Mini Book Reviews, edition 2

Welcome to my blog! I’m sharing some mini reviews (once again) of books I have read and enjoyed recently across a few different genres. Please visit the Goodreads links to learn more about each book!

Check out my latest mini review post here.

A Rainer Carol short story by Rachel McMillan – Contemporary Christmas Romance | Goodreads

Devoted fans of McMillan’s “Three Quarter Time” series will delight in this short story featuring Rose and Oliver, the couple from Rose in Three Quarter Time. With a sparkling Viennese Christmas backdrop and a Dickens-esque Christmas Carol spin on perspective and time, Rachel McMillan takes readers back into her story world where Oliver is as smitten as ever with his wife, Rose, while she is reluctantly making decisions his heart doesn’t fully grasp. This sets off a series of what-if chapters where Oliver experiences his world without Rose — and unexpectedly, with her — where their connection is unmistakable as ever though their circumstances separate them further. It’s really a love-letter to music, Vienna, and a soul-deep connection Oliver and Rose share that transcends anything mundane and fleeting. I love how McMillan uses perspective to show Oliver being drawn to Rose across time and possibilities. All of this is neatly wrapped up in a happily-ever-after, of course, which sees Oliver and Rose grow in the depth of their relationship and character, too.

A Wing and a Prayer by Julie Lessman – WWII Romance | Goodreads

Strong themes of trust and the importance of faith are expressed throughout A Wing and a Prayer. The heroine, Gabe, has many lessons to learn. Her life is shaped by choices (and sometimes consequences) and greatly influenced by her loving family and the hero, Alex Kincaid. He is perfectly her match in determination and stubbornness, just with the added perspective of a little more wisdom and a strong faith. As Gabe’s headstrong ways get her out of one scrape and into another, a great saga plays out against the well-researched backdrop of WWII activities, including elements of the WASPs, medevac personnel, journalism, and bravery. They don’t refer to Julie Lessman as the queen of kisses for no reason! This story has some very intense kisses – some of them moments that become pivotal points in the growth of the characters and their friendship/romance.

The Moonlight School by Suzanne Woods Fisher – Historical Fiction/Romance, 1911 Kentucky | Goodreads

This novel is a historical piece with a fascinating true-life setting. The mountainous setting is heartfully depicted. A secondary character, Cora Wilson, was a real-life champion for literacy. A slight thread of romance happens in the background, gentle and unexpected in some ways. The plot goes in a direction which surprised me (in a good way!).

At Summer’s End by Courtney Ellis – (General Fiction) Historical Romance, 1922 England | Goodreads

While it has many (lovely) parallels to the classic Beauty and the Beast story, it tells a much deeper story than it would appear at the surface. One of sacrifice and healing, family and choices. I love how Bertie gets to know Julian (a beta hero!) and see beyond his hurts to his quiet character and strength—even when he can’t see it himself. His scars are more than physical and those form the trauma of war. It means so much to him for her to see his family and his history and accept/love him anyway!

I thought it smart that a bit of a family mystery unfurls through flashback portions (cleverly told through 3rd person POV of his sisters!) while Bertie has the narrative of present day in first person.

Content note: this is a general fiction story with a few expletives and a few barely open-door romance scenes.

The Thief of Blackfriars Lane by Michelle Griep – Victorian Mystery/Romance, 1885 London | Goodreads

This is a Victorian mystery full of intrigue and twists. While Constable Forge and his unlikely compatriot Kit Turner crisscross the streets (and tunnels of various kinds) of London searching for clues to find a missing jarvey, they become reluctant friends. The pace and action never stop but does slow down just enough for some emotional moments and development of the friendship into something more thanks to their unmistakable attraction and chemistry. I love seeing them banter and work together, especially the way Kit has heroic moments right alongside Jackson – and he loves that about her. From secret identities, a grand ball, scouring the Thames, and chases down dark alleys, this novel has romance and adventure aplenty.

At Love’s Command by Karen Witemeyer – Western Romance/Adventure, 1890s Texas | Goodreads

A book with everything I love in a western-romance! A take-charge cowboy leader, a strong heroine with a nontypical profession (yet plausible!), a brothers-in-arms group of friends with great camaraderie and dynamic, high stakes action throughout. The Doc situation allowed for some great moments of romantic tension through patient relations 😊 and gave Josie page time to be a “hero”, too. Not every book would translate to the screen, but I think the original action storyline would make a fantastic movie. I really enjoyed the audiobook version, as well.

