Genre: Historical

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Jun 06

The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek

Book Reviews 0 ★★★★★

The Book Woman of Troublesome CreekThe Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson
Published by Sourcebooks Landmark on May 7, 2019
Genres: Historical
Pages: 320
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Goodreads five-stars

In 1936, tucked deep into the woods of Troublesome Creek, KY, lives blue-skinned 19-year-old Cussy Carter, the last living female of the rare Blue People ancestry. The lonely young Appalachian woman joins the historical Pack Horse Library Project of Kentucky and becomes a librarian, riding across slippery creek beds and up treacherous mountains on her faithful mule to deliver books and other reading material to the impoverished hill people of Eastern Kentucky.

Along her dangerous route, Cussy, known to the mountain folk as Bluet, confronts those suspicious of her damselfly-blue skin and the government's new book program. She befriends hardscrabble and complex fellow Kentuckians, and is fiercely determined to bring comfort and joy, instill literacy, and give to those who have nothing, a bookly respite, a fleeting retreat to faraway lands.

The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek is a powerful message about how the written word affects people--a story of hope and heartbreak, raw courage and strength splintered with poverty and oppression, and one woman's chances beyond the darkly hollows. Inspired by the true and historical blue-skinned people of Kentucky and the brave and dedicated Kentucky Pack Horse library service, The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek showcases a bold and unique tale of the Pack horse Librarians in literary novels — a story of fierce strength and one woman's belief that books can carry us anywhere — even back home.

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TW: death, racial prejudice, rape, sexual assault.

The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek is a fabulous book. It’s very narrow in focus, which I think is what gave the author the ability to drop her readers into 1920s backwoods Kentucky in such a believable way. The blue skinned people of Kentucky and the Pack Horse Librarian Project are both from real history and it was just a real treat to read about something so real and yet so unknown.

“I was to stay put, and exactly where they wanted to keep me put. Beneath them. Always and alone.”

I loved Cussy. She’s had the short end of the stick in life, but she hasn’t let it completely beat her down. She loves her books, and her father, and despite things really looking dim she refuses to give up hope of a better life. Cussy is nineteen years old, with blue skin, in a society that beats her down for both. Looked at as basically “worse than colored,” her father is desperate to get her married since he knows his own days are numbered, due to being a miner and afflicted with black lung. He fears for her and this is the only way he can (he thinks) be sure she is taken care of and provided for after he is gone. His plan does not work out well for Cussy, and only stirs things with the local people that already look at both of them as outcasts.

Despite all the odds against her, Cussy finds a huge solace in her job as a “book woman,” one of the several female librarians who take books to the VERY farflung mountain people. She is so passionate about literacy, and helping all her patrons better themselves. My heart hurt as she constantly ran up against prejudice, not just for her oddly-colored skin but for just being a woman. Even the local doctor (someone who is supposed to be about HELPING people) is more interested in her for his ulterior reasons of figuring out her blue skin – no matter what her thoughts on the matter.

I also really loved that eventually, Cussy meets someone who hasn’t always lived in the hollers. Just as her mind has been expanded by books even though she’s never been outside Kentucky, the stranger has both traveled (extensively, by local standards) and read, and he treats her as a person regardless of her skin or gender. There isn’t really a HEA, but there is hope, and to me that is even more important.

This book was SO important to me on a personal level. My family – on both sides – is from the hills and hollers of West Virginia. My parents were the first generation to move outside the same county for over a hundred years, outside the state EVER. I grew up all over the United States and the world but I am still extremely conscious of my Appalachian roots, and sadly very little has changed in many areas where my extended family still lives. They – we – need more people like Cussy.

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May 27

The Burning Chambers

Book Reviews 1 ★★★½

The Burning ChambersThe Burning Chambers by Kate Mosse
Published by Minotaur Books on June 18, 2019
Genres: Historical
Pages: 592
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Goodreads three-half-stars

France, 1562: Nineteen-year-old Minou Joubert receives an anonymous letter at her father’s bookshop. Sealed with a distinctive family crest, it contains just five words: SHE KNOWS THAT YOU LIVE.

But before Minou can decipher the mysterious message, a chance encounter with a young Huguenot convert, Piet Reydon, changes her destiny forever. For Piet has a dangerous mission of his own, and he will need Minou’s help if he is to stay alive.

