Review: “The Spice King” by Elizabeth Camden

One thing I always love about Elizabeth Camden’s novels are her intelligent heroines who illuminate aspects of women’s roles in society during the setting’s era. In her latest novel, The Spice King, a tenacious botanist is finding her place in 1900 Washington, DC. There happens to a hero to this story, too, as evidenced by the handsome cover….

About the Book

Gray Delacroix has dedicated his life to building his very successful global spice empire, but it has come at a cost. Resolved to salvage his family before it spirals out of control, he returns to his ancestral home to save his brother and sister before it’s too late.

As a junior botanist for the Smithsonian, Annabelle Larkin has been charged with the impossible task of gaining access to the notoriously private Delacroix plant collection. If she fails, she will be out of a job and the family farm in Kansas will go under. She has no idea that in gaining entrance to the Delacroix world, she will unwittingly step into a web of dangerous political intrigue far beyond her experience.

Unable to deny her attraction to the reclusive business tycoon, Annabelle will be forced to choose between her heart and loyalty to her country. Can Gray and Annabelle find a way through the storm of scandal without destroying the family Gray is fighting to save?

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

The Spice King is an intelligent historical romance!
Things I loved about this novel:

  • the tenacious heroine! She’s capable and wonderfully feminine, yet she still proves her ability and right to work in an environment history traditionally viewed as a place for men. And she loves her sister so much!
  • a brooding and fiercely loyal hero, whose facade begins to melt when he sees the potential for a dream for companionship and family unrealized (both in a romantic way and the relationships restored with his siblings)
  • political intrigue and secrets! Historically accurate WASHINGTON and the White House!
  • themes truth, loyalty, patriotism, trust
  • I enjoyed learning new things about exotic spices & foods we take for granted today!
  • the friendship and rapport between Gray and Annabelle. It’s a dynamic and subtle relationship. He is attracted to her intelligence and she greatly respects him!
  • Gray’s relationship with his siblings! I’m excited about more to come… and hopefully some answers to the twists of the story.
  • THE SWOONY COVER. I’M IN LOVE. And the hero very much matches the cover, so extra points for matchy accuracy!
  • the romance-that’s-way-smart. The romance is central to the story, yes, but even more so is the simple mature friendship that develops between Gray and Annabelle. Camden doesn’t dwell on the physical dynamic between them, that’s done well and subtly just so the reader senses the attraction. The appeal in their romance is more about camaraderie, intelligence, a recognition that each compliments the other, and a mutual respect. This elevates the story to a higher level, I think!

I am excited for the rest of this “Hope and Glory” series! I know we will see more of Gray and Annabelle.

Thanks to Bethany House for the review copy. This is my honest review.

Review: “Finding Lady Enderly” by Joanna Davidson Politano

Stories that literally make my jaw drop while reading are few and far between. So far, Joanna Davidson Politano has been able to do that with both of her novels I have read! Her latest Victorian mystery and romance, Finding Lady Enderly, is atmospheric and a beautiful depiction of selfless love.

About the Book

Raina Bretton is a rag woman in London’s east end when a handsome stranger appears in a dank alley and offers her a glittering smile and a chance for adventure. Rothburne Abbey has a unique position for her, one that will take her away from her hardscrabble life and give her a chance to be a lady. Things she could only dream of might be coming true. But some dreams turn out to be nightmares.

Though Raina has traded squalor for silk and satin, something about the abbey is deeply unsettling. As she wrestles with her true identity, the ruin, decay, and secrets she finds at the heart of the old mansion tear at her confidence and threaten to reveal her for who she really is. Only one man stands between her and the danger that lurks within–and only if he decides to keep her biggest secret hidden.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

A truly exemplary Victorian romance, Finding Lady Enderly is an eloquent reminder of everything I love about the genre. A deftly woven mystery, rags to riches journey, romance that transcends the norm, and a delightful love of books all work to make this story of identity and purpose a meaningful and memorable work.

From the first chapter, I was intrigued and hooked on this story! It is so well crafted — the depth of Raina’s character is revealed slowly, as are the secrets and twists surrounding her situation. I enjoyed everything about Raina. Her flaws and inner turmoil over a few untruths felt relatable and a natural reaction to her circumstances. There are parallels between the estate of Rothburne and Raina herself that are clever and very fitting to deliver the message of the story.

