Review & Blog Tour: “John Eyre” by Mimi Matthews

Thank you for visiting my blog today! I’m sharing a review & blog tour information on Mimi Matthews’ new novel, John Eyre: A Tale of Darkness and Shadow. It is a supernatural gothic retelling of the classic Jane Eyre and one other Victorian novel (to reveal it would mean SPOILERS, so I shall keep it quiet!). While it differs from Matthews’ typical engaging Victorian romances, it bears her skill and prowess in retelling two gothic classics into a unique story all its own.

ABOUT THE BOOK

Yorkshire, 1843. When disgraced former schoolmaster John Eyre arrives at Thornfield Hall to take up a position as tutor to two peculiar young boys, he enters a world unlike any he’s ever known. Darkness abounds, punctuated by odd bumps in the night, strange creatures on the moor, and a sinister silver mist that never seems to dissipate. And at the center of it all, John’s new employer—a widow as alluring as she is mysterious.

Sixteen months earlier, heiress Bertha Mason embarked on the journey of a lifetime. Marriage wasn’t on her itinerary, but on meeting the enigmatic Edward Rochester, she’s powerless to resist his preternatural charm. In letters and journal entries, she records the story of their rapidly disintegrating life together, and of her gradual realization that Mr. Rochester isn’t quite the man he appears to be. In fact, he may not be a man at all.

From a cliff-top fortress on the Black Sea coast to an isolated estate in rural England, John and Bertha contend with secrets, danger, and the eternal struggle between light and darkness. Can they help each other vanquish the demons of the past? Or are some evils simply too powerful to conquer?

AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLEBOOK DEPOSITORY | BOOKSHOP | GOODREADS

ADVANCE PRAISE

“Bertha Mason Rochester shines, dominating her scenes with vitality and strength. The style, too, is spot-on, reprising the spirit of 19th-century Gothic prose without descending into mimicry.”— Publishers Weekly

“An entertaining spin on a classic with thrilling twists and turns…Matthews skillfully transforms a well-known story into a truly original tale.”— Kirkus

“[Matthews] retells Charlotte Bronte’s classic story in a way that will keep fans of the original novel totally gripped from cover to cover… Fresh and dynamic… Fast-paced and spellbinding…a book you will have a hard time putting down.”— Readers Favorite

“One of the most moving, suspenseful, innovative and remarkable retellings of a classic in the history of, well, ever… Every page is sheer rapture as [Matthews] moulds popular source material into a spell-binding creation so wholly her own.”— Rachel McMillan, bestselling author of The London Restoration

“[A] captivating and ingenious retelling of Jane Eyre with a supernatural twist. Smart, suspenseful, and deliciously spooky, JOHN EYRE is a must-read; I loved everything about it!”— Ashley Weaver, author of the Amory Ames Mysteries and the Electra McDonnell series

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

USA Today bestselling author Mimi Matthews writes both historical nonfiction and award-winning proper Regency and Victorian romances. Her novels have received starred reviews in Library Journal and Publishers Weekly, and her articles have been featured on the Victorian Web, the Journal of Victorian Culture, and in syndication at BUST Magazine. In her other life, Mimi is an attorney. She resides in California with her family, which includes a Sheltie, and two Siamese cats.

WEBSITE | TWITTER | FACEBOOK | PINTEREST | BOOKBUB | GOODREADS

REVIEW

Readers will delight with John Eyre‘s gothic Victorian drama, gender-swapped roles tangled with romance, and prominent thread of light. It vacillates between mystery and riveting thriller while the tentative connection forming between Mr. Eyre and Mrs. Rochester solidifies into a formidable and complimentary partnership. The brilliant telling of this tale is further proof of Matthews’ mind for story: dissecting and letting classics influence the characters and framework yet telling a unique story all its own.

The epistolary elements of Bertha Rochester’s journal interspersed with the “present” story are a smart choice that lends her personal perspective and greater emotion to the story. John Eyre is a compassionate character, too, whose own backstory prepares him to be the ally Bertha needs. Their romance is as tumultuous as Brontë’s couple with a few twists on the classic that make me root for their happiness even more. Bertha is a strong heroine, and this story is more her own than John’s even as the title bears his name.

