sharing a review of Elizabeth Camden’s newest novel, The Prince of Spies. It is as intriguing as the title implies! This final book in her “Hope and Glory” series wraps up a trilogy featuring three siblings involved in politics and industry in Gilded Age Washington, DC.

About the Book

Luke Delacroix has the reputation of a charming man-about-town in Gilded Age Washington, D.C. In reality, he is secretly carrying out an ambitious agenda in Congress. His current mission is to thwart the reelection of Congressman Clyde Magruder, his only real enemy in the world.

But trouble begins when Luke meets Marianne Magruder, the congressman’s only daughter, whose job as a government photographer gives her unprecedented access to sites throughout the city. Luke is captivated by Marianne’s quick wit and alluring charm, leading them both into a dangerous gamble to reconcile their feelings for each other with Luke’s driving passion for vital reforms in Congress.

Can their newfound love survive a political firestorm, or will three generations of family rivalry drive them apart forever?

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

WHAT a conclusion to this fascinating series! I appreciate the way Elizabeth Camden always includes interesting history in her stories. The history is close to the characters’ life and motives as familial struggles and rivalries separate an aspiring couple. Secrets, loyalty, charm, and forgiveness all twine beautifully in this story of history and romance!

Another very important reason to read this novel: LUKE. Luke and his language skills, sensitive, typewriter loving, soft and devastatingly charming HEART.

Camden has mentioned this is her most romantic book yet. I have to agree — and add that the romance is not found in typical form. Instead of a normal courtship or progressing relationship, the romance in The Prince of Spies is found in the way Luke and Marianne are drawn to each other in spite of their obstacles; then, in their unconditional acceptance of each other. How they show care in small ways: a note, a small gift, an encouragement, a glance that connects them in a crowded room when conversation is impossible. Romance in a classical meaning of the word is also found in Luke’s drive to improve industry, in Marianne’s eye for photography, in Luke’s mastery of language (translating! and writing!), in the passion the characters show for their purposes and commitments, and in themes of loyalty and sacrifice.

Readers of the previous two books in the series will LOVE seeing Caroline and Nathaniel settled! Also glimpses of Gray (and Annabelle!) in typical older brother fashion. Like the previous stories, a faith thread is present but subtle and feels organic to the characters, drawing in threads of forgiveness in unexpected ways.

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

Cover Reveal: “Shiloh” by Lori Benton

Congratulations to author Lori Benton on the reveal of her new cover!

Today’s the day to reveal Shiloh, the second installment in her “Kindred” duology. If you haven’t yet read Mountain Laurel (Kindred #1) be sure to grab a copy before Shiloh releases this autumn (10/5/21). Shiloh also revisits several key characters from Lori’s debut novel, Burning Sky. If you’ve yet to make their acquaintance, good news! There’s plenty of time to meet the frontier denizens of Shiloh, New York in the pages of Burning Sky before Shiloh’s October release — that’s my TBR plan!

About the Book

Award-winning author Lori Benton delivers a rich historical novel of faith, hope, and second chances.

DECEMBER 1795

A year has passed since Ian Cameron reluctantly sent his uncle’s former slave, Seona, and their son, Gabriel, north to his kin in Boston. Determined to fully release them, Ian strives to make a life at Mountain Laurel, his inherited plantation, along with Judith, the wife he’s vowed to love and cherish. But when tragedy leaves him alone with his daughter, Mandy, and his three remaining slaves, he decides to return north. An act of kindness on the journey provides Ian the chance to obtain land near the frontier settlement of Shiloh, New York. Perhaps even the hope for a new life with those he still holds dear.

In Boston, Seona has taken her first tentative steps as a freewoman, while trying to banish Ian from her heart. The Cameron family thinks she and Gabriel should remain under their protection. Seona’s mother, Lily, thinks it’s time they strike out on their own. Then Ian arrives, offering a second chance Seona hadn’t dared imagine. But the wide-open frontier of Shiloh feels as boundless and terrifying as her newfound freedom—a place of new friends and new enemies, where deep bonds are renewed but old hurts stand ready to rear their heads. It will take every ounce of faith and courage Ian and Seona can muster to fight for their family and their future . . . together.

