Review + Blog Tour: “The Barrister and the Letter of Marque” by Todd M. Johnson

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for Todd M. Johnson’s newly released historical legal thriller: The Barrister and the Letter of Marque!

ABOUT THE BOOK

As a barrister in 1818 London, William Snopes has witnessed firsthand the danger of only the wealthy having their voices heard, and he’s a strong advocate who defends the poorer classes against the powerful. That changes the day a struggling heiress, Lady Madeleine Jameson, arrives at his door.

In a last-ditch effort to save her faltering estate, Lady Jameson invested in a merchant brig, the Padget. The ship was granted a rare privilege by the king’s regent: a Letter of Marque authorizing the captain to seize the cargo of French traders operating illegally in the Indian Sea. Yet when the Padget returns to London, her crew is met by soldiers ready to take possession of their goods and arrest the captain for piracy. And the Letter—-the sole proof his actions were legal—has mysteriously vanished.

Moved by the lady’s distress, intrigued by the Letter, and goaded by an opposing solicitor, Snopes takes the case. But as he delves deeper into the mystery, he learns that the forces arrayed against Lady Jameson, and now himself, are even more perilous than he’d imagined.

AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLEBOOK DEPOSITORY | BOOKSHOP | GOODREADS

ADVANCE PRAISE

“Johnson debuts with a tense story of powerful interests teaming up to thwart a legal challenge in Georgian-era England…Johnson steeps his story in legal maneuvering, layers of intrigue, midnight chases, and even a hint of romance. While faith elements are subtle, this enthralling novel will appeal to fans of both legal thrillers and historical inspirationals.”— Publishers Weekly

“… a mystery worthy of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. This richly historical and lively paced story has all the makings of a modern classic.”— Jocelyn Green, Christy Award-winning author of Shadows of the White City

“At once atmospheric and gripping, Johnson’s latest is a luminous and refreshing new offering in inspirational historical fiction.”— Rachel McMillan, bestselling author of The London Restoration, and The Mozart Code

“A fascinating glimpse into a Regency London readers seldom see.”— Roseanna M. White, bestselling author of Edwardian fiction

REVIEW

The Barrister and the Letter of Marque is a thrilling Regency tale with Dickensian flair that matches characters in a battle of wits both in and out of a courtroom setting. Combining societal expectations with a compelling and smartly spun mystery, it paces itself with an immersive setting and many threads at the beginning only to rush into a gallop midpoint as the high stakes become clear and the suspense heightens.

This is the first novel I’ve read by Todd M. Johnson. It is clearly well-researched with its London setting, especially, shining as a character itself. The points of view are used cleverly as the hero, William Snopes, gets most of the page time, but his surrounding friends, Lady Jameson, and even more sinister side characters have points of view that complicate the story. This sometimes leaves the reader with a greater sense of suspense as he or she is privy to the mysterious goings on moreso than Barrister Snopes.

I really enjoyed the strong themes of justice that shine through in this novel, and the fortitude of the characters as they contend with unseen opponents to ferret out the truth. Personal convictions and an empathetic hero who stands for the truth add emotional notes to the story. I was particularly interested in his backstory as it was expounded and fully invested in his success. I hope to see more historical legal thrillers in this vein from Johnson — hopefully more with Barrister William Snopes!

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

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Todd M. Johnson is the author ofthree legal thrillers: The Deposit Slip (2012), Critical Reaction (2013), and Fatal Trust (2017), and The Barrister and the Letter of Marque (2021), his first foray into historical mystery. He has been a practicing attorney for over 30 years, specializing as a trial lawyer. A graduate of Princeton University and the University of Minnesota Law School, he also taught for two years as adjunct professor of International Law and served as a US diplomat in Hong Kong. He lives outside Minneapolis, Minnesota, with his wife and daughter.

WEBSITE | TWITTER | FACEBOOK | INSTAGRAM | BOOKBUB | GOODREADS

TOUR INFO

Join the virtual book tour of THE BARRISTER AND THE LETTER OF MARQUE, Todd M. Johnson’s highly acclaimed historical mystery, August 2-15, 2021. Over twenty-five popular on-line influencers specializing in historical mystery, suspense, and inspirational fiction will join in the celebration of its release with an interview, spotlights, exclusive excerpts, and reviews of this new Regency-era novel set in London, England.

