It’s always fun to go back through an author’s backlist and discover interesting stories. That’s part of what I’m doing in 2023 for a backlist reading challenge to check off (at least) 23 books from my TBR. Lady Maybe by Julie Klassen has been on my to-be-read list for a while, and I’ve been very curious about it because it’s a different publishing house (a gen market title vs her usual inspirational imprint). I listened to the audiobook of this one, and greatly enjoyed that format!
In the new novel by the three-time Christy Award-winning author of The Maid of Fairbourne Hall, a woman’s startling secrets lead her into unexpected danger and romance in Regency England…
One final cry…“God almighty, help us!” and suddenly her world shifted violently, until a blinding collision scattered her mind and shook her bones. Then, the pain. The freezing water. And as all sensation drifted away, a hand reached for hers, before all faded into darkness…
Now she has awakened as though from some strange, suffocating dream in a warm and welcoming room she has never seen before, and tended to by kind, unfamiliar faces. But not all has been swept away. She recalls fragments of the accident. She remembers a baby. And a ring on her finger reminds her of a lie.
But most of all, there is a secret. And in this house of strangers she can trust no one but herself to keep it.
I wasn’t sure at first what to think about Lady Maybe! It’s unconventional in some ways, and a gen market departure for Klassen from her usual inspirational publisher (though the content is no different, other than a closed-door depiction of infidelity).
I did enjoy the audiobook, and as I’ve come to expect from a Klassen Regency story, it is all excellently told and described.
My review is in rather general terms because to share specific names and examples would spoil much of the story for the reader!
Sometimes I liked Hannah, the heroine, and admired her determination; at other times I was frustrated with her fickle choices and sometimes-deceit. Having read all of it and knowing the surprises, twists, and identities of certain characters, I do see why she justified her actions and why she was driven to make some of her choices.
A love triangle is not my preferred trope, but Klassen uses it here to spin the story in a unique way and to surprise the reader at a few turns. I’m happy with the way the love thread worked out, though I have to admit ambivalence at a certain point towards both potential heroes. Both were portrayed realistically with noble qualities, flaws, and prejudices, though I think one of them was a little more manipulative at times.
It is interesting to me how the significant themes of Lady Maybe are portrayed in oppsites, as in truth vs deceit, honor vs shame, and fidelity vs unfaithfulness. These characteristics and behaviors are shown with full consequences, both positive and negative. I think this is my favorite thing about the story, beyond any particular character or other story element.
Today’s topic is Books I Loved So Much I Had to Get a Copy for My Personal Library. I’m editing that to reflect books I have in multiple formats — digital ebook, audiobook, and print! My reasons for having these in so many formats vary, but it’s mostly so I can read the book whenever and however I want. Sometimes audiobooks are the best use of my time.
10 Books I Own in Multiple Formats
the Kindred duology by Lori Benton: Mountain Laurel and Shiloh | I greatly enjoyed these in audio form — especially the accents!
Welcome! I’m sharing about Sarah Adams’ romcom The Enemy, the second book in her “It Happened in Charleston” duology. It recently released in audiobook!
It’s been twelve years since I’ve seen him, twelve years since he won our war of wits by outsmarting me with a tactic I didn’t even know was allowed. But tonight…I’m going to resurrect the battle.
Ryan Henderson is back in town for our best friends’ wedding, and I plan on showing him exactly how much I don’t care about him—or the almost kiss he ruthlessly dangled over me after graduation. But things have changed since then. I’m a successful bakery owner now, and I plan to rub every delicious detail of my life in his ugly face. There’s just one problem: his face is gorgeous. He wasn’t supposed to look like this or pursue me like a sexy guided missile. I have to stay strong until the wedding is over and Ryan scurries back into whatever alternate universe he escaped from. His interest in me is nothing but a continuation of the games we played in high school…right?
But the longer he stays, the more I wonder if I’m wrong and his tender smile and heated attentions are genuine. Maybe it’s not a game. Ha! Who am I kidding? This is Ryan we’re talking about. Of course it’s a game—a game called war—and this time I will win.
