Review & Blog Tour: “Millstone of Doubt” by Erica Vetsch

Thanks for visiting my stop on the blog tour for Erica Vetsch’s historical romance and mystery, Millstone of Doubt, book 2 in her Thorndike and Swann Regency Mysteries series.

About the Book

A Bow Street Runner and a debutante in London Society use their skills to find the killer of a wealthy businessman, but the killer’s secrets aren’t the only ones they will uncover.

Caught in the explosion of the Hammersmith Mill in London, Bow Street runner Daniel Swann rushes to help any survivors only to find the mill’s owner dead of an apparent gunshot–but no sign of the killer.

Even though the owner’s daughter, Agatha Montgomery, mourns his death, she may be the only one. It seems there are more than a few people with motive for murder. But Daniel can’t take this investigation slow and steady. Instead, he must dig through all the suspects as quickly as he can because the clock is ticking until his mysterious patronage–and his job as a runner–comes to an abrupt and painful end. It seems to Daniel that, like his earthly father, his heavenly Father has abandoned him.

Lady Juliette Thorndike is Agatha’s bosom friend and has the inside knowledge of the wealthy London ton to be invaluable to Daniel. She should be in a perfect position to help with the case. But when her trusted instructor in the art of spy craft orders her to stay out of the investigation, Lady Juliette obeys. That is, until circumstances intervene, and she drops right into the middle of the deadly pursuit.

When a dreadful accident ends in another death on the mill floor, Daniel discovers a connection to his murder case–and to his own secret past. Now he and Juliette are in a race to find the killer before his time runs out.

AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE | BOOK DEPOSITORY | BOOKSHOP | GOODREADS

Erica Vetsch is a New York Times best-selling author and ACFW Carol Award winner and has been a Romantic Times top pick for her previous books. She loves Jesus, history, romance, and watching sports. This transplanted Kansan now makes her home in Rochester, Minnesota.

WEBSITE | FACEBOOK | BOOKBUB | INSTAGRAM GOODREADS |  NEWSLETTER

Review

Millstone of Doubt by Erica Vetsch continues the escapades of Lady Juliette Thorndike and Daniel Swann as they make an unlikely pairing in solving a mystery. It exhibits the Regency era with flair, showcasing elements of society, class, adventure, LADIES’ ARCHERY (which was particularly fun!), crime, and a bit of romance. While this is the second in a series and follows the same main protagonists as the first book, The Debutante’s Code, I think it could be read as a standalone as it does a good job filling in many events of book 1.

The mystery is one that kept me interested and guessing for most of the story, with many what-ifs and possibilities complicating the facts and setting up the reader for a romp of a final reveal. Returning side characters make the story more colorful and interesting, too, and I particularly like the cameos of the Duke of Haverly, a beloved hero from another one of Vetsch’s series.

I appreciate the relationship between Juliette and Daniel as it establishes a rapport between them, delving deeper into their friendship and connection already established. It furthers the romance and portrays it as a slow-burn type pairing, especially considering their class divide of the time period. With a few more secrets revealed about Daniel’s benefactor, I’m looking forward to seeing what happens in the next installment!

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

Review: “Elysium Tide” by James R. Hannibal

Thank you for stopping by to read my review of James R. Hannibal’s latest suspense novel, Elysium Tide.

About the Book

Dr. Peter Chesterfield is one of the Royal London Hospital’s top neurosurgeons. He is also a workaholic, ordered by his boss to take a week off to attend a medical symposium at the luxurious Elysium Grand on the island of Maui. While there, Peter pulls a woman with a skull fracture from the water. Though he is able to revive her in the ambulance, she eventually dies in his arms, leaving him with only one clue to what happened to her: the word “honu.”

Increasingly obsessed with discovering the cause of his patient’s death, Peter becomes entangled in an ongoing investigation of a brazen luxury auto theft. He also becomes a source of deep irritation to detective Lisa Kealoha, who has jurisdiction over the case.

But when the two join forces, they begin to uncover a destructive plot that runs far deeper than either of them could have imagined. And if they’re not careful, they’re both going to end up dead.

Award-winning author James R. Hannibal whisks you away to the deadly beauty of Hawaii for a story of greed, violence, and justice that will leave you breathless.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

Elysium Tide is an engrossing, fast-paced suspense novel with two engaging protagonists. The idyllic tropical setting contrasts with the thrilling action of the story — much like Dr. Peter Chesterfield and Detective Lisa Kealoha form an unlikely, seemingly-opposite crime solving pair.

