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

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

About the Book

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

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

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

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About the Book

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

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

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

About the Book

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

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

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

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

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

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

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

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

Mini Book Reviews, edition 5 (all the genres + Christmas novellas)

Welcome to another round of mini reviews! This is a variety post with several different genres represented, along with some Christmas stories! If you’re like me, you just might read Christmas novels and novellas into January (or any time!) because you want that seasonal wonder to last a little bit longer.

Per usual, please visit the Goodreads links in each title to learn more about each book!

False Pretense by Heather Day Gilbert (A Murder in the Mountains 4) | Buckneck, VA, present day | Mystery

This is a page-turning mystery with a great small town setting (Buckneck, VA). With a wide cast of many possible suspects and friendlies, I enjoyed this well-paced, slightly short (in a good way) hometown thriller with a likable protagonist and her clan. A slight supernatural/fantastical element cleverly gives a local legend traction in the story, with the reader wondering about its true nature until the very end.

The Even Odder Couple by Julia Christianson (Apple Valley Love Stories 4) | “Apple Valley”, OR | Rom-Com

This is a sweet contemporary friends-to-lovers/opposites attract romance with a little comedy! I adore Spencer as a beta hero, and I like the way he and Tess (grow to see and support each other deeply. The small town setting PLUS a summer camp make it stand out, and the small moments of the characters’ internal dialogue are hilarious. The plot loses a tiny bit of momentum toward the middle, in my opinion, but the ending holds a few surprises and is cute.

This is the first novel by Julie Christianson I’ve read, and I HAVE to blame her Instagram following for bringing it to my attention + hooking me with teasers. I’m always on the lookout for beta heroes in fiction, and Spencer did not disappoint!

A Texas Christmas Carol by Karen Witemeyer | 1895 London, TX | Historical Romance & Western Novella

Karen Witemeyer has the talent of writing fully-developed characters in a short format with a great balance of levity and emotions. I loved the way a classic tale (Dickens) influences a few details of the story and the concept of a miserly hero whose journey enlightens him to giving and grace. It’s always fun to read a historical-set Christmas story.

Like A Holiday Inn by Lindsay Harrel (Port Willis Romance 4) | “Port Willis”, Cornwall, England | Contemporary Romance Novella

Like A Holiday Inn returns to the quaint “Port Willis” in Cornwall, England for another of Harrel’s sweet Christmas stories. Since this is the 4th novella in the series, familiar readers will recognize the heroine and hero and their respective families (who delightfully show up in the story!).

Rebecca is a prickly, strong lady who learns a bit about what it means to be vulnerable, and really let go and trust in relationships (both romantically and with her fam). Benjamin is the perfect opposite to her personality with his charm, banter, and persistent way he pursues peeling back her layers. His backstory and depth prove to be important in making a connection with Rebecca.

All the charming Christmas things happen in the story, yet Harrel’s writing never makes them feel cliché. From new Christmas traditions, allll the holiday baking, a snowstorm or two, to a memorable power outage, Rebecca and Benjamin’s relationship grows and finds its stride at the Inn.

A Gift in December by Jenny Gladwell | London, England and Nybergsund, Norway | Contemporary Women’s Fiction/Romance

This is a wonderful story of self-discovery with the protagonist, Jane, learning a lot about herself, her mistakes, and the risks worth taking in life to find real love. A historical storyline is sprinkled throughout (mainly through a few letters), not the main focus but integral to Jane’s storyline, showing an act of bravery related to Norwegian events during WWII and the men and women who risked much for their freedom.

This story hit all the right notes of a European-set Christmas tale (although much of it takes place in November 🙂 ) with a press trip to the forests of Norway as a backdrop for Jenny’s new friendships during her rollercoaster of emotions post-breakup. The romance is something I called early on but it was a DELIGHT to see it unfold in a bit of a quiet way. I also like a point Jane’s supportive friend makes toward the end: it’s way more important to like someone than to just have a superficial attraction to them.

Note to my blog readers: this is a gen market book and contains a tiny bit of language + other content.

Thank you to the publishers for the review copies of False Pretense, A Texas Christmas Carol, and Like a Holiday Inn. The reviews express my honest opinions.

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

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

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

About the Book

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

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

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

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

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

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

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

About the Book

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

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

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

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

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

Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Extra Fun Things

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

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

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

About the Book

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

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

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

Not the plan: Running into my ex-boyfriend.

In my house.

For Christmas.

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

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

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

Which is not happening.

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

The boy who broke my heart.

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

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

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

Goodreads | Amazon | BookBub

Review

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

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

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

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

Book Review, Blog Tour & Giveaway: “The Belle of Belgrave Square” by Mimi Matthews

It’s no secret around here that I love Mimi Matthews’ novels. Today I’m happy to be taking part in a blog tour for her new release, The Belle of Belgrave Square, the second book in her Belles of London series. Read on for more about the book + how to connect with Mimi, and stick around for my review and a fantastic tour-wide giveaway.

