Review: “In the Shadow of Croft Towers” by Abigail Wilson

I am always excited about finding new authors to love. Debut author Abigail Wilson is one I am extremely happy to have discovered — she is a gracious person and a wonderful storyteller! Her debut, In the Shadow of Croft Towers, recently released from Thomas Nelson. It is an exciting historical mystery and romance, complete with spies, a grand country estate, questions of inheritance, and a likable heroine.

About the Book

From debut author Abigail Wilson comes a mysterious Regency tale of secrets and spies, love and treachery.

Orphaned Sybil Delafield jumps at the opportunity for a position at the mysterious Croft Towers. She believes she was hired to act as companion to a dying woman, but a highway robbery and a hostile welcome from the Chalcroft family cause her to wonder if she was actually hired to help someone spy for France.

An unsolved murder adds intrigue to this already secretive family, and Sybil recognizes Mrs. Chalcroft’s handsome grandson as one of the infamous highwaymen who robbed her. Sybil must determine if this man’s charming smile and earnest eyes speak the truth or if he is simply using her like others in the house. Everyone seems to have something to hide, and Sybil must decide who to trust while also coming to terms with the truth about her own past.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

In the Shadow of Croft Towers is an engrossing escape to the countryside of Regency England. With a web of mystery (and highwaymen!), Sybil Delafield navigates the secrets of the inhabitants of a grand estate, all the while searching for her own answers. The rare first person POV enhances the swirling secrets and makes Sybil’s character endearing. The mystery itself is a brilliant web with some elements that kept me guessing until the very end, and a couple I saw coming — but nonetheless, I enjoyed the reactions of the characters as they discovered the true answers and reasons for certain characters’ behavior. The hero of the story, Mr. Sinclair, is as dashing, chivalrous, and witty as one could hope for — and a smart match to Sybil, treating her as an equal yet being wonderfully protective when the situation required.

This is a debut novel worthy of your time, especially if you are a fan of historical romance and mystery. I look forward to the next book in the series, Midnight on the River Grey, and anything else Ms. Wilson plans to write!

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

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Series Review: “Blue Ridge Romance” by Denise Hunter

It’s always fun to binge-read a series, especially when it’s by an author I always enjoy. The “Blue Ridge Romance” series by Denise Hunter is one I worked through in the past couple weeks. It was a fictional getaway, of sorts, with its peach and honeysuckle moments in the middle of my winter season. I’m reviewing the series today! Each book can stand on its own, though it reads well as a series.

About the Books

Blue Ridge Sunrise

Former free spirit Zoe Collins swore she’d never again set foot in Copper Creek or speak to the man who broke her heart. But return she must when her beloved Granny dies, leaving the family legacy to Zoe—a peach orchard nestled at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

When Zoe returns home with her daughter and boyfriend Kyle, she finds that she’s the only person in town who doesn’t expect her to give up the life she’s established far away from Copper Creek. Everyone believes she was born to run the orchard, but how can she make it her home after so many years?

Cruz Huntley never quite got over his first love, Zoe Collins, the little sister of his best friend Brady. Not when she cheated on him during their “break,” not when she took off to parts unknown with good-for-nothing Kyle Jenkins, and not even now—five years later.

As life-changing decisions and a history with Cruz hang over Zoe’s head, tensions rise between her and Kyle. Even as she comes to terms with the shifting relationships in her life, Zoe still isn’t sure if she can remain in Copper Creek with her new responsibilities . . . and her first love.

Honeysuckle Dreams

After Brady Collins’ ex-wife dies, he receives devastating news—his nine-month-old son Sam isn’t his son at all. And Sam’s wealthy maternal grandparents want custody of the child. Brady knows he’s in for the fight of his life. But regardless of what any blood test says, Sam is his son, and Brady will go to any lengths to keep him.

Brady’s attorney tips him off that one major life change would virtually assure him of winning guardianship of baby Sam at the final hearing: an impending marriage. And his friend Hope is willing to step in as the loving and devoted fiance.

Local radio celebrity Hope Daniels has been driven by a solitary goal her entire life, and after a happy accident she’s finally offered her dream job. But if the truth comes out about her arrangement with Brady, she may miss the chance of a lifetime and stand in the way of a dear friend’s dreams.

