Review & Blog Tour: Hearts of Steel by Elizabeth Camden

Thanks for visiting my stop on the blog tour for Hearts of Steel by Eizabeth Camden, the third book in her “Blackstone Legacy” series. While this can read as a standalone, I highly recommend reading the series in order for a better understanding of the Blackstone family and characters.

About the Book

Publication Date: January 17, 2023

Bethany House Publishers

Genre: Historical Romance/Christian

Series: The Blackstone Legacy, Book #3

His steel empire has catapulted him to the top of the world, but loving her could cost him everything.

Maggie Molinaro survived a hardscrabble childhood in the downtrodden streets of Manhattan to become a successful businesswoman. After a decade of sacrifice, she now owns a celebrated ice cream company. But when she offends a corrupt banker, she unwittingly sets off a series of calamities that threaten to destroy her life’s work.

Liam Blackstone is a charismatic steel magnate committed to overhauling factory conditions for the steelworkers of America. Standing in his way is the same villain determined to ruin Maggie. What begins as a practical alliance to defeat a common enemy soon evolves into a romance between two wounded people determined to beat the odds.

A spiraling circle of treachery grows increasingly dangerous as Liam and Maggie risk their lives and fortunes for the good of the city. It will require all their wit and ingenuity to protect everything–and everyone–they hold dear.

AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE | BOOKS-A-MILLION

Review

Hearts of Steel is the long-awaited conclusion to Elizabeth Camden’s latest Gilded Age series, this one featuring three members of the affluent Blackstone family of New York. Liam is our hero, with an unlikely (and tragic) history, subsequent rise to notoriety, and his compassionate nature making him likable from the start (in book 1, so I’ve been eager to see his POV!). His world collides with that of Maggie Molinaro, the determined heroine, and begins a friendship-turned-romance all while an underdog story plays out amidst a small neighborhood and the biggest boardrooms in the city. This is a story of two people finding a balance between pride, strength, and a reliance on others, while a struggle against injustice and a tentative romance bring them together.

The characters and setting are remarkably penned as Camden captures the sights and sounds of a bustling New York City at the cusp of modern innovation. From the immigrant-centric neighborhood where Maggie’s family runs and ice cream parlor and factory to the coasts of Maine and the mansions of some powerful figures, the settings shine and make me crave vanilla ice cream or possibly lobster. The nuances of a person and of relationships are another notable feature, with simple things like stamp collecting, a family heritage, shared grief, or the humor of the bulldog Frankie being just as important as friendships or the brother and sister dynamic Liam has developed with Gwen (LOVED seeing their rapport).

I enjoy seeing how friendship and respect unite Liam and Maggie at the very first. They quickly shift to a romantic attraction as they recognize qualities they have in common, especially their fierce loyalty and sense of justice. I appreciate how Liam makes and effort to understand and support Maggie’s choices, and she, in turn, speaks encouragement to him in key moments and grounds him in a way he needs.

Readers of the first two books in the series will be delighted to see the familiar heroines and heroes again on the page, with Patrick and Gwen having a very active role in Liam’s life.

Thank you to the publisher and HFVBT for the complimentary paperback review copy. I voluntarily purchased an ebook copy. This is my honest review.

Book 1: Carved in Stone Book 2: Written on the Wind (my personal fav of the series)

About the Author

Elizabeth Camden is best known for her historical novels set in Gilded Age America, featuring clever heroines and richly layered story lines. Before she was a writer, she was an academic librarian at some of the largest and smallest libraries in America, but her favorite is the continually growing library in her own home. Her novels have won Christy, Carol, and RITA Awards and have appeared on the CBA bestsellers list. She lives in Orlando, Florida, with her husband, who graciously tolerates her intimidating stockpile of books.

WEBSITE | FACEBOOK | GOODREADS

Blog Tour Schedule

Tuesday, January 17
Review at Ms. Darcy Reads

Wednesday, January 18
Excerpt at Aubrey Wynne
Review at Michelle the PA Loves to Read

Thursday, January 19
Review at Novels Alive
Review at Books, Cooks, Looks

Friday, January 20
Review at Classicly Kait
Review at Tammy Reads

Saturday, January 21
Review at Reading is My SuperPower

Sunday, January 22
Review at Debjani’s Thoughts

Monday, January 23
Review at The Green Mockingbird

Tuesday, January 24
Guest Post at Heidi Reads

Wednesday, January 25
Review at Bookworlder

Thursday, January 26
Review & Excerpt at Older & Smarter

Friday, January 27
Review at The Lit Bitch

Monday, January 30
Review at Jorie Loves A Story
Feature at CelticLady’s Reviews

Tuesday, January 31
Feature at I’m Into Books

Wednesday, February 1
Review at Reading is My Remedy

Friday, February 3
Feature at Coffee and Ink

Giveaway

We have two copies of Hearts of Steel by Elizabeth Camden up for grabs during this blog tour!

