Review: “Bear No Malice” by Clarissa Harwood

Review: “Bear No Malice” by Clarissa Harwood

Last year, a favorite author’s praise prompted me to branch out and read a general fiction title, Impossible Saints. It ended up being one of my favorite reads of the year, and one I revisited recently as its sequel, of sorts, just released!

Bear No Malice by Clarissa Harwood is more like a companion novel whose timeline matches events of Impossible Saints. It focuses on a minor character from book 1 whose role was nearly that of a villain. I really loved this shift in perspective and how it introduces the idea that we all have unique perceptions of our actions and of others. Enough about my thoughts for the moment, here’s more book info and my wordy review!

About the Book

Beaten and left for dead in the English countryside, clergyman and reformer Tom Cross is rescued and nursed back to health by Miranda and Simon Thorne, reclusive siblings who seem to have as many secrets as he does. Tom has spent years helping the downtrodden in London while lying to everyone he meets, but now he’s forced to slow down and confront his unexamined life.

Miranda, a skilled artist, is haunted by her painful past and unable to imagine a future. Tom is a welcome distraction from her troubles, but she’s determined to relegate him to her fantasy world, sensing that any real relationship with him would be more trouble than it’s worth. Besides, she has sworn to remain devoted to someone she’s left behind.

When Tom returns to London, his life begins to unravel as he faces the consequences of both his affair with a married woman and his abusive childhood. When his secrets catch up with him and his reputation is destroyed, he realizes that Miranda is the only person he trusts with the truth. What he doesn’t realize is that even if she believes him and returns his feelings, he can’t free her from the shackles of her past.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

Bear No Malice is literary fiction at its best, with a vivid historical setting and a story that unfolds with a delicate complexity. Its Dickens-like intricacy takes the reader on a journey right alongside Tom and Miranda as they grow through friendship and exhibit unconditional love (not just in romance but with friends, with family) through mistakes, forgiveness, and reconciliation.

At times, Bear No Malice made me laugh with its tiny bits of humor (the fish fork!) then wrenched my heart out, all in one chapter. Mostly it wrenched my heart out and put it back together one tiny piece at a time. The telling of the story is a TREAT with its brilliant pacing (just slow enough to leave you wanting more of Tom’s, and especially Miranda’s, backstories) and sloooow building romance. But oh, how it pays off and is exquisite! Sometimes, though, I would forget I was reading historical fiction because the characters are so relatable and the emotions raw.

Tom and Miranda are good for each other because he’s magnetic and opinionated and she’s quiet and steady, yet just as stubborn and steadfast. Their personalities complement and spur each other to grow beyond themselves. Part of the brilliance of Tom and Miranda is that I saw myself in their humanity. I am like Miranda in several ways, not that I have experienced anything like her journey, but that her character was so real on the page I could identify with her longings. Her sometimes-reserved, sometimes opinionated ways. And even Tom and his ultimate need for reconciliation, his desire to serve others. They exemplify flawed and grace-covered people.

Another wonderful thread of this novel is its message of grace. It is subtle yet still a beacon for the perceptive reader. The message of the Gospel is portrayed as inherent to the characters, a refreshing and beautiful inclusion for the general fiction market. Tom and Miranda experience things and make choices rarely found in the inspirational genre. This freedom and space to candidly explore such situations makes the story all the more powerful because this novel has such a message of grace and forgiveness, of peace and homecoming, at its heart. **now is a good time for me to mention the content of this novel. It’s clean, with very few mild expletives (I could count them on one hand)**

Beyond the character journey, this novel also draws attention to social issues of the era, such as poverty, penitentiary conditions (kinda like halfway houses of the time), and the evolving roles of women. All of this functions to shine a light on our modern ideas, standards, and complacency, in a positive manner. I believe its intent is for the reader to look around and take note of his or her own community and opportunities. 🙂 For me, it was encouraging.

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

Check out my review of Clarissa Harwood’s previous book Impossible Saints

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Series Review: “Blue Ridge Romance” by Denise Hunter

It’s always fun to binge-read a series, especially when it’s by an author I always enjoy. The “Blue Ridge Romance” series by Denise Hunter is one I worked through in the past couple weeks. It was a fictional getaway, of sorts, with its peach and honeysuckle moments in the middle of my winter season. I’m reviewing the series today! Each book can stand on its own, though it reads well as a series.

