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.

Goodreads | Amazon

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.

Review: “Hope Between the Pages” by Pepper Basham

Today’s feature is HOPE BETWEEN THE PAGES by Pepper Basham, a new novel in a historical split-time series by multiple authors set at American landmarks. The setting of Biltmore and Asheville lets author Pepper Basham’s love of the Blue Ridge and Biltmore to shine through (any of her social media followers KNOW she’s a frequent visitor in all seasons!).

lilacs and book cover
About the Book

Uncover the Story Behind a One-Hundred-Year-Old Love Letter

Walk through Doors to the Past via a new series of historical stories of romance and adventure.

Clara Blackwell helps her mother manage a struggling one-hundred-year old family bookshop in Asheville, North Carolina, but the discovery of a forgotten letter opens a mystery of a long-lost romance and undiscovered inheritance which could save its future. Forced to step outside of her predictable world, Clara embarks on an adventure with only the name Oliver as a hint of the man’s identity in her great-great-grandmother’s letter. From the nearby grand estate of the Vanderbilts, to a hamlet in Derbyshire, England, Clara seeks to uncover truth about family and love that may lead to her own unexpected romance.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

Stories held power and everyone told one, whether the characters within the story knew it or not.

Hope Between the Pages, chapter one

Hope Between the Pages is a beautiful story of love, longing, identity, and story– both fictional stories and the story of a legacy one life can leave. A split time format means this novel has TWO romances with two intelligent and wonderfully complementary couples. Basham’s portrayal of how fiction informs and influences real life is an integral part of this story of hope.

book quote

The characters and their journeys are at the center of the brilliance of this novel. As Clara searches for the history and truth of her grandmother Sadie’s life, she learns of a heroic man named Oliver and, eventually, finds a sweet hero of her own in the shy-but-absolutely-charming Max. Threaded through it all are themes of bravery and courage and the truths found in story. Treasured letters found by Clara, and shared through the historic POV of Sadie, add to the whimsy of the story, and the deepening romance between Sadie and Oliver — two unlikely friends who recognize kindred spirits and identity reach beyond social or familial definitions.

Now to talk about the heroes of the story <3. Oliver is SO KIND and good! I love how he really sees Sadie’s beauty and recognizes her sweet spirit. Their romance is fairytale-esque at times and bittersweetly realistic at others. MAX is the perfect friend to Clara, understanding her heart quickly and encouraging her in tiny ways. He’s a contemporary hero with an old soul, complete with bow ties, suspenders, gardening AND kitchen skills, and the best banter with Clara!

Hope Between the Pages had me crying and laughing in the span of pages. It was emotionally resonating for me, as I relate to Clara in several ways (especially in her close relationship with her parents!). Lovers of books, family history, or Appalachian and charming English settings will enjoy this latest whimsical and deeply emotional story from author Pepper Basham.

P.S. I hope Clara’s cousin, Robbie, gets his own happily-ever-after someday!

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

More quotes I love:

“…it’s okay for your dreams to be different than what you thought they were going to be.” He winked. “That’s called growing up.” -Robbie

Don’t you realize, we’re two halves of the same whole. We understand one another at the heart level. No amount of money or prestige can deny such kinship as this.

…she’d come to England to save her bookshop, not engage in awkward dialogue with a clearly reticent Englishman.

No fairy tale in all the world painted love as beautifully as this. No novel touched my heart with such an odd combination of visceral weightiness and sheer joy. Only in the pages of Scripture had I found anything so beautiful, showcasing what it meant to be so loved for exactly who I was.

Review: “The Haunting at Bonaventure Circus” by Jaime Jo Wright

my copy of The Haunting at Bonaventure Circus

I’m reviewing a fantastic split time mystery today! Author Jaime Jo Wright continues to surprise me with her skillful storytelling and borderline-scary stories! Don’t let the title scare you. (haha) The Haunting at Bonaventure Circus is plenty creepy yet still a hope-filled Christian fiction novel!

About the Book

1928

The Bonaventure Circus is a refuge for many, but Pippa Ripley was rejected from its inner circle as a baby. When she receives mysterious messages from someone called the “Watchman,” she is determined to find him and the connection to her birth. As Pippa’s search leads her to a man seeking justice for his murdered sister and evidence that a serial killer has been haunting the circus train, she must decide if uncovering her roots is worth putting herself directly in the path of the killer.

Present Day

The old circus train depot will either be torn down or preserved for historical importance, and its future rests on real estate project manager Chandler Faulk’s shoulders. As she dives deep into the depot’s history, she’s also balancing a newly diagnosed autoimmune disease and the pressures of single motherhood. When she discovers clues to the unsolved murders of the past, Chandler is pulled into a story far darker and more haunting than even an abandoned train depot could portend.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

The Haunting at Bonaventure Circus by Jaime Jo Wright is a fascinating and truly gripping mystery with deep themes of grace and light shining through darkness. With equally riveting time periods and compelling characters, this story draws the reader into the world of the circus, its people, and a unique look at how history has far-reaching threads into the present.

