Book Review: The White Feather Murders by Rachel McMillan

Finishing a wonderful book series always has its pluses and minuses. The great thing? A wrapped-up storyline and a picture of what happily-ever-after looks like for the characters. The sad thing? Saying goodbye with these two words: “The End”. The ending of The White Feather Murders (book 3 in series) by Rachel McMillan had all the right elements to be satisfactory while leaving room to dream and wonder about the future of the characters of the Herringford and Watts Mysteries. (and, with recent bookish news from Rachel, I don’t think this is the last we’ll hear about this troupe.)

*note: I think these books should be read in order for the best possible literary experience. If you haven’t yet, go check out books 1 & 2 first!*

About the Book

The White Feather Murders by Rachel McMillan

Uncommon Heroes…or Unsuspecting Victims?

Toronto, 1914. Merinda Herringford and Jem Watts never could have imagined their crime-solving skills would set them up as emblems of female empowerment in a city preparing to enter World War I at the behest of Great Britain. Yet, despite their popularity, the lady detectives can’t avoid the unrest infiltrating every level of society.

A war measure adopted by Mayor Montague puts a target on Jem and her Italian husband, Ray DeLuca. Meanwhile, deep-rooted corruption in the police force causes their friend, Constable Jasper Forth, to wonder if his thirst for upholding the law would be best quenched elsewhere.

In spite of these distractions, Merinda, Ray, and Jasper join with other honorable and courageous city leaders in the Cartier Club, which exists to provide newly arrived residents of Toronto with a seamless integration in the city.

When a club member turns up dead, bearing a slanderous white feather, will Merinda, Jem, and those they hold dear be able to solve the high-stakes mystery before they’re all picked off, one by one?

Review

One important tidbit you won’t glean from reading the synopsis is the presence of a 5th lead character: the city of Toronto. Toronto is much more than a setting — it’s shown as a living, breathing, and ever-changing entity through author Rachel McMillan’s pen and Jem and Merinda’s eyes. It establishes the tone for the series, exposing a “slice of life” in the 1910s that was as tumultuous as it was vibrant. The city, in a way, is essential in shaping each of the (other) four main characters as much as it influences their lives and propels them into another mystery. The conflict of the looming Great War, along with its political struggles, adds complexity in introducing immigration and patriotism as new story layers and challenges.

It’s not all seriousness and mystery, though! This story is witty twists and turns, lady detectives, bowler hats, Sherlockian reasoning, suspect political leaders, a flamboyant peacock, the frenzied start of WWI, and plenty of Italian mumblings from Ray and “Cracker Jacks!” exclamations from Merinda. It’s fun and just light enough to be a cozy mystery while delving a little deeper into themes of friendship and purpose.

Speaking of friendship, my FAVORITE part of this book (and this series, really), is the way friendship is portrayed. With four main characters and their unique roles, the relationship dynamics have ample time to evolve and grow to a remarkable maturity. The complexity of it all is more than just a camaraderie or temporary commitment among the four. No, it’s a lifelong purpose, the intermingling of a complimentary partnership for Jem and Merinda, a romance for Ray and Jem (and just how that affects the aforementioned partnership), a reliance and trust for them all depending on the honorable Jasper, and a bit of unrequited love where Jasper and Merinda are concerned. It’s beautiful and messy and truth-filled.

Bravo to Rachel for ending this series the way it does! Some might say a few details are handled unconventionally for the genre, but I think those little conclusions are what make this story shine on the shelf. This book is everything I wanted it to be — and everything I didn’t realize I needed it to be. It’s like craving Oreo cookies with an ice cold glass of milk and getting a hot chocolate brownie with vanilla ice cream instead. It’s still that combination of chocolate and creamy goodness, but a thousand times better (yet distinctly different). I will still want Oreos at some point, but I’m much happier with the surprising brownies. This story might be better suited, though, to a comparison involving lemons or Turkish coffee :)!

Thank you to Harvest House Publishers for the complimentary review copy. This review reflects my honest opinion.

