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?

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?

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.

4 Historical Romances with Beauty and the Beast Vibes

I will use any excuse to talk about great romance novels. Since it’s Valentine’s week, I’ve compiled a list of 4 must-read historical romances with Beauty and the Beast vibes. I confess to falling in love with the 1991 version of the film in my childhood, likely due to the A-MA-ZING library and singing dishes as much as the intrigue of the romance. Let’s admit it. The Beast can be a bit too prickly sometimes. That’s where stories like these come in…

Each of these 4 novels offers a romantic story and unique setting, with smart heroines and scarred heroes – all shaped by past circumstances or trials.

The Lost Letter by Mimi Matthews | Review

The Lost Letter is a second chance romance reuniting a lady-turned-governess and a veteran of siege in India. The Victorian setting, library, and initially bristly hero make the B&B parallels evident. Matthews’ stories are always super romantic and I appreciate the way she takes great care to be historical accurate.

Beauty Among Ruins by J’nell Ciesielski | Review

Beauty Among Ruins is an exquisite romance set against the perils of war and loss. A WWI estate-turned-convalescent-home in the Scottish Lowlands is the setting for this couple. Alec’s initial brooding and distance disguise a poetic heart that answers Lily’s in a beautiful way, while a slight mystery complicates their relationship and keeps the reader hooked.

The Lady and the Lionheart by Joanne Bischof | Review

In subtle and surprising ways, The Lady and the Lionheart highlights the contrast between light and dark, good and evil, and the redemptive power of sacrificial love. The Victorian-era Virginia setting of a traveling circus is the backdrop of the pairing of charming-yet-secretive Charlie with sweet Ella, a nurse he befriends.

Not By Sight by Kate Breslin | Review

World War I intrigue and secrets interweave with the unlikely pairing of two socialites — the hero a conscientious objector secretly working for the crown, the heroine a suffragette trying to prove her cause. Themes of sacrifice and trust underscore this retelling.

Top Ten Tuesday: 10 Romances with HEART in the Title (Valentine’s Freebie)

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

Top Ten Tuesday at The Green Mockingbird

Today’s topic is a Valentine’s Day Freebie! With all the talk of romance lately on the web, I’ve decided to feature 10 romances with “heart” in the title. Some of these I have read and LOVED, and some are still on my TBR. (titles linked to Goodreads)

10 Romances with HEART in the Title

Paper Hearts by Courtney Walsh | Review

Where Two Hearts Meet by Liz Johnson | Review

A Bound Heart by Laura Frantz | Review

A Heart Revealed by Josi S. Kilpack | Review

My Heart Belongs in the Blue Ridge: Laurel’s Dream by Pepper Basham | Review

The Bound Heart by Dawn Crandall | Review

The Lady and the Lionheart by Joanne Bischof | Review

From my TBR

My Stubborn Heart by Becky Wade

Change of Heart by Courtney Walsh | This one just re-released with a new cover!

The Captive Heart by Michelle Griep

What did you share for TTT? Have you read any of these books? Do you have more recommendations with “heart” in the title?

Book & Film Pairings, edition 4

Welcome to another post where I pair books and films with similar themes or content! Today’s post is all about romantic comedies that happen to share a church-centric setting of some kind.

All three are self aware of their churchy humor (if you know, you know). And, they all balance humor, romance, and a serious side. Having spent time myself on a worship team, various committees, children’s choir leadership, etc., I definitely related to the humor and situations in these stories! Maybe you will, too. 😉

Off-Script & Over-Caffeinated by Kaley and Rhonda Rea

This lighthearted romcom has the planning of a children’s community theater play as a backdrop to much of the characters’ interactions. The cat-owning beta hero and the grouchy barista are my favorite characters. In addition to some hilarious dragon-building and dress shopping situations, it intentionally spoofs Hallmark movies and tropes throughout.

Then There Was You by Kara Isaac

The comedy in this story is all about clumsiness, fish-out-of-water situations (American girl in Australia!), and the trickiness of working in a megachurch (that’s sarcasm). The emotional journey of healing its romantic leads traverse, though, is most impactful and impressive. It’s a fav!

The Resurrection of Gavin Stone (2016)

It has been a while since I watched this movie, but I love the cast and remember thinking the story was fun and enlightening. I’m pairing it with the books for its comedy and play-planning story content, as well as the unexpected romance and deeper lessons its characters learn. While its hero “pretends” to fit in to the church culture while fulfilling a community service sentence, he learns what true service and faith looks like in action. AND he falls for the pastor’s daughter along the way.

Review: “Tidewater Bride” by Laura Frantz

I am happy to be a part of the blogging team for Laura Frantz’s newest novel, Tidewater Bride! It is a standalone historical romance set in 1634 Virginia Colony.

About the Book
tidewater bride cover

Selah Hopewell seems to be the only woman in the Virginia colony who has no wish to wed. True, there are too many men and far too few women in James Towne. But Selah already has her hands full assisting her father in the family’s shop. And now she is in charge of an incoming ship of tobacco brides who must be looked after as they sort through their many suitors.

Xander Renick is perhaps the most eligible tobacco lord in the settlement. His lands are vast, his crops are prized, and his position as a mediator between the colonists and the powerful Powhatan nation surrounding them makes him indispensable. But Xander is already wedded to his business and still grieves the loss of his wife, daughter of the Powhatan chief.

Can two fiercely independent people find happiness and fulfillment on their own? Or will they discover that what they’ve been missing in life has been right in front of them all along?

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

Laura Frantz continues to prove her mastery of the historical romance genre with every novel she pens. I am impressed, once again, with the immersive setting, beloved characters, intriguing events, and overall riveting story of Tidewater Bride.

My list of fav Frantz books is long because she’s one of my favorite authors of early America settings. This book is top 4! She introduces eras and places I wouldn’t normally be interested in, or I don’t know much about. She takes readers all the way back to Colonial James Towne here with high historical accuracy which vividly depicts the period and people. I enjoy how Frantz introduces time-specific customs, clothing, language, and day to day life in her stories in a natural way. In this case, I really appreciate her informational author’s note (it had me googling historical events!).

Selah and Xander’s friendship and growing romance unfold at the perfect pace. Their connectedness and backstory are both surprising and poignant, while their current circumstances offer further challenge. Selah is an intelligent and capable woman who demonstrates an admirable respect of her family and trust in God’s will. Xander is a formidable hero who deftly balances the ruggedness needed for survival at such a time with a protective tenderness for all in his care — from his laborers, beloved aunt, son, to his patience with Selah. He’s definitely made my list of book boyfriends due to his rugged charm and wits. 😉

Besides being a captivating story with a tender romance, Tidewater Bride spurs me to think about story and plot beyond the typical. Its presentation of a central romance with several other complex factors influencing pace and story direction is unique and smart. Its themes anchor the characters and reveal their hearts in a relatable way: trust, endurance, the lows of grief, joy, uncertainty, hope. It is a remarkable piece of historical fiction that I am happy to gush over and recommend!

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