About the Book

A BookBub Best Romance of 2022

A London heiress rides out to the wilds of the English countryside to honor a marriage of convenience with a mysterious and reclusive stranger.

Tall, dark, and dour, the notorious Captain Jasper Blunt was once hailed a military hero, but tales abound of his bastard children and his haunted estate in Yorkshire. What he requires now is a rich wife to ornament his isolated ruin, and he has his sights set on the enchanting Julia Wychwood.

For Julia, an incurable romantic cursed with a crippling social anxiety, navigating a London ballroom is absolute torture. The only time Julia feels any degree of confidence is when she’s on her horse. Unfortunately, a young lady can’t spend the whole of her life in the saddle, so Julia makes an impetuous decision to take her future by the reins—she proposes to Captain Blunt.

In exchange for her dowry and her hand, Jasper must promise to grant her freedom to do as she pleases. To ride—and to read—as much as she likes without masculine interference. He readily agrees to her conditions, with one provision of his own: Julia is forbidden from going into the tower rooms of his estate and snooping around his affairs. But the more she learns of the beastly former hero, the more intrigued she becomes…

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

Review

I absolutely adore this novel! It’s an enchanting spin on a bit of a Beauty & the Beast situation with a little influence from another favorite classic, The Blue Castle (L. M. Montgomery). Matthews is a master at combining tropes and charms and spinning a story uniquely stamped with her style. This one shines with its marriage of convenience setup, a Victorian setting, the only-one-bed trope, a bit of flair from the aforementioned classics, three impish children, and character cameos from earlier books.

Julia and Jasper are a new favorite fictional couple of mine. Their romance is equal parts tender, swoony, and steadfast. Their journey to each other is not an idealized fairytale, though Julia’s bookish habits set off events for him to sweep her off her feet. Seeing her find agency, encouragement, and belonging with Jasper, and them both finding footing with his children, are things I particularly enjoyed.

Which brings me to Jasper. #swoon He’s a brooding, serious hero who is a romantic at heart and HE. FALLS. FIRST. He blushes and shows unflinching patience when it comes to romancing Julia. His backstory coming to light proves him all the more worthy of admiration for his integrity and of Julia’s affection. This is, perhaps, the most tender romance Matthews has written, skilfully balanced with a hint of sensuality that makes the reader swoon at the simple detail of a touch or endearment between Julia and Jasper.

I appreciate the slight unconventionality of this story in its genre, especially the way the characters seek to give little weight to society’s opinions. In subtle ways, the issue of a female’s role and limited ability to make independent choices are a part of the story. So, too, are bigger themes of loyalty, honesty, and justice.

Content note for my usual blog audience: this is a general market romance with a few era-fitting mild expletives and a closed door romance.

Thank you to the publisher for the advance ebook copy. I purchased the paperback for my shelves. This is my honest review.

Mimi Matthews photo: Mimi standing next to a horse

USA Today bestselling author Mimi Matthews writes both historical nonfiction and award-winning proper Victorian romances. Her novels have received starred reviews in Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, Booklist, and Kirkus, and her articles have been featured on the Victorian Web, the Journal of Victorian Culture, and in syndication at BUST Magazine. In her other life, Mimi is an attorney. She resides in California with her family, which includes a retired Andalusian dressage horse, a Sheltie, and two Siamese cats.

WEBSITE | TWITTER | FACEBOOK | PINTEREST | BOOKBUB | GOODREADS

VICTORIAN READING ROOM

Join Mimi at her Victorian Reading Room Facebook Group for exclusive access as she shares her love of writing, historical romance, Victorian fashion, brooding heroes, independent heroines, and of course, her beloved pets!

READ AN EXCLSUIVE INTERVIEW WITH MIMI MATTHEWS

Discover intriguing insights into The Belle of Belgrave Square and Mimi’s writing life in this exclusive interview at austenprose.com.

Mimi has generously offered a fabulous giveaway for this book tour!

Giveaway period: October 3 – October 30

Terms & Conditions:

Giveaway hosted by Mimi Matthews. No Purchase Necessary. Entrants must be 18 years or older. Open to US residents only. All information will remain confidential and will not be sold or otherwise used, except to notify the winner and to facilitate postage of the book to the winner. Void where prohibited.

Giveaway Details:

1 winner (selected at random by Rafflecopter) receives a paperback copy of The Belle of Belgrave Square, signed and annotated by the author with personal comments, underlining of her favorite lines, and other highlights by Mimi Matthews.

Giveaway is open from 12:01 am Pacific time 10/03/22 until 11:59pm Pacific time on 10/30/22.

The winner will be announced on Mimi’s blog on 10/31/22.

Click here to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway!

Review: “Dangerous Beauty” by Melissa Koslin

Thanks for stopping by to read my review of Dangerous Beauty by Melissa Koslin, a thrilling new romantic suspense standalone story that combines action, a great twist, and a marriage of convenience.

About the Book
Cover image of Dangerous Beauty showing a woman facing away from the viewer with a cityscape in the background in tones of blue.

