Audiobook Review: “An Hour Unspent” by Roseanna M. White

Thanks for dropping by to read my review of An Hour Unspent by Roseanna M. White, a book that wraps up her “Shadows Over England” trilogy. I have wanted to read this one for a while, and I’m so glad I finally got the audiobook copy and listened to it (mostly during drives!).

About the Book

Once London’s top thief, Barclay Pearce has turned his back on his life of crime and now uses his skills for a nation at war. But not until he rescues a clockmaker’s daughter from a mugging does he begin to wonder what his future might hold.

Evelina Manning has constantly fought for independence but she certainly never meant for it to inspire her fiancé to end the engagement and enlist in the army. When the intriguing man who saved her returns to the Manning residence to study clockwork repair with her father, she can’t help being interested. But she soon learns that nothing with Barclay Pearce is as simple as it seems.

As 1915 England plunges ever deeper into war, the work of an ingenious clockmaker may give England an unbeatable military edge—and Germany realizes it as well. Evelina’s father soon finds his whole family in danger—and it may just take a reformed thief to steal the time they need to escape it. 

Goodreads | Amazon | BookBub

Review

The main thing to know about this book: Barclay Pearce is my new book boyfriend. 🙂

An Hour Unspent is an excellent work of historical romance for the inspirational market. It has everything I love about a great story and characters in the genre. With its early WWI timeline, plenty of intrigue and interesting things happen to Barclay Pearce on the homefront as he works as a procurator for the admiralty — a nice label for a former thief now turned honest. The heroine of the story, Evelina Manning, has an unlikely encounter with Barclay that turns into a friendship with lots of sparks.

I very much enjoyed seeing the larger cast of characters around these two, especially Barclay’s immediate family, interact and be meaningful to the story. I appreciate the deeper themes White has included, like those of loyalty, family, and sacrifice, that weave naturally through the story. Seeing Barclay find a measure of romantic love and being cared for (instead of being the caregiver) is good for the heart, as is seeing Evelina come into her own with her familial relationships and asserting her strength and capability with Barclay — who faithfully supports her.

The narrative as told by Liz Pearce in audiobook form is particularly enjoyable, especially as the accents of the characters transition through classes from a posh society tones to a fun cockney one. I recommend the other stories in this series, and the follow up connected Codebreakers series, for a full story world experience and many beloved characters.

Thank you to the publisher for the ebook copy. I purchased an audio copy. This is my honest review.

My thoughts on Shadows Over England Book 1, A Name Unknown | Book 2, A Song Unheard

Review: “Written On the Wind” by Elizabeth Camden

I’m sharing a book review of Elizabeth Camden’s new historical release, Written on the Wind. It’s a fantastic piece of literature and romance, the second in her Blackstone Legacy series and a book that is going on my permanent favorites list.

About the Book

Natalia Blackstone is a rarity in Gilded Age America. As a trusted analyst for her father’s bank, she is helping finance the legendary Trans-Siberian Railway. From her office in New York City, Natalia relies on a charming Russian aristocrat to oversee the construction of the railroad on the other side of the world.

But while overseeing the work, Count Dimitri Sokolov witnesses the deadly result of the Russian Monarchy’s will to see the railway built. To silence him, the state has stripped Dimitri of his title, his lands, and his freedom . . . but Dimitri has a key asset the czar knows nothing about: his deep and abiding friendship with Natalia Blackstone.

From the steppes of Russia to the corridors of power in Washington, Natalia and Dimitri will fight against all odds to save the railroad and share the truth of what happened, but how can their newfound love survive the ordeal? 

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

There is nothing typical about Written on the Wind. Camden bravely explores a story and characters whose path and traits set a new level of precedence in the genre, especially with the forming of the hero. With fascinating historical detail, a riveting romance, and brilliantly depicted settings from Russia to NYC and Washington, DC, this novel of convictions and purpose is one that will resonate with readers and cater to history lovers.

Count Dimitri Sokolov is as complex and multifaceted as his vast homeland of Russia. He cannot be easily categorized or labeled, exhibiting strength and tenacity and being, at the same time, slightly vain and needy. His emotional intelligence is exemplary, as exhibited when he sets his mind on pursuing Natalia. I swoon over all the tiny things that make him so atypical, one small example being his enjoyment of manicures, yet he is completely a masculine gentleman. Another big trait of his I won’t point out for spoilers’ sake, but I’ll say it’s a breakthrough in the inspirational fiction genre and one I am proud of Camden for tackling with such alpomb. Yay for a historical romance beta hero!