The giveaway is open to the US only and ends on February 3rd. You must be 18 or older to enter.

Click here to enter the giveaway.

Best of 2022 ~ Books & Blog Posts

Welcome to my annual “best-of” celebration!

I set a Goodreads reading goal at 80 books! Last year I read 74 books, this year I’ve exceeded that by just a little: 76 books. Again, this is not something I am focused on meeting, it’s just something I think it’s fun to note.

I’ve read considerably more historical fiction this year, so I have included more titles in this genre here in my best-of list. If you’d like to see all of the books I read and read more extensive reviews, check out my 2022 Goodreads Year in Books or browse my blog archives.

THE (self-imposed) RULES: because sometimes I need to keep things brief, I’m choosing to share 3 things that describe each of these stories. I’ve been doing this for a few years now, so I want to keep up my tradition ;). I’ll link each title to Goodreads and my review (if applicable). At the end, I’ll be sharing popular posts on the blog this year.

All titles are inspirational fiction unless noted with *.

Companion post: Best Films & Shows I watched in 2022

Best Books of 2022

Historical – North American Setting

A Heart Adrift by Laura Frantz | review

Chocolate. Second chances. Steadfast.

In Honor’s Defense by Karen Witemeyer | review

Adventurous western. Humor. Tender friendship.

Laura’s Shadow by Allison Pittman | review

Endearing heroines. Heritage. Contrasts.

The Heart of the Mountains by Pepper Basham | review

Fortitude. Licorice. Mountain folk.

Love’s Reckoning by Laura Frantz | review

Enduring love. A fiddle. Kindness.

Historical Romance – UK Setting

The Belle of Belgrave Square* by Mimi Matthews | review

Bookish heroine AND hero. Rescue. Belonging.

Romancing the Rake* by Nichole Van | review

Cat studies. Sacrifice. Hilarious coach journey.

The Sisters of Sea View by Julie Klassen | review

Self-worth. Sisterhood. Enchanting setting & romance.

Historical Romance – American Hero/Heroine & International Setting

Written on the Wind by Elizabeth Camden | review

Genre-bending hero. Riveting romance. Convictions.

The Brilliance of Stars by J’nell Ciesielski | review

Commitment. Adventure. Strength.

Until Leaves Fall in Paris by Sarah Sundin | review

Endurance. Integrity. Friendship.

Mystery or Mystery Elements

Shadows of Swanford Abbey by Julie Klassen | review

Unpredictable mystery. Unique setting (abbey-turned-hotel). Friends to lovers.

An Artless Demise* by Anna Lee Huber

Gripping plot. Gage’s unwavering support. Atmospheric London.

The Souls of Lost Lake by Jaime Jo Wright

Moving story. Lore. Preacher Pritchard.

Contemporary Romance

Turn to Me by Becky Wade | review

Banter. Grace. Agatha the dog.

The Last Way Home by Liz Johnson | review

Pancakes. Mercy. Homecoming.

Provenance by Carla Laureano | review

Stranded in the snow. Unlikely friendship. Identity.

just a few of my #backlistbooks23 titles

For 2023 reading, one of my goals is to read more of the books I already have on my shelves. I have found the “#backlistbooks23” challenge hosted on Instagram by @lemonyreads, @bookswithnopictures, and @thebookscript that has readers sharing a list of 23 books they already have + want to read in 2023. Here’s my list: This is open to join in through January 31 if you want to be part of the challenges, buddy reads, or giveaway. Follow the accounts to keep up 🙂

Most popular new posts:

Most popular new book reviews:

As always, thank you for being a blog reader in 2022 and beyond. Many thanks and appreciation to the publishers and authors who have graciously included me on their review teams this year. It has been a joy to be a part of this bookish community!

What are your favorite books you read this year? Do we share any favorites? Did you post a list of favorites on your blog or social media? I’d love for you to share in the comments!

Mini Book Reviews, edition 5 (all the genres + Christmas novellas)

Welcome to another round of mini reviews! This is a variety post with several different genres represented, along with some Christmas stories! If you’re like me, you just might read Christmas novels and novellas into January (or any time!) because you want that seasonal wonder to last a little bit longer.

Per usual, please visit the Goodreads links in each title to learn more about each book!

False Pretense by Heather Day Gilbert (A Murder in the Mountains 4) | Buckneck, VA, present day | Mystery

This is a page-turning mystery with a great small town setting (Buckneck, VA). With a wide cast of many possible suspects and friendlies, I enjoyed this well-paced, slightly short (in a good way) hometown thriller with a likable protagonist and her clan. A slight supernatural/fantastical element cleverly gives a local legend traction in the story, with the reader wondering about its true nature until the very end.