I enjoyed both points of view: Lisa’s, which is Hawaii-Five-O like in its cop drama and family connections; and Peter’s, whose analytical approach to logic is as entertaining as it is fascinating. Peter’s perspective has to be my favorite, though, for his character growth and subtle shift in perspective as his trials in the story bring up questions of faith and control.

The story has layers for the reader to discover, with Lisa finding a bigger web of crime and a personal connection to the suspects. I was surprised by twists until the final chapter, which I’ll mark as an impressive writing feat for Hannibal and just one more reason I’m a big fan of his stories.

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

Review: “The Key to Deceit” by Ashley Weaver

I’m sharing an early review today of a historical mystery that releases June 21st: The Key to Deceit by Ashley Weaver. If you enjoy WWII era espionage and adventurous, strong heroines, I recommend starting with book 1, A Peculiar Combination, and meeting Ms. McDonnell and her unlikely cause.

About the Book

The second in the Electra McDonnell series from Edgar-nominated author Ashley Weaver, The Key to Deceit, is a delightful World War II mystery filled with spies, murder, romance, and wit.

cover of The Key to Deceit, blue tones. Heroine holding a key with the London tower bridge in the foreground.

London, 1940. After years of stealing from the rich and giving to the poor—well, to themselves, anyway—Ellie McDonnell and her family have turned over a new leaf as they help the government’s war effort. It’s true that the straight-laced Major Ramsey didn’t give them much choice, but still, Ellie must admit she doesn’t miss breaking and entering as much as she might have thought. What she does miss is the challenge of unlocking an impossible code and the adrenaline rush that comes from being somewhere she shouldn’t.

So when Major Ramsey turns up unannounced with another job, she can’t say no. A woman’s body has been found floating in the Thames, with a bracelet locked onto her wrist, and a cameo locket attached to it. It’s clear this woman was involved in espionage, but whose side was she on? Who was she reporting to? And who wanted her dead?

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

The Key to Deceit is a female-centric WWII heist adventure told through the eyes of the heroine, Electra McDonnel (Ellie). It is a proper balance of wit and an honest portrayal of the seriousness of war on the home front. As Londoners begin to deal with the reality of war and the imminent threat of German air raids, Ellie works to be part of a ragtag group of criminals-turned-patriots to help the allied cause with her locksmith skills and femininity.

The banter and depth of the characters are favorite parts of the story. A bit of a romance develops between Ellie and her childhood friend, Felix, though the spark and tension between Ellie and the Major are ever present, too. I ship Ellie and Major Ramsey SO MUCH, though Felix is a decent and steady friend, if a little mysterious at times.

While book 1 was slightly more a spy story, this one is a little more heist and mystery focused as a suspicious death points to espionage activities. Ellie’s ongoing family-related mystery is further developed, with the past and the fate of her mother active parts of the story, too, as she works to uncover family secrets. This leaves the reader with a few questions, of course, and eager for a continuation of her story!

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

Mini Book Reviews, edition 3

It has been a while since I’ve posted mini reviews! These books are ones I read for “me”, not with any review or critique in mind, but are some I greatly enjoyed and wanted to share a bit about in this corner of the blogosphere.

Please visit the Goodreads links in each title to learn more about each book!

A Stroke of Malice and A Wicked Conceit by Anna Lee Huber (Lady Darby Mysteries 8 and 9) | 1832 Scotland, Historical Mystery

These two books are, of course, FANTASTIC mysteries in this series! I love so many things about these characters and the development of their stories. Huber wields setting skillfully to influence the tone of the story and make each of these mysteries unique. A Stroke of Malice, in particular, was fascinating to see unfold as the identity of the victim remains in doubt for a large part of the story.

Of course, I am happily satisfied with the way Gage and Kiera’s relationship continues to be a factor, with their romance and dynamic broadening to include a larger cast of familiar characters. And Anderley and Bree have some interesting things happen (maybe between them?) in these two books, so I am excited to see that develop. I really enjoyed the return to Edinburgh for the setting of A Wicked Conceit.

On Wings of Devotion by Roseanna M. White (The Codebreakers 2) | 1917 London, Historical Romance

I LOVE this book and series! What an engaging historical romance. I was riveted by both the historical setting and bits of suspense AND the unfolding friendship-to-romance between Ara and Cam. He’s the brooding, wounded type with a soft heart who knows immediately what a gem Arabelle is — and he does everything in his power to support her.