The supernatural and gothic influences of this retelling are vastly different from Matthews’ previous books — and bravely so. The tone of this novel is more foreboding and chilling at times, but these affects only heighten the drama and stakes for the characters of John and Bertha as they grapple with the threat of evil and the hope of light. In particular, I am impressed with the way Brontë’s Rochester’s more mercurial nature is exposed in this telling through both Mr. Rochester and Bertha — Mr. Rochester’s with more sinister tones and Bertha’s through her passionate determination. This novel will have appeal to new readers who appreciate its source books and, hopefully, draw readers to look into Matthews’ backlist of romances.

I had the privilege of reading this novel in one of its early drafts as a beta reader. I happily reread the final version, and was riveted all over again (and ecstatic about the epilogue!). Many thanks to Mimi for the shoutout in the acknowledgements! It made me smile!

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

TOUR INFO & SCHEDULE

Join the virtual book tour of JOHN EYRE: A TALE OF DARKNESS AND SHADOW, Mimi Matthews’ highly acclaimed Bronte-inspired Gothic romance, July 12-25, 2021. Thirty-five popular on-line influencers specializing in historical fiction, Gothic romance, and paranormal fiction will join in the celebration of its release with an interview, spotlights, exclusive excerpt, and reviews of this new Victorian-era novel set in Yorkshire, England.

July 12: The Caffeinated Bibliophile (review) | Syrie James (review) | Austenprose—A Jane Austen Blog (review) 

July 13: Bronte Blog (interview) | Laura’s Reviews (review) | All-of-a-Kind Mom (spotlight)

July 14: Gwendalyn’s Books (review) | Austenesque Reviews (review) 

July 15: Bookworm Lisa (review) | Nurse Bookie (review)      

July 16: Savvy Verse and Wit (excerpt) | The Lit Bitch (review)       

July 17: My Bookish Bliss (review) | From the TBR Pile (review)         

July 18: Rosanne E. Lortz (review) | Books, Teacups, & Reviews (review)   

July 19: The Secret Victorianist (review) | Christian Chick’s Thoughts (review) | The Gothic Library (review)        

July 20: Getting Your Read On (review) | The Silver Petticoat Review (review) | Lu Reviews Books (review)        

July 21: Scuffed Slippers and Wormy Books (spotlight) | The Green Mockingbird (review)           

July 22: Unabridged Chick (review) | A Darn Good Read (review)

July 23: Kathleen Flynn (review) | So Little Time… (review) | The Calico Critic (review)

July 24: The Bronte Babe (review) | Probably at the Library (review) | Impressions in Ink (review)

July 25: From Pemberley to Milton (review) | Vesper’s Place (review) | Cup of Tea with that Book Please (review)    

Review: “Only Time Will Tell” by Amy Matayo

Welcome to my blog review of the latest novel by Amy Matayo! She has recently published her second novel in her “Charles and Company Romance” series (as in Charles Dickens!). Book two: Only Time Will Tell.

About the Book

For newly published author Eliza Sterling, having her first book launch party at the Metropolitan Museum of Art is a dream come true. Since her book is a modern-day retelling of Great Expectations by Charles Dickens and the Met is hosting a display of rarely seen Dickens’ artifacts at the same time, she chalks it up to a case of good timing.

For publicly disgraced, former best-selling author Lew McDonnell, seeing a debut author having her first book launch party at the Met brings up all sorts of resentments. Especially when the book this lady is promoting just happens to be one of his old manuscripts that she’s clearly plagiarized and claimed for herself.

When heated words are exchanged in front of a display case containing an original copy of Great Expectations, both Lew and Eliza are prepared for a fight. But they aren’t prepared for the room to shake, for the display case to shatter, or for the old book to send them both careening toward a new existence entirely.

When Lew wakes up on the floor of the Charles Dickens museum in London to see Eliza working there as a tour guide, he knows something has gone horribly wrong. It’s the same day and time, but suddenly he’s the best-selling author headlining his own book launch again, and Eliza is serving him drinks and working all hours to make ends meet. And the weirdest thing of all?

Lew is the only one who remembers their former lives.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

A smart concept combines with a hint of romance in this contemporary time-shift story of two authors with a big lesson of selflessness. Amy Matayo’s sarcastic humor and skill at penning first person point of view make Lew’s predicament and Eliza’s growing hope all the more impactful.