About the Books

Blue Ridge Sunrise

Former free spirit Zoe Collins swore she’d never again set foot in Copper Creek or speak to the man who broke her heart. But return she must when her beloved Granny dies, leaving the family legacy to Zoe—a peach orchard nestled at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

When Zoe returns home with her daughter and boyfriend Kyle, she finds that she’s the only person in town who doesn’t expect her to give up the life she’s established far away from Copper Creek. Everyone believes she was born to run the orchard, but how can she make it her home after so many years?

Cruz Huntley never quite got over his first love, Zoe Collins, the little sister of his best friend Brady. Not when she cheated on him during their “break,” not when she took off to parts unknown with good-for-nothing Kyle Jenkins, and not even now—five years later.

As life-changing decisions and a history with Cruz hang over Zoe’s head, tensions rise between her and Kyle. Even as she comes to terms with the shifting relationships in her life, Zoe still isn’t sure if she can remain in Copper Creek with her new responsibilities . . . and her first love.

Honeysuckle Dreams

After Brady Collins’ ex-wife dies, he receives devastating news—his nine-month-old son Sam isn’t his son at all. And Sam’s wealthy maternal grandparents want custody of the child. Brady knows he’s in for the fight of his life. But regardless of what any blood test says, Sam is his son, and Brady will go to any lengths to keep him.

Brady’s attorney tips him off that one major life change would virtually assure him of winning guardianship of baby Sam at the final hearing: an impending marriage. And his friend Hope is willing to step in as the loving and devoted fiance.

Local radio celebrity Hope Daniels has been driven by a solitary goal her entire life, and after a happy accident she’s finally offered her dream job. But if the truth comes out about her arrangement with Brady, she may miss the chance of a lifetime and stand in the way of a dear friend’s dreams.

As Brady and Hope make sacrifices to help each other in their times of need, they risk uncovering a truth neither of them expects to find.

On Magnolia Lane

Falling in love with Daisy was easy for Jack. But finding the courage to tell her becomes problematic when his secret feelings lead to even bigger complications.

After two years of counseling sessions with Daisy Pendleton, Pastor Jack McReady has earned a permanent spot in her life as a spiritual leader—and nothing more. Jack would never risk losing her trust by exposing the depths of his heart, but he’s hopelessly in love with her.

Daisy loves her southern small-town life and her job at her family-run flower shop, but she doesn’t have the thing she longs for most: someone to share it with. Her recent foray into online dating has been a disaster—until she meets TJ.

Jack could kill his friend Noah for using his initials and some indistinct photos to set up a profile on the dating app Daisy is using. But when he’s finally afforded the opportunity to show her a different side of himself, he’s sucked into the plan before he has time for second thoughts.

Online, Daisy shares some of her greatest fears with TJ, but in person, Jack and Daisy are spending more time together. When a devastating family secret surfaces, Daisy knows that only her trusted friend and counselor can bring her comfort. Jack wants nothing more than to be both men for Daisy, but revealing his secret will prove to be the ultimate test of Daisy’s grace.

My Reviews

The “Blue Ridge Romance” series is thoroughly entertaining. Through various tropes (reunion, marriage of convenience, and a You’ve Got Mail-esque setup), overarching themes of HOPE and grace tie together this group of characters and friends in a delightful southern setting. All 6 of the main characters play prominent roles in each story, so their dynamic is expected from the beginning.

What I enjoyed most about Blue Ridge Sunrise was its second-chance romance that had a foundation from the start of the story.

I really liked Cruz and found his character arc to be important and heartfelt, I liked the dynamic he had with Zoe, and all the emotions (and chemistry) that went with their reconnecting. In my opinion, Zoe wasn’t always likable, or at least she didn’t stir as much empathy as I hoped she would as the story progressed. I understand her viewpoint and the mistakes she made that cause her current circumstances, but I felt like some of her decisions, even toward the end of the story, were lacking the amount of wisdom her arc required (and therefore felt a little contrived). 

A section of chapters are devoted to a flashback that comes at a key moment in establishing the characters’ depth. This was a device that added layers to the story and explained the history in a way that memories or shorter explanations would not have described. It worked well!

Honeysuckle Dreams is a delightful romance that explores the ties of family, the necessity of hope, and the risk (and faith) it takes to love deeply. A marriage of convenience trope is one of my favorites — and hard to pull of in a contemporary setting. But Brady and Hope exceed any expectations I had, committing for selfless reasons and growing from friendship into a relationship that’s swoony and tenderly romantic.