Natalia Blackstone is accomplished and has great tenacity to achieve anything she sets her mind to, yet the strictures of the business world at the turn of the century inhibit her progress at times. She is a counterpart to Dimitri’s personality, with the right contrasts in perspective and harmonically aligned goals. The friendship between Natalia and Dimitri and all of their interactions are full of wit and crackling with an electric tension the reader can sense. This friendship is an appropriate foundation for their romance, one that is as dramatic, at times, as the Russian literature Dimitri loves. My favorite aspect of their relationship is that, with every stage of their journey from friendship to romance and beyond, the allure of their connection transcends proximity and instead pairs them on a level of intelligence and integrity.

My love for this book can be attributed 85% to Dimitri and 15% to the rest of the story, and with a structure and characters as fantastic as this, that is a great ratio :). When it could be predictable in a particular climactic moment of choice for Natalia, I LOVE that it isn’t. I hope readers embrace this book for what it is: a declaration and perspective of love and sacrifice.

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

Review: “Drawn by the Current” by Jocelyn Green

Thanks for stopping by to read my thoughts on Jocelyn Green’s latest historical novel, Drawn by the Current. It is the final book in her “Windy City Saga” series that follows different generations of the same family through significant historical events of Chicago. This third novel takes place in 1915 and encompasses the Eastland disaster.

Previous books in the series: Veiled in Smoke, 1871 and the Great Chicago Fire | Shadows of the White City, 1893 Chicago World’s Fair

About the Book

A birthday excursion turns deadly when the SS Eastland capsizes with Olive Pierce and her best friend Claire on board. Hundreds perish during the accident, and it’s only when Olive herself barely escapes that she discovers her friend is among the victims.

In the aftermath of the tragedy, Olive returns to her work at an insurance agency and is soon caught up in the countless investigations related to the accident. But with so many missing, there are few open-and-shut cases, and she tries to balance her grief with the hard work of finding the truth. Is she just overwhelmed, or is someone trying to impede her investigations? When clues surface that impact those closest to her, how deep will she dig?

Newspaper photographer Erik Magnussen begins helping Olive with her cases, and they develop a fast friendship. Just when Olive begins to unravel the secrets, more setbacks arise. It will take everything she’s got to find the truth and stay ahead of those who want to sabotage her progress. 

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

Drawn by the Current is a great conclusion to this generational family saga! It reads as a standalone story, of course, and brings the characters into the 20th century era. Readers of the previous two books will enjoy glimpses of the Townsend siblings later in life and the familiarity of their book store as a setting.

I enjoyed learning quite a bit about the history surrounding the Chicago Eastland disaster through the story. (I love when I learn real history in fiction!) The tragedy of the disaster impacts Olive in numerous ways, and like Green often does with her stories, the emotional fallout Olive experiences is drawn out as a major part of the story. It connects to her grief for her father and in her striving for a place in life, both in her career and personal life, and ultimately serves as a catalyst for Olive to have some profound revelations about her own worth.

I liked getting to know Olive and seeing her journey through friendship, tough choices, and her romance play out. She is one tough and intelligent heroine! I was cheering for her new friendship with Erik to grow — theirs is a subtle romance that plays out with a steadiness and some surprises. The romance, of course, is secondary to the main themes of the book which deal with deep issues such as honesty, loyalty, and the strength it takes to survive life’s challenges — and ultimately recognizing the source of that strength is from God.

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

Review: “Shaped by the Waves” by Christina Suzann Nelson

Thanks for stopping by my blog on this spring Monday! I’m sharing a review of a recent read today: Shaped by the Waves by Christina Suzann Nelson.

About the Book

Growing up along the Oregon coast, Cassie George has always been fascinated by the ocean. She’s used her studies in marine biology as a convenient excuse for staying away from her small hometown and avoiding the shame over her unplanned pregnancy. But when she receives a call that her aunt has suffered a stroke and has been hiding a Parkinson’s diagnosis, she knows she must return.