The first book in this “Charles & Company Romance” series, Before Time Runs Out, took readers back in time to Dickens’ London. In book 2, it’s more like a time-shift takes place with a switch of circumstances for both of the protagonists with only one of them aware of the change. This clever spin on a time travel concept takes the series in a different direction: one that builds on the allure and mystery of a Dickens “first draft” featured in book 1. Both tell separate stories and can be read as standalones, but I recommend reading them both to understand the connections to Dickens!

I love that both lead characters of this series are writers! A bit of tongue-in-cheek humor about writing, romance, and social media will be funny to any avid readers or those connected to the publishing industry. Beyond their professions, Lew and Eliza are realistic and full of depth. They face circumstances that bring up important questions about selflessness, responsibility, and family.

A few more things I enjoyed about Only Time Will Tell:

  • the modern London setting (this time) and its tiny contrasts to American speaking and culture.
  • humor and CATS! and Brit Speak
  • Family and its messy, complicated joys
  • Matayo’s portrayal of the male POV. Written SO WELL it’s almost scary.
  • The way hope and faith thread through the story in subtle ways

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

Review: “Stubborn Love” by Jennifer Rodewald

Today I’m sharing my thoughts on the latest “Murphy Brothers Romance” by Jennifer Rodewald: book 5, Stubborn Love.

About the Book

Their love survived his accident, but can it survive the long, hard road to recovery?

Tyler Murphy had his life all planned out: finish college, go back to Sugar Pine as his dad’s able-bodied business partner, and most importantly, marry Rebecca Colson. But a fall from a roof leaves him less than able-bodied, and the pain he suffers as a result goes beyond the physical. Wrestling with his new disability seems manageable only by way of the pharmacy. Which is fine…until the refills run out and he’s denied a new prescription.

Rebecca Colson can’t wait for the day she’ll finally become Mrs. Rebecca Murphy. Tyler’s accident and resulting amputation are traumatic hurdles on the road to marital bliss but nothing they can’t overcome together—until Rebecca stumbles onto Tyler’s secret and approaches his family for help. Suddenly, the love of her life turns cold. In his eyes, her betrayal is unforgivable, and just like that, their hopes and dreams disintegrate.

Becca finds herself facing a future she doesn’t recognize—one where each step forward is a step away from the future she’d planned with Tyler. When a recovered Tyler finally seeks her out, he’s not sure he deserves another chance with her—not after the way he broke her heart. Becca is equally uncertain that Tyler has room in his new, very different life, for her. Is it too late to restore their relationship, or will their stubborn love forge a new path for a future together?

Stubborn Love is book 5 in the Murphy Brothers Stories; Christian novels full of romance and redemption. Don’t miss this family of seven brothers as they navigate through life, faith, and love.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

Stubborn Love is a beautiful story of the strength of love and the good God can orchestrate through brokenness. With Rodewald’s signature depth and elements of women’s fiction blended into this contemporary romance, Tyler and Becca become characters to root for and enjoy as they find their way back to each other.

I appreciate how the sensitive yet extremely relevant topic of addiction is handled within this story. Tyler’s difficulties and experiences are portrayed as relatable with raw honesty and an element of hope as his recovery progresses. His supportive combination of family and friends exemplify what grace should look like lived out in the body of Christ — a heart-touching truth for Tyler and an example for the reader.

One of my favorite things about Becca and Tyler’s characters is each of their journeys to restoration. They are separate yet intertwined because of their choices, brokenness, and healing. Gratitude plays a big role in Tyler’s story, and trust for Becca. Biblical truths are included as a natural, encouraging part of their lives. While both of them struggle with miscommunication in different ways (as expected in romance to add tension and conflict), I like that Rodewald chooses to play out their missteps and faults as realistic, dealing with truth and honesty at just the right time for her protagonists.

There are many other little things to love about Stubborn Love: cupcakes + Fiona, brothers & catching up with the Murphys, gratitude, the perspective time brings, the wisdom of friends. I’m looking forward to TWO more Murphy brothers books!

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

Review: “Before Time Runs Out” by Amy Matayo

What do you get when you combine a present-day graduate student, a veteran doctor from 1947, a mysterious book, and London in the time of Charles Dickens? A new Amy Matayo novel, of course! Before Time Runs Out is her first in a unique concept “Charles & Company Romance” series featuring some time travel, depth, romance, and, of course, humor. Read on for more about the book and my take…

About the Book

Graduate student Bree Sanders is failing the one class she needs to get her degree. So when her professor gives her an ultimatum—ace her dissertation or risk having to repeat her final semester—she knows she has to pull out all the stops. After scrambling for an idea, she decides to create her own Ghost Club, a club that blames ghosts for unsolved crimes, the same type of club originally founded two centuries ago by Charles Dickens.