The Enemy is a fun frenemies-to-lovers romcom with a foodie element, southern charm, and ANTICS. In true Sarah Adams fashion, this story follows an extremely relatable heroine, June, as she maid of honor duties for her BFF while encountering her high school nemesis (whom she’s secretly crushed on forever), Ryan, as the best man. Hilarity ensues as Ryan, also pining for “June Bug” forever, engages in a war-like effort to win her over as a friend and convince her they have a real connection that could result in major romantic sparks. And does it ever!
I love how Sarah Adams is able to portray truly laugh out loud situations that feel believable then turn around and have you feeling deep emotions as you get to know the heartaches and past of the characters.
A quick note about the audiobook: it has one of the BEST male narrators I’ve heard in contemporary! Both narrators do a good job, but he knocks it out of the park and just *sounds* like I imagine Ryan to be, with all his personality.
Thank you to Netgalley for the audiobook review copy. This is my honest review.
Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for Natalie Jenner’s recent historical novel, Bloomsbury Girls! I’m reviewing the audiobook today. Read on for more about the story and an audio excerpt.
Natalie Jenner, the internationally bestselling author of The Jane Austen Society, returns with a compelling and heartwarming story of post-war London, a century-old bookstore, and three women determined to find their way in a fast-changing world in Bloomsbury Girls.
Bloomsbury Books is an old-fashioned new and rare bookstore that has persisted and resisted change for a hundred years, run by men and guided by the general manager’s unbreakable fifty-one rules. But in 1950, the world is changing, especially the world of books and publishing, and at Bloomsbury Books, the girls in the shop have plans:
Vivien Lowry: Single since her aristocratic fiancé was killed in action during World War II, the brilliant and stylish Vivien has a long list of grievances–most of them well justified and the biggest of which is Alec McDonough, the Head of Fiction.
Grace Perkins: Married with two sons, she’s been working to support the family following her husband’s breakdown in the aftermath of the war. Torn between duty to her family and dreams of her own.
Evie Stone: In the first class of female students from Cambridge permitted to earn a degree, Evie was denied an academic position in favor of her less accomplished male rival. Now she’s working at Bloomsbury Books while she plans to remake her own future.
As they interact with various literary figures of the time–Daphne Du Maurier, Ellen Doubleday, Sonia Blair (widow of George Orwell), Samuel Beckett, Peggy Guggenheim, and others–these three women with their complex web of relationships, goals and dreams are all working to plot out a future that is richer and more rewarding than anything society will allow.
Audiobook details: Narrated by esteemed stage and screen actress Juliet Stevenson, enjoy the full unabridged edition of Bloomsbury Girls. “Stevenson delivers the satisfying triumph at the end with perfect polish.” —AudioFile Magazine
Bloomsbury Girls is a bookish story of 3 women searching for, and working for, their dreams. Avid fans of literature and stories about the changing post-WWII culture will find something to love in this story that nods to the bravery of the female sex and the binding strength of friendship. The story is wonderfully presented in audiobook form with narration by Juliet Stevenson, who applies the perfect theatrical interpretation of the characters with voice and accents.
Natalie Jenner’s omniscient narrative style shines in this story! With all-knowing nods and tidbits, phrases foreshadow events in the story and color character interactions with wit. Each of the characters plays a key role in the story, from the three main women to the tiniest side character. They are united by the most unlikely heroine, Evie Stone, whose determination and fortitude underpin the plot in fabulous ways.
The establishment of the Bloomsbury shop rules, as penned by the inimitable manager Herbert Dutton, is a clever part of the novel. Each chapter is preceded by one of the rules, which relates in some way to the action of the story. The rules are defied by most of the characters, and upheld by some, which allows for quirky and funny situations.
While this book is considered to be historical women’s fiction, it does have a few different threads of romance, too. All contrast neatly, with one a comical friends-to-lovers situation; another a longstanding friendship with the possibility of more; and still another first love with seemingly opposite, romance-isn’t-for-me (until now) with a darlingly clueless couple. These interactions and the strong friendship forged between Evie, Grace, and Vivien serve to highlight the overarching theme of being known and accepted.
