Showing posts with label review. Show all posts
Showing posts with label review. Show all posts

Monday, August 24, 2020

Review & Giveaway: It Started in Budapest by Julie Daines


My rating: 5 stars / It was amazing

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Synopsis

Molly Cooper is haunted by one simple fact: it is her fault her twin brother, Matthew, has spent his life trapped in a frail body while she has thrived. Deep in her heart, she knows he can’t hold on much longer . . .

In her desperation to save her brother, Molly finds inspiration in an unlikely source: the newly published novel Dracula. When her family embarks on the Orient Express to seek treatment for Matthew in Bulgaria, Molly is prepared to set her plan in motion: she will sneak away from her parents and journey alone to Transylvania, where she will seek a vampire, whose blood can make her brother immortal. Molly’s rash plan is going flawlessly—until she encounters Percy Hunt, a handsome American traveler running from the shadows of his own past. When he discovers Molly’s plan, Percy’s concern for the naive young woman leaves him no choice but to accompany her on her strange quest. But neither Percy nor Molly is prepared for the feelings that quickly grow between them or for the death-defying escapade that awaits.


My Review

First off, I just have to say how much I loved the setting in this book since it reminded me of my first trip to Europe last summer. It felt like I was back on my foreign adventure with everything new and unfamiliar, yet grounded in reality. We quickly get to know Molly and her family circumstances, which comes with an extreme dose of guilt for her brother's infirmities and an irrational phobia of the color white. I was surprised by her naive yet desperate belief that she can encounter a vampire if she follows the travels of Bram Stoker's character Jonathan Harker as told in Dracula. I haven't read the book (although I want to now!) and after learning that it's written as a series of letters, diary entries, newspaper articles, and ships' log entries, I can understand why Molly may have put faith in the realistic presentation of the paranormal story. 

I loved her rocky friendship with Percy, her self-appointed protector, who follows her as she gets in one predicament after another. The revealing of both Molly and Percy's deeper layers amidst their journey kept me interested in seeing how they could manage a happily ever after. There are powerful themes of death, grief, loneliness, duty, and loyalty. I was in tears as Molly learned some difficult but beautiful lessons about the fragility of life, the strength we can find in ourselves and those around us, and the inner peace that we can find in our faith. There is a lovely balance of adventure, excitement, and danger with quieter moments of connection and introspection.

(I received a complimentary copy of the book; all opinions in this review are my own)

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Thursday, August 20, 2020

Review: The Pathways to the Heart by Mandi Ellsworth, Paula Kremser, E.B. Wheeler



My rating: 4 stars / I really liked it

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Synopsis

Finding love is a journey in these Regency and Western romance novellas.

The Courtship Cure
Mary Worthington has been raised in sheltered circumstances by her grandfather the duke, but now that her brother has inherited the title, he wishes her to marry well. Doctor Tyndale, a recently made baronet, is intrigued by elusive Mary, but he assumes she is the same social level as his patients and therefore not high enough to meet his father's approval. Can the two discover the truth - and love - in this Regency comedy of errors?

Hiding Gems
Matthew just wants to live in peace on his Oregon ranch. Pearl is seeking shelter for herself and two Chinese children after the 1886 riots drive them out of Seattle. The two are drawn together by their gentle hearts, but they will have to decide if they are willing to stand up and fight against fear and prejudice to find love.

Bootleggers and Basil
Helen Botsari arrives in 1920s Utah as a Greek picture bride, excited for a new life in a land of opportunity. When she discovers that her prospective groom was killed in a railroad accident, she finds herself alone in a foreign land that is increasingly hostile to immigrants. It is up to fellow immigrant Dimitrios Nikolaidis to convince her that America still holds a bright future for her.


