Mini Book Reviews, edition 3

It has been a while since I’ve posted mini reviews! These books are ones I read for “me”, not with any review or critique in mind, but are some I greatly enjoyed and wanted to share a bit about in this corner of the blogosphere.

Please visit the Goodreads links in each title to learn more about each book!

A Stroke of Malice and A Wicked Conceit by Anna Lee Huber (Lady Darby Mysteries 8 and 9) | 1832 Scotland, Historical Mystery

These two books are, of course, FANTASTIC mysteries in this series! I love so many things about these characters and the development of their stories. Huber wields setting skillfully to influence the tone of the story and make each of these mysteries unique. A Stroke of Malice, in particular, was fascinating to see unfold as the identity of the victim remains in doubt for a large part of the story.

Of course, I am happily satisfied with the way Gage and Kiera’s relationship continues to be a factor, with their romance and dynamic broadening to include a larger cast of familiar characters. And Anderley and Bree have some interesting things happen (maybe between them?) in these two books, so I am excited to see that develop. I really enjoyed the return to Edinburgh for the setting of A Wicked Conceit.

On Wings of Devotion by Roseanna M. White (The Codebreakers 2) | 1917 London, Historical Romance

I LOVE this book and series! What an engaging historical romance. I was riveted by both the historical setting and bits of suspense AND the unfolding friendship-to-romance between Ara and Cam. He’s the brooding, wounded type with a soft heart who knows immediately what a gem Arabelle is — and he does everything in his power to support her.

Provenance by Carla Laureano | “Jasper Lake” and Denver, CO; Pasadena, CA, Contemporary Romance

Carla Laureano writes raw and realistic characters, and Kendall and Gabe are my newest favorites! Their journey to romance begins with a tentative and unlikely friendship, and I love seeing them recognize and bring out the best qualities in each other. This storyline doesn’t shy away from tough questions and themes, everything from identity, heritage, faith, abandonment, and even a Christian perspective of sexuality are examined. The small town mountain lake setting is idyllic and charming (and is a good contrast to the largely urban feel of Laureano’s recent series set in Denver), and the fascinating topics of architecture and small town politics are thoroughly explored.

Falling in Somerset by Jenny B. Jones | Sugar Creek, Arkansas and Bath & London, England, RomCom

Falling in Somerset is a cute and sweet romance. I loved getting to know the bookish heroine and the sports-loving, totally-a-catch hero, Duke. This little novella combines a friends-to-lovers situation with a little bit of a fake-dating scenario AND a trip to Bath, England, with all kinds of nods to Jane Austen through a “cultural” experience that turns hilarious. I especially liked how Duke is head-over-heels from the very beginning and how Tillie learns a little more about her best friend and a lot about her own strengths over the course of the story.

Book Review & Blog Tour: “Shadows in the Mind’s Eye” by Janyre Tromp

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for Janyre Tromp’s debut historical novel, Shadows in the Mind’s Eye. I am especially excited because it is set in my state, Arkansas! Read on for more about the book, my review, and be sure to enter the tour giveaway linked at the end of the post.

About the Book

“Tromp weaves a complex historical tale incorporating love, suspense, hurt, and healing—all the elements that keep the pages turning.”

~ Julie Cantrell, New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author of Perennials

Charlotte Anne Mattas longs to turn back the clock. Before her husband, Sam, went to serve his country in the war, he was the man everyone could rely on—responsible, intelligent, and loving. But the person who’s come back to their family farm is very different from the protector Annie remembers. Sam’s experience in the Pacific theater has left him broken in ways no one can understand—but that everyone is learning to fear.

Tongues start wagging after Sam nearly kills his own brother. Now when he claims to have seen men on the mountain when no one else has seen them, Annie isn’t the only one questioning his sanity and her safety. If there were criminals haunting the hills, there should be evidence beyond his claims. Is he really seeing what he says, or is his war-tortured mind conjuring ghosts?

Annie desperately wants to believe her husband. But between his irrational choices and his nightmares leaking into the daytime, she’s terrified he’s going mad. Can she trust God to heal Sam’s mental wounds—or will sticking by him mean keeping her marriage at the cost of her own life?

Debut novelist Janyre Tromp delivers a deliciously eerie, Hitchcockian story filled with love and suspense. Readers of psychological thrillers and historical fiction by Jaime Jo Wright and Sarah Sundin will add Tromp to their favorite authors list.