What she doesn’t expect is to find an original copy of one of Dickens’ early works, or to be transplanted into Dickens’s actual ghost club meeting, circa 1870, the instant she picks it up.

When Bree shows up in nineteenth-century England wearing cut-offs and an old t-shirt, her only option is to hide. The Cambridge of 1870 won’t look kindly on a woman dressed like her. So, when Theodore Keyes finds her tucked behind a bookcase at the Trinity College library and immediately demands to know where she came from, she knows he doesn’t belong here either. Turns out she’s right; the same book caused him to time-travel from 1947 almost three months ago and he’s been stuck in England since.

Together, the two vow to work side-by-side in their search for the lost book that will take them home. But as their feelings for one another deepen, Theo and Bree are caught between a desire to return to the lives they each left behind, and the knowledge that if they find the book, they won’t be able to leave together.

In the end, they each must decide which sacrifice is worth making—the one that will cost them their hearts, or the one that could cost them their very existence.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

Author Amy Matayo bravely tackles a neat concept in Before Time Runs Out, a FUN time travel romance for fans of book lovers and Victorian England. With the snark and surprise hit-you-in-the-feels depth I’ve come to expect from her, this adventure is a unique experience in examining what-ifs and the contrasts between eras with humor and romance.

Matayo’s authorial voice shines through in the juxtaposition of time periods and characters. It highlights the differences of the eras with humor and deep meaning. Some of my favorite elements and examples include: corsets, pop culture references, candles, books, crimes, walking sticks, top hats, SIBLINGS, responsibility, Google (and the historical lack thereof), grace and second chances.

While there are many facets of this novel to enjoy, I love the heroine and hero the most. Bree is smart, sassy, and driven, with relatable emotional baggage revealed along the way. Theodore (or THEO as Bree calls him) is courteous, strong, and capable, with a backstory I was eager to hear more about. I like how he proves the character of a gentleman is a timeless asset, no matter the decade or century. In a sly way, Matayo uses their pairing to contrast with today’s societal norms in illustrating the qualities of a true romantic hero/heroine and the importance of respect and trust in such a relationship. Their whirlwind of a friendship-turned-romance is fraught with challenges, adventure, and some fantastic heart-sharing moments that make their unlikely situations believable and something to root for.

I recommend this book for any fans of Dickens, literature, sci-fi time travel, Timeless the TV show!, and Amy’s everyday snark 😉 (if you follow her on social media, you know). I’m so excited this is a series — I’m already looking forward to more time spent in the era of Dickens in the next book!

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

Review: “This Life” by Jennifer Rodewald

Happy almost book birthday to author Jennifer Rodewald for her latest “Murphy Brothers Romance” novel: THIS LIFE! (It releases tomorrow, y’all!) I’m reviewing it here on the blog today. It’s a blend of contemporary women’s fiction and romance 🙂 ; the fourth in a series yet each of them stand alone and focus on a different sibling.

Check out my thoughts on the previous books in the series: Always You | In Spite of Ourselves | Everything Behind Us

About the Book

They’ve been stripped of everything but a refurbished bus and each other. And it might be the best thing that’s ever happened to them.

Jacob Murphy always felt like the invisible brother…until he fell in love with and married the woman who dated his younger brother. Then he became the despised brother. Driven to prove himself worthy of respect, he gambled everything on becoming the successful brother, but with his property speculation business falling apart, he’s ready to admit defeat. He’s lost nearly every worldly good he’s acquired, and after years of disappointments and heartache, it looks like his marriage is about to go the same way.

Kate Murphy lied her way out of life in a trailer park—a life she felt both trapped in and ashamed of. Only Jacob knows the truth about her background. But keeping up appearances has slowly strangled her life and relationships, and even her marriage has become strained at best. In desperation, she makes a plan to escape from it all—ironically, in a skoolie. But there’s still a tender place in her heart for the man she married, and in a moment of compassion, she offers to take Jacob with her.