A few threads of the story could have been predictable, but they worked out early or in a different way than I expected, which was a pleasant surprise. The themes of this novel encompassed love, faith, and even delved into the personal insecurities and anxiety of Brady and Hope that stemmed from their past. This made the story even more meaningful and impactful for its resonant message of truth and bravery, of speaking up and honestly sharing your heart. It’s my personal fav of the series!

On Magnolia Lane was probably the sweetest romance of the series because it involved unrequited love and a growth from friendship. When I heard this story would be a spin on a “You’ve Got Mail” situation, I was intrigued! Pastor Jack’s relationship with Daisy on a dating website is the setup for a deeper relationship and the story’s complications.

In this case, Jack is aware he’s deceiving Daisy. I normally wouldn’t buy in to this setup so readily, but the lovelorn Jack and his consideration in being as honest as possible, even while not revealing his identity yet, just works. When the truth comes to light, it is a very important moment of growth and lesson for both Jack and Daisy, bringing to light how the best intentions can still result in hurt if they are not grounded on complete truth. Another large part of this book involved some life-altering family secrets Daisy contends with. This discovery matched with Daisy and Jack’s evolving relationship to challenge Daisy to see beyond herself in new ways, requiring her grace and strength.

Thank you to BookLook Bloggers and the publisher for the review copy of book 3. This is my honest review.

Review: “My Heart Belongs in the Blue Ridge: Laurel’s Dream” by Pepper Basham

The stories that are most impactful, to me, tend to have a setting that is as much a character and a dynamic part of the story. Author Pepper Basham is skilled in writing romances in many time periods, but most impressive is her ability to weave a culture through characterization and a vivid setting. As she claims, her Blue Ridge heritage of family and storytelling have clearly influenced her latest novel and its exposure of a culture at a time when the modern age was just having an impact on mountainous communities. All of this combines with a delicate love story to make My Heart Belongs in the Blue Ridge: Laurel’s Dream one of my favorites of the year!

About the Book

Journey into the Blue Ridge Mountains of 1918 where Laurel McAdams endures the challenges of a hard life while dreaming things can eventually improve. But trouble arrives in the form of an outsider. Having failed his British father again, Jonathan Taylor joins his uncle’s missionary endeavors as a teacher in a two-room schoolhouse. Laurel feels compelled to protect the tenderhearted teacher from the harsh realities of Appalachian life, even while his stories of life outside the mountains pull at Laurel’s imagination. Faced with angry parents over teaching methods, Laurel’s father’s drunken rages, and bad news from England, will Jonathan leave and never return, or will he stay and let love bloom?

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

Though mountain life might seem simple on the surface, it is anything but that for Laurel, her family, and her neighbors. While she dreams of an education and better opportunity for her own generation and beloved siblings, she grapples with a people and a culture dear to her yet challenging and wary of anything new.

Jonathan is the embodiment of such a challenge to her life. Through an unlikely friendship, he and Laurel learn just how similar their ambitions for betterment and common goals can help the community that ‘s increasingly dear to Jonathan. Through it all, a sweet romance becomes possible for them, if only her dreams and both of their family’s issues don’t stand in the way.

Pepper is known for writing a-ma-zing romances and relationships, and Laurel and Jonathan set the bar even higher. Theirs has the most tender and innocent friendship beginning ❤ of all of Pepper’s stories. (And I’ve read them all!!!) I think it’s the Britallachian combination of cultures paired with Pepper’s prose-like development of an enchanting setting that makes this story stand out.

Tender and sweet, Laurel’s Dream is an enlightening tale of family, hope, and ties of friendship that transcend culture. This story of camaraderie and romance is as breathtaking as an Appalachian autumn – and equally as colorful with its immersive setting and mountain folk. The sense of faith and understanding that God knows – and orchestrates – our dreams in ways we cannot imagine is a comfort as the last pages of this story are tied up with hope.

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

Review: “Wait For Me” by Susan May Warren – Montana Rescue #6

The “Montana Rescue” series:

  • Approximately 16 main characters
  • 6 novels and 1 novella
  • A story that spans 5 years
  • 3 continents
  • Crazy yet realistic events like a car wreck, avalanche, hurricane, tornadoes, wildfires, deserted tropical islands, and generally crazy people

ONE EPIC ADVENTURE

About the Book

Pete Brooks can’t believe he’s waited an entire year for Jess Tagg to return to Montana, only to have her break his heart by getting engaged to her ex-fiancé. Worse, a series of mistakes on the job have cost lives, and Pete isn’t sure he wants to continue to work in Search and Rescue. Maybe if he can just get over Jess, he can figure out how to move forward. 