Cassie finds a mostly warm welcome from the quirky community–including her high school nemesis, Nora Milford. But Cassie is confused by the mysterious package that greets her as well, containing typed pages telling a story of an anonymous woman who seems to have ties to Cassie’s own life. As she begins to read more and investigate its implications, she’ll discover who she thought she was and who she wants to become are both about to change.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

Shaped by the Waves by Christina Suzann Nelson is a poignant contemporary fiction novel with strong threads of community, identity, a tiny bit of romance, and considerations on how the past can define or influence the present. This is my very first book by Christina!

The format of this novel is interesting and nearly has an epistolary element. A letter packet Cassie receives plays a significant role in disrupting Cassie’s “normal” and informing the reader, at the same time, of a mysterious history. This letter tells a story interspersed with Cassie’s POV and the occasional perspective of a secondary character, Nora, which keeps the story pacing forward and developing a bit of a puzzle for the reader to connect.

I absolutely felt the emotions through the skilled portrayal of Cassie as she journeys through unforeseen challenges, impending grief, and questions of her own past. She struggles, too, with some self-doubt and questions of worth in her personal relationships, especially when it comes to her role as a parent. I never thought her insecurities were overly emphasized — she seems a very natural character — and I love the way her growth and the strengthening of her identity eventually do come to pass. Her journey serves as a clear example of how humanity is destined to make mistakes but our missteps can be redeemed by a loving God.

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

Review: “In Search of a Prince” by Toni Shiloh

I’m happy to be sharing a review today of Toni Shiloh’s In Search of a Prince, her first novel published with Bethany House. This one features a marriage of convenience trope mashed up with a royalty theme — a winning combination :).

About the Book

Brielle Adebayo is fully content teaching at a New York City public school and taking annual summer vacations with her mother to Martha’s Vineyard. But everything changes when her mom drops the mother of all bombshells–Brielle is a princess in the kingdom of Ọlọrọ Ilé, Africa, and she must immediately assume her royal position, since the health of her grandfather, King Tiwa Jimoh Adebayo, is failing.

Distraught by her mother’s betrayal, Brielle is further left spinning when the Ọlọrọ Ilé Royal Council brings up an old edict that states she must marry before assuming the throne or the crown will be passed to another. Uncertain who to choose from the council’s list of bachelors, she struggles with the decision along with the weight of her new role in a new country. With her world totally shaken, she must take a chance on love and brave the perils a wrong decision may bring.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

In Search of a Prince is a delightful fairy-tale esque story that doesn’t shy away from life’s difficulties & the strength that comes from faith in God. Fans of The Princess Diaries movies (1 & 2!) will like the similar situation Brielle finds herself in, as a surprise heir to a throne with the added pressure of finding a suitable husband while under pressure from all sides.

Shiloh has created a detailed setting that is both idyllic and tropical with believable political and social structure with the fictional Ọlọrọ Ilé, Africa. As Brielle navigates this new-to-her environment, she learns more about herself and how to rely on God’s strength and guidance to make decisions. I think I loved the themes of faith and trust in God’s ultimate plan the most because they seem so natural to the characters and inherent in their lives.

This story balances stately glamour, hints of humor, and God-ordained life roles. Brielle is a character to root for — especially as she experiences a romance in the most unexpected of times in her life. I enjoyed the side characters of the story, especially the levity and fun Iris brings to the page. I am looking forward to Shiloh’s follow up novel featuring Iris as the heroine!

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

Review: “The Number of Love” by Roseanna M. White

I’m sharing a review today of a book that’s LONG been on my TBR (to be read) list: The Number of Love by Roseanna M. White. In fact, I have already read book 3 in this series! Each of these can read as a standalone and complete story, though, so that’s good for me 🙂

About the Book

Three years into the Great War, England’s greatest asset is their intelligence network–field agents risking their lives to gather information, and codebreakers able to crack every German telegram. Margot De Wilde thrives in the environment of the secretive Room 40, where she spends her days deciphering intercepted messages. But when her world is turned upside down by an unexpected loss, for the first time in her life numbers aren’t enough.

Drake Elton returns wounded from the field, followed by an enemy who just won’t give up. He’s smitten quickly by the intelligent Margot, but how can he convince a girl who lives entirely in her mind that sometimes life’s answers lie in the heart?

Amid biological warfare, encrypted letters, and a German spy who wants to destroy not just them but others they love, Margot and Drake will have to work together to save themselves from the very secrets that brought them together.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

A perfect blend of history and romance, The Number of Love has intrigue and secrets aplenty. Much of the story backdrop is the intelligence agency of Room 40 during WWI, which lends a fascinating behind the scenes perspective and several real-life facts (have I mentioned how much I love author’s notes?).