I really appreciate how both timelines and the heroines mirror each other in many ways. Pippa is learning to champion her independence while Chandler is fiercely fighting to maintain hers. Both heroes play crucial yet subtle roles, too, complimentary to each heroine. Both heroes are strong and protective, yet actively letting the heroines prove their capability. The colorful and unexpected cast of characters imparts both wisdom and insight into the web of mystery.

Wright’s style, a balance of creepy and lyrical, highlights the contrasts of human nature and grace, the evil lurking in the shadows and bright light of hope. I appreciate the way the realities of redemption, flaws of humanity, and the gift of being seen by those we care about the most was interwoven in a thrilling way.

I had my mind made up about 60% through of just WHO the culprit(s) were in the shadows. I was completely wrong! I love how Wright surprises me with every. single. one of her mysteries. Bravo!

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

Review: “Set the Stars Alight” by Amanda Dykes

set the stars alight & nautical illustration

It’s been a few weeks since I read Set the Stars Alight by Amanda Dykes. It has taken me this long to form a coherent review — all because it’s now one of my all-time favorite stories! If you enjoy stories of light, hope, redemption, and home, I highly recommend *running* to your nearest library or bookseller and obtaining a copy.

About the Book

Lucy Clairmont’s family treasured the magic of the past, and her childhood fascination with stories of the high seas led her to become a marine archaeologist. But when tragedy strikes, it’s Dashel, an American forensic astronomer, and his knowledge of the stars that may help her unearth the truth behind the puzzle she’s discovered in her family home.

Two hundred years earlier, the seeds of love are sown between a boy and a girl who spend their days playing in a secret sea cave, while the privileged young son of the estate looks on, wishing to join. As the children grow and war leads to unthinkable heartbreak, a story of love, betrayal, sacrifice, and redemption unfolds, held secret by the passage of time.

As Lucy and Dash journey to a mysterious old estate on the East Sussex coast, their search leads them to a community of souls and a long-hidden tale that may hold the answers–and the healing–they so desperately seek.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

I’m absolutely speechless at the beauty of this story. Set the Stars Alight is one of those rare books that speaks of timeless truth and light through the familiar refrain of story. It is one that will cause the reader to see the world differently. To see the intertwining Hope that binds humanity from creation to the cross with its message echoed in every longing for home and every story of redemption.

Through two equally compelling (and brilliantly intertwining!) stories, Amanda Dykes draws the reader in with her lyrical style. Lucy and Dash, in the present day, embody friendship, connection, and home. Their grief and longings feel relatable and realistic as they struggle with reconnecting, the consequences of missed communication, and the strength of their shared history. One that incorporates the tiniest hint of a fairytale played out in “real life” through shared story, light, stars, and seas

The historical thread of Frederick Hanford’s story and life twists its way through the pages with overarching themes of friendship, brotherhood, and sacrifice. To speak of the depth and meaning of his role in an act of selfless love would be too revealing. I’ll only say that his character is surprising and the most emotionally moving part of the story.

Through Lucy and Dash’s renewed connection and newfound countryside friendships, the legacy of Frederick comes to light; as does the inheritance of story and wonder Lucy’s own father has left in her heart.

With bright secondary characters and myriad layers of meaning connecting every element of every chapter, Set the Stars Alight has earned its place on my all time favorites list. I can recommend it to any reader as a tale both heart-wrenching and healing, incorporating adventure, intelligence, romance, and dreams with an overarching message of redemption.

Thank you to the publisher for the digital copy. I purchased my own print copy. This is my honest review.

Audiobook review: “Whose Waves These Are” by Amanda Dykes

Hi readers! I’m dropping in to share a little review of an epic story… one of those that needs to be on your radar if you haven’t already read it: Whose Waves These Are by Amanda Dykes.

In the wake of WWII, a grieving fisherman submits a poem to a local newspaper asking readers to send rocks in honor of loved ones to create something life-giving but the building halts when tragedy strikes. Decades later, Annie returns to the coastal Maine town where stone ruins spark her curiosity and her search for answers faces a battle against time.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

I am in awe of this story and its winding way of layering truth and light in both the commonplace and extraordinary. Through points of view from the past and contemporary timelines, the lives of Annie, Jeremiah, Robert Bliss, and so many others are expertly intertwined in a story of sacrifice and provision, with enchanting threads of sea and light. A story that explores the both the strength and weakness of the human spirit, all tied up with the provision of God and His ultimate will. This is a resonating debut novel with its deeply poignant themes and memorable characters. I can’t wait to experience whatever story Amanda Dykes pens next!

I HIGHLY enjoyed the audiobook version of this novel, and will be looking at other stories with the same narrator. She was a joy!

Thanks to Netgalley for the ebook copy. I purchased the audio copy. This is my honest review.

