Recently, I was privileged to guest blog at my local library’s blog about historical romances in the Christian fiction genre that I highly recommend. TODAY, I’m a guest again talking all about my take on independently published fiction (click to visit!)and a few authors to check out. Also, my library group hosts a small book festival – see more info on the Berryville Book Buzz!
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 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
Jazz. Grace. Friendship
Suffrage. Romance. Purpose.
Brotherhood. Atmospheric. Poignant.
Liberty. Honor. Love.
Arrangements. Mystery. Forgiveness
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?
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 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.
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.
Author J. Rodes (also known as Jennifer Rodewald with a catalog of contemporary inspirational novels) has penned a unique twist on a fantasy tale, making it a coming-of-age YA story with an adventurous and meaningful lesson.
Oz is not what you think.
Abrielle used to dream of a different life. Adventure. Romance. Hope.
Not of Kansas.
Now, after the loss of her mother and a move she didn’t want to make, she’s lost the will to dream anymore, let alone believe in her father’s Somedays. But a swirling wind, a wall of leaves, and a blinding darkness transform her world.
She and both of her brothers, Brogan and Matteaus, are swept from Kansas to someplace beyond—to a desert in which everything is watery brown, including the sky and the light of the weak sun. Abrielle finds herself in the middle of a realm everyone had heard of but no one believed existed. Except this version is run-down and broken, void of color and hope. Not much different from her view of life in Kansas.
When she gathers her bearings, she discovers her youngest brother is missing, lost in a land that is foreign and dying. Finding Matteaus becomes her sole focus, but when she and Brogan meet a boy named Levi, who only adds more mystery to this world that shouldn’t exist, she finds out this kingdom is much more perilous than the children’s book ever told.
Matteaus is in great danger.
There is nothing safe about Oz.
What an adventure! With surprises on every page, Emerald Illusion is far more than a continuation of a tale set in the Land of Oz — after Dorothy. It is a story of finding HOPE and light in the middle of a world that distracts and presents illusions of its own.
With believably flawed characters, secrets, and otherworldly creatures, Abrielle’s journey mirrored the choices everyone has. The complexity of the tale and the friendships and relationships portrayed in the story were always fascinating. I liked the fantasy mash-up that was the land of Oz: munchkins, talking animals, and a battle of light vs. darkness with a high-tech, modern feel to the Emerald City.
When I got to a certain point in the story where the some of pieces “clicked”, I was nearly speechless with the allegorical implications and the sheer beauty of its message. The book may be (wonderfully) complicated, but its meaning and themes are not. A real Kingdom is coming, with a merciful and loving King, and every one of us has a choice to make: will we serve the light or the darkness?
Thank you to the author for the review copy. This is my honest review.
Welcome to the Blog Tour & Giveaway for When You Look at Me by Pepper Basham, hosted by JustRead Publicity Tours. I’m delighted to be sharing my review of this sweet contemporary romance novel, along with the tour. Read on for the giveaway info and my thoughts!
When You Look at Me
Series: Pleasant Gap Romance #2
Author: Pepper Basham
Publisher: Woven Words Publications
Release Date: October 25, 2018
Genre: Inspirational Contemporary Romance
An unexpected mother-to-be
A romance-leery composer
And a forgotten melody from the past that holds the keys to their futures
When Julia Jenkins’ great aunt dies and leaves her a Victorian mansion with decades of secrets, Julia never expects to unearth a World War 2 espionage mystery. Struggling with her own past since an assault left her pregnant, her future as a solo parent leaves her dreams uncertain. The inheritance from her great aunt gives Julia the ability to take a step back into her future, but also sends her into the discovery of a love story she’d never anticipated. As she goes through her aunt’s treasured possessions, Julia uncovers some oddly written piano music with a musical code she can’t decipher on her own. Not to worry, introverted Englishman and composer, Henry Wright, is thrust on the scene by a pair of homespun matchmakers who know the ‘right’ man for Julia’s wounded heart.