…the COVER!

Shiloh Cover

Isn’t it just gorgeous!? I think if fits well with the “botanical” feel of the first book, Mountain Laurel.

Review: “Shadows of the White City” by Jocelyn Green

I am happy to share my gushing review of Shadows of the White City by Jocelyn Green! It is the second book in her “Windy City Saga”, but it can be read as a standalone. Fans of immersive historical fiction with a slight hint of romance with enjoy this story!

About the Book

The one thing Sylvie Townsend wants most is what she feared she was destined never to have–a family of her own. But taking in Polish immigrant Rose Dabrowski to raise and love quells those fears–until seventeen-year-old Rose goes missing at the World’s Fair, and Sylvie’s world unravels.

Brushed off by the authorities, Sylvie turns to her boarder, Kristof Bartok, for help. He is Rose’s violin instructor and the concertmaster for the Columbian Exposition Orchestra, and his language skills are vital to helping Sylvie navigate the immigrant communities where their search leads.

From the glittering architecture of the fair to the dark houses of Chicago’s poorest neighborhoods, they’re taken on a search that points to Rose’s long-lost family. Is Sylvie willing to let the girl go? And as Kristof and Sylvie grow closer, can she reconcile her craving for control with her yearning to belong?

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

Shadows of the White City is a fascinating story of belonging, grace, and chosen family.

The unique almost-generational look this connected series affords is giving readers a glimpse into the life of Sylvie years after she has matured beyond her behavior and trials in Veiled in Smoke. I appreciate her perspective and how events in both books show the impact progress and choices make on generations. Fans of the first book will be happy to see glimpses of Meg’s family!

The 1893 Chicago World’s Fair serves as a brilliant character of its own. Green’s meticulous research combines with her wordsmithing to paint an immersive setting. I felt like I was experiencing the opulence of world cultures and accents blended in a spectacle of progress and education.

Through Sylvie and Rose’s relationship, Shadows of the White City explores the meaning of family, home, grace, and the tough choices that come with adoption. Themes of faith, acceptance, and belonging are woven throughout, with Sylvie examining her own motivations and growing through the story. Kristof’s character and some of his challenges echo this same exploration in his relationship with his trying younger brother, Gregor.

Sylvie and Rose’s relationship, and their need to fully understand and reconcile their respective roles, are at the forefront of the story, keeping a quick pace through exciting sequences and many possibilities as to who is involved. (What a great cast!) The tentative romance between Sylvie and Kristof, though, is my personal favorite aspect of the story – especially their dynamic friendship! I appreciate their natural and respectful relationship and their understanding of the seriousness of commitment at this point in their lives. They are a slightly older-than-average pairing, and I am here for more of this in Christfic thankyouverymuch!

Another favorite part of this novel is the way music and literature play into the situations and moments between the characters. The timeless concepts and characterization found in classic literature are referenced and discussed by Rose, Sylvie, and Meg. Kristof relates music as a metaphor for different aspects of life. I LOVE how Green consciously uses books and music as a lens through which Kristof and Sylvie process and see the world.

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

4 Historical Romances with Beauty and the Beast Vibes

I will use any excuse to talk about great romance novels. Since it’s Valentine’s week, I’ve compiled a list of 4 must-read historical romances with Beauty and the Beast vibes. I confess to falling in love with the 1991 version of the film in my childhood, likely due to the A-MA-ZING library and singing dishes as much as the intrigue of the romance. Let’s admit it. The Beast can be a bit too prickly sometimes. That’s where stories like these come in…

Each of these 4 novels offers a romantic story and unique setting, with smart heroines and scarred heroes – all shaped by past circumstances or trials.

The Lost Letter by Mimi Matthews | Review

The Lost Letter is a second chance romance reuniting a lady-turned-governess and a veteran of siege in India. The Victorian setting, library, and initially bristly hero make the B&B parallels evident. Matthews’ stories are always super romantic and I appreciate the way she takes great care to be historical accurate.

