Review: “Carved in Stone” by Elizabeth Camden

This review is one of those “I’m just going to write a short comment or two” plans that turned into a full review all about my love for Elizabeth Camden’s stories. Read on for my thoughts on her recent novel Carved in Stone, book one in the new Blackstone Legacy series. (Book 2 coming this spring!)

About the Book

After years of tragedy, Gwen Kellerman now lives a quiet life as a botanist at an idyllic New York college. She largely ignores her status as heiress to the infamous Blackstone dynasty and hopes to keep her family’s heartbreak and scandal behind her.

Patrick O’Neill survived a hardscrabble youth to become a lawyer for the downtrodden Irish immigrants in his community. He’s proud of his work, even though he struggles to afford his ramshackle law office. All that changes when he accepts a case that is sure to emphasize the Blackstones’ legacy of greed and corruption by resurrecting a thirty-year-old mystery.

Little does Patrick suspect that the Blackstones will launch their most sympathetic family member to derail him. Gwen is tasked with getting Patrick to drop the case, but the old mystery takes a shocking twist neither of them saw coming. Now, as they navigate a burgeoning attraction and growing danger, Patrick and Gwen will be forced to decide if the risk to the life they’ve always held dear is worth the reward.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

Carved in Stone is another smart and enthralling historical romance from Elizabeth Camden. Leave it to Camden to take an event I suspected would happen within the story and place it at the 20% mark, then let events unravel in a different way entirely. There’s always something wonderfully unconventional about her books. This time, the romantic pairing has the protagonists from two different classes and worlds (with a bit of a “forbidden” element to it), seemingly opposite, yet united in kind hearts and matched in intelligence.

This story has the fortunate backdrop of New York City near the end of the Gilded Age, with a distinct difference in the opulent and well-off higher classes and the middle-to-lower tenements and conditions. The writing style makes the reading an immersive experience, as the flow of the story meanders through elements of suspense, danger, and fantastic verbal sparring some social-climbing family members.

While I enjoyed many aspects of this story, my favorite part is how Camden often explores subtle gender roles within the era. Her heroines typically must assert equality in some way throughout the story. In this case, Gwen has an arc that sees her mature in subtle ways, making an effort to see beyond her class (and stubbornness) and determining what she really wants out of life. Patrick has the most dynamic growth arc, as he overcomes pride and gains an appreciation for Gwen’s tenacity. This results in an intellectually mature romance and even makes way for an endearing grand gesture or two. 🙂

Top Ten Tuesday: 2021 Releases *Still* on my TBR

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

Top Ten Tuesday at The Green Mockingbird

Today’s official topic is 2021 Releases I Was Excited to Read But Didn’t Get To. I could have placed quite a few books on this list, but I have chosen my top 10 want-to-read-soon books, all of which are on my shelves (physical or virtual!). Which of these books should I read first?!

2021 Releases *Still* on my TBR

Every Word Unsaid by Kimberly Duffy | Goodreads

The Mistletoe Countess by Pepper Basham | Goodreads

Heart in the Highlands by Heidi Kimball | Goodreads

The Gold in These Hills by Joanne Bischof | Goodreads

Yours is the Night by Amanda Dykes | Goodreads

Pudge and Prejudice by Allison Pittman | Goodreads

The Cheat Sheet by Sarah Adams | Goodreads

Provenance by Carla Laureano | Goodreads

Autumn by the Sea by Melissa Tagg | Goodreads

Glory Falls by Janine Rosche | Goodreads

Did you share a TTT post this week? What is still on your TBR from last year? Have you read any of these books?

Review: “The Siren of Sussex” by Mimi Matthews

I’m very excited to be sharing my review today of Mimi Matthews’ The Siren of Sussex, the first in her Belles of London series and her first traditionally published novel. It also happens to be release day for this Victorian romance!

About the Book

Victorian high society’s most daring equestrienne finds love and an unexpected ally in her fight for independence in the strong arms of London’s most sought after and devastatingly handsome half-Indian tailor.

cover image of The Siren of Sussex, heroine riding a horse

Evelyn Maltravers understands exactly how little she’s worth on the marriage mart. As an incurable bluestocking from a family tumbling swiftly toward ruin, she knows she’ll never make a match in a ballroom. Her only hope is to distinguish herself by making the biggest splash in the one sphere she excels: on horseback. In haute couture. But to truly capture London’s attention she’ll need a habit-maker who’s not afraid to take risks with his designs—and with his heart.