EMT Jess Tagg has returned to Montana to finally give her heart to Pete, but it seems he’s no longer interested. When a terrible fight between them sparks an impulsive decision, she finds herself crashed on the side of a highway along with Esme Shaw. And just when she thinks things couldn’t get any worse, she and Esme are taken captive and into the untamed Montana wilderness—with murderous intent. 

Now Pete and the other PEAK Rescue Team members are in a race against time, the elements, and the actions of a vengeful man. Pete will have to use everything he’s learned to find Jess and Esme—and pray that his past mistakes don’t cost him the life of the woman he can’t stop loving.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

Wait for Me is the ultimate conclusion to one of the best romantic adventure series I’ve ever read! With the highest stakes and the much-anticipated climax of the series (both with the action/suspense plot and the romance), I read this as fast as possible because I had no clue what would happen next! The surprises were great. The romance perfectly developed and SWOONY. This story made my best-of-2018 list for good reason!

I was hooked from the very beginning. While Ty just might be my favorite hero of the series, Pete is who I was most invested in and I really wanted to see him get his happily ever after — especially after all the ups and downs he has experienced. Pete is such a tough guy but he wears his heart on his sleeve. Susan does her magic with words when it comes to his character development — he’s had the most growth and really exhibits the impact grace can have on a heart. (And wow, I had some tears when it came to a certain scene near the end and a memory of his dad.)

Now, let’s talk about Jess Tagg for a minute. She was both intriguing and frustrating through this whole series. In this novel, we finally get her real history and story. And it’s relatable. Raw. Her actions and choices, though frustrating at times, made sense. I could even, maybe, understand why she was conflicted over Pete. I really appreciated how she had to find herself and grow a little more, all in the middle of some really tense suspense situations.

Wait for Me is one of those stories I didn’t want to end, because that meant saying goodbye to a beloved cast of characters. But I was smiling when I finished the last page because the series is concluded in a perfect way, with the future of the characters full of hope.

Side note: Wait for Me shares a location (a surprising one, which I loved the whole aspect of!) with one in another favorite romantic suspense novel, The Breath of Dawn by Kristen Heitzmann. I won’t spoil anything about either, but I have to say Pete Brooks gives Morgan Spencer a run for his money in a certain setting. If you’ve read both novels, I want to know your thoughts!!

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

Series Review: The “Carrington Family” by Sarah Monzon

 

It’s been quiet lately on the blog, but that’s mostly because I’ve been binge-reading this  split time series (and a few other things — but more on that later this month!)! The “Carrington Family” series by Sarah Monzon, Finders Keepers, All of You, and Freedom’s Kiss, is a wonderful series. I’m so glad I waited until the last book released (last month!) so I could enjoy these back-to-back! Each book features a different brother of the family with a main drama/romance story set in present day and a historical story thread that ties in to present day in a surprising way.

About the Books

Finders Keepers | Goodreads

Finders KeepersThree lives. Three hundred years. One ship that ties them together.

Spain, 1689

The same evil that stole her mother’s life stalks Isabella Castellano. Afraid for her safety, Isabella disguises herself as a cabin boy and hires on to one of His Majesty’s treasure fleet vessels. But has her flight from a known threat only led her to be ensnared in a sea of dangers?

Florida, Present Day

Summer Arnet will go anywhere to capture the perfect shot that will get her marine photography noticed by the prestigious nature magazine, Our World—even diving in waters haunted by great white sharks. When a treasure hunter with a ladies’-man reputation approaches her about a sunken ship at one of her dive locations, it may be the chance she’s been looking for to launch her career…if his charming smile doesn’t derail her first.

A past tragedy has left a hole in Trent Carrington’s life—a hole he’s tried to fill with women, money, and adventure. Could the feisty marine photographer be the missing piece, or will Trent finally accept that the treasure he seeks can’t be found where rust and moths destroy?

All of You  | Goodreads

All of YouMaryland, Present Day

Jacqueline Rogers can rebuild anything…except the shambles of her past. A restorer of vintage planes, she’s worked hard to earn the reputation of being one of the guys. The last thing she needs is a former Navy pilot fighting his own inner demons stepping in to defend her from dangers she thought she’d outrun long ago. Some battles must be fought alone.

After a freak accident severs Lieutenant Michael “Finch” Carrington’s dreams, as well as two limbs, he’s left with nothing but a fragile faith and a duty-bound promise to watch out for his friend’s baby sister. A promise she insists is as unnecessary as it is unappreciated. But when she turns the tables and begins to weld together the broken parts of his life, it may be his heart that is in need of protection.

