Review: “Miss Milton Speaks Her Mind” by Carla Kelly

I have discovered a new fav Regency author! Thanks to Rachel McMillan who always has the best recommendations. This is the second book I’ve read by Carla Kelly — I also enjoyed The Wedding Journey (see my review for it on Goodreads here).

About the Book

Orphaned as a child, Miss Jane Milton lives to serve her Stover cousins, tending to their every need. Her beloved cousin Blair suffered a slow and painful death from wounds received at the Battle of Waterloo, and now, ten months later, Miss Milton feels utterly forlorn. Her one solace is caring for Lord Canfield’s orphaned son, Andrew, a sad boy dogged by rumors that he was conceived before Lord Canfield married his mother. Is the source of these rumors Miss Milton’s second cousin, the imperious Lady Carruthers, who seems determined to disinherit Andrew in favor of her own profligate son? If only Miss Milton could stand up to the horrid woman and her insults.

Miss Milton finds herself spending more and more time in the company of her neighbor, a handsome tradesman. Mr. Butterfield, said to “smell of the shop,” in fact smells deliciously of lavender. He has an encouraging effect on Miss Milton, helping her to understand that her world will not collapse if she learns to speak her mind.

As her regard for her neighbor grows, Miss Milton remains aware of the many reasons they cannot be together. Fifteen years older, Mr. Butterfield is dangerously liberal-minded and earns his fortune through hard work. And she, whose aristocratic relatives look down on men of his ilk, is an impoverished spinster, almost thirty years old. In truth, the real gulf between them lies in the many guilty secrets they and others seem determined to guard at all costs.

Goodreads

Review

I just want to gush over the deep characterization and perfect construction of this novel! It has family secrets, twists, and an interconnnectedness to it all which I didn’t anticipate at the very beginning but some of which I slowly suspected as the story progressed. Still, it was presented in a manner to engage emotions.

Mr. Butterworth (or Mr. B) is the most delightfully quiet and good-natured hero. His encouragement means so much to Jane, both as her character changes and as her confidence grows. And when he finally FINALLY declares himself to her, he shows that he can be sweetly articulate. His role is often important for all his actions and things unsaid as they are his choices.

Then there’s JANE! The novel is all from her point of view. I really liked that she’s not suddenly someone new at the end of the story, she just finds the courage and necessary wisdom to tactfully make her opinions known. Mr. B sees her — really sees her– when she feels like she hasn’t been noticed. She has, though, and part of the beauty of this story is her realization of the value and friendships she does have, along with the themes of forgiveness, both of self and of others, that intertwine with Jane and Mr. B’s paths.

I want to point out similarities between this novel and a fav, NORTH AND SOUTH. Her name is Milton. He is a cotton mill owner, of “working class”, sometimes brooding and shy to express himself. She is subject to her family and their need of her more than her own free choices. While considering the era, Thornton would be a product of Mr. B’s generation, but there are still similarities that made me happy to ponder and want to rewatch the miniseries for the 58th time.

Content note: this is a clean historical romance with just a very few mild expletives uttered by gentlemen.

Review + Blog Tour: “The Work of Art” by Mimi Matthews

Review + Blog Tour: “The Work of Art” by Mimi Matthews

Welcome to the blog tour for The Work of Art by Mimi Matthews! You can read my review of this Regency romance below and enter the tour-wide giveaway!

The Work of Art
by Mimi Matthews

Publication Date: July 23, 2019
Perfectly Proper Press
Paperback & eBook

Genre: Historical Romance

READ AN EXCERPT

An Uncommon Beauty…

Hidden away in rural Devonshire, Phyllida Satterthwaite has always been considered more odd than beautiful. But in London, her oddity has made her a sensation. Far worse, it’s caught the eye of the sinister Duke of Moreland—a notorious art collector obsessed with acquiring one-of-a-kind treasures. To escape the Duke’s clutches, she’s going to need a little help.

An Unlikely Hero…

Captain Arthur Heywood’s days of heroism are long past. Grievously injured in the Peninsular War, he can no longer walk unaided, let alone shoot a pistol. What use can he possibly be to a damsel in distress? He has nothing left to offer except his good name.

Can a marriage of convenience save Philly from the vengeful duke? Or will life with Arthur put her—and her heart—in more danger than ever?