As the religious divide deepens, and old friends become enemies, Minou and Piet both find themselves trapped in Toulouse, facing new dangers as tensions ignite across the city.

All the while, the shadowy mistress of Puivert Château—obsessed with uncovering the secrets of a long-hidden document—strengthens her power and waits for the perfect time to strike...

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

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“Kill them all. God will know His own.”

3.5/5 stars. The Burning Chambers is the first in Kate Mosse’s new series, set in a similar historical time period as her earlier series, but this time entirely in France during the bloody wars between French Huguenots and Catholics. This book started out reeeeeeeally slow. So slow that, had I not been given a review copy, I probably would have put it down indefinitely. However, the description was excellent and so was the writing, it was just…so much. Also SUCH a huge cast of characters! There was a three page list of characters at the very beginning (which honestly terrified me before I even started reading). A lot of focus was on the religious conflict, too, which I found kind of off-putting but I understand that it was a HUGE part of life at that time, and was the motivating factor for a lot of the characters’ actions. There was SO MUCH double-crossing in this story…it made my head spin at times, trying to figure out who was on what side and who was a spy and who was playing both sides!

Characters

The story is centered around Minou and to a lesser extent Piet, but there are so many chapters from such a variety of people it was rather mind boggling. Minou is great and I loved that she acted demure enough to blend in seamlessly in the current French society no matter where she was…but beneath all that “proper-ness” was a backbone of steel and GOD HELP ANYONE who tried to hurt her loved ones. Phew.

Piet is a good, steady man with a heart of gold and again the backbone of steel. Despite getting something of the short end of the stick in life, he is still unwilling to believe the worst of people (something that comes back to bite him in the behind). I liked him, but I wasn’t swooning over him. I guess I prefer more of the bad-boy/wounded hero type. He’s just too…nice? (What kind of a person does this thought make me…)

However, all that said, my favorite character was Minou’s little brother. HE is going to grow up to be just the sort of bad-boy-with-a-cause I can get behind, I just know it! The most INTERESTING character is actually the villainess, but the interest of spoilers I’ll leave it at that.

Plot

The Huguenots (Protestants) and the Catholics of 16th century France hate each other for various reasons, and those with no strong religious sensibilities want only to profit from war. Minou’s father has been keeping some dark family secret, Minou receives a vaguely threatening letter…and she is oblidged to leave her beloved Carcassonne for the “safety” of Toulouse, which turns out to not be safe at all.

I really thought this would be more of a historical thriller than it was. As it turned out it was much more of a political/social commentary for the first 75%, with a insta-love sort of romance thrown in. It was sweet, but seemed QUITE unfounded…however, ignoring that little issue, the last quarter of the book really picked up the pace and made me MUCH more invested in the characters and their story, as everyone actually came together instead of being scattered all across the map.

Overall

3.5/5 stars, rounded up. The last quarter really saved the book, and I’m hoping all the meandering and emphasis on the societal aspects of the Huguenot/Catholic wars was setup for the future books in the series, which I will definitely be reading!

Stream-of-consciousness commentary:

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May 23

A Dangerous Collaboration (Veronica Speedwell #4)

Book Reviews 0 ★★★★

A Dangerous Collaboration (Veronica Speedwell #4)A Dangerous Collaboration (Veronica Speedwell, #4) by Deanna Raybourn
Published by Berkley Books/Penguin Random House on March 12, 2019
Genres: Historical, Mystery
Pages: 323
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Goodreads four-stars

Victorian adventuress Veronica Speedwell is whisked off to a remote island off the tip of Cornwall when her natural historian colleague Stoker's brother calls in a favor. On the pretext of wanting a companion to accompany him to Lord Malcolm Romilly's house party, Tiberius persuades Veronica to pose as his fiancée—much to Stoker's chagrin. But upon arriving, it becomes clear that the party is not as innocent as it had seemed. Every invited guest has a connection to Romilly's wife, Rosamund, who disappeared on her wedding day three years ago, and a dramatic dinner proves she is very much on her husband's mind.

As spectral figures, ghostly music, and mysterious threats begin to plague the partygoers, Veronica enlists Stoker's help to discover the host's true motivations. And as they investigate, it becomes clear that there are numerous mysteries surrounding the Romilly estate, and every person present has a motive to kill Rosamund...

