First Line Fridays # 36: “The Mistletoe Countess” by Pepper Basham

It’s time for a new edition of First Line Fridays hosted by Carrie at Reading Is My Superpower!

WOW, it has been a long time since I’ve featured a beginning line for First Line Fridays! It’s never too early in the year to talk about Christmas, though, OR the fun kind of romance Pepper Basham writes, like The Mistletoe Countess. I have been excited about this novel for a long time! I “met” Freddie and Grace in an earlier version and I’m anxious to spend more time with them, their grand estate, a mystery, Grace’s sleuth antics, and guaranteed kisses.

EPIGRAPH & FIRST LINE:

Every fairy tale needed an appropriate castle.

Gracelynn Ferguson gripped the Model T’s window frame and leaned forward, breath caught in a suppressed gasp.

Your turn! What’s your first line?

Review: “Beyond the Tides” by Liz Johnson

Welcome to my blog and my review of a new contemporary romance novel by Liz Johnson: Beyond the Tides. This marks the first story in her Prince Edward Island Shores series, each focusing on a brother in the same family.

Review

When Meg Whitaker’s father decides to sell the family’s lobster-fishing business to her high school nemesis, she sets out to prove she should inherit it instead. Though she’s never had any interest in running the small fleet–or even getting on a boat due to her persistent seasickness–she can’t stand to see Oliver Ross take over. Not when he ruined her dreams for a science scholarship and an Ivy League education ten years ago.

Oliver isn’t proud of what he did back then. Angry and broken by his father walking out on his family, he lashed out at Meg–an innocent bystander. But owning a respected fishing fleet on Prince Edward Island is the opportunity of a lifetime, and he’s not about to walk away just because Meg wants him to.

Meg’s father has the perfect solution: Oliver and Meg must work the business together, and at the end of the season, he’ll decide who gets it. Along the way, they may discover that their stories are more similar than they thought . . . and their dreams aren’t what they expected.

Bestselling author Liz Johnson invites you back to Prince Edward Island for a brand-new series about family, forgiveness, and the kind of love that heals all wounds.

Goodreads | Amazon

About the Book

In short, I LOVED Beyond the Tides! Tying together themes of forgiveness, dreams, legacy, and love, this realistic enemies-to-friends-to-romance had me rooting for Meg and Oliver to overcome their grudges and prickliness.

In true Liz Johnson form, a heart-deep story unfolds in a setting as much a part of the story as the characters. I enjoyed returning to a different part of Prince Edward Island armchair-adventure style as I learned more about the culture, tradition, and lobster fishing. What an eye-opening and interesting part that was! I am intrigued and impressed with the real-life determination of that profession.

And as for the friendship and romance, plenty of bitterness and sparks overwhelm Meg and Oliver as they work through their new proximity AND some familial problems of the past and present. I loved how Oliver was understanding and determined to be there for Meg even when she was holding on to the past. And, as Meg realizes some lessons about joy and loss, Oliver’s past comes to light in a way that lends clarity to his motives — especially concerning his behavior as her “high school nemesis”. Their romance is paced perfectly with a few swoony moments in unexpected places (like boat decks!). I didn’t know how much I needed to read about a hero who looks like Adam Driver until Oliver Ross ;). I especially appreciated how the final relational conflict was resolved — it felt natural and realistic.

Other little things I loved: Mama Potts and her pottery, wisdom, and muscle cream; Meg’s dad and their whole dynamic; sunrises on the water; Kyle and his coffee; Oliver’s attractive/strong hands and Meg’s fascination with them; fishing clothes shopping with Meg and Oliver. 🙂 I am ecstatic for the rest of the series and more of the Ross brothers in PEI!

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

Book & Film Pairings, Edition 5

Welcome to another post where I pair books and films with similar themes or content! Today’s post features an absolute FAVORITE Victorian miniseries and three books with similar themes or settings. I’m talking about North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell, and the ultimate BBC miniseries adaptation from 2004 starring Richard Armitage and Daniela Denby-Ashe.