Aug 02 The Readathon (Review) | From Pemberley to Milton (Excerpt) | Austenprose—A Jane Austen Blog (Review)

Aug 03 Life of Literature (Review) | Captivated Reading (Spotlight)

Aug 04 Laura’s Reviews (Review) | The Green Mockingbird (Review)

Aug 05 My Jane Austen Book Club (Spotlight) | Reading is My Superpower (Review)

Aug 06 Among the Reads (Excerpt) | The Blue Stocking (Review)

Aug 07 Gwendalyn’s Books (Review) | Reading with Emily (Review)

Aug 08 Storeybook Reviews (Spotlight) | Rosanne E. Lortz (Review)

Aug 09 Heidi Reads (Excerpt) | Bookworm Lisa (Review)

Aug 10 The Caffeinated Bibliophile (Spotlight) | Wishful Endings (Review) | My Bookish Bliss (Review)

Aug 11 By the Book (Interview) | A Bookish Way of Life (Review)

Aug 12 Books, Teacups, & Reviews (Review) | A Darn Good Read (Review)

Aug 13 Fire & Ice (Review)

Aug 14 The Lit Bitch (Spotlight) | The Book Diva Reads (Spotlight)

Aug 15 Vesper’s Place (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: “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: “The Paris Betrayal” by James R. Hannibal

“If Ben had special equipment and a Company team, maybe he could make a reasonable covert assault. But he had no equipment, and his team had abandoned him.”

The Paris Betrayal by James R. Hannibal

I’m happy to be reviewing a suspense/spy-thriller today! I’ve been a fan of James R. Hannibal the past couple years with his Talia Inger novels. His latest book, The Paris Betrayal, combines some of my favorite elements in one thrilling story: European settings, high stakes action, and the slightest thread of a Biblical parallel. Read on for more about the book + my thoughts…

About the Book
Cover of The Paris Betrayal showing the Eiffel tower with a boat in the foreground

After a rough mission in Rome involving the discovery of a devastating bioweapon, Company spy Ben Calix returns to Paris to find his perfectly ordered world has collapsed. A sniper attack. An ambush. A call for help that brings French SWAT forces down on his head. Ben is out. This is a severance–reserved for incompetents and traitors.

Searching for answers and anticipating a coming attack, Ben and a woman swept up in his misfortunes must travel across Europe to find the sniper who tried to kill him, the medic who saved his life, the schoolmaster who trained him, and an upstart hacker from his former team. More than that, Ben must come to grips with his own insignificance as the Company’s plan to stop Leviathan from unleashing the bioweapon at any cost moves forward without him–and he struggles against the infection that is swiftly claiming territory within his own body.

Award-winning author James R. Hannibal ratchets up the tension on every page of this suspenseful new thriller.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

What a fantastic spy thriller! The Paris Betrayal has a lone operator, Ben Calix, thrust into the cold as he crisscrosses continental Europe in a search to stay alive and prove his innocence and loyalty. From a heart-pounding chase in Rome to evading the French police forces in Paris and beyond, it’s a fast-paced story that reminds me of Jason Bourne — and maybe a little Jack Reacher — as Ben searches for the truth while a menacing organization seeks to thwart his every move.

Hannibal’s authorial voice lends a slight bit of snark and authenticity born of experience (not as a spy, but as a veteran) to this whirlwind of a story as Ben Calix proves a relatable protagonist. Memories of Ben’s training and anecdotes about his teammates and network add depth to the increasing suspense surrounding his failed mission and the debilitating plot he is gradually uncovering. (I feel like I’m prepared to make a quick escape and evade pursuers should the need arise from the tidbits of wisdom attributed to Ben’s mentor, Colonel Hale.) The occasional switch to a POV of one of the secondary characters adds further to the subterfuge and raises more questions for the reader. The story is spun in such a way that I was questioning the loyalties of various characters right alongside Ben, trying to determine who was manipulating the situation and who was innocently caught up in the melee with him.

