Audiobook Review: “Dearest Josephine” by Caroline George

I’m reviewing an endearing novel today by Caroline George, Dearest Josephine. It falls within the YA (young adult) genre, though I think it would appeal to all ages and lovers of story — especially those who enjoy Regency fiction.

About the Book

Caroline George sweeps readers up into two different time periods with an unexpected love story that prompts us to reimagine what it means to be present with the people we love.

2020: Chocolate and Earl Grey tea can’t fix Josie De Clare’s horrible year. She mourned the death of her father and suffered a teen-life crisis, which delayed her university plans. But when her father’s will reveals a family-owned property in Northern England, Josie leaves London to find clarity at the secluded manor house. While exploring the estate, she discovers two-hundred-year-old love letters written by an elusive novelist, all addressed to someone named Josephine. And then she discovers a novel in which it seems like she’s the heroine…

1820: Novelist Elias Roch loves a woman he can never be with. Born the bastard son to a nobleman and cast out from society, Elias seeks refuge in his mind with the quirky heroine who draws him into a fantasy world of scandal, betrayal, and unconditional love. Convinced she’s his soulmate, Elias writes letters to her, all of which divulge the tragedy and trials of his personal life.

As fiction blurs into reality, Josie and Elias must decide: How does one live if love can’t wait? Separated by two hundred years, they fight against time to find each other in a story of her, him, and the novel written by the man who loves her.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

Dearest Josephine is a completely unique reading experience blending epistolary correspondence in contemporary times and the Regency era, along with a serialized novel interspersed throughout. All three concepts are intricately tied together and unite themes of hope, longing, LOVE, and acceptance.

My favorite part of reading this novel is how it respects and acknowledges the power of story and a reader’s connection to fictional characters. I experienced this connection to the story personally and through the character Josie’s eyes as she discovered the serialized novel and its mysterious ties to her life. Twists, turns, and unpredictable surprises lay ahead for Josie and the reader.

With the slightest hints of mystery and an absolutely endearing cast of characters, everything from modern humor, a nosy knitting club, society and setting of the Regency era, and layers of friendship and connection are depicted vibrantly and with skill. I’m looking forward to whatever Caroline George pens next, and I dearly hope she returns to the YA genre again!

I listened to the audiobook version of this novel and was delighted with the accents of the characters and unique audio cues for instant messages. ❤

Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley 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!

Review + Blog Tour: “Beauty Among Ruins” by J’nell Ciesielski

Beauty Among Ruins is the first novel I’ve read by J’nell Ciesielski, and I am very impressed! I want to go back and read her backlist now 😉

Join me today in celebrating her upcoming novel release with a blog tour and a chance to win a paperback copy in a giveaway at the bottom of this post!

Beauty Among Ruins

Publication Date: January 12, 2021
Thomas Nelson
Paperback, eBook, & Audiobook

Genre: Historical Fiction/Romance/Scottish

In Ciesielski’s latest sweeping romance, an American heiress finds herself in Scotland amid the fallout of the Great War, and a wounded Scottish laird comes face-to-face with his past and a woman he never could have expected.

American socialite Lily Durham is known for enjoying one moment to the next, with little regard for the consequences of her actions. But just as she is banished overseas to England as a “cure” for her frivolous ways, the Great War breaks out and wreaks havoc. She joins her cousin in nursing the wounded at a convalescent home deep in the wilds of Scotland at a crumbling castle where its laird is less than welcoming.

Alec MacGregor has given his entire life to preserving his home of Kinclavoch Castle, but mounting debts force him to sell off his family history bit by bit. Labeled a coward for not joining his countrymen in the trenches due to an old injury, he opens his home to the Tommies to make recompense while he keeps to the shadows. But his preference for the shadows is shattered when a new American nurse comes streaming into the castle on a burst of light.

Lily and Alec are thrown together when a series of mysterious events threatens to ruin the future of Kinclavoch. Can they put aside their differences to find the culprit before it’s too late, or will their greatest distraction be falling in love?

‘A Scottish lord and an American socialite discover love during WWI in this gorgeous historical romance from Ciesielski (The Socialite)…The undercurrent of mystery and Ciesielski’s unflinching approach to the harsh realities of wartime only enhance the love story. Readers are sure to be impressed.’ –Publishers Weekly

Available for Pre-Order

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | IndieBound

About the Author

J'nell Ciesielski

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

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

Review

Beauty Among Ruins is an exquisite romance set against the perils of war and loss. With deep themes of sacrifice and longing, J’nell Ciesielski’s style transports the reader to the idyllic Scottish Lowlands and stirs a longing for tradition.

