Mini Review: “Conductor of Light” by Rachel McMillan (FREE ebook!)

Today’s mini review features a short installment from Rachel McMillan in the Herringford and Watts Mysteries series. Conductor of Light is a FREE ebook-only short story which falls into the series as # 2.5 (after A Lesson in Love and Murder).
conductor-of-lightThis is classic Jem & Merinda, Ray & Jasper shenanigans. All centered around theatre– and obviously touting Rachel’s own love for that storytelling medium. If you’re not familiar with this lovable group of characters, you should know that the ladies are a female embodiment of Sherlock Holmes & Watson while the men are classic gentlemen reporter and police detective, respectively — all against a backdrop of early 1900s Toronto with its ever-changing environment. This story was another treat and glimpse “behind the curtain” of the characters as they work together to solve a little mystery. It just made me more excited for things to come in the conclusion of the series this year. (Especially a particular romance I hope will FINALLY work out. Rachel, you-know-who.)

snatch this story for FREE on Amazon

More about the story:

Toronto, 1912
A seemingly forgettable evening of second-rate vaudeville entertainment proves lethal when Constable Jasper Forth and reporter Ray DeLuca witness the onstage death of the actor Stephano. Was this the performance of a lifetime or merely opening night of the next intriguing case for Jem DeLuca and Merinda Herringford?

Hiding from Toronto’s dreaded Morality Squad in the back alleyway of the theater, Jem and Merinda encounter a mysterious musician who steps out of the shadows to tell them a murder has occurred inside.

Jasper and Ray join the detective duo backstage and begin to interview the rest of the troupe, a veritable casting call of possible suspects, every one of them with more motives than talent. Can Jem and Merinda foil this plot before a fatal encore ensues?

This Herringford and Watts adventure in four acts will keep you on the edge of your seat until the final curtain closes on yet another enthralling whodunit.

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“The Hesitant Heiress” Blog Tour: REVIEW + Interview & Giveaways

I’m so happy to be participating in author Dawn Crandall’s blog tour for her debut novel, The Hesitant Heiress (The first in “The Everstone Chronicles” series)! I’m posting a review, an interview with Dawn, and giveaway information today. Dawn has provided ONE ebook copy of The Hesitant Heiress she’s giving away to one of my visitors, in addition to the weekly and grand prize associated with the tour (more on that in a bit). Dawn’s having a 6 week long Blog Tour, with many giveaways and extras (see the complete schedule here).CAMDEN ENDORSEMENT

SynopsisAfter being unjustly expelled from the Boston Conservatory of Music, Amaryllis Brigham sees her dreams of founding a music academy disappearing before her very eyes. Now the only way to achieve her goal comes with high stakes for someone set on avoiding men as much as possible: marry within the year to inherit her grandmother’s fortune. Amaryllis reluctantly takes part in her aunt’s society, intent on getting to the west coast on her own… and without a husband.

Despite her own misgivings, she soon finds herself falling in love with the most unlikely of men, Nathan Everstone, whose father not only had a part in her expulsion, but whose ominous presence has haunted her dreams for a decade since her mother’s tragic death. Nathan turns out to be much more than he seems and everything she never knew she wanted. But just as everything Amaryllis has recently hoped for comes to fruition, it all falls apart when she finds that the real culprit who has been “managing her life” isn’t who she thought at all.

HesitantHeiress
My thoughts: I loved the mystery and suspense of this story! Dawn has penned a very intriguing historical romance, skillfully maintaining suspense through the whole story. Throughout it, you’re given tidbits of Amaryllis’s history that have shaped her character.  Also, Dawn keeps you guessing about the romance – will Amaryllis end up with Nathan, the man she’s falling in love with, or with another friend who would make a most convenient match?

Amaryllis is a complex character, very independent and intelligent. She is trying to find her way in a society too stuffy for her, yet not willing to sacrifice her own happiness for money. She feels as though she’s not had any control over some of her past life events, and this has borne a deep longing for consistency in her life. I enjoyed the fact that she wants to use her God-given musical talents to help others.

I thought the cast of characters was reminiscent of an Austen story, with several friends, family, and acquaintances having an active role in Amaryllis’s story. This was a nice element, because in some stories the cast can be small and restrained, when in reality, some of us have many people directly involved with our daily lives.

I also enjoyed the late 1800’s New England setting of Boston and coastal Maine, complete with elaborate mansions, parties, and visits to the ocean.

Faith in God was a prominent feature of the story, and the characters learned and grew as a result of God’s leading. One thing in particular I noticed was the theme of love – God’s love is given to us freely, even when we don’t deserve it or feel undeserving ourselves. We sometimes find God’s love in unexpected places, like in a new friendship, the support of our family, or in romantic love.

Guess what??? You can click the picture below to read the first chapter of The Hesitant Heiress for free!FREE CHAPTER ONE

INTERVIEW:

What inspired you to write this book?

I’ve always wanted to write a book! It was always one of those things that my heart thrilled at the thought of! I wanted to tell a captivating story about a heroine who struggled through feelings of not being good enough. I guess I was inspired by my own life, because I often struggle with that myself. What I wanted most of all, through the process of writing the book, was to have fun.

What spiritual message or theme do you want to communicate to readers with this story?IMG_3368 (683x1024)

That God does indeed know what He’s doing, and that He even works through our fumbling about as we’re trying to make sense of things.

What was most challenging about writing a story set in this time period?

Honestly, I didn’t feel like there was much of a challenge in writing a story set in 1890! I live history so much–I just wanted to be there, sort of like in the movie “Somewhere in Time”… (that probably dates me, but oh well!). However, when I tried my hand at writing a contemporary romance (from first person, of course), that is when I realized how much more difficult it is to write historicals! Writing a story set in the time in which I live was so much easier!! But I won’t stop writing historicals. I just seem to have more in common with characters from a hundred years ago compared to characters based in today’s world.