The Even Odder Couple by Julia Christianson (Apple Valley Love Stories 4) | “Apple Valley”, OR | Rom-Com

This is a sweet contemporary friends-to-lovers/opposites attract romance with a little comedy! I adore Spencer as a beta hero, and I like the way he and Tess (grow to see and support each other deeply. The small town setting PLUS a summer camp make it stand out, and the small moments of the characters’ internal dialogue are hilarious. The plot loses a tiny bit of momentum toward the middle, in my opinion, but the ending holds a few surprises and is cute.

This is the first novel by Julie Christianson I’ve read, and I HAVE to blame her Instagram following for bringing it to my attention + hooking me with teasers. I’m always on the lookout for beta heroes in fiction, and Spencer did not disappoint!

A Texas Christmas Carol by Karen Witemeyer | 1895 London, TX | Historical Romance & Western Novella

Karen Witemeyer has the talent of writing fully-developed characters in a short format with a great balance of levity and emotions. I loved the way a classic tale (Dickens) influences a few details of the story and the concept of a miserly hero whose journey enlightens him to giving and grace. It’s always fun to read a historical-set Christmas story.

Like A Holiday Inn by Lindsay Harrel (Port Willis Romance 4) | “Port Willis”, Cornwall, England | Contemporary Romance Novella

Like A Holiday Inn returns to the quaint “Port Willis” in Cornwall, England for another of Harrel’s sweet Christmas stories. Since this is the 4th novella in the series, familiar readers will recognize the heroine and hero and their respective families (who delightfully show up in the story!).

Rebecca is a prickly, strong lady who learns a bit about what it means to be vulnerable, and really let go and trust in relationships (both romantically and with her fam). Benjamin is the perfect opposite to her personality with his charm, banter, and persistent way he pursues peeling back her layers. His backstory and depth prove to be important in making a connection with Rebecca.

All the charming Christmas things happen in the story, yet Harrel’s writing never makes them feel cliché. From new Christmas traditions, allll the holiday baking, a snowstorm or two, to a memorable power outage, Rebecca and Benjamin’s relationship grows and finds its stride at the Inn.

A Gift in December by Jenny Gladwell | London, England and Nybergsund, Norway | Contemporary Women’s Fiction/Romance

This is a wonderful story of self-discovery with the protagonist, Jane, learning a lot about herself, her mistakes, and the risks worth taking in life to find real love. A historical storyline is sprinkled throughout (mainly through a few letters), not the main focus but integral to Jane’s storyline, showing an act of bravery related to Norwegian events during WWII and the men and women who risked much for their freedom.

This story hit all the right notes of a European-set Christmas tale (although much of it takes place in November 🙂 ) with a press trip to the forests of Norway as a backdrop for Jenny’s new friendships during her rollercoaster of emotions post-breakup. The romance is something I called early on but it was a DELIGHT to see it unfold in a bit of a quiet way. I also like a point Jane’s supportive friend makes toward the end: it’s way more important to like someone than to just have a superficial attraction to them.

Note to my blog readers: this is a gen market book and contains a tiny bit of language + other content.

Thank you to the publishers for the review copies of False Pretense, A Texas Christmas Carol, and Like a Holiday Inn. The reviews express my honest opinions.

Favorite Quotes from the Brotherhood of the Black Tartan Series

The Brotherhood of the Black Tartan series is one of my new favorite historical romance series and one I can eagerly recommend to readers interested in late Regency stories set in England and Scotland. It has adventurous heroes, daring heroines, 5 unique love stories that explore a variety of tropes, and one uniting past event that ties the group together in a story thread that comes into their present timeline. I’m sharing my thoughts on each book in this post, and I’m highlighting my favorite quotes from each book in the series in another blog post linked below.

Companion blog post: Series Review: Brotherhood of the Black Tartan by Nichole Van

These books are best read in order, especially concerning the ongoing plot thread and quite the twist that happens close to the middle of the series. For that reason, the book descriptions and premise of the final book, in particular, constitute mild story spoilers. I would caution you in reading any details about Remembering Jamie if you want to avoid spoilers! I will try to be as non-spoilery as possible in my thoughts.

For more information on each book, click the book titles to view them on Goodreads.