And oh, the romance! The hero of this story is different than I expected. Gallant and selfless, yes, but in a position subject to Raina’s actions, which challenges him to grow and her to rise to the occasion in a beautiful way.

One story device in Finding Lady Enderly I adore is the use of lines from classic literature! Their unique application adds a special meaning to the story, one that works in favor of the characters especially if the reader is familiar with the depth and story behind the quoted passages. You’ll just have to read this novel to find out exactly *how* they apply!

At this mystery’s heart is a message of identity and worth. It is richly depicted, compelling in the way it illustrates the traits of God and how they echo throughout His creation. This story has found a home on my re-read shelf!

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

Review: “Ever Faithful” by Karen Barnett

I have enjoyed all of the novels in Karen Barnett’s “Vintage National Parks” series for their wonderful natural settings and looks at life through varied park inhabitants – rangers, staff, tourists, guides, and artists. This series is more of a collection as each novel has told a unique, standalone story set in a different national park.

About the Book

Vibrant historic Yellowstone National Park comes to life in this romantic mystery about a man hiding the truth, braving the west to become something more–and the woman who must confront his deception.

A man who can’t read will never amount to anything–or so Nate Webber believes. But he takes a chance to help his family by signing up for the new Civilian Conservation Corps, skirting the truth about certain “requirements.” Nate exchanges the harsh Brooklyn streets for the wilds of Yellowstone National Park, curious if the Eden-like wonderland can transform him as well. 

Elsie Brookes was proud to grow up as a ranger’s daughter, but she longs for a future of her own. After four years serving as a maid in the park’s hotels, she still hasn’t saved enough money for her college tuition. A second job, teaching a crowd of rowdy men in the CCC camp, might be the answer, but when Elsie discovers Nate’s secret, it puts his job as camp foreman in jeopardy. Tutoring leads to friendship and romance, until a string of suspicious fires casts a dark shadow over their relationship. Can they find answers before all of their dreams go up in smoke?

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

The setting of Yellowstone comes alive in this “vintage” story of dreaming by Karen Barnett. A well-paced tale of friendship, strength, and a little adventure unfolds in a picturesque setting that makes me want to visit ! I thought it was an insightful and curious look at Depression era events and culture, too, with characters I want to be friends with! 

One small element of this story I really appreciate is the distinction between education as separate from wisdom and leadership abilities. One does not require the other. This is shown through a learning disability of one specific character. The way Karen Barnett presents this situation is considerate while it emphasizes the worth of this individual as a child of God.

I think Ever Faithful is a flowing, easy to read story. Character driven at its heart, it shows the journeys of Elsie and Nate as they experience a season of life with great changes and possibilities. The setting is vivid and wonderfully essential to bringing out the passion in the characters – Elsie’s desire to teach and Nate’s quest to prove himself. When their paths intersect, they develop a friendship that brings out the best in each other and shows them both their worth and God’s plan.

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

Review: “Just One Kiss” by Courtney Walsh

With author Courtney Walsh’s latest release, we return to the fictional town of Harbor Pointe for a story of second chances, family, and romance. Just One Kiss is the third book set in this quaint town and reads as a standalone, though you will delight over learning more about the straightforward and bright teenager, Jaden, who had an important role in book 2, Just Let Go.

About the Book

He broke her heart. Now, he’s back, and he’s determined to show her what they had isn’t over. . . and he can prove it with just one kiss.

Single mother Carly Collins likes predictability. However, when her son Jaden’s health is threatened, her neatly controlled world is tossed into a tailspin. Nothing is certain anymore, especially her feelings for Josh Dixon, Jaden’s father, her first love and the man responsible for shattering her heart sixteen years ago. 

When Josh Dixon walked out of Harbor Pointe, he left behind his only shot at a real family. Now a successful tech mogul, the town rebel has found a cause—ensure his son’s recovery and prove to Carly and Jaden that he’s not the same guy he was back then. 

Carly and Josh are forced to wade through messy emotions and questions that have gone unanswered for years, which would be easier if not for the pesky feelings, every bit as strong and impossible to ignore as they ever were. 

Will forgiveness win, giving Carly and Josh a second chance at love . . . or will the past prove too much to overcome?

A small town romance about first love second chances and how our most beautiful life might look nothing like we planned.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

Courtney Walsh never fails to make me smile, swoon over the romance, and cry over the deeply emotional moments in her stories. Just One Kiss is further proof! I loved it!

Part rekindled love, part family drama, and part small town charming, this story has no qualms with facing the hard questions of life, likes the “whys” and the challenges of extending grace for second chances.