England, 1944

With the world at war yet again, Alice Galloway rejects her father’s traditional expectations and offers her piloting expertise to the Air Transport Auxiliary. She may be a woman in a man’s world, but when she overhears key intelligence, she must find the strength to transcend boundaries and her own fears. Or countless people may die.

Sometimes the past reaches forward to bring hope to the future.

Freedom’s Kiss | Goodreads

Freedom's KissThey were both prisoners of their past. Could legacy be the key to setting them free?

Olivia Arroyo knows who she is and where she’s going—her sense of family responsibility a stepping stone to her dream of becoming a chef. When her employer refuses her the chance to move from server to the kitchen, she makes another opportunity for herself with the owner of a new food truck. But her life derails when a hidden piece of her past suddenly comes to light, and she discovers everything she thought she knew about herself has been a lie.

A single decision can have innumerable consequences—a truth that has changed Adam Carrington’s life. A criminal defense attorney turned food truck owner, he is haunted by his role in an unpardonable act and driven by his need to make restitution. Unexpected help comes in the form of a feisty, raven-haired beauty, but she soon begins challenging his kitchen as well as his heart.

Florida, 1816

Propelled by a fleeting hope of freedom, Winnie and her family escape slavery and find refuge and new life with the Seminole Indians of Florida. But their future is still uncertain as threats of war, a return to slavery, and removal to the west shake their tentative grasp on freedom. Will they ever step out of the shadow of fear to leave a legacy of deliverance?

My Thoughts

The whole series is well-told and expertly set up, with the stories of the Carrington brothers offset by historical stories featuring three strong women in completely different eras. Yet with each story, the historical thread is tied to present day and its themes and struggles echo the current situations.

Finders Keepers is all about adventure, treasure, and discovering a relationship with God. I liked how it broaches faith and a relationship with the Heavenly Father as simple yet the most important life decision. Trent’s journey is all about realizing his searching to fill an emptiness is in vain, when the true source of peace to be found can only be satisfied by God. Summer helps him see his need while she deals with longing for an earthly father, too. It is beautiful how Summer risks her heart, having faith that Trent can be more. Isabella’s historical story is intriguing and such a wonderful compliment. While reading, I wondered how the two would be intertwined by story’s end.

FB_IMG_1536589396706.jpgWith All of You, Sarah Monzon captures the realistic struggles of life. Oh my heart! It encompasses trust, independence, and sacrifice in so many ways. In Michael’s healing and heroism. In Jack’s independence and worth. In Alice’s fortitude and role in something bigger than herself. The slow-build romance was amazing. My favorite part about this story had to do with the selflessness of Michael — his choices were admirable, but God was calling him to a purpose and a blessing he didn’t think he deserved. Grace.

A wonderful conclusion to the series, Freedom’s Kiss is a story of restoration and freedom with a healthy serving of family and romance. With humor and grace, Adam and Olivia navigate their newfound relationship and reconcile growth while the historical character, Winnie, a runaway slave, finds freedom and belonging in a most unexpected way. First of all, I WANT A FOOD TRUCK. Second, I really loved the history facts I learned while reading about a lesser-known (to me, anyway) part of American history with the settlement and trials of the Black Seminole people of Florida. And, I really love the sense of humor Adam brings to the story with his Disney-thoughts and affectionate ways.

My favorite thing about this series is the family relationship dynamic. Each of these Carrington brothers brings a unique personality to the story, but I really loved the moments they were all together and so obviously supportive and fun. I just have to say, All of You was my favorite of the series because of the themes of sacrifice and the friendship-to-romance storyline. I’m hoping this is not the end of the family, and Sarah will let us in on Amber’s (the baby sister) story in the future!

Thank you to the author for the review copy of Freedom’s Kiss. This is my honest review.

 

Book Review: “Dead Drift” by Dani Pettrey

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Today I’m getting to share my review of Dead Drift by Dani Pettrey — the whirlwind conclusion to the “Chesapeake Valor” series! This is the last book in a series following a special group of friends who happen to work in law enforcement at different investigative capacities. Though this book could be read alone, I highly recommend reading the series in order to get the most out of the character arcs and story events.

Book 1: Cold Shot | Book 2: Still Life | Book 3: Blind Spot

About the Book

Dead DriftPrivate Investigator Kate Maxwell never stopped loving Luke Gallagher after he disappeared. Now he’s back, and together they must unravel a twisting thread of secrets, lies, and betrayal while on the brink of a biological disaster that will shake America to its core. Will they and their love survive, or will Luke and Kate become the terrorist’s next target?