To read an excerpt of Shadows in the Mind’s Eye, click here

Review

Shadows in the Mind’s Eye is a riveting historical mystery with plenty of twists and psychological suspense. Set just after WWII, it follows Sam’s homecoming and early days adjusting to civilian life on his Arkansas mountain farm, where events and his imagination collide causing Sam and his family to question reality and his sanity.

Annie is a strong, relatable character, whose heartbreaking past colors her perception and reactions to the new reality of Sam’s return, bringing her own set of doubts concerning who to trust and believe. Sam, very much the hero of the story, exhibits a relatable vulnerability and the strains a trauma such as war can cause. A great cast of additional characters, from friends to villains to beloved family members, round out the story. Dovie May, in particular, sheds light and wisdom on a few different situations, bringing a strong theme of HOPE in the shadows and chaos to the forefront.

I think it is clever that both Annie and Sam’s points of view alternate to ground the reader in their perspectives. As events unfold, Annie and Sam question the stability of their dynamic and the confidence they have in adjusting to a new normal postwar. Their points of view also serve to show the reader the sacrifice and strength of character required on both sides of war — active service and the homefront.

It is always fascinating to learn real-life history through novels, and Tromp accomplishes this with an atmospheric flair as real historical figures and the subterfuge of illegal activities provide a backdrop to the story. As an Arkansan myself, I have visited the Hot Springs area and the Ouachita Mountains where Sam and Annie make their home, and I can confidently say Janyre Tromp has perfectly captured the setting of this novel!

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

Janyre Tromp (pronounced Jan-ear) is a historical suspense novelist who loves spinning tales that, at their core, hunt for beauty, even when it isn’t pretty. She’s the author of Shadows in the Mind’s Eye and coauthor of It’s a Wonderful Christmas

A firm believer in the power of an entertaining story, Tromp is also a book editor and published children’s book author. She lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan with her husband, two kids, two crazy cats, and a slightly eccentric Shetland Sheepdog. 

You can find her on Facebook (@JanyreTromp), Instagram (@JaynreTromp), Twitter (@JanyreTromp), and her website, www.JanyreTromp.com where you can download a free copy of her novella, Wide Open

The prize pack includes:

  • A copy of Shadows in the Mind’s Eye,
  •  A custom made silver peach tree necklace inspired by the book,
  • A “Light speaks through the broken places” t-shirt also inspired by the book.

Enter the giveaway here!

Author Interview, Review, & Exclusive Deleted Scene: “The Mozart Code” by Rachel McMillan

Author Interview, Review, & Exclusive Deleted Scene: “The Mozart Code” by Rachel McMillan

Welcome to my blog! I’m sharing a review today of a new historical romance from a beloved author: The Mozart Code by Rachel McMillan. She has graciously answered a few questions for my today AND provided an exclusive “deleted scene” from the novel, too! (If you’ve already read The Mozart Code and want to scroll down to the deleted scene, I won’t blame you a bit!)

The Mozart Code is a companion novel of sorts to The London Restoration. While it happens second in a timeline sequence, the books are standalones that feature two different couples, though you will see some overlap of familiar characters if you’ve read The London Restoration.

About the Book

No matter how you might try to hide in a war to escape your past, it is always close at hand.

Lady Sophia Huntington Villiers is no stranger to intrigue, as her work with Alan Turing’s Bombe Machines at Bletchley Park during the war attests. Now, as part of Simon Barre’s covert team in post-war Vienna, she uses her inimitable charm and code name Starling to infiltrate the world of relics: uncovering vital information that could tilt the stakes of the mounting Cold War. When several influential men charge her with finding the death mask of Mozart, Sophie wonders if there is more than the composer’s legacy at stake and finds herself drawn to potential answers in Prague.

