Review: “When the Day Comes” by Gabrielle Meyer

Welcome to my blog post and review of Gabrielle Meyer’s debut novel with Bethany House Publishers: When the Day Comes. It’s a historical romance which has elements of a split time novel with the same heroine crossing time to be in both timelines — a completely unique concept I found fascinating.

About the Book

How will she choose, knowing all she must sacrifice?

when the day comes cover with heroine in two different styles of dress representing the story time periods.

Libby has been given a powerful gift: to live one life in 1774 Colonial Williamsburg and the other in 1914 Gilded Age New York City. When she falls asleep in one life, she wakes up in the other. While she’s the same person at her core in both times, she’s leading two vastly different lives.

In Colonial Williamsburg, Libby is a public printer for the House of Burgesses and the Royal Governor, trying to provide for her family and support the Patriot cause. The man she loves, Henry Montgomery, has his own secrets. As the revolution draws near, both their lives–and any hope of love–are put in jeopardy.

Libby’s life in 1914 New York is filled with wealth, drawing room conversations, and bachelors. But the only work she cares about–women’s suffrage–is discouraged, and her mother is intent on marrying her off to an English marquess. The growing talk of war in Europe only complicates matters.

But Libby knows she’s not destined to live two lives forever. On her twenty-first birthday, she must choose one path and forfeit the other–but how can she choose when she has so much to lose in each life?

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

When the Day Comes has a fantastic concept that plays out in a story of trust, sacrifice, and romance with some great twists and surprises! This novel’s unique setup allows the reader who has always dreamed of living in a different time period to see what it might be like for one person to experience two at once, and to consider the repercussions of choice and the importance of trust in (God’s) bigger plan for all time.

As the heroine also prefers, the 1774 timeline with the impending Revolution, spies, and a sweet (sometimes sad) romance was often my favorite point of view. Libby, thanks to her dual times and her mother’s input, has foreknowledge of the basics of what’s to come, which makes her choices and her part even more interesting as the contrasts between her 1774 and 1914 life continue. Her path in 1914 is more tumultuous but just as riveting, as the different setting (England, mostly) on the cusp of war has its own surprises.

It is a minor part of the story, but Libby’s role in each era explores the traditional role of females in each time — both of which contrast with today’s culture, which I think is neat.

There were a a few things I did suspect about the story’s direction and how Libby’s life would play out, but several, especially near the last quarter of the story, were a bittersweet and pleasant surprise. I’m looking forward to more novels in the “Timeless” series by Gabrielle Meyer — I’m especially excited to learn if future characters will be connected across time with Libby and her family.

Audiobook Review: The Enemy by Sarah Adams

Welcome! I’m sharing about Sarah Adams’ romcom The Enemy, the second book in her “It Happened in Charleston” duology. It recently released in audiobook!

About the Book

It’s been twelve years since I’ve seen him, twelve years since he won our war of wits by outsmarting me with a tactic I didn’t even know was allowed. But tonight…I’m going to resurrect the battle. 

Ryan Henderson is back in town for our best friends’ wedding, and I plan on showing him exactly how much I don’t care about him—or the almost kiss he ruthlessly dangled over me after graduation. But things have changed since then. I’m a successful bakery owner now, and I plan to rub every delicious detail of my life in his ugly face. There’s just one problem: his face is gorgeous. He wasn’t supposed to look like this or pursue me like a sexy guided missile. I have to stay strong until the wedding is over and Ryan scurries back into whatever alternate universe he escaped from. His interest in me is nothing but a continuation of the games we played in high school…right? 

But the longer he stays, the more I wonder if I’m wrong and his tender smile and heated attentions are genuine. Maybe it’s not a game. Ha! Who am I kidding? This is Ryan we’re talking about. Of course it’s a game—a game called war—and this time I will win.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

The Enemy is a fun frenemies-to-lovers romcom with a foodie element, southern charm, and ANTICS. In true Sarah Adams fashion, this story follows an extremely relatable heroine, June, as she maid of honor duties for her BFF while encountering her high school nemesis (whom she’s secretly crushed on forever), Ryan, as the best man. Hilarity ensues as Ryan, also pining for “June Bug” forever, engages in a war-like effort to win her over as a friend and convince her they have a real connection that could result in major romantic sparks. And does it ever!

I love how Sarah Adams is able to portray truly laugh out loud situations that feel believable then turn around and have you feeling deep emotions as you get to know the heartaches and past of the characters.

A quick note about the audiobook: it has one of the BEST male narrators I’ve heard in contemporary! Both narrators do a good job, but he knocks it out of the park and just *sounds* like I imagine Ryan to be, with all his personality.

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

Audiobook Review & Blog Tour: Bloomsbury Girls by Natalie Jenner

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for Natalie Jenner’s recent historical novel, Bloomsbury Girls! I’m reviewing the audiobook today. Read on for more about the story and an audio excerpt.

About the Book

Natalie Jenner, the internationally bestselling author of The Jane Austen Society, returns with a compelling and heartwarming story of post-war London, a century-old bookstore, and three women determined to find their way in a fast-changing world in Bloomsbury Girls.

Bloomsbury Books is an old-fashioned new and rare bookstore that has persisted and resisted change for a hundred years, run by men and guided by the general manager’s unbreakable fifty-one rules. But in 1950, the world is changing, especially the world of books and publishing, and at Bloomsbury Books, the girls in the shop have plans:

Vivien Lowry: Single since her aristocratic fiancé was killed in action during World War II, the brilliant and stylish Vivien has a long list of grievances–most of them well justified and the biggest of which is Alec McDonough, the Head of Fiction.