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

Dead Drift is romantic suspense at its best. All I have to say: FINALLY! I was highly anticipating this story, largely due to the investment I had in these characters and mystery after three previous books. This final installment was everything I wanted it to be: pulse-pounding ACTION, puzzles to solve, situations to escape, friendships that bring all the emotion and a romantic relationship built on history and attraction.

Readers of the whole series will be happy with the occasional perspectives of earlier lead characters and TWO serious plot lines — one involving a terrorist threat and Luke and another seeking to resolve a murder mystery important to Griffin. My favorite parts of this series, other than seeing the dynamic of this team, were the long-awaiting wrap up of ongoing plot threads and the romance between Luke and Katie. For Luke to not have been “on the scene” much in previous books, I still instantly liked him because of the way the rest of the team considered him. He had a LOT to go through in this story, seeking forgiveness being a big part of it, but his integrity and determination proved admirable — and the story was all the better for it.

Thank you to Bethany House for the review copy. This is my honest and unsolicited review.

Book Gush: “Murder at the Flamingo” by Rachel McMillan (+ Giveaway!)

Book Gush: “Murder at the Flamingo” by Rachel McMillan (+ Giveaway!)

This blog post title is in honor of a beloved author whose own book gushes have added new favorites to my own shelf. Today, I’m absolutely GUSHING over Rachel McMillan’s historical mystery and romance release, Murder at the Flamingo, with a review, interview with Rachel, BOOK RECOMMENDATIONS FROM HER, and a GIVEAWAY!

Read on for more awesome bookish stuff!

About the Book

“Maybe it was time to land straight in the middle of the adventure…”

Murder at the Flamingo by Rachel McMillanHamish DeLuca has spent most of his life trying to hide the anxiety that appears at the most inopportune times — including during his first real court case as a new lawyer. Determined to rise above his father’s expectations, Hamish runs away to Boston where his cousin, Luca Valari, is opening a fashionable nightclub in Scollay Square. When he meets his cousin’s “right hand man” Reggie, Hamish wonders if his dreams for a more normal life might be at hand. 

Regina “Reggie” Van Buren, heir to a New Haven fortune, has fled fine china, small talk, and the man her parents expect her to marry. Determined to make a life as the self-sufficient city girl she’s seen in her favorite Jean Arthur and Katharine Hepburn pictures, Reggie runs away to Boston, where she finds an easy secretarial job with the suave Luca Valari. But as she and Hamish work together in Luca’s glittering world, they discover a darker side to the smashing Flamingo night club.

When a corpse is discovered at the Flamingo, Reggie and Hamish quickly learn there is a vast chasm between the haves and the have-nots in 1937 Boston—and that there’s an underworld that feeds on them both. As Hamish is forced to choose between his conscience and loyalty to his beloved cousin, the unlikely sleuthing duo work to expose a murder before the darkness destroys everything they’ve worked to build.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

With Rachel McMillan’s distinct historical voice and attention to detail, she paints a vivid historical mystery with a hint of romance against the backdrop of a brilliant 1930s Boston scene. In her distinct way, she makes the setting a secondary character of its own, vocal and important in its culture and story role. With a fabulous puzzle solved and room for more adventures to come, the city comes to life as the characters grapple with loyalty, independence, anxiety, and purpose.

IMG_20180708_200945.jpgHamish and Reggie are endearing, quirky, enigmatic, and just plain lovable. Even secondary characters like Luca (whom you will dislike/love/want to hug all at once!) and Nate (and his wonderful candidness!) are sure to be favorites and promise to be even more essential in stories to come. And I just want to hang out with Reggie and watch films of the time!

Fans of McMillan’s previous Herringford & Watts series will be ecstatic to learn of the “next” generation (Hamish is a DeLuca, after all) and see tiny nods to the previous series and a familiar name or two!

Let’s stop right here and talk about Hamish. He is SUCH a product of his parents! But, he is his own kind of special, quirky, and important. Through his unique viewpoint, Rachel McMillan illustrates the challenges of mental illness — namely anxiety and panic — in a normalizing and emphatic way. This makes him wonderfully relatable — even for a reader with no personal experience with such challenges (like myself). I applaud her for using characterization to subtly bring awareness and empathy to the forefront in a way that adds so much to the story.

IMG_20180708_200938.jpgI could talk all day about more wonderful elements of this story — lemon cannolis, bicycles, jazz, picture shows, DANCES, light bulbs, classic literature, and an implied message of grace. Instead, I hope you choose to discover for yourself all the intricacies and fun of this little mystery.