Henry arrives in Pleasant Gap with the task of composing the soundtrack for his best mate’s newest film. The Jenkins’ family’s southern welcome and gregarious personalities set his reticent nature on edge, but he’s inexplicably drawn to his gentle and music-loving hostess, Julia. Uncertain how to build a friendship with the wounded woman, and rather hopeless in communicating well through words, the bond of music becomes a
bridge between her uncertainty and his awkwardness.
But her broken past and his families’ expectations build a wall much greater than the culture that separate them. As they work together to solve a musical mystery from the grave, will an unlikely romance from the past inspire their hearts to trust in a God who’s written the perfect melody for their lives?
When You Look at Me is one of the sweetest romances I’ve ever read! Balancing humor and a boisterous family with two lead-character introverts, this story shows the heart of people who trust God to give them strength and lead them to good things, even in the midst of a painful and imperfect world. The friendship-growing-into-romance deserves all the hearts, cupcakes, and happy sighs!
I loved watching Julia and Henry grow, learn from each other, and just be together in so many moments of everyday life. The story felt like a glimpse of their lives with its special moments AND hard things, and through it all their relationship progressed naturally. Little moments I loved: midnight teas, piano duets, family dinners, stress-baking, musical puns, messy hair, old letters, and “The Princess Bride” references.
It was fun to “catch up” with Wes and Eisley (from book 1!!!!!) and see where their journey is headed. Eisley gives good advice, too. 😉
Seeing Henry’s personality and purpose come to life and Julia’s journey to bravery and the discovery of love’s worth was a delight. With a thread of a family mystery, humorous moments that made me giggle, and a prominent theme of music weaving it all together, this is one Britallachian contemporary romance not to miss!
My review of book 1: Just the Way You Are
Thank you to the author for the review copy. This is my honest review.
Pepper Basham is an award-winning author who writes historical and contemporary romance novels with grace, humor, and culture clashes. She͛s a Blue Ridge Mountain native and an anglophile who enjoys combining her two loves to create memorable stories of hope. Pepper is also a mom of five, a speech-language pathologist, and a lover of Jesus and chocolate. She resides in Asheville, North Carolina with her family.
(1) winner will receive:
- print copy of Just The Way You Are (Pleasant Gap Romance #1)
- print copy of When You Look at Me (Pleasant Gap Romance #2)
- a plaque which says: Once in a while, right in the middle of an ordinary life…. love comes along and brings you a fairy tale
Enter via the Rafflecopter giveaway below. Giveaway will begin at midnight October 22, 2018 and lasts through 11:59pm October 29, 2018. Void where prohibited by law. US addresses only. Winners will be notified within a week of close of the giveaway and given 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. Giveaway is subject to the policies found here.
Follow along at JustRead Tours for a full list of stops!
I have the immense pleasure of sharing a review today of a novella written by an author who has also become a dear friend: Rachel McMillan. Her new contemporary novella, Rose in Three Quarter Time, releases today (happy book birthday!). It is one of THE MOST ROMANTIC books I’ve read this year (instant favorites shelf status). The second in her “Three Quarter Time” series, it takes readers back to Vienna for a marriage-of-convenience story that hits all the right notes with its story of friendship, music, and a rose-colored look at the picturesque city itself.
Lead character Oliver Thorne has also stopped by the blog for an interview! Also, Rachel has graciously offered a Kindle ebook giveaway to one of my blog readers, so be sure to stick around and enter it, too!
Some people marry for love; others marry for music…
Rose McNeil is rising the ranks at the Mozarteum in Salzburg as a violinist to watch. Her musical Nova Scotian heritage has loaned an unparalleled technique to her interpretation of some of the most beautiful compositions in the world. The opportunity of a first chair assignment to the Rainer Quartet under the tutelage and baton of Oliver Thorne is a dream come true— until her student visa expires and the threat of leaving Vienna looms. As much as she grieves the prospect of leaving Vienna and the quartet, it is Oliver—with his dry sense of humour and unexpected charm- she will miss most.