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A Dangerous Collaboration is the fourth in the amazing Veronica Speedwell mystery series by Deanna Raybourn! This is definitely a series you need to start at the beginning with, so if you haven’t already be sure to go read the first three books – A Curious Beginning (#1), A Perilous Undertaking (#2), and A Treacherous Curse (#3).

Warning: Possible spoilers for the first three books of the series, but not for this one!

I was really startled when I began reading this book! It starts off with Veronica leaving England – and Stoker – and going off with Lady Cordelia for six months overseas. SAY WHAT?!? You separated my darlings, WHY?? Very little page time is given to this six months, other than to say both ladies fell ill on the trip (but not deathly ill), and Veronica spent much time thinking about Stoker and her feelings and wondering why he didn’t write even though she had told him not to.

Eventually they return, and she and Stoker are so stilted and awkward, it’s like they had taken one step forward and about ten back. Before they even BEGIN to work this out though, as friends or professionals, Stoker’s brother Tiberius (introduced in the first book, gradually getting more screen time as the series goes on) bursts in on them and asks Veronica to go with him to an old school friend’s gathering on a remote island (*dun dun dun DUN*)…posing as his fiancee’. Needless to say…they all three end up going, and shenanigans ensue.

The mystery on the island was the most engrossing one in the series so far, in my opinion. After floundering through the first few chapters (seriously, everyone had emotionally regressed…it was so disconcerting!) I really got into it once things moved to the island. As Veronica (and Stoker…and Tiberius…) try to solve the mystery of what happened to Tiberius’s friends bride, they uncover more and more secrets. It was DELICIOUS!

In the interest of NOT spoiling anything, I won’t give any details, but by the end of the book I was very satisfied with the character progression once more. However, now I want more of Tiberius. He has become a character of interest. I need to see more of his bruised heart and soul…and I would be VERY interested to see if a woman who could handle him and his…proclivities…could be found!

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May 09

A Curious Beginning (Veronica Speedwell #1)

Book Reviews 2 ★★★★★

A Curious Beginning (Veronica Speedwell #1)A Curious Beginning (Veronica Speedwell, #1) by Deanna Raybourn
Published by NAL/Penguin on September 1, 2015
Genres: Historical, Mystery
Pages: 337
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Goodreads five-stars

London, 1887.

After burying her spinster aunt, orphaned Veronica Speedwell is free to resume her world travels in pursuit of scientific inquiry—and the occasional romantic dalliance. As familiar with hunting butterflies as with fending off admirers, Veronica intends to embark upon the journey of a lifetime.

But fate has other plans when Veronica thwarts her own attempted abduction with the help of an enigmatic German baron, who offers her sanctuary in the care of his friend Stoker, a reclusive and bad-tempered natural historian. But before the baron can reveal what he knows of the plot against her, he is found murdered—leaving Veronica and Stoker on the run from an elusive assailant as wary partners in search of the villainous truth.

“Mrs. Clutterthorpe, I can hardly think of any fate worse than becoming the mother of six. Unless perhaps it were plague, and even then I am persuaded a few disfiguring buboes and possible death would be preferable to motherhood.”

Review of a re-read! I actually read A Curious Beginning almost four years ago, when it first came out. I totally intended to buy the second as soon as it was available, but then it came out with a SHOCKINGLY mismatched cover and yes, I was that shallow. I’m really sad that I didn’t keep up with them (also, note: authors have no control over their book covers so it was really stupid of me to essentially “boycott” the second one just because of the cover, even though I totally meant to read it as soon as I could get over my dislike of the cover).

I recently got my hands on the next three (!!!) books in the series, and when I started the second one I realized that I remembered very, VERY little of the first book. So here we are! My enthusiasm for this book knows few bounds, as is best illustrated by HOW MANY TIMES I had to update my GoodReads status for it whilst reading.

And there’s more…click on the picture and scroll to the bottom of the GR review to see! LOL

Feels

The intrigue! The mystery! The secrets! The sexual tension! Ahem. Okay, I might be getting a little carried away. There aren’t really any punch-to-the-gut feelings that come along with this story, or at least I didn’t think so. It’s much more about the mystery surrounding Veronica, why so many people are suddenly interested in a young, unfashionably scientific woman. Stoker, with whom she is thrown together by chance, has a good many secrets that he is quite determined to keep hidden. He basically oozes bad-boy sexuality (in a Victorian sort of way), but actually has quite a soft heart.