Stripped of pride and pretension and struggling to adjust to their new 160 square-foot mobile lifestyle, Jacob and Kate are forced to confront the deception, hurt, and loneliness that have plagued them both. Will their strained circumstances be the death knell for their marriage, or will they allow humility to usher in the healing they need to rebuild?

This Life is a tender love story of second chances in marriage, of romance and redemption

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

With This Life, author Jennifer Rodewald has tackled another story with married protagonists (shoutout to her novel Finding Evergreen!), and it is well done! The characters’ journey through brokenness toward a place of renewal and hope is relatable and poignant.

Jacob and Kate’s story finally reveals the truth behind a rift hinted at in the previous books — with some classic Murphy family humor and wisdom, of course! As a reader, I’m always drawn into Rodewald’s stories through her emotive style. One of the ways her style compliments the story of Jacob and Kate is through their natural progression of anger, guilt, renewal, forgiveness, and the honesty commitment requires. I was happy seeing how their history and friendship would transition into something fashioned of trials and influenced by faith. I rooted for them in the moments one of them stood up for the other, or shared a moment of pain or contentment.

This story brings the Murphys full circle through a circuitous route of travel and new friendships. (the idea of living in a skoolie reminds me of my childhood RV adventures.) I LOVE Bryce and the Salazars, influential new friends of Jacob and Kate who demonstrate selfless love and grace. They reinforce the thought that happiness is a choice — a fact that Jacob and Kate have to learn on their own, but find even more joy in when they figure out how to navigate life and happiness together.

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

Christmas Reads & Reviews (2020)

Welcome to an installment of little Christmas (romance) reviews for 2020! All three of these stories released this year. You can learn more about each book by visiting their Goodreads page (click on the title text).

A Match Made at Christmas by Courtney Walsh, a novella in her Nantucket Love Story series

A Match Made at Christmas combines all I’ve come to expect from a Courtney Walsh story: a charming setting, a chivalrous hero, a strong heroine, layers and depth to the characters, witty humor, and a wonderfully romantic pairing. It’s the perfect, magical Christmas novella to “escape” into this season!

The best-friends-to-more romance is one to root for between Hayes and Pru. After meeting Hayes in If For Any Reason, I was SO glad to hear he was getting a story of his own with this novella! He’s fun and charming, but there’s way more to his character than what is on the surface. I love that about Courtney’s character development, especially here where Hayes and Pru are safe and fully themselves in each other’s presence.

Like a Christmas Dream by Lindsay Harrel, second in her Port Willis novella series

Like a Christmas Dream is a darling Christmas novella (with an adorable cover)! Lindsay Harrel’s stories always have “girl squad” dynamics– this one explores the connection and reconciliation between sisters. The timeline is depicted in a realistic way, with just chemistry with the romance and the support of friendship established in the short format.

I really love the romance thread of the story and how Michael is accepting of Sarah in a way she hasn’t experienced with her family or her relationships. And, his profession of photography which is introduced to Sarah plays into a great metaphor for seeing the world as she learns more about herself and her trust in God.

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

The Little Christmas Shop on Nutcracker Lane by Jaimie Admans, a standalone Christmas novel

This charming little Christmas story is chock full of romance, Christmas traditions, and the magic of a British Christmas. It shows how the hope of the season is meant to be celebrated for more than just one day of the holiday.

The leading couple are absolutely adorable, genuine, and meant for each other. Disney’s-Flynn-Rider-lookalike-James has no clue how much he needs Nia to show him more than the appeal of the season, but to remind him of laughter, kindness, family, and joy of giving. Nia, in turn, learns a thing or two about confidence and trust. 🙂 They BOTH learn that wishes can come true.

Content note for my blog audience: this is a general fiction title. It has very few (I think I could count them on one hand) mild expletives.

Review: “Christmas in Three Quarter Time” by Rachel McMillan

Last week, author Rachel McMillan released a surprise Christmas novella: Christmas in Three Quarter Time! It’s no secret I have LOVED her previous two “Three Quarter Time” novellas set in Vienna. This one explores the city AND the Viennese countryside at the most wonderful time of year.

Christmas in Three Quarter Time cover
About the Book

“Felix Huber told me that the only thing wrong with my love story was that it was in the wrong time signature. That if I didn’t find the rhythm and meter aligning with the romance I deserved, I merely needed to allot a tempo change.”

