Book Review: “The Rose and the Thistle” by Laura Frantz

Today I’m sharing a review by the queen of 18th century stores — Laura Frantz, that is. Her latest is an escape from the England to the Scottish Lowlands with a heart-stirring romance: The Rose and the Thistle.

About the Book

In 1715, Lady Blythe Hedley’s father is declared an enemy of the British crown because of his Jacobite sympathies, forcing her to flee her home in northern England. Secreted to the tower of Wedderburn Castle in Scotland, Lady Blythe awaits who will ultimately be crowned king. But in a house with seven sons and numerous servants, her presence soon becomes known.

No sooner has Everard Hume lost his father, Lord Wedderburn, than Lady Hedley arrives with the clothes on her back and her mistress in tow. He has his own problems–a volatile brother with dangerous political leanings, an estate to manage, and a very young brother in need of comfort and direction in the wake of losing his father. It would be best for everyone if he could send this misfit heiress on her way as soon as possible.

Drawn into a whirlwind of intrigue, shifting alliances, and ambitions, Lady Blythe must be careful whom she trusts. Her fortune, her future, and her very life are at stake. Those who appear to be adversaries may turn out to be allies–and those who pretend friendship may be enemies.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

Laura Frantz is adept at her 18th century epics, and The Rose and the Thistle features a change of setting as all of it is abroad (no American colony or frontier). Her immersive style paints a fresh view of the moors and medieval castles, lending the 1700s story an older air as the antiquity of the setting mirrors the noble and honorable hero and heroine. Intrigue and duty are interwoven in this lush historical tale with a romance at its center.

And what a remarkable romance it is! It’s enough of a slow burn that the reader has a sense of Everard and Blythe, and the ways they will suit, even before they meet on page. This makes it a bit of an adventure to see them verbally spar at first because of their opposites (faith traditions and cultural upbringings), even as the reader knows their sameness of spirit in loyalty and intelligence. From an initial prickliness to a shared devotion to Everard’s littlest brother, Orin, they find common ground in friendship and elements of faith even as they cautiously venture toward a romantic possibility despite political dangers and opposition. When the romance does progress, wow, is it breathtaking in its telling. Everard is the best combination of fierce protector with a tender heart, while Blythe exhibits compassionate strength and humility.

The often-surprising plot, vibrant secondary characters (the Hume brothers!), and formidable Scottish Lowlands settings (Wedderburn Castle! Edinburgh!) all combine to heighten the stakes and add immeasurable depth to the tale. Orin, in particular, is a favorite, with a precocious and candid nature. Another small element of the story I love is the ongoing presence of birds — Blythe has a pet sparrow and Everard engages in falconry.

Through the ups and downs Everard and Blythe face, their story unfolds as more than just a romance, but as a story of honor and mutual respect. Both admirably cling to their faith in different ways. The Rose and the Thistle is the kind of story I wish I could read again for the first time — and I believe I will find new depths and facets upon each reread.

Thank you to the publisher for my review copy. I voluntarily purchased an ebook copy. This is my honest review.

Book Review: “The Blackout Book Club” by Amy Lynn Green

I’m sharing a review of Amy Lynn Green’s latest historical novel, one with strong BOOKISH elements (much discussion of beloved literature): The Blackout Book Club.

About the Book

An impulsive promise to her brother before he goes off to the European Front puts Avis Montgomery in the unlikely position of head librarian in small-town Maine. Though she has never been much of a reader, when wartime needs threaten to close the library, she invents a book club to keep its doors open. The women she convinces to attend the first meeting couldn’t be more different–a wealthy spinster determined to aid the war effort, an exhausted mother looking for a fresh start, and a determined young war worker.

At first, the struggles of the home front are all the club members have in common, but over time, the books they choose become more than an escape from the hardships of life and the fear of the U-boat battles that rage just past their shores. As the women face personal challenges and band together in the face of danger, they find they share more in common with each other than they think. But when their growing friendships are tested by secrets of the past and present, they must decide whether depending on each other is worth the cost.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

The Blackout Book Club by Amy Lynn Green is a great story of friendship and community, all centered on a favorite thing: books! The coastal setting and WWII home front elements make for a very interesting backdrop.