I cannot wait to see where these beloved characters will take me next!

MANY thanks to Thomas Nelson for the review copy.

Interview with the Author

Pick one: lemon sandwich or lemon cannoli?

AHHH this is so hard. I am going to say cannoli.

What’s next for this set of characters?

Murder in the City of LibertyMurder in the City of Liberty releases next May and it finds Hamish and Reggie two years after they open Van Buren and DeLuca investigations/legal consulting/Winchester Molloy listening, in 1940.  There are two major forces in this book: the first is a black baseball player and fastest base stealer in the Boston farm leagues who becomes the target of a series of horrible pranks that eventually lead to murder.  The second is a growing racism (specifically anti-Semitism) which aligns with the conflict in Europe (for which Hamish’s home country is already fighting).  Very much like The White Feather Murders, I wanted explore the lack of social justice and the rampant prejudice heightened during war time.  On a personal front, Reggie and Hamish are doing a very poor job of being “just friends.”  And Nate gets a little bit of romance of his own!

Murder at the Flamingo incorporates a character with panic and anxiety when mental illness was taboo for the era. And, you have started a related hashtag #FictionForEmpowerment. Tell us more about that!

Yes! It is something that I have lived with my entire life and I thought this was the perfect time to talk about it through a fictional lens: so all of the symptoms and challenges I ascribe to Hamish are things I have struggled with since childhood.  Mental illness is very much like any other illness —except it is invisible.  So while, not unlike someone with cancer or diabetes, I have to see a doctor regularly and use medicinal treatment to live a full life, it is not something that is completely easy for everyone to understand. In Hamish DeLuca’s time, there were still rather primitive ideas about it and studies that found patients being doled all manner of horrible mercury pills (that ravaged the system), being locked in sanitariums or exposed to shock treatment. Because of Hamish’s visible symptoms, these are things that are very real threat to him.  I wanted to show that a character who suffers from this illness still has adventures and tries to get the girl: even though he had a steeper hill to climb in terms of acceptance than we do nowadays, he still is just a human being.  At heart, this series works to normalize mental illness without hopefully ever being slated as “issue” fiction. (For Herringford and Watts readers of The White Feather Murders, you will recognize that Hamish comes by his right hand tremor genetically. Something his father had since the end of A Lesson in Love and Murder).

Who was your favorite character to write?

I loved writing all of them. Just like in Herringford and Watts: they all mean so much to me.  I gave Reggie all my quips and one-liners so I loved doing that! My breakaway character in this was Nate. I always wanted to feature someone who could map the intricacies of the North End neighbourhood for them but I loved writing him so much that he ended up getting a much larger role than in the first outline. To the extent that he is a huge part of the central mystery in book 2. But my favourite character to write was Hamish! I looove all of my characters but I don’t know if I will ever feel as close to any of them as I do Hamish. I suppose it is because I am using him (as mentioned above) to speak to something very personal and challenging to me.

Loyalty is a BIG subject in this book, much of it revolving around Hamish’s cousin, Luca. What is the message you want readers to take away from their dynamic?

I think that when you read the book you see most people’s loyalty to Luca differs from Hamish’s. While so many speak to loyalty to Luca it is with the expectation that he can do something for them in return. Their loyalty anticipates a symbiotic relationship.  The spiritual themes in the book are deftly hidden but I really used Hamish’s loyalty intentionally to show a measure of grace. A few times in the book when asked by Luca where he gets his unfailing loyalty (even as Luca uses him or lets him down), Hamish has no other answer than “Your Luca.” Hamish’s loyalty is a result of his blind love for his cousin with no expectation of return on that investment. In that sense, writing aspects of this book was really heartbreaking for me. Hamish is a good kid with a great heart who just wants to spend time with his cousin and realizes that he doesn’t truly know Luca at all.  So loyalty without expectation of anything in return is one of the ways in which I tried to explore the themes of grace in the novel.

Rachel’s book recommendation fun!

OK, any #FictionForEmpowerment recommendations?

I would say The Rosie Project by Graham Simsion would be one that immediately comes to mind.  I just finished a book called the The Lost for Words Bookshop by Stephanie Butland and while it is never overtly expressed, it is clear the heroine suffers from PTSD. Charles Todd’s Ian Rutledge mysteries feature a detective late of the war who definitely suffers from anxiety and panic.  Finally, and though this is not intentional,  I view The Blue Castle by LM Montgomery to be a study in anxiety and panic.  Valancy Stirling’s undiagnosed heart condition is very much a representation of typical symptoms of panic attacks: from the initial recognition and through the onslaught. Also, her waking up at 3 a.m. consistently is another symptom. Because LM Montgomery was a life long sufferer, I always find this a perfect unintentional example of anxiety and panic disorder.