As Brady and Hope make sacrifices to help each other in their times of need, they risk uncovering a truth neither of them expects to find.

On Magnolia Lane

Falling in love with Daisy was easy for Jack. But finding the courage to tell her becomes problematic when his secret feelings lead to even bigger complications.

After two years of counseling sessions with Daisy Pendleton, Pastor Jack McReady has earned a permanent spot in her life as a spiritual leader—and nothing more. Jack would never risk losing her trust by exposing the depths of his heart, but he’s hopelessly in love with her.

Daisy loves her southern small-town life and her job at her family-run flower shop, but she doesn’t have the thing she longs for most: someone to share it with. Her recent foray into online dating has been a disaster—until she meets TJ.

Jack could kill his friend Noah for using his initials and some indistinct photos to set up a profile on the dating app Daisy is using. But when he’s finally afforded the opportunity to show her a different side of himself, he’s sucked into the plan before he has time for second thoughts.

Online, Daisy shares some of her greatest fears with TJ, but in person, Jack and Daisy are spending more time together. When a devastating family secret surfaces, Daisy knows that only her trusted friend and counselor can bring her comfort. Jack wants nothing more than to be both men for Daisy, but revealing his secret will prove to be the ultimate test of Daisy’s grace.

My Reviews

The “Blue Ridge Romance” series is thoroughly entertaining. Through various tropes (reunion, marriage of convenience, and a You’ve Got Mail-esque setup), overarching themes of HOPE and grace tie together this group of characters and friends in a delightful southern setting. All 6 of the main characters play prominent roles in each story, so their dynamic is expected from the beginning.

What I enjoyed most about Blue Ridge Sunrise was its second-chance romance that had a foundation from the start of the story.

I really liked Cruz and found his character arc to be important and heartfelt, I liked the dynamic he had with Zoe, and all the emotions (and chemistry) that went with their reconnecting. In my opinion, Zoe wasn’t always likable, or at least she didn’t stir as much empathy as I hoped she would as the story progressed. I understand her viewpoint and the mistakes she made that cause her current circumstances, but I felt like some of her decisions, even toward the end of the story, were lacking the amount of wisdom her arc required (and therefore felt a little contrived). 

A section of chapters are devoted to a flashback that comes at a key moment in establishing the characters’ depth. This was a device that added layers to the story and explained the history in a way that memories or shorter explanations would not have described. It worked well!

Honeysuckle Dreams is a delightful romance that explores the ties of family, the necessity of hope, and the risk (and faith) it takes to love deeply. A marriage of convenience trope is one of my favorites — and hard to pull of in a contemporary setting. But Brady and Hope exceed any expectations I had, committing for selfless reasons and growing from friendship into a relationship that’s swoony and tenderly romantic.

A few threads of the story could have been predictable, but they worked out early or in a different way than I expected, which was a pleasant surprise. The themes of this novel encompassed love, faith, and even delved into the personal insecurities and anxiety of Brady and Hope that stemmed from their past. This made the story even more meaningful and impactful for its resonant message of truth and bravery, of speaking up and honestly sharing your heart. It’s my personal fav of the series!

On Magnolia Lane was probably the sweetest romance of the series because it involved unrequited love and a growth from friendship. When I heard this story would be a spin on a “You’ve Got Mail” situation, I was intrigued! Pastor Jack’s relationship with Daisy on a dating website is the setup for a deeper relationship and the story’s complications.

In this case, Jack is aware he’s deceiving Daisy. I normally wouldn’t buy in to this setup so readily, but the lovelorn Jack and his consideration in being as honest as possible, even while not revealing his identity yet, just works. When the truth comes to light, it is a very important moment of growth and lesson for both Jack and Daisy, bringing to light how the best intentions can still result in hurt if they are not grounded on complete truth. Another large part of this book involved some life-altering family secrets Daisy contends with. This discovery matched with Daisy and Jack’s evolving relationship to challenge Daisy to see beyond herself in new ways, requiring her grace and strength.