My Review

I really enjoyed these stories! I'm always up for a good Regency, and it was fun to have a lady and a baronet both hiding their status while they serve in the local village. The second story was my favorite, and while it was a bit jarring to go from the manners of England to the backwoods of Oregon, with a switch to first person POV, I quickly grew to love Matthew, a gentle giant, and Pearl, the compassionate pillar of strength. Their friendship and romance bloomed naturally as they cared for the two young children and experienced the love of a family. They had such sweet chemistry! The last story shared a bit of history that I was unaware of- the Greek immigrants in the Salt Lake Valley of Utah. They experienced discrimination from a small part of the community, but I appreciated that the author pointed out that the Mormons also knew what it was like to be outsiders and didn't condone the racism. The two main characters are each feisty in their own ways, but learn to overcome their differences.

(I received a complimentary copy of the book; all opinions in this review are my own)


Monday, August 17, 2020

Review & Giveaway: The Gentleman Spy by Erica Vetsch


 
My rating: 4 stars / I really liked it

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Synopsis

He only wanted a duchess for a day―but she's determined to make it a marriage for life

When his father and older brother suddenly pass away, the new Duke of Haverly is saddled with a title he never expected to bear. To thwart the plans of his scheming family, the duke impulsively marries a wallflower. After all, she's meek and mild; it should be easy to sequester her in the country and get on with his life―as a secret agent for the Crown.

But his bride has other ideas. She's determined to take her place not only as his duchess but as his wife. As a duchess, she can use her position to help the lowest of society―the women forced into prostitution because they have no skills or hope. Her endeavors are not met favorably in society, nor by her husband who wishes she'd remain in the background as he ordered.

Can the duke succeed in relegating her to the sidelines of his life? When his secrets are threatened with exposure, will his new wife be an asset or a liability?



My Review

Charlotte is the kind of character that I find easy to relate to in fiction. She loves reading, wants to do what is right but also speaks up, even when it is unpopular, and is compassionate and sacrificial. I loved her newfound passion for helping unfortunate women and the way she developed confidence in herself and in her new role. Marcus has quite a bit on his plate being an unexpected duke, an undercover agent, and new groom. I wish we knew more about his emotions in the early stages of his relationship with Charlotte, but he was just too good at repressing and compartmentalizing. The intrigue of the mystery he is trying to solve comes and goes throughout the book and seems to slow the pace rather than increase it. I enjoyed the focus on Charlotte and the way she navigates the new relationships in her life- husband, difficult mother-in-law, genuine friends, secret half sister, and converted former madam. There is a faith element woven in that is not often emphasized in Regency fiction, and I appreciated the way it gave hope and inspiration to the characters. I hope there will continue to be more in this series!

(I received a complimentary copy of the book; all opinions in this review are my own)

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Sunday, August 16, 2020

To Sketch a Sphinx by Rebecca Connolly


 
My rating: 5 stars / It was amazing

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Synopsis

From the Hand of Sketch...

Henrietta "Hal" Mortimer has been working with England's operatives and spies for years, her remarkable memory and artistic talents invaluable to many missions. The last thing she expects is to be pulled into a field mission herself, and to be partnered with the most insufferable asset she has ever met. Worse, then, that she has to marry the man.

And the mind of Sphinx...

There are very few people who rattle John Pratt, gifted code-breaker for the Crown, but Hal Mortimer was one of them. Marrying her in order to go into the field for their mission in Paris would be torture, but they had no choice. Will their mutual spite doom their mission before it starts or can they set it aside and work together for the safety and security of their country?


My Review

As different as these two characters are, I loved them as individuals and loved them with each other- both when they are bickering (which they do so well) and when they are romantic. It was refreshing to have a somewhat fresh storyline to follow- the League is taking a new strategy to get ahead of the Faction rather than reacting to it's treachery. I absolutely loved the setting of Paris and the new characters we are introduced to! I'm hoping that we get future stories for the deep undercover spies that helped Hal and John. Sidenote: I have to admit that Hal's nickname often threw me off since it's so masculine in my mind, but it really created a swoony contrast when John would call her Ange. Hal and John each have a "very particular set of skills" (I'm saying that in Liam Neeson's voice in my head), which make them quite brilliant assets. They start out a bit competitive with each other, but as they work together they realize that they perfectly complement each other, in more ways than just their spy skills ;) I loved their chemistry and the way they grew to care for and support each other as true partners. This book has a perfect balance of intrigue, suspense, romance, and action. It wraps up with a satisfying ending, but also with a lead-in to the next book, which I can't wait for!