Grace Perkins: Married with two sons, she’s been working to support the family following her husband’s breakdown in the aftermath of the war. Torn between duty to her family and dreams of her own.

Evie Stone: In the first class of female students from Cambridge permitted to earn a degree, Evie was denied an academic position in favor of her less accomplished male rival. Now she’s working at Bloomsbury Books while she plans to remake her own future.

As they interact with various literary figures of the time–Daphne Du Maurier, Ellen Doubleday, Sonia Blair (widow of George Orwell), Samuel Beckett, Peggy Guggenheim, and others–these three women with their complex web of relationships, goals and dreams are all working to plot out a future that is richer and more rewarding than anything society will allow.

Audiobook details: Narrated by esteemed stage and screen actress Juliet Stevenson, enjoy the full unabridged edition of Bloomsbury Girls. “Stevenson delivers the satisfying triumph at the end with perfect polish.” —AudioFile Magazine

AUDIOBOOK EXCERPT

PRINT & DIGITAL BOOK: AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE | BOOK DEPOSITORY | BOOKSHOP | GOODREADS | BOOKBUB

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

Review

Bloomsbury Girls is a bookish story of 3 women searching for, and working for, their dreams. Avid fans of literature and stories about the changing post-WWII culture will find something to love in this story that nods to the bravery of the female sex and the binding strength of friendship. The story is wonderfully presented in audiobook form with narration by Juliet Stevenson, who applies the perfect theatrical interpretation of the characters with voice and accents.

Natalie Jenner’s omniscient narrative style shines in this story! With all-knowing nods and tidbits, phrases foreshadow events in the story and color character interactions with wit. Each of the characters plays a key role in the story, from the three main women to the tiniest side character. They are united by the most unlikely heroine, Evie Stone, whose determination and fortitude underpin the plot in fabulous ways.

The establishment of the Bloomsbury shop rules, as penned by the inimitable manager Herbert Dutton, is a clever part of the novel. Each chapter is preceded by one of the rules, which relates in some way to the action of the story. The rules are defied by most of the characters, and upheld by some, which allows for quirky and funny situations.

While this book is considered to be historical women’s fiction, it does have a few different threads of romance, too. All contrast neatly, with one a comical friends-to-lovers situation; another a longstanding friendship with the possibility of more; and still another first love with seemingly opposite, romance-isn’t-for-me (until now) with a darlingly clueless couple. These interactions and the strong friendship forged between Evie, Grace, and Vivien serve to highlight the overarching theme of being known and accepted.

Content note: for my inspy reader friends, please note this is a general market title. It has a couple closed door romance scenes that are candidly referenced in conversation, and a depiction of homosexuality with some minor characters.

Thank you to the publisher and Austenprose tours for the audiobook review copy. This is my honest review.

Natalie Jenner is the author of the instant international bestseller The Jane Austen Society and Bloomsbury Girls. A Goodreads Choice Award runner-up for historical fiction and finalist for best debut novel, The Jane Austen Society was a USA Today and #1 national bestseller and has been sold for translation in twenty countries. Born in England and raised in Canada, Natalie has been a corporate lawyer, career coach and, most recently, an independent bookstore owner in Oakville, Ontario, where she lives with her family and two rescue dogs. Visit her website to learn more.

WEBSITE | TWITTER | FACEBOOK | INSTAGRAM | GOODREADS

A MESSAGE FROM AUTHOR NATALIE JENNER

Dear readers,

I am immensely grateful for the outpouring of affection that so many of you have expressed for my debut novel The Jane Austen Society and its eight main characters. When I wrote its epilogue (in one go and without ever changing a word), I wanted to give each of Adam, Mimi, Dr. Gray, Adeline, Yardley, Frances, Evie and Andrew the happy Austenesque ending they each deserved. But I could not let go of servant girl Evie Stone, the youngest and only character inspired by real life (my mother, who had to leave school at age fourteen, and my daughter, who does eighteenth-century research for a university professor and his team). Bloomsbury Girls continues Evie’s adventures into a 1950s London bookshop where there is a battle of the sexes raging between the male managers and the female staff, who decide to pull together their smarts, connections, and limited resources to take over the shop and make it their own. There are dozens of new characters in Bloomsbury Girls from several different countries, and audiobook narration was going to require a female voice of the highest training and caliber. When I learned that British stage and screen actress Juliet Stevenson, CBE, had agreed to narrate, I knew that my story could not be in better hands, and I so hope you enjoy reading or listening to it.

Warmest regards, Natalie

Review & Blog Tour: “Turn to Me” by Becky Wade

Today I’m a part of a blog tour for Becky Wade’s Turn to Me, the fantastic conclusion to her Misty River Romance series. While these books feature different couples and can all be read as standalones, I highly recommend reading them in order for the bigger friendship arc.

About the Book

His promise will cost him far more than he imagined.

Guilt has defined Luke Dempsey’s life, but it was self-destructiveness that landed him in prison. When his friend and fellow inmate lay dying shortly before Luke’s release, the older man revealed he left a string of clues for his daughter, Finley, that will lead her to the treasure he’s hidden. Worried that she won’t be the only one pursuing the treasure, he gains Luke’s promise to protect her until the end of her search.

Spunky and idealistic, Finley Sutherland is the owner of an animal rescue center and a defender of lost causes. She accepts Luke’s help on the treasure hunt while secretly planning to help him in return–by coaxing him to embrace the forgiveness he’s long denied himself.

As they draw closer to the final clue, their reasons for resisting each other begin to crumble, and Luke realizes his promise will push him to the limit in more ways than one. He’ll do his best to shield Finley from unseen threats, but who’s going to shield him from losing his heart?