Simon Barrington, the illegitimate heir of one of Sussex’s oldest estates, used the previous war to hide his insecurities about his past. Now, he uses his high breeding to gain access to all four allied quarters of the ruined city in an attempt to slow the fall of the Iron Curtain. He has been in love with Sophie Villiers since the moment he met her, and a marriage of convenience to save Simon’s estate has always kept her close. Until now, when Sophie’s mysterious client in Prague forces him to wonder if her allegiance to him—and their cause—is in question. Torn between his loyalty to his cause and his heart, Simon seeks answers about Sophie only to learn that everything he thought he knew about his involvement in both wars is based on a lie.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

The Mozart Code is a thoughtful and engaging romance that intertwines secrets, loyalty, and intrigue in early cold war eastern Europe. While the relationship develops as a marriage of convenience with a strong foundation of friendship between Sophie and Simon, the true nuances of romance shine through in tiny moments between them when the reader realizes their insightful knowledge of each other — how in tune each is to the other’s emotions behind carefully constructed facades of bravery and class, and sometimes in the intimacy of a shared cigarette 😊.

Rachel McMillan’s authorial voice glistens with her unique way of painting the setting as an active character. In this case, the cities of Vienna and Prague in their post-WWII turmoil and beauty. Her lyrical style lends itself to the slow-burn romance unfolding between Simon and Sophie, as does the timeline of the novel with carefully placed, pointed flashbacks enlightening their backstories and heightening the tension of the present.

Major themes of love, sacrifice, and bravery play out in the lives of the characters. Loyalty, especially, is a strong element present in the recovery of Vienna and Prague, in the friendships of the leads with the Somervilles, in the ever-present threat of betrayal, and in the way loyalty looks a lot like love — even when Sophie tries to maintain her careful heart’s barricade. The use of names is also a clever part of Simon and Sophie’s progression, with the power of identity and names explored through assertion, class, endearment, heritage, and belonging.

The ROMANCE of the story is my favorite part, of course! Simon is a carefully guarded beta hero whose history with Sophie is bittersweet and endearing. As he grows through the events of the novel, he comes into his own in many ways, seeing beyond processing the world through a chess scenario. Sophie is tough and independent, and her growth comes through her opportunity to keep her word and her loyalty sacred to Simon alone. A slight switch in gender norms of emotional vulnerability plays out in their relationship, yet Simon remains the protective hero and Sophie the intelligent complement to his soul. I love the way Sophie loves Mozart and music! The title “Mozart Code” has special meaning between them and ties up all the ways they are intertwined and committed.

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

Thank you, Rachel, for taking to time to answer some behind-the-scenes questions about The Mozart Code and to share an exclusive deleted scene!

Can you tell us a little more about your hero and heroine’s personalities? Quirks or endearing qualities? 

They’re both playing at being something they’re not in some fashion— at least to the world at large.  When it comes to themselves they know each other so intimately that they can finish each other’s sentences but also have this amazing homing device that allows them to sense when the other is near. I just love that about them.   They’re both daft little bunnies desperate to keep their independence and so fearful of being hurt and yet the undercurrent of their relationship is just pure love.  Strong, earth-defying love. Sophie and Simon are each other’s worlds.   Simon I love because he’s this big nerd wrapped up in a Savile Row suit and gold-rimmed glasses and presenting the world a confident, dashing portrait whereas really, inside, he’s still a little boy forever trying to win love and approval.  I love how he sees the world as a chess board. From the very first chapter he is setting up his board and assembling all of the major players that will factor into his story.   He’s very kind at heart he just has a terrible way of showing vulnerability.    For Sophie, I love that she is forever convincing herself and us that she is this strong and capable woman  who doesn’t need love and doesn’t want Simon ( and she is—both strong and capable—)but she is absolutely mad for him and she just doesn’t realize it yet.   I love how Sophie always rushes to Simon’s defense and believes in him as far more than the illegitimate heir who is such a burden to his family.  The anger and frustration she shows on his behalf, to me, is one of the most amazing parts about her.  When she gives her loyalty to him that is far more powerful than most women declaring love. 

Setting is often another important “character” in your stories. What can you say about the settings included in The Mozart Code?

I really love Vienna, obviously and it is such an interesting counterpart to Prague. Because in the Kalter Krieg (Cold War) both were very close to falling behind the Iron Curtain — but only Prague did.  I also found they had other fascinating parallels that made me choose them as the two starring cities: one they both had close ties to Mozart because he lived and composed in both. Yet, Prague celebrated him in his lifetime and Vienna saw his early demise met with a Pauper’s grave.  Another interesting reason to pair them was the work of Anton Pilgram: one of the architects whose churches and designs are housed in both cities ( if you read The London Restoration, you know I am a nut about church architecture, lol). I am also quite in love with the themes of restitution and restoration and finding beauty in the rubble by being able to see (as my heroine Diana Somerville does), the prospect of what the city will be after it is made new.   Hitler forbade his pilots from bombing Prague whereas Vienna suffered a lot of bombing (especially near the very end of the war): so while Vienna is scarred, Prague was still intact— at least surfacely: we soon learn that there are a lot of Communist undercurrents and the Czech Republic would be under Communist rule after the events of The Mozart Code for almost half a century. 