(I received a complimentary copy of the book; all opinions in this review are my own)



Don't miss the previous books in the London League series . . . 

 

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Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Review: Coming Home to Maverick by Sophia Summers



 
My rating: 3 stars / I liked it

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Synopsis

Bailey is back. Maverick thought he was over her. But neither can deny the feelings that will always be there.

Bailey has made mistakes, so many she doesn't think she'll really ever forgive herself. But her daughter deserves the kind of life Bailey had growing up. When she shows up on her parents' doorstep back to her hometown, the one person she isn't ready to see is Maverick. But will she ever be able to face him?

The minute Maverick hears Bailey is back, he knows his heart still belongs to her. But what kind of man trusts a woman who left him at the altar? As he grapples with a new daughter that he can't help but wish was his, all the responsibilities of running his family's ranch, and the hurt he feels about Bailey's betrayal, he finds new love and hope not only with her but with God.

As soon as God is a part of the equation, the sweetness they find is better than they ever had. Just maybe this second chance around is God's gift of happiness to them both.


My Review

This is a feel-good second chance romance set in small-town Texas. There are strong themes of homecoming and forgiveness as Bailey reconnects with the family and friends she left behind with no word or explanation. While it's understandable that she had wanted to chase her dreams of being a singer, I didn't get why she ghosted people she had such good and strong relationships with. She does an awful good job of self-flagellation for her bad choices now that she's back home, and her parents and Maverick are both encouraging of her turning things over to God for healing. The characters seem almost too good to be true, and the slower pace of the story matches the setting, making it a relaxing read.

(I received a complimentary copy of the book; all opinions in this review are my own)


Review: Molly by Sarah Monzon

My rating: 5 stars / It was amazing

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Synopsis

If there’s one thing you should know about me, it’s that I absolutely refuse to tell a lie no matter the consequences. So don’t ask me a direct question unless you’re prepared for a direct answer—that’s something my SoCal sewing girlfriends have learned the hard way.  

But who would have thought my honesty policy would get me fired from my job at the preschool? Or that a desperate—and not to mention devastatingly handsome—single father of one of my (now-former) students would hire me that same day as a nanny for his daughter?  

I’m an education professional. How hard can taking care of a four-year-old and her over-stressed, over-worked father be?

My Review

So. Funny. I loved Molly's voice! Fresh, quirky, self-aware, and self-accepting. The honesty policy sounds like a good life rule... until you quickly learn how convenient it can be to bend the truth in uncomfortable situations- like the one that got Molly fired. Ironically, her candid, scientific answer about body functions also gets her hired by the handsome and desperate doctor to care for his precocious daughter. Of course, attraction ensues while Molly becomes an integral part of the little family, though not without some all-too-realistic mishaps. I liked how the author shows how Molly's childhood experiences have influenced the importance of integrity in her life. The story is told from both Molly and Ben's first person POV, which made it interesting and fun to get in Ben's head as well. Recommend to fans of clean contemporary romance and especially those who loved The Match by Sarah Adams.

 
(I received a complimentary copy of the book; all opinions in this review are my own)



Don't miss the next book in the Sewing in SoCal series . . .

Coming October 2020
 
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Synopsis

WWSOD—What would Scarlett O’Hara do?
 