Content note: for my inspy reader friends, please note this is a general market title. It has a couple closed door romance scenes that are candidly referenced in conversation, and a depiction of homosexuality with some minor characters.
Thank you to the publisher and Austenprose tours for the audiobook review copy. This is my honest review.
Natalie Jenner is the author of the instant international bestseller The Jane Austen Society and Bloomsbury Girls. A Goodreads Choice Award runner-up for historical fiction and finalist for best debut novel, The Jane Austen Society was a USA Today and #1 national bestseller and has been sold for translation in twenty countries. Born in England and raised in Canada, Natalie has been a corporate lawyer, career coach and, most recently, an independent bookstore owner in Oakville, Ontario, where she lives with her family and two rescue dogs. Visit her website to learn more.
I am immensely grateful for the outpouring of affection that so many of you have expressed for my debut novel The Jane Austen Society and its eight main characters. When I wrote its epilogue (in one go and without ever changing a word), I wanted to give each of Adam, Mimi, Dr. Gray, Adeline, Yardley, Frances, Evie and Andrew the happy Austenesque ending they each deserved. But I could not let go of servant girl Evie Stone, the youngest and only character inspired by real life (my mother, who had to leave school at age fourteen, and my daughter, who does eighteenth-century research for a university professor and his team). Bloomsbury Girls continues Evie’s adventures into a 1950s London bookshop where there is a battle of the sexes raging between the male managers and the female staff, who decide to pull together their smarts, connections, and limited resources to take over the shop and make it their own. There are dozens of new characters in Bloomsbury Girls from several different countries, and audiobook narration was going to require a female voice of the highest training and caliber. When I learned that British stage and screen actress Juliet Stevenson, CBE, had agreed to narrate, I knew that my story could not be in better hands, and I so hope you enjoy reading or listening to it.
Happy Friday! I’m sharing a quick audiobook review today of a recently released novel: Once Upon a Royal Summer by Teri Wilson. This is the first full book I’ve read by Teri and Hallmark Publishing, and I’m delighted to say it offered fun and depth in one cute, summer-y package!
A theme park “princess” meets a single dad…who turns out to be a real prince!Enjoy the delightful royal romance from acclaimed author Teri Wilson and Hallmark Publishing.
Lacey found her dream job: playing a princess character at a popular fairytale theme park in sunny southern Florida. Her diamond tiara might not be real, but the smiles of the children she meets every day certainly are. It’s just too bad that her ex-boyfriend was never impressed with her career choice.
Henry, the crown prince of Bella-Moritz, is trying to fulfill his young daughter’s birthday wish: to be a normal girl with a normal life. That’s why they’re pretending to be ordinary tourists at an American amusement park. Henry lost his wife four years ago, and he’s been going through the motions ever since. But could a meeting with a make-believe princess lead to real love?
I really enjoyed the audiobook version of Once Upon a Royal Summer! It combines a sweet romance with all the romcom moments and fairytale references galore. The narrator did a fantastic job with the accents of a southern heroine and the posh Bella-Moritz royals.
Our heroine Lacey is likable and relatable, with her genuine heart for children and their dreams at the core of her motive to play a princess every day. I love how her growth in confidence comes naturally as a result of her interactions with Henry. And HENRY… he is princely perfection and a great dad, too! What is it about single dad heroes that inspire such tenderness?! His daughter, Rose, lives up to the beauty of her name and is absolutely endearing.
With references to classic princess tales, pop culture, and showcasing a unique side of theme park culture, Once Upon a Royal Summer is sweetly original. I recommend it to anyone looking for a quick and uplifting summer-y read. The close nods to Cinderella and the slight twist on the role of a fairy godmother are my favorite parts!
Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley for the audiobook review copy.
I’m reviewing an endearing novel today by Caroline George, Dearest Josephine. It falls within the YA (young adult) genre, though I think it would appeal to all ages and lovers of story — especially those who enjoy Regency fiction.
Caroline George sweeps readers up into two different time periods with an unexpected love story that prompts us to reimagine what it means to be present with the people we love.