Liliana Vela hates the term victim. She’s not a victim, she’s a fighter. Stubborn and strong with a quiet elegance, she’s determined to take back her life after escaping the clutches of human traffickers in her poor Mexican village. But she can’t stay safely over the border in America–unless the man who aided in her rescue is serious about his unconventional proposal to marry her.

Meric Toledan was just stopping at a service station for a bottle of water. Assessing the situation, he steps in to rescue Liliana from traffickers. If he can keep his secrets at bay, his wealth and position afford him many resources to help her. But the mysterious buyer who funded her capture will not sit idly by while his prize is stolen from him.

Melissa Koslin throws you right into the middle of the action in this high-stakes thriller that poses the question: What is the price of freedom?

Goodreads | Amazon | BookBub

Review

Dangerous Beauty by Melissa Koslin is a story that delivers in the suspense and romantic drama genres, with moments of action balanced with great depth when an impulsive marriage of convenience (!!!) grows into a situation involving secrets, risk, trust, and emotional healing — with a story twist, of course!

I thought it clever that the reader gets Liliana’s POV mostly at first, letting the mystery of Meric, his unknown business activities, and other secrets uncover slowly along with her learning of each circumstance. The reader will gradually sense his involvement in something bigger and the danger surrounding it. While the subject matter of human trafficking is a sad reality, Koslin handles its portrayal with a balance of sorrow and hopefulness in the form of the people stepping in to stop its cycle.

Liliana is an admirable and smart heroine, and I was instantly in her corner. I appreciate how she grows throughout the story, overcoming much while facing some harrowing truths. Meric hides behind an enigmatic, cold exterior, but underneath is a vulnerable and fiercely protective hero whose own past motivates his work for good. His championing of Liliana and her strengths from the very beginning had me falling for his tortured heart right along with her :).

Fans of Susan May Warren and Dani Pettrey will enjoy Koslin’s captivating writing style — this is the first book of hers I’ve read, but it won’t be the last!

Thank you to Revell Reads for the copy of this novel. This is my honest review.

Review & Blog Tour: “Millstone of Doubt” by Erica Vetsch

Thanks for visiting my stop on the blog tour for Erica Vetsch’s historical romance and mystery, Millstone of Doubt, book 2 in her Thorndike and Swann Regency Mysteries series.

About the Book

A Bow Street Runner and a debutante in London Society use their skills to find the killer of a wealthy businessman, but the killer’s secrets aren’t the only ones they will uncover.

Caught in the explosion of the Hammersmith Mill in London, Bow Street runner Daniel Swann rushes to help any survivors only to find the mill’s owner dead of an apparent gunshot–but no sign of the killer.

Even though the owner’s daughter, Agatha Montgomery, mourns his death, she may be the only one. It seems there are more than a few people with motive for murder. But Daniel can’t take this investigation slow and steady. Instead, he must dig through all the suspects as quickly as he can because the clock is ticking until his mysterious patronage–and his job as a runner–comes to an abrupt and painful end. It seems to Daniel that, like his earthly father, his heavenly Father has abandoned him.

Lady Juliette Thorndike is Agatha’s bosom friend and has the inside knowledge of the wealthy London ton to be invaluable to Daniel. She should be in a perfect position to help with the case. But when her trusted instructor in the art of spy craft orders her to stay out of the investigation, Lady Juliette obeys. That is, until circumstances intervene, and she drops right into the middle of the deadly pursuit.

When a dreadful accident ends in another death on the mill floor, Daniel discovers a connection to his murder case–and to his own secret past. Now he and Juliette are in a race to find the killer before his time runs out.

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Erica Vetsch is a New York Times best-selling author and ACFW Carol Award winner and has been a Romantic Times top pick for her previous books. She loves Jesus, history, romance, and watching sports. This transplanted Kansan now makes her home in Rochester, Minnesota.

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Review

Millstone of Doubt by Erica Vetsch continues the escapades of Lady Juliette Thorndike and Daniel Swann as they make an unlikely pairing in solving a mystery. It exhibits the Regency era with flair, showcasing elements of society, class, adventure, LADIES’ ARCHERY (which was particularly fun!), crime, and a bit of romance. While this is the second in a series and follows the same main protagonists as the first book, The Debutante’s Code, I think it could be read as a standalone as it does a good job filling in many events of book 1.

The mystery is one that kept me interested and guessing for most of the story, with many what-ifs and possibilities complicating the facts and setting up the reader for a romp of a final reveal. Returning side characters make the story more colorful and interesting, too, and I particularly like the cameos of the Duke of Haverly, a beloved hero from another one of Vetsch’s series.

I appreciate the relationship between Juliette and Daniel as it establishes a rapport between them, delving deeper into their friendship and connection already established. It furthers the romance and portrays it as a slow-burn type pairing, especially considering their class divide of the time period. With a few more secrets revealed about Daniel’s benefactor, I’m looking forward to seeing what happens in the next installment!

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