Margot is brilliant and I love seeing how she processes the world through numbers and equations. My brain doesn’t work like that, so her character allows for empathy and understanding in a different way. Drake recognizes her intelligence from the start, which is one of the reasons they are well suited. His bravery and steadiness anchor the story and propel the plot as his role in espionage sets off events that introduce a villain and draw together some endearing side characters (like Red, Dot, and Camden!).

And the romance between Drake and Margot… it shines! It is SMART and one the reader wants to root for. Their chemistry is apparent from the start, which intrigues Drake and sets Margot off-balance. While they experience some heartrending situations, I appreciate how their friendship develops — especially the compassionate way Drake treats Margot, and the way he works to relate to her heart on *her* terms.

I really enjoyed listening to the audiobook, too. Next up, book 2!

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

Review: “Shadows of Swanford Abbey” by Julie Klassen

Thank you for stopping by today for my review of Julie Klassen’s latest Regency novel, Shadows of Swanford Abbey. This one combines historical mystery and a second chance romance.

About the Book

Agatha Christie meets Jane Austen in this atmospheric Regency tale brimming with mystery, intrigue, and romance.

book cover

When Miss Rebecca Lane returns to her home village after a few years away, her brother begs for a favor: go to nearby Swanford Abbey and deliver his manuscript to an author staying there who could help him get published. Feeling responsible for her brother’s desperate state, she reluctantly agrees.

The medieval monastery turned grand hotel is rumored to be haunted. Once there, Rebecca begins noticing strange things, including a figure in a hooded black gown gliding silently through the abbey’s cloisters. For all its renovations and veneer of luxury, the ancient foundations seem to echo with whispers of the past–including her own. For there she encounters Sir Frederick–magistrate, widower, and former neighbor–who long ago broke her heart.

When the famous author is found murdered in the abbey, Sir Frederick begins questioning staff and guests and quickly discovers that several people held grudges against the man, including Miss Lane and her brother. Haunted by a painful betrayal in his past, Sir Frederick searches for answers but is torn between his growing feelings for Rebecca and his pursuit of the truth. For Miss Lane is clearly hiding something…

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

Equal parts gothic mystery and romantic tale, Shadows of Swanford Abbey smartly entwines characters in a crime with a large cast of subjects acting as friends and foes. I was pleasantly caught up in trying to piece together tiny clues of the mystery along the way, and though my observations did pick up on a few things, I was surprised by the culprit and how it all unfolded.

Nods to classics and a deeply developed friendship between the romantic couple heighten the story to a level of excellence among its Regency counterparts. A unique abbey-turned-hotel setting and the added element of the hero’s role as magistrate make for interesting scenes, as well as a thoughtful analysis of the crime. The setting also allows interactions between characters across classes, an element that makes the possibilities of the mystery more complex.

While I have read and enjoyed several of Julie Klassen’s novels, I believe this is my new favorite!

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

Review: “A Portrait of Loyalty” by Roseanna M. White

Today I’m reviewing a wonderful historical romance by Roseanna M. White, the last novel in her “Codebreakers” series, A Portrait of Loyalty. This novel also won the Christy Award in its category for 2020 (YAY, Roseanna!).

About the Book
cover of a portrait of loyalty, heroine holding a camera

Zivon Marin was one of Russia’s top cryptographers until the October Revolution tore apart his world. Forced to flee to England after speaking out against Lenin, Zivon is driven by a growing anger and determined to offer his services to the Brits. But never far from his mind is his brother, who Zivon fears died in the train crash that separated them.

Lily Blackwell sees the world best through the lens of a camera and possesses unsurpassed skill when it comes to retouching and re-creating photographs. With her father’s connections in propaganda, she’s recruited to the intelligence division, even though her mother would disapprove if she ever found out.

After Captain Blackwell invites Zivon to dinner one evening, a friendship blooms between him and Lily that soon takes over their hearts. But both have secrets they’re unwilling to share, and neither is entirely sure they can trust the other. When Zivon’s loyalties are called into question, proving him honest is about more than one couple’s future dreams—it becomes a matter of ending the war.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

A Portrait of Loyalty is going on my list of favorites this year! I LOVE how it is intelligent and layered. It offers a unique perspective of conflicts involving both the Russian culture and on the English homefront during WWI. With many things happening to the protagonists, it also has wonderful and fleshed out secondary characters and a fantastic London setting.