Thank you to BookLook Bloggers and the publisher for the review copy of book 3. This is my honest review.

Best of 2018: Historical Books

Welcome to my annual “best-of” celebration! I’m changing it up a bit and separating the categories of my yearly best-of lists over a few days. All of this is to celebrate their distinction and spend a few more days talking about all the wonderful entertainment of 2018.

Day 1. Best of 2018: Novellas

Day 2. Best of 2018: Historical Books

Day 3. Best of 2018: Contemporary Books

Day 4. Goodbye 2018 & Looking Ahead

Today is all about HISTORICAL BOOKS. While I dearly love historical fiction, I have read less of it this year. At any rate, these are the favorites from my list!

The rules: sometimes I have to make boundaries for myself when it comes to talking about books because we would all be here a long time if were able to ramble on. SO, I’m sticking to my format of last year and choosing to share 3 things that describe each of these stories along with a link to Goodreads and my review. In no particular order…

Best of 2018: Historical Books

Murder at the Flamingo by Rachel McMillan | Review

Jazz. Grace. Friendship

Impossible Saints by Clarissa Harwood | Review

Suffrage. Romance. Purpose.

Sons of Blackbird Mountain by Joanne Bischof | Review

Brotherhood. Atmospheric. Poignant.

The Lacemaker by Laura Frantz | Review

Liberty. Honor. Love.

The Matrimonial Advertisement by Mimi Matthews | Review

Arrangements. Mystery. Forgiveness

A Heart Revealed by Josi S. Kilpack | Review

Worth. Growth. Kindness.

My Heart Belongs in the Blue Ridge by Pepper Basham | Review coming in January!

Family. Tenderness. Hope.

Your turn! What were your favorite historical reads of 2018? Have you read any of these?

Book Review: ” The Lacemaker” by Laura Frantz

My copy of The Lacemaker

Reading a Laura Frantz novel is like stepping back in time. I always learn something new about history or culture with each of her stories. Her 2018 novel, The Lacemaker, is set at the cusp of the American Revolution (one of my fav eras) in and around Williamsburg Virginia. I FINALLY read it – and I’m so glad I did, because it’s one of the very best of 2018, and one of my top 3 favorites of her novels.

About the Book

The Lacemaker by Laura FrantzWhen colonial Williamsburg explodes like a powder keg on the eve of the American Revolution, Lady Elisabeth “Liberty” Lawson is abandoned by her fiance and suspected of being a spy for the hated British. No one comes to her aid save the Patriot Noble Rynallt, a man with formidable enemies of his own. Liberty is left with a terrible choice. Will the Virginia belle turned lacemaker side with the radical revolutionaries, or stay true to her English roots? And at what cost?

Historical romance favorite Laura Frantz is back with a suspenseful story of love, betrayal, and new beginnings. With her meticulous eye for detail and her knack for creating living, breathing characters, Frantz continues to enchant historical fiction readers who long to feel they are a part of the story.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

The Lacemaker is an absolutely gorgeous story — rich in history and detail, Laura Frantz continues to prove herself a master storyteller. The patriotic spirit of the American Revolution is captured in this story of love and belonging. The romance between Noble and Lady Elisabeth (Liberty) is everything sacred and precious, its nature reflecting the selfless love of a Savior. This is a book I will love even more upon rereads in the future!

The Lacemaker ElisabethThe beauty of The Lacemaker can be likened to an intricate design of lace itself, where the artistry is in the tiny workings and subtleties that make a grand design. The themes of truth, defending beliefs and loyalty, love, protection, finding a true home with the ones you love, even the joy that can be found during the most tumultuous times all work to make this a historical romance I will long remember and eagerly revisit.

And oh, the history! Noble and company rub elbows with big names leading up to the war, and it fits so naturally into the story and brings a sense of realism to both the story and the larger-than-life historical characters.

Lady Elisabeth, AKA Liberty, was a character I instantly liked and was invested in. Devoting her loyalty to one cause or the other (Tory or Patriot) was a decision that would determine her future. Though I wanted to encourage her to make a decision quickly, this was a journey in which she took her own time – making her own way, learning her own heart, and realizing the opportunity of love right in front of her very nose.