This is a historical story with elements of women’s fiction and a little romance, with four main ladies and their POVs central to the story. I enjoy how they offer perspective and variety in class, profession, and personality yet all contribute to the story of enduring trials and joining together to support each other and the community. A small lending library happens to be the thing which brings them together, but they soon find common ground and develop strong friendships outside of their book club. One favorite element of the story is the continued “notebook” of notes from each book club meeting. They are often hilarious and show the characters in a unique light.

This is the first of Green’s novels I have read, but I am happy her previous two are on my shelves for me to go back and experience now. I recommend this story for fans of bookish fiction and authors like Jocelyn Green and Katherine Reay.

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

Book Review: “In Love’s Time” by Kate Breslin

It’s time to share my first book review of the year! Today I’m talking about a must-read historical author, Kate Breslin, and her recent WWI historical romance, In Love’s Time.

About the Book

In the summer of 1918, Captain Marcus Weatherford arrives in Russia on a secret mission, with a beautiful ballerina posing as his fiancé. Marcus searches for the Romanov Tsarina and her son–who both allegedly survived the murdering Bolsheviks–and the information behind an allied plot to assassinate Lenin. But Marcus’s sense of duty battles his desire to return home to Clare–his actual love.

Hospital orderly Clare Danner still suffers from Marcus’s betrayal and now fears losing her daughter to the heartless family who took Daisy away from Clare once before, but only Marcus can provide the critical proof needed to save her daughter.

Faced with danger and unexpected circumstances, can Clare trust Marcus, or will he shatter her world yet again?

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

In Love’s Time takes readers along on a journey of intrigue, sacrifice, and duty as Clare and Marcus navigate their way toward a lasting romance while WWI machinations and personal troubles threaten to tear them apart. This standalone novel is impeccably researched by Breslin (yay for some fascinating real life history! Women-run hospitals and the Bolshevik revolution). Readers familiar with her previous interconnected titles will delight in seeing Jack and Grace (from Not By Sight) as important secondary characters, along with recognizing the hero, Marcus, as an important figure in 4 other stories.

Clare and Marcus are a delightful couple to root for, even through some traumatic and angst-filled situations. I love how Clare brings out the best in Marcus, including his laughter, and as she learns more about his family and early life, her compassion works to give him the benefit of the doubt in a way. (I can’t get too detailed because #spoilers!) And Marcus… his gentleness and devotion are qualities to be cherished, especially when he’s talking of his beloved sister or interacting with little Daisy (Clare’s daughter).

Strong themes of trust are a prominent part of this story and intertwine naturally with the romance. Marcus begins to learn to let Clare in and be vulnerable and Clare, in turn, to relinquish control and place her faith in God to safely direct her way. I recommend this story for fans of WWI drama/romance, or authors like Elizabeth Camden, J’nell Ciesielski, or Roseanna M. White.

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

Best of 2022 ~ Books & Blog Posts

Welcome to my annual “best-of” celebration!

I set a Goodreads reading goal at 80 books! Last year I read 74 books, this year I’ve exceeded that by just a little: 76 books. Again, this is not something I am focused on meeting, it’s just something I think it’s fun to note.

I’ve read considerably more historical fiction this year, so I have included more titles in this genre here in my best-of list. If you’d like to see all of the books I read and read more extensive reviews, check out my 2022 Goodreads Year in Books or browse my blog archives.

THE (self-imposed) RULES: because sometimes I need to keep things brief, I’m choosing to share 3 things that describe each of these stories. I’ve been doing this for a few years now, so I want to keep up my tradition ;). I’ll link each title to Goodreads and my review (if applicable). At the end, I’ll be sharing popular posts on the blog this year.

All titles are inspirational fiction unless noted with *.

Companion post: Best Films & Shows I watched in 2022

Best Books of 2022

Historical – North American Setting

A Heart Adrift by Laura Frantz | review

Chocolate. Second chances. Steadfast.

In Honor’s Defense by Karen Witemeyer | review

Adventurous western. Humor. Tender friendship.

Laura’s Shadow by Allison Pittman | review

Endearing heroines. Heritage. Contrasts.