2020: Chocolate and Earl Grey tea can’t fix Josie De Clare’s horrible year. She mourned the death of her father and suffered a teen-life crisis, which delayed her university plans. But when her father’s will reveals a family-owned property in Northern England, Josie leaves London to find clarity at the secluded manor house. While exploring the estate, she discovers two-hundred-year-old love letters written by an elusive novelist, all addressed to someone named Josephine. And then she discovers a novel in which it seems like she’s the heroine…
1820: Novelist Elias Roch loves a woman he can never be with. Born the bastard son to a nobleman and cast out from society, Elias seeks refuge in his mind with the quirky heroine who draws him into a fantasy world of scandal, betrayal, and unconditional love. Convinced she’s his soulmate, Elias writes letters to her, all of which divulge the tragedy and trials of his personal life.
As fiction blurs into reality, Josie and Elias must decide: How does one live if love can’t wait? Separated by two hundred years, they fight against time to find each other in a story of her, him, and the novel written by the man who loves her.
Dearest Josephine is a completely unique reading experience blending epistolary correspondence in contemporary times and the Regency era, along with a serialized novel interspersed throughout. All three concepts are intricately tied together and unite themes of hope, longing, LOVE, and acceptance.
My favorite part of reading this novel is how it respects and acknowledges the power of story and a reader’s connection to fictional characters. I experienced this connection to the story personally and through the character Josie’s eyes as she discovered the serialized novel and its mysterious ties to her life. Twists, turns, and unpredictable surprises lay ahead for Josie and the reader.
With the slightest hints of mystery and an absolutely endearing cast of characters, everything from modern humor, a nosy knitting club, society and setting of the Regency era, and layers of friendship and connection are depicted vibrantly and with skill. I’m looking forward to whatever Caroline George pens next, and I dearly hope she returns to the YA genre again!
I listened to the audiobook version of this novel and was delighted with the accents of the characters and unique audio cues for instant messages. ❤
Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley for the review copy. This is my honest review.
Melissa Ferguson’s sophomore novel, The Cul-de-Sac War, is as cute and intriguing as its name implies. It’s a contemporary romcom I highly recommend for fans of the genre!
All’s fair in love and prank wars.
Bree Leake doesn’t want to be tied down. She’s had more jobs than she can count, and she plans to move as soon as the curtains fall on her less-than-minor stage role at The Barter—the oldest live performance theater in the US. But just when it’s time to move on again, Bree’s parents make her an offer: hold steady for a full year, and they will give her the one thing she’s always wanted—her grandmother’s house. Her dreams are coming true . . . until life at the theater throws her some curve balls.
And then there’s Chip McBride—her handsome and infuriating next-door neighbor.
Chip just might be the only person whose stubborn streak can match Bree’s. She would move heaven and earth to have him off her cul-de-sac and out of her life, but according to the bargain she’s struck, she can’t move out of her house and away from the man who’s making her life miserable. So begins Bree’s obsessive new mission: to drive Chip out of the neighborhood—and fast.
Bree isn’t the only one who’s a tad competitive, and Chip is more than willing to fight fire with fire. But as their pranks escalate, the line between love and hate starts to blur—and their heated rivalry threatens to take a hilarious, heartwarming, and romantic new turn.
The Cul-de-Sac War is truly a LAUGH OUT LOUD romcom! I listened to the audiobook and loved every second. I love the pranks and antics of Chip and Bree, their delightful frenemies-to-enemies-to-romance journey, and the little bits of realistic heart-truths in this story. Most of all, I loved the way I couldn’t predict what crazy thing would happen next or how much I would be surprised by the way it comes together. I especially like how it’s centered on two people who have no idea that each is the answer to the friendship and encouragement they are seeking.
So many aspects of this novel line up to result in such perfection. A short list:
the cast of supporting characters: Bree’s off-the-grid obsessed roommate, her matchmaking obsessed parents, and Chip’s pretentious family, just to name a few.
relatable humor: Subarus. Duct tape and home remodeling.
quaint-but-still-real-life setting: just go Google The Barter!
random farm animals: I’ll leave this comment a mystery until you read it for yourself 😉
a dog named Russell: so prolific, he deserves his own category. His Slim Jim obsession is award-worthy.
finding purpose in life: a major theme here!
a surprising, heart-tugging story thread with Bree’s family — and the way Chip relates
Thank you to the publisher for the review copy. This is my honest review.