Half-Indian tailor Ahmad Malik has always had a talent for making women beautiful, inching his way toward recognition by designing riding habits for Rotten Row’s infamous Pretty Horsebreakers—but no one compares to Evelyn. Her unbridled spirit enchants him, awakening a depth of feeling he never thought possible.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

The Siren of Sussex is a romance with resilient characters, swoony chemistry, and a historical setting that features equestriennes and the Victorians’ obsession with the spiritual realm.

A thoughtful look at race and colonialism through the eyes of the half-British, half-Indian (and fully attractive) hero, Ahmad, adds further depth to the complications of the love story and a subtle assessment of the roles of gentlemen vs the working class. Evelyn, the heroine, possesses a determination to better her prospects in a selfless move to support her family which endears her to Ahmad and the reader instantly. Wholly feminine and untried, she shirks the label of bluestocking and instead embraces the complexities of her person even as she embodies a progressively feministic view of her role and the capabilities of others.

The slow-burn romance is born of friendship and a partnership to display Ahmad’s fabric artistry – a situation which allows for some wonderfully romantic moments with fittings and one quite swoony gesture involving a pocket. Like Matthews’ beloved characters often exhibit, the best part of the romance is when the leads realize, as recipients of the others’ affections and respect, their place of belonging and acceptance is finally found.

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

Twelfth Night, edition 3: Christmas Story Mini Reviews

Happy Twelfth Night! It has become an informal annual tradition to share an edition of Christmas Story Mini Reviews here on the blog on January 5th, also known as Twelfth Night in the traditional Christmas days celebration. These are Christmas stories and ones with a Christmas/winter tone I read over the holiday season.

First edition of Christmas Story Mini Reviews | Second edition of Christmas Story Mini Reviews

Title links will take you to Goodreads for full book info.

You and Me by Becky Wade (novella, book 2.5 in the Misty River Romance series)

This is a fantastic little story with a friends-to-lovers romance! It checks all the boxes for a Christmas novella: banter, Christmassy activities, hot cocoa, and a sweet friendship at the center with a clever setup. I love and appreciate all the certainty of this romance: the decisiveness of the hero, the confident personality of the heroine, and the way everything unfolds realistically. Also, I loved the glimpses of Becky’s other characters from this series!

A Cross-Country Christmas by Courtney Walsh (novel)

ALL the stars and candy canes for this story! What a fun and funny adventure of a romance, with the emotional heart I expected from a Walsh tale. Highly recommended for second chance romance, romcom, and Christmas lovers alike!

Like A Silver Bell by Lindsay Harrel (Port Willis Romance novella #3)

This is a SWEET romance novella taking readers of Harrel’s past books back to the setting of Cornwall, England with a new couple and story of hope and trust. I particularly loved the steady way the hero supports the heroine throughout, being encouraging and patient when she needs a little space. The meaning behind the title is particularly cute, too.

Christmas Every Day by Beth Moran (novel)

This is a cute story. I loved so much about this: the heroine’s growth, the FRIENDSHIPS and their importance highlighted, the quirky village, the grumpy-and-broody cinnamon roll neighbor, the way Jenny learns to stand on her own feet and become the heroine in her own life, the hilarious antics of the children in the story, the secondary romance that happens within a friend group (and the baking that goes with it). I saw the setup of one of the main plot “surprises” a long time coming but was still hooked and pleased when it was all revealed. While its story takes place over a year’s time, it has several elements associated with Christmas, and it ends fittingly during that season (but it’s not *exactly* a Christmas story in the traditional sense).

This is my first book by Beth Moran, and I’m looking forward to reading more!

Silver Bells and Secrets by Laura Rollins (Twelfth Night novella #1)

This is a delightful Christmas novella! With an idyllic country house setting at Christmas, the hero and heroine take part in Christmassy events like a musicale, yule log hunt, and a romantic sleigh ride. The secret kept for much of the story as a major plot device worked well in this era and situation, making me eager for it to be revealed and the subsequent surprise of the story to impact the heroine. I was happy with the way it unfolded, because that’s usually not my favorite device.

Oh! And the hero is a somewhat socially awkward EARL! AKA a beta hero who’s more comfortable in a one-on-one conversation 🙂 🙂 loved him.

Once Upon a Wardrobe by Patti Callahan (novel)

Once Upon a Wardrobe, in a nutshell, is a love letter to stories and imagination. Through the eyes of Megs and her young brother, George, the reader experiences the magic of a transportive story while analyzing how real life influences story (as in C. S. Lewis’ authoring the world of Narnia), along with the inherent connections stories establish between humanity, history, and faith. This is a novel to savor and reread – one I know I will return to and gain fresh perspective and new joy from upon each reading.