Like the novel by Gaskell, each of these books I’ve chosen have an English setting, romance thread, and similarities to the classic, yet I would recommend them as unique stories with vibrant characters of their own.

North and South 2004. Drama, love, & social commentary in my favorite miniseries.

North and South series by BBC, original novel by Elizabeth Gaskell

This work contrasts society, economics, and family bonds through the eyes of its hero and heroine. More than just a romance, I appreciate how the novel and series dive deeper into social problems of the times and the difference one person, or one business owner, can make in the lives of even a small group of people. The romance progresses slowly as outside factors bring the hero and heroine together, begrudgingly at times, then to finally see through each other’s eyes the world around them. I especially love the book’s POV of Mr. Thornton, as I feel he is better understood in that context than his brooding persona in the series.

Isabelle and Alexander by Rebecca Anderson

This Victorian story is mostly set in Manchester and its hero is the owner of a successful cotton mill, much like Mr. Thornton. The backgrounds and contrasts of the protagonists are similar, too, but beyond that, it paints a poignant story of healing and purpose. The couple are married for most of the story, so that makes for emotional glimpses into their life and challenges, and, a unexpectedly sweet romance.

Miss Milton Speaks Her Mind by Carla Kelly

This Regency story has parallels in the name “Milton” and in the societal clash of the hero and heroine. Like Margaret of N&S, Miss Milton has a demanding family that pulls her in many directions. My favorite aspect of this story is how her friendship with the hero is very encouraging. She learns courage and standing up for herself as the story progresses yet doesn’t waver from her initial character.

A Holiday by Gaslight by Mimi Matthews

A Holiday by Gaslight cover

I couldn’t leave this last Christmas novella off the list! A Holiday by Gaslight ticks all the boxes for a Victorian Christmas story: decorating the country estate, plenty of mistletoe, a cozy library, and a sparkling romance. The initial misconceptions of the hero and heroine are nods to N&S, as are the ways they find common values and intellect once they look past superficiality. Author Mimi Matthews is a pro and this novella is a fantastic introduction to her stories!

Are you a fan of North and South? Do you have book recommendations similar to this classic? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Review: “Very Sincerely Yours” by Kerry Winfrey

Today I’m sharing a review of Very Sincerely Yours, a romcom by author Kerry Winfrey.

Review

A charming and heartwarming new romantic comedy by the author of Waiting for Tom Hanks, Kerry Winfrey.

Teddy Phillips never thought she’d still be spending every day surrounded by toys at almost thirty years old. But working at a vintage toy store is pretty much all she has going on in her life after being unceremoniously dumped by her longtime boyfriend. The one joy that she’s kept is her not-so-guilty pleasure: Everett’s Place, a local children’s show hosted by Everett St. James, a man whom Teddy finds very soothing . . . and, okay, cute.

Teddy finds the courage to write to him, feeling slightly like one of the children who write to him on his show. He always gives sound advice and seems like he has everything figured out–and he pretty much does: Everett has a great support system, wonderful friends, and his dream job. But there’s still that persistent feeling in the back of his mind that something’s missing.

When a woman named Theodora starts writing to Everett, he is drawn to her honesty and vulnerability. They continue writing to each other, all the while living their lives without meeting. When their worlds collide, however, they must both let go of their fears and figure out what they truly want–and if the future they want includes each other.

Goodreads | Amazon

About the Book

Very Sincerely Yours is a really cute romcom with a pop culture feel that explores how life doesn’t always turn out like you expect.

I loved the You’ve Got Mail feeling of much of this story, with an email-friendship at the heart, and even a reference to a lovely fall day. But Teddy and Everett have their own unique challenges to a romance, adding a good bit of realism to the comedy while exploring the dangers of being a workaholic and the misguided way some people try to earn others’ affection. At its heart, it’s a delicate reminder of how dreams don’t have an expiration date.

The hero’s character pays clear homage to Jim Henson and Mr. Rogers, yet he comes off as original and very endearing. The way Everett portrays the importance of understanding and relating to children is one of his best qualities (because who doesn’t love a guy that’s genuinely good with kids?!). His little sister is my FAV with her no-nonsense demeanor! Teddy’s roommates, too, add to the great supporting cast with their personalities.