Christmas in Three Quarter Time Cover

Freelance reporter Johanna Murphy declared war on charming Felix Huber the moment he stole an exclusive interview that cost her a vital promotion. Now, with time ticking to turn her temporary work visa into a permanent one, she needs a scoop that will capture the magic of Vienna at Christmas to entice international press syndication.

Inspired by the delicious lore of Vienna’s famed Sachertorte, she is determined to chase it before any rival reporter. But, the return of an unexpected and unwanted blast from her past drains her determination like a decaf espresso mélange. When Felix proposes they forge an unlikely alliance against this common enemy—for the span of Christmas only—Johanna has no choice but to follow him on a road trip across Austria culminating in the picture-perfect Tyrolean Alps where a buried hurt from Felix’s past is the secret ingredient to the bittersweet truth they find about the torte’s presence in his family history.

As Christmas approaches with the deadline of their temporary truce, Johanna learns to slow the world down and open her heart to a country, its traditions and the last man on earth she ever imagined under the mistletoe.

Amazon | Goodreads

Review

Christmas in Three Quarter Time is an enchanting escape to Vienna at Christmas! Traditions and torte, coffee and the countryside, Christmas markets and carvings all entwine two rival reporters as they navigate connection and explore romance. Rachel McMillan conveys the romance of the setting, too, as the Tyrol region and streets of Vienna find Johanna and Felix stepping in each other’s path toward the next byline.

The pacing of this story is perfection! The first few chapters see Johanna and Felix have a *moment* and near friendship, then time passes quickly as their relationship grows taut. The romance to come is more apparent as the story progresses toward Christmas. ❤ This almost-enemies-to-friends-and-romance spin is new for Rachel McMillan, a trope she applies well with plenty of verbal sparring (I’ve missed her dialog and banter like with Merinda Herringford and Jasper!).

While Christmas in Three Quarter Time has its sparkling moments and an idyllic setting, it is very much propelled by two unique and relatable characters. Johanna experiences personal growth, further lending to the depth of the story. The way she interacts with the world shifts because of her time with Felix. I LOVE how he sees her, calls her out on the emotional walls she’s built, then gives her the space to be herself. (And aren’t those the best kinds of friendships?!) The result is a maturity to the romance I appreciate. The warm fuzzies, Viennese traditions, bunny rescue, and Sachertorte baking are all present, but Johanna’s discovery, the theme of belonging, and the revealing of Felix’s heart are the most impactful.

Speaking of Felix, he is such a romantic. And a beta hero. I love how it’s not initially apparent because the story is in first person POV from Johanna’s perspective (or Murphy, as he always calls her). Instead, he comes off as confident until Johanna peeks behind the curtain and glimpses his vulnerability. *swoon* Now I need to go reread my favorite bunny, niece, and woodshed scenes!

I believe readers of this novella will end it with a new appreciation for family traditions, Austrian confections, European Christmas markets, and a wish to visit Vienna at Christmas. Fans of Rachel’s previous Viennese novellas will be happy to see tiny cameos familiar characters, too!

My thoughts on the previous novellas in this series: Love in Three Quarter Time | Rose in Three Quarter Time

Review: “Now and Then and Always” by Melissa Tagg

First off, I need to say a big CONGRATULATIONS to author Melissa Tagg for winning the Christy Award in the Contemporary Romance category for this novel, Now and Then and Always! (To see a whole list of the finalists and winners in each category, click here).

My review for this story needs to further introduction 😉

About the Book

2020 Christy Award Winner and HOLT Medallion Finalist

“It was just a house. Just a weathered old house in a hidden grove, shuttered and still . . . “

Last year, after traumatic circumstances forced her from her job as a nanny, Mara Bristol finally found a place to belong-the winsome Everwood Bed & Breakfast at the edge of Maple Valley, Iowa. For months, she’s helped its owner, Lenora, maintain the ramshackle property despite their shortage of guests. But when Lenora fails to return from a month-long trip and the bank threatens foreclosure, Mara worries she’s once again alone . . . abandoned . . . about to lose the only true home she’s ever known.

Detective Marshall Hawkins is no closer to whole today than he was two years ago . . . the day his daughter died. Between his divorce, debilitating migraines, and a dependence on medication, his life is falling apart. And when a reckless decision on the job propels him into administrative leave, he has no other plan but to get in his truck and drive. A one-night stay at the Everwood was supposed to be just that. But there’s something about the old house-or maybe its intriguing caretaker-that pulls him in.

