Review + Blog Tour: “The Ice Swan” by J’Nell Ciesielski

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for J’Nell Ciesielski’s new novel, The Ice Swan! It combines a WWI setting with aspects of the Russian Revolution in a historical romance. Read on for more about the book, my review, and a giveaway courtesy of HFVBT tours and the publisher.

About the Book

The Ice Swan by J’nell Ciesielski

The Ice Swan Cover

Publication Date: July 6, 2021
Thomas Nelson
eBook & Paperback; 400 pages

Genre: Historical Romance

Amid the violent last days of the glittering Russian monarchy, a princess on the run finds her heart where she least expects it.

1917, Petrograd. Fleeing the murderous flames of the Russian Revolution, Princess Svetlana Dalsky hopes to find safety in Paris with her mother and sister. But the city is buckling under the weight of the Great War, and the Bolsheviks will not rest until they have erased every Russian aristocrat from memory. Svetlana and her family are forced into hiding in Paris’s underbelly, with little to their name but the jewels they sewed into their corsets before their terrifying escape.

Born the second son of a Scottish duke, the only title Wynn MacCallan cares for is that of surgeon. Putting his talents with a scalpel to good use in the hospitals in Paris, Wynn pushes the boundaries of medical science to give his patients the best care possible. After treating Svetlana for a minor injury, he is pulled into a world of decaying imperial glitter. Intrigued by this mysterious, cold, and beautiful woman, Wynn follows Svetlana to an underground Russian club where drink, dance, and questionable dealings collide on bubbles of vodka.

Out of money and options, Svetlana agrees to a marriage of convenience with the handsome and brilliant Wynn, who will protect her and pay off her family’s debts. It’s the right thing for a good man to do, but Wynn cannot help but hope the marriage will turn into one of true affection. When Wynn’s life takes an unexpected turn, so does Svetlana’s—and soon Paris becomes as dangerous as Petrograd. And as the Bolsheviks chase them to Scotland and beyond, Wynn and Svetlana begin to wonder if they will ever be able to outrun the love they are beginning to feel for one another.

The Ice Swan is a ray of light in the middle of a Europe that was sinking into darkness. Ciesielski’s talent for storytelling from the heart is a feast for the readers’ eyes.” —Mario Escobar, international bestselling author of Remember Me and Children of the Stars

Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes and Noble | IndieBound

With a passion for heart-stopping adventure and sweeping love stories, J’nell Ciesielski weaves fresh takes into romances of times gone by. When not creating dashing heroes and daring heroines, she can be found dreaming of Scotland, indulging in chocolate of any kind, or watching old black and white movies. Winner of the Romance Through the Ages Award and the Maggie Award, she is a Florida native who now lives in Virginia with her husband, daughter, and lazy beagle.

Learn more at www.jnellciesielski.com. You can also find J’nell on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and Goodreads.

Review

The Ice Swan is a complex story with hints of intrigue and risk set during a tumultuous time in history with a beautiful romance at its core. Author J’Nell Ciesielski sets the bar high for excellence in the genre!

Every aspect of this novel is well paced and meticulously imparted, from the culture and heritage of Svetlana, the secrets and intrigue of the Russian underground, the challenge of an Army hospital and techniques at wartime, the brilliantly depicted settings, to the bright themes of trust, grace, and belonging. The secondary characters are sometimes endearing, funny, annoying, or weasel-y as appropriate, making the contrasting worlds of Wynn and Svetlana come to life with a bit of humor and reality.

The romance between Wynn and Svetlana is one for the reader to fall headlong into. Theirs is a melding of cultures with a slow burn marriage of convenience, allll things I love in a historical romance. J’Nell’s skillful wordsmithing depicts the comforting touches and embraces just as satisfyingly for this romance reader’s heart as the moments of spark and attraction. The magnetism between Wynn and Svetlana is unmistakable from their first meeting, and the way they compliment one another in intelligence and encourage each other (even through a bit of pride and stubbornness on both parts!) is my favorite part of their dynamic.

Fans of Rachel McMillan, Kate Breslin, and Amanda Dykes will appreciate Ciesielski’s romantic prose and thought-provoking storytelling. I have a greater understanding of Russian history in the early 20th century and a new respect for the beginnings of cardiology thanks to the detailed research and history included in this story! Not mention a new fondness for the name Wynn :). This is the second novel I’ve read by J’Nell Ciesielski and I’m eager to read more soon.

Thank you the the publisher and HFVBT tours for the review copy. This is my honest review.