British ex-pat Oliver Thorne’s recent appointment as conductor to the Rainer Quartet make him the youngest in the role during its prestigious history. But it wasn’t the path he wanted. A tragic accident years ago forbade him from ever playing his beloved cello again. Now he spends his life conducting for premiere orchestras at the Musikverein. When he first hears Rose McNeil play, all the dreams he left by the wayside are reborn with her unexpected talent. When Rose learns she may have to leave Vienna, Oliver has to come up with a solution. Losing his first violinist is unfortunate, losing her is unimaginable.
So he comes up with a crazy idea: A marriage on paper only. She’ll take his name and his citizenship. They’ll split rent money and coin toss to decide who takes the bed or the futon every night. They’ll keep their secret from the orchestra. She’ll play and he’ll conduct and, most importantly…she’ll stay.
Unbeknownst to each other, Rose is in love with Oliver and Oliver is in love with Rose. They might even find a happy ending, if only their pesky marriage doesn’t get in the way.
Rose in Three Quarter Time is an exquisitely gorgeous love story. Set against the romantic backdrop of Vienna, Oliver and Rose traverse hot chocolate, friendship, and a witty and wonderful marriage of convenience for the sake of their passion: music. What neither expects, to the reader’s sheer delight, is to realize their mutual love is romantic in nature. Their journey is full of the details that make up everyday life, from loss to joy to selfless choices and 12 kinds of cereal. The references to music and composing alone are brilliant and work wonderfully in a world of timeless classical music. (You will want to read this with YouTube open to have a deeper “listening” experience for all of the works referenced. Rachel has even made playlist!)
Oliver and Rose are endearing and charming with their flaws and virtues. Oliver’s story of personal loss and Rose’s pursuit of a dream intersect and act as a catalyst that deepens their relationship’s common ground. Add Godiva chocolate, plenty of whipped cream, knee-weakening kisses, and a Shirley Temple or two, and their time together unfurls like the sweetest symphony of romance borne of friendship.
This is a book I will reread again and again, savoring it with some whipped cream and Mozart of my own.
Readers and fans of the first novella of the “Three Quarter Time” series will be ecstatic to see Klaus and Evelyn on occasion! Oh, and this story features one of my favorite fictional cats ever: Parcheesi. ❤
Thank you to the author for an advance copy of this novella. This review is my honest opinion.
Character Interview with Oliver Thorne
Welcome to my blog, Oliver! After reading your story, I’d like to know more about you and Rose, so I have a few questions…
When did you know your feelings for Rose ran deeper than friendship?
I knew in the third bar of Bach’s Partita #2 that I was feeling differently than I ever had before. And I have seen a lot of performances. But, Rose was special. Not just the way she looks (which, truth be told, is gorgeous. She is a beautiful woman. Far more beautiful than should be attached to myself—though fortunately for me, she doesn’t seem to see that) but the way she connects with a piece as she is playing it. She loves it the way I loved to play. But, I truly believe it was when I saw her sipping a Shirley Temple. We work in a world of pandering to crowds and pandering to other musicians and patrons. Rose was so pure. Here was a girl…no…a woman… who had just played with several scouts in the audience: people who could change her life. She must have been terrified and then relieved and she orders a Shirley Temple of all things. When I saw her play, I knew she was special. But, when I saw her alone playing with a toy umbrella in her drink when she might have been working a crowd, I knew she was different. She played because she loved it. And she wasn’t trying to be anything but who she was. I had spent too much of my life with people who treated connections as a stepping stone toward personal gain. Rose wasn’t like that. I loved her immediately for that. Then we had hot chocolate at a nearby café and I spoke with her more easily than anyone I ever had in my life. People may think that my accident and its ramifications led to certain social limitations. That is an erroneous assumption. I have always been somewhat shy.
