Top Ten Tuesday: My 10 Most Recent Reads

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

Top Ten Tuesday at The Green Mockingbird

Today’s topic is “My Ten Most Recent Reads”. I’m sharing 3 I’m reading now, plus the last 7 books I finished. I consider myself a slow-to-moderate reader, so my list stretches back to books I read in March.

My 10 Most Recent Reads

Currently Reading

Let It Be Me by Becky Wade | Contemporary romance meets a little family drama. I’m LOVING the depth to these characters!

Is It Any Wonder by Courtney Walsh | I’m currently enjoying the audio version of Cody and Lou’s second-chance-romance story set in idyllic Nantucket. It makes me want to plan a trip!

The Anatomist’s Wife by Anna Lee Huber | I’m rereading this one for a Facebook book group hosted by the author and I’m rediscovering why I love this well-written series. My Review on Goodreads

Latest Reads

Very Sincerely Yours by Kerry Winfrey | Modern romcom meets a little bit of Mr. Rogers and a romance born of a pen pals relationship. Look for my review soon on the blog.

A Peculiar Combination by Ashley Weaver | WWII-era London with a safecracking heroine and a properly loyal Army Major ferreting out spies. My Review

Hope Between the Pages by Pepper Basham | This charming, bookish love story connects generations of heroines in the present and WWI era with a little mystery spanning Appalachian and English settings. My Review

Dearest Josephine by Caroline George | This smart epistolary YA novel has a completely unique storytelling approach, making one of the characters a part of the story itself. My Review

The Indebted Earl by Erica Vetsch | Regency-era romance with a found family + a little marriage of convenience trope, this one wraps up a great series yet reads as a standalone. My Review

Love at First by Kate Clayborn | This general market romance will give you ALL THE FEELS with its beloved-and-quirky characters, a bespectacled hero, and an enemies-to-lovers trope. My Review on Goodreads

Before Time Runs Out by Amy Matayo | If you like time travel-meets-Dickensian London stories with a little adventure and romance, this story is for you! My Review

Did you share a TTT post this week? Have you read any of these books?

Review: “A Peculiar Combination” by Ashley Weaver

Review: “A Peculiar Combination” by Ashley Weaver

Today I’m featuring an early review for the kickoff to a new historical mystery series by author Ashley Weaver: A Peculiar Combination, the first in her Electra McDonnell series. It releases May 25, but you will want to add it to your TBR now!

About the Book

The first in the Electra McDonnell series from Edgar-nominated author Ashley Weaver, set in England during World War II, A Peculiar Combination is a delightful mystery filled with spies, murder, romance, and the author’s signature wit.

A Peculiar Combination Cover

Electra McDonnell has always known that the way she and her family earn their living is slightly outside of the law. Breaking into the homes of the rich and picking the locks on their safes may not be condoned by British law enforcement, but World War II is in full swing, Ellie’s cousins Colm and Toby are off fighting against Hitler, and Uncle Mick’s more honorable business as a locksmith can’t pay the bills any more.

So when Uncle Mick receives a tip about a safe full of jewels in the empty house of a wealthy family, he and Ellie can’t resist. All goes as planned–until the pair are caught redhanded. Ellie expects them to be taken straight to prison, but instead they are delivered to a large townhouse, where government official Major Ramsey is waiting with an offer: either Ellie agrees to help him break into a safe and retrieve blueprints that will be critical to the British war effort, before they can be delivered to a German spy, or he turns her over to the police.

Ellie doesn’t care for the Major’s imperious manner, but she has no choice, and besides, she’s eager to do her bit for king and country. She may be a thief, but she’s no coward. When she and the Major break into the house in question, they find instead the purported German spy dead on the floor, the safe already open and empty. Soon, Ellie and Major Ramsey are forced to put aside their differences to unmask the double-agent, as they try to stop allied plans falling into German hands.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

A Peculiar Combination is a smart, high-stakes London mystery and adventure at wartime. The fast-paced plot shows a unique side of WWII home front operations with an unlikely duo: a safecracking heroine and a military Major hero working to thwart potential spies. While their pairing just hints at the beginnings of attraction between them, these romantic sparks add another layer to the complicated backstory of Ellie’s character as this book sets up what is sure to be a new favorite WWII fiction series.

I like how competent Ellie is in her intelligence and profession, particularly in a detail-oriented way. Her banter with Major Ramsey is entertaining and smart, contrasting with his by-the-book tendencies and his own fierce loyalty. Through Ellie’s eyes, Ashley Weaver explores themes of human nature through motives, history, and emotion-driven decisions.

There are many aspects to love about this mystery of a story, including its portrayals of family and friendship (LOVED Felix!), the art to safecracking, and the ways of life at risk during this era. I am looking forward to the next book in this series — and especially hoping for the hints of vulnerability the Major displayed to lead to a deeper relationship with Ellie!

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

Top Ten Tuesday: 11 Colorful Book Covers ~ A Rainbow from my TBR

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

Top Ten Tuesday at The Green Mockingbird

Today’s topic is “colorful book covers”. I’ve decided to showcase a stack from my TBR that has a rainbow of colors on the spines.