Beauty Among Ruins by J’nell Ciesielski | Review

Beauty Among Ruins is an exquisite romance set against the perils of war and loss. A WWI estate-turned-convalescent-home in the Scottish Lowlands is the setting for this couple. Alec’s initial brooding and distance disguise a poetic heart that answers Lily’s in a beautiful way, while a slight mystery complicates their relationship and keeps the reader hooked.

The Lady and the Lionheart by Joanne Bischof | Review

In subtle and surprising ways, The Lady and the Lionheart highlights the contrast between light and dark, good and evil, and the redemptive power of sacrificial love. The Victorian-era Virginia setting of a traveling circus is the backdrop of the pairing of charming-yet-secretive Charlie with sweet Ella, a nurse he befriends.

Not By Sight by Kate Breslin | Review

World War I intrigue and secrets interweave with the unlikely pairing of two socialites — the hero a conscientious objector secretly working for the crown, the heroine a suffragette trying to prove her cause. Themes of sacrifice and trust underscore this retelling.

Top Ten Tuesday: 10 Romances with HEART in the Title (Valentine’s Freebie)

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

Top Ten Tuesday at The Green Mockingbird

Today’s topic is a Valentine’s Day Freebie! With all the talk of romance lately on the web, I’ve decided to feature 10 romances with “heart” in the title. Some of these I have read and LOVED, and some are still on my TBR. (titles linked to Goodreads)

10 Romances with HEART in the Title

Paper Hearts by Courtney Walsh | Review

Where Two Hearts Meet by Liz Johnson | Review

A Bound Heart by Laura Frantz | Review

A Heart Revealed by Josi S. Kilpack | Review

My Heart Belongs in the Blue Ridge: Laurel’s Dream by Pepper Basham | Review

The Bound Heart by Dawn Crandall | Review

The Lady and the Lionheart by Joanne Bischof | Review

From my TBR

My Stubborn Heart by Becky Wade

Change of Heart by Courtney Walsh | This one just re-released with a new cover!

The Captive Heart by Michelle Griep

What did you share for TTT? Have you read any of these books? Do you have more recommendations with “heart” in the title?

Review: “A Cowboy for Keeps” by Jody Hedlund

Welcome to my blog! I’m reviewing Jody Hedlund’s latest novel today, A Cowboy for Keeps, the start of a new western historical romance series.

About the Book

Greta Nilsson’s trip west to save her ailing little sister, Astrid, could not have gone more wrong. First, bandits hold up her stagecoach, stealing all her money. Then, upon arriving in Fairplay, Colorado, she learns the man she was betrothed to as a mail-order bride has died. Homeless, penniless, and jobless, Greta and her sister are worse off than when they started.

Wyatt McQuaid is struggling to get his new ranch up and running and is in town to purchase cattle when the mayor proposes the most unlikely of bargains. He’ll invest in a herd of cattle for Wyatt’s ranch if Wyatt agrees to help the town become more respectable by marrying and starting a family with Greta. But when old insecurities and surprising revolutions arise, can a union born out of desperation survive?

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

It has been a long time since I’ve read a western! A Cowboy for Keeps is a great one, with a handsome rancher, outlaws, Native Americans, a beautiful mountain setting, and a heroine determined to provide a better life for her sister.

This story progresses quickly, with some unexpected surprises and just enough adventure. Hedlund’s descriptions of the Colorado setting are spot-on (Colorado is a fav place of mine to visit, in books and real like!). Long time fans of westerns will be satisfied with the expected elements of the story, too, like the hard work of running a cattle ranch, the beauty & isolation of the west, and the colorful & witty characters — like Judd and Astrid! There is one slight secret that propels the plot forward which I felt was a little formulaic, but I like the way it is resolved in a realistic way.

The relationship between Greta and Wyatt is my favorite aspect of the novel. Let me remind you this is a CLASSIC Jody Hedlund marriage-of-convenience setup that’s original and full of her signature swoony-kissing-moments — sometimes with banter & sometimes super meaningful. Beyond their progressing romance, Greta and Wyatt need the faith of each other. I like how Greta’s belief in him and his dream becomes increasingly important to Wyatt, and redeems a part of his past he had been carrying. Likewise, Greta’s time at the ranch helps her to rely on God and realize she’s not a burden to those around her.