“There are times when it is entirely safe to show one’s vulnerability, to roll over and reveal the soft underbelly beneath. But there are other times when pain must be borne without a murmur, when the pain is so consuming that if you give in to it, even in the slightest, you have lost everything.”

The banter is what really makes this book come alive. I laughed out loud SO many times – and not because the SITUATION itself was funny, or far-fetched. Veronica and Stoker just constantly throw one-liners at each other and it’s hysterical. The sexual tension grows and grows throughout the book and I was totally there for it! I was a bit non-plussed at the “ending,” but it made me all the more excited for the next installment. View Spoiler »

Plot

Since this is a mystery, it’s not possible to say MUCH without giving it away. But, it revolves around Veronica and the circumstances of her birth, and why people appear to be either trying to kill or kidnap her. The details aren’t ever especially gory, but it doesn’t quite feel like a cozy mystery to me, either. I’m vaguely reminded of the Amelia Peabody series, but with more sizzle.

Setting

Victorian England, with all the trappings that come along with that era. However, this is probably NOT the book or series for you if you are a stickler for details. The physical details seem fairly accurate, but Veronica is a very independent lady and quite the free-thinker, not just with regards to her whole-hearted pursuit of science but in her “dalliances.” I find it very hard to believe there would be someone in this setting who wasn’t completely ostracized from society…though perhaps I just haven’t studied the right history. I did thoroughly enjoy the scientific aspect of the book, and found myself Googling the scientific names of various butterflies to see what exactly she was looking at!

4.5/5 stars. Half a star reduction was for what I felt was a fairly common plot – not an unenjoyable one, but any means, but a twist could have been nice too. 😉

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Mar 28

Last of the Name Review

Book Reviews 1 ★★★★★

Last of the Name ReviewLast of the Name by Rosanne Parry
Published by Carolrhoda Books (R) on April 2, 2019
Genres: Historical, Middle Grade
Pages: 344
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Goodreads five-stars

Twelve-year-old Danny O'Carolan and his sister, Kathleen, arrive in New York City in 1863. Kathleen refuses to be parted from her only remaining relative, so she finds a job in domestic service for herself and her younger...sister. Danny reluctantly pretends to be a girl to avoid being sent to the children's workhouse or recruited as a drummer boy for the Union army. When he occasionally sneaks off to spend a few hours as a boy and share his rich talent for Irish dancing, he discovers the vast variety of New York's neighborhoods. But the Civil War draft is stoking tensions between the Irish and free black populations. With dangers escalating, how can Danny find a safe place to call home?

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

“Always remember who ye are,” Granny says. “Descended of the great bards of old. Honord by princes near and far they were. Sought out for music and for counsel. Keepers of history. Writers of songs.”

I was excited to read Last of the Name, being of partial descent from Irish immigrants myself. It’s not a topic I’ve often seen covered for this age group, and I was thrilled to see it done so well.

Last of the Name is a middle-grade book about the arrival of Irish immigrants to the United States during the time of the Civil War. 12-year-old Danny has lost everyone dear to him except for his sister Kathleen, either to war, famine (by hunger or in attempts to steal enough food for their family to survive), or the crossing to America. He rebels at dressing as a girl to be a maid alongside Kathleen, but since it seems their only hope of staying together and surviving in the bitter, angry stew that was New York City in 1863, he goes along with his sister’s plan.

Kathleen is the sort of believer who believes more the less evidence there is. She could be on her knees for days on end. I’m going to die of hunger while she prays to save me from a bountiful future…If only there was a patron saint of those afflicted by tyrannical sisters there’d be hope for me.

Despite his complaining, it’s clear Danny dearly loves his sister and will do anything for her. As the city grows more and more hateful, both towards free blacks and the Irish (coming to steal jobs, naturally), it becomes almost as dangerous for them as it was at home – except here, people appreciate Danny’s voice and his dancing feet, which maybe – just maybe – might be the key to their survival in New York City. But when the draft is initiated and the Irish immigrants of the city bear the brunt of it (so much for random!), the whole city looks to go up in flames.

I’m not going to lie, I teared up several times reading this story – and I’m not even sure why! It just felt so poignantly REAL. Danny was adorable and I loved Kathleen’s fire and backbone.

“You Irish,” says another [man], just as stern. “It’s your own out there doing the lynching and the burning. What do you have to fear from your own?”