The astute reader will recognize subtle parallels between this story and the life of the Biblical man Job as each face seemingly unjust situations. I think the inclusion of characters who mirror Job’s “friends” and similar internal questions of purpose and justice are a brilliant move on Hannibal’s part to draw comparisons to the ancient account in a modern scenario.

Fans of action-adventure, thrillers, and espionage-related suspense will want to check out The Paris Betrayal or Hannibal’s backlist for more fast-paced reading material.

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

Review + Blog Tour: “The Vanishing at Loxby Manor” by Abigail Wilson

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for Abigail Wilson’s upcoming release, The Vanishing at Loxby Manor! It’s an exciting Regency mystery with romance and suspense. Read on for more about the story, my review, and an opportunity to enter a giveaway!

The Vanishing at Loxby Manor by Abigail Wilson

Publication Date: January 26, 2021
Thomas Nelson
Paperback & eBook; 336 pages

Genre: Historical Fiction/Romance/Regency

A story of second chances and secrets, this mysterious Regency romance will transport you to 19th-century England as one young lady reunites with her childhood love to find his missing sister.

Her friend is missing.

After five years abroad, Charity Halliwell finally returns to Loxby Manor, the home of dear friends—and her lost love. No longer a young girl, she is now haunted by a painful secret and the demise of her dreams. Instead of the healing and happiness she hopes to find, she encounters a darkness lurking in the shadows of the once-familiar house. When her friend, Seline, disappears the very night of her arrival, Charity is determined to uncover the truth.

Her only hope is the man who broke her heart.

Branded a coward, Piers Cavanaugh has lived the last five years as an outcast far from his family home. When his sister presumably elopes with a stable hand, Piers joins forces with an unlikely partner—the one woman he thought he’d never see again. Together they launch an investigation that leads to strange nightly meetings in the ruins of an old abbey and disturbing whispers of a secret organization. The more they learn, the more desperate the situation becomes.

The house seems determined to keep its secrets.

As they struggle to piece together the clues, Charity and Piers also endeavor to rebuild their friendship. One cryptic letter changed everything between them. To find happiness they will have to overcome the grief and shame keeping them apart. But first they must discover why Seline vanished and confront the growing fear that she may never return.

Settle in, because once you start The Vanishing at Loxby Manor, you won’t be able to put it down.

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | IndieBound

Praise for The Vanishing at Loxby Manor

“Vanishing at Loxby Manor cleverly combines Regency romance with Gothic intrigue, and the result is a suspenseful, thoroughly entertaining read. Charming and lovely.”—Tasha Alexander, New York Times bestselling author of In the Shadow of Vesuvius

“Like each of Wilson’s novels, The Vanishing at Loxby Manor drew me in from the start and didn’t let go. From the heartfelt characters to the twists that kept me guessing, I relished each turn of the page. Wilson is a master at historical mystery, and I cannot wait for her next story.”—Lindsay Harrel, author of The Joy of Falling

“Abigail Wilson’s latest Gothic romance hits the notes readers have come to expect from her talented pen: romance, shadows and intrigue and a brilliantly executed atmosphere. She is a master at her craft and a rare stand-out in a popular genre.”—Rachel McMillan, author of The London Restoration

“Weaving a shadow of mystery among the gilded countryside of Regency England, Wilson’s tale of love lost, buried shame, and secret societies is a delicious blend of romance and intrigue. Splash in gorgeous historical Regency details, and murder brewing around every stone, and readers will be burning through the pages until the riveting end.”—J’nell Ciesielski, author of The Socialite

“A gothic romance that is filled with great characters and a mystery that unfolds chapter by chapter. A perfect blend of mystery, family relationships, lost years, and star-crossed love. Be warned, you won’t be able to walk away from these characters.”—Cara Putman, award-winning author of Flight Risk

Review

The Vanishing at Loxby Manor is another excellent Regency mystery from Abigail Wilson! With first person narration instantly pulling me into the story and adding to the suspense, I was delightfully surprised and guessing until the very end. Charity is a likable and complex heroine whose view of the world has been shaped by her past friendship with the Cavanaghs and her experiences abroad. As she navigates the mystery of her friend’s disappearance, a second chance at life — and romance! — unfolds.