I know which of these I want to read soon. Are any of these on your shelf? Which one(s) should I move to the top of my to-be-read stack? (titles linked to Goodreads)

11 Colorful Book Covers ~ A Rainbow from my TBR

stack of 11 books with a rainbow of spines

A Rumored Fortune by Joanna Davidson Politano | historical romance

The Coincidence of Coconut Cake by Amy E. Reichert | contemporary foodie fiction +romance

Isabelle and Alexander by Rebecca Anderson | historical Regency romance with hints of North & South

The Key to Love by Betsy St. Amant | contemporary romance with a bakery

Love and Other Mistakes by Jessica Kate | contemporary romcom

Mountain Laurel by Lori Benton | historical fiction

Chateau of Echoes by Siri L. Mitchell | dual-timeline romance, maybe some intrigue, and family secrets

Panning for Love by Meg Cross Wenig | romcom with a wild west reenactment

The Theory of Happily Ever After by Kristin Billerbeck | inspirational romcom & women’s fiction

London Tides and Under Scottish Stars by Carla Laureano | contemporary romance in the UK

What did you share for TTT? Have you read any of these books?

Audiobook Review: “Dearest Josephine” by Caroline George

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.

About the Book

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.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

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.

Book Review & Blog Tour: “The Indebted Earl” by Erica Vetsch

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for Erica Vetsch’s Regency romance, The Indebted Earl! Stick around to see my review and enter the giveaway at the bottom of the post!

Just a little note on the story: I feel like the whole book synopsis is too spoiler-y on what happens in the second half of the novel, so I’ve chosen to include a brief one and further describe it in my review. Click through to Goodreads, etc, if you want the full synopsis.

About the Book

Erica Vetsch brings her much beloved Serendipity & Secrets series to a close with the highly anticipated release of The Indebted Earl. This latest installment tells the story of Lady Sophia Haverly, the free-spirited and energetic younger sister of Marcus Haverly readers will remember from The Gentleman Spy, and Captain Charles Wyvern, a longtime naval officer trying to find his footing on dry land.

Find the book on Goodreads | Amazon | BookBub

Erica Vetsch is a New York Times best-selling and ACFW Carol Award–winning author. She is a transplanted Kansan now living in Minnesota with her husband, who she claims is both her total opposite and soul mate.  

Vetsch loves Jesus, history, romance, and sports. When she’s not writing fiction, she’s planning her next trip to a history museum and cheering on her Kansas Jayhawks and New Zealand All Blacks.

A self-described history geek, she has been planning her first research trip to England.

Learn more about Erica Vetsch and her books at www.ericavetsch.com. She can also be found on Facebook (@EricaVetschAuthor) and Instagram (@EricaVetsch).

Review

The Indebted Earl concludes a series I have loved featuring the Regency era and marriages of convenience (MOC)! This final novel has elements of MOC, but I would describe it as friends-to-romance, too.

The characterization is skillfully developed as the main characters go through changes in environment and emotions. The Captain is on a journey of answering commitment demonstrating loyalty to a friend. (And wow is that loyalty attractive.) Sophie is navigating loss, responsibility, and her family. Through some (heartbreaking and wonderfully) surprising events, they must rely on each other while they form a reluctant friendship. Aside from the super SWEET romance, I loved the secondary characters in The Indebted Earl! I don’t want to give away too much, so I’ll just say I really enjoyed three (humorous) young ladies that have a part in the story.

I always enjoy learning new aspects of the Regency era with its rules and expectations. Author Erica Vetsch uses the setting to its fullest to show the divides between classes in this series with care by bridging the in unlikely ways through inheritance, society, and friendships. Historical events of the time are often the catalyst for secrets and intrigue to come into play. I especially like this aspect because my expectations and guesses are sometimes proven true, and sometimes surprised with fantastic twists.

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

Enter the giveaway here!

Review: “Before Time Runs Out” by Amy Matayo

What do you get when you combine a present-day graduate student, a veteran doctor from 1947, a mysterious book, and London in the time of Charles Dickens? A new Amy Matayo novel, of course! Before Time Runs Out is her first in a unique concept “Charles & Company Romance” series featuring some time travel, depth, romance, and, of course, humor. Read on for more about the book and my take…

About the Book

Graduate student Bree Sanders is failing the one class she needs to get her degree. So when her professor gives her an ultimatum—ace her dissertation or risk having to repeat her final semester—she knows she has to pull out all the stops. After scrambling for an idea, she decides to create her own Ghost Club, a club that blames ghosts for unsolved crimes, the same type of club originally founded two centuries ago by Charles Dickens.

What she doesn’t expect is to find an original copy of one of Dickens’ early works, or to be transplanted into Dickens’s actual ghost club meeting, circa 1870, the instant she picks it up.

When Bree shows up in nineteenth-century England wearing cut-offs and an old t-shirt, her only option is to hide. The Cambridge of 1870 won’t look kindly on a woman dressed like her. So, when Theodore Keyes finds her tucked behind a bookcase at the Trinity College library and immediately demands to know where she came from, she knows he doesn’t belong here either. Turns out she’s right; the same book caused him to time-travel from 1947 almost three months ago and he’s been stuck in England since.