Did you read any Christmas stories this year? Do you read them into January?

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: “A Portrait of Loyalty” by Roseanna M. White

Today I’m reviewing a wonderful historical romance by Roseanna M. White, the last novel in her “Codebreakers” series, A Portrait of Loyalty. This novel also won the Christy Award in its category for 2020 (YAY, Roseanna!).

About the Book
cover of a portrait of loyalty, heroine holding a camera

Zivon Marin was one of Russia’s top cryptographers until the October Revolution tore apart his world. Forced to flee to England after speaking out against Lenin, Zivon is driven by a growing anger and determined to offer his services to the Brits. But never far from his mind is his brother, who Zivon fears died in the train crash that separated them.

Lily Blackwell sees the world best through the lens of a camera and possesses unsurpassed skill when it comes to retouching and re-creating photographs. With her father’s connections in propaganda, she’s recruited to the intelligence division, even though her mother would disapprove if she ever found out.

After Captain Blackwell invites Zivon to dinner one evening, a friendship blooms between him and Lily that soon takes over their hearts. But both have secrets they’re unwilling to share, and neither is entirely sure they can trust the other. When Zivon’s loyalties are called into question, proving him honest is about more than one couple’s future dreams—it becomes a matter of ending the war.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

A Portrait of Loyalty is going on my list of favorites this year! I LOVE how it is intelligent and layered. It offers a unique perspective of conflicts involving both the Russian culture and on the English homefront during WWI. With many things happening to the protagonists, it also has wonderful and fleshed out secondary characters and a fantastic London setting.

Zivon is my newest bespectacled book boyfriend! He sees patterns everywhere. His observance and intelligence are attractive, and when he turns that focus on Lily and sees her depth, oh my! Lily is smart and capable, especially in her work, and it is wonderful to see her commitment and loyalty as a part of the story.

Author Roseanna M. White’s voice plays an important part as the nuances of the romantic relationship unfold, especially as their friendship deepens alongside political conflict. She draws out the theme of loyalty in a natural and relatable way. This loyalty is an overarching theme, appropriately used in the title, as it explores loyalty to country, family, friends, and ideals. I also appreciate the smartly-used imagery and symbolism of photography and light (especially from my own experience as a photographer).

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

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

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

About the Book

Her calling to change the world may be his downfall.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What inspired you to write Harmony on the Horizon?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Which character was your favorite to write?

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

Just for fun:

Do you have any hobbies?

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

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

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

What are you currently reading?

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

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

One winner* will receive: 

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

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

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

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

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.

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.

Review: “Lost in Darkness” by Michelle Griep

Thanks for visiting my blog! I’m reviewing Lost in Darkness by Michelle Griep today. It’s a standalone Regency novel with elements of mystery, suspense, and romance — all with roots in the classic story Frankenstein!

About the Book

Even if there be monsters, there is none so fierce as that which resides in man’s own heart.

Enchanting Regency-Era Gothic Romance Intertwined with Inspiration from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein

Travel writer Amelia Balfour’s dream of touring Egypt is halted when she receives news of a revolutionary new surgery for her grotesquely disfigured brother. This could change everything, and it does. . .in the worst possible way.

Surgeon Graham Lambert has suspicions about the doctor he’s gone into practice with, but he can’t stop him from operating on Amelia’s brother. Will he be too late to prevent the man’s death? Or to reveal his true feelings for Amelia before she sails to Cairo?

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

Lost in Darkness is an intriguing Gothic mystery and romance with elements of the classic Frankenstein and an atmospheric Dickensian feel. Fans of Jaime Jo Wright will enjoy this one!

I LOVE the relationship between Amelia and her brother, whose POV we readers also have. He helps to shape the themes of the story and draw out how identity deeply important yet not tied to physical appearance.

The romance develops nicely. Graham is so completely gone over Amelia at a certain point, it’s very sweet. Their relationship is the quiet, supportive complimentary kind I appreciate — especially in a historical novel.

I felt the pacing of this book didn’t match my expectation. While it held my interest and continued to develop, I read it at an unusually slow pace. It could have totally been my reading mood, though, which made me like this one less. I also didn’t care for the resolution of a key part of the story conflict — I wanted a slightly more hopeful conclusion to one of the story threads.

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