Through Alec and Lily’s eyes, the struggles of recovering WWI soldiers are spotlighted with the noble sacrifices nurses and homeowners offered to house the convalescing men. A mystery with more than one suspected character, combined with a plot to smear the laird’s name and weigh on his guilt, all deftly intertwines with the day to day work of providing physical and mental care. I was happy to see Lily’s steadfastness and growth through circumstances she did not initially choose.

The romance in this story is one of my new favorites! With subtle hints of beauty and the beast vibes, Alec’s initial brooding and distance disguise a poetic heart that answers Lily’s in a beautiful way. They are wonderful compliments to each other. And when he speaks Gaelic to her, BE STILL MY HEART.

With a full cast of characters that lend a sense of place and family camaraderie to the story, Beauty Among Ruins is a historical drama not to be missed by fans of Scottish settings, WWI homefront stories, or poignant romance.

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

Blog Tour Schedule

Wednesday, January 6
Review at Pursuing Stacie

Thursday, January 7
Review at Read Review Rejoice

Friday, January 8
Review at The Green Mockingbird

Saturday, January 9
Review at Reading is My Remedy

Monday, January 11
Review at Jorie Loves A Story

Tuesday, January 12
Interview at Books & Benches

Wednesday, January 13
Review at Chicks, Rogues and Scandals

Thursday, January 14
Excerpt at Heidi Reads

Friday, January 15
Review at The Lit Bitch
Review at Amy’s Booket List

Saturday, January 16
Review at Nursebookie

Monday, January 18
Review at Books, Cooks, Looks

Tuesday, January 19
Guest Post at Novels Alive

Wednesday, January 20
Review at Novels Alive

Thursday, January 21
Review at Hallie Reads

Friday, January 22
Review at Gwendalyn’s Books

Giveaway

We have 5 paperback copies of Beauty Among Ruins up for grabs!

The giveaway is open to the US only and ends on January 22nd. You must be 18 or older to enter.

Enter the Giveaway here!

Beauty Among Ruins_Blog Tour Banner

Audiobook Review: “The Cul-de-Sac War” by Melissa Ferguson

Melissa Ferguson’s sophomore novel, The Cul-de-Sac War, is as cute and intriguing as its name implies. It’s a contemporary romcom I highly recommend for fans of the genre!

About the Book

All’s fair in love and prank wars.

Bree Leake doesn’t want to be tied down. She’s had more jobs than she can count, and she plans to move as soon as the curtains fall on her less-than-minor stage role at The Barter—the oldest live performance theater in the US. But just when it’s time to move on again, Bree’s parents make her an offer: hold steady for a full year, and they will give her the one thing she’s always wanted—her grandmother’s house. Her dreams are coming true . . . until life at the theater throws her some curve balls.

And then there’s Chip McBride—her handsome and infuriating next-door neighbor.

Chip just might be the only person whose stubborn streak can match Bree’s. She would move heaven and earth to have him off her cul-de-sac and out of her life, but according to the bargain she’s struck, she can’t move out of her house and away from the man who’s making her life miserable. So begins Bree’s obsessive new mission: to drive Chip out of the neighborhood—and fast.

Bree isn’t the only one who’s a tad competitive, and Chip is more than willing to fight fire with fire. But as their pranks escalate, the line between love and hate starts to blur—and their heated rivalry threatens to take a hilarious, heartwarming, and romantic new turn.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

The Cul-de-Sac War is truly a LAUGH OUT LOUD romcom! I listened to the audiobook and loved every second. I love the pranks and antics of Chip and Bree, their delightful frenemies-to-enemies-to-romance journey, and the little bits of realistic heart-truths in this story. Most of all, I loved the way I couldn’t predict what crazy thing would happen next or how much I would be surprised by the way it comes together. I especially like how it’s centered on two people who have no idea that each is the answer to the friendship and encouragement they are seeking.

So many aspects of this novel line up to result in such perfection. A short list:

  • the cast of supporting characters: Bree’s off-the-grid obsessed roommate, her matchmaking obsessed parents, and Chip’s pretentious family, just to name a few.
  • relatable humor: Subarus. Duct tape and home remodeling.
  • quaint-but-still-real-life setting: just go Google The Barter!
  • random farm animals: I’ll leave this comment a mystery until you read it for yourself 😉
  • a dog named Russell: so prolific, he deserves his own category. His Slim Jim obsession is award-worthy.
  • finding purpose in life: a major theme here!
  • a surprising, heart-tugging story thread with Bree’s family — and the way Chip relates

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

Review: “The Fifth Avenue Story Society” by Rachel Hauck

I’m sharing a review today of one of the best stories I’ve read this year! The Fifth Avenue Story Society by Rachel Hauck is a contemporary inspirational story of redemption, hope, friendship, and restoration.