But I am a lot like Diana in that I believe “each city had chosen human portals through which to whisper their secrets.” I am personally passionate about and  fascinated by Vienna and Prague so I really wanted to convey their romance and hardships to the reader. 

Are there any interesting historical tidbits you came across in your research you were not able to include in the story?

Anything to do with the churches! I really, really, really wanted to include so many more churches in both Vienna and Prague but I had to remind myself ( as did my editor), this is Sophie’s story not Diana’s.  Heck, Diana needed another book just for the churches here lol.  I also had to cut more about Mozart and the Mozart family. Readers may not realize I do five times as much research as funnels into the novel so that I can hopefully confidently relay that my characters are experts in these things. 

I also had to cut a lot of the Bletchley Park flashbacks: especially as Sophie worked with the Bombe machines and I did a TON of research on those machines so it was a shame to have them gone. 

What are you currently reading, OR what is the best book you’ve read lately?

I loved The Diamond Eye by Kate Quinn. I also read and loved an early copy of The Belle of Belgrave Square by Mimi Matthews because it is SUCH a Beauty and the Beast meets The Blue Castle type book and has some of my favourite tropes.  I reread The Viscount Who Loved Me by Julia Quinn to review for Austenprose ( it’s the book the most recent season of Bridgerton is based on). I love a tortured hero who just wants love and  a marriage of convenience so it was a fun re-read! I also am MADLY in love with the new Elizabeth Camden book Written on The Wind which I think is her best to date and her editor calls me “the patron saint” of that book and I think I am … I LOVE IT 

As readers enjoy this new release and are already eager for another novel from you (I’m talking about myself here, HAHA!), can you tell us what’s next for you?

True story: if I press ALT and TAB on my macbook there is always a Three Quarter Time novel in progress.  I really love writing those but alas the paying contracts have to come first. But I do hope to get (finally) Memory in Three Quarter Time finished someday!   I have a collaborative novel coming out in March 2023 with two authors—J’Nell Ciesielski and Aimie K. Runyan—for Harper Muse called  The Castle Keepers.  In this book, it is a Yorkshire castle set across three wars with three different romances. Aimie is doing The Boer War, J’Nell WWI and my romance is set just after WWII when the castle is commandeered as a retreat for soldiers suffering from shell shock.  There’s a cat named Sigmund Freud    

Next September I have a novel coming out that is as of yet untitled but that I call Pimpernel –and with good cause— it is a retelling of The Scarlet Pimpernel story set in Nazi Occupied Rouen and Paris and it features a daring adventure and a classic love story. I think you will all love Phineas and Marlena! 

Is there anything readers need to know to set up this “DELETED SCENE” from The Mozart Code?

One of the things I had to balance in writing The Mozart Code was making it a standalone story while still nodding to the established events of The London Restoration.  And the careful reader will remember that Simon got pneumonia and Sophie is clearly worried about him and Diana tries to coax her friend into admitting what she’s feeling but Sophie shrugs it off. We, of course, move on and Simon gets better because we see their world through Di’s eyes but I always knew what was going on beyond the surface there as I knew Simon and Sophie’s true relationship while writing that book. We just are seeing the same time period in Simon and Sophie’s viewpoint instead of Diana’s and so I had to cut this moment in flashback where Sophie sneaks out of her Bletchley boarding flat and goes to visit him.    I confess, it is not perfect or edited but I hope it gives you a glance of what I wanted to do with their relationship ☺

Connect with author Rachel McMillan: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Instagram | Goodreads

If Simon couldn’t be healthy, she would be strong for both of them, she determined. Later, as an air raid siren shrilled and a formation of planes took low over the fields and downs, she suspected that while others wires and radars were attuned to their spouses, their mothers and fathers, their brothers and sisters in times of constant peril, her frequency was leveled with Simon’s.  As it had been when she defended him in front of his father and brother. As it had been when she was briefly installed in the SOE.  As it would be while he was ill in hospital and she failed at keeping her emotions in a straight, rigid line.