The Heart of the Mountains by Pepper Basham | review

Fortitude. Licorice. Mountain folk.

Love’s Reckoning by Laura Frantz | review

Enduring love. A fiddle. Kindness.

Historical Romance – UK Setting

The Belle of Belgrave Square* by Mimi Matthews | review

Bookish heroine AND hero. Rescue. Belonging.

Romancing the Rake* by Nichole Van | review

Cat studies. Sacrifice. Hilarious coach journey.

The Sisters of Sea View by Julie Klassen | review

Self-worth. Sisterhood. Enchanting setting & romance.

Historical Romance – American Hero/Heroine & International Setting

Written on the Wind by Elizabeth Camden | review

Genre-bending hero. Riveting romance. Convictions.

The Brilliance of Stars by J’nell Ciesielski | review

Commitment. Adventure. Strength.

Until Leaves Fall in Paris by Sarah Sundin | review

Endurance. Integrity. Friendship.

Mystery or Mystery Elements

Shadows of Swanford Abbey by Julie Klassen | review

Unpredictable mystery. Unique setting (abbey-turned-hotel). Friends to lovers.

An Artless Demise* by Anna Lee Huber

Gripping plot. Gage’s unwavering support. Atmospheric London.

The Souls of Lost Lake by Jaime Jo Wright

Moving story. Lore. Preacher Pritchard.

Contemporary Romance

Turn to Me by Becky Wade | review

Banter. Grace. Agatha the dog.

The Last Way Home by Liz Johnson | review

Pancakes. Mercy. Homecoming.

Provenance by Carla Laureano | review

Stranded in the snow. Unlikely friendship. Identity.

just a few of my #backlistbooks23 titles

For 2023 reading, one of my goals is to read more of the books I already have on my shelves. I have found the “#backlistbooks23” challenge hosted on Instagram by @lemonyreads, @bookswithnopictures, and @thebookscript that has readers sharing a list of 23 books they already have + want to read in 2023. Here’s my list: This is open to join in through January 31 if you want to be part of the challenges, buddy reads, or giveaway. Follow the accounts to keep up 🙂

Most popular new posts:

Most popular new book reviews:

As always, thank you for being a blog reader in 2022 and beyond. Many thanks and appreciation to the publishers and authors who have graciously included me on their review teams this year. It has been a joy to be a part of this bookish community!

What are your favorite books you read this year? Do we share any favorites? Did you post a list of favorites on your blog or social media? I’d love for you to share in the comments!

Book Review: “The Brilliance of Stars” by J’Nell Ciesielski

Hello blog readers! Thanks for taking the time to read my (mostly bookish) thoughts. I’m sharing today about a book I LOVED and finished a few weeks ago… life is just getting the way of my reviews 🙂 .

The Brilliance of Stars by J’nell Ciesielski is the best kind of historical romance with lots of adventure and spies. And, it’s book 1 in a duology, so another book next year will bring even more intrigue.

About the Book

Amid the chaos of the Great War, two master assassins risk it all for love.

Washington DC, 1914. Ivy Olwen knows how to survive on the streets without two coins to rub together. But when she finds herself whisked into a secret society that seeks to maintain the balance of good and evil in the world, she can’t believe there’s more to life than just surviving. In the hallowed and historied halls of Talon, she learns European languages and ballroom dancing, as well as demolitions and sharpshooting—in short, everything a spy and assassin will need to survive in the field.

The first day Jack Vale meets Ivy, he knows she is not to be underestimated. The second day, he knows his heart will belong to no one else. Between sparring bouts and constellation gazing, Jack takes Ivy under his wing, and the two form a bond that soon turns to love.

While the rest of the world tumbles into war, the two embark on an official mission to take down a madman who has left a trail of blood and murder across Russia. Little do they know the unfathomable peril waiting in the wings of a chaotic Europe.

When Jack and Ivy are thrust into encounters each more terrifying than the last, Ivy must determine how far she will go to save the man she loves. Equal parts historical fiction and adventure novel, Ciesielski’s epic tale of espionage and romance will leave readers both enchanted and thrilled.