Noble lives up to his name, the effort of which is never a secret and the most endearing part of his character. The other endearing thing is when he speaks Welsh! 🙂 Noble makes the list of favorite heroes as an ideal. Noble is everything. Not because he is perfect, but because he strives to be the person his Savior, Liberty, and his country require. Basically I want to learn to speak Welsh now and eat Bara Brith all day.

Cover Reveal: “When You Look at Me” by Pepper Basham ~ Just Read Tours

When  You  Look  at  Me  Cover  Reveal

Welcome to the official COVER REVEAL blitz for When You Look at Me by Pepper Basham, hosted by JustRead Publicity Tours! When You Look At Me is the 2nd book in the Pleasant Gap Romance series and releases in October 2018.

ABOUT THE BOOK

An unexpected mother-to-be

A romance-leery composer

And a forgotten melody from the past that holds the keys to their futures.

When Julia Jenkin’a great aunt dies and leaves her a Victorian mansion with decades of secrets, Julia never expects to unearth a World War 2 espionage mystery. Struggling with her own past since an assault left her pregnant, her future as a solo parent leaves her dreams uncertain. The inheritance from her great aunt gives Julia the ability to take a step back into her future, but also sends her into the discovery of a love story she’d never anticipated. Following her aunt’s cryptic journal, Julia uncovers some oddly written piano music with a musical code she can’t decipher on her own. Not to worry, introverted Englishman and composer, Henry Wright, is thrust on the scene by a pair of homespun matchmakers who know the ‘right’ man for Julia’s wounded heart.

Henry arrives in Pleasant Gap with the task of composing the soundtrack for his best mate͛s newest film. The Jenkin’s family’s southern welcome and gregarious personalities set his reticent nature on edge, but he’s inexplicably drawn to his gentle and music-loving hostess, Julia. Uncertain how to build a friendship with the wounded woman, and rather hopeless in communicating well through words, the bond of music becomes a bridge between her uncertainty and his awkwardness.

But her broken past and his family’s expectations build a wall much greater than the cultures that separate them. As they work together to solve a musical mystery from the grave, will an unlikely romance from the past inspire their hearts to trust in a God who’s written the perfect melody for their lives?


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

pepper  basham

Pepper Basham is an award-winning author who writes historical and contemporary romance novels with grace, humor, and culture clashes. She’s a Blue Ridge Mountain native and an anglophile who enjoys combining her two loves to create memorable stories of hope. Pepper is also a mom of five, a speech-language pathologist, and a lover of Jesus and chocolate. She resides in Asheville, North Carolina with her family.

CONNECT: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Instagram


Ready…..

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Reveal!!

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Yay!! It’s so sweet and pretty! I have no doubt the story inside will be just as wonderful 🙂

Available October 25

GOODREADS | AMAZON


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TOUR GIVEAWAY

Enter for your chance to win:

  • print copy of Just the Way You Are (book #1 in the series)
  • a cute ‘Britallachian’ mug – “We go together like tea and biscuits”

Enter via the Rafflecopter giveaway below. Giveaway will begin at midnight August 15, 2018 and last through 11:59pm August 22, 2018. US only. Winners will be notified within a week of close of the giveaway and given 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. Giveaway is subject to the policies found here.

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Follow along with the tour at JustRead for a full list of stops!

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Series Review: “Summer of the Burning Sky” by Susan May Warren

AK sunset

My own photo of an Alaskan summertime “burning sky” sunset — taken a couple years ago on a church trip. The sunset is super late at night, and the sky never gets completely dark!

Author Susan May Warren has done it again! She’s penned an epic novella series that released this summer, each installment just a month apart. The good news? Tomorrow is release day for book 3, so you can binge-read the whole romantic suspense series! Read on for my thoughts on each novella with full book descriptions at the end.

About the series…

When western Alaska erupts in a devastating fire, the elite firefighting crew of the Jude County Smokejumpers is called in to save the day. They’ll do anything to stop the fire, including fighting alongside a crew of local prisoners. 

The last thing they expect is a jailbreak and when the prisoners disappear into the forest with one of their own, they’ll have to fight not only the fire, but for the freedom of their friends…during the Summer of the Burning Sky. 