“In her sixth historical romance, Matthews (The Pug Who Bit Napoleon; A Victorian Lady’s Guide to Fashion and Beauty) weaves suspense and mystery within an absorbing love story. Readers will be hard put to set this one down before the end. Highly recommended to historical romance and/or mystery buffs and especially animal lovers.” – Library Journal, Starred Review

Amazon | Apple | Barnes and Noble | Kobo

Review

Each new foray into historical England (and beyond!) with author Mimi Matthews is an immersive cultural and literary experience, brimming with historical accuracy to make any history nerd happy and a swoony romance to satisfy the heart. The Work of Art, Matthews’ first Regency novel, does this wonderfully as the unlikely friendship between Captain Arthur Heywood and Miss Philly Satterthwaite shifts into something more by necessity.

I absolutely loved witnessing these two characters shape each other and deepen their friendship. In particular, the way Arthur’s support gives Philly the security and happiness she has always wanted and the way she draws him out from what he sees as his inadequacies. The swoony moments in this story are thanks to Arthur’s protectiveness and care of her. He is a man of few words but oh, when Philly gets him to share, it is apparent that he feels deeply. His declarations of devotion are even more wonderful because his actions prove him to the true and faithful. *cue the heart eyed emoji*

The Work of Art is a Regency masterpiece to be appreciated. It has “much to recommend”, like its vividly portrayed setting, horseback rides, a pack of canines that prove the best of companions, gossip and the vanities of the social class, one heart-melting carriage ride, and a romance born of friendship and trust. I can highly recommend it to fans of clean historical fiction, mystery, or stories in the vein of the classics (think Austen with a few more kissing scenes, of course).

Content note for my blog audience: this book is a clean romance with some instances of very mild profanities.

Thank you to Netgalley and HF Virtual Book Tours for the review copy. This is my honest review.

About the Author

USA Today bestselling author Mimi Matthews (A Victorian Lady’s Guide to Fashion and Beauty, The Matrimonial Advertisement) writes both historical non-fiction and traditional historical romances set in Victorian England. Her articles on nineteenth century history have been published on various academic and history sites, including the Victorian Web and the Journal of Victorian Culture, and are also syndicated weekly at BUST Magazine. In her other life, Mimi is an attorney. She resides in California with her family, which includes an Andalusian dressage horse, two Shelties, and two Siamese cats.

For more information, please visit Mimi Matthews’ website and blog. You can also connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, BookBub, Pinterest, Google+, and Goodreads.

Blog Tour Schedule

Tuesday, July 23
Review at Bookish Rantings
Review at View from the Birdhouse

Wednesday, July 24
Review at The Green Mockingbird Blog

Thursday, July 25
Review at Gwendalyn’s Books

Friday, July 26
Review at Passages to the Past

Monday, July 29
Review at Red Headed Book Lady

Tuesday, July 30
Excerpt at Faery Tales Are Real

Wednesday, July 31
Review at The Lit Bitch

Giveaway

During the Blog Tour, one winner will receive a signed copy of The Work of Art! To enter, please use the Gleam form below.

Giveaway Rules

– Giveaway ends at 11:59 pm EST on July 31st. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open to the US only.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspicion of fraud will be decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.
– The winner has 48 hours to claim prize or a new winner is chosen.

The Work of Art
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First Line Fridays # 23: In The Shadow of Croft Towers

It’s time for a new edition of First Line Fridays hosted by the Hoarding Books blog!

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Happy weekend! Book mail is a fun thing. Especially when you are expecting a few different books and it’s a little bit of a surprise each time one arrives (because you don’t know which it is!). It’s the little things in life that make me happy.

I received this pretty novel in the mail this week! In the Shadow of Croft Towers (by Abigail Wilson) is a Regency story that sounds wholly intriguing! I’m excited to read it soon, especially after glimpsing the first few lines. It releases onto shelves on 1/15.

First Line:

1813

The English Countryside

I often wonder what my life would have been like if I had never learned the truth.

Your turn! Find the book closest to you and share your first line in the comments! Then, head over to Hoarding Books for the linky and visit other FLF posts!

Mini Review: “A Heart Revealed” by Josi S. Kilpack

A Heart Revealed is the very first novel of Josi S. Kilpack’s that I have read, but it won’t be my last! I’m thankful that Rachel McMillan reccomended this novel to me as a historical story with a strong voice — one that I would like. (This makes another on my “read” list that Rachel got just right.)

About the book:
Amber Marie Sterlington, the Rage of the Season in Regency-era London, has her pick of men, and she knows what she wants most in a husband: a title and a fortune. Why would she ever marry for something as fickle as love? And why would she ever look twice at Thomas Richards, a third son of a country lord?

But when Amber’s social standing is threatened, the character of her future husband becomes far more important than his position. After a public humiliation, she finds herself exiled to Yorkshire. Alone except for her maid, Amber is faced with a future she never expected in a circumstance far below what she has known all her life. Humbled and lonely, Amber begins to wonder if isolation is for the best. Who could ever love her now?