The first book of an epic duology from bestselling author J’nell Ciesielski, The Brilliance of Stars incorporates her signature blend of thrilling adventure, glamorous espionage, and sweeping romance. 

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

I want to allocate ALL the stars for Jack and Ivy and their night-sky romance in The Brilliance of Stars. Oh, and there’s a secret noble society, assassins, and a trek across Eastern Europe and Russia to root out a sinister organization, all during the upheaval of WWI. In short, all things that make this a story after my heart, and a must read.

As author Ciesielski states, this tale imagines what would happen if the Marvel character Bucky Barnes AKA The Winter Soldier fell in love. And, this is clearly seen in the spin of the story if you are familiar with the Marvel persona, with nods to Bucky and his BFF, Captain America, seen in Jack’s life and in his compatriot Phillip’s part. This is book 1 in a duology, so it sets up some of these elements to continue to book 2, To Free the Stars, which I am highly anticipating.

The ROMANCE of Jack and Ivy is truly unique, with them sparring one chapter, or fighting out of a life and death situation, then kissing and sharing a truly emotional moment in the middle of a battle or a quiet moment on a rooftop in the next chapter. Ciesielski’s authorial voice shines in this tale, uniting her typical historically detailed premise with two protagonists whose romance unfolds in the most unlikely circumstances within a plot likened to the best kind of action movie.

Thank you to Netgalley for the review copy. I voluntarily purchased a paperback copy. This is my honest review.

Book Review & Blog Tour: “The Sisters of Sea View” by Julie Klassen

Thanks for visiting my blog today! I’m taking part in a blog tour for Julie Klassen’s brand new Regency historical and romance novel, The Sisters of Sea View. Read on for my thoughts and some exciting story extras.

About the Book

Some guests have come for a holiday, others for hidden reasons of their own . . .

When their father’s death leaves them impoverished, Sarah Summers and her genteel sisters fear they will be forced to sell the house and separate to earn livelihoods as governesses or companions. Determined to stay together, Sarah convinces them to open their seaside home to guests to make ends meet and provide for their ailing mother. Instead of the elderly invalids they expect to receive, however, they find themselves hosting eligible gentlemen. Sarah is soon torn between a growing attraction to a mysterious Scottish widower and duty to her family.

Viola Summers wears a veil to cover her scar. When forced to choose between helping in her family’s new guest house and earning money to hire a maid to do her share, she chooses the latter. She reluctantly agrees to read to some of Sidmouth’s many invalids, preferring the company of a few elders with failing eyesight to the fashionable guests staying in their home. But when her first client turns out to be a wounded officer in his thirties, Viola soon wishes she had chosen differently. Her new situation exposes her scars–both visible and those hidden deep within–and her cloistered heart will never be the same.

Join the Summers sisters on the Devonshire coast, where they discover the power of friendship, loyalty, love, and new beginnings.

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

Review

The Sisters of Sea View by Julie Klassen is an enchanting story of romance and sisterhood with an idyllic coastal setting (Devonshire, UK). The Summers sisters are sure to charm their way into the hearts of readers with their varied personalities and shared bond of family as they must pursue a new venture — one that puts a few eligible gentlemen and other new friends in their path.

In regards to the romance possibilities, the three older sisters have prospects. From a slight flirtation to a newfound friendship or two, each has a different dynamic. I was rooting for Viola and Sarah, especially, in their arcs. I am happy to see this is a series by Klassen and there will be more stories to come centered on this family in Sidmouth.

A deeper theme I note and appreciate within the context of the story is how the value of every individual person is emphasized. Many characters offer examples of this, from looking beyond outward appearances, behaviors, and circumstances to appreciating the gifts, qualities, and hearts of people. Viola’s struggles and emotional healing factor into this theme, as does her new friend, Major Hutton, in reinforcing her worth and confidence.

As one could expect with a seaside setting, customs of the time such as bathing machines, supposed “healing” dips in the waters, and society functions all take place in these pages. Julie Klassen nods to a few Jane Austen characters and situations within the story, and has included epigraphs which delight and enlighten the reader to the real history and accounts of the region. Fans of Austen and the Sanditon adaptation should take note, as this has similar appeal and an even better story.