But frequencies, like wires, could stretch and bend and snap leaving each recipient at the end of their wave vulnerable to the consequences of a terminated signal.    Sophie didn’t fancy being so disconnected from Simon.

So, later that night after she had listened to Diana yip on about the chess game she lost against Fisher Carne at the pub, Sophie took action. 

She tiptoed out of the house and locked the door quietly behind her.  It was past curfew and getting into the Park would take a not inconsiderable amount of care.  Fisher had left a note that Simon had been moved home from hospital to spend the last part of his convalescence.   He also told her that when he had been at Simon’s billet flat, he had been able to enter through a side door near the garden.

Sophie knocked softly.  She hated making him get out of bed when he was ill but she’d rather that than fall through the window and scare him half to death.

A moment later, the light flickered on to dispel the shadow of the narrow, stone path and the door creaked open. 

Simon was pale, thinner than usual and subsequently his blue eyes seemed wider as they bore out at her in the darkness.  He tied his robe.

“Let me in so you don’t catch your death…again.” She whispered.

He stepped back and she joined him.  He turned on a few lights and was winded with the movement. 

“Sit down.” She grabbed his arm and led him to the sofa. Once he was seated, she grabbed a quilt draped over a neighbouring chair and tucked it up over his shoulders.  “Oh Simon, what a mess.” 

“Villiers…” his voice was a little raspy. “What are you doing here?”

Sophie smoothed his unkempt hair from his forehead. “Who is taking care of you?”

“I’m feeling much better.” He shivered and winnowed down in the blanket.

“I can see that. You look dismal, Simon.  I’ll make tea.” 

He waved his hand in the direction of the kettle and cooktop and Sophie started to work, aware that Simon’s gaze was on her slightest movement.   

“I can wrangle a Tetley’s bag into a pot.” 

“I didn’t say anything.” Simon whispered.

“You were thinking it.”

Several moments later she ensured Simon’s hand was wrapped around the steaming mug.  She took her own mug to the arm chair, stirring the liquid– not out of preference –but occupation for her fingers. 

“You must be bored out of your tree.” She observed after a long moment. 

Simon blew on the tea and slowly raised the mug to his cracked lips. “I’ve a lot on my mind.”

“Do you?”

“I thought I was going to die.”

“Pshaw.  People don’t die from pneumonia.”
“Yes they do.” He wheezed. “All the time.”

“Well, you are not people.”

“If my landlady finds you here.”

“It’ll besmirch my reputation.” Sophie waved a hand.  She watched Simon take a slow sip. Then she looked around the tidy but compact flat, her eyes settling on a decanter on the side table near the wireless. “Ah!” She rose and strolled toward it. She opened the lid and smelled. “Here…” she turned to Simon. “Give me your mug.” She poured a liberal splash of brandy into each of their tea mugs. 

“Are you sure…?” Simon began.

“Medicinal.” Sophie said.

Simon’s eyelashes fluttered over his cheekbones.

“Villiers.”

“Yes, Simon.”

“If I don’t…”

“Oh Lord. I didn’t risk my spotless reputation to hear you profess anything.” Sophie sipped her brandy-laced tea. “So don’t profess anything.” She studied Simon’s modest but comfortable surroundings: mahogany wood, lace curtains, neatly lined books and a few gold-garnished picture frames.  He was going to say something. Something that might hold the word she told him never to say and she steadied herself to prepare for it. 

“Villers…”

“Simon.”

“I’ve had a lot of time to think about what happens after this war.”

This war. Tut tut. I’ve had enough war.”

“Villiers…”

“Simon.”

He coughed through his smile. “It’s like we’re a vaudeville routine.” Simon sipped tea. Stretched. “If I survive…”

“Do not bore me, Simon Barrington. You know very well you are going to survive or else they wouldn’t have sent you home.”

“Home?” he lifted the quilt demonstratively. “Is that where I am? Anyhow, Villiers, 

if I don’t survive…”

“You’re fine.” It rolled easily off of her tongue. She had used it in a long line of syllables to convince herself time and again since he was in hospital.  

“Then I need you to know…”

Don’t say it. Don’t say it.  Don’t tell me.  Don’t loop those letters together.  Don’t make me frightened of you when you are at your weakest.

“You’re fine.”