Together, Mara and Marshall set out to save the Everwood. But its secrets run deeper than they could’ve imagined. As they renovate the house and search for its missing owner, they’ll each confront the pain that brought them to the Everwood in the first place . . . and just maybe discover a faith and love to help them carry on.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

As always, I love this Melissa Tagg novel to pieces. With her signature humor and the beloved Maple Valley setting, Tagg delivers another masterpiece of a story with Now and Then and Always.

There’s something *winsome* about Melissa Tagg’s storytelling. The romance between Mara and Marshall, especially, is delightful and natural at the same time. An intriguing mystery and a great cast of characters add more charm to the friendships in the story — along with the quirky townspeople of Maple Valley! Fans of her previous series set in the same town will be happy to see some familiar faces.

My favorite part of this novel is how it handles themes of faith and grief — not always what you expect in a romcom. In the middle of humorous situations and the excitement of the mystery, more serious moments are gently woven in.

I switched between reading and listening to the audiobook of this story which was brought to life by the narrator.

Now and Then and Always is a must-read recommendation for fans of contemporary romance and romcoms alike! I personally can’t wait to read the next novel in this series, Some Bright Someday, which recently released!

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

Review: “When I’m With You” by Jennifer Rodewald

Today I’m reviewing the third novel in Jennifer Rodewald’s “Big Prairie” series, When I’m With You. I would highly recommend this small-town series to fans of Courtney Walsh, Melissa Tagg, and Denise Hunter. Each story can be read as a standalone, but the setting and side characters are enhanced with an understanding of the series in order.

Book 1: When I Come Home Again | Book 2: When I Lost My Way

About the Book

He wants what he deserves, and this time he won’t walk away without it. Meeting Daisy Hopewell shouldn’t change a thing.

Lane Carson is sick of living like a wandering homeless man. When he receives a text message from a woman claiming to be his brother’s fiancée, nothing short of meeting her will convince him his reclusive older brother has worked up the courage to talk to a woman, let alone propose. And since he’s returning to Big Prairie, he’s determined to claim the inheritance that should have been his. As long as no one expects him to live up to his brother’s impossible standards.

Daisy Hopewell has found refuge in Big Prairie working as a hired hand at the Carson Ranch—an opportunity to prove that her worth goes much deeper than being a rich man’s daughter. Her haven is shaken, however, when the boss’s brother shows up. Lane Carson is nothing like his reserved, serious brother. And Daisy knows from experience that when you add massive flirt to good-looking, the result is heartbreak.

Meeting Daisy sidetracks Lane’s plans, especially when she turns out to be irritatingly immune to his charm. But after being caught with her in a devastating flood, Lane suddenly finds himself reevaluating his approach to everything. Daisy’s stubborn determination and unflappable kindness feed his burgeoning desire to be more than a reckless, selfish man, but the last thing Lane needs is to be deemed unworthy by yet another person in his world.

Daisy is discovering a depth to Lane she hadn’t expected, and with Daisy, Lane finds himself believing he could be a better man. But by the time he figures that out, it might be too late, because she’s determined never to play the fool again.

Can Lane and Daisy release the resentment they cling to from the disappointments of their pasts and step toward the possibility of being different—better—together?

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

Jennifer Rodewald’s stories are always woven with truth. When I’m With You delivers on that front, with a realistic romance and a prodigal’s return. Like Rodewald did with the second novel in this series, this third one employs a fantastic technique with a slightly overlapping timeline, layering the story and offering a new perspective on some events.

First and foremost, this is a story of transformation. Of God’s ability to redeem flaws and His pursuit His children. This is seen through Lane’s homecoming, though tinged with bitterness at first, and with Daisy’s intentional steps toward emotional healing.

The romance is sweet and fun, as I hoped it would be! Lane is quite the flirt by all appearances, but Daisy sees through his exterior of bravado and bitterness to the true heart underneath that’s longing for home. Through their ups and downs, dramatic events, and one HILARIOUS chicken rescue, their relationship unfolds in a natural way — with honest doubts and insecurity, sparkling attraction, and friendship.

One of the things that intrigues me most about this story is the contrast between brothers Lance and Lane. They illustrate the contrast in people, how we can be different, struggle to understand each other, yet still find a closeness. They are a great example of the baggage and beliefs we project onto relationships and the beauty God can forge in restoration.