I have read several reviews of this book noting it is Courtney Walsh’s best yet. While I can’t pick a favorite of her books (I have really loved them all!), I can say that Walsh is at the top of her storytelling game with Just One Kiss. The way it balances serious themes with lighthearted moments, just the right amount of drama and romance, surprises that really deepen the story, and even details like *showing* the backstory of Carly and Josh through flashback scenes all impress me. The combination of hallmark-like moments (dress shop!) with weighty moments in hospital waiting rooms and the vulnerability of opening your heart (letting go of anger) and offering someone a second chance all work to make this an impactful story.

Just One Kiss is a book I will return to and love just as much upon rereading. There is a relatable humanity in all of the characters, through their flaws, dreams, and questions, that makes it memorable and unique. Its message of forgiveness and the simplicity of grace is desperately needed in our world.

Thank you the the author for the review copy. This is my honest review.

Review: “The Printed Letter Bookshop” by Katherine Reay

Reay book stack

I’m sharing a review of Katherine Reay’s latest standalone novel, The Printed Letter Bookshop. This novel leans towards character-driven women’s fiction with a gorgeous nod to books and faith and even looks at the roles of women in family, career, and relationships of all kinds. Simply put, is a novel for #booknerds.

Bonus fun: this book has been showing up on all kinds of online bookish lists, like this “8 of the Best Books About Books” list at Book Riot, Goodreads, and more! This makes me happy!

About the Book

Love, friendship, and family find a home at the Printed Letter Bookshop

One of Madeline Cullen’s happiest childhood memories is of working with her Aunt Maddie in the quaint and cozy Printed Letter Bookshop. But by the time Madeline inherits the shop nearly twenty years later, family troubles and her own bitter losses have hardened Madeline’s heart toward her once-treasured aunt—and the now struggling bookshop left in her care.

While Madeline intends to sell the shop as quickly as possible, the Printed Letter’s two employees have other ideas. Reeling from a recent divorce, Janet finds sanctuary within the books and within the decadent window displays she creates. Claire, though quieter than the acerbic Janet, feels equally drawn to the daily rhythms of the shop and its loyal clientele, finding a renewed purpose within its walls. When Madeline’s professional life takes an unexpected turn, and when a handsome gardener upends all her preconceived notions, she questions her plans and her heart. She begins to envision a new path for herself and for her aunt’s beloved shop—provided the women’s best combined efforts are not too little, too late.

The Printed Letter Bookshop is a captivating story of good books, a testament to the beauty of new beginnings, and a sweet reminder of the power of friendship.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

The Printed Letter Bookshop is part philosophical view of human nature and part love letter to books and stories, all expressed on a journey of three unlikely friends steeped in grace. Katherine Reay is a reader and clearly knows her craft. The love of books is prominent in all of her stories, coupled with a storytelling style that reveals just enough of a complex situation and each character’s plight bit by bit, drawing the reader in to their stories and hearts.

With The Printed Letter Bookshop, three lives intersect because of the legacy of another woman. This legacy impacts them in unforeseen ways, all living through and learning the about life’s challenges, the pain that sometimes accompanies love, how to grow and forgive, and even the joys and laughter found in unlikely kinship.

One of the best parts of this story is the slowly unfurling love story that’s magnetic and unlike anything from Reay thus far. The romance is less prominent in this than her typical style but still integral to the story. When Madeline and a certain someone are in the same scene, it sparkles. Along with the “new” romance of Madeline’s, I appreciate how Claire and Janet’s POVs explore different stages of romance, even complacency and loss, through a lens of relationship and love.

This is truly a book to lose yourself in and yet find the wonder of story again. With nods and references to countless stories (and a lovely reading list at the back!), I found myself adding to my to-be-read list every few chapters. If you’re a return Reay reader, you might spot a few references to her other fictional characters in the pages!

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

Review: “Far Side of the Sea” by Kate Breslin

I LOVE when I learn something from fiction. And, when that’s combined with a riveting story, I’m a happy reader. Kate Breslin NEVER disappoints in this respect. Her latest novel, Far Side of the Sea, takes the reader on a European quest during WWI, complete with spies, tricks, pigeons, and a sweet friendship-to-romance story.