About the Book

An invitation to join The Fifth Avenue Story Society gives five New York strangers a chance to rewrite their own stories.

Executive assistant Lexa is eager for a much-deserved promotion, but her boss is determined to keep her underemployed.

Literature professor Jett is dealing with a broken heart, as well as a nagging suspicion his literary idol, Gordon Phipps Roth, might be a fraud.

Uber driver Chuck just wants a second chance with his kids.

Aging widower Ed is eager to write the true story of his incredible marriage.

Coral, queen of the cosmetics industry, has broken her engagement and is on the verge of losing her great grandmother’s multimillion-dollar empire.

When all five New Yorkers receive an anonymous, mysterious invitation to the Fifth Avenue Story Society, they suspect they’re victims of a practical joke. No one knows who sent the invitations or why. No one has heard of the literary society. And no one is prepared to bear their deepest secrets to a roomful of strangers.

Yet curiosity and loneliness bring them back week after week to the old library. And it’s there they discover the stories of their hearts, and the kind of friendship and love that heals their souls.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

I have enjoyed Rachel Hauck’s style of writing enchanting, modern-day fairytales with the slightest hints of supernatural threads. She balances believable situations and characters living out a fateful God-orchestrated situation. I particularly liked The Fifth Avenue Story Society for its unique faith thread which lends to a general market appeal outside of the inspirational genre.

This is one of those rare types of books where I became less aware I was reading a novel and instead fell headlong into the story, especially its vivid depiction of NYC. The multiple points of view tie together wonderfully and always transition cleanly, never feeling confusing or too much. While I enjoyed all of them, I really liked the main romantic couple and their arc of redemption.

While I expected The Fifth Avenue Story Society to be a literature-centric story in some ways, I was pleasantly surprised to see the story society concept taken much deeper. I LOVED this novel and will be counting it as one of my favorites by Hauck!

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

Book Spotlight: “Remember Me” by Mario Escobar

remember me blog tour banner

Welcome to my stop on the HFVBT tour for Remember Me by Mario Escobar! Check out the details of this new novel and enter the giveaway before you go. This story sounds SO interesting! It’s on my TBR!

About the Book

Remember Me: A Spanish Civil War Novel
by Mario Escobar

remember me cover

Publication Date: September 15, 2020
Thomas Nelson
Paperback & eBook; 384 pages

Genre: Historical Fiction

 

 

Amid the shadows of war, one family faces an impossible choice that will change their lives forever.

Madrid, 1934. Though the Spanish Civil War has not yet begun, the streets of Madrid have become dangerous for thirteen-year-old Marco Alcalde and his younger sisters, Isabel and Ana. When Marco’s parents align themselves against General Franco and his fascist regime, they have no inkling that their ideals will endanger them and everyone they love—nor do they predict the violence that is to come.

When the Mexican government promises protection to the imperiled children of Spain, the Alcaldes do what they believe is best: send their children, unaccompanied, across the ocean to the city of Morelia—a place they’ve never seen or imagined. Marco promises to look after his sisters in Mexico until their family can be reunited in Spain, but what ensues is a harrowing journey and a series of heartbreaking events. As the growing children work to care for themselves and each other, they feel their sense of home, family, and identity slipping further and further away. And as their memories of Spain fade and the news from abroad grows more grim, they begin to wonder if they will ever see their parents again or the glittering streets of the home they once loved.

Based upon the true stories of the Children of Morelia, Mario Escobar’s Remember Me—now available for the first time in English—explores the agony of war and paints a poignant portrait of one family’s sacrificial love and endurance.

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | IndieBound


Mario Escobar Golderos has a degree in History, with an advanced studies diploma in Modern History. He has written numerous books and articles about the Inquisition, the Protestant Reformation, and religious sects. He is the executive director of an NGO and directs the magazine Nueva historia para el debate, in addition to being a contributing columnist in various publications. Passionate about history and its mysteries, Escobar has delved into the depths of church history, the different sectarian groups that have struggled therein, and the discovery and colonization of the Americas. He specializes in the lives of unorthodox Spaniards and Americans.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Blog Tour Schedule

Tuesday, September 15
Review at Nursebookie
Review at WTF Are You Reading?