Thank you to the publisher for the copy of The Moonlight School, The Thief of Blackfriars Lane, and At Love’s Command. These are my honest reviews. The other books were purchases I made and I am under no obligation to provide a positive review.

Top Ten Tuesday: A Tour of the British Isles in Fiction

It’s another Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl!

Top Ten Tuesday at The Green Mockingbird

Today’s topic is “Favorite Book Settings”. I could go SO MANY directions with this topic, because setting is a very important part of story to me. A well written, immersive setting is like an armchair adventure to a place (or time) the reader has never been. I’ve decided to keep my choices to the UK and Ireland, or the British Isles as those islands are collectively known.

A Tour of the British Isles in Fiction

Scotland

Five Days in Skye by Carla Laureano | Contemporary adventure and love story (with a chef!), and an exploration of the Isle of Skye. My Review

Beauty Among Ruins by J’nell Ciesielski | An estate in the idyllic Scottish Lowlands is the setting for this WWI mystery and romance. My Review

A Bound Heart by Laura Frantz | This heart-deep story begins on the Isle of Kerrera, an island in the Scottish Hebrides, during the 18th century. My Review

England

The London Restoration by Rachel McMillan | Historical romance that explores the architecture of the city — and of a relationship — in post-WWII London. My Review

The Winter Companion by Mimi Matthews | Historical romance set on the coast and rambling moors of Devonshire, complete with a Dartmoor pony. My Review

Just the Way You Are by Pepper Basham | A witty romance unfolds between an Appalachian single mom and an English actor, with a healthy dose of humor and a family mystery, too. My Review

The Brontë Plot by Katherine Reay | A contemporary story of self-discovery sees the heroine, Lucy, travel to England and the Brontë’s ancestral town of Haworth — with plentiful literary references! My Review

Wales

A Song Unheard by Roseanna M. White | A little suspense and beautiful music combine in this WWI-era romance set mostly in Wales. My Review

Ireland

Star Rising by Janet Ferguson | This contemporary romance finds the characters in an unlikely pairing while on a tour of Ireland. Beautiful sights and comical mishaps combine with depth in this adventurous story.

As Death Draws Near by Anna Lee Huber | This enthralling historical tale finds newlywed investigators trekking from England to Dublin to solve a mystery. My Review

Did you share a TTT post this week? What is your favorite setting? Have you read any of these books?

Recommended Reading: Summer Vacation

With summer in full swing, I thought it would be fun to share some themed book recommendations! If you are packing a stack of books with you in your suitcase or just want to escape to an idyllic setting through an armchair adventure before summer is over, I hope you find something on this list to add to your TBR!

at the beach

Is It Any Wonder by Courtney Walsh Goodreads | Review

A coastguard hero, Nantucket Island setting, a real lighthouse, and a second-chance romance make this the perfect beach read.

A Glitter of Gold by Liz Johnson Goodreads | Review

The nautical history of Savannah, Georgia, a pirate story, and a search for treasure combine in this romance.

in the mountains

Brunch at Bittersweet Café by Carla Laureano Goodreads | Review

This whole “Supper Club” series showcases Denver and its nearby mountainous region, but this second book in the series showcases it from the air, too (pilot hero!). Perfect for lovers of romance with depth and lots of food.

Count Me In by Mikal Dawn Goodreads | Review

Did someone say coffee? Or paragliding in the Cascades? 😉 This romcom is for the adventurous at heart!

in the city

Dear Mr. Knightley by Katherine Reay Goodreads | Review

This forever-favorite epistolary novel has nods to classic literature aplenty yet explores its own Chicago setting through the life of Samantha, the heroine.

Jane of Austin: A Novel of Sweet Tea and Sensibility Goodreads | Review

This loose retelling of Austen’s Sense & Sensibility has sisters moving across the country to experience the culture of Austin, Texas through fresh eyes.

in a small town

Keep Holding On by Melissa Tagg Goodreads | Review

Melissa Tagg’s “Walker Family” romcom series is perfect for fans of small town life as most of it is set in the fictional community of Maple Valley, Iowa. This one combines an orchard, baby goats, and a tiny bit of a prodigal’s return with a romance.

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

Neighborhood life and a rivalry anchor this hilarious rom-com set in Abingdon, Virginia.

traveling abroad

Love in Three Quarter Time by Rachel McMillan Goodreads | Review

This favorite novella takes readers to caffeinated corners of Vienna, Austria (with a brief trip to Prague!) on a journey that explores the romance of history and culture — and love, of course.