“When it’s really love, you don’t have to lose yourself. Falling in love should make you more yourself.”- best unexpected advice from Sophia, Teddy’s sister.

Content note: some mild to strong expletives throughout, sensuality, and closed-door romance scenes.

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

Review & Blog Tour: “John Eyre” by Mimi Matthews

Thank you for visiting my blog today! I’m sharing a review & blog tour information on Mimi Matthews’ new novel, John Eyre: A Tale of Darkness and Shadow. It is a supernatural gothic retelling of the classic Jane Eyre and one other Victorian novel (to reveal it would mean SPOILERS, so I shall keep it quiet!). While it differs from Matthews’ typical engaging Victorian romances, it bears her skill and prowess in retelling two gothic classics into a unique story all its own.

ABOUT THE BOOK

Yorkshire, 1843. When disgraced former schoolmaster John Eyre arrives at Thornfield Hall to take up a position as tutor to two peculiar young boys, he enters a world unlike any he’s ever known. Darkness abounds, punctuated by odd bumps in the night, strange creatures on the moor, and a sinister silver mist that never seems to dissipate. And at the center of it all, John’s new employer—a widow as alluring as she is mysterious.

Sixteen months earlier, heiress Bertha Mason embarked on the journey of a lifetime. Marriage wasn’t on her itinerary, but on meeting the enigmatic Edward Rochester, she’s powerless to resist his preternatural charm. In letters and journal entries, she records the story of their rapidly disintegrating life together, and of her gradual realization that Mr. Rochester isn’t quite the man he appears to be. In fact, he may not be a man at all.

From a cliff-top fortress on the Black Sea coast to an isolated estate in rural England, John and Bertha contend with secrets, danger, and the eternal struggle between light and darkness. Can they help each other vanquish the demons of the past? Or are some evils simply too powerful to conquer?

AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLEBOOK DEPOSITORY | BOOKSHOP | GOODREADS

ADVANCE PRAISE

“Bertha Mason Rochester shines, dominating her scenes with vitality and strength. The style, too, is spot-on, reprising the spirit of 19th-century Gothic prose without descending into mimicry.”— Publishers Weekly

“An entertaining spin on a classic with thrilling twists and turns…Matthews skillfully transforms a well-known story into a truly original tale.”— Kirkus

“[Matthews] retells Charlotte Bronte’s classic story in a way that will keep fans of the original novel totally gripped from cover to cover… Fresh and dynamic… Fast-paced and spellbinding…a book you will have a hard time putting down.”— Readers Favorite

“One of the most moving, suspenseful, innovative and remarkable retellings of a classic in the history of, well, ever… Every page is sheer rapture as [Matthews] moulds popular source material into a spell-binding creation so wholly her own.”— Rachel McMillan, bestselling author of The London Restoration

“[A] captivating and ingenious retelling of Jane Eyre with a supernatural twist. Smart, suspenseful, and deliciously spooky, JOHN EYRE is a must-read; I loved everything about it!”— Ashley Weaver, author of the Amory Ames Mysteries and the Electra McDonnell series

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

USA Today bestselling author Mimi Matthews writes both historical nonfiction and award-winning proper Regency and Victorian romances. Her novels have received starred reviews in Library Journal and Publishers Weekly, 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 Sheltie, and two Siamese cats.

WEBSITE | TWITTER | FACEBOOK | PINTEREST | BOOKBUB | GOODREADS

REVIEW

Readers will delight with John Eyre‘s gothic Victorian drama, gender-swapped roles tangled with romance, and prominent thread of light. It vacillates between mystery and riveting thriller while the tentative connection forming between Mr. Eyre and Mrs. Rochester solidifies into a formidable and complimentary partnership. The brilliant telling of this tale is further proof of Matthews’ mind for story: dissecting and letting classics influence the characters and framework yet telling a unique story all its own.