“You fat old men!” Kathleen shrieks. “What do you know of fear, you with your broad shoulders and your full plates! We have to fear what every woman fears her whole life long. Ye heartless men! When have you ever been small or hungry? Would you send a German child out on the streets this night? Aren’t we Catholic like you? Don’t we sit side by side in church?”

As is historically accurate, Danny and Kathleen’s Catholic faith does play a part in the story – but never in a proselytizing way. The story really shows how much conflict was in the United States at this time, not only around color, but around religion, politics, even denominations. It’s rather disheartening to see that we’ve never really moved on, the names of the different factions have just changed. Despite all that, the story is one of beauty and hope and I’ll be adding it to my own library.

5/5 stars. Highly recommend, and it REALLY needs much more attention than it’s getting!

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Jan 31

Maud

Book Reviews 0 ★★★★★

MaudMaud by Melanie J. Fishbane
Published by Penguin Teen on April 25, 2017
Genres: Historical, Young Adult
Pages: 376
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Goodreads five-stars

Fourteen-year-old Lucy Maud Montgomery—Maud to her friends—has a dream: to go to college and, just like her idol, Louisa May Alcott, become a writer. But living with her grandparents on Prince Edward Island, she worries that this dream will never come true. Her grandfather has strong opinions about a woman’s place in the world, and they do not include spending good money on college. Luckily, she has a teacher to believe in her, and good friends to support her, including Nate, the Baptist minister’s stepson and the smartest boy in the class. If only he weren’t a Baptist; her Presbyterian grandparents would never approve. Then again, Maud isn’t sure she wants to settle down with a boy—her dreams of being a writer are much more important.

Life changes for Maud when she goes out West to live with her father and his new wife and daughter. Her new home offers her another chance at love, as well as attending school, but tensions increase as Maud discovers her stepmother’s plans for her, which threaten Maud’s future—and her happiness—forever.

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Maud is an engaging fictionalized account of the early life of Lucy Maud Montgomery, the creator of the Anne of Green Gables books beloved the world over. While a work of historical fiction, the book encompasses many known facts and events of Montgomery’s life. I was very surprised to see how very similar, in many ways, her growing up years were to those of her character Anne. It was also very sad to see how, unlike Anne, she never really seemed to have support or love from much of her family. I was very intrigued to say the least, and will be looking at a full length biography of her in the future.

I was struck by how hard Montgomery worked to be able to write her stories. In a time when women were expected only to marry and have children, and anything else was considered strange or even evil, she chose education over even her current happiness or in some cases relationships with her family. She seems to have been a feminist before the term was coined. Though she did of course later marry and have children, it was only after she was an established and successful author.

The author takes time to shed light on the condition of women’s rights at this time in Canadian history, as well as the plight of some of the native people such as the Metis. There is also particular emphasis on the conflict between different denominations within the Christian church.

The author has included a brief historical biography in the back of the book, along with specifics about what happened to certain characters. This really helped to tie up the story, especially since this particular book ended before Montgomery was even eighteen.

4.5/5 stars. Highly recommend for anyone who has enjoyed the Anne of Green Gables story!

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Jan 14

How to Marry a Werewolf

Book Reviews 0 ★★★★★

How to Marry a WerewolfHow To Marry A Werewolf (Claw & Courtship, #1) by Gail Carriger
on May 13, 2018
Genres: Historical, Paranormal, Romance
Pages: 196
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Goodreads five-stars

Guilty of an indiscretion? Time to marry a werewolf.

WEREWOLVES

The monsters left Faith ruined in the eyes of society, so now they’re her only option. Rejected by her family, Faith crosses the Atlantic, looking for a marriage of convenience and revenge.

But things are done differently in London. Werewolves are civilized. At least they pretend to be.

AMERICANS

Backward heathens with no culture, Major Channing has never had time for any of them. But there’s something special about Faith. Channing finds himself fighting to prove himself and defend his species. But this werewolf has good reason not to trust human women.

Even if they learn to love, can either of them forgive?

How to Marry a Werewolf is an adorable novella set in the Parasol Protectorate universe (the Parasolverse). I was in desperate need of a good paranormal book fix after the catastrophe that was my last foray into paranormal books, and as usual Gail Carriger did not disappoint! I giggled and swooned my way through this little story and my only complaint is that it IS little.

Note: You can read this even if you haven’t read any of the other Parasolverse books, but it is much, MUCH more enjoyable if you’re already familiar with the world and some of the characters. Recommend starting with Soulless.