See what I thought of the previous books/novellas in the series~

#0.5 A Singular & Whimsical Problem | #1 The Bachelor Girl’s Guide to Murder

#1.5 Of Dubious and Questionable Memory | #2 A Lesson in Love and Murder 

#2.5 Conductor of Light

About the Author
Rachel McMillanRachel McMillan is a keen history enthusiast and a lifelong bibliophile. When not writing or reading, she can most often be found drinking tea and watching British miniseries. Rachel lives in bustling Toronto, where she works in educational publishing and pursues her passion for art, literature, music, and theater.

Rachel’s Bookish ramblings are housed at A Fair Substitute For Heaven

Twitter: @rachkmc

Instagram: @rachkmc

Facebook: rachkmc1

Pinterest: @rachkmc

 

 

Top Ten Tuesday: 10+ Novellas You Can Read in One Sitting

It’s another Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by  The Broke and the Bookish

Top Ten Tuesday at The Green Mockingbird

The official topic this week is “read in one sitting”. With the open-ended nature of this, I decided to go with 10 different novellas or novella collections. Specifically, a novella is longer than a short story but not as long as a novel, so think 70-150 pages. Most of them can be read in 1-2 hours, I think!

10+ Novellas You Can Read in One Sitting

Standalone Novellas

…for when you want to read a delightful story and be happily satisfied at the end.

this-quiet-sky1. This Quiet Sky by Joanne Bischof

A touching and deeply emotional story, this one will give you a taste of Joanne’s prose-like style. Oh, and its poignancy might just leave you in tears.

HowaStarFalls-new2. How a Star Falls by Amber Stokes

This story makes you question the story world’s reality in the sweetest of ways. Is it real? Is it a modern fairy tale?

Novella Collections

…for when you want to read just 1 or several shorter stories with a related theme or element.

With This Ring3. With This Ring? collection by Karen Witemeyer, Mary Connealy, Regina Jennings, and Melissa Jaegars

This is a cute collection of 4 marriage proposal stories…  but the proposals are anything but traditional! Oh, and they are all western rom-coms! Fans of these authors might recognize the story settings or characters as minor ones from previous series.

Love at First Laugh4. Love at First Laugh collection by Pepper Basham, Chrinstina Coryell, Heather Gray, Elizabeth Maddrey, Jessica R. Patch, Krista Phillips, Laurie Tomlinson, and Marion Ueckermann

This humorous little collection is one I’m currently reading. It promises many laughs, romance, and fun banter!

The Message in a Bottle Romance Collection5. The Message in a Bottle Romance Collection by Joanne Bischof, Amanda Dykes, Heather Day Gilbert, Jocelyn Green, and Maureen Lang

I recently finished this unique collection of stories all connected with a bronze keepsake bottle and a theme of hope. I enjoyed all of the different historical settings and time periods this collection spans.

Series Start Novellas

…for when you want to try out a new series or author. These wonderfully introduce the characters and establish the setting. Plus, series start novellas are often free ebooks!

If Ever I Would Leave You by Susan May Warren6. If Ever I Would Leave You by Susan May Warren

Setting up the Montana Rescue series, this novella introduces us to key characters and to a main conflict that carries on through the series. Plus, it establishes a certain relationship dynamic that I love and still want to see resolved!

Three Little Words7. Three Little Words by Melissa Tagg

If you’ve never read anything by Melissa, this is a perfect place to start! This is really more of a standalone, too, because the main characters’ story is wrapped up nicely by the end. There are letters, people! But if you want more, the setting and family are featured in the Walker Family series.

 

A Singular and Whimsical Problem8. A Singular and Whimsical Problem by Rachel McMillan

This is a little mystery to introduce you to Jem, Merinda, Ray, and Jasper with their quirky habits and penchant for crime solving. It’s the start of a must-read historical mystery & romance series, Herringford and Watts Mysteries.

the-warriors-seal9. The Warrior’s Seal by Ronie Kendig

This sets up the Tox Files series very nicely with plenty of action and intrigue in itself. It’s the backstory, if you will, of this special team and the events that lead up to a predicament which carries on into book 1.

 

The Boden Birthright10. The Boden Birthright by Mary Connealy

You just can’t go wrong with a single-dad-turned-cowboy, a ranch in the middle of a land dispute, and a beautiful rancher’s daughter thrown together with the humor and wit of Mary’s storytelling. This is a “family history” story, if you will, that sets up Mary’s The Cimmaron Legacy series.