The epistolary elements of Bertha Rochester’s journal interspersed with the “present” story are a smart choice that lends her personal perspective and greater emotion to the story. John Eyre is a compassionate character, too, whose own backstory prepares him to be the ally Bertha needs. Their romance is as tumultuous as Brontë’s couple with a few twists on the classic that make me root for their happiness even more. Bertha is a strong heroine, and this story is more her own than John’s even as the title bears his name.

The supernatural and gothic influences of this retelling are vastly different from Matthews’ previous books — and bravely so. The tone of this novel is more foreboding and chilling at times, but these affects only heighten the drama and stakes for the characters of John and Bertha as they grapple with the threat of evil and the hope of light. In particular, I am impressed with the way Brontë’s Rochester’s more mercurial nature is exposed in this telling through both Mr. Rochester and Bertha — Mr. Rochester’s with more sinister tones and Bertha’s through her passionate determination. This novel will have appeal to new readers who appreciate its source books and, hopefully, draw readers to look into Matthews’ backlist of romances.

I had the privilege of reading this novel in one of its early drafts as a beta reader. I happily reread the final version, and was riveted all over again (and ecstatic about the epilogue!). Many thanks to Mimi for the shoutout in the acknowledgements! It made me smile!

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

TOUR INFO & SCHEDULE

Join the virtual book tour of JOHN EYRE: A TALE OF DARKNESS AND SHADOW, Mimi Matthews’ highly acclaimed Bronte-inspired Gothic romance, July 12-25, 2021. Thirty-five popular on-line influencers specializing in historical fiction, Gothic romance, and paranormal fiction will join in the celebration of its release with an interview, spotlights, exclusive excerpt, and reviews of this new Victorian-era novel set in Yorkshire, England.

July 12: The Caffeinated Bibliophile (review) | Syrie James (review) | Austenprose—A Jane Austen Blog (review) 

July 13: Bronte Blog (interview) | Laura’s Reviews (review) | All-of-a-Kind Mom (spotlight)

July 14: Gwendalyn’s Books (review) | Austenesque Reviews (review) 

July 15: Bookworm Lisa (review) | Nurse Bookie (review)      

July 16: Savvy Verse and Wit (excerpt) | The Lit Bitch (review)       

July 17: My Bookish Bliss (review) | From the TBR Pile (review)         

July 18: Rosanne E. Lortz (review) | Books, Teacups, & Reviews (review)   

July 19: The Secret Victorianist (review) | Christian Chick’s Thoughts (review) | The Gothic Library (review)        

July 20: Getting Your Read On (review) | The Silver Petticoat Review (review) | Lu Reviews Books (review)        

July 21: Scuffed Slippers and Wormy Books (spotlight) | The Green Mockingbird (review)           

July 22: Unabridged Chick (review) | A Darn Good Read (review)

July 23: Kathleen Flynn (review) | So Little Time… (review) | The Calico Critic (review)

July 24: The Bronte Babe (review) | Probably at the Library (review) | Impressions in Ink (review)

July 25: From Pemberley to Milton (review) | Vesper’s Place (review) | Cup of Tea with that Book Please (review)    

Review + Blog Tour: “The Ice Swan” by J’Nell Ciesielski

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for J’Nell Ciesielski’s new novel, The Ice Swan! It combines a WWI setting with aspects of the Russian Revolution in a historical romance. Read on for more about the book, my review, and a giveaway courtesy of HFVBT tours and the publisher.

About the Book

The Ice Swan by J’nell Ciesielski

The Ice Swan Cover

Publication Date: July 6, 2021
Thomas Nelson
eBook & Paperback; 400 pages

Genre: Historical Romance

Amid the violent last days of the glittering Russian monarchy, a princess on the run finds her heart where she least expects it.

1917, Petrograd. Fleeing the murderous flames of the Russian Revolution, Princess Svetlana Dalsky hopes to find safety in Paris with her mother and sister. But the city is buckling under the weight of the Great War, and the Bolsheviks will not rest until they have erased every Russian aristocrat from memory. Svetlana and her family are forced into hiding in Paris’s underbelly, with little to their name but the jewels they sewed into their corsets before their terrifying escape.