Wednesday, September 16
Review at Amy’s Booket List
Feature at Let Them Read Books

Friday, September 18
Review at 100 Pages a Day

Saturday, September 19
Feature at The Green Mockingbird

Monday, September 21
Feature at The Lit Bitch
Feature at I’m All About Books

Wednesday, September 23
Review at Passages to the Past

Friday, September 25
Review at View from the Birdhouse

Saturday, September 26
Feature at Bookworlder

Sunday, September 27
Review at Reading is My Remedy

Monday, September 28
Review at Hallie Reads

Tuesday, September 29
Feature at What Is That Book About

During the Blog Tour, we are giving away 5 copies of Remember Me by Mario Escobar! To enter, please use the Gleam form below.

The giveaway is open to US residents only and ends on September 29th. You must be 18 or older to enter.

Enter the Giveaway for Remember Me

REVIEW & Blog Tour: “The London Restoration” by Rachel McMillan

Today is the day for my review of The London Restoration by Rachel McMillan! Be sure to enter the HFVBT giveaway at the end of this post, and check out yesterday’s interview with the author herself.

Author interview: Rachel McMillan for The London Restoration

About the Book

The London Restoration by Rachel McMillan

Publication Date: August 18, 2020 by Thomas Nelson
Paperback, eBook, & Audiobook

Genre: Historical Fiction

From author Rachel McMillan comes a richly researched historical romance that takes place in post-World War II London and features a strong female lead.

Determined to save their marriage and the city they love, two people divided by World War II’s secrets rebuild their lives, their love, and their world.

London, Fall 1945. Architectural historian Diana Somerville’s experience as a codebreaker at Bletchley Park and her knowledge of London’s churches intersect in MI6’s pursuit of a Russian agent named Eternity. Diana wants nothing more than to begin again with her husband Brent after their separation during the war, but her signing of the Official Secrets Act keeps him at a distance.

Brent Somerville, professor of theology at King’s College, hopes aiding his wife with her church consultations will help him better understand why she disappeared when he needed her most. But he must find a way to reconcile his traumatic experiences as a stretcher bearer on the European front with her obvious lies about her wartime activities and whereabouts.

Featuring a timeless love story bolstered by flashbacks and the excavation of a priceless Roman artifact, The London Restoration is a richly atmospheric look at post-war London as two people changed by war rebuild amidst the city’s reconstruction.

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | IndieBound

Review

With painstakingly researched detail, The London Restoration spins a story of romance and reconciliation. A twofold love story is exquisitely told, initially through smartly placed flashback sequences and an ongoing one as Brent and Diana confront the changes a world war has wrought in the architecture of their relationship. This is a romance of two imperfect people whose roles in the war efforts have left scars both mental and physical, whose friendships have flourished and complicated the present with new loyalties, and whose amplified insecurities and secrets propel them to work toward restoration with patience and trust. Also, tea. Lots of tea.

I love how Brent and Diana both choose to make selfless sacrifices for one another while still not fully understanding the depth of each other’s time during the war. The secrets Diana keeps, under obligation to both friendship and government order, are for the betterment of the nation, yet are driven by her love for Brent and his well being. Brent, too, makes choices out of his motivation to protect Diana, but he steals the heart of the reader when he goes a step further and acknowledges Diana’s own strength and assertiveness. I think I really fell for him as a reader in the flashback scene when he ships off to war and has a delightful conversation with Di, showing how he truly knows her and wants her to feel comfortable in her own skin. Even as they try to restore their relationship in the present, this knowing and connection is threaded through their new maturity and colors their hesitant connection.

Author Rachel McMillan’s forte is historical romance! Her signature wit and authentic character development are ever present, as are her penchant for portraying deep friendships and a love for classical music. The romance sparks with both physical and intellectual attraction, and the London setting comes to life with its winding streets, WWII aftermath, and historical architecture. Readers will turn the final page with poignant satisfaction, a new love for London (and its churches), and a special place in their hearts for two wonderfully imperfect new (fictional) friends, the Somervilles.

After reading The London Restoration and making a TON of highlights and notes, I enjoyed listening to the audiobook version for a “reread” (Thanks, NetGalley!). I liked the accents and pronunciations the narrator employed, as well as her easy to listen to voice. Sometimes, though, the sentence structure came across as a little hesitant. This is a narration issue, not reflective of the smart dialogue and cadence of the writing. I would recommend reading a print or ebook version first, then listening to the audio for a more immersive “English” experience.