Did you participate in Top Ten Tuesday this week? Do you enjoy novellas or short stories? Do you have any recommendations? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Top Ten Tuesday: Top 10 Books on my Spring TBR

It’s another Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by  The Broke and the Bookish

Top Ten Tuesday at The Green Mockingbird

Today’s TTT topic is all about that growing, towering, To-Be-Read pile, shelf, island, or whatever shape it may be. Mine seems to be ever-increasing with new releases happening ALL THE TIME, lovely reviews from other book bloggers, and recommendations from friends. It’s a delightful problem.

These are the top 10 books on my Spring TBR. More like the top 10 books I’d like to read next. The first 5 will be conquered because they are review copies from generous authors or publishers (Ya’ll are awesome for keeping me in books! Thank you.).

Top 10 Books on my Spring TBR

(Book titles linked to Goodreads)

stf-jpeg-642x1024

Shoes to Fill by Lynne Gentry

Long Time Gone by Mary Connealy

Long Time Gone by Mary Connealy

The White Feather Murders by Rachel McMillan

The White Feather Murders by Rachel McMillan

With Love, Wherever You Are

With Love, Wherever You Are by Dandi Daley Mackall

second-impressions


Love at First LaughSecond Impressions
by Pepper Basham (and the rest of the Love at First
Laugh
novella collection)

Close To You

Close To You by Kara Isaac

To Kill a Mockingbird

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Sweet Surrenders

Sweet Surrenders by Rachel Fallin

Edenbrooke

Edenbrooke by Julianne Donaldson

Sway by Amy Matayo

Sway by Amy Matayo

What is on your Spring TBR?

Mini Review: “Conductor of Light” by Rachel McMillan (FREE ebook!)

Today’s mini review features a short installment from Rachel McMillan in the Herringford and Watts Mysteries series. Conductor of Light is a FREE ebook-only short story which falls into the series as # 2.5 (after A Lesson in Love and Murder).
conductor-of-lightThis is classic Jem & Merinda, Ray & Jasper shenanigans. All centered around theatre– and obviously touting Rachel’s own love for that storytelling medium. If you’re not familiar with this lovable group of characters, you should know that the ladies are a female embodiment of Sherlock Holmes & Watson while the men are classic gentlemen reporter and police detective, respectively — all against a backdrop of early 1900s Toronto with its ever-changing environment. This story was another treat and glimpse “behind the curtain” of the characters as they work together to solve a little mystery. It just made me more excited for things to come in the conclusion of the series this year. (Especially a particular romance I hope will FINALLY work out. Rachel, you-know-who.)

snatch this story for FREE on Amazon

More about the story:

Toronto, 1912
A seemingly forgettable evening of second-rate vaudeville entertainment proves lethal when Constable Jasper Forth and reporter Ray DeLuca witness the onstage death of the actor Stephano. Was this the performance of a lifetime or merely opening night of the next intriguing case for Jem DeLuca and Merinda Herringford?

Hiding from Toronto’s dreaded Morality Squad in the back alleyway of the theater, Jem and Merinda encounter a mysterious musician who steps out of the shadows to tell them a murder has occurred inside.

Jasper and Ray join the detective duo backstage and begin to interview the rest of the troupe, a veritable casting call of possible suspects, every one of them with more motives than talent. Can Jem and Merinda foil this plot before a fatal encore ensues?

This Herringford and Watts adventure in four acts will keep you on the edge of your seat until the final curtain closes on yet another enthralling whodunit.

Christmas Novella Mini Reviews

Welcome! The Merry Christmas season is upon us, filling cars with Christmas music and homes with Hallmark movies, Christmas trees, and the spirit of giving. I have a review sampler here of Christmas novellas I’ve read recently (because I love EVERYTHING Christmas!). These will put you in the mood for the season and are to be enjoyed with hot chocolate, tea, or a fireplace close by. Since it’s almost Christmas, you could keep the festivities alive by reading these into January (I totally would!)

(Click on the book covers to visit the Goodreads pages for a plot summary, etc.)