Born the second son of a Scottish duke, the only title Wynn MacCallan cares for is that of surgeon. Putting his talents with a scalpel to good use in the hospitals in Paris, Wynn pushes the boundaries of medical science to give his patients the best care possible. After treating Svetlana for a minor injury, he is pulled into a world of decaying imperial glitter. Intrigued by this mysterious, cold, and beautiful woman, Wynn follows Svetlana to an underground Russian club where drink, dance, and questionable dealings collide on bubbles of vodka.

Out of money and options, Svetlana agrees to a marriage of convenience with the handsome and brilliant Wynn, who will protect her and pay off her family’s debts. It’s the right thing for a good man to do, but Wynn cannot help but hope the marriage will turn into one of true affection. When Wynn’s life takes an unexpected turn, so does Svetlana’s—and soon Paris becomes as dangerous as Petrograd. And as the Bolsheviks chase them to Scotland and beyond, Wynn and Svetlana begin to wonder if they will ever be able to outrun the love they are beginning to feel for one another.

The Ice Swan is a ray of light in the middle of a Europe that was sinking into darkness. Ciesielski’s talent for storytelling from the heart is a feast for the readers’ eyes.” —Mario Escobar, international bestselling author of Remember Me and Children of the Stars

Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes and Noble | IndieBound

With a passion for heart-stopping adventure and sweeping love stories, J’nell Ciesielski weaves fresh takes into romances of times gone by. When not creating dashing heroes and daring heroines, she can be found dreaming of Scotland, indulging in chocolate of any kind, or watching old black and white movies. Winner of the Romance Through the Ages Award and the Maggie Award, she is a Florida native who now lives in Virginia with her husband, daughter, and lazy beagle.

Learn more at www.jnellciesielski.com. You can also find J’nell on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and Goodreads.

Review

The Ice Swan is a complex story with hints of intrigue and risk set during a tumultuous time in history with a beautiful romance at its core. Author J’Nell Ciesielski sets the bar high for excellence in the genre!

Every aspect of this novel is well paced and meticulously imparted, from the culture and heritage of Svetlana, the secrets and intrigue of the Russian underground, the challenge of an Army hospital and techniques at wartime, the brilliantly depicted settings, to the bright themes of trust, grace, and belonging. The secondary characters are sometimes endearing, funny, annoying, or weasel-y as appropriate, making the contrasting worlds of Wynn and Svetlana come to life with a bit of humor and reality.

The romance between Wynn and Svetlana is one for the reader to fall headlong into. Theirs is a melding of cultures with a slow burn marriage of convenience, allll things I love in a historical romance. J’Nell’s skillful wordsmithing depicts the comforting touches and embraces just as satisfyingly for this romance reader’s heart as the moments of spark and attraction. The magnetism between Wynn and Svetlana is unmistakable from their first meeting, and the way they compliment one another in intelligence and encourage each other (even through a bit of pride and stubbornness on both parts!) is my favorite part of their dynamic.

Fans of Rachel McMillan, Kate Breslin, and Amanda Dykes will appreciate Ciesielski’s romantic prose and thought-provoking storytelling. I have a greater understanding of Russian history in the early 20th century and a new respect for the beginnings of cardiology thanks to the detailed research and history included in this story! Not mention a new fondness for the name Wynn :). This is the second novel I’ve read by J’Nell Ciesielski and I’m eager to read more soon.

Thank you the the publisher and HFVBT tours for the review copy. This is my honest review.