Then There Was You by Kara Isaac Goodreads | Review

See Sydney, Australia through the eyes of a Paige — an American transplant to the country whom the hero, Josh, never hesitates to initiate into the Aussie culture through pranks and humor. A heart-deep story of healing and romance can be found between these pages, too.

Star Rising by Janet Ferguson Goodreads

This books takes the characters on a tour of Ireland through some hilarious (and relatable) travel mishaps and an unexpected romance.

What is your preferred destination for summer travel? Would you rather read at the beach or beside a mountain lake? What’s your favorite “armchair adventure” destination?

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

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

Christmas in Three Quarter Time cover
About the Book

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

Christmas in Three Quarter Time Cover

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

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

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

Amazon | Goodreads

Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

REVIEW & Blog Tour: “The London Restoration” by Rachel McMillan

Today is the day for my review of The London Restoration by Rachel McMillan! Be sure to enter the HFVBT giveaway at the end of this post, and check out yesterday’s interview with the author herself.

Author interview: Rachel McMillan for The London Restoration

About the Book

The London Restoration by Rachel McMillan

Publication Date: August 18, 2020 by Thomas Nelson
Paperback, eBook, & Audiobook

Genre: Historical Fiction

From author Rachel McMillan comes a richly researched historical romance that takes place in post-World War II London and features a strong female lead.

Determined to save their marriage and the city they love, two people divided by World War II’s secrets rebuild their lives, their love, and their world.

London, Fall 1945. Architectural historian Diana Somerville’s experience as a codebreaker at Bletchley Park and her knowledge of London’s churches intersect in MI6’s pursuit of a Russian agent named Eternity. Diana wants nothing more than to begin again with her husband Brent after their separation during the war, but her signing of the Official Secrets Act keeps him at a distance.

Brent Somerville, professor of theology at King’s College, hopes aiding his wife with her church consultations will help him better understand why she disappeared when he needed her most. But he must find a way to reconcile his traumatic experiences as a stretcher bearer on the European front with her obvious lies about her wartime activities and whereabouts.

Featuring a timeless love story bolstered by flashbacks and the excavation of a priceless Roman artifact, The London Restoration is a richly atmospheric look at post-war London as two people changed by war rebuild amidst the city’s reconstruction.

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | IndieBound

Review

With painstakingly researched detail, The London Restoration spins a story of romance and reconciliation. A twofold love story is exquisitely told, initially through smartly placed flashback sequences and an ongoing one as Brent and Diana confront the changes a world war has wrought in the architecture of their relationship. This is a romance of two imperfect people whose roles in the war efforts have left scars both mental and physical, whose friendships have flourished and complicated the present with new loyalties, and whose amplified insecurities and secrets propel them to work toward restoration with patience and trust. Also, tea. Lots of tea.

I love how Brent and Diana both choose to make selfless sacrifices for one another while still not fully understanding the depth of each other’s time during the war. The secrets Diana keeps, under obligation to both friendship and government order, are for the betterment of the nation, yet are driven by her love for Brent and his well being. Brent, too, makes choices out of his motivation to protect Diana, but he steals the heart of the reader when he goes a step further and acknowledges Diana’s own strength and assertiveness. I think I really fell for him as a reader in the flashback scene when he ships off to war and has a delightful conversation with Di, showing how he truly knows her and wants her to feel comfortable in her own skin. Even as they try to restore their relationship in the present, this knowing and connection is threaded through their new maturity and colors their hesitant connection.

Author Rachel McMillan’s forte is historical romance! Her signature wit and authentic character development are ever present, as are her penchant for portraying deep friendships and a love for classical music. The romance sparks with both physical and intellectual attraction, and the London setting comes to life with its winding streets, WWII aftermath, and historical architecture. Readers will turn the final page with poignant satisfaction, a new love for London (and its churches), and a special place in their hearts for two wonderfully imperfect new (fictional) friends, the Somervilles.

After reading The London Restoration and making a TON of highlights and notes, I enjoyed listening to the audiobook version for a “reread” (Thanks, NetGalley!). I liked the accents and pronunciations the narrator employed, as well as her easy to listen to voice. Sometimes, though, the sentence structure came across as a little hesitant. This is a narration issue, not reflective of the smart dialogue and cadence of the writing. I would recommend reading a print or ebook version first, then listening to the audio for a more immersive “English” experience.