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

Rachel McMillan is the author of The Herringford and Watts mysteries, The Van Buren and DeLuca mysteries and The Three Quarter Time series of contemporary Viennese romances. Her next work of historical fiction, The London Restoration, releases in Summer 2020 and takes readers deep into the heart of London’s most beautiful churches. Dream, Plan, Go (May, 2020) is her first work of non-fiction. Rachel lives in Toronto, Canada and is always planning her next adventure.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Instagram | Goodreads

Tuesday, August 18
Review at Nursebookie
Guest Post at Let Them Read Books

Wednesday, August 19
Review at Austenprose
Review at Amy’s Booket List

Thursday, August 20
Review at Gwendalyn’s Books
Review at Little But Fierce Book Diary

Friday, August 21
Interview at Heidi Reads
Review at Foals, Fiction, and Filligree

Saturday, August 22
Review at Donna’s Book Blog

Monday, August 24
Review at Chicks, Rogues and Scandals
Interview at The Green Mockingbird

Tuesday, August 25
Review at The Green Mockingbird

Wednesday, August 26
Review at 100 Pages a Day
Interview on Jorie Loves A Story

Thursday, August 27
Review at The Lit Bitch

Friday, August 28
Review at Read Review Rejoice

Saturday, August 29
Review at Books and Backroads
Review at Reading is My Remedy

Monday, August 31
Review at Passages to the Past

During the Blog Tour, we are giving away 5 copies of The London Restoration! To enter, please use the Gleam form below.

The giveaway is open to US residents only and ends on August 31st. You must be 18 or older to enter.

Enter the givaway for a copy of The London Restoration

Author Interview & Blog Tour: “The London Restoration” by Rachel McMillan

Welcome to my first stop on the HFVBT Blog Tour for Rachel McMillan’s new historical romance novel, The London Restoration! Today I’m featuring a review with the gracious Rachel McMillan and all the bookish info. Check back tomorrow for my review!!!

About the Book

The London Restoration by Rachel McMillan

Publication Date: August 18, 2020 by Thomas Nelson
Paperback, eBook, & Audiobook

Genre: Historical Fiction

From author Rachel McMillan comes a richly researched historical romance that takes place in post-World War II London and features a strong female lead.

Determined to save their marriage and the city they love, two people divided by World War II’s secrets rebuild their lives, their love, and their world.

London, Fall 1945. Architectural historian Diana Somerville’s experience as a codebreaker at Bletchley Park and her knowledge of London’s churches intersect in MI6’s pursuit of a Russian agent named Eternity. Diana wants nothing more than to begin again with her husband Brent after their separation during the war, but her signing of the Official Secrets Act keeps him at a distance.

Brent Somerville, professor of theology at King’s College, hopes aiding his wife with her church consultations will help him better understand why she disappeared when he needed her most. But he must find a way to reconcile his traumatic experiences as a stretcher bearer on the European front with her obvious lies about her wartime activities and whereabouts.

Featuring a timeless love story bolstered by flashbacks and the excavation of a priceless Roman artifact, The London Restoration is a richly atmospheric look at post-war London as two people changed by war rebuild amidst the city’s reconstruction.

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | IndieBound

Thank you, Rachel, for taking the time to hang out and talk about your new book — and for sharing some lovely pictures from your travels!

How does the theme of “restoration” play out in this novel?

I was really fascinated by the fact that the Blitz ruined a comparative number of churches as those desecrated by the Great Fire of London in 1666. More still, because Londoners deemed a barrage of night attacks in the late December 1940 as the Second Great Fire of London. And much as architect Christopher Wren set almost immediately to restoring the churches, so committees were working while the bombs were still falling to determine how they would restore architectural treasures after the war and preserve them for future generations. Because I knew that the churches were going to play a major role in the story, it was so easy to start Brent and Diana’s reunion from a place that had a strong foundation, much like many of the surviving churches but still bore a lot of cracks. So I would say the love story between Diana and the churches and her needing to foster her love for them even though their scarred parallels what she is trying to restore with Brent. And it’s more complicated because due to the fact that they were only married one night before he shipped out, she has to learn how to love him all over again. And that decision is so restorative and sets, for me, the theme of the book.

The churches and cathedrals of London play a major role in The London Restoration, specifically the churches designed by Christopher Wren. Please share about your love and the appeal of these churches. Which of these would you recommend as “must-visit” on a trip to London?