The Regency era comes to life under Wilson’s command. I especially enjoyed the rural setting and requisite elements of the time: references to duels, a ball, strolls in the garden, drawing room banter, and midnight horseback rides. The compelling cast and exciting mystery propel the story into further layers of complexity as Charity must decide where to turn and who to trust next.

Along with the wonderfully executed second chance romance, themes of survival and hope anchor the story and main couple. I appreciate how this story acknowledges life as ever-changing with focus best fixed on the future instead of the shadows of the past. I recommend this book for anyone who likes their Regency or Austen with a hefty dose of mystery and suspense, or fans of inspirational romance and well done first person POV.

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

About the Author

Abigail Wilson combines her passion for Regency England with intrigue and adventure to pen historical mysteries with a heart. A registered nurse, chai tea addict, and mother of two crazy kids, Abigail fills her spare time hiking the national parks, attending her daughter’s gymnastic meets, and curling up with a great book. In 2017, Abigail won WisRWA’s Fab Five contest and in 2016, ACFW’s First Impressions contest as well as placing as a 2017 finalist in the Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery/Suspense.

She is a cum laude graduate of the University of Texas at Austin and currently lives in Dripping Springs, Texas, with her husband and children.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads

Blog Tour Schedule

Tuesday, January 19
Review at Chicks, Rogues and Scandals

Wednesday, January 20
Review at Pursuing Stacie

Thursday, January 21
Review at Gwendalyn’s Books

Friday, January 22
Review at The Green Mockingbird

Monday, January 25
Review at Jorie Loves A Story
Review at Library of Clean Reads

Tuesday, January 26
Guest Post at Novels Alive

Wednesday, January 27
Review at Books, Cooks, Looks

Thursday, January 28
Review at Read Review Rejoice

Friday, January 29
Review at Heidi Reads
Review at View from the Birdhouse

Saturday, January 30
Review at Nursebookie

Monday, February 1
Review at The Caffeinated Bibliophile

Tuesday, February 2
Review at Amy’s Booket List

Wednesday, February 3
Review at Passages to the Past

Thursday, February 4
Review at Hallie Reads
Review at Bitch Bookshelf

Friday, February 5
Review at The Lit Bitch
Interview at Books & Benches

Giveaway

Enter to win a copy of The Vanishing at Loxby Manor by Abigail Wilson! Five copies are up for grabs!

The giveaway is open to the US only and ends on February 5th. You must be 18 or older to enter.

Click HERE to enter the giveaway!

Best Books of 2020

Welcome to my annual “best-of” celebration!

I set a Goodreads reading goal at 100 books! I got close to making it happen at 86 books — and I’m happy with the high number I achieved. With all the bad news and unexpectedness of 2020, I have found books and the online bookish community to be a bright, positive spot in many ways. I hope you have, too.

I’ve included 20 books, 2-3 per genre, in my BEST list this year! If you’d like to see all of the books I read and read more extensive reviews, check out my 2020 Goodreads year in books or browse my blog archives.

THE (self-imposed) RULES: because sometimes I need to keep things brief, I’m choosing to share 3 things that describe each of these stories along with a link to Goodreads and my blog review (if applicable). At the end, I’ll be sharing popular posts on the blog this year.

All titles are inspirational fiction unless noted with *.

Best Books of 2020

Novellas

Fair as a Star by Mimi Matthews* | Review

Sweet romance. Compassion. Hope.

A Pressing Engagement by Anna Lee Huber*

Long-awaited event. Earl Gray the cat. Charismatic criminals.

Christmas in Three Quarter Time by Rachel McMillan | Review

Belonging. Vulnerability. Vienna & the Tyrolean countryside.

Split Time

Set the Stars Alight by Amanda Dykes | Review

LIGHT. Longing. Hope.