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

Julie Klassen loves all things Jane—Jane Eyre and Jane Austen. Her books have sold over a million copies, and she is a three-time recipient of the Christy Award for Historical Romance. The Secret of Pembrooke Park was honored with the Minnesota Book Award for Genre Fiction. Julie has also won the Midwest Book Award and Christian Retailing’s BEST Award and has been a finalist in the RITA and Carol Awards. A graduate of the University of Illinois, Julie worked in publishing for sixteen years and now writes full time. She and her husband have two sons and live in a suburb of St. Paul, Minnesota.

WEBSITE | TWITTER | FACEBOOK | PINTEREST | INSTAGRAM | GOODREADS

Extra Fun Things

Click to read an EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH AUTHOR JULIE KLASSEN on Austenprose.com

Christmas Book Review: “Merry Ex-Mas” by Courtney Walsh

It’s that time of year already, and I’m totally happy about it! I’m talking about time to read Christmas stories. I have quite a few on my TBR from last year still, so here’s hoping I get to some this season. The first one I have crossed off my list is a new RomCom release from author Courtney Walsh: Merry Ex-Mas.

About the Book

I haven’t been home for Christmas in eight years.

But that’s about to change. This year, I’m traveling to my small hometown to convince my producer to make me the permanent host of Good Day Denver.

The plan: Charm viewers by sharing my favorite family Christmas traditions, and in turn, get the likes, clicks and shares to land the job.

Not the plan: Running into my ex-boyfriend.

In my house.

For Christmas.

But here he is, a guest of my mother, who apparently had more trouble letting go of Max Weber than I did.

Unfortunately, he is as handsome and charming and talented and annoying and frustrating and flirty as ever.

Even more unfortunately, he seems to have a plan of his own—to convince me to give him a second chance.

Which is not happening.

There’s just one problem—my viewers love him. More than that, they love us. Me and Max. My ex.

The boy who broke my heart.

The boy I now have to fake flirt with to win over the hearts of my viewers.

But it’s not their hearts I’m worried about. . . it’s mine.

Merry Ex-Mas is a sweet, small town, second chance romance with a dash of not-so-fake flirting, a tiny bit of enemies to lovers and just enough forced proximity to make things sizzle.

Goodreads | Amazon | BookBub

Review

Merry Ex-Mas by Courtney Walsh is an ADORABLE, hilarious, romcom of a Christmas story, filled with Christmas traditions and an emotional second chance romance. When Marin’s trip home turns into an opportunity for a work promotion, a little forced proximity and fake dating come into the mix with Max — and he’s clear up front his flirting will NOT be fake 🙂

There’s something about Courtney Walsh’s stories when she uses a second chance trope (delightedly, there have been a few!): she writes just the right amount of history and angst for the reader to be curious and invested in the couple from an early point. In Max’s case, especially, I liked that he is certain of his goals and endgame where Marin is concerned nearly from the beginning. They have to work through grief and hurt to get back to a healthy place in their relationship with each other and their perspective on life, and they do so in a way that’s realistic and natural. Themes of identity and belonging come into play amidst all the twinkling holiday traditions and banter.

A few of my favorite little things about Merry Ex-Mas: I swooned when Max bought Marin her favorite coffee creamer; Marin’s mom, Lydia, is hilarious and discerning; talk of genuine smiles; Marin’s clumsiness; the phrase “leave room for Jesus”.

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

Best of 2021 ~ Books & Blog Posts

Welcome to my annual “best-of” celebration!

I set a Goodreads reading goal at 80 books! Last year I exceeded this number, but this year I didn’t quite get there with 74+ ,which is fine by me! It’s an ideal, not something I really payed attention to working toward.

Looking back at my reading habits of 2021, I see I have read quite a bit of historical fiction! I’ve included more titles in the histfic category for this best-of list. If you’d like to see all of the books I read and read more extensive reviews, check out my 2021 Goodreads Year in Books or browse my blog archives.

THE (self-imposed) RULES: because sometimes I need to keep things brief, I’m choosing to share 3 things that describe each of these stories along with a link to Goodreads and my review (if applicable). At the end, I’ll be sharing popular posts on the blog this year.

All titles are inspirational fiction unless noted with *.

