First Line Fridays # 23: In The Shadow of Croft Towers

It’s time for a new edition of First Line Fridays hosted by the Hoarding Books blog!

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Happy weekend! Book mail is a fun thing. Especially when you are expecting a few different books and it’s a little bit of a surprise each time one arrives (because you don’t know which it is!). It’s the little things in life that make me happy.

I received this pretty novel in the mail this week! In the Shadow of Croft Towers (by Abigail Wilson) is a Regency story that sounds wholly intriguing! I’m excited to read it soon, especially after glimpsing the first few lines. It releases onto shelves on 1/15.

First Line:

1813

The English Countryside

I often wonder what my life would have been like if I had never learned the truth.

Your turn! Find the book closest to you and share your first line in the comments! Then, head over to Hoarding Books for the linky and visit other FLF posts!

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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?

Mini Review ~ “A Holiday by Gaslight: A Victorian Christmas Novella” by Mimi Matthews

I’m happily sharing a review today of a Christmas novella I LOVED! After reading The Matrimonial Advertisement, I thought I would enjoy this little novella… and I was right!

About the book:

A Holiday by Gaslight cover
This cover!!! I love it.

A Dutiful Daughter

Sophie Appersett is quite willing to marry outside of her class to ensure the survival of her family. But the darkly handsome Mr. Edward Sharpe is no run of the mill London merchant. He’s grim and silent. A man of little emotion–or perhaps no emotion at all. After two months of courtship, she’s ready to put an end to things. After all, even a dutiful daughter has her limits.

A Taciturn Tradesman

Ned has come a long way since his days working as a draper’s assistant. He’s wealthy, ambitious, and eager to take a wife. But the courtship advice issued in The Gentlemen’s Book of Etiquette isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Though he’s followed it to the letter, Miss Appersett still doesn’t wish to see him again. Frustrated and hurt, he’s more than happy to oblige her.

A Christmas Courtship

Severing ties with her former beau isn’t as straightforward as Sophie envisioned. Her parents are outraged. And then there’s Charles Darwin, Prince Albert, and that dratted gaslight. What’s a girl to do except invite Mr. Sharpe to the annual Christmas party at Appersett House and give him one more chance to win her? But this time there’ll be no false formality. This time they’ll get to know each other for who they really are. 

Goodreads | Amazon

My thoughts: A delight of a novella! Mimi Matthews combines the opulent traditions of the era (Christmas trees! Mistletoe! Sleigh Rides! Country mansions with gaslight!) with two lead characters whose initial misperceptions set up a lovely romantic match with depth. With nods to one of my favorite classics, North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell, this story transcends classes and the bounds of familial expectations all through the discovery of two persons and their common values. I appreciate how Ned’s attraction to Sophie goes way beyond surface beauty (their intellects are a great match!), and how her journey through her family’s ups and downs makes her recognize the depth of his care, even if he doesn’t show it as easily.

There’s something about the propriety of the Victorian era that is, in itself, romantic. Combined with Ms. Matthew’s prose-like ability to paint a scene and refreshingly honest characters, we have a Christmas romance not-to-be-missed!

Content note: the romance content is squeaky-clean but there are just a few mild, era-appropriate expletives.

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

Mini Review: “A Heart Revealed” by Josi S. Kilpack

A Heart Revealed is the very first novel of Josi S. Kilpack’s that I have read, but it won’t be my last! I’m thankful that Rachel McMillan reccomended this novel to me as a historical story with a strong voice — one that I would like. (This makes another on my “read” list that Rachel got just right.)

About the book:
Amber Marie Sterlington, the Rage of the Season in Regency-era London, has her pick of men, and she knows what she wants most in a husband: a title and a fortune. Why would she ever marry for something as fickle as love? And why would she ever look twice at Thomas Richards, a third son of a country lord?

But when Amber’s social standing is threatened, the character of her future husband becomes far more important than his position. After a public humiliation, she finds herself exiled to Yorkshire. Alone except for her maid, Amber is faced with a future she never expected in a circumstance far below what she has known all her life. Humbled and lonely, Amber begins to wonder if isolation is for the best. Who could ever love her now?