Together, the two vow to work side-by-side in their search for the lost book that will take them home. But as their feelings for one another deepen, Theo and Bree are caught between a desire to return to the lives they each left behind, and the knowledge that if they find the book, they won’t be able to leave together.

In the end, they each must decide which sacrifice is worth making—the one that will cost them their hearts, or the one that could cost them their very existence.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

Author Amy Matayo bravely tackles a neat concept in Before Time Runs Out, a FUN time travel romance for fans of book lovers and Victorian England. With the snark and surprise hit-you-in-the-feels depth I’ve come to expect from her, this adventure is a unique experience in examining what-ifs and the contrasts between eras with humor and romance.

Matayo’s authorial voice shines through in the juxtaposition of time periods and characters. It highlights the differences of the eras with humor and deep meaning. Some of my favorite elements and examples include: corsets, pop culture references, candles, books, crimes, walking sticks, top hats, SIBLINGS, responsibility, Google (and the historical lack thereof), grace and second chances.

While there are many facets of this novel to enjoy, I love the heroine and hero the most. Bree is smart, sassy, and driven, with relatable emotional baggage revealed along the way. Theodore (or THEO as Bree calls him) is courteous, strong, and capable, with a backstory I was eager to hear more about. I like how he proves the character of a gentleman is a timeless asset, no matter the decade or century. In a sly way, Matayo uses their pairing to contrast with today’s societal norms in illustrating the qualities of a true romantic hero/heroine and the importance of respect and trust in such a relationship. Their whirlwind of a friendship-turned-romance is fraught with challenges, adventure, and some fantastic heart-sharing moments that make their unlikely situations believable and something to root for.

I recommend this book for any fans of Dickens, literature, sci-fi time travel, Timeless the TV show!, and Amy’s everyday snark 😉 (if you follow her on social media, you know). I’m so excited this is a series — I’m already looking forward to more time spent in the era of Dickens in the next book!

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

Review: “This Life” by Jennifer Rodewald

Happy almost book birthday to author Jennifer Rodewald for her latest “Murphy Brothers Romance” novel: THIS LIFE! (It releases tomorrow, y’all!) I’m reviewing it here on the blog today. It’s a blend of contemporary women’s fiction and romance 🙂 ; the fourth in a series yet each of them stand alone and focus on a different sibling.

Check out my thoughts on the previous books in the series: Always You | In Spite of Ourselves | Everything Behind Us

About the Book

They’ve been stripped of everything but a refurbished bus and each other. And it might be the best thing that’s ever happened to them.

Jacob Murphy always felt like the invisible brother…until he fell in love with and married the woman who dated his younger brother. Then he became the despised brother. Driven to prove himself worthy of respect, he gambled everything on becoming the successful brother, but with his property speculation business falling apart, he’s ready to admit defeat. He’s lost nearly every worldly good he’s acquired, and after years of disappointments and heartache, it looks like his marriage is about to go the same way.

Kate Murphy lied her way out of life in a trailer park—a life she felt both trapped in and ashamed of. Only Jacob knows the truth about her background. But keeping up appearances has slowly strangled her life and relationships, and even her marriage has become strained at best. In desperation, she makes a plan to escape from it all—ironically, in a skoolie. But there’s still a tender place in her heart for the man she married, and in a moment of compassion, she offers to take Jacob with her.

Stripped of pride and pretension and struggling to adjust to their new 160 square-foot mobile lifestyle, Jacob and Kate are forced to confront the deception, hurt, and loneliness that have plagued them both. Will their strained circumstances be the death knell for their marriage, or will they allow humility to usher in the healing they need to rebuild?

This Life is a tender love story of second chances in marriage, of romance and redemption

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

With This Life, author Jennifer Rodewald has tackled another story with married protagonists (shoutout to her novel Finding Evergreen!), and it is well done! The characters’ journey through brokenness toward a place of renewal and hope is relatable and poignant.

Jacob and Kate’s story finally reveals the truth behind a rift hinted at in the previous books — with some classic Murphy family humor and wisdom, of course! As a reader, I’m always drawn into Rodewald’s stories through her emotive style. One of the ways her style compliments the story of Jacob and Kate is through their natural progression of anger, guilt, renewal, forgiveness, and the honesty commitment requires. I was happy seeing how their history and friendship would transition into something fashioned of trials and influenced by faith. I rooted for them in the moments one of them stood up for the other, or shared a moment of pain or contentment.

This story brings the Murphys full circle through a circuitous route of travel and new friendships. (the idea of living in a skoolie reminds me of my childhood RV adventures.) I LOVE Bryce and the Salazars, influential new friends of Jacob and Kate who demonstrate selfless love and grace. They reinforce the thought that happiness is a choice — a fact that Jacob and Kate have to learn on their own, but find even more joy in when they figure out how to navigate life and happiness together.

Thank you to the publisher 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.

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.