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

Turn to Me by Becky Wade concludes the Misty River Romance series and gives readers the long-awaited story of the enigmatic Luke Dempsey as he keeps an inconvenient promise to Finley’s father – working for her animal shelter while providing protection and assistance in an adventurous final birthday treasure hunt. This story features a deep perspective of grace, a swoony romance, endearing and realistic characters, and a gorgeously fleshed out setting in the mountains of northern Georgia. Readers of the previous book in the series, Let It Be Me, will delight with occasional sections from Ben Coleman’s perspective as he moves on from heartbreak and develops a tentative new friendship with a sweet woman named Akira.

Finley and Luke are seeming opposites in many ways, but their common sense of honor unite them from their first interactions. Their conversations and banter highlight their chemistry, with Luke’s snarky sense of humor shining through at the BEST times! While Finley’s plans to “restore” Luke to society and wholeness through her friendship and encouragement are successful, I love that he challenges her to think and choose to hope in a future she had given up on.

I personally find an intangible something very relatable in the dynamics and relationships of Becky Wade’s stories. It is that key style element which elevates her stories in the genre. For Finley and Luke, it is their struggles to risk their hearts for love and to work through hard things in their lives. I especially find the parts of the story where Luke is processing the grief and loss of a sibling, and talking through his self-labeled responsibility, to be touching.

While the friendship-and-romance is the heart of the story, themes of forgiveness and an organic sense of the characters’ faith are all important parts that make up this impressive whole. I love the daring of the treasure hunt with personal clues leading Finley on a journey of discovery. The various pets and DOGS (tiny, fierce Agatha in particular!), the collection of cacti, Luke’s automobile knowledge and restoration, CeCe’s wisdom, Trish’s Christmas songs, Ben and Akira’s encouraging friendship, and Luke’s family are more small things I enjoyed.

I am a little sad to say goodbye to these “Miracle Five” characters with this last book in the series. The concluding chapters, with heart-wrenching moments and a certainty of HOPE, are perfectly written.

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

My Reviews: book 1, Stay With Me book 2, Let It Be Me

Blog Tour Schedule

Check out the other stops on the blog tour for more reviews AND interviews with Becky!

May 5th Inside The Wong Mind | May 6th Blessed & Bookish

May 7th Books and Everyday Life | May 8th Simply Susan

May 10th Melmo2610 A Bookish Blog | May 12th Becky’s Bookshelves

May 14th Holly’s Book Corner | May 15th Christian Chick’s Thoughts

May 16th Remembrancy | May 18th The Green Mockingbird

May 19th Batya’s Bits | May 20th Life of Literature

May 21st Britt Reads Fiction | May 22nd Amy Watson Author

May 23rd Beauty In The Binding | May 24th Reviews By Erin

May 25th My Book A Day

Giveaway and extras!

Something fun! Here’s a link to Turn to Me‘s playlist on Spotify:  https://open.spotify.com/playlist/7sUpFdrzlTUN4THyA0ds1E?si=GXJ7BcjaSF-ddftSqs2wMw&nd=1 (curated by @the_reel_bookery on IG!)

Author Becky Wade and her publisher are offering a fun giveaway, running through May 24th! Visit Becky’s website to enter the giveaway.

Mini Book Reviews, edition 3

It has been a while since I’ve posted mini reviews! These books are ones I read for “me”, not with any review or critique in mind, but are some I greatly enjoyed and wanted to share a bit about in this corner of the blogosphere.

Please visit the Goodreads links in each title to learn more about each book!

A Stroke of Malice and A Wicked Conceit by Anna Lee Huber (Lady Darby Mysteries 8 and 9) | 1832 Scotland, Historical Mystery

These two books are, of course, FANTASTIC mysteries in this series! I love so many things about these characters and the development of their stories. Huber wields setting skillfully to influence the tone of the story and make each of these mysteries unique. A Stroke of Malice, in particular, was fascinating to see unfold as the identity of the victim remains in doubt for a large part of the story.

Of course, I am happily satisfied with the way Gage and Kiera’s relationship continues to be a factor, with their romance and dynamic broadening to include a larger cast of familiar characters. And Anderley and Bree have some interesting things happen (maybe between them?) in these two books, so I am excited to see that develop. I really enjoyed the return to Edinburgh for the setting of A Wicked Conceit.

On Wings of Devotion by Roseanna M. White (The Codebreakers 2) | 1917 London, Historical Romance

I LOVE this book and series! What an engaging historical romance. I was riveted by both the historical setting and bits of suspense AND the unfolding friendship-to-romance between Ara and Cam. He’s the brooding, wounded type with a soft heart who knows immediately what a gem Arabelle is — and he does everything in his power to support her.

Provenance by Carla Laureano | “Jasper Lake” and Denver, CO; Pasadena, CA, Contemporary Romance

Carla Laureano writes raw and realistic characters, and Kendall and Gabe are my newest favorites! Their journey to romance begins with a tentative and unlikely friendship, and I love seeing them recognize and bring out the best qualities in each other. This storyline doesn’t shy away from tough questions and themes, everything from identity, heritage, faith, abandonment, and even a Christian perspective of sexuality are examined. The small town mountain lake setting is idyllic and charming (and is a good contrast to the largely urban feel of Laureano’s recent series set in Denver), and the fascinating topics of architecture and small town politics are thoroughly explored.

Falling in Somerset by Jenny B. Jones | Sugar Creek, Arkansas and Bath & London, England, RomCom

Falling in Somerset is a cute and sweet romance. I loved getting to know the bookish heroine and the sports-loving, totally-a-catch hero, Duke. This little novella combines a friends-to-lovers situation with a little bit of a fake-dating scenario AND a trip to Bath, England, with all kinds of nods to Jane Austen through a “cultural” experience that turns hilarious. I especially liked how Duke is head-over-heels from the very beginning and how Tillie learns a little more about her best friend and a lot about her own strengths over the course of the story.