Blog Tour Schedule

Tuesday, July 6
Review at Rachelle Loves Books

Wednesday, July 7
Review at Crystal’s Library
Review at Gwendalyn’s Books

Thursday, July 8
Review at Nursebookie
Review at The Lit Bitch
Review at McCombs on Main

Friday, July 9
Review at Two Bookish Babes

Monday, July 12
Review at Pursuing Stacie
Review at The Caffeinated Bibliophile

Tuesday, July 13
Review at Wishful Endings
Interview at Books & Benches

Wednesday, July 14
Review at Novels Alive

Thursday, July 15
Review at The Green Mockingbird

Friday, July 16
Review at Amy’s Booket List
Review at Read Review Rejoice

Sunday, July 18
Review at Reader_ceygo

Monday, July 19
Review at Bookworlder
Interview at Reader_ceygo

Tuesday, July 20
Review at A Darn Good Read
Review at Niki Loves to Read

Enter to win a paperback copy of The Ice Swan by J’nell Ciesielski! We have 5 copies up for grabs!The giveaway is open to US residents only and ends on July 20th. You must be 18 or older to enter.

Click Here to enter the GIVEAWAY via Gleam!

Audiobook Review: “Once Upon a Royal Summer” by Teri Wilson

Happy Friday! I’m sharing a quick audiobook review today of a recently released novel: Once Upon a Royal Summer by Teri Wilson. This is the first full book I’ve read by Teri and Hallmark Publishing, and I’m delighted to say it offered fun and depth in one cute, summer-y package!

About the Book

A theme park “princess” meets a single dad…who turns out to be a real prince! Enjoy the delightful royal romance from acclaimed author Teri Wilson and Hallmark Publishing.

Lacey found her dream job: playing a princess character at a popular fairytale theme park in sunny southern Florida. Her diamond tiara might not be real, but the smiles of the children she meets every day certainly are. It’s just too bad that her ex-boyfriend was never impressed with her career choice.

Henry, the crown prince of Bella-Moritz, is trying to fulfill his young daughter’s birthday wish: to be a normal girl with a normal life. That’s why they’re pretending to be ordinary tourists at an American amusement park. Henry lost his wife four years ago, and he’s been going through the motions ever since. But could a meeting with a make-believe princess lead to real love?

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

I really enjoyed the audiobook version of Once Upon a Royal Summer! It combines a sweet romance with all the romcom moments and fairytale references galore. The narrator did a fantastic job with the accents of a southern heroine and the posh Bella-Moritz royals.

Our heroine Lacey is likable and relatable, with her genuine heart for children and their dreams at the core of her motive to play a princess every day. I love how her growth in confidence comes naturally as a result of her interactions with Henry. And HENRY… he is princely perfection and a great dad, too! What is it about single dad heroes that inspire such tenderness?! His daughter, Rose, lives up to the beauty of her name and is absolutely endearing.

With references to classic princess tales, pop culture, and showcasing a unique side of theme park culture, Once Upon a Royal Summer is sweetly original. I recommend it to anyone looking for a quick and uplifting summer-y read. The close nods to Cinderella and the slight twist on the role of a fairy godmother are my favorite parts!

Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley for the audiobook review copy.

Review: “Plot Twist” by Bethany Turner

Fans of romcoms (of the book or film variety) will want to take note: Plot Twist by Bethany Turner is not to be missed! Read on for more about the novel and my thoughts on this cute story.

About the Book

An aspiring screenwriter has a chance encounter with an actor who could be the man of her dreams. Over the next ten years, she’ll write the story . . . but will he end up being the star?

February 4, 2003, promises to be a typical day for Olivia Ross—a greeting card writer whose passion project is a screenplay of her own. But after she and a handsome actor have a magical meet-cute in a coffee shop, they make a spontaneous pact: in ten years, after they’ve found the success they’re just sure they’re going to achieve, they’ll return to the coffeehouse to partner up and make a film together. The only problem? Olivia neglected to get the stranger’s name. But she doesn’t forget his face—or the date.

For the next ten years, every February 4 is marked with coincidences and ironies for Olivia. As men come and go and return to her life, she continues to write, but still wonders about the guy from the coffee shop—the nameless actor she’s almost certain has turned out to be Hamish MacDougal, now a famous A-lister and Hollywood leading man.