Great St. Bart’s (What Londoners call St. Bartholomew the Great)

This is really hard for me because there are so many churches in London that are special to me and many, many were cut before the last draft of the book (I just couldn’t fit all of the beautiful churches in). This is not a Wren church, but my personal favourite church in London is St. Bartholomew the Great which is almost 1000 years old and survived King Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries, the zeppelins of the Great War and even the bombs of the Second World War. I am really fascinated by all of the history it has seen. (For one, William Wallace, of Braveheart fame, was drawn and quartered in the yard just behind the church). Because it isn’t that far a walk from St. Paul’s, I always recommend people try and see it.

There are so many Wren churches that move me: St. Bride’s on Fleet Street is the journalist’s church and is patronized by storytellers which I just love. But a must- see has to be St. Paul’s: it is Wren’s masterpiece and was quite innovative for the time. Not only was he rebuilding the cathedral from the site where it was wrecked during the Great Fire, he utilized it to make a Protestant statement: the open pews and passage ways, the font that leads people to go out into the world just as Christ commanded his disciples, including Paul, made for a much more open worship function that was not cloistered or closed off by confessions: rather to favour a more modern type of evangelism—that of a cleric who could speak loudly and commission congregants on the great commission. I just love this. Churches were often where the most beautiful pieces of art, sculptures and paintings were kept and St. Paul’s is very much a work of art: in its architecture, yes, but also in the many goodies you can find inside

So many churches! I love Magnus the Martyr (another Wren church) and the funnily named St. James Garlickhythe and I love St. Stephen Walbrook which has a dome not unlike that you would find in St. Paul’s.

I have several places on my must-visit list now, thanks to you!

During your extensive research, did you come across any interesting facts that you could not fit in the story?

St. Paul’s

LOL yes! See above! I wanted to basically write a 500 page book on fascinating Christopher Wren facts. The church rebuilding was just fascinating to me. Especially the Paul’s watch: Churchill was adamant that St. Paul’s (Which was into the 1960s the tallest building in the London skyline) survive for morale so volunteers pledged their lives to keeping it whole and camped out (Even during a water shortage) with hoses and pails to protect the cathedral. That’s a whole book in itself.

I also cut a lot about the process of Diana getting to Bletchley Park and all that she would have undertaken to qualify for that amazing position. So a lot of Bletchley research and scenes were cut. Finally, my editor and I decided that while Diana has many flashbacks to Bletchley, we would save Brent’s flashback from his time at the front to be the most important and integral one in his life: what had happened to his friend Ross. And so a lot of the research I did to craft his scenes at the front and in training were cut.

Did Brent and Diana surprise you in any way?

I was lucky in that they both popped into my head pretty fully formed and so I just took to dictation. I was coming off writing two very sweet heroes –Oliver Thorne in Rose in Three Quarter Time and Hamish DeLuca —and I was excited to have a hero with a sarcastic edge (that I had to reel in just a bit so that it never looked like he was demeaning Diana) so I was often surprised by some of Brent’s acerbic wit.

I was also surprised at how Diana showed me that she wanted their relationship to be so equal that they save each other. In so many romances, the hero saves the heroine: and Brent gets plenty of protective opportunities here, but when it came to Diana’s turn to show her own protective side, I was really proud of her.

St. Stephen Walbrook

In the past, you have written contemporary romances and historical mysteries. This is your first title specifically in the historical romance genre. What does this mean to you as an author?

It means I am finally writing the genre of my heart for publication. I used historical mysteries and don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love those characters and stories and the romances therein) to get through the publishing door but I always set out to write historical romance and have several stories that readers have not/will not see in this genre. So I am really happy to feel in my safe and happy zone here. I intend to keep on writing some contemporary romances (I really write the Three Quarter Time books for me and just let people peer over my shoulder, LOL, that’s how fun they are), I just keep getting sidetracked by contracted books (which is a very good problem to have).

It sounds like the best kind of problem for we readers! 🙂

Secondary characters Sophie and Simon seem to fill every scene they are in with undercurrents and hints at more to their connection. What is next for them?

When I first was working on The London Restoration, I had no plans at all to ever write another WWII era book. Indeed, I hadn’t set out to write WWII at all but a momentous trip to St. Bart’s in London and my meeting Brent and Diana changed that. So I created Simon Barre as a plot point: as Diana’s Bletchley colleague and MI-6 handler. Yet there’s one scene where the two are having tea at The Savoy and I typed something absently about the glamour of the place fitting Simon like a bespoke suit. And I remember then just being flooded with Simon’s history. He wasn’t Simon Barre, he was a lord with a devastating past who fought his own wars again and again through Britain. I knew then I had to come up with a fascinating woman for him. So I left a lot of doors open. I intentionally made their chemistry surge the few times we see them on the page together (am happy that came across) while leaving enough mystery not only for the reader but for myself so I had the freedom to play around with them. I hadn’t intended to pitch a second story in this world, but luckily I did and The Mozart Code is their turn on the page. It releases next summer and is a marriage of convenience (sigh) which is kinda like Downton Abbey meets The Alice Network. They might be my personal favourite couple I’ve created.