Echoes Among the Stones by Jaime Jo Wright | Review

Puzzling mystery. Devotion. Collin O’Shaughnessy.

Whose Waves These Are by Amanda Dykes | Review

Sacrifice. Beauty in the commonplace and extraordinary. Poignant.

Contemporary

The Solid Grounds Coffee Co. by Carla Laureano | Review

Honesty. Complexity. Friendship.

Now and Then and Always by Melissa Tagg | Review

Winsome. Humorous. Faith.

The Fifth Avenue Story Society by Rachel Hauck | Review

Redemption. Relationships. Enchanting concept.

Romantic Comedy

The Cul-de-Sac War by Melissa Ferguson | Review

Frenemies-to-romance. Farm animals. Rivalry.

Hadley Beckett’s Next Dish by Bethany Turner | Review

Wit. FOOD. Healing.

Close to You by Kara Isaac

Adventure. Unexpected love. Hobbits.

Thriller & Suspense

The Wind Will Howl by Sibella Giorello

Immersive setting. Classic-feel mystery. Smart.

Soul Raging by Ronie Kendig | Review

Twists. Revelations. Banter.

Chasing the White Lion by James R. Hannibal | Review

High-tech action. Suspense. Purpose.

Historical

The London Restoration by Rachel McMillan | Review

Reconciliation. Friendship. Selflessness.

An Uncommon Woman by Laura Frantz

Lyrical prose. Strength on the frontier. Riveting romance.

Gentleman Jim by Mimi Matthews*

Daring adventure. Truth. Swoony romance.

Nonfiction

Special mention to a couple of nonfiction titles I enjoyed: Dream, Plan, and Go by Rachel McMillan, an inspirational travel memoir and guide; Everything Beautiful In Its Time by Jenna Bush Hager, a family-centric memoir of love and grief.

Popular #OnTheBlog in 2020

Most popular posts:

Most popular new book reviews:

That’s it for 2020! Happy new year to you all. As always, thank you for being a blog reader and part of this bookish community.

What are your favorite books you read this year? Do we share any favorites? Did you post a list of favorites on your blog or social media? I’d love for you to share in the comments!

Review: The Right Kind of Fool by Sarah Loudin Thomas

I’m sharing a book review today for a recent historical fiction release: The Right Kind of Fool by Sarah Loudin Thomas. The gorgeous cover (those mountains!) is rightly reflective of the poignant story inside.

About the Book

Thirteen-year-old Loyal Raines is supposed to stay close to home on a hot summer day in 1934. When he slips away for a quick swim in the river and finds a dead body, he wishes he’d obeyed his mother. The ripples caused by his discovery will impact the town of Beverly, West Virginia, in ways no one could have imagined.

The first person those ripples disturb is Loyal’s absentee father. When Creed Raines realized his infant son was deaf, he headed for the hills, returning only to help meet his family’s basic needs. But when Loyal, now a young teen, stumbles upon a murder it’s his father he runs to tell–shaping the words with his hands. As Creed is pulled into the investigation he discovers that what sets his son apart isn’t his inability to hear but rather his courage. Longing to reclaim the life he abandoned, Creed will have to do more than help solve a murder if he wants to win his family’s hearts again. 

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

The Right Kind of Fool is an excellent piece of historical fiction! Blending an intriguing mystery and poignant family drama, its characters are as unique and vivid as its Appalachian setting. Loyal’s point of view, especially, is well crafted and offers a sensitive and authentic-feeling portrayal of a deaf individual, complicated by his status as a boy on the cusp of manhood learning responsibility.

The slight suspense storyline is cleverly paced, with perspective changes and enough unpredictability to keep the reader guessing. All of the turmoil combines with the emotional crux the Raines family is thrown into; one that proves to be a summer of change for everyone involved. Themes of grace, trust, and strength all weave together in this beautiful and highly engaging story I would recommend to fans of historical fiction, drama, suspense, and romance alike.