Hi readers! I’m dropping in to share a little review of an epic story… one of those that needs to be on your radar if you haven’t already read it: Whose Waves These Are by Amanda Dykes.
In the wake of WWII, a grieving fisherman submits a poem to a local newspaper asking readers to send rocks in honor of loved ones to create something life-giving but the building halts when tragedy strikes. Decades later, Annie returns to the coastal Maine town where stone ruins spark her curiosity and her search for answers faces a battle against time.
I am in awe of this story and its winding way of layering truth and light in both the commonplace and extraordinary. Through points of view from the past and contemporary timelines, the lives of Annie, Jeremiah, Robert Bliss, and so many others are expertly intertwined in a story of sacrifice and provision, with enchanting threads of sea and light. A story that explores the both the strength and weakness of the human spirit, all tied up with the provision of God and His ultimate will. This is a resonating debut novel with its deeply poignant themes and memorable characters. I can’t wait to experience whatever story Amanda Dykes pens next!
I HIGHLY enjoyed the audiobook version of this novel, and will be looking at other stories with the same narrator. She was a joy!
Thanks to Netgalley for the ebook copy. I purchased the audio copy. This is my honest review.
Left at an orphanage as a child, Thea Reed vowed to find her mother someday. Now grown, her search takes her to Pleasant Valley, Wisconsin, in 1908. When clues lead her to a mental asylum, Thea uses her experience as a post-mortem photographer to gain access and assist groundskeeper Simeon Coyle in photographing the patients and uncovering the secrets within. However, she never expected her personal quest would reawaken the legend of Misty Wayfair, a murdered woman who allegedly haunts the area and whose appearance portends death.
A century later, Heidi Lane receives a troubling letter from her mother–who is battling dementia–compelling her to travel to Pleasant Valley for answers to her own questions of identity. When she catches sight of a ghostly woman who haunts the asylum ruins in the woods, the long-standing story of Misty Wayfair returns–and with it, Heidi’s fear for her own life.
As two women across time seek answers about their identities and heritage, can they overcome the threat of the mysterious curse that has them inextricably intertwined?
The Curse of Misty Wayfair is an absolutely ENTHRALLING suspense novel! Jaime has done it again with a split-time premise whose historic and contemporary storylines are equally as riveting and exquisitely intertwined. With creepy and gothic tones, a small town comes to life and hides a legend both Heidi and Thea must uncover to learn their purpose and history. With a considerate approach, Jaime also handles anxiety and both mental and physical disabilities in this story in a unique way, drawing attention to worth and strength all the while. All of the elements of this novel work together to present a strong story of identity, belonging, and purpose — but the true brilliance of this story is in the telling. I was surprised more than once, and relieved to learn the goings-on behind some things, too!
And I must mention the way the two heroes of the story interact with and compliment the heroines — it’s fantastic!
Bonus fun things: the rescued animals, bow hunting analogies (they were cool!), old time photography, and the Hulk.
I listened to the audio presentation of this novel! The narrator did a great job with inflection and delivery, even lending different accents and pronunciations to the different eras. (and I am picky about narration.) I would recommend it for fans of audiobooks!
Welcome to my annual “best-of” celebration! Like last year, I’m separating the categories of my yearly best-of lists over a few days. It’s going to take me a few to talk about all the stories I loved in 2019!
I have exceeded my reading goals for 2019 according to my Goodreads reading challenge! That makes me happy. I have read SO MANY good books this year, which I will attribute to knowing how to better choose my genres and preferences, and even being “picky” when it comes to review-book choices. So, I have decided to limit my best-of lists this year to a max of 10 books. If you’d like to see all of my 5-star reads and extensive reviews, just check out my completed Goodreads challenge or browse my blog archives. Each day leading up to New Year’s Day you’ll get a new post about my 2019 favorites: