Author Interview + Giveaway: “Harmony on the Horizon” by Kathleen Denly

Welcome to my interview of author Kathleen Denly! Read on for more about her upcoming historical romance novel, Harmony on the Horizon, plus a chance to enter the giveaway for reading swag at the end! Kathleen Denly has been on my radar thanks to social media. Her upcoming novel releases January 4, 2022.

About the Book

Her calling to change the world may be his downfall.

On the heels of the Great Rebellion, Margaret Foster, an abolitionist northerner, takes a teaching position in 1865 San Diego—a town dominated by Southern sympathizers. At thirty-seven years of age, Margaret has accepted spinsterhood and embraced her role as teacher. So, when Everett Thompson, the handsomest member of the School Board, reveals his interest in her, it’s a dream come true. Until her passionate ideals drive a wedge between them.

After two decades of hard work, Everett Thompson is on the verge of having everything he’s dreamed of. Even the beautiful new teacher has agreed to his courtship. Then two investments go south and a blackmailer threatens everything Everett has and dreams of. 

As Everett scrambles to shore up the crumbling pieces of his life, Margaret unwittingly sets off a scandal that divides the small community and threatens her position as teacher. With the blackmailer still whispering threats, Everett must decide if he’s willing to risk everything for the woman still keeping him at arm’s length.

Kathleen Denly writes historical romance to entertain, encourage, and inspire readers toward a better understanding of our amazing God and how He sees us. Award winning author of the Chaparral Hearts series, she also shares history tidbits, thoughts on writing, books reviews and more at KathleenDenly.com. 

Kathleen lives in sunny California with her loving husband, four young children, and two cats. As a member of the adoption and foster community, children in need are a cause dear to her heart and she finds they make frequent appearances in her stories. When she isn’t writing, researching, or caring for children, Kathleen spends her time reading, visiting historical sites, hiking, and crafting.

Connect with Kathleen: Website | Newsletter | FB Author Page | FB Reader Group | Instagram | Twitter | Goodreads | Pinterest | BookBub | Amazon

Pull up a chair somewhere cozy and read on for my interview with Kathleen!

What inspired you to write Harmony on the Horizon?

I went on a field trip with my kids a few years ago at Old Town San Diego State Historic Park. While we toured the restored schoolhouse, the docent shared the story of the Mary Chase Walker scandal which occurred in 1865.Mary was the first teacher to teach in San Diego’s first schoolhouse, but her position was short-lived due to the “mistake” she made of inviting the “wrong person” to dine with her in the town’s nicest hotel. As a result of this choice, many parents refused to send their students to school until she was fired and an emergency board meeting was held to determine what to do. While records of the result of that meeting have since been lost to history, we do know that she was no longer teaching one month later and shortly thereafter married one of the board members. Needless to say, my writer’s imagination was captivated. 

What is the inspiration behind your hero/heroine’s personality?

I should preface this by stating that my characters are entirely fictional and neither based on nor meant to portray the actual people involved. Instead, they are inspired by the historical figures. Given the situation Mary faced as a northerner coming to a town dominated by Southern sympathizers on the heels of the Civil War, and given the scandal which ensued, it wasn’t a stretch to make my heroine, Margaret Foster, bold and confident in the face of social injustice. However, I wonder if the Mary knew the trouble she would cause with her fateful decision. This question led me to give Margaret a flaw which I had myself in my younger years–being too blunt and quick to speak.When it comes to the hero, Everett Thompson, I took my cues from the actions of his historical counterpart, Ephraim Morse. Ephraim was deeply involved in all aspects of San Diego’s growth and future. Over the years, he held just about every political and service position there was in the town and was involved in several plans to improve its situation, such as bringing the railroad to town. Ephraim also managed diverse business interests in San Diego, San Francisco, and even Mexico, yet he often struggled financially according to the correspondence, ledgers, and newspaper articles I read in San Diego’s Historical Archives. Taking all of this into consideration, I found my hero to be a civic minded, visionary with financial troubles. Throw in a blackmailer and I had myself the makings of a great read. 

What spiritual message/theme do you want to communicate to readers with this story?

Good intentions don’t always lead to good choices, so it’s important to pause and seek God’s wisdom before taking action. 

What was most challenging about writing a story set in 1865 California?