Just for fun:

Do you have any hobbies?

My hobby used to be writing. And reading. I guess I’m pretty boring, because those were the two things I liked best before having my son in March! Now it seems my biggest hobby is taking care of him… which I love! He’s such a good baby! God knew I would need a content baby while working at launching this debut series from Whitaker House— all of which will be released before his first birthday!

If you could live in any other time period in history, which would it be and why?

I would totally choose my 1890s. Yes, they are already mine! I’ve been living there for a few years now, actually. 🙂 I’ve had to, to be completely immersed in the world I wrote from. I love the dresses, the buildings, the simplicity, the way people had to interact with each other. Everyone moved in such smaller circles back then–I think I would have fit in rather well.

 Thank you, Dawn, for answering my questions! It’s always so fun to get to know an author better 🙂

Dawn and Rhett{About Dawn Crandall}

A graduate of Taylor University with a degree in Christian Education, and a former bookseller at Barnes & Noble, Dawn Crandall didn’t begin writing until 2010 when her husband found out about her long-buried dream of writing a book. Without a doubt about someday becoming traditionally published, he encouraged her to quit working in order to focus on writing The Hesitant Heiress. It didn’t take her long to realize that writing books was what she was made to do. Dawn is represented by Joyce Hart of Hartline Literary.

Apart from writing books, Dawn is also a first-time mom to a precious little boy (born March 2014) and also serves with her husband in a pre-marriage mentor program at their local church in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

Dawn is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers, secretary for the Indiana ACFW Chapter (Hoosier Ink), and associate member of the Great Lakes ACFW Chapter.

The Everstone Chronicles is Dawn’s first series with Whitaker House. All three books composing the series were semifinalists in ACFW’s prestigious Genesis Writing Contest, the third book going on to become a finalist in 2013.

CONNECT WITH DAWN

Facebook: facebook.com/DawnCrandallWritesFirst

Book Review Blog: APassionforPages.blogspot.com

GoodReads: www.goodreads.com/dawn_crandall

Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/dawnwritesfirst

Email: dawncrandallwritesfirst@gmail.com

Twitter: @dawnwritesfirst

Amazon: www.amazon.com/Dawn-Crandall

Without further ado, to enter ALL GIVEAWAYS associated with this blog tour:

Comment on THIS POST, answering the question “What is your favorite historical era?”, including an email address to contact you. That’s it. You’ll be entered for everything (details below).

The details:

Giveaway on THIS blog:

Dawn has graciously provided an ebook copy of The Hesitant Heiress for me to giveaway to one person who comments on this post {answering the question above, including your email address}. Winner will be contacted by email on August 11.

Blog Tour Giveaway:

Dawn is giving away a prize pack every weekend for the six weeks of the blog tour, and then one larger prize pack at the end. Each of YOU who comments on my post {answering the question above, including your email address} will be entered into the drawing for this week, and then also for the end of the tour Grand Prize–all of which will be announced on Dawn’s author blog (www.dawncrandall.blogspot.com).

THE FIVE WEEKLY PRIZE PACKS: a $10 Amazon Gift Card, an eBook of The Hesitant Heiress, a mug with all three book covers and a moleskin journal.

THE GRAND PRIZE (at the end of week six): a Kindle Fire, a $10 Amazon Gift Card, an eBook of The Hesitant Heiress, a mug with all three book covers and a moleskin journal.

 Thank you, Dawn [and Whitaker House Books], for providing an ARC for me to review during the blog tour, and for agreeing to the interview!

So, what’s your favorite historical era?  [comment to enter!!!]

Mink Knitted Helmet Hat & Passenger Cowl

I’m finally ready to share two of my latest knitting projects, a knitted “Helmet Hat” from a Vogue Knitting pattern and a knitted “Backseat Passenger Cowl” from a free Amy Castillo pattern on Ravelry.
Mink Knitted Helmet Hat & Passenger Cowl

Helmet Hat

I used size 8 circular knitting needles and 1 skein of Lion Brand Wool-Ease in Mink Brown.

I followed the pattern as written, but modified the side pieces slightly. As the pattern was written, I thought they would be too tall and floppy.
Mink Knitted Helmet Hat
Here’s what I did:

After the textured rib pattern repeat, work row 1 again.

Next row: K1, p2 *ssk, p2* repeat from * to *, end with k1. 25 stitches total.

Next row: P1, k2tog, *p1, k2tog* repeat from * to *, end with p1. 17 stitches total. Bind off.
Mink Helmet Hat Detail

Passenger Cowl

I used size 8 circular needles and 2 skeins of Lion Bran Wool-Ease in Mink Brown.

I followed the pattern as written except for 2 minor things: I casted on 144 stitches instead of 157 and I added 1 additional knit & purl round repeat.

Mink Passenger Cowl Detail Side 1
Mink Passenger Cowl Detail Side 2

 

 

I love how this pattern is reversible! Each side has a different look due to the number of purl stitches. One is a bit chunkier.

 

 

 

Visit my Ravelry projects page to see these and more of my projects!

Fun Find Friday: Open Culture

For today’s “Fun Find Friday”, I’m sharing a fun website with TONS of free educational and cultural media.

It’s OpenCulture.com. On it, you’ll find links to free audio books, online educational courses (posted anywhere from universities to YouTube), free eBooks, and even free movies. Yes, movies! Most are old-er black & white films, but those are sometimes the best!

I hope you find a topic or resource useful and fun on Open Culture. I know I did!

OpenCulture