Suffering the Scot

“Her extensive etiquette training had never covered this particular scenario: When a young lady of excellent breeding finds herself tumbled into a muddy stream and cursing like a sailor before a group of Scotsmen . . .” chapter 4

“He knew there was fire just underneath her surface, perhaps a secret version of Lady Jane she hid from others. Given her expansive vocabulary when upset, Lady Jane could not be the chilly lady she would like others to believe. Not entirely. And somehow, knowing that, nearly put a smile on his face.” chapter 8

“You. Do. Not. Find. Him. (Or his knees.) Attractive! A woman was in dire straits indeed if she found a man’s kneecaps fetching.” chapter 9

“He was kind and observant. He listened attentively to her questions and gave an ear to her ideas and explanations. He saw her as an equal intellectually, challenging and meeting her head- on in arguments. He had ceased goading her as he had before— as if challenging her to react— and now met her comments with good- natured teasing and dry wit.” chapter 17

“It is easier tae meet someone’s low expectations than tae change their prejudiced assumptions.” chapter 19

Suffering the Scot Book cover with Snack

“Wasn’t this a woman’s lot in life? Her world could be tumbling down around her, but a proper lady would sit and calmly stitch poppies and butterflies despite the chaos. Embroidery, in moments like this, was not nearly violent enough for Jane’s taste. Clearly, a sadistic man had dreamed up the pastime.” chapter 27

Romancing the Rake

“Oh. Be still her heart. A biology-educated rake. The man was truly a menace to bluestockings everywhere.” chapter 1

“This woman. Instead of crumbling into a weeping heap, she swallowed, pinched her lips together, and rallied. And damn if he didn’t admire her all the more for it.” chapter 11

“This was the Lady Sophie of his memory, the woman who delighted him with her unexpected comments, with her ability to always be three thoughts ahead of him.” chapter 14

“Would Lord Rafe ever stop being this man to her? The one who undid her, unraveled her heart and made her yearn for things she had given up years ago. Even now, he was unearthing bits of her soul—hope and desire and longing that she had thought broken beyond recovery—and offering them to her, encouraging her to rebuild. But . . . she had trusted him once, and he had shattered her.” chapter 16

“His Sophie. He had gone and done it. He was thinking of her in possessive pronouns. Words like his and mine and us. A man was done for when a woman started to alter his very grammar.” chapter 17

“She appreciated that Rafe handed her the gun and had faith that she could keep them safe. She knew she was competent, but most men would not assume so. Jack certainly would never have trusted her in this situation. But Rafe was not like most men. He treated her as a partner, a friend in every sense of the word. She and Rafe . . . they were equals. Working together.” chapter 22

“Love, she realized, was not the sort of thing to neatly fit into parameters and boundaries. No . . . Love took many forms and needed to be accepted as it came. To do otherwise was to risk a life of eternal disappointment.” chapter 29

Loving a Lady

“Tension still hung in the room. That bitter orange color clinging to furniture and dripping down the walls.” chapter 1

“From her earliest memories, she had adored this view. The vastness of the ocean. The red sandstone cliffs extending up and down the coast. The green sweep of fields and gorse. This landscape was a soothing calm on a sunny summer’s day and a glorious terror in the throes of a January storm. Today was somewhere between those two extremes.” chapter 7

“She hadn’t realized how much she needed a witness to her pain and guilt until this moment. Someone to look into her soul and say, I understand. I have stood in this place, too.” chapter 11

” ‘I see it like this. If a woman asked for my help, I would offer it, as far as was proper. That said, as a former prizefighter, I recognize the value in knowing how to defend one’s self from attack. I would want any woman in my life to have the skills necessary to choose her own destiny, as it were. There is power in knowing ye can fight your own battles, if ye ken what I mean.’ ” chapter 16

“How was he to behave around her now? How was he to keep his adoration from shining through every look, every word? Worse, was he going to have to thank Andrew and Rafe for their high-handed interference?” chapter 18

‘ “Well, I have had about enough of this brooding. Care to talk about it?’ The older man stretched, knuckles cracking. ‘Not particularly,’ Ewan replied because he was . . . well . . . brooding.” chapter 24

Making the Marquess

Making the Marquess cover on smartphone, held up in front of blooming red geraniums

“What did one call a group of solicitors anyway? Were they a pride, like lions? A murder, like crows? Several of Alex’s closest friends were naturalists. He should have a clever answer for this. A quarrel, perhaps?” chapter 1

“… the lady was not to be pigeon-holed. She was not monolithic but human and approachable and mussable. And Alex didn’t wish the words mussable and Lady Charlotte to ever come near one another in his brain.” chapter 9

“ ‘How do you do this?’ Her words held a nearly plaintive tone. ‘You pluck the very thoughts from my brain.’ ‘Me?’ Alex barely stifled a surprised laugh. ‘I would have said the same thing about yourself. Though I think there is another truth here. That just as ye can know someone for years and never understand them, the opposite can also occur. Ye can know someone for only a wee while and feel a deep connection.’ ” chapter 13