Zivon is my newest bespectacled book boyfriend! He sees patterns everywhere. His observance and intelligence are attractive, and when he turns that focus on Lily and sees her depth, oh my! Lily is smart and capable, especially in her work, and it is wonderful to see her commitment and loyalty as a part of the story.

Author Roseanna M. White’s voice plays an important part as the nuances of the romantic relationship unfold, especially as their friendship deepens alongside political conflict. She draws out the theme of loyalty in a natural and relatable way. This loyalty is an overarching theme, appropriately used in the title, as it explores loyalty to country, family, friends, and ideals. I also appreciate the smartly-used imagery and symbolism of photography and light (especially from my own experience as a photographer).

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

Review: “Let It Be Me” by Becky Wade

Book Selfie
I couldn’t resist a selfie with this one!

Today I’m reviewing author Becky Wade’s latest contemporary romance novel, Let It Be Me. This is the second in her Misty River Romance series set in the mountains of Georgia.

Book 1: Stay With Me

About the Book

Having graduated college at 18, Sebastian Grant has continued to leverage his intelligence and determination to become a pediatric heart surgeon. The more accolades he receives, the more he’s driven to pursue. Then he meets high school math teacher Leah Montgomery, and his fast-spinning world comes to a sudden stop.

Solving advanced math equations by the age of five, Leah has always wanted to pursue a PhD in mathematics. She willingly put that dream on hold to raise her brother. Now that he is of age, she’s set on avoiding any obstacles to her goal–including romance.

When Leah receives surprising news in the process of taking a test for tracking her ancestry, she asks Sebastian to help her comb through aged hospital records to learn more. Soon his presence isn’t so easily ignored. But when Sebastian learns his best friend also has feelings for Leah, he begins to question his resolve to win her. Attaining their deepest desires may require more sacrifices than they ever imagined.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

Let It Be Me is going straight to my favorites list! This contemporary romance has everything I love about the genre, as well as the powerful storytelling of Becky Wade to recommend it!

Becky Wade’s characters are portrayed in a way that makes them deeply relatable. Their identities are fleshed out through personality, sense of humor, career, dreams, memories, and even a physical sense of how they move through a room to make them feel so REAL and realistic. The reader learns their POV and perspective when all this combines to see life, faith, decisions, and emotions through their individuality. This stirs empathy even when the reader experiences life in a completely different way.

Let It Be Me Quote

Sebastian and Leah’s dynamic is simply magnetic. Any time they are on the page together, their sparks and passion are palpable, even in a scene as innocuous as a conversation at a school fundraiser booth, it’s present (their banter! it sparkles!). While his attraction to her is instant, he recognizes and falls for her intelligence and compassion quickly. I love romance when the hero falls first and it takes a bit for the heroine to catch up. Challenges to their situation, though, allow for the story to develop at the perfect pace and for the reader to be rooting for them 1,000% by the time things turn more serious.

I have a few more things to say about the romance. No spoilers here, but they have plenty to work through with the Sebastian, Leah, and Ben situation. (note of relief: it is NOT a love triangle). But whew, when things do start happening of a more romantic nature, Sebastian’s determination and Leah’s I-don’t-do-romance mantra practically combust. I will just reiterate what I said about book 1 in this series: it’s a “prime example of how the inspirational romance genre CAN have heat and convey a real, respectful sense of desire without crossing any inappropriate lines.”

Both Sebastian and Leah have personal arcs outside of their changing romantic relationship that center on identity. For Leah, she grapples with surprises related to her heritage. And, she is fiercely independent. Sebastian upends her stability, which causes some friction and challenges her mindset in more than one way. For Sebastian, he carries baggage from living his own heartbreaking past. His arc, too, has to do with his determination, need of acceptance, and perfectionist tendencies. Her presence just might break through his barriers and cause him to reconsider his fears and emotional detachment, seeing all areas of his life with more of his heart. Sebastian’s relationship with the Colemans is an important part of his life, too. I really like his relationship with Ben Coleman and how it exemplifies true friendship in wanting the very best for one another.

From friendships to identity, forgiveness and honesty, many aspects combine to make this much more than a romance. It’s a meaningful story of growth for the hero and heroine. I can’t wait to get Luke’s story next year 🙂

Thank you to Bethany House Publishers for the review copy. This is my honest review.

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.