Review: “Written On the Wind” by Elizabeth Camden

I’m sharing a book review of Elizabeth Camden’s new historical release, Written on the Wind. It’s a fantastic piece of literature and romance, the second in her Blackstone Legacy series and a book that is going on my permanent favorites list.

About the Book

Natalia Blackstone is a rarity in Gilded Age America. As a trusted analyst for her father’s bank, she is helping finance the legendary Trans-Siberian Railway. From her office in New York City, Natalia relies on a charming Russian aristocrat to oversee the construction of the railroad on the other side of the world.

But while overseeing the work, Count Dimitri Sokolov witnesses the deadly result of the Russian Monarchy’s will to see the railway built. To silence him, the state has stripped Dimitri of his title, his lands, and his freedom . . . but Dimitri has a key asset the czar knows nothing about: his deep and abiding friendship with Natalia Blackstone.

From the steppes of Russia to the corridors of power in Washington, Natalia and Dimitri will fight against all odds to save the railroad and share the truth of what happened, but how can their newfound love survive the ordeal? 

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

There is nothing typical about Written on the Wind. Camden bravely explores a story and characters whose path and traits set a new level of precedence in the genre, especially with the forming of the hero. With fascinating historical detail, a riveting romance, and brilliantly depicted settings from Russia to NYC and Washington, DC, this novel of convictions and purpose is one that will resonate with readers and cater to history lovers.

Count Dimitri Sokolov is as complex and multifaceted as his vast homeland of Russia. He cannot be easily categorized or labeled, exhibiting strength and tenacity and being, at the same time, slightly vain and needy. His emotional intelligence is exemplary, as exhibited when he sets his mind on pursuing Natalia. I swoon over all the tiny things that make him so atypical, one small example being his enjoyment of manicures, yet he is completely a masculine gentleman. Another big trait of his I won’t point out for spoilers’ sake, but I’ll say it’s a breakthrough in the inspirational fiction genre and one I am proud of Camden for tackling with such alpomb. Yay for a historical romance beta hero!

Natalia Blackstone is accomplished and has great tenacity to achieve anything she sets her mind to, yet the strictures of the business world at the turn of the century inhibit her progress at times. She is a counterpart to Dimitri’s personality, with the right contrasts in perspective and harmonically aligned goals. The friendship between Natalia and Dimitri and all of their interactions are full of wit and crackling with an electric tension the reader can sense. This friendship is an appropriate foundation for their romance, one that is as dramatic, at times, as the Russian literature Dimitri loves. My favorite aspect of their relationship is that, with every stage of their journey from friendship to romance and beyond, the allure of their connection transcends proximity and instead pairs them on a level of intelligence and integrity.

My love for this book can be attributed 85% to Dimitri and 15% to the rest of the story, and with a structure and characters as fantastic as this, that is a great ratio :). When it could be predictable in a particular climactic moment of choice for Natalia, I LOVE that it isn’t. I hope readers embrace this book for what it is: a declaration and perspective of love and sacrifice.

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

Review: “Drawn by the Current” by Jocelyn Green

Thanks for stopping by to read my thoughts on Jocelyn Green’s latest historical novel, Drawn by the Current. It is the final book in her “Windy City Saga” series that follows different generations of the same family through significant historical events of Chicago. This third novel takes place in 1915 and encompasses the Eastland disaster.

Previous books in the series: Veiled in Smoke, 1871 and the Great Chicago Fire | Shadows of the White City, 1893 Chicago World’s Fair

About the Book

A birthday excursion turns deadly when the SS Eastland capsizes with Olive Pierce and her best friend Claire on board. Hundreds perish during the accident, and it’s only when Olive herself barely escapes that she discovers her friend is among the victims.

In the aftermath of the tragedy, Olive returns to her work at an insurance agency and is soon caught up in the countless investigations related to the accident. But with so many missing, there are few open-and-shut cases, and she tries to balance her grief with the hard work of finding the truth. Is she just overwhelmed, or is someone trying to impede her investigations? When clues surface that impact those closest to her, how deep will she dig?

Newspaper photographer Erik Magnussen begins helping Olive with her cases, and they develop a fast friendship. Just when Olive begins to unravel the secrets, more setbacks arise. It will take everything she’s got to find the truth and stay ahead of those who want to sabotage her progress. 

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

Drawn by the Current is a great conclusion to this generational family saga! It reads as a standalone story, of course, and brings the characters into the 20th century era. Readers of the previous two books will enjoy glimpses of the Townsend siblings later in life and the familiarity of their book store as a setting.

I enjoyed learning quite a bit about the history surrounding the Chicago Eastland disaster through the story. (I love when I learn real history in fiction!) The tragedy of the disaster impacts Olive in numerous ways, and like Green often does with her stories, the emotional fallout Olive experiences is drawn out as a major part of the story. It connects to her grief for her father and in her striving for a place in life, both in her career and personal life, and ultimately serves as a catalyst for Olive to have some profound revelations about her own worth.

I liked getting to know Olive and seeing her journey through friendship, tough choices, and her romance play out. She is one tough and intelligent heroine! I was cheering for her new friendship with Erik to grow — theirs is a subtle romance that plays out with a steadiness and some surprises. The romance, of course, is secondary to the main themes of the book which deal with deep issues such as honesty, loyalty, and the strength it takes to survive life’s challenges — and ultimately recognizing the source of that strength is from God.