Top Ten Tuesday: Bespectacled Book Boyfriends

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

Top Ten Tuesday at The Green Mockingbird

Today’s topic is a FREEBIE! This concept has been sitting in my drafts for a while, and I’ve added to it along the way. I’m talking here about bespectacled book boyfriends! I know this is a superficial way to categorize a hero, but it’s just so darn fun to recognize glasses as a little everyday accessory that add a bit of intelligence to any face (I say this as I wear them myself 😉 ). So, welcome to my new fan club.

The Bespectacled Book Boyfriends Club

Tom Finchley from A Modest Independence by Mimi Matthews

Titus from Jane By the Book by Pepper Basham

Nate from Veiled in Smoke by Jocelyn Green

Peter from When Twilight Breaks by Sarah Sundin

Will from Love at First by Kate Clayborn

Zivon from A Portrait of Loyalty by Roseanna M. White

Simon from The Mozart Code by Rachel McMillan AND Oliver Thorne in Rose in Three Quarter Time by Rachel McMillan (shoutout to Hamish from her Van Buren and DeLuca mysteries!)

From my TBR

I have been told these are wonderful heroes, who also happen to be bespectacled

Quin from The Lady in Residence by Allison Pittman

Ray from The Kindred Spirits Supper Club by Amy E. Reichert

Amos from Heart on the Line by Karen Witemeyer

Have you “met” any of these book boyfriends? Do you have any bespectacled characters I need to add to my list? What did you feature for this week’s TTT?

Review: “Meet Me in the Margins” by Melissa Ferguson

I have been on a historical fiction binge lately, so I decided to change it up by reading Melissa Ferguson’s latest romcom novel! Thanks for stopping by to check out my review of Meet Me in the Margins, a standalone novel.

About the Book

Savannah Cade is a low-level editor at Pennington Publishing, a prestigious publisher producing only the highest of highbrow titles. And while editing the latest edition of The Anthology of Medieval Didactic Poetry may be her day job, she has two secrets she’s hiding.

One: She’s writing a romance novel.

Two: She’s discovered the Book Nook—a secret room in the publishing house where she finds inspiration for her “lowbrow” hobby.

After leaving her manuscript behind one afternoon, she returns to the nook only to discover someone has written notes in the margins. Savannah’s first response to the criticism is defensive, but events transpire that force her to admit that she needs the help of this shadowy editor after all. As the notes take a turn for the romantic, and as Savannah’s madcap life gets more complicated than ever, she uses the process of elimination to identify her mysterious editor—only to discover that what she truly wants and what she should want just might not be the same. Melissa Ferguson’s latest—a love letter to books, readers, and romance—will leave fans laughing out loud and swooning in the same breath

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

Meet Me In the Margins is a FUN romcom with a good balance of emotional depth — you might even say it is a blend of comedy and women’s fiction. I appreciate the humor Melissa Ferguson always brings to her stories with her unique voice. Her heroines are always relatable and her stories bring out the comedy and sentiments of everyday life.

Some hilarious situations with a Valentine’s Day trip to the courthouse, quirky authors, and a witty dart game are a few things that made me laugh in this story. As Savannah edits her own novel, tongue-in-cheek moments about writing and romance add fun to the story. Through all of the lighthearted moments, though, is an underlying story and growing experience for Savannah herself, enlightening her of insecurities and her own worth. I have to admit, I did NOT like her family for a good portion of the novel. But through some key friendships, and especially with the compassion and encouragement of the hero, Savannah comes into her own in her family and career roles.

While some have compared elements of this novel to the classic “You’ve Got Mail”, I think the note-exchanging elements are presented in their own way (not like the movie at all), and the subsequent friendship that blooms “in the margins” as a result is something I was rooting for! Plus, there’s a strong representation of the publishing industry as a backdrop to the story, which will appeal to book and story lovers alike.

Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley 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: “Until Leaves Fall in Paris” by Sarah Sundin

Header Image Revell Reads

Thanks for stopping by to read my review of Sarah Sundin’s latest standalone novel, Until Leaves Fall in Paris. With a unique perspective that sets it apart from many titles in the WWII genre, this story will appeal to historical fiction and romance lovers alike.

About the Book

When the Nazis march toward Paris, American ballerina Lucie Girard buys her favorite English-language bookstore to allow the Jewish owners to escape. The Germans make it difficult for her to keep Green Leaf Books afloat. And she must keep the store open if she is to continue aiding the resistance by passing secret messages between the pages of her books.