“He had vastly underestimated her. As usual, Lottie’s external harmony led one to assume that her inner life was similarly peaceful. But like the mole on her cheek, her small outer imperfections were wee emblems of the riot of living inside her head. And, in the end, wasn’t that the answer to his question— Why had she kissed him? She had kissed him because Lady Charlotte, despite her demure princess-like appearance, was herself a dragon.” chapter 14

“The sight of Alex dragging a pencil across the back of his hand, naming tendons, should not have set her heart to pounding and yet, everything about the man was a hammer to her good sense.” chapter 17

“Life isnae so black and white. Winds turn, masts crack, sails have tae be jury- rigged. We make do until a new breeze comes and pushes us in an unexpected direction. Change is hard. It’s often messy and hurts like bloody hell. But sometimes, ye have tae leave the past and move forward into an unknown future.” chapter 25

Remembering Jamie

“ ‘So [he] makes off with a King’s ransom for luring me to you, while I receive nothing?’ ‘Oh, I didnae say that.’ Kieran wanted to list outright everything he would give her—his beating heart, his endless devotion, every last shilling to his name.” chapter 2

“… it was the fire of her that drew him in. The sense that she would always meet him as an equal. Perhaps sensing his thoughts, she paused, her gaze tangling a bit too long with his. He smiled wider, perhaps a smidge challenging now. True to her nature, she didn’t flinch.” chapter 9

“The North Sea stretched before them, a rippling mass of shadow and light. The ocean currents and the near-constant wind conspired to create a crosshatch pattern on the water. In Scotland, the water itself bore the stamp of a tartan. But as a sailor, Kieran understood only too well the danger of a crosshatch sea. It spoke of strong, competing currents that could easily drag a man down to his death. Was that what he and Jamie faced now? A swirling tartan sea that would spell the doom of their love?” chapter 13

“He sobered, his eyes turning soft and thoughtful . . . which was, again, somehow even worse. She was rapidly realizing that underneath the charm and flirtation rested a sincere and earnest heart.” chapter 14

“I’m happy tae tell ye how fetching ye look in trousers, lass. Women would never wear dresses again, if I could help it.” chapter 19

“Where did friendship end and attraction and romantic love begin? Were the two even capable of being separated, in the end?” chapter 28

Did any of these quotes stand out as a favorite? Or, did one spark your interest in a particular story? I’d love to gush with you over these characters in the comments.

Series Review: Brotherhood of the Black Tartan by Nichole Van

The Brotherhood of the Black Tartan series is one of my new favorite historical romance series and one I can eagerly recommend to readers interested in late Regency stories set in England and Scotland. It has adventurous heroes, daring heroines, 5 unique love stories that explore a variety of tropes, and one uniting past event that ties the group together in a story thread that comes into their present timeline. I’m sharing my thoughts on each book in this post, and I’m highlighting my favorite quotes from each book in the series in another blog post linked below.

Companion blog post: Favorite Quotes from the Brotherhood of the Black Tartan Series

These books are best read in order, especially concerning the ongoing plot thread and quite the twist that happens close to the middle of the series. For that reason, the book descriptions and premise of the final book, in particular, constitute mild story spoilers. I would caution you in reading any details about Remembering Jamie if you want to avoid spoilers! I will try to be as non-spoilery as possible in my thoughts.

For more information on each book, click the book titles to view them on Goodreads.

Suffering the Scot

Suffering the Scot has all the hallmarks of my favorite kind of historical romance. It has a fantastic, considerate hero and a whip-smart, feisty heroine. The romance is *happy sigh* thoughtful and complex.

I am just discovering Nichole Van’s stories, and I’m happy to report her style and research is impeccable. The portrayal of class prejudice, in particular, is a big part of this story (and series) and her skill in writing witty banter and intelligent conversations is impressive.

Suffering the Scot Book cover with Snack

I appreciate the vulnerable hearts of the characters. Andrew is hilarious and endearing while Jane is relatable and spirited, and when their relationship starts to develop, they become a formidable pair to root for. While not without its ups, downs, and surprises, though, it does end up in a realistic way with a great ending.

The original plot with a hint of adventure and suspense puts me in mind of another era favorite, Mimi Matthews’ Gentleman Jim. The two share in common lead characters with striking depth, plot surprises, and a heroine who just might have a secret tomboy side.

Romancing the Rake

I. Love. Rafe. (And Sophie, of course! And her cat studies!) And his rakish façade that hides a tender and gallant heart. Their story is one of the most adventure-filled of the series, with a humorous and enlightening journey by coach from southern England all the way to the wilds of Scotland.

Rafe delivers the BEST one-liners and quips of any of the heroes, appropriately so because of his fierce sense of humor.