Getting the timing of events right. With two point of view characters in San Diego, and another two in San Francisco, and their actions having direct impact on one another, it was important that I stayed clear on who was where and how long it would take people and correspondence to travel between those locations.

Did anything you learned surprise you while researching for this book?

I was surprised to learn that there was a one-man band performing in San Francisco at the time. If you’ve seen Mary Poppins and remember that funny musical outfit Bert performed in outside the park, you’ll know the type of performance I mean. It was a bit tricky to work him in, but it was too delightful a thing to leave out. 

Which character was your favorite to write?

*gasp* That’s like asking which of my children I love the most! But I will say that Katie holds a special place in my heart because she has several things in common with Anne Shirley of Green Gables, one of my all-time favorite fictional characters. 

Just for fun:

Do you have any hobbies?

Several, but far too little time to spend on them. LOL One of my favorites is junk journaling. I get to create beauty from things that would normally be discarded as damaged. In fact, with junk journaling–especially in the vintage style I prefer–the imperfections are the beauty.

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

Last year? No wait, definitely not then. LOL Okay, how about ten years ago? The thing is, I really enjoy and appreciate today’s technological and medical advances, so while visiting the past sounds fabulous, living there, not so much. Now if I could live in the future…hmm. 😉

What are you currently reading?

I’m currently listening to the audiobook of  Rachel Fordham’s A Lady in Attendance, reading Audiobooks for Authors by Jamie Davis, and reading Memories of the Early Settlements by Ella McCain.

Thank you, Kathleen, for taking the time to answer my questions!

One winner* will receive: 

  • 1 Faux Leather Bookmark  – Wild Purple Clusters – Purple Tassel
  • 1 Lavender Sachet
  • 1 Sing in the Sunlight Bookmark
  • 1 Harmony on the Horizon Sticker

To enter, leave a comment on this blog post and sign up for Kathleen’s Readers’ Club here: http://bit.ly/KRCMemberSignUp  

Deadline to enter is 11:59pm, December 16th. Winner will be announced in the comments for this post and contacted via email.

*Void where prohibited; the odds of winning depend on the number of entrants. Entering the giveaway is considered a confirmation of eligibility on behalf of the enterer in accord with these rules and any pertaining local/federal/international laws

Recommended Reading: Historical Fiction with Gothic and Mystery Elements

Since autumn is my favorite time to read historical fiction that falls in the gothic, mystery, or otherwise atmospheric storytelling category, I thought I would share some recommendations of this kind!

On the Cliffs of Foxglove Manor by Jaime Jo Wright | Review

This split time mystery and suspense novel takes readers to a manor on the shores of Lake Superior in contemporary times and the post-Civil War era with a haunted quality and a search for missing treasure.

Lost in Darkness by Michellle Griep | Goodreads

This Regency story combines elements of a Frankenstein-like tale with that of a romance as siblings contend with life-changing choices. I’m currently reading this one — expect a review soon!

A Grave Matter by Anna Lee Huber | Goodreads

The third novel in Huber’s Lady Darby Mystery series, this one finds the heroine and her inquiry agent counterpart contending with folklore and grave robbers in 1830 Scotland.

John Eyre by Mimi Matthews | Review

A retelling of the classic Jane Eyre, this one *slight spoiler* also combines elements of Dracula with a spooky and SMART gender flipped twist like only Matthews could pen.

The Curse of Morton Abbey by Clarissa Harwood | Goodreads

This is a Victorian mystery full of suspense and a formidable heroine who comes into her own with agency and an unexpected romance. It considers the scenario of the classic The Secret Garden with grown-up leads and draws out themes of loyalty and sacrifice with some influence by Brontë’s Jane Eyre. (Review coming here on the blog next week!)

Author Interview + Spotlight: “Murder at the Picture Show” by Miranda Atchley

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for Miranda Atchley’s new historical mystery, Murder at the Picture Show! Miranda has graciously answered my interview questions. Read on for more about the book and enter her blog tour giveaway at the end!

About the Book

Lights. Camera. Murder.

On an autumn evening in New York City, amateur sleuth Fiona Clery and her partner Max Gillespie attend the picture house for the premiere of a silent film shot in their city. The night is filled with excitement and glamor…until the star of the film, Sylvie Boscombe, is murdered. Unable to sit back with a killer on the loose, Fiona pursues the case, leading her across the city, from opulent neighborhoods, to film sets, to the underground speakeasies Sylvie frequented. When a man she believes to be innocent is arrested for the murder, Fiona’s search becomes all the more urgent. Can she solve the case before it’s too late?

Meanwhile, Max gets a shocking surprise about his past that could offer answers to questions he has long held. And Fiona makes a discovery regarding her missing sister that could blow the case wide open.

BUY MURDER AT THE PICTURE SHOW

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 dogs, watching period dramas, and learning about her favorite period in time, the 1920s. Visit her blog at: mirandaatchley.blogspot.com

CONNECT WITH MIRANDA

Goodreads | Amazon | Twitter | Facebook | Pinterest

Thank you, Miranda, for stopping by for an interview today! Let’s get started by talking about your current series. What inspired you to write the Fiona Clery Mystery series?

Fiona appeared in the fourth book in my previous series, The Abi Hensley Series. When Abi and her maid/friend Meg (Fiona’s sister) traveled to Europe, making a stop in Ireland to visit the Clery family, I thought Fiona was such an interesting character and knew she had to have her own series. As it was revealed that Fiona and her parents would be immigrating to the U.S., I found the idea of being a twenty-something coming to America in the 1920s, which seems like such a fun time to be a young person, the perfect idea for a new series. I was also reading the Sherlock Holmes mysteries at the time, and I really wanted to try my hand at writing my own mysteries.

What is the inspiration behind your Fiona’s personality?

Fiona has a layered personality. She’s incredibly smart and curious, but she’s also fun loving and has a dry sense of humor. And she’s very headstrong. Parts of her personality were inspired by Tuppence Cowley from one of my favorite books, Agatha Christie’s The Secret Adversary; a fearless “bright young thing” who charges head-on into the world of sleuthing. She also has a dash of Sherlock Holmes, with his keen observations, and a bit of Elizabeth Bennet of Pride and Prejudice fame, particularly inspired by the line, “She had a lively, playful disposition, which delighted in anything ridiculous.”

What spiritual message or theme do you want to communicate to readers with this story?

When we think of the 1920s, we think of flappers dancing the Charleston and men driving pretty cars and people just generally having a good time. But underneath that, there was a lot of grief. The people of the 1920s had just lived through the First World War and the Spanish Flu pandemic, both of which claimed thousands of lives, and they both affected every person one way or another. It isn’t altogether different from things we are experiencing today. Seeing so much death leads people to wonder why? And it’s okay to wonder why these things happen. Yet there are some things in this life that we can’t understand until we get to heaven. Just because things like war and disease occur doesn’t mean that God has abandoned us; he hates these things as much as we do. Yet he is always there with us.

What was most challenging about writing a story set in the Jazz Age?

With each book I write, I want to be as historically accurate as possible. I’ve found that one of the biggest challenges in writing historical fiction is getting down everyday details. For example, I’ve found myself googling, “What was the price of a doughnut in 1922?” or “Did they serve popcorn in picture houses in the 1920s?” Sadly, they did not. 😦 Small parts of everyday life like that can be a bit challenging to research.

Did anything you learned surprise you while researching for this book?

There are many little things that have surprised me since I began researching this era (such as flappers hollowing out the heels of their shoes to discreetly transport alcohol during Prohibition), yet I think the most fascinating thing I learned while researching for Murder at the Picture Show is how involved women were in the film industry at the time. From writing, to producing, and even inventing some of the equipment that is still used today, they were the ones running the show in those days, and I think that is fantastic. Hollywood needs a little more of that these days!

I think that is fascinating!

Which character was your favorite to write?

Fiona and Max are a lot of fun to write about and I love them both dearly, but there’s something about Rose that is so relatable and makes her a delight to write about. She’s a romantic and a dreamer and I think a lot of us can relate to that. Things don’t always work out for her, but she keeps trying.

Just for fun:

Do you have any hobbies?

I love to spend time with my dogs, Gracie and Ginger. I also like to paint, even though I’m not that good at it.

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

Well, of course the 1920s would be my first choice, but if I were to choose another era, I would have to pick the late 1800s, specifically around the height of the industrial revolution. I love that era and I just think it would be so interesting to be there and see so much history taking place.

What are you currently reading?

A View Most Glorious by Regina Scott, a marvelous novel set in the 1890s about a suffragette scaling Mount Rainer to call attention to woman’s suffrage. Anyone who knows me knows that I love to read about suffragettes!

One winner will receive a Kindle edition of Murder at the Picture Show. Must be 18 or older to enter.

Click here to enter the giveaway!

Review + Blog Tour: “The Barrister and the Letter of Marque” by Todd M. Johnson

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for Todd M. Johnson’s newly released historical legal thriller: The Barrister and the Letter of Marque!

ABOUT THE BOOK

As a barrister in 1818 London, William Snopes has witnessed firsthand the danger of only the wealthy having their voices heard, and he’s a strong advocate who defends the poorer classes against the powerful. That changes the day a struggling heiress, Lady Madeleine Jameson, arrives at his door.

In a last-ditch effort to save her faltering estate, Lady Jameson invested in a merchant brig, the Padget. The ship was granted a rare privilege by the king’s regent: a Letter of Marque authorizing the captain to seize the cargo of French traders operating illegally in the Indian Sea. Yet when the Padget returns to London, her crew is met by soldiers ready to take possession of their goods and arrest the captain for piracy. And the Letter—-the sole proof his actions were legal—has mysteriously vanished.

Moved by the lady’s distress, intrigued by the Letter, and goaded by an opposing solicitor, Snopes takes the case. But as he delves deeper into the mystery, he learns that the forces arrayed against Lady Jameson, and now himself, are even more perilous than he’d imagined.

AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLEBOOK DEPOSITORY | BOOKSHOP | GOODREADS

ADVANCE PRAISE

“Johnson debuts with a tense story of powerful interests teaming up to thwart a legal challenge in Georgian-era England…Johnson steeps his story in legal maneuvering, layers of intrigue, midnight chases, and even a hint of romance. While faith elements are subtle, this enthralling novel will appeal to fans of both legal thrillers and historical inspirationals.”— Publishers Weekly

“… a mystery worthy of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. This richly historical and lively paced story has all the makings of a modern classic.”— Jocelyn Green, Christy Award-winning author of Shadows of the White City

“At once atmospheric and gripping, Johnson’s latest is a luminous and refreshing new offering in inspirational historical fiction.”— Rachel McMillan, bestselling author of The London Restoration, and The Mozart Code

“A fascinating glimpse into a Regency London readers seldom see.”— Roseanna M. White, bestselling author of Edwardian fiction

REVIEW

The Barrister and the Letter of Marque is a thrilling Regency tale with Dickensian flair that matches characters in a battle of wits both in and out of a courtroom setting. Combining societal expectations with a compelling and smartly spun mystery, it paces itself with an immersive setting and many threads at the beginning only to rush into a gallop midpoint as the high stakes become clear and the suspense heightens.

This is the first novel I’ve read by Todd M. Johnson. It is clearly well-researched with its London setting, especially, shining as a character itself. The points of view are used cleverly as the hero, William Snopes, gets most of the page time, but his surrounding friends, Lady Jameson, and even more sinister side characters have points of view that complicate the story. This sometimes leaves the reader with a greater sense of suspense as he or she is privy to the mysterious goings on moreso than Barrister Snopes.

I really enjoyed the strong themes of justice that shine through in this novel, and the fortitude of the characters as they contend with unseen opponents to ferret out the truth. Personal convictions and an empathetic hero who stands for the truth add emotional notes to the story. I was particularly interested in his backstory as it was expounded and fully invested in his success. I hope to see more historical legal thrillers in this vein from Johnson — hopefully more with Barrister William Snopes!

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

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Todd M. Johnson is the author ofthree legal thrillers: The Deposit Slip (2012), Critical Reaction (2013), and Fatal Trust (2017), and The Barrister and the Letter of Marque (2021), his first foray into historical mystery. He has been a practicing attorney for over 30 years, specializing as a trial lawyer. A graduate of Princeton University and the University of Minnesota Law School, he also taught for two years as adjunct professor of International Law and served as a US diplomat in Hong Kong. He lives outside Minneapolis, Minnesota, with his wife and daughter.

WEBSITE | TWITTER | FACEBOOK | INSTAGRAM | BOOKBUB | GOODREADS

TOUR INFO

Join the virtual book tour of THE BARRISTER AND THE LETTER OF MARQUE, Todd M. Johnson’s highly acclaimed historical mystery, August 2-15, 2021. Over twenty-five popular on-line influencers specializing in historical mystery, suspense, and inspirational fiction will join in the celebration of its release with an interview, spotlights, exclusive excerpts, and reviews of this new Regency-era novel set in London, England.

Aug 02 The Readathon (Review) | From Pemberley to Milton (Excerpt) | Austenprose—A Jane Austen Blog (Review)

Aug 03 Life of Literature (Review) | Captivated Reading (Spotlight)

Aug 04 Laura’s Reviews (Review) | The Green Mockingbird (Review)

Aug 05 My Jane Austen Book Club (Spotlight) | Reading is My Superpower (Review)

Aug 06 Among the Reads (Excerpt) | The Blue Stocking (Review)

Aug 07 Gwendalyn’s Books (Review) | Reading with Emily (Review)

Aug 08 Storeybook Reviews (Spotlight) | Rosanne E. Lortz (Review)

Aug 09 Heidi Reads (Excerpt) | Bookworm Lisa (Review)

Aug 10 The Caffeinated Bibliophile (Spotlight) | Wishful Endings (Review) | My Bookish Bliss (Review)

Aug 11 By the Book (Interview) | A Bookish Way of Life (Review)

Aug 12 Books, Teacups, & Reviews (Review) | A Darn Good Read (Review)

Aug 13 Fire & Ice (Review)

Aug 14 The Lit Bitch (Spotlight) | The Book Diva Reads (Spotlight)

Aug 15 Vesper’s Place (Review)

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 + 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!

Audiobook Review: “Once Upon a Royal Summer” by Teri Wilson

Happy Friday! I’m sharing a quick audiobook review today of a recently released novel: Once Upon a Royal Summer by Teri Wilson. This is the first full book I’ve read by Teri and Hallmark Publishing, and I’m delighted to say it offered fun and depth in one cute, summer-y package!

About the Book

A theme park “princess” meets a single dad…who turns out to be a real prince! Enjoy the delightful royal romance from acclaimed author Teri Wilson and Hallmark Publishing.

Lacey found her dream job: playing a princess character at a popular fairytale theme park in sunny southern Florida. Her diamond tiara might not be real, but the smiles of the children she meets every day certainly are. It’s just too bad that her ex-boyfriend was never impressed with her career choice.

Henry, the crown prince of Bella-Moritz, is trying to fulfill his young daughter’s birthday wish: to be a normal girl with a normal life. That’s why they’re pretending to be ordinary tourists at an American amusement park. Henry lost his wife four years ago, and he’s been going through the motions ever since. But could a meeting with a make-believe princess lead to real love?

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

I really enjoyed the audiobook version of Once Upon a Royal Summer! It combines a sweet romance with all the romcom moments and fairytale references galore. The narrator did a fantastic job with the accents of a southern heroine and the posh Bella-Moritz royals.

Our heroine Lacey is likable and relatable, with her genuine heart for children and their dreams at the core of her motive to play a princess every day. I love how her growth in confidence comes naturally as a result of her interactions with Henry. And HENRY… he is princely perfection and a great dad, too! What is it about single dad heroes that inspire such tenderness?! His daughter, Rose, lives up to the beauty of her name and is absolutely endearing.

With references to classic princess tales, pop culture, and showcasing a unique side of theme park culture, Once Upon a Royal Summer is sweetly original. I recommend it to anyone looking for a quick and uplifting summer-y read. The close nods to Cinderella and the slight twist on the role of a fairy godmother are my favorite parts!

Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley for the audiobook review copy.

Review: “Plot Twist” by Bethany Turner

Fans of romcoms (of the book or film variety) will want to take note: Plot Twist by Bethany Turner is not to be missed! Read on for more about the novel and my thoughts on this cute story.

About the Book

An aspiring screenwriter has a chance encounter with an actor who could be the man of her dreams. Over the next ten years, she’ll write the story . . . but will he end up being the star?

February 4, 2003, promises to be a typical day for Olivia Ross—a greeting card writer whose passion project is a screenplay of her own. But after she and a handsome actor have a magical meet-cute in a coffee shop, they make a spontaneous pact: in ten years, after they’ve found the success they’re just sure they’re going to achieve, they’ll return to the coffeehouse to partner up and make a film together. The only problem? Olivia neglected to get the stranger’s name. But she doesn’t forget his face—or the date.

For the next ten years, every February 4 is marked with coincidences and ironies for Olivia. As men come and go and return to her life, she continues to write, but still wonders about the guy from the coffee shop—the nameless actor she’s almost certain has turned out to be Hamish MacDougal, now a famous A-lister and Hollywood leading man.

But a lot can happen in ten years, and while waiting for the curtain to rise on her fate, the true story of Olivia’s life is being written—and if she’s not careful, she’ll completely miss the real-life romantic comedy playing out right before her eyes.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

Bethany Turner’s romcoms are always fresh and brimming with pop culture. Plot Twist offers the same zest and smart plotting, but with celebrity references amped up thanks to the the LA setting and culture. This story is especially unique with its timeline and take on romance yet full of beloved tropes and one of the BEST roommate relationships I’ve come across in a while. And the hero, y’all. He’s unexpected and lovable and quite the surprise!

Plot Twist and Films
These movies all have a connection to Plot Twist 😉

I absolutely laughed and highlighted my way through this novel. The celebrity name dropping and movie references make my heart happy, particularly as a movie buff. Its setting and cast of characters are a natural springboard for Hollywood happenings. And the way the actor Hamish MacDougal resembles real-life actor Gerard Butler is uncanny 😉 and hilarious.

Plot Twist is simultaneously a unique romcom and a story that harkens back to classic and beloved romcom tropes through its wry moments of spontaneity and over the top IRONY. It has, to name a few, meet cute(s) (yes, plural), a bachelorette auction, celebrity sightings, a Hallmark-like greeting card company, dreaded exes showing up at the most inopportune times, and a bff relationship to envy.

The timeline works for the story, checking in with Olivia and friends every February 4th for ten years, and is in favor of the character development. While it could feel abrupt, Turner takes her time with each “day” and builds complexity by catching up events of the past year and showing another crazy day in Olivia’s life. Olivia learns to how to be comfortable in her own skin. along the way, and she learns to appreciate the heroes in her life who come and go — and one hero, in particular, who is there for her all along.

My very favorite part of this story is the BFF relationship Olivia has with her roommate, Fiona. Fiona is pivotal to the plot in many ways. While the romance and zany comedy are a huge part of the story, my takeaway is that a relationship like Olivia and Fiona’s is as important in life as a HEA (happily ever after).

Thanks to the publisher for the review copy. This is my honest review.

Review: “Come Back to Me” by Jody Hedlund

Today I’m reviewing Come Back to Me by Jody Hedlund, the first book in her time-travel fantasy romance “Waters of Time” series. While I’ve enjoyed many historical novels by Hedlund, and she has penned a Medieval series, I was especially excited for the mashup of a contemporary heroine who finds herself in Medieval times while trying to save her family.

About the Book

The ultimate cure that could heal any disease? Crazy.

That’s exactly what research scientist Marian Creighton has always believed about her father’s quest, even if it does stem from a desire to save her sister Ellen from the genetic disease that stole their mother from them. But when her father falls into a coma after drinking a vial of holy water believed to contain traces of residue from the Tree of Life, Marian must question all of her assumptions. He’s left behind tantalizing clues that suggest he’s crossed back in time. Insane. Until Marian tests his theories and finds herself in the Middle Ages during a dangerous peasant uprising.

William Durham, a valiant knight comes to Marian’s rescue and offers her protection . . . as his wife. The longer Marian stays in the past, the more she cares about William. Can she ever find her father and make it back to the present to heal her sister? And when the time comes to leave, will she want to?

Bestselling author Jody Hedlund is your guide down the twisting waters of time to a volatile era of superstition, revolts, and chivalry in this suspenseful story.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

Come Back to Me by Jody Hedlund is an adventure of a novel that’s one part action, one part fantasy, two parts romance, and all kinds of awesome! Subtle themes of sacrifice and the lasting impact of love weave through these characters’ interactions as they face unexpected challenges — like the hazards of life in Medieval England.

The concept of historical holy water with Biblical ties is smart and brings a good deal of real-life history to the story, as Hedlund outlines in her author’s note. I liked that real-life aspect, as well as the historical turmoil of the Peasants’ Revolt being important parts of the story. It provides a thought-provoking contrast with Marian’s perspective of life in the 21st century.

I didn’t buy into the instalove between Marian and Will at first. But, I quickly grew to appreciate their relationship as they acknowledge the progression from undeniable attraction, to a deeper heart-connection and friendship, to love as a commitment and active choice. Jody Hedlund always writes *all the sparks* and romantic tension so well, and Marian and Will’s passion is no exception. The thread of their relationship unfolds and models sacrificial love and loyalty as the most impactful story aspect.

Fans of contemporary romance and medieval times or adventurous and daring knightly heroes like Robin Hood will enjoy Come Back to Me! While it ties up the romance and lives of Marian and William satisfactorily, I can’t wait to see what happens in the next installment, Never Leave Me, as it focuses on Marian’s sister, Ellen — with a love interest I am ALREADY rooting for!

Thank you to publisher Revell and their Revell Reads program for the review copy. This is my honest review.

Review: “On the Cliffs of Foxglove Manor” by Jaime Jo Wright

Thanks for visiting my blog and checking out my review of Jaime Jo Wright’s latest split time mystery/suspense/romance novel, On the Cliffs of Foxglove Manor. I promise not to be spoilery in my review!

About the Book

Foxglove Manor would twist its way into your soul until one day it owned you, and it called to you, and it didn’t cease haunting you until you came back.

In 1885, Adria Fontaine has been sent away from her home to recover goods her malevolent father pirated on the Great Lakes during the Civil War. Hoping to find freedom away from her father, Adria arrives at Foxglove Manor–a stone house on a cliff overlooking Lake Superior–but senses only wickedness hovering over the property. The mistress of Foxglove is an eccentric and seemingly cruel old woman who has filled her house with dangerous secrets, ones that may cost Adria her life.

Centuries later, Kailey Gibson takes on a position as a nurse’s aide at a senior home in a renovated old stone manor. Abducted as a child, she has nothing but locked-up memories of secrets and death, overshadowed by the chilling threat from her kidnappers that they may return. When the residents of Foxglove start sharing stories of whispers in the night, hidden treasure, and a love willing to kill, it becomes clear this home is far from a haven.

As the sinister mysteries of Foxglove Manor haunt two women separated by time, they will have to risk it all to banish the past’s demons–including their own.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

On the Cliffs of Foxglove Manor is delightfully creepy and romantic! Gothic tones and atmosphere pepper this split time mystery set on the remote shores of Lake Superior. Jaime Jo Wright’s lyrical style combines with two compelling heroines to contrast the brokenness of human nature and the import of legacy and hope. And the villains I didn’t suspect… I’ll just say I love it when a book surprises me!

The heroines of the story are relatable and likable. Adria, especially, draws compassion for the way she has been treated and the choices she is compelled to make. I like Kailey but I LOVE Jude, her brother. Their sibling relationship is unique and considerately portrayed by Wright, with his autism diagnosis not defining his limitations but rather informing his strengths and making him a key part of Kailey’s purpose. Adria and Kailey’s alternating points of view contrast the differences between history and present day and highlight timeless struggles that are still shared.

The perfectly-paced mystery and journeys of the heroines take center stage, but both are paired with heroes who match them in wits and support. Kailey’s counterpart plays a subtle role at first, but the spark of attraction is there the whole. time., making theirs a slow burn dynamic (and y’all know, I am HERE for the romance!). I love the way he SEES Kailey, listening, noticing the little things, and intuitively acting on his care of her in small ways. Adria’s hero is unlikely in many ways: his demeanor is SO prickly at first, his secrets propel the plot in unexpected ways, and his own history relates to Adria’s life in a surprising fashion. The formality of his name, even, through most of the story adds an air of mystery. Their romantic thread has me realizing a few things about my own reading preferences: I think I have a thing for heroes with long hair (but maybe that’s a list for another day 😉 ).

The concept of war is a clever theme tied in with Foxglove Manor. While the goods Adria seeks to recover originate during the Civil War, the shadow of that event stretches beyond time’s boundaries and influences Adria’s situation. And, in effect, Kailey’s. But the unspoken rivalries and wars between flesh and spirit, between escape and purpose, and between despair and hope are contrasted in a greater sense through both Adria and Kailey’s stories. I appreciate, especially, how pressing on in spite of fears and fighting for life are important themes, too.

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