Widower Paul Aubrey wants nothing more than to return to the States with his little girl, but the US Army convinces him to keep his factory running and obtain military information from his German customers. As the war rages on, Paul offers his own resistance by sabotaging his product and hiding British airmen in his factory. But in order to carry out his mission, he must appear to support the occupation—which does not win him any sympathy when he meets Lucie in the bookstore.

In a world turned upside down, will love or duty prevail?

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

Until Leaves Fall in Paris by Sarah Sundin embodies a poignant look at the determination and endurance of Americans who chose to stay in occupied Paris during WWII. This is shown through the eyes of its hero and heroine Paul and Lucie, as they make sacrifices and seek to find small joys — and even an unlikely romance — during the months leading up to America’s official involvement in the war. In my opinion, this would make a fantastic movie! Not every book is suited to such an adaptation, but I think the setting, romance, and high-risk elements would translate well to the screen.

One of the things I love about historical fiction, and stories centered around one of the World Wars, in particular, is the abundance of perspectives and the triumph of humanity during that time. This story explores an aspect I have not encountered in my reading: that of Americans abroad dealing with the German oppression of Paris and the dangers of resistance. Through Paul’s business activities and Lucie’s book store, they become increasingly involved in efforts to aid the Allies, though dangerous and in secret. This adds another layer to their growing friendship, as their activities are kept from each other yet their lives are becoming increasingly intertwined.

I appreciate Lucie and Paul’s convictions and how their initial distance is ultimately surmounted because of their integrity and beliefs. Their romance develops with a realistic steadiness and sweetness. Paul’s daughter, Josie, is a shining character who brings a ray of light to their lives.

In true “Sundin” style, all story elements combine to make this a memorable standout novel in a sea of WWII stories. The Parisian setting comes to life as action and intrigue unfold with ballet, books, friendship, and one spirited storytelling child enduring the tumultuous time. A slight connection to Sundin’s novel When Twilight Breaks will delight readers of that story as they will recognize Paul as a side character from it.

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: “Never Leave Me” by Jody Hedlund

Thanks for stopping by my blog today! I’m reviewing the latest release from author Jody Hedlund and Revell Publishers, Never Leave Me, the second book in her contemporary-and-medieval time travel Waters of Time series.

About the Book

In the last stages of a genetic disease, Ellen Creighton has decided to live out her remaining days at the estate of her longtime friend Harrison Burlington. Harrison cares deeply for Ellen, but as a wheelchair-bound paraplegic, he’s never allowed himself to get serious in a relationship. However, he’s desperately trying to save her by finding the holy water that is believed to heal any disease.

When he locates two flasks, Ellen refuses to drink one of them because she believes the holy water killed her sister and father. In an effort to convince her to take it, Harrison ingests the contents first, and when Ellen witnesses the effects, she can no longer deny the power of the substance in the bottles. Dangerous criminals are also seeking the holy water, and Ellen soon learns they will go to any lengths to get the powerful drug–including sending her back into the past to find it for them.

Bestselling and award-winning author Jody Hedlund plunges you into the swiftly flowing river of history in a race against the clock in this breathtaking, emotional second Waters of Time story.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

Never Leave Me is a riveting sequel with a romance I was rooting for. While it could be appreciated on its own, I feel that the full arc of the story begins in the first book, Come Back to Me, and I would recommend reading it first to understand the characters and concepts.

The story is quick paced and intriguing from the very beginning, with Hedlund taking a smart concept and building on the time travel tenets of book 1, further drawing Ellen and Harrison into a search for holy water — along with a nefarious group seeking the same. By story’s end, I was happy to know a little more about Ellen’s sister, Marian, part of the main couple from book 1. The inclusion of the middle ages elements into the story is interesting to me. I like the link of the holy water to a Biblical beginning and historical legends and healings.

While I was really eager for the friends to lovers (long-unrequited on the part of Harrison) situation between Harrison and Ellen to play out on page, I thought the romance progressed in stops and starts. Some key moments happen early on (understandably given the plot), yet I thought some of their relationship felt forced because of this. I did appreciate the lessons they learn because of their friendship and the selfless love each of them exhibit for each other. And they had some wonderfully romantic moments in the midst of the action, too.

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