But a lot can happen in ten years, and while waiting for the curtain to rise on her fate, the true story of Olivia’s life is being written—and if she’s not careful, she’ll completely miss the real-life romantic comedy playing out right before her eyes.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

Bethany Turner’s romcoms are always fresh and brimming with pop culture. Plot Twist offers the same zest and smart plotting, but with celebrity references amped up thanks to the the LA setting and culture. This story is especially unique with its timeline and take on romance yet full of beloved tropes and one of the BEST roommate relationships I’ve come across in a while. And the hero, y’all. He’s unexpected and lovable and quite the surprise!

Plot Twist and Films
These movies all have a connection to Plot Twist 😉

I absolutely laughed and highlighted my way through this novel. The celebrity name dropping and movie references make my heart happy, particularly as a movie buff. Its setting and cast of characters are a natural springboard for Hollywood happenings. And the way the actor Hamish MacDougal resembles real-life actor Gerard Butler is uncanny 😉 and hilarious.

Plot Twist is simultaneously a unique romcom and a story that harkens back to classic and beloved romcom tropes through its wry moments of spontaneity and over the top IRONY. It has, to name a few, meet cute(s) (yes, plural), a bachelorette auction, celebrity sightings, a Hallmark-like greeting card company, dreaded exes showing up at the most inopportune times, and a bff relationship to envy.

The timeline works for the story, checking in with Olivia and friends every February 4th for ten years, and is in favor of the character development. While it could feel abrupt, Turner takes her time with each “day” and builds complexity by catching up events of the past year and showing another crazy day in Olivia’s life. Olivia learns to how to be comfortable in her own skin. along the way, and she learns to appreciate the heroes in her life who come and go — and one hero, in particular, who is there for her all along.

My very favorite part of this story is the BFF relationship Olivia has with her roommate, Fiona. Fiona is pivotal to the plot in many ways. While the romance and zany comedy are a huge part of the story, my takeaway is that a relationship like Olivia and Fiona’s is as important in life as a HEA (happily ever after).

Thanks to the publisher for the review copy. This is my honest review.

Review: “Come Back to Me” by Jody Hedlund

Today I’m reviewing Come Back to Me by Jody Hedlund, the first book in her time-travel fantasy romance “Waters of Time” series. While I’ve enjoyed many historical novels by Hedlund, and she has penned a Medieval series, I was especially excited for the mashup of a contemporary heroine who finds herself in Medieval times while trying to save her family.

About the Book

The ultimate cure that could heal any disease? Crazy.

That’s exactly what research scientist Marian Creighton has always believed about her father’s quest, even if it does stem from a desire to save her sister Ellen from the genetic disease that stole their mother from them. But when her father falls into a coma after drinking a vial of holy water believed to contain traces of residue from the Tree of Life, Marian must question all of her assumptions. He’s left behind tantalizing clues that suggest he’s crossed back in time. Insane. Until Marian tests his theories and finds herself in the Middle Ages during a dangerous peasant uprising.

William Durham, a valiant knight comes to Marian’s rescue and offers her protection . . . as his wife. The longer Marian stays in the past, the more she cares about William. Can she ever find her father and make it back to the present to heal her sister? And when the time comes to leave, will she want to?

Bestselling author Jody Hedlund is your guide down the twisting waters of time to a volatile era of superstition, revolts, and chivalry in this suspenseful story.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

Come Back to Me by Jody Hedlund is an adventure of a novel that’s one part action, one part fantasy, two parts romance, and all kinds of awesome! Subtle themes of sacrifice and the lasting impact of love weave through these characters’ interactions as they face unexpected challenges — like the hazards of life in Medieval England.

The concept of historical holy water with Biblical ties is smart and brings a good deal of real-life history to the story, as Hedlund outlines in her author’s note. I liked that real-life aspect, as well as the historical turmoil of the Peasants’ Revolt being important parts of the story. It provides a thought-provoking contrast with Marian’s perspective of life in the 21st century.

I didn’t buy into the instalove between Marian and Will at first. But, I quickly grew to appreciate their relationship as they acknowledge the progression from undeniable attraction, to a deeper heart-connection and friendship, to love as a commitment and active choice. Jody Hedlund always writes *all the sparks* and romantic tension so well, and Marian and Will’s passion is no exception. The thread of their relationship unfolds and models sacrificial love and loyalty as the most impactful story aspect.