Just for fun: do you love tea as much as Brent? What is your favorite kind?

I do love tea. I have this manatee shaped tea strainer that I used quite often while plotting the proposal for this book and so this book is so tea-infused I referred to it as Project Manatea for a long time! LOL! I love Twining’s Earl Grey (classic) and I love any and all kinds of green tea. I am a huge fan of a company called David’s Tea here in Canada that sells all manner of loose leaf tea. Read My Lips is a black tea flavoured with chocolate hearts and chili peppers and I love it! I also love a tea they sell called Lavender Buttercream!

Those tea-treats sound heavenly! Thanks again, Rachel, for taking the time to talk about your books!

If you’d like to know more about Rachel McMillan, follow her on social media, links below. On a related note, she has a FABULOUS travel memoir that will inspire you to plan your own adventures. See my review of this fun nonfiction book here: Dream, Plan, and Go.

Rachel McMillan is the author of The Herringford and Watts mysteries, The Van Buren and DeLuca mysteries and The Three Quarter Time series of contemporary Viennese romances. Her next work of historical fiction, The London Restoration, releases in Summer 2020 and takes readers deep into the heart of London’s most beautiful churches. Dream, Plan, Go (May, 2020) is her first work of non-fiction. Rachel lives in Toronto, Canada and is always planning her next adventure.

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Tuesday, August 18
Review at Nursebookie
Guest Post at Let Them Read Books

Wednesday, August 19
Review at Austenprose
Review at Amy’s Booket List

Thursday, August 20
Review at Gwendalyn’s Books
Review at Little But Fierce Book Diary

Friday, August 21
Interview at Heidi Reads
Review at Foals, Fiction, and Filligree

Saturday, August 22
Review at Donna’s Book Blog

Monday, August 24
Review at Chicks, Rogues and Scandals
Interview at The Green Mockingbird

Tuesday, August 25
Review at The Green Mockingbird

Wednesday, August 26
Review at 100 Pages a Day
Interview on Jorie Loves A Story

Thursday, August 27
Review at The Lit Bitch

Friday, August 28
Review at Read Review Rejoice

Saturday, August 29
Review at Books and Backroads
Review at Reading is My Remedy

Monday, August 31
Review at Passages to the Past

During the Blog Tour, we are giving away 5 copies of The London Restoration! To enter, please use the Gleam form below.

The giveaway is open to US residents only and ends on August 31st. You must be 18 or older to enter.

Enter the givaway for a copy of The London Restoration

Review: “Of Literature and Lattes” by Katherine Reay

My review today features a book full of COFFEE and LITERATURE — two of my favorite things! Author Katherine Reay is one my list of must-read authors, and this new novel, Of Literature and Lattes, shares the location and a slight overlap in cast with her last release, The Printed Letter Bookshop. Both read as standalone stories, though fans of the Printed Letter will be happy with a return to the picturesque town of Winsome and some familiar characters!

About the Book

Katherine Reay returns to the cozy and delightful town of Winsome where two people discover the grace of letting go and the joy found in unexpected change.

of literature and lattes cover

After fleeing her hometown three years earlier, Alyssa Harrison never planned to return. Then the Silicon Valley start-up she worked for collapsed and turned her world upside down. She is broke, under FBI investigation, and without a place to go. Having exhausted every option, she comes home to Winsome, Illinois, to regroup then move on as quickly as possible. Yet, as friends and family welcome her back, Alyssa begins to see a place for herself in this small Midwestern community.

Jeremy Mitchell moved from Seattle to Winsome to be near his daughter and to open the coffee shop he’s been dreaming of for years. Problem is, the business is bleeding money—and he’s not quite sure why. When he meets Alyssa, he senses an immediate connection, but what he needs most is someone to help him save his floundering business. After asking for her help, he wonders if something might grow between them—but forces beyond their control soon complicate their already complex lives, and the future they both hoped for is not at all what they anticipated.

With the help of Winsome’s small-town charm and quirky residents, Alyssa and Jeremy discover the beauty and romance of second chances.