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

Rachel McMillan is the author of The Herringford and Watts mysteries, The Van Buren and DeLuca mysteries and The Three Quarter Time series of contemporary Viennese romances. Her next work of historical fiction, The London Restoration, releases in Summer 2020 and takes readers deep into the heart of London’s most beautiful churches. Dream, Plan, Go (May, 2020) is her first work of non-fiction. Rachel lives in Toronto, Canada and is always planning her next adventure.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Instagram | Goodreads

Tuesday, August 18
Review at Nursebookie
Guest Post at Let Them Read Books

Wednesday, August 19
Review at Austenprose
Review at Amy’s Booket List

Thursday, August 20
Review at Gwendalyn’s Books
Review at Little But Fierce Book Diary

Friday, August 21
Interview at Heidi Reads
Review at Foals, Fiction, and Filligree

Saturday, August 22
Review at Donna’s Book Blog

Monday, August 24
Review at Chicks, Rogues and Scandals
Interview at The Green Mockingbird

Tuesday, August 25
Review at The Green Mockingbird

Wednesday, August 26
Review at 100 Pages a Day
Interview on Jorie Loves A Story

Thursday, August 27
Review at The Lit Bitch

Friday, August 28
Review at Read Review Rejoice

Saturday, August 29
Review at Books and Backroads
Review at Reading is My Remedy

Monday, August 31
Review at Passages to the Past

During the Blog Tour, we are giving away 5 copies of The London Restoration! To enter, please use the Gleam form below.

The giveaway is open to US residents only and ends on August 31st. You must be 18 or older to enter.

Enter the givaway for a copy of The London Restoration

Author Interview & Blog Tour: “The London Restoration” by Rachel McMillan

Welcome to my first stop on the HFVBT Blog Tour for Rachel McMillan’s new historical romance novel, The London Restoration! Today I’m featuring a review with the gracious Rachel McMillan and all the bookish info. Check back tomorrow for my review!!!

About the Book

The London Restoration by Rachel McMillan

Publication Date: August 18, 2020 by Thomas Nelson
Paperback, eBook, & Audiobook

Genre: Historical Fiction

From author Rachel McMillan comes a richly researched historical romance that takes place in post-World War II London and features a strong female lead.

Determined to save their marriage and the city they love, two people divided by World War II’s secrets rebuild their lives, their love, and their world.

London, Fall 1945. Architectural historian Diana Somerville’s experience as a codebreaker at Bletchley Park and her knowledge of London’s churches intersect in MI6’s pursuit of a Russian agent named Eternity. Diana wants nothing more than to begin again with her husband Brent after their separation during the war, but her signing of the Official Secrets Act keeps him at a distance.

Brent Somerville, professor of theology at King’s College, hopes aiding his wife with her church consultations will help him better understand why she disappeared when he needed her most. But he must find a way to reconcile his traumatic experiences as a stretcher bearer on the European front with her obvious lies about her wartime activities and whereabouts.

Featuring a timeless love story bolstered by flashbacks and the excavation of a priceless Roman artifact, The London Restoration is a richly atmospheric look at post-war London as two people changed by war rebuild amidst the city’s reconstruction.

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | IndieBound

Thank you, Rachel, for taking the time to hang out and talk about your new book — and for sharing some lovely pictures from your travels!

How does the theme of “restoration” play out in this novel?

I was really fascinated by the fact that the Blitz ruined a comparative number of churches as those desecrated by the Great Fire of London in 1666. More still, because Londoners deemed a barrage of night attacks in the late December 1940 as the Second Great Fire of London. And much as architect Christopher Wren set almost immediately to restoring the churches, so committees were working while the bombs were still falling to determine how they would restore architectural treasures after the war and preserve them for future generations. Because I knew that the churches were going to play a major role in the story, it was so easy to start Brent and Diana’s reunion from a place that had a strong foundation, much like many of the surviving churches but still bore a lot of cracks. So I would say the love story between Diana and the churches and her needing to foster her love for them even though their scarred parallels what she is trying to restore with Brent. And it’s more complicated because due to the fact that they were only married one night before he shipped out, she has to learn how to love him all over again. And that decision is so restorative and sets, for me, the theme of the book.

The churches and cathedrals of London play a major role in The London Restoration, specifically the churches designed by Christopher Wren. Please share about your love and the appeal of these churches. Which of these would you recommend as “must-visit” on a trip to London?

Great St. Bart’s (What Londoners call St. Bartholomew the Great)

This is really hard for me because there are so many churches in London that are special to me and many, many were cut before the last draft of the book (I just couldn’t fit all of the beautiful churches in). This is not a Wren church, but my personal favourite church in London is St. Bartholomew the Great which is almost 1000 years old and survived King Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries, the zeppelins of the Great War and even the bombs of the Second World War. I am really fascinated by all of the history it has seen. (For one, William Wallace, of Braveheart fame, was drawn and quartered in the yard just behind the church). Because it isn’t that far a walk from St. Paul’s, I always recommend people try and see it.