I’m looking forward to the next book in the series! I have a feeling we’ll see more of Wyatt’s family featured in the future ;).

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

Book & Film Pairings, edition 4

Welcome to another post where I pair books and films with similar themes or content! Today’s post is all about romantic comedies that happen to share a church-centric setting of some kind.

All three are self aware of their churchy humor (if you know, you know). And, they all balance humor, romance, and a serious side. Having spent time myself on a worship team, various committees, children’s choir leadership, etc., I definitely related to the humor and situations in these stories! Maybe you will, too. 😉

Off-Script & Over-Caffeinated by Kaley and Rhonda Rea

This lighthearted romcom has the planning of a children’s community theater play as a backdrop to much of the characters’ interactions. The cat-owning beta hero and the grouchy barista are my favorite characters. In addition to some hilarious dragon-building and dress shopping situations, it intentionally spoofs Hallmark movies and tropes throughout.

Then There Was You by Kara Isaac

The comedy in this story is all about clumsiness, fish-out-of-water situations (American girl in Australia!), and the trickiness of working in a megachurch (that’s sarcasm). The emotional journey of healing its romantic leads traverse, though, is most impactful and impressive. It’s a fav!

The Resurrection of Gavin Stone (2016)

It has been a while since I watched this movie, but I love the cast and remember thinking the story was fun and enlightening. I’m pairing it with the books for its comedy and play-planning story content, as well as the unexpected romance and deeper lessons its characters learn. While its hero “pretends” to fit in to the church culture while fulfilling a community service sentence, he learns what true service and faith looks like in action. AND he falls for the pastor’s daughter along the way.

Review: “Tidewater Bride” by Laura Frantz

I am happy to be a part of the blogging team for Laura Frantz’s newest novel, Tidewater Bride! It is a standalone historical romance set in 1634 Virginia Colony.

About the Book
tidewater bride cover

Selah Hopewell seems to be the only woman in the Virginia colony who has no wish to wed. True, there are too many men and far too few women in James Towne. But Selah already has her hands full assisting her father in the family’s shop. And now she is in charge of an incoming ship of tobacco brides who must be looked after as they sort through their many suitors.

Xander Renick is perhaps the most eligible tobacco lord in the settlement. His lands are vast, his crops are prized, and his position as a mediator between the colonists and the powerful Powhatan nation surrounding them makes him indispensable. But Xander is already wedded to his business and still grieves the loss of his wife, daughter of the Powhatan chief.

Can two fiercely independent people find happiness and fulfillment on their own? Or will they discover that what they’ve been missing in life has been right in front of them all along?

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

Laura Frantz continues to prove her mastery of the historical romance genre with every novel she pens. I am impressed, once again, with the immersive setting, beloved characters, intriguing events, and overall riveting story of Tidewater Bride.

My list of fav Frantz books is long because she’s one of my favorite authors of early America settings. This book is top 4! She introduces eras and places I wouldn’t normally be interested in, or I don’t know much about. She takes readers all the way back to Colonial James Towne here with high historical accuracy which vividly depicts the period and people. I enjoy how Frantz introduces time-specific customs, clothing, language, and day to day life in her stories in a natural way. In this case, I really appreciate her informational author’s note (it had me googling historical events!).

Selah and Xander’s friendship and growing romance unfold at the perfect pace. Their connectedness and backstory are both surprising and poignant, while their current circumstances offer further challenge. Selah is an intelligent and capable woman who demonstrates an admirable respect of her family and trust in God’s will. Xander is a formidable hero who deftly balances the ruggedness needed for survival at such a time with a protective tenderness for all in his care — from his laborers, beloved aunt, son, to his patience with Selah. He’s definitely made my list of book boyfriends due to his rugged charm and wits. 😉

Besides being a captivating story with a tender romance, Tidewater Bride spurs me to think about story and plot beyond the typical. Its presentation of a central romance with several other complex factors influencing pace and story direction is unique and smart. Its themes anchor the characters and reveal their hearts in a relatable way: trust, endurance, the lows of grief, joy, uncertainty, hope. It is a remarkable piece of historical fiction that I am happy to gush over and recommend!