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

Author Interview, Review, & Exclusive Deleted Scene: “The Mozart Code” by Rachel McMillan

Author Interview, Review, & Exclusive Deleted Scene: “The Mozart Code” by Rachel McMillan

Welcome to my blog! I’m sharing a review today of a new historical romance from a beloved author: The Mozart Code by Rachel McMillan. She has graciously answered a few questions for my today AND provided an exclusive “deleted scene” from the novel, too! (If you’ve already read The Mozart Code and want to scroll down to the deleted scene, I won’t blame you a bit!)

The Mozart Code is a companion novel of sorts to The London Restoration. While it happens second in a timeline sequence, the books are standalones that feature two different couples, though you will see some overlap of familiar characters if you’ve read The London Restoration.

About the Book

No matter how you might try to hide in a war to escape your past, it is always close at hand.

Lady Sophia Huntington Villiers is no stranger to intrigue, as her work with Alan Turing’s Bombe Machines at Bletchley Park during the war attests. Now, as part of Simon Barre’s covert team in post-war Vienna, she uses her inimitable charm and code name Starling to infiltrate the world of relics: uncovering vital information that could tilt the stakes of the mounting Cold War. When several influential men charge her with finding the death mask of Mozart, Sophie wonders if there is more than the composer’s legacy at stake and finds herself drawn to potential answers in Prague.

Simon Barrington, the illegitimate heir of one of Sussex’s oldest estates, used the previous war to hide his insecurities about his past. Now, he uses his high breeding to gain access to all four allied quarters of the ruined city in an attempt to slow the fall of the Iron Curtain. He has been in love with Sophie Villiers since the moment he met her, and a marriage of convenience to save Simon’s estate has always kept her close. Until now, when Sophie’s mysterious client in Prague forces him to wonder if her allegiance to him—and their cause—is in question. Torn between his loyalty to his cause and his heart, Simon seeks answers about Sophie only to learn that everything he thought he knew about his involvement in both wars is based on a lie.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

The Mozart Code is a thoughtful and engaging romance that intertwines secrets, loyalty, and intrigue in early cold war eastern Europe. While the relationship develops as a marriage of convenience with a strong foundation of friendship between Sophie and Simon, the true nuances of romance shine through in tiny moments between them when the reader realizes their insightful knowledge of each other — how in tune each is to the other’s emotions behind carefully constructed facades of bravery and class, and sometimes in the intimacy of a shared cigarette 😊.

Rachel McMillan’s authorial voice glistens with her unique way of painting the setting as an active character. In this case, the cities of Vienna and Prague in their post-WWII turmoil and beauty. Her lyrical style lends itself to the slow-burn romance unfolding between Simon and Sophie, as does the timeline of the novel with carefully placed, pointed flashbacks enlightening their backstories and heightening the tension of the present.

Major themes of love, sacrifice, and bravery play out in the lives of the characters. Loyalty, especially, is a strong element present in the recovery of Vienna and Prague, in the friendships of the leads with the Somervilles, in the ever-present threat of betrayal, and in the way loyalty looks a lot like love — even when Sophie tries to maintain her careful heart’s barricade. The use of names is also a clever part of Simon and Sophie’s progression, with the power of identity and names explored through assertion, class, endearment, heritage, and belonging.

The ROMANCE of the story is my favorite part, of course! Simon is a carefully guarded beta hero whose history with Sophie is bittersweet and endearing. As he grows through the events of the novel, he comes into his own in many ways, seeing beyond processing the world through a chess scenario. Sophie is tough and independent, and her growth comes through her opportunity to keep her word and her loyalty sacred to Simon alone. A slight switch in gender norms of emotional vulnerability plays out in their relationship, yet Simon remains the protective hero and Sophie the intelligent complement to his soul. I love the way Sophie loves Mozart and music! The title “Mozart Code” has special meaning between them and ties up all the ways they are intertwined and committed.

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

Thank you, Rachel, for taking to time to answer some behind-the-scenes questions about The Mozart Code and to share an exclusive deleted scene!

Can you tell us a little more about your hero and heroine’s personalities? Quirks or endearing qualities? 

They’re both playing at being something they’re not in some fashion— at least to the world at large.  When it comes to themselves they know each other so intimately that they can finish each other’s sentences but also have this amazing homing device that allows them to sense when the other is near. I just love that about them.   They’re both daft little bunnies desperate to keep their independence and so fearful of being hurt and yet the undercurrent of their relationship is just pure love.  Strong, earth-defying love. Sophie and Simon are each other’s worlds.   Simon I love because he’s this big nerd wrapped up in a Savile Row suit and gold-rimmed glasses and presenting the world a confident, dashing portrait whereas really, inside, he’s still a little boy forever trying to win love and approval.  I love how he sees the world as a chess board. From the very first chapter he is setting up his board and assembling all of the major players that will factor into his story.   He’s very kind at heart he just has a terrible way of showing vulnerability.    For Sophie, I love that she is forever convincing herself and us that she is this strong and capable woman  who doesn’t need love and doesn’t want Simon ( and she is—both strong and capable—)but she is absolutely mad for him and she just doesn’t realize it yet.   I love how Sophie always rushes to Simon’s defense and believes in him as far more than the illegitimate heir who is such a burden to his family.  The anger and frustration she shows on his behalf, to me, is one of the most amazing parts about her.  When she gives her loyalty to him that is far more powerful than most women declaring love. 

Setting is often another important “character” in your stories. What can you say about the settings included in The Mozart Code?