Blog Tour Schedule

Tuesday, July 6
Review at Rachelle Loves Books

Wednesday, July 7
Review at Crystal’s Library
Review at Gwendalyn’s Books

Thursday, July 8
Review at Nursebookie
Review at The Lit Bitch
Review at McCombs on Main

Friday, July 9
Review at Two Bookish Babes

Monday, July 12
Review at Pursuing Stacie
Review at The Caffeinated Bibliophile

Tuesday, July 13
Review at Wishful Endings
Interview at Books & Benches

Wednesday, July 14
Review at Novels Alive

Thursday, July 15
Review at The Green Mockingbird

Friday, July 16
Review at Amy’s Booket List
Review at Read Review Rejoice

Sunday, July 18
Review at Reader_ceygo

Monday, July 19
Review at Bookworlder
Interview at Reader_ceygo

Tuesday, July 20
Review at A Darn Good Read
Review at Niki Loves to Read

Enter to win a paperback copy of The Ice Swan by J’nell Ciesielski! We have 5 copies up for grabs!The giveaway is open to US residents only and ends on July 20th. You must be 18 or older to enter.

Click Here to enter the GIVEAWAY via Gleam!

Review + Blog Tour: “Isabelle and Alexander” by Rebecca Anderson

Thanks for stopping by my post and review on the blog tour for Isabelle and Alexander by Rebecca Anderson!

About the Book

Isabelle Rackham knows she will not marry for love. Though arranged marriages have fallen out of fashion, hers has been settled for some time to combine the upper-middle-class wealth of her father’s coal mines with Alexander Osgood’s prospering Northern country textile mills. Though not a man prone to romantic gestures, Alexander is well-known as an eligible bachelor. His good looks have turned more than one head, so Isabelle is content to think of herself as Alexander’s wife.

However, her marriage is not what she expected. Northern England is nothing like her home farther west in the lake country. Cold, dreary, and dark, the soot from the textile mills creates a gray hue that seems to cling to everything in the city of Manchester. Alexander is distant and aloof, preferring to spend his time at the mill rather than with her at home. Their few conversations are brief, polite, and lacking any emotion, leaving Isabelle lonely and desperately homesick.

Sensing his wife’s unhappiness, Alexander suggests a trip to his country estate. Isabelle hopes this will be an opportunity to get to know her new husband without the distractions of his business. But the change of scenery doesn’t bring them any closer. While riding together on horses, Alexander is thrown from his and becomes paralyzed. Tragedy or destiny? The help and care that Alexander now needs is Isabelle’s opportunity to forge a connection and create a deep and romantic love where nothing else could.

AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE BOOK DEPOSITORY | BOOKSHOP | DESERET BOOKGOODREADS

Rebecca Anderson is the nom de plume of contemporary romance novelist Becca Wilhite, author of Wedding Belles: A Novel in Four Parts, Check Me Out, and My Ridiculous Romantic Obsessions. Isabelle and Alexander is her debut historical romance novel.

High school English teacher by day, writer by night (or very early morning), she loves hiking, Broadway shows, food, books, and movies. She is happily married and a mom to four above-average kids.

WEBSITE | TWITTER | FACEBOOK | INSTAGRAM  | GOODREADS

Review

Isabelle and Alexander is a gentle and poignant Victorian romance with protagonists facing a situation rarely explored in this genre: one of debilitating disability. While it compares in some ways to the classic North & South in setting and contrasts of the hero and heroine’s personality, its plot is distinct. I think it reads more like the latter half of a marriage of convenience trope when the couple is learning to exist together — in this case, each with little knowledge of the other’s quirks, expectations, and heart.

The story is told entirely from the Isabelle’s point of view. This allows it to be her story in many ways, as she grows more likable and empathetic to the reader along the way. Her change is most dynamic and obvious, and the themes of the story are shown to their best advantage through her eyes. As she comes to know the kindness of Alexander underneath his shuttered heart, her own heart learns to be grateful for simple things in life. These little moments she notices, and the growing tenderness between them, combine to show how love, happiness and a deeper joy cannot always depend on circumstances but can BE in spite of them.

There are many more aspects of this story I like. I appreciate the care with which Alexander’s struggle is portrayed. I think it is underrepresented in Victorian fiction. This unique challenge and the setting of Manchester and a cotton mill (again, think of Thornton’s mill in North & South!) provide a great backdrop to the love story. I especially loved the supporting cast of characters and their roles of encouragement, friendship, and foils to Isabelle and Alexander — Glory is my favorite! And, Anderson’s pen lends an array of realistic emotions to the story and couple, including anger, depression, longing, sacrificial love, joy, and the desire to have a fulfilling life purpose.