Goodreads | Amazon | Bookbub

Review

With Of Literature and Lattes, Katherine Reay has penned another contemporary blend of romance and women’s fiction in her picturesque Illinois town of Winsome. Nods to literature abound within this story of returning and working toward a worthy goal, with deeper themes of reconciliation and a bright secondary cast. Readers who enjoyed The Printed Letter Bookshop will be delighted with glimpses of familiar characters and perspective (once again!) from Janet, Alyssa’s mother.

To borrow a concept from Janet’s character, this story is very much about moving through forgiveness after one has let go of the past. While the friendship and romance between Alyssa and Jeremy is a major part of the story, another significant portion of it includes perspective on parenting, both with Janet and with Jeremy’s own experiences and his precious daughter, Becca. I appreciate the way this draws attention to concepts of people’s complexity, motives, relationships, and the way parents should intentionally be supportive for the hard and the good things in life.

The point of view changes employed in this novel echo a clever device used in The Printed Letter Bookshop, with multiple POV and tense shifts. But here, secondary characters sometimes have the narration. This device works and adds dimension, but sometimes I feel that it is abrupt and detracts from page time with the main few characters and deepening their connection with the reader. Maybe I just need a few more pages and time with these characters to feel the ending more fully “settled” with me.

Overall, I really enjoyed this return to Winsome and the themes these characters wrestle with. The Happy Ending is there, with all the bookish talk! I particularly liked the way children’s books are discussed and recognized as an important influence on childhood. I wouldn’t mind a future novel set in Winsome, especially if it has more of Chris and his brother’s conversations (Printed Letter favs!), or Jeremy’s daughter, Becca!

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

Review: “The Joy of Falling” by Lindsay Harrel

The joy of Falling cover

I’m featuring a review today of an amazing women’s fiction novel that brings all the emotions and hope: The Joy of Falling by Lindsay Harrel.

About the Book

Eva and Angela must learn to live again. One step at a time.

It has been fifteen months since Eva and Angela lost their thrill-seeking husbands in a scuba diving accident. Both women are trying to navigate their way through the grief, but neither one is making much progress. Angela is barely making ends meet, angry at her husband for leaving her to raise three children on her own. Meanwhile, Eva is stuck, unable to move forward after losing the love of her life and her source of inspiration.

But then Eva gets a life-changing phone call. Before Brent and Wes died, they had signed up for a race of a lifetime—an ultra-marathon in beautiful New Zealand. Eva begs Angela to run the race with her in their husbands’ place, and Angela finally agrees, hoping to finally understand her husband’s choices.

Training is exhausting, and the race is even more demanding. Their journey grows more complicated by the presence of two men—Marc is Brent’s best friend who is running the race with Eva and Angela, and Simon King is a writer who is covering their inspiring story. With every step, Eva and Angela must ask themselves questions that they haven’t had the courage to ask before. As the women literally put one foot in front of the other, they wonder: Is it possible to find their way forward in hope?

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

The Joy of Falling is an amazing story of grief and healing, joy and triumph, and the importance of relationships in every aspect of life (family, friendships, romance). Oh, and a little armchair adventure in New Zealand happens along with ALL THE FEELS.

I believe anyone who has experienced grief can relate to this story. While these characters lose their husbands, their journey of grief shows how it manifests uniquely to each person and is simultaneously universal. I appreciate how Harrel clearly communicates that with this story – giving these characters permission to grieve differently, showing its stages and waves in a relatable way.

While the weightier aspects of grief and fear are a part of this story, its bright JOY and honesty are the best parts. Eva and Angela each grow and benefit from their relationships in this story, both as sisters, daughters, and, in Angela’s case, as a parent. The importance of friendship is spotlighted, as are a couple tentative friendship-and-romance relationships. These are developed carefully and with a refreshing honesty in the face of the emotional trials both Angela and Eva are experiencing.

This emotional and enlightening journey plays out for the characters in a most vivid setting: New Zealand. Harrel has captured the place wonderfully, in a setting-as-a-character manner. Its varied terrain is a catalyst and metaphor for the perseverance Eva, Angela, and Marc must prove in their marathon and in their season of change.

It was a blessing to read this story at this moment in my life: its message of joy as an overarching theme and anchor, as opposed to fleeting happiness, becomes a constant for the characters and a reminder we all need in this world.

I’ll end my thoughts with one of my favorite quotes from the novel:

“How was it possible to feel so much love and hope in the midst of tragedy?”

-The Joy of Falling

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