There are so many Wren churches that move me: St. Bride’s on Fleet Street is the journalist’s church and is patronized by storytellers which I just love. But a must- see has to be St. Paul’s: it is Wren’s masterpiece and was quite innovative for the time. Not only was he rebuilding the cathedral from the site where it was wrecked during the Great Fire, he utilized it to make a Protestant statement: the open pews and passage ways, the font that leads people to go out into the world just as Christ commanded his disciples, including Paul, made for a much more open worship function that was not cloistered or closed off by confessions: rather to favour a more modern type of evangelism—that of a cleric who could speak loudly and commission congregants on the great commission. I just love this. Churches were often where the most beautiful pieces of art, sculptures and paintings were kept and St. Paul’s is very much a work of art: in its architecture, yes, but also in the many goodies you can find inside

So many churches! I love Magnus the Martyr (another Wren church) and the funnily named St. James Garlickhythe and I love St. Stephen Walbrook which has a dome not unlike that you would find in St. Paul’s.

I have several places on my must-visit list now, thanks to you!

During your extensive research, did you come across any interesting facts that you could not fit in the story?

St. Paul’s

LOL yes! See above! I wanted to basically write a 500 page book on fascinating Christopher Wren facts. The church rebuilding was just fascinating to me. Especially the Paul’s watch: Churchill was adamant that St. Paul’s (Which was into the 1960s the tallest building in the London skyline) survive for morale so volunteers pledged their lives to keeping it whole and camped out (Even during a water shortage) with hoses and pails to protect the cathedral. That’s a whole book in itself.

I also cut a lot about the process of Diana getting to Bletchley Park and all that she would have undertaken to qualify for that amazing position. So a lot of Bletchley research and scenes were cut. Finally, my editor and I decided that while Diana has many flashbacks to Bletchley, we would save Brent’s flashback from his time at the front to be the most important and integral one in his life: what had happened to his friend Ross. And so a lot of the research I did to craft his scenes at the front and in training were cut.

Did Brent and Diana surprise you in any way?

I was lucky in that they both popped into my head pretty fully formed and so I just took to dictation. I was coming off writing two very sweet heroes –Oliver Thorne in Rose in Three Quarter Time and Hamish DeLuca —and I was excited to have a hero with a sarcastic edge (that I had to reel in just a bit so that it never looked like he was demeaning Diana) so I was often surprised by some of Brent’s acerbic wit.

I was also surprised at how Diana showed me that she wanted their relationship to be so equal that they save each other. In so many romances, the hero saves the heroine: and Brent gets plenty of protective opportunities here, but when it came to Diana’s turn to show her own protective side, I was really proud of her.

St. Stephen Walbrook

In the past, you have written contemporary romances and historical mysteries. This is your first title specifically in the historical romance genre. What does this mean to you as an author?

It means I am finally writing the genre of my heart for publication. I used historical mysteries and don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love those characters and stories and the romances therein) to get through the publishing door but I always set out to write historical romance and have several stories that readers have not/will not see in this genre. So I am really happy to feel in my safe and happy zone here. I intend to keep on writing some contemporary romances (I really write the Three Quarter Time books for me and just let people peer over my shoulder, LOL, that’s how fun they are), I just keep getting sidetracked by contracted books (which is a very good problem to have).

It sounds like the best kind of problem for we readers! 🙂

Secondary characters Sophie and Simon seem to fill every scene they are in with undercurrents and hints at more to their connection. What is next for them?

When I first was working on The London Restoration, I had no plans at all to ever write another WWII era book. Indeed, I hadn’t set out to write WWII at all but a momentous trip to St. Bart’s in London and my meeting Brent and Diana changed that. So I created Simon Barre as a plot point: as Diana’s Bletchley colleague and MI-6 handler. Yet there’s one scene where the two are having tea at The Savoy and I typed something absently about the glamour of the place fitting Simon like a bespoke suit. And I remember then just being flooded with Simon’s history. He wasn’t Simon Barre, he was a lord with a devastating past who fought his own wars again and again through Britain. I knew then I had to come up with a fascinating woman for him. So I left a lot of doors open. I intentionally made their chemistry surge the few times we see them on the page together (am happy that came across) while leaving enough mystery not only for the reader but for myself so I had the freedom to play around with them. I hadn’t intended to pitch a second story in this world, but luckily I did and The Mozart Code is their turn on the page. It releases next summer and is a marriage of convenience (sigh) which is kinda like Downton Abbey meets The Alice Network. They might be my personal favourite couple I’ve created.