One Enchanted Eve by Melissa Tagg

one-enchanted-eveThis novella continues the story of a character we met in last year’s edition, One Enchanted Christmas. It proves there is always more to the story behind seemingly antihero of that one, illustrating everyone has a journey and has trials. I love revisiting Maple Valley, especially the Renwyckes for Christmas. This is a must-read Christmas novella! The combo of drama, humor, and family is just perfect. And I can’t forget to mention the bonding that happens between Collin and Rylan over pastry and the flirting with recipe cards = swoon! In true “Tagg” style, this story is at once nostalgic and insightful, drawing out an emotional depth and realness from its characters, taking us home for Christmas and to blessings in unexpected little things.

Starring Christmas novella set by Rachel McMillan and Allison Pittman

Starring Christmas.jpgFalling For a Christmas Star by Rachel McMillan

At once depicting a story of made-for-TV Christmas movies AND reading like one, this little novella gives nods to the sappy souls who watch these movies all season and the underlying hope of the season they all exhibit. Rachel applies her humor and pop culture references to a contemporary story for a change, exploring the possibility of happily-ever-after in an unexpected avenue for the characters.

Lone Star Christmas Lights by Allison Pittman

Again reading somewhat like a Hallmark movie with a quaint setting and meet-cute, this one was a proper companion story to Rachel’s because it featured the sister of the hero from hers. Though one of the main professions of the characters was not really “my thing” (it was a craft brewery), I still enjoyed the Christmas setting and relatable characters.

Oh, the Weather Outside Is Frightful by Susan May Warren

32732111This story is perfect for the season – especially if you’re in the mood for a little romance, slight suspense, and blizzards. Oh, and wonderfully familiar faces from the Montana Fire series, like Hannah and CJ St. John, the pair who goes on quite an adventure to realize their feelings for each other. A wonderful message of hope and “being enough” ties this adventure together.

A Night Like No Other by Kristin Vayden

a-night-like-no-otherThis is a powerful, timely story featuring the relationship of Mary and Joseph before and through Jesus’ birth. While it is a fictional account, it stays true to Biblical events and poses a few “what-if?” scenarios which portray Mary and Joseph in a relatable light. It deftly communicates the wonder of God’s plan, the ordinary people like Mary, Joseph, you and me that He chooses to use. It’s highly recommended, especially to read this time of year!

A Royal Christmas Wedding by Rachel Hauck

a-royal-christmas-weddingBoth comfortably read as a standalone novellla AND a return to Rachel’s famed Royal Wedding series, this book spins a modern-day Christmas fairytale with enchanted moments of Divine light. It’s a perfect story for the Christmas season with down-to-earth characters. I enjoyed the second-chance storyline and the way it directs the characters to seek God’s plan for their dreams.I loved the moments of Christmas tradition and the way they were beautifully tied in with an emphasis on the gift of Christ at Christmas. The happily-ever-after ending left me smiling!

Thank you to the Thomas Nelson Fiction Guild for the review copy of A Royal Christmas Wedding.

Review: “A Lesson in Love and Murder” by Rachel McMillan

Join me today as we return to early 20th century Toronto (and Chicago!) with the notable lady detectives, Jem and Merinda, subjects of Rachel McMillan’s latest novel, A Lesson in Love and Murder. A delightful (and somewhat short) read, it furthers the story of these two as they find another adventure amongst dangerous criminal activities and a couple very eligible bachelors.

About the Book

From political danger to personal drama, life is about to get explosive…

The legacy of literary icon Sherlock Holmes is alive and well in 1912 Canada, where best friends Merinda Herringford and Jem Watts continue to develop their skills as consulting detectives.
a-lesson-in-love-and-murderThe city of Toronto has been thrown into upheaval by the arrival of radical anarchist Emma Goldman. Amid this political chaos, Benny Citrone of the Royal North-West Mounted Police arrives at Merinda and Jem’s flat, requesting assistance in locating his runaway cousin—a man with a deadly talent.

While Merinda eagerly accepts the case, she finds herself constantly butting heads—and hearts—with Benny. Meanwhile, Jem has her hands full with a husband who is determined to keep her out of harm’s way.