The romance is a second-chance one, born of a friendship shown in the early chapters from years before. This is a unique story device that’s thoughtfully employed to illustrate the depth of their connection and bring the reader into their emotions through more than just simple memories or brief flashbacks.

A personal note: I named one of my cats after Lady Sophie, and I can say she shares a sense of daring with her namesake.

Loving a Lady

I just want to cheer for Ewan and Violet as they get to know each other and see how much they share in common. Theirs is a deeply emotional romance and story of finding happiness. And, the ongoing plot connecting each book in the series kicked up a notch with events and revelations in this one.

Ewan is a study in contrasts, as his physical persona leads people to perceive him in one way while his sensitive, artist’s heart proves his complexity. I especially like that he thinks and processes the world around him through ideas of color.

Making the Marquess

Making the Marquess cover on smartphone, held up in front of blooming red geraniums

Oh, my heart! This ROMANCE. It tentatively begins with friendship and absolutely BLOSSOMS. And, because of family + rules of inheritance, etc, it’s a bit of an impossible situation (not quite forbidden), so that makes it poignant in the best way.

I love how Alex sees Lottie as his equal and falls for her intelligence most of all. And, in return, how Lottie balances and slows his constant energy (that’s really a wall he hides behind!).

The ongoing “Brotherhood” story takes some interesting turns and sets us all up for the finale in the last novel. And, I ADORE the brief glimpses of Lord Hadley as a dad.

Remembering Jamie

Remembering Jamie is one of those books I’m joyous and sad to have finished, because it perfectly caps off a fantastic series! This book has been 4 in the making already, with each previous book hinting at and setting up its events. It happens to be my favorite of the series because of that!

Kieran is an absolutely DEVOTED hero — he loves Eilidh with a selfless, sacrificial approach, yet he remains a devastating flirt through it all. And Eilidh, she’s so brave and it was wonderful to see her transform under Kieran’s safe watch, to see her grow and realize her strength and embrace her past, the joy and grief of life, finally. ❤

Have you read any of this series? Do you have a favorite book by Nichole? Do you enjoy Regency series with an adventure thread? I’d love to gush with you over these books in the comments.

Recommended Reading: Literary Influenced Fiction

Hello friends! It has been a while since I shared a Recommended Reading post. Also, in the past, I’ve shared lists of Reading for Janeites and 10 Favorite Jane Austen-Esque Romances, so in keeping with that sentiment, I’m sharing some more books influenced by classic literature. These go beyond Austen’s influence and draw from other classic novelists, sometimes subtly or directly.

Laura’s Shadow by Allison Pittman | The Laura of the title is, in fact, Laura Ingalls Wilder of Little House fame, and the setting of the book includes De Smet and the tangential influence Laura had on a pupil, then later that child’s granddaughter.

Once Upon a Wardrobe by Patti Callahan | The wardrobe in question is that of C. S. Lewis’ Narnia chronicles, and Lewis appears as a character in this fictional story of siblings, hope, and grief.

Lost in Darkness by Michelle Griep | This story pays homage to the classic Frankenstein and Mary Shelley and tells a tale of sibling connection alongside a Regency romance.

John Eyre: A Tale of Darkness and Shadow by Mimi Matthews | As the title indicates, this is a gothic retelling of Brontë’s Jane Eyre and *spoiler alert* elements of Dracula. It flips the genders and expectations of the classic tales, telling a story of bravery, allies and romance, and the battle between light and darkness.

The Belle of Belgrave Square by Mimi Matthews | Combining elements of the fairytale Beauty and the Beast with aspects of The Blue Castle by L. M. Montgomery, this wonderful bookish tale has a swoony romance and a perfect HEA.

Bloomsbury Girls by Natalie Jenner | While I can’t pick one author that has obvious connections to this fictional story, at its center is a book store and literature in many forms plays a big role in the story. An earlier, related book by Jenner, The Jane Austen Society, has closer ties to that prominent lady.

The Curse of Morton Abbey | An updated twist on The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett with adult characters instead of young ones, this story also has some influence from Jane Eyre within its mystery elements.

Before Time Runs Out and Only Time Will Tell by Amy Matayo | Both of these are part of her “Charles and Company Romance” series, as in Charles Dickens. They combine a few time shifting plot devices that allow the characters to travel back to Dickens’ London (book 1) and to trade places in life/circumstance in present day (book 2).

Isabelle and Alexander by Rebecca Anderson | While the influence of a classic is more subtle in this romance, as a fan of North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell, I was quick to note the similarities in setting and the personality contrast of the hero and heroine.

Your turn! Do you have any favorite stories influenced by classics? Have you read any of these books or authors?