What would Rose say is your best quality? Annoying habit? What about hers?
I like to think Rose thinks my best quality has to do with my work. At least I believe that this is so. She has also told me on occasion that I have a propensity to listen to people carefully and use the information they give me to make them comfortable. She was quite taken, she told me, by the fact that I made sure Parcheesi (our cat) had a space of his own when she moved in and that I had procured numerous options of breakfast cereal for her. I didn’t understand why this was so magnanimous. Listening to Rose is the easiest thing in the world. And after meeting her, you want to make her happy in whatever way you can… large or small.
Rose hates how I can immediately turn on what she calls my “conductor mode” and freeze out everything and act like (again, this is her perspective, I think I am doing just fine, thank you) “an automaton”. I just separate my personal life from music. I can flip it on and off like a switch. So, when we’re in rehearsal or in a performance, I don’t see Rose, per se, I just see a cog in the wheel that needs to turn in order to create a perfect experience for the audience and to honour the piece we are playing. Of course, there was one rehearsal when she was ill and it turned my world upside down. I don’t fancy that experience again. I need to have control of the world I am creating with each piece and so I can’t afford to focus on Rose no matter how distracting she is under the chandeliers of the Brahms Saal.
Rose’s most annoying habits? Her pop song alarms every morning. They’re so loud and she sings to them. Off-key, I might add. She also does a preposterous job of making the bed every morning she wins it from our nightly toonie-toss (it decides who gets the bed and who gets the futon in the studio). She often puts a milk or orange juice carton back in the refrigerator with just a smidgeon left. Who does that?
She also wears a lot of cat-themed clothing and she snores. But don’t think for an instant that any one of her habits would tear me away from her. I love her completely.
What is it like living with Rose (and a feline)?
I think that Parcheesi might just be the smartest of all of us. Rose has her habits but I love knowing she is there; especially because I came so close to losing her completely. Just to hear her humming while she’s washing dishes or see her on the sofa reading one of those romance novels she loves while eating cereal out of the box. Of course, I get to hear her play. A lot. And I love listening to her. It tends to get a little bit difficult (I supposed that’s an understatement) living with a woman I am madly attracted to and in love with knowing she solely married me for friendship and a piece of paper. That has its moments. She is very close. Always. And she smells like coconut (her shampoo and body wash, turns out).
Do you have any “must listen” music recommendations? (Classical and contemporary?)
My favourite composer is Dmitri Shostakovich (though he is probably angry with me right now beyond the grave at an arrangement I did with one of his cello concertos). I like Shostakovich because he is a universe of music in so many different styles. And everyone is unexpected and tells a story. With the Rainer, my home orchestra, everything is pretty much Baroque and Baroque sounding. Safe. When I guest conduct Shostakovich I feel like there is something spiraling me away from myself. No two pieces are exactly the same and I love the energy. It is so different from my day to day world in the Rainer.
I love Coldplay. They have an intense musicality about them and really classical and baroque constructs. I think that is why when Viva La Vida came out, everyone called them “Chamber Pop”
Rose has me listening to music from her home in Cape Breton. The type played in ceilidhs and kitchen parties and there is a celtic flavour to it and it is really quite beautiful. It is this music that taught her her skill on the violin and I appreciate it for that. She listens to a lot the Rankin Family and a group from Newfoundland called Great Big Sea and everytime I hear this music’s flavour, I feel I am stepping into Rose’s past.
Living with Rose means living in close proximity to a million and one pop tunes on her iphone. I suppose I have learned that there is something in Celine Dion –an over the top pageantry and artistry —that is not unlike going to the Staatsoper to see Verdi.
You left your country, England, and chose Austria as your home. Why is Vienna so special?