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

Review: “Soul Raging” by Ronie Kendig

I’m sharing my review of Ronie Kendig’s latest military thriller/suspense novel, Soul Raging. It is SPOILER FREE but oh how I want to talk about what happens between Leif and Iskra, the revelations the team discovers, and the crazy twists that were brilliantly set up in the previous books 😉

About the Book

Sometimes, the only hope is the enemy.

Leif Metcalfe is done waiting for answers and seizes control, a move that comes with a high price and a deadly risk: teaming up with the enemy. He can only hope that what he uncovers will heal the wounds he’s inflicted on those he loves.

Iskra Todorova believes Leif is on a collision course with death and knows firsthand the irrevocable cost of that path to the soul. While trying to protect her daughter and intervene with Leif, Iskra is forced to set her sights on the man behind the evil organization ArC–Ciro Veratti.

Torn apart by injuries and opposing views on how to handle Leif’s act of treachery, team Reaper hunts one of their own. The only thing they agree on is not stopping but starting the final battle prophesied in the Book of the Wars.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

Soul Raging is the long-anticipated conclusion to the Book of the Wars series — and boy is it a thrill ride around the world! The foundation and riveting twists in Storm Rising and Kings Falling set the stage for the even higher stakes of Soul Raging, making this series one best enjoyed in order. By book 3, Ronie Kendig has uniquely set up a situation where the reader is unclear on whether the good guy is going to be the bad guy… or if any of the beloved characters are actually playing both sides.

I am in AWE of Ronie Kendig’s storytelling skills with her edge-of-your-seat action, deep themes, character team dynamics, and thrilling twists. Unexpected in many ways, it is still wonderfully familiar with plenty of humor and adrenaline. I especially appreciate the theme of sacrifice and a subtle thread of faith connecting the characters to their purpose.

If you have been following the series so far, all of your questions will be answered — and some twists revealed you never saw coming — in this perfect conclusion to the Book of the Wars saga. I’m ready to read it all again!

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

Review: “The Red Ribbon” by Pepper Basham

I’m happy to be sharing a review today of a book by one of my very favorite authors: The Red Ribbon by Pepper Basham. It is part of an ongoing “True Colors” series by publisher Barbour Books, featuring a different author for each standalone novel centered on a true story of American crime blended with a romance.

About the Book

An Appalachian Feud Blows Up in 1912

Step into True Colors — a new series of Historical Stories of Romance and American Crime

In Carroll County, a corn shucking is the social event of the season, until a mischievous kiss leads to one of the biggest tragedies in Virginia history. Ava Burcham isn’t your typical Blue Ridge Mountain girl. She has a bad habit of courtin’ trouble, and her curiosity has opened a rift in the middle of a feud between politicians and would-be outlaws, the Allen family. Ava’s tenacious desire to find a story worth reporting may land her and her best friend, Jeremiah Sutphin, into more trouble than either of them planned.

​The end result? The Hillsville Courthouse Massacre of 1912.

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Review

Endearing characters (with a wonderfully sweet romance) are witness to real-life historical events The Red Ribbon, a brisk-paced, suspenseful look at history and culture in early 1900s Appalachia. Author Pepper Basham is her element with this enthralling tale, crafting a sweet interpretation of her signature romance skillfully blended with the drama of the year and customs of the mountain folk.

Basham has established herself with previous stories of historical romance with a dramatic flair and sweet contemporary romcoms. With The Red Ribbon, she proves her mettle in another facet of the genre, with a bit of romantic suspense! Basham carefully threads a story centered on her fictional couple but filled with real-life figures. Her patient research and heritage of story combines with her characters to paint a tale that’s both compelling and a beacon for belonging, yet still leaving the right amount of questions as to the truths and instigators of the real events.

One of my favorite things about this story is seeing the Ava through the Jeremiah’s eyes. Her feistiness and ever-capable personality are the perfect compliment to his quiet and steady ways. He recognizes this, and champions her heart for storytelling in the sweetest ways. She, in turn, realizes the blessing and place of “home” he wants to provide in her life. Beginning-of-chapter quotes from “family members” of both hero and heroine are another aspect that makes me smile and adds a hint of humor and wisdom to the story.

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

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.