Best Books of 2021

Novellas

The Journey of Runs-Far by Lori Benton | Review

Redemption. Family ties. Freedom.

Snowbound by Carla Laureano | Review

Rivals. Sentimentality. Blizzard.

Split Time

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

Atmospheric. Sibling bonds. Hope.

The London House by Katherine Reay | Review

Truth. History’s influence. Healing.

Hope Between the Pages by Pepper Basham | Review

Legacy. Longing. Story.

Contemporary

Let It Be Me by Becky Wade | Review

Dialogue! Magnetic romance. Identity.

Is It Any Wonder by Courtney Walsh | Review

Genuine characters. Forgiveness. Idyllic setting.

Beyond the Tides by Liz Johnson | Review

Dreams. Lobster determination. Joy.

Thriller & Suspense

John Eyre by Mimi Matthews* | Review

Brilliant retelling. Gothic. Threads of light.

The Curse of Morton Abbey by Clarissa Harwood* | Review

Sacrifice. Classic influence. Conquering love.

A Brush with Shadows by Anna Lee Huber* | Review

Setting as a character. Personal mystery. Married relationship growth.

Historical

The Ice Swan by J’nell Ciesielski | Review

Intrigue. Trust. Romantic prose.

Tidewater Bride by Laura Frantz | Review

Tender romance. Endurance. Riveting events.

When Twilight Breaks by Sarah Sundin | Review

Intelligent romance. Justice. Sacrificial Love.

Mountain Laurel by Lori Benton | Review

Epic story. Lyrical. Grace.

A Portrait of Loyalty by Roseanna M. White | Review

Fitting title. Unique perspective. Patterns.

The Mozart Code by Rachel McMillan (2022 release) | Review

Nuanced romance. Bravery. Sacrifice and loyalty as love.

Most popular posts:

North and South 2004. Drama, love, & social commentary in my favorite miniseries.

Most popular new book reviews:

As always, thank you for being a blog reader in 2021 and beyond. Many thanks and appreciation to the publishers and authors who have graciously included me on their review teams this year. It has been a joy to be a part of this bookish community!

What are your favorite books you read this year? Do we share any favorites? Did you post a list of favorites on your blog or social media? I’d love for you to share in the comments!

Review: “As Dawn Breaks” by Kate Breslin

Today’s review features a new historical romance from Kate Breslin: As Dawn Breaks. It is a standalone novel, but frequent readers of her other WWI stories will recognize cameos from a few beloved characters!

About the Book
cover of As Dawn Breaks

Amid the Great War in 1918 England, munitions worker Rosalind Graham is desperate to escape the arranged marriage being forced on her by her ruthless guardian and instead follow her own course. When the Chilwell factory explodes, killing hundreds of unidentified workers, Rose realizes the world believes she perished in the disaster. Seizing the chance to escape, she risks all and assumes a new identity, taking a supervisory position in Gretna, Scotland, as Miss Tilly Lockhart.

RAF Captain Alex Baird is returning home to Gretna on a secret mission to uncover the saboteur suspected in the Chilwell explosion, as Gretna’s factory is likely next. Fearing for his family’s safety, he’s also haunted by guilt after failing to protect his brother. Alex is surprised to discover a young woman, Miss Lockhart, renting his boyhood room, but the two eventually bond over their mutual affection for his family–until Alex receives orders to surveil her.

Rose squirms beneath Alex’s scrutiny while she struggles to gain her workers’ respect. But when her deception turns to danger, she and Alex must find a way to put their painful pasts behind them and together try to safeguard the future.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

As Dawn Breaks is an enthralling WWI-era romance from author Kate Breslin. With a setting spanning England and Scotland on the “homefront”, spies and potential sabotage encircle the activities of Alex and Rose as they face secrets and their consequences in many ways. Readers of Breslin’s previous stories will recognize a few key secondary characters of this one, namely Simon and Eve from (a FAV!) High as the Heavens.