My thoughts:

I love this book! With a wonderfully unique premise, Kilpack presents a heroine whose growth and change through the story is drastic but still believable. Even when Amber began as not-so-likable, I had empathy for her situation (and even her ignorance), especially as she appears through the hero’s eyes. The romance’s timeline is not what is considered “conventional” for the genre, either, but that is one reason I am impressed with this story even more. The theme of love is carried to a greater degree than just a romance between the hero and heroine and on to that of the acceptance, worth, and the resulting kindness of a person when they are truly loved and known for their character.

Mini Review: “The Matrimonial Advertisement” by Mimi Matthews

Happy Monday!!!! Today I’m sharing a little review of a Victorian historical romance I devoured over the weekend. (MANY thanks to my author friend Rachel McMillan for always introducing me to lovely stories.) This one is for fans of Jane Eyre and the like, complete with a mansion in disrepair, horse rides on the beach, rainy nights, and mysteries surrounding the past of the hero and the present situation of the heroine.

 

About the Book:

The Matrimonial Advertisement.jpgShe Wanted Sanctuary… 

Helena Reynolds will do anything to escape her life in London, even if that means traveling to a remote cliffside estate on the North Devon coast and marrying a complete stranger. But Greyfriar’s Abbey isn’t the sort of refuge she imagined. And ex-army captain Justin Thornhill–though he may be tall, dark, and devastatingly handsome–is anything but a romantic hero.

He Needed Redemption… 

Justin has spent the last two decades making his fortune, settling scores, and suffering a prolonged period of torture in an Indian prison. Now, he needs someone to smooth the way for him with the villagers. Someone to manage his household–and warm his bed on occasion. What he needs, in short, is a wife and a matrimonial advertisement seems the perfect way to acquire one.

Their marriage was meant to be a business arrangement and nothing more. A dispassionate union free from the entanglements of love and affection. But when Helena’s past threatens, will Justin’s burgeoning feelings for his new bride compel him to come to her rescue? Or will dark secrets of his own force him to let her go?

 

My Thoughts:

A wonderfully atmospheric Victorian tale, this story presents a complicated marriage of convenience situation with absolutely endearing characters. This book was recommended to me as a “redemption” of the Rochester archetype — wherein Justin Thornhill exhibits a burdened past yet a presently noble hero without the deceptions of Bronte’s character. Helena, the heroine, brings a complex mystery to the situation that unfolds slowly and shines a light on a real-life historical issue of the time. While Justin and Helena navigate the dictates of the era, they grapple with lessons of worth, forgiveness, and even the capacity to love — all while the romantic tension is PALPABLE and wonderfully maintained through the story. I enjoyed this story from Mimi, a new-to-me-author, and I look forward to reading more of her work in the future!

Content note: this is overall a clean read, especially concerning the romance element, but it does have (very) mild expletives throughout.

Series Review: The “Carrington Family” by Sarah Monzon

 

It’s been quiet lately on the blog, but that’s mostly because I’ve been binge-reading this  split time series (and a few other things — but more on that later this month!)! The “Carrington Family” series by Sarah Monzon, Finders Keepers, All of You, and Freedom’s Kiss, is a wonderful series. I’m so glad I waited until the last book released (last month!) so I could enjoy these back-to-back! Each book features a different brother of the family with a main drama/romance story set in present day and a historical story thread that ties in to present day in a surprising way.

About the Books

Finders Keepers | Goodreads

Finders KeepersThree lives. Three hundred years. One ship that ties them together.

Spain, 1689

The same evil that stole her mother’s life stalks Isabella Castellano. Afraid for her safety, Isabella disguises herself as a cabin boy and hires on to one of His Majesty’s treasure fleet vessels. But has her flight from a known threat only led her to be ensnared in a sea of dangers?

Florida, Present Day

Summer Arnet will go anywhere to capture the perfect shot that will get her marine photography noticed by the prestigious nature magazine, Our World—even diving in waters haunted by great white sharks. When a treasure hunter with a ladies’-man reputation approaches her about a sunken ship at one of her dive locations, it may be the chance she’s been looking for to launch her career…if his charming smile doesn’t derail her first.

A past tragedy has left a hole in Trent Carrington’s life—a hole he’s tried to fill with women, money, and adventure. Could the feisty marine photographer be the missing piece, or will Trent finally accept that the treasure he seeks can’t be found where rust and moths destroy?