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

Review + Blog Tour: “The Vanishing at Loxby Manor” by Abigail Wilson

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for Abigail Wilson’s upcoming release, The Vanishing at Loxby Manor! It’s an exciting Regency mystery with romance and suspense. Read on for more about the story, my review, and an opportunity to enter a giveaway!

The Vanishing at Loxby Manor by Abigail Wilson

Publication Date: January 26, 2021
Thomas Nelson
Paperback & eBook; 336 pages

Genre: Historical Fiction/Romance/Regency

A story of second chances and secrets, this mysterious Regency romance will transport you to 19th-century England as one young lady reunites with her childhood love to find his missing sister.

Her friend is missing.

After five years abroad, Charity Halliwell finally returns to Loxby Manor, the home of dear friends—and her lost love. No longer a young girl, she is now haunted by a painful secret and the demise of her dreams. Instead of the healing and happiness she hopes to find, she encounters a darkness lurking in the shadows of the once-familiar house. When her friend, Seline, disappears the very night of her arrival, Charity is determined to uncover the truth.

Her only hope is the man who broke her heart.

Branded a coward, Piers Cavanaugh has lived the last five years as an outcast far from his family home. When his sister presumably elopes with a stable hand, Piers joins forces with an unlikely partner—the one woman he thought he’d never see again. Together they launch an investigation that leads to strange nightly meetings in the ruins of an old abbey and disturbing whispers of a secret organization. The more they learn, the more desperate the situation becomes.

The house seems determined to keep its secrets.

As they struggle to piece together the clues, Charity and Piers also endeavor to rebuild their friendship. One cryptic letter changed everything between them. To find happiness they will have to overcome the grief and shame keeping them apart. But first they must discover why Seline vanished and confront the growing fear that she may never return.

Settle in, because once you start The Vanishing at Loxby Manor, you won’t be able to put it down.

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | IndieBound

Praise for The Vanishing at Loxby Manor

“Vanishing at Loxby Manor cleverly combines Regency romance with Gothic intrigue, and the result is a suspenseful, thoroughly entertaining read. Charming and lovely.”—Tasha Alexander, New York Times bestselling author of In the Shadow of Vesuvius

“Like each of Wilson’s novels, The Vanishing at Loxby Manor drew me in from the start and didn’t let go. From the heartfelt characters to the twists that kept me guessing, I relished each turn of the page. Wilson is a master at historical mystery, and I cannot wait for her next story.”—Lindsay Harrel, author of The Joy of Falling

“Abigail Wilson’s latest Gothic romance hits the notes readers have come to expect from her talented pen: romance, shadows and intrigue and a brilliantly executed atmosphere. She is a master at her craft and a rare stand-out in a popular genre.”—Rachel McMillan, author of The London Restoration

“Weaving a shadow of mystery among the gilded countryside of Regency England, Wilson’s tale of love lost, buried shame, and secret societies is a delicious blend of romance and intrigue. Splash in gorgeous historical Regency details, and murder brewing around every stone, and readers will be burning through the pages until the riveting end.”—J’nell Ciesielski, author of The Socialite

“A gothic romance that is filled with great characters and a mystery that unfolds chapter by chapter. A perfect blend of mystery, family relationships, lost years, and star-crossed love. Be warned, you won’t be able to walk away from these characters.”—Cara Putman, award-winning author of Flight Risk

Review

The Vanishing at Loxby Manor is another excellent Regency mystery from Abigail Wilson! With first person narration instantly pulling me into the story and adding to the suspense, I was delightfully surprised and guessing until the very end. Charity is a likable and complex heroine whose view of the world has been shaped by her past friendship with the Cavanaghs and her experiences abroad. As she navigates the mystery of her friend’s disappearance, a second chance at life — and romance! — unfolds.

The Regency era comes to life under Wilson’s command. I especially enjoyed the rural setting and requisite elements of the time: references to duels, a ball, strolls in the garden, drawing room banter, and midnight horseback rides. The compelling cast and exciting mystery propel the story into further layers of complexity as Charity must decide where to turn and who to trust next.