The romance in this story is one full of anticipation and a tentative friendship worth the wait. Threads of forgiveness and belonging wind through its progress with an impeccably researched backdrop. Rose is a heroine facing challenges on many fronts, and I love seeing her grow in confidence and bravery — especially when her choice to keep certain secrets complicates her situation further. Alex is an exemplary hero, both in his role in the war and in his tenderness for his family and, eventually, for Rose. He faces lessons in mercy and forgiveness and with Rose’s help, sees his own worth in a different light.

Breslin has tangled QUITE the complicated tale of spies and subterfuge in this story. I am once again impressed with her skill in balancing suspense, real-life events, and a worth-the-wait relationship thread. I was guessing and making note of breadcrumbs along the way, but I was still majorly surprised with the twists and big reveal near the end.

Just a quick tangent: I am SO EXCITED to hear Breslin’s next novel will feature Marcus (Alex and Simon’s MI5 boss) as the next hero!

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

Best Books of 2020

Welcome to my annual “best-of” celebration!

I set a Goodreads reading goal at 100 books! I got close to making it happen at 86 books — and I’m happy with the high number I achieved. With all the bad news and unexpectedness of 2020, I have found books and the online bookish community to be a bright, positive spot in many ways. I hope you have, too.

I’ve included 20 books, 2-3 per genre, in my BEST list this year! If you’d like to see all of the books I read and read more extensive reviews, check out my 2020 Goodreads year in books or browse my blog archives.

THE (self-imposed) RULES: because sometimes I need to keep things brief, I’m choosing to share 3 things that describe each of these stories along with a link to Goodreads and my blog review (if applicable). At the end, I’ll be sharing popular posts on the blog this year.

All titles are inspirational fiction unless noted with *.

Best Books of 2020

Novellas

Fair as a Star by Mimi Matthews* | Review

Sweet romance. Compassion. Hope.

A Pressing Engagement by Anna Lee Huber*

Long-awaited event. Earl Gray the cat. Charismatic criminals.

Christmas in Three Quarter Time by Rachel McMillan | Review

Belonging. Vulnerability. Vienna & the Tyrolean countryside.

Split Time

Set the Stars Alight by Amanda Dykes | Review

LIGHT. Longing. Hope.

Echoes Among the Stones by Jaime Jo Wright | Review

Puzzling mystery. Devotion. Collin O’Shaughnessy.

Whose Waves These Are by Amanda Dykes | Review

Sacrifice. Beauty in the commonplace and extraordinary. Poignant.

Contemporary

The Solid Grounds Coffee Co. by Carla Laureano | Review

Honesty. Complexity. Friendship.

Now and Then and Always by Melissa Tagg | Review

Winsome. Humorous. Faith.

The Fifth Avenue Story Society by Rachel Hauck | Review

Redemption. Relationships. Enchanting concept.

Romantic Comedy

The Cul-de-Sac War by Melissa Ferguson | Review

Frenemies-to-romance. Farm animals. Rivalry.

Hadley Beckett’s Next Dish by Bethany Turner | Review

Wit. FOOD. Healing.

Close to You by Kara Isaac

Adventure. Unexpected love. Hobbits.

Thriller & Suspense

The Wind Will Howl by Sibella Giorello

Immersive setting. Classic-feel mystery. Smart.

Soul Raging by Ronie Kendig | Review

Twists. Revelations. Banter.

Chasing the White Lion by James R. Hannibal | Review

High-tech action. Suspense. Purpose.

Historical

The London Restoration by Rachel McMillan | Review

Reconciliation. Friendship. Selflessness.

An Uncommon Woman by Laura Frantz

Lyrical prose. Strength on the frontier. Riveting romance.

Gentleman Jim by Mimi Matthews*

Daring adventure. Truth. Swoony romance.

Nonfiction

Special mention to a couple of nonfiction titles I enjoyed: Dream, Plan, and Go by Rachel McMillan, an inspirational travel memoir and guide; Everything Beautiful In Its Time by Jenna Bush Hager, a family-centric memoir of love and grief.

Popular #OnTheBlog in 2020

Most popular posts:

Most popular new book reviews:

That’s it for 2020! Happy new year to you all. As always, thank you for being a blog reader and part of this bookish community.

What are your favorite books you read this year? Do we share any favorites? Did you post a list of favorites on your blog or social media? I’d love for you to share in the comments!