Provenance by Carla Laureano | “Jasper Lake” and Denver, CO; Pasadena, CA, Contemporary Romance

Carla Laureano writes raw and realistic characters, and Kendall and Gabe are my newest favorites! Their journey to romance begins with a tentative and unlikely friendship, and I love seeing them recognize and bring out the best qualities in each other. This storyline doesn’t shy away from tough questions and themes, everything from identity, heritage, faith, abandonment, and even a Christian perspective of sexuality are examined. The small town mountain lake setting is idyllic and charming (and is a good contrast to the largely urban feel of Laureano’s recent series set in Denver), and the fascinating topics of architecture and small town politics are thoroughly explored.

Falling in Somerset by Jenny B. Jones | Sugar Creek, Arkansas and Bath & London, England, RomCom

Falling in Somerset is a cute and sweet romance. I loved getting to know the bookish heroine and the sports-loving, totally-a-catch hero, Duke. This little novella combines a friends-to-lovers situation with a little bit of a fake-dating scenario AND a trip to Bath, England, with all kinds of nods to Jane Austen through a “cultural” experience that turns hilarious. I especially liked how Duke is head-over-heels from the very beginning and how Tillie learns a little more about her best friend and a lot about her own strengths over the course of the story.

Review & Blog Tour: “The Debutante’s Code” by Erica Vetsch

Welcome to my stop on the tour for Erica Vetsch’s new historical mystery series start: The Debutante’s Code, a Thorndike and Swann Regency Mystery! Read on for more about the book, my thoughts, and enter the tour-wide giveaway!

About the Book

Jane Austen meets Sherlock Holmes in this new Regency mystery series

Newly returned from finishing school, Lady Juliette Thorndike is ready to debut in London society. Due to her years away, she hasn’t spent much time with her parents, and sees them only as the flighty, dilettante couple the other nobles love. But when they disappear, she discovers she never really knew them at all. They’ve been living double lives as government spies–and they’re only the latest in a long history of espionage that is the family’s legacy.

Now Lady Juliette is determined to continue their work. Mentored by her uncle, she plunges into the dangerous world of spies. From the glittering ballrooms of London to the fox hunts, regattas, and soirees of country high society, she must chase down hidden clues, solve the mysterious code her parents left behind, and stay out of danger. All the while, she has to keep her endeavors a secret from her best friend and her suitors–not to mention the nosy, irritatingly handsome Bow Street runner, who suspects her of a daring theft.

Can Lady Juliette outwit her enemies and complete her parents’ last mission?

Best-selling author Erica Vetsch is back with a rollicking, exciting new series destined to be a hit with Regency readers who enjoy a touch of mystery in their love stories. Fans of Julie Klassen, Sarah Ladd, and Anne Perry will love the wit, action, and romance.

Click here to read an excerpt | Goodreads | Amazon

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

Vetsch is the author of many novellas and novels, including the popular Serendipity & Secrets Regency series and the new Thorndike & Swann Regency Mystery series

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

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

Review

The Debutante’s Code is an FUN Regency mystery with many twists, turns, colorful characters, and a heroine to root for. As Juliette learns of her parents’ true field of work and her potential for helping solve a mystery she seems to be deeply involved in already, she sees her life in a different light. Her personality is perfectly suited to her role, as well! I appreciate the way Vetsch uses her characters’ place in society to add perspective, especially characters in unconventional situations or out of their comfort zones.

I’m excited that this series is going to focus on the same main characters. I love it when series continue developing a hero and heroine’s relationship, history, and depth through multiple books. Some of my favorites read that way. In this case, the romance is a little less prominent, but I see its foundation and I’m highly anticipating ALL the potential between Juliette and Daniel 🙂 in books to come.

As a fan of Vetsch’s “Serendipity & Secrets” series, I was delighted to see the Duke of Haverly and some people close to him make an appearance in this story! According to Vetsch, we will see more of those characters in the rest of this series.

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

Click here to enter the giveaway!!!!

Open through December 31, 2021

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!)

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: “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.

Review: “A Peculiar Combination” by Ashley Weaver

Review: “A Peculiar Combination” by Ashley Weaver

Today I’m featuring an early review for the kickoff to a new historical mystery series by author Ashley Weaver: A Peculiar Combination, the first in her Electra McDonnell series. It releases May 25, but you will want to add it to your TBR now!

About the Book

The first in the Electra McDonnell series from Edgar-nominated author Ashley Weaver, set in England during World War II, A Peculiar Combination is a delightful mystery filled with spies, murder, romance, and the author’s signature wit.

A Peculiar Combination Cover

Electra McDonnell has always known that the way she and her family earn their living is slightly outside of the law. Breaking into the homes of the rich and picking the locks on their safes may not be condoned by British law enforcement, but World War II is in full swing, Ellie’s cousins Colm and Toby are off fighting against Hitler, and Uncle Mick’s more honorable business as a locksmith can’t pay the bills any more.

So when Uncle Mick receives a tip about a safe full of jewels in the empty house of a wealthy family, he and Ellie can’t resist. All goes as planned–until the pair are caught redhanded. Ellie expects them to be taken straight to prison, but instead they are delivered to a large townhouse, where government official Major Ramsey is waiting with an offer: either Ellie agrees to help him break into a safe and retrieve blueprints that will be critical to the British war effort, before they can be delivered to a German spy, or he turns her over to the police.

Ellie doesn’t care for the Major’s imperious manner, but she has no choice, and besides, she’s eager to do her bit for king and country. She may be a thief, but she’s no coward. When she and the Major break into the house in question, they find instead the purported German spy dead on the floor, the safe already open and empty. Soon, Ellie and Major Ramsey are forced to put aside their differences to unmask the double-agent, as they try to stop allied plans falling into German hands.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

A Peculiar Combination is a smart, high-stakes London mystery and adventure at wartime. The fast-paced plot shows a unique side of WWII home front operations with an unlikely duo: a safecracking heroine and a military Major hero working to thwart potential spies. While their pairing just hints at the beginnings of attraction between them, these romantic sparks add another layer to the complicated backstory of Ellie’s character as this book sets up what is sure to be a new favorite WWII fiction series.

I like how competent Ellie is in her intelligence and profession, particularly in a detail-oriented way. Her banter with Major Ramsey is entertaining and smart, contrasting with his by-the-book tendencies and his own fierce loyalty. Through Ellie’s eyes, Ashley Weaver explores themes of human nature through motives, history, and emotion-driven decisions.

There are many aspects to love about this mystery of a story, including its portrayals of family and friendship (LOVED Felix!), the art to safecracking, and the ways of life at risk during this era. I am looking forward to the next book in this series — and especially hoping for the hints of vulnerability the Major displayed to lead to a deeper relationship with Ellie!

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

Review + Blog Tour: “The Vanishing at Loxby Manor” by Abigail Wilson

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for Abigail Wilson’s upcoming release, The Vanishing at Loxby Manor! It’s an exciting Regency mystery with romance and suspense. Read on for more about the story, my review, and an opportunity to enter a giveaway!

The Vanishing at Loxby Manor by Abigail Wilson

Publication Date: January 26, 2021
Thomas Nelson
Paperback & eBook; 336 pages

Genre: Historical Fiction/Romance/Regency

A story of second chances and secrets, this mysterious Regency romance will transport you to 19th-century England as one young lady reunites with her childhood love to find his missing sister.

Her friend is missing.

After five years abroad, Charity Halliwell finally returns to Loxby Manor, the home of dear friends—and her lost love. No longer a young girl, she is now haunted by a painful secret and the demise of her dreams. Instead of the healing and happiness she hopes to find, she encounters a darkness lurking in the shadows of the once-familiar house. When her friend, Seline, disappears the very night of her arrival, Charity is determined to uncover the truth.

Her only hope is the man who broke her heart.

Branded a coward, Piers Cavanaugh has lived the last five years as an outcast far from his family home. When his sister presumably elopes with a stable hand, Piers joins forces with an unlikely partner—the one woman he thought he’d never see again. Together they launch an investigation that leads to strange nightly meetings in the ruins of an old abbey and disturbing whispers of a secret organization. The more they learn, the more desperate the situation becomes.

The house seems determined to keep its secrets.

As they struggle to piece together the clues, Charity and Piers also endeavor to rebuild their friendship. One cryptic letter changed everything between them. To find happiness they will have to overcome the grief and shame keeping them apart. But first they must discover why Seline vanished and confront the growing fear that she may never return.

Settle in, because once you start The Vanishing at Loxby Manor, you won’t be able to put it down.

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Praise for The Vanishing at Loxby Manor

“Vanishing at Loxby Manor cleverly combines Regency romance with Gothic intrigue, and the result is a suspenseful, thoroughly entertaining read. Charming and lovely.”—Tasha Alexander, New York Times bestselling author of In the Shadow of Vesuvius

“Like each of Wilson’s novels, The Vanishing at Loxby Manor drew me in from the start and didn’t let go. From the heartfelt characters to the twists that kept me guessing, I relished each turn of the page. Wilson is a master at historical mystery, and I cannot wait for her next story.”—Lindsay Harrel, author of The Joy of Falling

“Abigail Wilson’s latest Gothic romance hits the notes readers have come to expect from her talented pen: romance, shadows and intrigue and a brilliantly executed atmosphere. She is a master at her craft and a rare stand-out in a popular genre.”—Rachel McMillan, author of The London Restoration

“Weaving a shadow of mystery among the gilded countryside of Regency England, Wilson’s tale of love lost, buried shame, and secret societies is a delicious blend of romance and intrigue. Splash in gorgeous historical Regency details, and murder brewing around every stone, and readers will be burning through the pages until the riveting end.”—J’nell Ciesielski, author of The Socialite

“A gothic romance that is filled with great characters and a mystery that unfolds chapter by chapter. A perfect blend of mystery, family relationships, lost years, and star-crossed love. Be warned, you won’t be able to walk away from these characters.”—Cara Putman, award-winning author of Flight Risk

Review

The Vanishing at Loxby Manor is another excellent Regency mystery from Abigail Wilson! With first person narration instantly pulling me into the story and adding to the suspense, I was delightfully surprised and guessing until the very end. Charity is a likable and complex heroine whose view of the world has been shaped by her past friendship with the Cavanaghs and her experiences abroad. As she navigates the mystery of her friend’s disappearance, a second chance at life — and romance! — unfolds.

The Regency era comes to life under Wilson’s command. I especially enjoyed the rural setting and requisite elements of the time: references to duels, a ball, strolls in the garden, drawing room banter, and midnight horseback rides. The compelling cast and exciting mystery propel the story into further layers of complexity as Charity must decide where to turn and who to trust next.

Along with the wonderfully executed second chance romance, themes of survival and hope anchor the story and main couple. I appreciate how this story acknowledges life as ever-changing with focus best fixed on the future instead of the shadows of the past. I recommend this book for anyone who likes their Regency or Austen with a hefty dose of mystery and suspense, or fans of inspirational romance and well done first person POV.

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

About the Author

Abigail Wilson combines her passion for Regency England with intrigue and adventure to pen historical mysteries with a heart. A registered nurse, chai tea addict, and mother of two crazy kids, Abigail fills her spare time hiking the national parks, attending her daughter’s gymnastic meets, and curling up with a great book. In 2017, Abigail won WisRWA’s Fab Five contest and in 2016, ACFW’s First Impressions contest as well as placing as a 2017 finalist in the Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery/Suspense.

She is a cum laude graduate of the University of Texas at Austin and currently lives in Dripping Springs, Texas, with her husband and children.

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Blog Tour Schedule

Tuesday, January 19
Review at Chicks, Rogues and Scandals

Wednesday, January 20
Review at Pursuing Stacie

Thursday, January 21
Review at Gwendalyn’s Books

Friday, January 22
Review at The Green Mockingbird

Monday, January 25
Review at Jorie Loves A Story
Review at Library of Clean Reads

Tuesday, January 26
Guest Post at Novels Alive

Wednesday, January 27
Review at Books, Cooks, Looks

Thursday, January 28
Review at Read Review Rejoice

Friday, January 29
Review at Heidi Reads
Review at View from the Birdhouse

Saturday, January 30
Review at Nursebookie

Monday, February 1
Review at The Caffeinated Bibliophile

Tuesday, February 2
Review at Amy’s Booket List

Wednesday, February 3
Review at Passages to the Past

Thursday, February 4
Review at Hallie Reads
Review at Bitch Bookshelf

Friday, February 5
Review at The Lit Bitch
Interview at Books & Benches

Giveaway

Enter to win a copy of The Vanishing at Loxby Manor by Abigail Wilson! Five copies are up for grabs!

The giveaway is open to the US only and ends on February 5th. You must be 18 or older to enter.

Click HERE to enter the giveaway!