Book Review, Blog Tour & Giveaway: “The Belle of Belgrave Square” by Mimi Matthews

It’s no secret around here that I love Mimi Matthews’ novels. Today I’m happy to be taking part in a blog tour for her new release, The Belle of Belgrave Square, the second book in her Belles of London series. Read on for more about the book + how to connect with Mimi, and stick around for my review and a fantastic tour-wide giveaway.

About the Book

A BookBub Best Romance of 2022

A London heiress rides out to the wilds of the English countryside to honor a marriage of convenience with a mysterious and reclusive stranger.

Tall, dark, and dour, the notorious Captain Jasper Blunt was once hailed a military hero, but tales abound of his bastard children and his haunted estate in Yorkshire. What he requires now is a rich wife to ornament his isolated ruin, and he has his sights set on the enchanting Julia Wychwood.

For Julia, an incurable romantic cursed with a crippling social anxiety, navigating a London ballroom is absolute torture. The only time Julia feels any degree of confidence is when she’s on her horse. Unfortunately, a young lady can’t spend the whole of her life in the saddle, so Julia makes an impetuous decision to take her future by the reins—she proposes to Captain Blunt.

In exchange for her dowry and her hand, Jasper must promise to grant her freedom to do as she pleases. To ride—and to read—as much as she likes without masculine interference. He readily agrees to her conditions, with one provision of his own: Julia is forbidden from going into the tower rooms of his estate and snooping around his affairs. But the more she learns of the beastly former hero, the more intrigued she becomes…

AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE | BOOK DEPOSITORY | BOOKSHOP | GOODREADS

Review

I absolutely adore this novel! It’s an enchanting spin on a bit of a Beauty & the Beast situation with a little influence from another favorite classic, The Blue Castle (L. M. Montgomery). Matthews is a master at combining tropes and charms and spinning a story uniquely stamped with her style. This one shines with its marriage of convenience setup, a Victorian setting, the only-one-bed trope, a bit of flair from the aforementioned classics, three impish children, and character cameos from earlier books.

Julia and Jasper are a new favorite fictional couple of mine. Their romance is equal parts tender, swoony, and steadfast. Their journey to each other is not an idealized fairytale, though Julia’s bookish habits set off events for him to sweep her off her feet. Seeing her find agency, encouragement, and belonging with Jasper, and them both finding footing with his children, are things I particularly enjoyed.

Which brings me to Jasper. #swoon He’s a brooding, serious hero who is a romantic at heart and HE. FALLS. FIRST. He blushes and shows unflinching patience when it comes to romancing Julia. His backstory coming to light proves him all the more worthy of admiration for his integrity and of Julia’s affection. This is, perhaps, the most tender romance Matthews has written, skilfully balanced with a hint of sensuality that makes the reader swoon at the simple detail of a touch or endearment between Julia and Jasper.

I appreciate the slight unconventionality of this story in its genre, especially the way the characters seek to give little weight to society’s opinions. In subtle ways, the issue of a female’s role and limited ability to make independent choices are a part of the story. So, too, are bigger themes of loyalty, honesty, and justice.

Content note for my usual blog audience: this is a general market romance with a few era-fitting mild expletives and a closed door romance.

Thank you to the publisher for the advance ebook copy. I purchased the paperback for my shelves. This is my honest review.

Mimi Matthews photo: Mimi standing next to a horse

USA Today bestselling author Mimi Matthews writes both historical nonfiction and award-winning proper Victorian romances. Her novels have received starred reviews in Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, Booklist, and Kirkus, and her articles have been featured on the Victorian Web, the Journal of Victorian Culture, and in syndication at BUST Magazine. In her other life, Mimi is an attorney. She resides in California with her family, which includes a retired Andalusian dressage horse, a Sheltie, and two Siamese cats.

WEBSITE | TWITTER | FACEBOOK | PINTEREST | BOOKBUB | GOODREADS

VICTORIAN READING ROOM

Join Mimi at her Victorian Reading Room Facebook Group for exclusive access as she shares her love of writing, historical romance, Victorian fashion, brooding heroes, independent heroines, and of course, her beloved pets!

READ AN EXCLSUIVE INTERVIEW WITH MIMI MATTHEWS

Discover intriguing insights into The Belle of Belgrave Square and Mimi’s writing life in this exclusive interview at austenprose.com.

Mimi has generously offered a fabulous giveaway for this book tour!

Giveaway period: October 3 – October 30

Terms & Conditions:

Giveaway hosted by Mimi Matthews. No Purchase Necessary. Entrants must be 18 years or older. Open to US residents only. All information will remain confidential and will not be sold or otherwise used, except to notify the winner and to facilitate postage of the book to the winner. Void where prohibited.