Review

Light My Fire

Light My FireAn epic start to this series! I was pulled in to the action from the very beginning! With characters easy to like and root for, this is a story of drama and danger with a very personal message of rescue and help at its center. I loved seeing Stevie learn how forgiveness is possible and for both her and Tucker to know that together is a good thing, whether it be in the form of God on your side, backup close by, or even navigating life with another person.

 

The Heat Is On

The Heat is OnAnother installment of action and suspense in the wilderness! Picking up during the events of book 1, Susan May Warren cleverly overlaps the stories, offering more detail through point of view and telling a more complex story. Oh, the chemistry! In the middle of the drama a connection between Rio and Skye is so evident. And the darkness vs light, the God being ON YOUR SIDE theme is continued…. proving that HE can provide right where you are.

Some Like It Hot

Some Like it HotThis is my favorite of the series. 🙂 Some Like It Hot had a few twists out of nowhere, which made it all the more interesting to see how Riley and Larke would handle and respond to their circumstances as all the excitement unfolded. It wasn’t all action, though, as this story took possibly the deepest emotional turns and had both Riley and Larke coming to terms with what it means to be a hero, the risk it takes to love, and the way God abandons everything to bring us to Him. And Riley! Talk about a fun hero — he’s such a flirt on the outside but I loved seeing the way Larke brings out his protective and heroic side, especially when her own struggles and attraction complicate everything. The series is wonderfully and nicely wrapped up with this final novella, but I DO hope Susan has more in store for this team in the future!

Thank you to the author for the advanced copy of Some Like It Hot for review. This is my honest review.

About the Book

Book 1: Light My Fire 

Former bad-boy Tucker Newman has learned his lesson—as the temporary team leader of the Jude County Smokejumpers, he’s all about following the rules to keep his team safe. Especially when he has to partner with a group of local low-security prisoners to knock down the raging fire. But the prisoners are not who they seem, and when they stage a break, kidnapping one of his teammates, he’ll have to break every rule he knows to get her back.

US Marshal Stevie Mills knows that to get the job done, she must work alone. She simply can’t risk another person getting hurt because of her. When she discovers that a wanted fugitive accused of rape and murder has not only been set free to fight the fire—but is now on the lam with a hostage– the last thing she needs is a zealous smokejumper getting in the way of her pursuit.

Whether they like it or not, Tucker and Stevie must join forces if they hope to save lives, and in the meantime, they just might discover a new definition for the word teamwork, in book 1 of the Summer of the Burning Sky.

Goodreads | Amazon

Book 2: The Heat is On

FBI Agent Rio Parker is tired of playing the bad guy, even if it is for a good reason. Undercover with a group of prisoners to babysit a federal informant, he can’t believe he’s been enlisted to fight a forest fire…or sucked into a prison break. Worse—a female smokejumper has been kidnapped. Now, he’ll have to protect her from a rapist, keep his informant from escaping, and stay out of the gunsights of the US Marshal hot on his trail.

Smokejumper Skye Doyle knew trouble was brewing when the group of prisoners joined the firefight. She never expected, however, to be kidnapped during their breakout. But can she trust a hardened felon to keep her safe? Except, Rio is not who he seems, and when his identity is uncovered, she must decide if she can trust a man who has been lying to her…

But staying alive on the run isn’t their only problem, they’ll have to learn to trust each other if they hope to survive in book 2 of the Summer of the Burning Sky.

Goodreads | Amazon

Book 3: Some Like It Hot 

Riley McCord is trouble, from his blue eyes to his renegade smile—a cover for the grief of losing his father three years ago in Afghanistan, a loss that is still top secret. Riley masks it all by living large—working hard and playing hard, and that includes romancing Larke Kingston, local wilderness medic. When he’s sidelined while working the forest fire, he’s determined to rejoin his team, but to do so, he’ll have to accompany Larke into the wilderness when she is dispatched to a medical emergency. What he doesn’t realize is that trouble is waiting for him in the woods…

Medic Larke Kingston lost the man she loved during her service in Afghanistan and she’s not interested in a troublemaker, so Riley’s no threat to her heart. Just a short-term distraction. Until, that is, a wilderness medical mission puts her face-to-face with an escaped prisoner. Suddenly she needs Riley more than she wants to admit.