I really love Vienna, obviously and it is such an interesting counterpart to Prague. Because in the Kalter Krieg (Cold War) both were very close to falling behind the Iron Curtain — but only Prague did.  I also found they had other fascinating parallels that made me choose them as the two starring cities: one they both had close ties to Mozart because he lived and composed in both. Yet, Prague celebrated him in his lifetime and Vienna saw his early demise met with a Pauper’s grave.  Another interesting reason to pair them was the work of Anton Pilgram: one of the architects whose churches and designs are housed in both cities ( if you read The London Restoration, you know I am a nut about church architecture, lol). I am also quite in love with the themes of restitution and restoration and finding beauty in the rubble by being able to see (as my heroine Diana Somerville does), the prospect of what the city will be after it is made new.   Hitler forbade his pilots from bombing Prague whereas Vienna suffered a lot of bombing (especially near the very end of the war): so while Vienna is scarred, Prague was still intact— at least surfacely: we soon learn that there are a lot of Communist undercurrents and the Czech Republic would be under Communist rule after the events of The Mozart Code for almost half a century. 

But I am a lot like Diana in that I believe “each city had chosen human portals through which to whisper their secrets.” I am personally passionate about and  fascinated by Vienna and Prague so I really wanted to convey their romance and hardships to the reader. 

Are there any interesting historical tidbits you came across in your research you were not able to include in the story?

Anything to do with the churches! I really, really, really wanted to include so many more churches in both Vienna and Prague but I had to remind myself ( as did my editor), this is Sophie’s story not Diana’s.  Heck, Diana needed another book just for the churches here lol.  I also had to cut more about Mozart and the Mozart family. Readers may not realize I do five times as much research as funnels into the novel so that I can hopefully confidently relay that my characters are experts in these things. 

I also had to cut a lot of the Bletchley Park flashbacks: especially as Sophie worked with the Bombe machines and I did a TON of research on those machines so it was a shame to have them gone. 

What are you currently reading, OR what is the best book you’ve read lately?

I loved The Diamond Eye by Kate Quinn. I also read and loved an early copy of The Belle of Belgrave Square by Mimi Matthews because it is SUCH a Beauty and the Beast meets The Blue Castle type book and has some of my favourite tropes.  I reread The Viscount Who Loved Me by Julia Quinn to review for Austenprose ( it’s the book the most recent season of Bridgerton is based on). I love a tortured hero who just wants love and  a marriage of convenience so it was a fun re-read! I also am MADLY in love with the new Elizabeth Camden book Written on The Wind which I think is her best to date and her editor calls me “the patron saint” of that book and I think I am … I LOVE IT 

As readers enjoy this new release and are already eager for another novel from you (I’m talking about myself here, HAHA!), can you tell us what’s next for you?

True story: if I press ALT and TAB on my macbook there is always a Three Quarter Time novel in progress.  I really love writing those but alas the paying contracts have to come first. But I do hope to get (finally) Memory in Three Quarter Time finished someday!   I have a collaborative novel coming out in March 2023 with two authors—J’Nell Ciesielski and Aimie K. Runyan—for Harper Muse called  The Castle Keepers.  In this book, it is a Yorkshire castle set across three wars with three different romances. Aimie is doing The Boer War, J’Nell WWI and my romance is set just after WWII when the castle is commandeered as a retreat for soldiers suffering from shell shock.  There’s a cat named Sigmund Freud    

Next September I have a novel coming out that is as of yet untitled but that I call Pimpernel –and with good cause— it is a retelling of The Scarlet Pimpernel story set in Nazi Occupied Rouen and Paris and it features a daring adventure and a classic love story. I think you will all love Phineas and Marlena! 

Is there anything readers need to know to set up this “DELETED SCENE” from The Mozart Code?

One of the things I had to balance in writing The Mozart Code was making it a standalone story while still nodding to the established events of The London Restoration.  And the careful reader will remember that Simon got pneumonia and Sophie is clearly worried about him and Diana tries to coax her friend into admitting what she’s feeling but Sophie shrugs it off. We, of course, move on and Simon gets better because we see their world through Di’s eyes but I always knew what was going on beyond the surface there as I knew Simon and Sophie’s true relationship while writing that book. We just are seeing the same time period in Simon and Sophie’s viewpoint instead of Diana’s and so I had to cut this moment in flashback where Sophie sneaks out of her Bletchley boarding flat and goes to visit him.    I confess, it is not perfect or edited but I hope it gives you a glance of what I wanted to do with their relationship ☺

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If Simon couldn’t be healthy, she would be strong for both of them, she determined. Later, as an air raid siren shrilled and a formation of planes took low over the fields and downs, she suspected that while others wires and radars were attuned to their spouses, their mothers and fathers, their brothers and sisters in times of constant peril, her frequency was leveled with Simon’s.  As it had been when she defended him in front of his father and brother. As it had been when she was briefly installed in the SOE.  As it would be while he was ill in hospital and she failed at keeping her emotions in a straight, rigid line.

But frequencies, like wires, could stretch and bend and snap leaving each recipient at the end of their wave vulnerable to the consequences of a terminated signal.    Sophie didn’t fancy being so disconnected from Simon.

So, later that night after she had listened to Diana yip on about the chess game she lost against Fisher Carne at the pub, Sophie took action. 

She tiptoed out of the house and locked the door quietly behind her.  It was past curfew and getting into the Park would take a not inconsiderable amount of care.  Fisher had left a note that Simon had been moved home from hospital to spend the last part of his convalescence.   He also told her that when he had been at Simon’s billet flat, he had been able to enter through a side door near the garden.

Sophie knocked softly.  She hated making him get out of bed when he was ill but she’d rather that than fall through the window and scare him half to death.

A moment later, the light flickered on to dispel the shadow of the narrow, stone path and the door creaked open. 

Simon was pale, thinner than usual and subsequently his blue eyes seemed wider as they bore out at her in the darkness.  He tied his robe.