Which “McMillan” book should a reader start with?

Love in Three Quarter TimeIf you really just want to get to know my heart and nature, Love in Three Quarter Time. Man! This is a hard question.  In the Herringford and Watts series my personal favourite is A Lesson in Love and Murder. I think it does the best job of giving a well-rounded view of the four central characters (plus Benny) and their relationships and interactions. But, I am hoping a lot of people start with Flamingo. You get better with each book, I had a wonderful editor with this, it is a story close to my heart and I am proud (as much as I can be proud knowing that there is always a million things I would have done better) of the final product.

A book for someone new to the Christian fiction genre?

Try Katherine Reay. Any of her books. They’re literary-infused and filled with romance and also exceptionally written. Any spiritual truths are expressed in a subtle way.  My friend Allison Pittman has a new one coming out next year called The Seamstress (Tyndale, 2019) and it is a fictional spinoff of A Tale of Two Cities set during the reign of Marie Antoinette and it pursues spiritual truths within a truly beautiful historical setting.

A book for people who love YOUR historical mystery/romance series?

Price of PrivilegeI loooove so many books. If you truly want to get to know me and what makes my heart tick and mind gallop, I highly recommend The Price of Privilege series by Jessica Dotta. I am not going to put myself on the Dotta level in terms of comparative storytelling because she is a master.  I also am strongly influenced by Anna Lee Huber (Lady Darby series), Deanna Raybourn, Rhys Bowen (Molly Murphy) and Elizabeth Peters (Amelia Peabody).  I would say reading them has infused my passion for writing mysteries with heavy romance.

A book out of your comfort zone that you really loved?

I try super hard to read as much as I can in as many genres as I can.  Still, science fiction seems to be the one genre that I have the hardest trouble sinking into. But I loooved The Martian by Andy Weir. It is so funny. It has such an arresting narrator. I think it goes to prove that I can love anything if the voice is great.

A small time/indie published book?

JL Spohr’s The Realm Series (it begins with Heirs and Spares). Please read it.  Also, Masque by W.R. Gingell (if you have a beauty and the beast thing going, I will totally read your book).

And last but not least, a romance? (with a Rachel Catnip hero?)

High as the HeavensACK so hard! Just one! I can’t do just one. I really super duper fell in love with an Eva Ibbotson book I read for the first time this year called The Morning Gift.  I have a bit of a thing for Marriage of Convenience stories and this is one.  Quinn is totally a Rachel catnip hero.  Courtney, you know that I think Isaac Dalry in The Price of Privilege series is one of the all-time greatest heroes! Total catnip.  I have a huge thing some of Lynn Austin’s heroes. I think she writes the best kissing scenes of all time and I just love her books to death. So James McGrath in Fire by Night is an all time favourite. I like super intelligent heroes.   Who are just a little different. Or crafted by Katie Breslin. SIMON IN High as the HeavensI am looking at you!!!!!I am also looking at you, you adorable Pimpernel-Phantom of the Opera hybrid Jack Benningham in Not by Sight. Lately, a favourite was Jacobus in The Reckoning at Gossamer Pond by Jaime Jo Wright.  Also, if your hero is a scrappy reporter, I am definitely there for that. I read Anna Blankman’s duology Prisoner of Night and Fog and Conspiracy of Blood and Smoke recently and the hero, Daniel, is a Jewish reporter in Nazi-laden Germany pre-WWII. His ambition to bring truth and light to a world that is against him is marvelous.

Oh Rachel! Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions and give us all new books to add to the TBR!!!! I know I need to read a few more of these. YES to all things Price of Privilege!!!

About the Author

Rachel McMillanRachel McMillan is a keen history enthusiast and a lifelong bibliophile. When not writing or reading, she can most often be found drinking tea and watching British miniseries. Rachel lives in bustling Toronto, where she works in educational publishing and pursues her passion for art, literature, music, and theater.

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Giveaway

Love in Three Quarter TimeRachel has graciously offered a giveaway copy of a kindle ebook of Love in Three Quarter Time. Follow the instructions on the Rafflecopter form to enter! Giveaway ends 7/21/18 12:00am. Open internationally. Entrants will have 1 week to respond to email contact to claim prize. Void where prohibited.

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