Anything to survive, that’s what. But instead of a man-eating Southern belle in hoop skirts and big hats, my version of existence looks an awful lot like a financial conglomerate employee staring blankly at budget analysis spreadsheets. Either way, the motto has served me well most my life. Until now, that is. The corporate retreat location has just been announced, and this city girl is headed to a dude ranch in the country. How will Scarlett help me survive that? No, this time I’ll turn to the sage advice of preteen YouTubers and their ponies to keep me from making a fool of myself.
 
But who’s going to help me navigate the kind yet reticent cowboy in the black Stetson—the cattle ranch owner who’s slowly claiming corners of my heart?





Review: A Well-Trained Lady by Jess Heileman



My rating: 4 stars / I really liked it

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Synopsis

Arabella Godwin is an Incomparable in London Society—elegant, wealthy, and meticulously trained. Yet, she has nothing to show for her efforts aside from her pretentious reputation and a collection of disappointed suitors. When her plan to secure a promising offer of marriage is temporarily delayed, she must bide her time in the company of an estranged childhood friend—the much-too-endearing, but regrettably untitled, Augustus Brundage.

As the friends’ tattered relationship returns to familiarity, Arabella must prevent herself from fully regressing into the carefree, impressionable young lady who once foolishly trusted Augustus with her heart. To make the same mistake again would ruin everything she has worked for—and certainly more.

But, can a heart be so easily trained?

My Review

Arabella drove me a just little crazy! Once she slowly sheds the insincere society persona she had embraced due to her mother's influence, she becomes actually likeable, and I could see why Augustus had fallen in love with her and was willing to give her another chance. She reminds me a bit of Jane Austen's Emma as she gives lessons to Ruth, trying to help improve her manners, when really Ruth has the important characteristics Arabella would do well to emulate. Augustus and Arabella have such fun banter, which were my favorite parts. Family secrets come to light and complicate Arabella's future, right when she was so close to grasping happiness. I was all tied in a knot as Arabella is caught between her parents and their own private agendas. This book had plenty of ups, downs, and twists leading to a perfectly satisfying happily-ever-after.

(I received a complimentary copy of the book; all opinions in this review are my own)



Don't miss the other books in the Seasons of Change series . . .











Review: Love's Mountain Quest by Misty M. Beller

My rating: 4 stars / I really liked it

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Synopsis

Young widow Joanna Watson is struggling to make a new home for her five-year-old son, Samuel, in the little mountain town of Settler's Fort. When she returns home from work to find Samuel and the woman watching him missing, with no lawman in town, she enlists a man she prays has enough experience in this rugged country to help.

Isaac Bowen wants nothing more than a quiet, invisible life in these mountains, far away from the bad decisions of his past. But he has a strong suspicion of who's behind the kidnapping, and if he's right, he knows all too well the evil they're chasing.

As they press on against the elements, Joanna fights to hold on to hope, while Isaac knows a reckoning is coming. They find encouragement in the tentative trust that grows between them, but whether it can withstand the danger and coming confrontation is far from certain in this wild, unpredictable land.


My Review

Boy, this one jumped right into the action! I felt like I quickly got to know Joanna and Isaac quickly through their actions and thoughts as they desperately search for her kidnapped son and friend. We experience the author's trademark perilous journey through the wilderness with various dangers and trying conditions. I was surprised that tracking the outlaws took up so much of the book, but it turned out that this was a long game situation since Isaac had a secret past that gave them an advantage in the pursuit. It's a mixed blessing since it brings more issues for Joanna to deal with after she's fallen for the rugged mountain man- overcoming mistrust and relying on the good man he is now. The scenes with the outlaws and Laura, the young woman they are holding captive, are a bit disturbing, which heightens the tension and suspense. I appreciated the spiritual message of turning to God in faith during our darkest hours, and also the theme of redemption and forgiveness. I'm glad that the next book in the series is about Laura so we can see her healing process from all she went through.

(I received a complimentary copy of the book; all opinions in this review are my own)



Don't miss the other books in the Hearts of Montana series . . .