Riley is shocked when the escapee claims to have answers about his father’s death. However, before he can uncover them, the fire turns and is bearing down on Larke’s ranch, and his team. Now, only Riley and Larke stand between the flames and destruction of everything they both love. But will the price of saving the ranch—and the team—be greater than they both can bear?

In book 3, the epic Summer of the Burning Sky series comes to a blazing, shocking finale.

Goodreads | Amazon

 

Review: “Thirst of Steel” by Ronie Kendig (The Tox Files #3)

FB_IMG_1533072528397.jpgIt’s no secret I’ve loved the previous books in this series for all their Indiana Jones and military valor incidents. But this Thirst of Steel, the third and final book in the “Tox Files” series EXPLODES onto the scene and takes beloved characters on a journey that changes everything. Ronie Kendig has established herself as one of my favorite authors with this series alone. It’s now one of my absolute favorites! (I highly recommend reading this series in order for the best experience.)

The Warrior’s Seal | Conspiracy of SilenceCrown of Souls

About the Book

The Final Conflict Will Hinge on One of History’s Most Dangerous Blades

Thirst of Steel

Dismantled centuries ago, the sword of Goliath is still rumored to thirst for its enemies’ blood. Cole “Tox” Russell wants only to put the dangers of his past behind him and begin his new life with Haven Cortes. First, though, he’s called to complete a final mission: retrieve the sword and destroy the deadly Arrow & Flame Order.

The AFO, however, is determined to reunite the sword. Threatening the life of Ram and Tzivia’s father, they jeopardize Ram’s long-held and dangerous secret while demanding Tzivia locate the blade. With the Wraith team slowly being torn apart, things worsen when Mercy Maddox, a new operative, emerges with the stunning news that the artifact is tied to both Ram’s secret and a string of unsolved serial murders.

Tox, Ram, and the others are forced to set aside fear and anger to target the true enemy. No matter the cost, Wraith must destroy the AFO . . . or join them in the flames.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

To say it in one word: BRILLIANT! A few more: the plot, ancient mystery, secrets, and twists are perfectly executed.

Thirst 4

In Thirst of Steel, secrets, friendships, loyalties, and fortitudes are tested as the challenge of a lifetime faces the Wraith team — and especially Tox, Haven, Ram, and Tzivia. With more POVs, details about team members, and TWISTS you will never see coming, this story is one that will have you turning pages late into the night to see just what happens next! And, you’ll need to be prepared for action, adrenaline rushes, and around-the-world locations.

The Wraith TEAM is as funny, precise, and cohesive as ever. Tox and Haven are ALL THE FEELS and a big part of the emotional upheaval of the story (Ram is attributed the rest of the emotions and tears). A particular favorite of mine was Haven’s involvement in ancestry research… and the way Tzi Tzaddik and Chiji work with her.

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Readers will be ecstatic that we get a few more perspectives in this story, especially more time with Ram and Tzivia. RAM. His loyalty, sacrifices, ties to Mossad, and even his romantic life are front and center this time — further complicating the mission and forever changing the team dynamic. And Tzi? She’s as gorgeous and fierce as ever — especially when it comes to her efforts for her family and even in her blindness about her own self-worth. Her growth and arc in this book are impressive. AND, a lady named Mercy shows up as an important part of the story — and she brings to light the incredible symbolism and meaning behind some of the character names.

Thirst of Steel is more than a thriller. More than an undercover paramilitary black ops story or an ancient mystery-turned-international threat plot. It’s a story of humanity, of sacrifice and integrity, of family and brotherhood, of the true character revealed by a person’s actions, and of spiritual warfare, the very real fight against evil, and a powerful and all-knowing God we can choose to serve. This fictional story points to truth, light, and the salvation found in the greatest sacrificial Love humanity has ever known. Read it, friends. It’s quite the adventure.

I received a copy of this novel from the publisher. All opinions are honest and my own.

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