All of You  | Goodreads

All of YouMaryland, Present Day

Jacqueline Rogers can rebuild anything…except the shambles of her past. A restorer of vintage planes, she’s worked hard to earn the reputation of being one of the guys. The last thing she needs is a former Navy pilot fighting his own inner demons stepping in to defend her from dangers she thought she’d outrun long ago. Some battles must be fought alone.

After a freak accident severs Lieutenant Michael “Finch” Carrington’s dreams, as well as two limbs, he’s left with nothing but a fragile faith and a duty-bound promise to watch out for his friend’s baby sister. A promise she insists is as unnecessary as it is unappreciated. But when she turns the tables and begins to weld together the broken parts of his life, it may be his heart that is in need of protection.

England, 1944

With the world at war yet again, Alice Galloway rejects her father’s traditional expectations and offers her piloting expertise to the Air Transport Auxiliary. She may be a woman in a man’s world, but when she overhears key intelligence, she must find the strength to transcend boundaries and her own fears. Or countless people may die.

Sometimes the past reaches forward to bring hope to the future.

Freedom’s Kiss | Goodreads

Freedom's KissThey were both prisoners of their past. Could legacy be the key to setting them free?

Olivia Arroyo knows who she is and where she’s going—her sense of family responsibility a stepping stone to her dream of becoming a chef. When her employer refuses her the chance to move from server to the kitchen, she makes another opportunity for herself with the owner of a new food truck. But her life derails when a hidden piece of her past suddenly comes to light, and she discovers everything she thought she knew about herself has been a lie.

A single decision can have innumerable consequences—a truth that has changed Adam Carrington’s life. A criminal defense attorney turned food truck owner, he is haunted by his role in an unpardonable act and driven by his need to make restitution. Unexpected help comes in the form of a feisty, raven-haired beauty, but she soon begins challenging his kitchen as well as his heart.

Florida, 1816

Propelled by a fleeting hope of freedom, Winnie and her family escape slavery and find refuge and new life with the Seminole Indians of Florida. But their future is still uncertain as threats of war, a return to slavery, and removal to the west shake their tentative grasp on freedom. Will they ever step out of the shadow of fear to leave a legacy of deliverance?

My Thoughts

The whole series is well-told and expertly set up, with the stories of the Carrington brothers offset by historical stories featuring three strong women in completely different eras. Yet with each story, the historical thread is tied to present day and its themes and struggles echo the current situations.

Finders Keepers is all about adventure, treasure, and discovering a relationship with God. I liked how it broaches faith and a relationship with the Heavenly Father as simple yet the most important life decision. Trent’s journey is all about realizing his searching to fill an emptiness is in vain, when the true source of peace to be found can only be satisfied by God. Summer helps him see his need while she deals with longing for an earthly father, too. It is beautiful how Summer risks her heart, having faith that Trent can be more. Isabella’s historical story is intriguing and such a wonderful compliment. While reading, I wondered how the two would be intertwined by story’s end.

FB_IMG_1536589396706.jpgWith All of You, Sarah Monzon captures the realistic struggles of life. Oh my heart! It encompasses trust, independence, and sacrifice in so many ways. In Michael’s healing and heroism. In Jack’s independence and worth. In Alice’s fortitude and role in something bigger than herself. The slow-build romance was amazing. My favorite part about this story had to do with the selflessness of Michael — his choices were admirable, but God was calling him to a purpose and a blessing he didn’t think he deserved. Grace.

A wonderful conclusion to the series, Freedom’s Kiss is a story of restoration and freedom with a healthy serving of family and romance. With humor and grace, Adam and Olivia navigate their newfound relationship and reconcile growth while the historical character, Winnie, a runaway slave, finds freedom and belonging in a most unexpected way. First of all, I WANT A FOOD TRUCK. Second, I really loved the history facts I learned while reading about a lesser-known (to me, anyway) part of American history with the settlement and trials of the Black Seminole people of Florida. And, I really love the sense of humor Adam brings to the story with his Disney-thoughts and affectionate ways.

My favorite thing about this series is the family relationship dynamic. Each of these Carrington brothers brings a unique personality to the story, but I really loved the moments they were all together and so obviously supportive and fun. I just have to say, All of You was my favorite of the series because of the themes of sacrifice and the friendship-to-romance storyline. I’m hoping this is not the end of the family, and Sarah will let us in on Amber’s (the baby sister) story in the future!

Thank you to the author for the review copy of Freedom’s Kiss. This is my honest review.