Just for fun: do you love tea as much as Brent? What is your favorite kind?

I do love tea. I have this manatee shaped tea strainer that I used quite often while plotting the proposal for this book and so this book is so tea-infused I referred to it as Project Manatea for a long time! LOL! I love Twining’s Earl Grey (classic) and I love any and all kinds of green tea. I am a huge fan of a company called David’s Tea here in Canada that sells all manner of loose leaf tea. Read My Lips is a black tea flavoured with chocolate hearts and chili peppers and I love it! I also love a tea they sell called Lavender Buttercream!

Those tea-treats sound heavenly! Thanks again, Rachel, for taking the time to talk about your books!

If you’d like to know more about Rachel McMillan, follow her on social media, links below. On a related note, she has a FABULOUS travel memoir that will inspire you to plan your own adventures. See my review of this fun nonfiction book here: Dream, Plan, and Go.

Rachel McMillan is the author of The Herringford and Watts mysteries, The Van Buren and DeLuca mysteries and The Three Quarter Time series of contemporary Viennese romances. Her next work of historical fiction, The London Restoration, releases in Summer 2020 and takes readers deep into the heart of London’s most beautiful churches. Dream, Plan, Go (May, 2020) is her first work of non-fiction. Rachel lives in Toronto, Canada and is always planning her next adventure.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Instagram | Goodreads

Tuesday, August 18
Review at Nursebookie
Guest Post at Let Them Read Books

Wednesday, August 19
Review at Austenprose
Review at Amy’s Booket List

Thursday, August 20
Review at Gwendalyn’s Books
Review at Little But Fierce Book Diary

Friday, August 21
Interview at Heidi Reads
Review at Foals, Fiction, and Filligree

Saturday, August 22
Review at Donna’s Book Blog

Monday, August 24
Review at Chicks, Rogues and Scandals
Interview at The Green Mockingbird

Tuesday, August 25
Review at The Green Mockingbird

Wednesday, August 26
Review at 100 Pages a Day
Interview on Jorie Loves A Story

Thursday, August 27
Review at The Lit Bitch

Friday, August 28
Review at Read Review Rejoice

Saturday, August 29
Review at Books and Backroads
Review at Reading is My Remedy

Monday, August 31
Review at Passages to the Past

During the Blog Tour, we are giving away 5 copies of The London Restoration! To enter, please use the Gleam form below.

The giveaway is open to US residents only and ends on August 31st. You must be 18 or older to enter.

Enter the givaway for a copy of The London Restoration

Travel Inspiration, Adventure, & Stories: “Dream, Plan, and Go” by Rachel McMillan

I love the format of this hardcover book: darling illustrations, thoughtful end-of-chapter questions, tips for travel near and far

Dream, Plan, and Go is an inspiring nonfiction book for experienced adventurers and beginners who only dream of travel and new experiences. Part travel memoir and part manual for solo adventuring, author Rachel McMillan combines anecdotes and advice for all ages hoping to see new destinations close to home and abroad.

With an easy conversational tone and candid manner, Rachel McMillan relays her personal experiences of adventure and travel — everything from childhood to adult bucket list destinations. These are framed in her descriptive style reflecting a love for history, literature, and romance (all traits that shine through in her novels!). Her stories all serve to offer encouragement and inspiration for the reader and her solo adventures; whether bravely conquering a fear of heights, trying a new restaurant in your own city, touring a historical site in your hometown, or venturing abroad for the first time.

One of my own favorite adventures: gelato in Rome!

Reading Dream, Plan, and Go has caused me to reflect on my own travels, especially the rare times I’ve traveled alone, like a few near-home adventures connected to a work trip. Rachel’s considerate approach to travel as an experience to be savored has caused me to appreciate such times in a new way. I have closed the last page with a host of ideas for future destinations — and inspiration for small things to do confidently to learn more about my own corner of the world.

About the Book

A Great Big World is Waiting for You Out There—Go Find It!

Dream, Plan, and Go Cover

Have you been putting off that trip of a lifetime hoping for a special someone to accompany you? Do you find yourself getting bored with the same old girls’ weekends? Are you hesitant to step out of your comfort zone, plan a solo vacation, pack your bags, and just go?

From pastries in Vienna to becoming a tourist in your own town and all points in between, this travel memoir and guidebook will inspire you to seek romance and adventure on your own terms. You will also get practical advice on how to stay safe while traveling single, create a budget, prepare and pack efficiently, and much more.