As Merinda and Jem close in on the danger they’ve tracked from Toronto to Chicago, they uncover a sinister plot to assassinate presidential candidate Theodore Roosevelt. Will they be able to save the day and resolve the troubles threatening their future happiness before it’s too late?

Independence, love, and lives are at stake in A Lesson in Love and Murder, the gripping second installment of the Herringford and Watts Mysteries series.

 

ReviewThis is another classic Jem and Merinda tale! We readers are slowly watching these two girls mature as they settle into private detective life. To elaborate on the adventure, action, and serious drama they traipse through during a case that takes them away from home and to bustling Chicago would be to reveal too much of the mystery and delight contained between the pages. Instead, I will outline a few observations of the growth of the characters themselves within this latest story.

Jem is coming into her own with more boldness and determination, which I think is a result of her now-married status, though Ray would scoff to think he’s encouraging her daring vocation in any way. Merinda has matured from her first ventures on the page, too, though hers is a slower and more subtle change. With this book, we glimpse her heart and deep caring friendship with Jem, though Merinda tries to hide the fact behind a toughened exterior. Merinda is at somewhat of a crossroads in her personal life, trying to hold on to her camaraderie with Jem while knowing the nature of their relationship is different now that Ray’s in the picture. And, a new maybe-love-interest for her is shifting her opinion on the possibility of a happily ever after.

For those of you reading this book just for Ray and Jasper, have no fear, they are back and just as stubborn as ever when it comes to their determination to be heroes. Jem and Merinda don’t put up with that for a second. Gladly, we do get to learn more about the both of them. And there’s a new man in town — also in uniform — a mountie, no less, of the Royal North-West Mounted Police. Benfield Citrone, or Benny, proves to be heroic in his own way, bringing a new contrast to the story in light of his wilderness background.

While it has its lighter and humorous moments, it still boasts a dramatic story dealing with real issues and hints at spiritual themes of trust. Rachel McMillan manages to capture the serious and enchanting moments of everyday life, the happiness and constant struggle, within the oppositions Jem and Merinda face in this story. While much is resolved by the story’s end, I am quite anxious to know how certain predicaments will be resolved in the upcoming novella and then series conclusion. Thankfully, they release in December and May, respectively, so I won’t have to wait long!

Sincere thanks to the publisher for a complimentary review copy.

See my thoughts on other books in this series:

#0.5 A Singular and Whimsical Problem

#1 The Bachelor Girl’s Guide to Murder (and author interview)

#1.5 Of Dubious and Questionable Memory

Top Ten Tuesday: 10 Books Set Outside the U.S.

It’s another Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by  The Broke and the Bookish

Top Ten Tuesday at The Green Mockingbird

Today’s topic sounded like a fun thing to talk about, especially for this native southerner. While I have traveled a bit within the US, I’ve never been out of the country. What better way to learn about another culture or experience another location (without actually going) than books? For today, let’s “pack” our suitcases and talk about books set outside the U.S. For fun, I’m splitting this list up into 2 types: books I’ve read and books on my TBR.

TTT 10 Books Set Outside the US

10 Books Set Outside the U.S.

Books I’ve Read

The Thorn Keeper by Pepper D. Basham

Derbyshire, England during WWII

The Red Door Inn by Liz Johnson

Prince Edward Island, Canada

The Sound of Diamonds by Rachelle Rea

Holland and England during the Protestant Reformation

Valley of Decision by Lynne Gentry

Carthage, Tunisia during the 3rd century

Maggie Bright by Tracy Groot

England and France during WWII

Soon-ish TBR

London Tides by Carla Laureano

London, England and probably a little Scotland because the hero is Scottish ❤

A Lesson in Love and Murder by Rachel McMillan

1910s Toronto, Canada (and Chicago). What could be next for these daring girls?

Edenbrooke by Julianne Donaldson

England (Bath and the countryside) during the Regency Era

A Portrait of Emily Price by Katherine Reay (!!!!)

Italy (and Atlanta). It’s by Katherine, so I KNOW it will be good.

Can’t Help Falling by Kara Isaac

Oxford, England. This was first added to my TBR solely because of the cover. Since then, reviews of Kara’s work have completely convinced me I need to read it!

 

What places do YOU like to visit through the pages of a book? What are some of your favorite books set outside the US?