First Line Fridays # 33: “Set the Stars Alight” by Amanda Dykes

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

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Today I’m sharing the first line of a highly anticipated novel: Set the Stars Alight by Amanda Dykes. This story has been much-hyped in my social media circles (ahem, mostly by Rachel McMillan). Knowing it’s an AMANDA DYKES novel is reason enough for me to read it, but that gorgeous cover and premise help, too! I’m excited to read this soon — it releases to the world on June 30!

FIRST LINE:

Prologue

London, England May 1987

The smell of cinders permanently etched the abandoned Bessette Match Factory into the minds of all who passed.

Your turn! What’s your first line?

Audiobook Review: “Echoes Among the Stones” by Jaime Jo Wright

I’m happy to be sharing my thoughts on an enthralling mystery I listened to on audiobook! Echoes Among the Stones by Jaime Jo Wright is a split time, standalone novel with suspense and just a hint of romance.

The best time for me to listen to audiobooks is when I drive back and forth to work. Let me just say it was a CHALLENGE to get out of my car at the end of the day and “pause” the story!

About the Book

After Aggie Dunkirk’s career is unceremoniously ended by her own mistakes, she finds herself traveling to Wisconsin, where her grandmother, Mumsie, lives alone in her vintage, though very outdated, home. Aggie didn’t plan for how eccentric Mumsie has become, obsessing over an old, unsolved crime scene–even going so far as to re-create it in a dollhouse.

Mystery seems to follow Aggie when she finds work as a secretary helping to restore the flooded historical part of the town’s cemetery. Forced to work with a puzzling yet attractive archaeologist, she exhumes the past’s secrets and unwittingly uncovers a crime that some will go to any length to keep hidden–even if that means silencing Aggie.

In 1946, Imogene Grayson works in a beauty salon but has her sights set on Hollywood. But coming home to discover her younger sister’s body in the attic changes everything. Unfamiliar with the burgeoning world of forensic science and, as a woman, not particularly welcomed into the investigation, Imogene is nonetheless determined to stay involved. As her sister’s case grows cold, Imogene vows to find justice . . . no matter the cost. 

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

I adored this split time mystery. Its deep themes of grief and family are balanced against a clever and suspenseful mystery that spans decades. I was equally caught up in the historical and contemporary timelines, puzzling how they would fit together. The atmospheric and almost-creepy things that happen are balanced by two strong heroines and their devotion to family.

I feel the need to devote a whole paragraph to Collin O’Shaughnessy. Collin, whose crisply ironed wardrobe, almost-British accent, charming sense of humor, and wavy ginger hair nearly seem out of place in a contemporary setting. But oh, how Aggie needs his friendship and perspective. I loved how he is a steady voice of reason but comes with a bit of a mystery of his own; and how all of this Providentially fits into Aggie’s world. The narration of his accent, as acted by narrator Pilar Witherspoon, was a FUN and bright part of an otherwise serious story.

I love that Jaime Jo Wright’s stories consistently surprise me! Echoes Among the Stones had me guessing the “whodunit” aspects AND questioning the loyalty of many characters throughout. All of it wraps up neatly, with some very accurate and grace-filled lessons of grieving paced throughout.

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

Audiobook review: “The Curse of Misty Wayfair” by Jaime Jo Wright

Left at an orphanage as a child, Thea Reed vowed to find her mother someday. Now grown, her search takes her to Pleasant Valley, Wisconsin, in 1908. When clues lead her to a mental asylum, Thea uses her experience as a post-mortem photographer to gain access and assist groundskeeper Simeon Coyle in photographing the patients and uncovering the secrets within. However, she never expected her personal quest would reawaken the legend of Misty Wayfair, a murdered woman who allegedly haunts the area and whose appearance portends death.

A century later, Heidi Lane receives a troubling letter from her mother–who is battling dementia–compelling her to travel to Pleasant Valley for answers to her own questions of identity. When she catches sight of a ghostly woman who haunts the asylum ruins in the woods, the long-standing story of Misty Wayfair returns–and with it, Heidi’s fear for her own life.

As two women across time seek answers about their identities and heritage, can they overcome the threat of the mysterious curse that has them inextricably intertwined?

Goodreads | Amazon

The Curse of Misty Wayfair is an absolutely ENTHRALLING suspense novel! Jaime has done it again with a split-time premise whose historic and contemporary storylines are equally as riveting and exquisitely intertwined. With creepy and gothic tones, a small town comes to life and hides a legend both Heidi and Thea must uncover to learn their purpose and history. With a considerate approach, Jaime also handles anxiety and both mental and physical disabilities in this story in a unique way, drawing attention to worth and strength all the while. All of the elements of this novel work together to present a strong story of identity, belonging, and purpose — but the true brilliance of this story is in the telling. I was surprised more than once, and relieved to learn the goings-on behind some things, too!

And I must mention the way the two heroes of the story interact with and compliment the heroines — it’s fantastic!

Bonus fun things: the rescued animals, bow hunting analogies (they were cool!), old time photography, and the Hulk.

I listened to the audio presentation of this novel! The narrator did a great job with inflection and delivery, even lending different accents and pronunciations to the different eras. (and I am picky about narration.) I would recommend it for fans of audiobooks!

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.