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

Blog Tour Info

Join the virtual blog tour of ISABELLE AND ALEXANDER (Proper Romance, Victorian), Rebecca Anderson’s highly acclaimed historical romance novel, May 3–16, 2021. Over forty popular blogs specializing in historical fiction, inspirational fiction, and Victorian romance will join in the celebration of its release with spotlights, exclusive excerpts, and reviews of this new Victorian-era novel set in Manchester, England.

May 03           Lu Reviews Books (Review)

May 03           Timeless Novels (Review)

May 03           Our Book Confessions (Review)

May 04           Literary Time Out (Review)

May 04           My Bookish Bliss (Review)         

May 04           The Book Diva’s Reads (Excerpt)         

May 05           Heidi Reads (Review)       

May 05           Laura’s Reviews (Review)           

May 05           Wishful Endings (Review)           

May 05           Gwendalyn’s Reviews (Review)

May 06           Margie’s Must Reads (Review)  

May 06           Encouraging Words from the Tea Queen (Excerpt)

May 06           Relz Reviewz (Review)     

May 07           Randi Loves 2 Read (Spotlight) 

May 07           The Reading Frenzy (Review)    

May 07           Nurse Bookie (Review)    

May 08           The Christian Fiction Girl (Review)      

May 08           The Bibliophile Files (Review)   

May 09           Reading with Emily (Review)     

May 09           Fire and Ice (Spotlight)     

May 10           My Jane Austen Book Club (Excerpt)  

May 10           The Caffeinated Bibliophile (Review)  

May 10           Booked Solid (Review)    

May 10           From Pemberley to Milton (Spotlight)  

May 11           Greenish Bookshelf (Review)    

May 11           Captivated Reading (Review)     

May 11           The Green Mockingbird (Review)         

May 12           For Where Your Treasure Is (Excerpt)

May 12           Bookworm Lisa (Review)

May 13           Books, Teacups & Reviews (Spotlight)

May 13           Library of Clean Reads (Review)          

May 13           Robin Loves Reading (Review)

May 13           So Little Time (Excerpt)   

May 14           Eli’s Novel Reviews (Review)     

May 14           The Lit Bitch (Review)      

May 14           The Bluestocking (Review)         

May 15           Reading Is My Superpower (Review)   

May 15           Christian Chick’s Thoughts (Review)  

May 15           A Darn Good Read (Review)      

May 16           The Silver Petticoat Review (Excerpt)  

May 16           CozyNookBooks (Review)          

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: “Hope Between the Pages” by Pepper Basham

Today’s feature is HOPE BETWEEN THE PAGES by Pepper Basham, a new novel in a historical split-time series by multiple authors set at American landmarks. The setting of Biltmore and Asheville lets author Pepper Basham’s love of the Blue Ridge and Biltmore to shine through (any of her social media followers KNOW she’s a frequent visitor in all seasons!).

lilacs and book cover
About the Book

Uncover the Story Behind a One-Hundred-Year-Old Love Letter

Walk through Doors to the Past via a new series of historical stories of romance and adventure.

Clara Blackwell helps her mother manage a struggling one-hundred-year old family bookshop in Asheville, North Carolina, but the discovery of a forgotten letter opens a mystery of a long-lost romance and undiscovered inheritance which could save its future. Forced to step outside of her predictable world, Clara embarks on an adventure with only the name Oliver as a hint of the man’s identity in her great-great-grandmother’s letter. From the nearby grand estate of the Vanderbilts, to a hamlet in Derbyshire, England, Clara seeks to uncover truth about family and love that may lead to her own unexpected romance.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

Stories held power and everyone told one, whether the characters within the story knew it or not.

Hope Between the Pages, chapter one

Hope Between the Pages is a beautiful story of love, longing, identity, and story– both fictional stories and the story of a legacy one life can leave. A split time format means this novel has TWO romances with two intelligent and wonderfully complementary couples. Basham’s portrayal of how fiction informs and influences real life is an integral part of this story of hope.

book quote

The characters and their journeys are at the center of the brilliance of this novel. As Clara searches for the history and truth of her grandmother Sadie’s life, she learns of a heroic man named Oliver and, eventually, finds a sweet hero of her own in the shy-but-absolutely-charming Max. Threaded through it all are themes of bravery and courage and the truths found in story. Treasured letters found by Clara, and shared through the historic POV of Sadie, add to the whimsy of the story, and the deepening romance between Sadie and Oliver — two unlikely friends who recognize kindred spirits and identity reach beyond social or familial definitions.