Now, I have absolutely LOATHED Channing ever since he first appeared in I think it was the second Parasol Protectorate book. I hated how he treated Alexia and his general airs of superiority towards the entire world. I was more than willing to see him get his icy little heart crushed and broken in this book. Faith is an entirely new character and I loved her! I love that she totally disdains societal expectations of her interests and hobbies (she’s an amateur geologist).

“Are the British opposed to the immigration of foreign rocks in principle or just in theory?…I assure you, sir, these rocks are mostly harmless. Your virtue is safe from nefarious rock infiltration.”

Also, the narrative voice is hysterical, as is usual for Gail’s books (yes, I might be fangirling just a little bit here). There are some amazing quotes, especially near the end, but I’ll leave most of them out so you can discover them for yourself. Please just go read this story. It’s so worth it and really doesn’t take long!

Short, sweet, a little bit sexy – but much less actual sex than Poison or Protect, another of the novellas. 5/5 stars, highly enjoyable and highly recommend, and can we please have more Channing and Faith?!?

“I’ve looked all my life for family…now I know it is you…this is what you and I will do now. We will hold these broken parts of ourselves dear because they brought us to this point, and we will love each other wholly and completely.”

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Dec 14

A Holiday by Gaslight

Book Reviews 0 ★★★★★

A Holiday by GaslightA Holiday by Gaslight: A Victorian Christmas Novella by Mimi Matthews
Published by Perfectly Proper Press on November 13, 2018
Genres: Historical, Romance
Pages: 172
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Goodreads five-stars
two-flames


A Courtship of Convenience

Sophie Appersett is quite willing to marry outside of her class to ensure the survival of her family. But the darkly handsome Mr. Edward Sharpe is no run-of-the-mill London merchant. He's grim and silent. A man of little emotion--or perhaps no emotion at all. After two months of courtship, she's ready to put an end to things.


A Last Chance for Love

But severing ties with her taciturn beau isn't as straightforward as Sophie envisioned. Her parents are outraged. And then there's Charles Darwin, Prince Albert, and that dratted gaslight. What's a girl to do except invite Mr. Sharpe to Appersett House for Christmas and give him one last chance to win her? Only this time there'll be no false formality. This time they'll get to know each other for who they really are.

I saw this book and wanted it. Instantly. THAT COVER. Who doesn’t want to dress up in a sweeping, rich red gown with Christmas green trim? Clearly I was born in the wrong century. I had never heard of Mimi Matthews and while I am typically suspicious of historical romance books, my lovely experience with Someone to Trust made me willing to give this one a try as well.

The premise was intriguing enough – a woman willing to sacrifice her own happiness for her family, but only so far. Sophie has standards. She is more than fine frills and ballrooms. Mr. Ned Sharpe recognizes that almost at once upon meeting her. Before long he is head over heels – but will he ever find his tongue? Though very short, this story was absolutely delicious. I loved the science brought into it as the characters were discussing Darwin’s then-new theories, loved the descriptions of modernization, and I especially loved the major hat-tip to Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South, which is one of my most loved classic books!

I can totally see Ned as perpetually frowning as Mr. Thornton.

Sophie has just about given up on Mr. Sharpe, but in an effort to please her parents she makes one last ditch attempt to get to know him – just to know him! that’s all she wants! not even to be attracted to him! – and invites him AND his parents to her family’s Christmas party at their country estate. Given their aristocratic status and his family’s merchant background…things may not go as smoothly as could be hoped. But Sophie is determined to try to like the man who is willing to save her family from her father’s ill-advised spending, and what results is a lovely little romance that builds as the two come to understand each other better.

If you’re familiar with North and South, you will definitely see the similarity between Mr. Thornton and Mr. Sharpe, which wasn’t really all THAT obvious until the mother came into play. I loved it. It was sweet, and lovely, and can we have a full length novel with Sophie and Ned?

^From the North and South movie, which was amazingly good and true to the book! I think it might be time for a re-watch.

5/5 stars, because while there isn’t a whole lot here, it seems meticulously researched, the characters are alive and vibrant and seem ready to walk off the page, and, well, they’re just adorable somehow. Also snow and Christmas, because apparently I am ALL ABOUT the holiday cheer this season.