Along with the wonderfully executed second chance romance, themes of survival and hope anchor the story and main couple. I appreciate how this story acknowledges life as ever-changing with focus best fixed on the future instead of the shadows of the past. I recommend this book for anyone who likes their Regency or Austen with a hefty dose of mystery and suspense, or fans of inspirational romance and well done first person POV.

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

About the Author

Abigail Wilson combines her passion for Regency England with intrigue and adventure to pen historical mysteries with a heart. A registered nurse, chai tea addict, and mother of two crazy kids, Abigail fills her spare time hiking the national parks, attending her daughter’s gymnastic meets, and curling up with a great book. In 2017, Abigail won WisRWA’s Fab Five contest and in 2016, ACFW’s First Impressions contest as well as placing as a 2017 finalist in the Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery/Suspense.

She is a cum laude graduate of the University of Texas at Austin and currently lives in Dripping Springs, Texas, with her husband and children.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads

Blog Tour Schedule

Tuesday, January 19
Review at Chicks, Rogues and Scandals

Wednesday, January 20
Review at Pursuing Stacie

Thursday, January 21
Review at Gwendalyn’s Books

Friday, January 22
Review at The Green Mockingbird

Monday, January 25
Review at Jorie Loves A Story
Review at Library of Clean Reads

Tuesday, January 26
Guest Post at Novels Alive

Wednesday, January 27
Review at Books, Cooks, Looks

Thursday, January 28
Review at Read Review Rejoice

Friday, January 29
Review at Heidi Reads
Review at View from the Birdhouse

Saturday, January 30
Review at Nursebookie

Monday, February 1
Review at The Caffeinated Bibliophile

Tuesday, February 2
Review at Amy’s Booket List

Wednesday, February 3
Review at Passages to the Past

Thursday, February 4
Review at Hallie Reads
Review at Bitch Bookshelf

Friday, February 5
Review at The Lit Bitch
Interview at Books & Benches

Giveaway

Enter to win a copy of The Vanishing at Loxby Manor by Abigail Wilson! Five copies are up for grabs!

The giveaway is open to the US only and ends on February 5th. You must be 18 or older to enter.

Click HERE to enter the giveaway!

Review: “Everything Behind Us” by Jennifer Rodewald

I’m sharing a review today of Jennifer Rodewald’s latest book in the “Murphy Brothers” series (also a part of The Potter’s House collection), Everything Behind Us. It is quick read that balances a bit of women’s fiction and contemporary romance well.

About the Book

Neither wants to relive the past, but they need each other to face the future.

Connor Murphy lives by a code of honor and service. Dignified, duty-bound, and responsible, he’s spent the past eight years as a single enlisted airman, determined never to mess up another person’s life the way he did Sadie’s. As long as he follows orders, does his job well, and avoids romantic entanglements, he’ll do just fine. Of course, that last part was easier before Sadie rolled back into town.

Sadie Allen never intended to return to Sugar Pine—her hometown hosts too much regret—but she can’t face her health crisis alone. Not with a four-year-old depending on her. Even so, Connor Murphy’s proposal of a marriage of convenience wasn’t exactly what she had in mind. She can’t fault his reasoning—her prognosis is grim and her son could use a father—but her heart aches at the thought of a marriage without romance. Especially to the one man she’s never gotten over.

The day-to-day challenges of Sadie’s illness are enough to strain the strongest relationships, let alone one hastily conceived in the shadow of past mistakes. Will the pressure be too much for their marriage to withstand, or will they allow God to forge something beautiful through their pain?

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

Everything Behind Us celebrates the normal and challenging sides of life (and marriage). With Rodewald’s typical depth, this story has emotional themes balanced with joy and purpose. I was happy to get another Murphy brother story! I am always delighted at their family’s dynamics and practical jokes, along with the balance of wisdom their parents offer in various situations.

I really appreciate the lesson Connor learns in this story, one that is gleaned from reading between the lines: that it’s ok to admit need and depend on God’s provision, yet it is admirable all the same to choose honor and provide for those in your care. Sadie, too, faces some unexplainable challenges and learns to embrace the joy provided each day.

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