Now to talk about the heroes of the story <3. Oliver is SO KIND and good! I love how he really sees Sadie’s beauty and recognizes her sweet spirit. Their romance is fairytale-esque at times and bittersweetly realistic at others. MAX is the perfect friend to Clara, understanding her heart quickly and encouraging her in tiny ways. He’s a contemporary hero with an old soul, complete with bow ties, suspenders, gardening AND kitchen skills, and the best banter with Clara!

Hope Between the Pages had me crying and laughing in the span of pages. It was emotionally resonating for me, as I relate to Clara in several ways (especially in her close relationship with her parents!). Lovers of books, family history, or Appalachian and charming English settings will enjoy this latest whimsical and deeply emotional story from author Pepper Basham.

P.S. I hope Clara’s cousin, Robbie, gets his own happily-ever-after someday!

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

More quotes I love:

“…it’s okay for your dreams to be different than what you thought they were going to be.” He winked. “That’s called growing up.” -Robbie

Don’t you realize, we’re two halves of the same whole. We understand one another at the heart level. No amount of money or prestige can deny such kinship as this.

…she’d come to England to save her bookshop, not engage in awkward dialogue with a clearly reticent Englishman.

No fairy tale in all the world painted love as beautifully as this. No novel touched my heart with such an odd combination of visceral weightiness and sheer joy. Only in the pages of Scripture had I found anything so beautiful, showcasing what it meant to be so loved for exactly who I was.

Book Review & Blog Tour: “The Indebted Earl” by Erica Vetsch

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for Erica Vetsch’s Regency romance, The Indebted Earl! Stick around to see my review and enter the giveaway at the bottom of the post!

Just a little note on the story: I feel like the whole book synopsis is too spoiler-y on what happens in the second half of the novel, so I’ve chosen to include a brief one and further describe it in my review. Click through to Goodreads, etc, if you want the full synopsis.

About the Book

Erica Vetsch brings her much beloved Serendipity & Secrets series to a close with the highly anticipated release of The Indebted Earl. This latest installment tells the story of Lady Sophia Haverly, the free-spirited and energetic younger sister of Marcus Haverly readers will remember from The Gentleman Spy, and Captain Charles Wyvern, a longtime naval officer trying to find his footing on dry land.

Find the book on Goodreads | Amazon | BookBub

Erica Vetsch is a New York Times best-selling and ACFW Carol Award–winning author. She is a transplanted Kansan now living in Minnesota with her husband, who she claims is both her total opposite and soul mate.  

Vetsch loves Jesus, history, romance, and sports. When she’s not writing fiction, she’s planning her next trip to a history museum and cheering on her Kansas Jayhawks and New Zealand All Blacks.

A self-described history geek, she has been planning her first research trip to England.

Learn more about Erica Vetsch and her books at www.ericavetsch.com. She can also be found on Facebook (@EricaVetschAuthor) and Instagram (@EricaVetsch).

Review

The Indebted Earl concludes a series I have loved featuring the Regency era and marriages of convenience (MOC)! This final novel has elements of MOC, but I would describe it as friends-to-romance, too.

The characterization is skillfully developed as the main characters go through changes in environment and emotions. The Captain is on a journey of answering commitment demonstrating loyalty to a friend. (And wow is that loyalty attractive.) Sophie is navigating loss, responsibility, and her family. Through some (heartbreaking and wonderfully) surprising events, they must rely on each other while they form a reluctant friendship. Aside from the super SWEET romance, I loved the secondary characters in The Indebted Earl! I don’t want to give away too much, so I’ll just say I really enjoyed three (humorous) young ladies that have a part in the story.

I always enjoy learning new aspects of the Regency era with its rules and expectations. Author Erica Vetsch uses the setting to its fullest to show the divides between classes in this series with care by bridging the in unlikely ways through inheritance, society, and friendships. Historical events of the time are often the catalyst for secrets and intrigue to come into play. I especially like this aspect because my expectations and guesses are sometimes proven true, and sometimes surprised with fantastic twists.

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

Enter the giveaway here!

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.

Review: “Shadows of the White City” by Jocelyn Green

I am happy to share my gushing review of Shadows of the White City by Jocelyn Green! It is the second book in her “Windy City Saga”, but it can be read as a standalone. Fans of immersive historical fiction with a slight hint of romance with enjoy this story!

About the Book

The one thing Sylvie Townsend wants most is what she feared she was destined never to have–a family of her own. But taking in Polish immigrant Rose Dabrowski to raise and love quells those fears–until seventeen-year-old Rose goes missing at the World’s Fair, and Sylvie’s world unravels.