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five-stars

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Dec 13

Review of Someone to Trust

Book Reviews 1 ★★★★

Review of Someone to TrustSomeone to Trust (Westcott, #5) by Mary Balogh
Published by Berkley on November 27, 2018
Genres: Historical, Romance
Pages: 400
Buy This Book from Book Depository, Free Delivery World WideBuy on Amazon
Goodreads four-stars
three-flames

During a rare white Christmas at Brambledean Court, the widow Elizabeth, Lady Overfield, defies convention by falling in love with a younger man in the latest novel in the Westcott series.

After her husband's passing, Elizabeth Overfield decides that she must enter into another suitable marriage. That, however, is the last thing on her mind when she meets Colin Handrich, Lord Hodges, at the Westcott Christmas house party. She simply enjoys his company as they listen to carolers on Christmas Eve, walk home from church together on Christmas morning, and engage in a spirited snowball fight in the afternoon. Both are surprised when their sled topples them into a snow bank and they end up sharing an unexpected kiss. They know there is no question of any relationship between them for she is nine years older than he.

They return to London the following season, both committed to finding other, more suitable matches. Still they agree to share one waltz at each ball they attend. This innocuous agreement proves to be one that will topple their worlds, as each dance steadily ensnares them in a romance that forces the two to question what they are willing to sacrifice for love...

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

I picked this up because of the glowing review from Reading Reality. Many thanks for putting this series and author on my radar! I will definitely be coming back when I get the itch for a historical romance again, especially since this was the 5th in the Westcott series. All the previous relationships and people are well explained so that it CAN be read as a standalone, but it really made me curious!

Someone to Trust is the perfect holiday book for the Austen-inclined reader! I thoroughly enjoyed this historical romance, with its unique characters and large, warm, overarching family story. This was particularly refreshing because it was DIFFERENT. Instead of your typical young-couple-meets-and-falls-in-love (naturally with a few obstacles thrown in their way, but nothing they can’t overcome), the heroine is actually a widow, and somewhat old for a Regency era heroine at that. Ok, not just somewhat old, but unheard-of old at thirty-five! And the hero is…twenty-six. GASP!

Elizabeth has been unlucky in love, but she is reconciled to her life. She is still a vibrant, intelligent, warm-hearted woman but has determined that

Contentment would be good enough, even preferable to exuberant happiness, in fact. Happiness did not last. There was more stability in contentment.

I loved Elizabeth so much. She has a backbone of steel and a heart of gold. Despite her misfortune, se is not closed off or unreachable or wallowing. I think it safe to say it is all of those underlying qualities that most attract the young Lord Colin Hodges, much to his own amazement. Colin does not waste much time fretting over what society will think of his inappropriate attachment – no Mr. Darcy scruples here – but determines to win Elizabeth’s heart. Of course, true love’s path never runs smooth, as his own mother (and LORD WHAT A MOTHER) conspires against him, along with the rest of society and Elizabeth’s own belief about herself and what she deserves out of life.

This book is so far removed from what I usually expect from books labeled historical romance. It is full of solid, steady, but also heart-fluttering love. The characters are mature and make decisions that MAKE SENSE, both for the time and for the story. There was none of the ridiculous swooning and obsession that so often marks romances.

4/5 stars, because I did feel that some of the dialogue was really too modern and felt removed from the time period. Didn’t detract from the story itself, just from my absorption in it. Still highly recommend!

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four-stars

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Nov 21

Review of Escaping from Houdini

Book Reviews 0 ★★★½

Review of Escaping from HoudiniEscaping from Houdini (Stalking Jack the Ripper, #3) by Kerri Maniscalco
Published by Jimmy Patterson on September 18, 2018
Genres: Historical, Young Adult
Pages: 416
Buy This Book from Book Depository, Free Delivery World WideBuy on Amazon
Goodreads three-half-stars

In this third installment in the #1 bestselling Stalking Jack the Ripper series, a luxurious ocean liner becomes a floating prison of scandal, madness, and horror when passengers are murdered one by one…with nowhere to run from the killer. .

Audrey Rose Wadsworth and her partner-in-crime-investigation, Thomas Cresswell, are en route to New York to help solve another blood-soaked mystery. Embarking on a week-long voyage across the Atlantic on the opulent RMS Etruria, they’re delighted to discover a traveling troupe of circus performers, fortune tellers, and a certain charismatic young escape artist entertaining the first-class passengers nightly.