Giveaway Details:

1 winner (selected at random by Rafflecopter) receives a paperback copy of The Belle of Belgrave Square, signed and annotated by the author with personal comments, underlining of her favorite lines, and other highlights by Mimi Matthews.

Giveaway is open from 12:01 am Pacific time 10/03/22 until 11:59pm Pacific time on 10/30/22.

The winner will be announced on Mimi’s blog on 10/31/22.

Click here to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway!

Top Ten Tuesday: 10 Books I Own in Multiple Formats

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

Today’s topic is Books I Loved So Much I Had to Get a Copy for My Personal Library. I’m editing that to reflect books I have in multiple formats — digital ebook, audiobook, and print! My reasons for having these in so many formats vary, but it’s mostly so I can read the book whenever and however I want. Sometimes audiobooks are the best use of my time.

10 Books I Own in Multiple Formats

the Kindred duology by Lori Benton: Mountain Laurel and Shiloh | I greatly enjoyed these in audio form — especially the accents!

the Parish Orphans of Devon series by Mimi Matthews: The Matrimonial Advertisement, A Modest Independence, A Convenient Fiction, and The Winter Companion | A set I just *needed* in all 3 formats. I’ve loved listening to these after my initial read-through.

Love’s Reckoning by Laura Frantz | I listened to this one recently, thanks to all the feedback on another TTT post.

Provenance by Carla Laureano | Carla’s novels *always* have to be on my shelf. Plus the audio was great!

Whose Waves These Are by Amanda Dykes | A gorgeous tale, I remember reading and listening to this one a few years ago.

When Twilight Breaks by Sarah Sundin | My absolute favorite by Sundin, and I’m in love with this cover.

Which of these have you read? Do you collect multiple copies of favorite stories?

Mini Book Reviews, edition 4

Welcome to another round of mini reviews! Once again, these are books 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. And, three of these were audiobooks I can highly recommend: Love’s Reckoning, In Honor’s Defense, and What Matters Most.

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

Love’s Reckoning by Laura Frantz (The Ballantyne Legacy 1) | 1794 Pennsylvania, Historical Romance

An epic story of love strong enough to survive pressure, trials, and evil intentions yet still triumph. Eden is a gentle and kind heroine, and Silas is the best sort of hero with his determination and steadfast character.

I can’t believe it’s taken me so long to read this Frantz novel! Now I can say I’ve read all of hers.

Laura’s Shadow by Allison Pittman (Doors to the Past 9) | 1891 and 1974 South Dakota & Minnesota, Historical Romance with Split Time Narrative

What a fascinating multigenerational story! With truly endearing heroines spanning two very different times, it shows human experiences that unite everyone and explores roles of women in very different times. Mariah’s story is one of contrasts, showing loneliness, contentment, and a hope that has influenced her family into the later timeline and POV of her great granddaughter, Trixie. Trixie’s quest to appease her GG Mariah and finding her own stride in career and love mirror Mariah’s figurative searching for peace.

I LOVE this story and can heartily recommend it to fans of historical fiction and romance. Anyone fond of Laura Ingalls Wilder and the Little House fandom can also delight in the story world and realistic influences Laura has on these characters.

And oh, how I love House the cat and his character as a “catalyst” for a bit of Trixie’s romantic storyline! And RON. And his late night calls, love of grilled cheese, and his Mustang.

In Honor’s Defense by Karen Witemeyer (Hanger’s Horsemen 3) | 1895 Texas, Historical Romance & Western

This is everything I’ve come to expect and love about Karen Witemeyer’s romantic westerns! This one combines a touch of adventure, a good amount of humor, and a well-matched romantic couple — Luke and Damaris are so adorable together, from their meet cute to their tender friendship and unfurling romance. It was great to “catch up” with the rest of the horsemen and see the conclusion of their brotherhood play out with an appropriate HEA.

I really, really enjoyed the audiobooks of this entire series. With the fast pace of this one, I was happy to listen to it on a road trip with fewer breaks between segments.

What Matters Most by Courtney Walsh (Nantucket Love Story 3) | Nantucket, MA & Chicago, IL; Contemporary Romance

Courtney Walsh has delivered another relatable, emotional romance. This one pairing an unlikely couple who share a connection — one that the heroine, Emma, isn’t privy to for part of the story. This sets up a secret-keeping hero situation, which becomes slightly frustrating but completely believable due to the circumstances of Jamie’s past and his heart. I was rooting for them to find forgiveness for each other and for themselves, a deeper theme Walsh explores with aplomb. The return to Nantucket as a setting was picturesque and a perfect backdrop for this story to unfold.

see that develop. I really enjoyed the return to Edinburgh for the setting of A Wicked Conceit.

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