About the Book

In spring 1918, Lieutenant Colin Mabry, a British soldier working with MI8 after suffering injuries on the front, receives a message by carrier pigeon. It is from Jewel Reyer, the woman he once loved and who saved his life–a woman he believed to be dead. Traveling to France to answer her urgent summons, he desperately hopes this mission will ease his guilt and restore the courage he lost on the battlefield.

Colin is stunned, however, to discover the message came from Jewel’s half sister, Johanna. Johanna, who works at a dovecote for French Army Intelligence, found Jewel’s diary and believes her sister is alive in the custody of a German agent. With spies everywhere, Colin is skeptical of Johanna, but as they travel across France and Spain, a tentative trust begins to grow between them.

When their pursuit leads them straight into the midst of a treacherous plot, danger and deception turn their search for answers into a battle for their lives 

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

Far Side of the Sea is an absolutely riveting tale of history, adventure, and romance. Set against the backdrop of WWI, Colin’s story begins as a tentative journey for honor and grows more complex and layered as intrigue and danger heighten. When he meets the “other” Reyer sister, Johanna, his life is turned on end and their quest becomes an urgent and noble one — one that takes them across Europe!

Kate Breslin pens the most vivid character personalities (even side characters we meet)! Colin’s intelligence and seriousness are perfectly matched with Johanna’s wits and fortitude, making them a couple to cheer for – and one whose friendship holds more than a few surprises.

I also loved learning more about history and the use of carrier pigeons in WWI. It was such a daring and interesting tactic! I was delighted by Breslin’s extensive author’s note that shed more light on the historical facts of the story. I love to learn through fiction 🙂

Along with the action of this novel, the characters themselves grow and change through their experiences. I was rooting for Colin to heal and realize his value, something Johanna helps him to see. Likewise, Johanna experiences the beginnings of faith and the peace in knowing she is never truly alone as a child of God.

This novel is definitely on my list of favorite WWI stories! I was delighted with the glimpses of familiar characters from Breslin’s novel Not by Sight. I am eager for whatever era or story Kate writes about next (and I’m hoping we see Marcus again? 😉 ).

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

Review: “Knox” by Susan May Warren (Montana Marshalls #1)

It’s been quiet lately in my little corner of the blogging world, but it is NOT for lack of good books! I have been reading some great stories and will be sharing more about them soon.

One novel I finished this week was the first in Susan May Warren’s new independently-published series: The “Montana Marshalls” series. Knox kicks off the family saga with a ‘gallop’ straight into action and drama with more stories to come.

About the Book

He’s not looking for trouble…

Montana rancher Knox Marshall’s danger years are behind him. A former bull-rider, he now runs the Marshall family ranch, raising champion bucking bulls for the National Professional Bullrider’s Expo (NBR-X). Wealth and success are his, but life is stable, expected, and…ordinary.  But he wants more from life… 

But trouble is looking for her…

Kelsey Jones just wants a safe life, a family, a home. Onstage, the beautiful rising star of the Yankee Belles becomes the person she longs to be – vivacious and confident – burying the brokenness she carries from a violent assault. Becoming NBR-X’s next country act is key to outrunning her past and achieving the success and security she craves. 

When trouble finds them both…

Knox and Kelsey’s paths collide when an explosion at an NBR-X event traps them in the rubble and leaves them reeling. Kelsey’s crippling nightmares return, but for Knox, an obsession to find the bomber is ignited. 

What will it cost him to protect her? 

When Kelsey’s past threatens Knox’s family, he’ll have to choose between saving the Marshall legacy or becoming the protector he’s always longed to be. 

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

Equal parts family drama, modern western, and romantic suspense, the first installment in Susan’s new Marshall Family series, Knox, sets the bar and the excitement level high for the rest of the series to come!

Susan May Warren always manages to perfectly balance story, character development, and strong themes all in a fast-paced package. In this case, action, ranching, and life as a rising country band combine with the steadiness of Knox and the strength of Kelsey; likable and supportive (in a friendship and brotherhood way) secondary characters; and themes of compassion and the steadfastness of God’s love.

I was thrilled to encounter cameos and mentions of some favorite characters from Susan’s previous series, some of which I know I still need to read! Also, the references to music, TV westerns, and pop culture (hello, Kevin Costner and Bodyguard) were wonderfully incorporated into the story and just plain fun.

Oh, and since Susan’s stories are all wonderfully connected and layered, the next book is set up well. With the way THIS ONE ENDS, I need Tate’s story NOW!

Thanks to Relz Author Support for the review copy. This is my honest review.