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

Book Review & Blog Tour: “Deadly Pearls” by Miranda Atchley

I’m delighted to be sharing about a new historical mystery by an Arkansas author! Miranda Atchley’s new indie novel, Deadly Pearls, is the first in a series set in 1920s NYC. Read on for more about Miranda, my thoughts on this story, and to enter the Kindle copy GIVEAWAY!

“Deadly Pearls was tailor-made for me: an intelligent, sparkling heroine, a resplendent sense of history and an immersive New York setting (not to mention a beguiling hero and top-notch banter) matched with whiffs of danger and intrigue are hallmarks of everything I look for in my next read. And yet Atchley takes these a step further, underscoring her well-paced mystery with themes of war and immigration, of faith and of hope. An atmospheric, whip-smart and delightful ‘20s romp, Atchley’s narrative bubbles over with personality and romance. I confess to wanting to roam around New York with Max and Fiona long after I turned the last page and cannot wait for their next adventure! Highly recommended.”
–RACHEL MCMILLAN, author of The London Restoration

“Miranda Atchley hits the mark with this lively historical mystery set in 1920s New York. Stories of an Irish immigrant making her way in a new world, a Great War veteran haunted by the past, and an heiress struggling to live life on her own terms are woven into a suspenseful mystery with the kind of sparkling details that immerse the reader in that high-spirited era. A delightful, fast-paced read.”
–JENNIFER LAMONT LEO, award-winning author of Moondrop Miracle and You’re the Cream in My Coffee

About the Book

She knew coming to America would be an adventure. But she didn’t know it would involve murder.

Intelligent and inquisitive Irish immigrant Fiona Clery has always longed for a life of excitement away from her family’s farm. Yet living in New York City isn’t as glamorous as she’d always dreamed. When her neighbor is murdered, she wonders how wise her decision to come to the United States is. While the police turn a blind eye to Gabriel Morelli’s murder, Fiona knows she must do all that she can to find the killer. Under the tutelage of her favorite fictional sleuths Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot, she just might crack the case–if a certain man will ever stop infringing on her investigation.

Max Gillespie is good at putting on an act. A Great War veteran, he struggles with regret from his past, though refuses to let it show. Perfectly content to spend his days working as an accountant and evenings tucked in his apartment away from the excitement of the city, he shuns anything that could lead to unwanted surprises. Yet when his cousin Rose’s beau is murdered, he finds himself pulled into the investigation alongside a smart and pretty amateur sleuth who he can’t help but clash with. Exposed to the underbelly of the city he loves, Max wonders if he was mistaken to involve himself in a murder investigation. Yet when Rose’s invaluable pearl necklace is stolen and its place is left a threatening note, he vows to do all that he can to keep those he loves safe.

In Jazz Age New York, Fiona and Max will have to navigate this roaring new decade while learning the truth about those around them–as well as themselves.

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Review

Deadly Pearls is a delightful story in what promises to be a great series! The friendships it establishes are a poignant representation of the setting: an unlikely blending of cultures (1920s NYC) and class coming together to discover new dreams.

I especially liked how the themes of hope, trust, and self discovery play out in the story as Fiona finds purpose and happiness in a new place. Her love of books and mysteries in particular is fitting and plays in to her role in the story well. I thought the tentative friendship, banter, quarrels, and romance between Fiona and Max to be the best part! Their initial “meeting” over doughnuts is memorable and fun.

If you enjoy reading books set in the roaring 20s, Miranda Atchley has included all the pop culture of the time (like speakeasies! picture shows, Charlie Chaplin, and Agatha Christie!) in a unique mystery all tied together with the beginnings of friendship. I’m looking forward to whatever is next for Fiona, Max, Ian, and Rose!

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

Miranda Atchley is a history enthusiast and complete bookworm whose passion for books and times gone by have compelled her to write several novels, one of which was a finalist for an indie writing award. When not writing at her home in Arkansas’s Ouachita Mountains, Miranda loves getting lost in a good book, spending time with her spoiled Chihuahua, watching period dramas, and learning about her favorite period in time, the 1920s. Visit her blog at: mirandaatchley.blogspot.com

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Three winners will each receive a Kindle copy of0 Deadly Pearls. Must be 18 or older to enter and able to receive Kindle books via email.

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