My thoughts:

I love this book! With a wonderfully unique premise, Kilpack presents a heroine whose growth and change through the story is drastic but still believable. Even when Amber began as not-so-likable, I had empathy for her situation (and even her ignorance), especially as she appears through the hero’s eyes. The romance’s timeline is not what is considered “conventional” for the genre, either, but that is one reason I am impressed with this story even more. The theme of love is carried to a greater degree than just a romance between the hero and heroine and on to that of the acceptance, worth, and the resulting kindness of a person when they are truly loved and known for their character.

Favorite Quotes from “Persuasion” by Jane Austen

As you may have read, I recently participated in a read-along of Jane Austen’s Persuasion. Amber over at Seasons Humility put together some wonderful posts full of quotes, discussion questions, and great observations. (you can check them out here) Oh, and we had some fun discussions on Twitter with the hashtag #InspiredbyAusten. And watched the 1995 movie adaptation. July was a month of Jane Austen for me!

This book is FULL of wonderful quotes. Jane Austen had such wit and skill with prose! I wanted to share a few of my favorite quotes with you here. If you are unfamiliar with the story, may I suggest you read it? Or at least watch one of the movie adaptations? The 1995 version is very true to the book, while the 2007 version has a dreamier Captain Wentworth (it’s just the truth!). (Kara has compared some characters from each one in this fun post!)

Favorite Quotes from Persuasion by Jane Austen

“It sometimes happens that a woman is handsomer at twenty-nine than she was ten years before…” from chapter 1

“A lady without a family was the very best preserver of furniture in the world.” from chapter 3 (oh, Sir Walter is SO dramatic!)

“Anne hoped she had outlived the age of blushing; but the age of emotion she certainly had not.” from chapter 6

“…there could have been no two hearts so open, no tastes so similar, on feelings so in unison, no countenances so beloved. Now they were as strangers; nay, worse than strangers, for they could never become acquainted. It was a perpetual estrangement.” from chapter 8

“I knew that we should either go to the bottom together, or that she would be the making of me. – Captain Wentworth, from chapter 8, speaking of his ship. (I think this such a neat parallel to he and Anne. While their relationship failed, his naval achievements were a success.)

“One man’s ways may be as good as another’s, but we all like our own best.” – Admiral Croft, from chapter 13

“She felt that she could so much more depend upon the sincerity of those who sometimes looked or said a careless or hasty thing, than of those whose presence of mind never varied, whose tongue never slipped.” from chapter 17

“A man does not recover from such a devotion of the heart to such a woman! He ought not, — he does not.” -Captain Wentworth, from chapter 20

“…and Anne, –but it would be an insult to the nature of Anne’s felicity to draw any comparisons between it and her sister’s; the origin of one all selfish vanity, of the other all generous attachment.” from chapter 20

“At nineteen, you know, one does not think very seriously.” -Mrs. Smith, from chapter 21

And then we have Captain Wentworth’s letter ♥ in chapter 23! The whole thing is quotable, but here is my favorite part: “I am half agony, half hope.” 

“Such a letter was not soon to be recovered from.” from chapter 23

“…and soon words enough had passed between them to decide their direction towards the comparatively quiet and retired gravel walk, where the power of conversation would make the present hour a blessing indeed, and prepare it for all the immortality which the happiest recollections of their own future lives could bestow.” from chapter 23

“There they returned again into the past, more exquisitely happy, perhaps, in their reunion than when it had been first projected; more tender, more tried, more fixed in a knowledge of each other’s character, truth, and attachment; more equal to act, more justified in acting.” from chapter 23

“At last Anne was at home again, and happier than any one in that house could have conceived.” from chapter 23

What about you? Are you a fan of Jane Austen? Do you have more favorite quotes from Persuasion? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Review: A Lady at Willowgrove Hall by Sarah E. Ladd

Regency Era stories are becoming some of my favorites! After two great books in Sarah E. Ladd’s “Whispers on the Moors” series, I was excited to read the conclusion, A Lady at Willowgrove Hall. Each of these stories has been captivating and unique, each being a complete story that stands alone but fits beautifully in this series. (Read my reviews of The Heiress of Winterwood and The Headmistress of Rosemere)

A Lady at Willowgrove HallSummary from Goodreads: Willowgrove Hall is full of secrets, but soon everything hidden is brought to light.

Cecily Faire has a secret—and she intends to keep it. But when she arrives at Willowgrove Hall to serve as a lady’s companion, she comes face-to-face with the only person who knows the truth about her past.