Chapter by chapter, you’ll encounter creative ideas for excursions as well as historical insights into some of the most fascinating destinations around the globe, smart tips for savvy sojourning, and journal jumpstarts to encourage deeper reflection.

Grab with both hands the confidence you need to embrace new experiences both home and abroad. You deserve the chance to discover the joy of being your own best company—this book will show you how!  

Goodreads | Amazon

Recommended Reading: Series to Binge

In light of all the craziness happening in the world right now, you might find yourself with extra time to read that book or series you’ve had on your shelf for forever. If you’ve read all the books in your house (Go you! I commend you!), and you’re looking to discover more great stories, I have compiled a list of 11 series you can binge-read NOW!

In my reading opinion, nothing is better than getting to breeze through a series back to back with NO WAITING until the next book is released!

I’ve listed these in order of historical era and genre, with Goodreads links to the series and some links to my reviews. And, confession time, all of these have some element of romance 😉

Parish Orphans of Devon series by Mimi Matthews | Victorian Era England + abroad

Delightful and deep Victorian romances, each of these couples have unique appeal (brooding, bookish, assertive, sweet, and redeemed rogue in the mix). I will reread these forever. The audio versions are wonderful, too!

The Matrimonial Advertisement | A Modest Independence | A Convenient Fiction | The Winter Companion

Timber Ridge Reflections series by Tamera Alexander | Post-Civil War American West

I remember loving each of these historical romances for different reasons, the first one being the subject of photography in book From a Distance.

Price of Privilege series by Jessica Dotta | Mystery and Intrigue in Victorian England

My favorite EVER historical series — and I don’t say this lightly! All three books encompass one of the most transformative arcs of the heroine. The allegorical symbolism of redemption deeply embedded in this series blows me away every time I think about it.

Born of Persuasion | Series feature: Price of Privilege

The Everstone Chronicles series by Dawn Crandall | Gilded Age New England

Four novels + 1 novella all with unique 1st person point-of-view heroines. Plus the Adirondack and coastal settings are detailed and idyllic!

The Hesitant Heiress | The Bound Heart | The Captive Imposter | The Cautious Maiden

Herringford & Watts Mysteries by Rachel McMillan | Pre-WWI Toronto

Trouser-wearing lady detectives solve crime in Toronto on the cusp of world war with a colorful cast of secondary characters, and two (or three!) valiant love interests. Three full length novels, two novellas, and a short story offer pages of fun with these friends!

The Bachelor Girl’s Guide to Murder | A Lesson in Love and Murder | The White Feather Murders

Penned in Time series by Pepper Basham | WWI England & America

From the front lines to English hospitals and the US treatment of German residents, this romance series explores many facets of the era. Most outstanding, though, it its stories of love and redemption. Book 2 is my favorite!

The Thorn Bearer | The Thorn Keeper | The Thorn Healer

Sunrise at Normandy series by Sarah Sundin | WWII & Battle of Normandy

This series shows how the Allied forces approached and carried out the Battle of Normandy, each by the sea, air, and land. Three estranged brothers find reconciliation and romance while serving in each branch during this pivotal battle. Oh, and each one references and reflects a Biblical story!

The Sea Before Us

Tox Files series by Ronie Kendig | Paramilitary Thrillers

This series needs a seatbelt warning! The prequel novella and three novels follow a covert team around the globe as they work to eliminate a threat and save the day. Besides the kick-butt heroines, the team camaraderie is fun! Oh, and the slight supernatural elements are super cool!

Conspiracy of Silence | Crown of Souls | Thirst of Steel

Two Blue Doors series by Hillary Manton Lodge | Family, Food, & Romance in the PNW

Basically love letters to food and romance, this series courts identity and family as well as a perfect romance between imperfect people. The included recipes will make your mouth water, as will the heritage threads and few “trips” abroad.

A Table by the Window | Reservations for Two | Together at the Table

Chesapeake Valor series by Dani Pettrey | Romantic Suspense

Investigator and law enforcement friends find love amidst the chaos of solving crimes and puzzles in the Chesapeake Bay area and beyond. Fast-paced and memorable, a thread of a story ties all four books together to culminate in a final gripping tale.

Cold Shot | Still Life | Blind Spot | Dead Drift

A Bradford Sisters Romance series by Becky Wade | Contemporary Romance

This series has it all: romance, sisters, family, romance, books, mystery, romance, humor, chocolate, and a hint of suspense. Reading it will make you fall in love with the characters! The epistolary prequel novella and the midpoint Christmas novella are fully-developed and sweet, too!