“Let me in so you don’t catch your death…again.” She whispered.

He stepped back and she joined him.  He turned on a few lights and was winded with the movement. 

“Sit down.” She grabbed his arm and led him to the sofa. Once he was seated, she grabbed a quilt draped over a neighbouring chair and tucked it up over his shoulders.  “Oh Simon, what a mess.” 

“Villiers…” his voice was a little raspy. “What are you doing here?”

Sophie smoothed his unkempt hair from his forehead. “Who is taking care of you?”

“I’m feeling much better.” He shivered and winnowed down in the blanket.

“I can see that. You look dismal, Simon.  I’ll make tea.” 

He waved his hand in the direction of the kettle and cooktop and Sophie started to work, aware that Simon’s gaze was on her slightest movement.   

“I can wrangle a Tetley’s bag into a pot.” 

“I didn’t say anything.” Simon whispered.

“You were thinking it.”

Several moments later she ensured Simon’s hand was wrapped around the steaming mug.  She took her own mug to the arm chair, stirring the liquid– not out of preference –but occupation for her fingers. 

“You must be bored out of your tree.” She observed after a long moment. 

Simon blew on the tea and slowly raised the mug to his cracked lips. “I’ve a lot on my mind.”

“Do you?”

“I thought I was going to die.”

“Pshaw.  People don’t die from pneumonia.”
“Yes they do.” He wheezed. “All the time.”

“Well, you are not people.”

“If my landlady finds you here.”

“It’ll besmirch my reputation.” Sophie waved a hand.  She watched Simon take a slow sip. Then she looked around the tidy but compact flat, her eyes settling on a decanter on the side table near the wireless. “Ah!” She rose and strolled toward it. She opened the lid and smelled. “Here…” she turned to Simon. “Give me your mug.” She poured a liberal splash of brandy into each of their tea mugs. 

“Are you sure…?” Simon began.

“Medicinal.” Sophie said.

Simon’s eyelashes fluttered over his cheekbones.

“Villiers.”

“Yes, Simon.”

“If I don’t…”

“Oh Lord. I didn’t risk my spotless reputation to hear you profess anything.” Sophie sipped her brandy-laced tea. “So don’t profess anything.” She studied Simon’s modest but comfortable surroundings: mahogany wood, lace curtains, neatly lined books and a few gold-garnished picture frames.  He was going to say something. Something that might hold the word she told him never to say and she steadied herself to prepare for it. 

“Villers…”

“Simon.”

“I’ve had a lot of time to think about what happens after this war.”

This war. Tut tut. I’ve had enough war.”

“Villiers…”

“Simon.”

He coughed through his smile. “It’s like we’re a vaudeville routine.” Simon sipped tea. Stretched. “If I survive…”

“Do not bore me, Simon Barrington. You know very well you are going to survive or else they wouldn’t have sent you home.”

“Home?” he lifted the quilt demonstratively. “Is that where I am? Anyhow, Villiers, 

if I don’t survive…”

“You’re fine.” It rolled easily off of her tongue. She had used it in a long line of syllables to convince herself time and again since he was in hospital.  

“Then I need you to know…”

Don’t say it. Don’t say it.  Don’t tell me.  Don’t loop those letters together.  Don’t make me frightened of you when you are at your weakest.

“You’re fine.”

Review: “Meet Me in the Margins” by Melissa Ferguson

I have been on a historical fiction binge lately, so I decided to change it up by reading Melissa Ferguson’s latest romcom novel! Thanks for stopping by to check out my review of Meet Me in the Margins, a standalone novel.

About the Book

Savannah Cade is a low-level editor at Pennington Publishing, a prestigious publisher producing only the highest of highbrow titles. And while editing the latest edition of The Anthology of Medieval Didactic Poetry may be her day job, she has two secrets she’s hiding.

One: She’s writing a romance novel.

Two: She’s discovered the Book Nook—a secret room in the publishing house where she finds inspiration for her “lowbrow” hobby.

After leaving her manuscript behind one afternoon, she returns to the nook only to discover someone has written notes in the margins. Savannah’s first response to the criticism is defensive, but events transpire that force her to admit that she needs the help of this shadowy editor after all. As the notes take a turn for the romantic, and as Savannah’s madcap life gets more complicated than ever, she uses the process of elimination to identify her mysterious editor—only to discover that what she truly wants and what she should want just might not be the same. Melissa Ferguson’s latest—a love letter to books, readers, and romance—will leave fans laughing out loud and swooning in the same breath

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Review

Meet Me In the Margins is a FUN romcom with a good balance of emotional depth — you might even say it is a blend of comedy and women’s fiction. I appreciate the humor Melissa Ferguson always brings to her stories with her unique voice. Her heroines are always relatable and her stories bring out the comedy and sentiments of everyday life.

Some hilarious situations with a Valentine’s Day trip to the courthouse, quirky authors, and a witty dart game are a few things that made me laugh in this story. As Savannah edits her own novel, tongue-in-cheek moments about writing and romance add fun to the story. Through all of the lighthearted moments, though, is an underlying story and growing experience for Savannah herself, enlightening her of insecurities and her own worth. I have to admit, I did NOT like her family for a good portion of the novel. But through some key friendships, and especially with the compassion and encouragement of the hero, Savannah comes into her own in her family and career roles.

While some have compared elements of this novel to the classic “You’ve Got Mail”, I think the note-exchanging elements are presented in their own way (not like the movie at all), and the subsequent friendship that blooms “in the margins” as a result is something I was rooting for! Plus, there’s a strong representation of the publishing industry as a backdrop to the story, which will appeal to book and story lovers alike.