As the steward of Willowgrove Hall, Nathaniel Stanton is dedicated to serving those around him. Nothing escapes his notice—including the beautiful new lady’s companion. He is certain the lovely Miss Faire is hiding something, and he determines to uncover it. But Nathaniel has a secret of his own: he is the illegitimate son of Willowgrove’s former master. Falling in love was not part of his plans . . . until he meets Cecily Faire.

When Willowgrove’s mistress dies, everything changes. Fear of exposure forces Cecily to leave under the cover of darkness, embarking on a journey to finally find her long-lost sister. When the will is read, Nathaniel’s inheritance makes him question his future plans. Cecily and Nathaniel are forced to make decisions that will change the course of their lives. Is their love strong enough to survive?

My thoughts: Sarah has the unique talent of writing the Regency era exceptionally well. She beautifully paints the characters, settings, and dress in a vivid manner. Her stories are comparable to the well-known classics of that era (Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte), but with a modern language consideration which makes them flow smoothly for the 21st century reader.

The secrets that both Cecily and Nathaniel keep hidden are revealed to the reader early on, so the ensuing story builds tension to the moment they could be revealed. Watching the character of Cecily grow and change through this story was delightful. After a dramatic event early in her life, she spent many years under the shelter of a girls’ school. Through her eyes, we see her adjust to the new and formal life of a lady’s companion, open up to new friends and confidants of her own, and reluctantly fall in love. Cecily’s steadfast faith in God through all the ups and downs of her journey is a credit to her character.

With a themes of forgiveness and love, I thought that this was a beautiful conclusion to Sarah’s series. I would recommend this to any fans of historical romance or the Regency era.

Thank you to BookLook Bloggers.com for the complimentary review copy in exchange for my honest review.

Review: “A Heart’s Rebellion” by Ruth Axtell

A Heart’s Rebellion (Revell), the second in the “London Encounters” series by Ruth Axtell, is a Regency-era romance set in the city of London. It follows the story of Jessamine Barry as she spends her first season in London and struggles to overcome the heartbreak of her youth.

Jessamine BarA Heart's Rebellionry, a vicar’s daughter from a small village in the country, is staying with her benevolent godmother Lady Beasinger for the season. Her best friend, Megan Phillips, has accompanied her. Still heartbroken and saddened over the rejection of Rees Phillips – Megan’s older brother – she tries to find solace in her new surroundings. Everywhere she turns, however, she is reminded of his neutral feelings and her unrequited love. While out with their older godmother, who is less in touch with society now than in her prime, Jessamine and Megan struggle to make the acquaintance of any eligible young men. It seems tha
t dinner parties and card games with Lady Beasinger’s associates are not the best place to make the proper social connections – until the girls meet Lancelot Marfleet.

Lancelot Marfleet, a vicar (preacher), has recently returned from a missionary voyage to India. A quiet and humble man, he is not concerned with socially expected obligations. However, as a Baronet’s youngest son, his parents are pushing him to marry and produce an heir, due to his brother’s current lack of children. After the two young ladies amuse and spark his interest, they soon become invited to more social gatherings.

When news of Rees returning to town with his new French wife reaches Jess, it makes her aloneness all the more real. With her newfound social status, Jess turns to more frivolous pursuits, determining to move past her small-village image. She proceeds to alter her dress to fit the fashion of the times, which happens to be immodest for a young lady of her character. As a result, her flirtatious manner attracts the attention of several “gentlemen” of questionable character.

The social scene of London consists of an endless array of dinner parties and balls – anyone who’s anyone is to be invited. Lancelot’s character continually finds himself at odds with Jess over matters of propriety. This serves to make her weary of him. She won’t admit that she’s fond of his interest in botany or his quiet manner because they remind her of her father. And that’s the last kind of man she’d be interested in. Jess is faced with circumstances and decisions which cause her to question her actions and the person she’s become.

Axtell includes beautiful detail of the era in London, from the dinner parties, dances, ball gowns, fashionable buggy rides in parks, and visits to gardens. Botany is an uncommon and refreshing element in this novel, complete with a visit to the famed royal Kew Gardens.

Axtell includes snippets about current practices of the Anglican Church of England – and then-radical evangelical tendencies of the Baptists and Methodists. One example is the idea of sending evangelists and missionaries to foreign lands. This added an interesting historical perspective to the growth of Christianity during that time.

At the opening of the story, Jess is already brokenhearted and determined to guard her heart from anyone else. As the story unfolds, the reader glimpses small bits of compatibility between Jess and her eventual hero. Her character faces challenges and must learn to rely on others to help her overcome them. Ultimately, the characters experience that real love forgives as Christ forgave, and trusting your heart and future to God is the best thing to do.

Learn more about Ruth Axtell at her website here.

Read this review on Family Fiction here.

Note: thanks to Revell for a complimentary advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.