But then, privileged young women begin to go missing without explanation, and a series of brutal slayings shocks the entire ship. The strange and disturbing influence of the Moonlight Carnival pervades the decks as the murders grow ever more freakish, with nowhere to escape except the unforgiving sea. It’s up to Audrey Rose and Thomas to piece together the gruesome investigation as even more passengers die before reaching their destination. But with clues to the next victim pointing to someone she loves, can Audrey Rose unravel the mystery before the killer’s horrifying finale?

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“Truth is a blade. Brutal and ice cold. It cuts. Sometimes when spoken carelessly it even scars.”

Escaping from Houdini (Book #3 in the Stalking Jack the Ripper series) was one of my most anticipated books of the entire year. I absolutely adored the first two – which, if you haven’t read and have the slightest interest in doing so STOP READING because there will be spoilers for those two books – and so I was delighted to find out that the original planned trilogy was being expanded to four. Audrey Rose Wadsworth and Thomas Cresswell…I can’t get enough of them, or the deliciously creepy situations their forensic passion leads them into! That said, I have to admit this book was my least favorite of the series so far. You can see my review of the first, Stalking Jack the Ripper, and the second, Hunting Prince Dracula, by clicking the linked titles!

Can’t help it, this is what I thought of through the first few chapters. 😛

I really do hate to say it, but in some ways it feels completely unnecessary…like why spend an entire book on the trans-oceanic voyage from Europe to America? I understand it makes for a really creepy atmostphere, when people are being MURDERED and you know for absolutely certain they are on the ship with you and no way to get off of it in the middle of the ocean…but still. Anyway, maybe that’s just me, and I’m butt-hurt because I was really looking forward to seeing what they did in America and also seeing how the series ended.

//SMALL POTENTIAL SPOILERS for character-type stuff, not plot//

My People

Other than the maybe-not-necessary part of my feelings on the book…OMG WADSWORTH. What happened?!? Where did the stalwart, strong-minded girl I knew go? What…just what. Here, maybe a screenshot of my actual agony as I read will help:

Not only was she suddenly needing smelling salts, but the way she treated Thomas…I really struggle to accept that it was justified. In the grand scheme of things, I understand why she did it. She put trying to find the killer and figure out what was going on ahead of her own feelings, but in the process I really feel she treated Thomas as if he was just an automaton without any kind of emotion. It felt like a kick to the stomach. And, as we all remember (riiiiight, you did read the other books), for all his cold, calculating, analytical brain cells, our boy does actually have a heart a few fibers of insecurity running through it. Now, in an author note at the end, Kerri Maniscalco actually addresses this entire issue, and WHY Wadsworth acted the way she did. I get it. I’m just not completely on board with it and I feel like it quite possibly forever altered her relationship with Thomas. Can relationships recover from setbacks? Absolutely. Do they? Sometimes. So I guess we will just have to wait and see in book four…HOW am I going to wait another year??

Plot

“This isn’t the first time you’ve removed a cravat, is it?”
“It would be the first time I used it to strangle someone, though.”

The mystery aspect of this one wasn’t as hair-raising as either one of the other two books. Enjoyable, yes, and I didn’t have a very good theory until about 65-75% of the way through the book (perhaps because I was so hung up over Wadsworth and Cresswell’s woes). It was very flashy and atmospheric but not all that exciting. After the first couple of bodies you kinda/sorta knew what to expect.

The “show” aspect was interesting and really gave a different flavor to the setting than you would expect from a ship. It was very circus-y and all the minor characters introduced created ALL kinds of red herrings and hangups.

Things That Did Surprise Me

“Be cautious with who you give your heart to. And be even more wary of those who wish to steal it.”

First, totally did not see the cousin thing coming. That was intriguing and really added another layer to the story. Next, do not go into this expecting Houdini to play a large part. The title is somewhat misleading. Third, WHO THE HELL is this circus master dude and WTF is he playing at (this question is mostly answered by the end but geez I hated this guy’s guts for most of the book). Fourth, I still adore Mrs. Harvey. I don’t think I mentioned her in my other reviews, but she is just the absolute BEST with her “nightcaps” and look-the-other way style of chaperoning.

Overall, I’m giving Escaping from Houdini 3.5 stars. I really wanted to give it 4 but it just bummed me out too much, between the “meh” mystery factor and the “ACK!!” relationship factor.

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three-half-stars

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