Vienna is the city of music. The mecca of composers and musicians and has been for centuries. I was drawn to the beautiful concert halls I had played as a cellist and am meeting again as a conductor. The Viennese also don’t mind if you are quiet or not effusive. The culture here is polite and reserved which works wonders for someone like myself who is not adept at meeting people — but has to in high social gatherings. Once I step out from a meeting or a party or a concert, I can lose myself in the city and shrug off all of the social expectations like a coat.
But I also wanted to choose a place so completely different from London –where it happened. Where my life changed. To start over, perhaps. Too many places in London reminded me of playing and thinking about playing. I needed a fresh start. Now, Vienna is special because it is a constant reminder of Rose: turning and seeing her wearing a baroque get up and peddling a concert, accidentally running into her at the U-Bahn station, taking her for a birthday dinner at the Sacher Hotel. Everything in Vienna is Rose now. Which is pretty perfect for me.
What should readers expect from your love story?
Take the one thing you have loved more than anything else in the world. It could be a talent. A hobby. A pursuit. A purpose. Then multiply it by 20 thousand. This love story is one shaped around my realizing that I love a person more than I could ever anticipate loving anything in the realm of my control: music.
For years of my life, music was my compass. My center. You never feel, as a musician, you could love anything more than music, the art, the craft. Turns out, I love Rose more.
I also think readers can expect a lot of awkwardness. When two close friends get married (for whatever reason), there is bound to be some challenges.
There are so many stories (in films, on television) where something tragic or dark or secretive gets in the way. I love Rose for many reasons, one of which being she is kind and good. There is nothing sordid in my past. Nor hers.
Do you have anything to say about Downton Abbey?
How do you know that? Rose swore to secrecy on that. Well, having watched it through twice now, I have two stand out thoughts: Why did Lady Sybil have to die? I would very much like to take Mr. Carson for a pint.
Your role as a musician has been a challenging one, changing from proficiency at the cello to that of conducting a world-famous orchestra. How has that shaped you?
I had to relearn how to live life after my accident. Not just learning how to live with the use of only one hand (it is just as difficult as it seems. For years later, I would go to do something and still forget that I had this limitation. It becomes so natural), but how to live in a spotlight. In order to stay in the world of music (and there was really no option for me but to stay in the world of music, truth be told), I had to take center stage. Sure, I could teach; but conducting still allows me to be a part of the magic of the whole thing. The performance. The adrenaline and the sound. And to have control over music in proxy with the players. This role clashes with my natural disposition, though. I am not altogether comfortable with people and in front of a crowd. Hiding behind a big cello was one thing, when I could look down and just concentrate on the instrument. Now I am the focal point of concert goers. So I was shaped by two things: relearning life when the thing I loved most about it and poured my heart and soul into was taken away and learning how to be in the spotlight.
What is it like working with Rachel McMillan?
She giggles a lot. And she talks to me. She thinks I look like a fellow from the telly. One of those detective shows. I googled him once, I can’t be as dour as all that! Besides, his eyes are blue and mine are grey.
I have to agree with Rachel! I think you look like “that detective”, too. Thank you SO much, Oliver (and Rach!), for taking the time to answer my questions. It was delightful to hear your thoughts on music, Rose, and especially Downton Abbey 😉 !
Author Rachel McMillan has graciously offered a kindle ebook giveaway of Rose in Three Quarter Time! Click the link below to enter the giveaway!
Open internationally. Giveaway ends 10/04/2018, 12am CT time.
It’s time for a new edition of First Line Fridays hosted by the Hoarding Books blog!
Happy Friday! Today’s First Line Friday feature is a novella for the romantic at heart: Rose in Three Quarter Time by Rachel McMillan. This novella is a #MUSTREAD for any fans of clean contemporary romance, the marriage of convenience trope, or just music and good old-fashioned friendship. It releases in a couple days, actually! (Sept. 30. Go preorder for $.99 now!) Check back on the blog on release day for a review, special interview + more fun!
The revolutionary Oliver Thorne is a study in resiliency.
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!