Brushed off by the authorities, Sylvie turns to her boarder, Kristof Bartok, for help. He is Rose’s violin instructor and the concertmaster for the Columbian Exposition Orchestra, and his language skills are vital to helping Sylvie navigate the immigrant communities where their search leads.

From the glittering architecture of the fair to the dark houses of Chicago’s poorest neighborhoods, they’re taken on a search that points to Rose’s long-lost family. Is Sylvie willing to let the girl go? And as Kristof and Sylvie grow closer, can she reconcile her craving for control with her yearning to belong?

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

Shadows of the White City is a fascinating story of belonging, grace, and chosen family.

The unique almost-generational look this connected series affords is giving readers a glimpse into the life of Sylvie years after she has matured beyond her behavior and trials in Veiled in Smoke. I appreciate her perspective and how events in both books show the impact progress and choices make on generations. Fans of the first book will be happy to see glimpses of Meg’s family!

The 1893 Chicago World’s Fair serves as a brilliant character of its own. Green’s meticulous research combines with her wordsmithing to paint an immersive setting. I felt like I was experiencing the opulence of world cultures and accents blended in a spectacle of progress and education.

Through Sylvie and Rose’s relationship, Shadows of the White City explores the meaning of family, home, grace, and the tough choices that come with adoption. Themes of faith, acceptance, and belonging are woven throughout, with Sylvie examining her own motivations and growing through the story. Kristof’s character and some of his challenges echo this same exploration in his relationship with his trying younger brother, Gregor.

Sylvie and Rose’s relationship, and their need to fully understand and reconcile their respective roles, are at the forefront of the story, keeping a quick pace through exciting sequences and many possibilities as to who is involved. (What a great cast!) The tentative romance between Sylvie and Kristof, though, is my personal favorite aspect of the story – especially their dynamic friendship! I appreciate their natural and respectful relationship and their understanding of the seriousness of commitment at this point in their lives. They are a slightly older-than-average pairing, and I am here for more of this in Christfic thankyouverymuch!

Another favorite part of this novel is the way music and literature play into the situations and moments between the characters. The timeless concepts and characterization found in classic literature are referenced and discussed by Rose, Sylvie, and Meg. Kristof relates music as a metaphor for different aspects of life. I LOVE how Green consciously uses books and music as a lens through which Kristof and Sylvie process and see the world.

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

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.

Review: “A Cowboy for Keeps” by Jody Hedlund

Welcome to my blog! I’m reviewing Jody Hedlund’s latest novel today, A Cowboy for Keeps, the start of a new western historical romance series.

About the Book

Greta Nilsson’s trip west to save her ailing little sister, Astrid, could not have gone more wrong. First, bandits hold up her stagecoach, stealing all her money. Then, upon arriving in Fairplay, Colorado, she learns the man she was betrothed to as a mail-order bride has died. Homeless, penniless, and jobless, Greta and her sister are worse off than when they started.

Wyatt McQuaid is struggling to get his new ranch up and running and is in town to purchase cattle when the mayor proposes the most unlikely of bargains. He’ll invest in a herd of cattle for Wyatt’s ranch if Wyatt agrees to help the town become more respectable by marrying and starting a family with Greta. But when old insecurities and surprising revolutions arise, can a union born out of desperation survive?

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

It has been a long time since I’ve read a western! A Cowboy for Keeps is a great one, with a handsome rancher, outlaws, Native Americans, a beautiful mountain setting, and a heroine determined to provide a better life for her sister.

This story progresses quickly, with some unexpected surprises and just enough adventure. Hedlund’s descriptions of the Colorado setting are spot-on (Colorado is a fav place of mine to visit, in books and real like!). Long time fans of westerns will be satisfied with the expected elements of the story, too, like the hard work of running a cattle ranch, the beauty & isolation of the west, and the colorful & witty characters — like Judd and Astrid! There is one slight secret that propels the plot forward which I felt was a little formulaic, but I like the way it is resolved in a realistic way.

The relationship between Greta and Wyatt is my favorite aspect of the novel. Let me remind you this is a CLASSIC Jody Hedlund marriage-of-convenience setup that’s original and full of her signature swoony-kissing-moments — sometimes with banter & sometimes super meaningful. Beyond their progressing romance, Greta and Wyatt need the faith of each other. I like how Greta’s belief in him and his dream becomes increasingly important to Wyatt, and redeems a part of his past he had been carrying. Likewise, Greta’s time at the ranch helps her to rely on God and realize she’s not a burden to those around her.

I’m looking forward to the next book in the series! I have a feeling we’ll see more of Wyatt’s family featured in the future ;).

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