Falling for You | True to You | Falling for You | Sweet On You

Do you have any recommendations for series I should read ASAP?

Seriously, ya’ll. Stay safe and wash your hands.

Best of 2019: (Inspirational) Historical Fiction

Welcome to my annual “best-of” celebration! Like last year, I’m separating the categories of my yearly best-of lists over a few days. It’s going to take me a few days to talk about all the stories I loved in 2019!

best of 2019 graphic

I have exceeded my reading goals for 2019 according to my Goodreads reading challenge! If you’d like to see all of my 5-star reads and extensive reviews, just check out my completed Goodreads challenge or browse my blog archives. Each day leading up to New Year’s Day you’ll get a new post about my 2019 favorites:

  1. Best of 2019: Novellas & Audiobooks
  2. Best of 2019: Contemporary Fiction
  3. Best of 2019: (General) Historical Fiction
  4. Best of 2019: (Inspirational) Historical Fiction
  5. Best of 2019: Film & TV
  6. Best of 2019: Happy New Year #OnTheBlog (reading challenge?)

The 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.

I read a lot more historical novels this year than I typically do! Narrowing down this list was a challenge — these are the best of the best!

Best of 2019: (Inspirational) Historical Fiction

A Bound Heart by Laura Frantz | Review

Fortitude. Faith. Fireflies.

Daughters of Northern Shores by Joanne Bischof | Review

Restored trust. Extending grace. Family.

Far Side of the Sea by Kate Breslin | Review

Adventure. Honor. Intrigue.

Murder in the City of Liberty by Rachel McMillan | Review

Friendship. Loyalty. Reggie’s “journal of independence”.

With This Pledge by Tamera Alexander | Review

True-life romance. Freedom. Integrity.

Finding Lady Enderly by Joanna Davidson Politano | Review

Identity. Classic literature. Worth.

Becoming Mrs. Lewis by Patty Callahan | Review

Journey to faith. Intelligent friendship. Grief.

The Spice King by Elizabeth Camden | Review

Dreams. Smart romance. Truth.

Between Two Shores by Jocelyn Green | Review

Belonging. Courage. Forgiveness.

Lady of a Thousand Treasures by Sandra Byrd | Review

Subtle mystery. Romance. Value.

Top Ten Tuesday: 12 Best Fictional Cats

It’s another Top Ten Tuesday, now hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl!

Top Ten Tuesday at The Green Mockingbird

This week is officially a freebie topic week!

I’ve been compiling this list for a while now, being the cat person that I am. Today’s freebie topic day is THE DAY to share it with the world! This is not a comprehensive list, but it is one of notable and beloved felines in fiction.

12 Best Fictional Cats

Beloved Cats

Narnia in A Match for Emma by Pepper Basham | This one is extra-special because Pepper mostly named Emma’s cat after my own cat, Narnia, whom I had to say goodbye to earlier this year

Banjo and Good Luck in The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery | Maud captures the true natures of cats with these two personality-filled pets!

Parcheesi Rose in Three Quarter Time by Rachel McMillan | Parcheesi causes some allergies um, problems that endear the hero to the heroine

Pip of the photo studio, Archie of the truck in The Curse of Misty Wayfair by Jaime Jo Wright | These two cats offer personality and humor to some otherwise serious scenes! Archie, in particular, serves as an example of the hero’s tendency to rescue ❤

Perry in The Thirteenth Chance by Amy Matayo | Perry is a VERY pampered cat, whether he wants to be or not

My own #JaketheCat likes to nap while I read

Cats Who “Adopt” People

Agamemnon adopts Paul in Impossible Saints by Clarissa Harwood | While Lilia takes an instant liking to the stray, Paul’s reluctance is funny then sweet as the gray cat takes up residence with him anyway

Earl Gray adopts Kiera in A Grave Matter by Anna Lee Huber | from his meager barn cat beginnings, Earl Gray becomes quite the companion and art critic!

The “Bookshop Cat” adopts the ladies of The Printed Letter Bookshop by Katherine Reay | this cat is catered to by all three ladies, but he specifically seeks out Janet when she really doesn’t want to be a cat person

#JaketheCat is a fan of books!

Cats as Good Judges of Character

Dickens in Wedded to War by Jocelyn Green | He comically doesn’t like a particular suitor of Charlotte’s

Magpie in A Convenient Fiction by Mimi Matthews | Laura’s cat Magpie takes a particular liking to Alex from the start!

Sometimes #JaketheCat photobombs

Your turn! Do you have any favorite fictional pets? Cats or Dogs? What did you pick for this week’s TTT topic? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!