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

Review & Blog Tour: “Her Country Gentleman” Georgian Anthology

Thanks for visiting my stop on the book tour for Her Country Gentleman! Read on for more about this romance anthology, my thoughts, and further info on the authors.


Her Country Gentleman is the first book in the Timeless Georgian Collection, a new anthology series from Mirror Press. The book features three novellas from bestselling historical romance authors whose stories reveal that not all love is found in London.

“Spring at Tribbley Hall,” by Sian Ann Bessey

When Charlotte’s grandmother invites her to accompany her to Norfolk, Charlotte jumps at the chance to visit the sea and escape the fuss surrounding her sister’s wedding preparations in London. Lord William Cheston, on the other hand, is most unhappy when his mother informs him that her old friend and a granddaughter are coming to stay. Not only is it lambing season, but he’s also dealing with the mysterious loss of several sheep. The last thing he needs is a child underfoot. When Charlotte and William first meet, he does not realize that the lovely young lady is the granddaughter in question, and she assumes that the man dressed in work clothes in the barn is a servant. Soon afterward, however, Charlotte stumbles upon a clue to William’s sheep’s disappearance, and when her life is placed in jeopardy, William is forced to choose between saving his unwanted houseguest and catching the thief.

“Love of My Heart,” by Sarah M. Eden

Cordelia Wakefield has never lived anywhere but London and is not overly happy when her family is forced to retrench to a small estate near Teviotbrae, Scotland. An ill-fated game of battledore and shuttlecock brings her face-to-racquet with Sebastian, who runs the home farm at nearby Teviot Castle. What begins as a clash of personalities, expectations, and preferences, soon leads to a friendship neither had expected. As the magic of Teviotbrae weaves its spell, the possibility of something more than friendship begins to blossom. But what future is there for a lowly farmer and a London lady?

“Miss Smith Goes to Wiltshire,” by Rebecca Connolly

Martha Smith wants to marry for love and will not be persuaded otherwise. She is highly sought after in Society for her beauty and status but refuses to consider any suitor whose only claim is that his prospects meet with her mother’s approval. Her widowed mother has had enough of Martha’s romantic sensibilities and is sending her to stay with unfortunate cousins in Wiltshire to show her that marrying for love is a risk that is too great. Benjamin Steele, Lord Hillier, is working on his new and dilapidated estate when he first catches sight of the striking Martha Smith. Becoming Lord Hillier has only brought him a house that needs significant repairs, tenant farms that had been abandoned, and only the money he’d already possessed. He wants meaning in his life, and he’s more than willing to work for it. Though worlds apart in all else, on this point they can agree: a life of meaning would change everything.

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Review

Each of these romances features a lady from London traveling to the country and finding love, with gentle humor and some type of encounter with sheep. I like that these heroes display strength and a familiarity with hard work, a trait that sometimes escapes this genre when gentlemen keep to town or more academic pursuits.

Spring at Tribbley Hall is a sweet story of love on an unexpected trip to the charming coast. The heroine’s meddling family members, along with a bit of intrigue regarding missing livestock, add further layers of interest. The sweet affinity the leads have for each other is believable. And, the sometimes awkward heroine whose lesser concern for social norms makes her strength and personality shine is just endearing!

I enjoyed Love of My Heart, especially as it includes an art element as a force to move the story forward. While this heroine’s reason behind her move to the country is not as pleasant at first, I like seeing her find a contentment and interest in such a lifestyle, and in a friendship with the hero. His championing her art and the important themes of belonging are my favorite parts.

The last story in the collection, Miss Smith Goes to Wiltshire, is charming. Through the heroine’s experiences, she gains more than a suitor in the hero — she also discovers the joys of honest relationships with her family and with a new friend. The commoner-turned-gentry hero has his work cut out for him in restoring an estate and reestablishing farm and fields, but the friendship he tentatively begins with Miss Smith refreshes his perspective and lets both lead characters find love. I like the wit and intelligence of this heroine, especially, and the near self-deprecating humor that marks this story.

Thank you to Austenprose and the publisher for the review ecopy. This is my honest review.

Born in Cambridge, England, but grew up on the island of Anglesey off the coast of North Wales, Sian Ann Bessey left her homeland to attend university in the U.S. and earned a bachelor’s degree in communications with a minor in English. She began her writing career as a student, publishing several magazine articles while still in college. Since then, she has published historical romance and romantic suspense novels, along with a variety of children’s books. She is a USA Today bestselling author, a Foreward Reviews Book of the Year finalist, and a Whitney Award finalist.

She loves to travel and experience other cultures, but when she’s home, her favorite activities are spending time with her family, cooking, and reading.

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Sarah M. Eden is a USA Today bestselling author of multiple historical romances, including AML’s “2013 Novel of the Year” and Foreword Review’s 2013 “IndieFab Book of the Year” gold medal winner for Best Romance, Longing for Home, and the Whitney Award’s “2014 Novel of the Year,” Longing for Home: Hope Springs.

Combining her obsession with history and affinity for tender love stories, Sarah loves crafting witty characters and heartfelt romances set against rich historical backdrops. She holds a bachelor’s degree in research and happily spends hours perusing the reference shelves of her local library. Sarah lives with her husband, kids, and mischievous dog in the shadow of a snow-capped mountain she has never attempted to
ski.

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Rebecca Connolly is the author of more than two dozen novels. She calls herself a Midwest girl, having lived in Ohio and Indiana. She’s always been a bookworm, and her grandma would send her books almost every month so she would never run out. Book Fairs were her carnival, and libraries are her happy place.

She has been creating stories since childhood, and there are home videos to prove it! She received a master’s degree from West Virginia University, spends every spare moment away from her day job absorbed in her writing, and is a hot cocoa addict.

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