Fans of contemporary romance and medieval times or adventurous and daring knightly heroes like Robin Hood will enjoy Come Back to Me! While it ties up the romance and lives of Marian and William satisfactorily, I can’t wait to see what happens in the next installment, Never Leave Me, as it focuses on Marian’s sister, Ellen — with a love interest I am ALREADY rooting for!

Thank you to publisher Revell and their Revell Reads program for the review copy. This is my honest review.

Review: “On the Cliffs of Foxglove Manor” by Jaime Jo Wright

Thanks for visiting my blog and checking out my review of Jaime Jo Wright’s latest split time mystery/suspense/romance novel, On the Cliffs of Foxglove Manor. I promise not to be spoilery in my review!

About the Book

Foxglove Manor would twist its way into your soul until one day it owned you, and it called to you, and it didn’t cease haunting you until you came back.

In 1885, Adria Fontaine has been sent away from her home to recover goods her malevolent father pirated on the Great Lakes during the Civil War. Hoping to find freedom away from her father, Adria arrives at Foxglove Manor–a stone house on a cliff overlooking Lake Superior–but senses only wickedness hovering over the property. The mistress of Foxglove is an eccentric and seemingly cruel old woman who has filled her house with dangerous secrets, ones that may cost Adria her life.

Centuries later, Kailey Gibson takes on a position as a nurse’s aide at a senior home in a renovated old stone manor. Abducted as a child, she has nothing but locked-up memories of secrets and death, overshadowed by the chilling threat from her kidnappers that they may return. When the residents of Foxglove start sharing stories of whispers in the night, hidden treasure, and a love willing to kill, it becomes clear this home is far from a haven.

As the sinister mysteries of Foxglove Manor haunt two women separated by time, they will have to risk it all to banish the past’s demons–including their own.

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Review

On the Cliffs of Foxglove Manor is delightfully creepy and romantic! Gothic tones and atmosphere pepper this split time mystery set on the remote shores of Lake Superior. Jaime Jo Wright’s lyrical style combines with two compelling heroines to contrast the brokenness of human nature and the import of legacy and hope. And the villains I didn’t suspect… I’ll just say I love it when a book surprises me!

The heroines of the story are relatable and likable. Adria, especially, draws compassion for the way she has been treated and the choices she is compelled to make. I like Kailey but I LOVE Jude, her brother. Their sibling relationship is unique and considerately portrayed by Wright, with his autism diagnosis not defining his limitations but rather informing his strengths and making him a key part of Kailey’s purpose. Adria and Kailey’s alternating points of view contrast the differences between history and present day and highlight timeless struggles that are still shared.

The perfectly-paced mystery and journeys of the heroines take center stage, but both are paired with heroes who match them in wits and support. Kailey’s counterpart plays a subtle role at first, but the spark of attraction is there the whole. time., making theirs a slow burn dynamic (and y’all know, I am HERE for the romance!). I love the way he SEES Kailey, listening, noticing the little things, and intuitively acting on his care of her in small ways. Adria’s hero is unlikely in many ways: his demeanor is SO prickly at first, his secrets propel the plot in unexpected ways, and his own history relates to Adria’s life in a surprising fashion. The formality of his name, even, through most of the story adds an air of mystery. Their romantic thread has me realizing a few things about my own reading preferences: I think I have a thing for heroes with long hair (but maybe that’s a list for another day 😉 ).

The concept of war is a clever theme tied in with Foxglove Manor. While the goods Adria seeks to recover originate during the Civil War, the shadow of that event stretches beyond time’s boundaries and influences Adria’s situation. And, in effect, Kailey’s. But the unspoken rivalries and wars between flesh and spirit, between escape and purpose, and between despair and hope are contrasted in a greater sense through both Adria and Kailey’s stories. I appreciate, especially, how pressing on in spite of fears and fighting for life are important themes, too.

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