Book Review: A Castaway in Cornwall

Every once in a while a reader will stumble across an author that is such a great match for their reading interests that you know no matter which title you pick up, you’re going to love it. Julie Klassen is one of those authors for me. Her books aren’t always fast paced, but there’s just something about them that works time and time again.

A Castaway in Cornwall was published in December but I just got around to reading it a few days ago. I was not mistaken – I was met, as expected, with a work of fiction that hit all the right notes for me at the right time. It’s an atmospheric telling, obviously about a castaway in Cornwall – a shipwreck survivor – and the woman who nurses him to health, a castaway in her own right. That’s an overly simplistic capture of the plot, but I don’t want to spoil the story – I want to encourage you to read it for yourself. Inside you’ll find a lot of coastal or sea-worthy jargon with an emphasis on flotsam and jetsam (do you know the difference?) and a reflection of the Cornish history of smuggling and wreckers woven into the period piece.

The lead characters in this novel have some depths to them – secrets, pasts, scars – but they’re steadfast – which is not to be confused with boring. The book as a whole is not fast paced, and it’s not a romp – it takes its time to get from cover to cover, but it’s an enjoyable journey nonetheless. I would classify it as historical inspirational fiction with intrigue and an innocent, slow-burn romance. Bonus points for the cover art – I just absolutely love the colour palette and soft design. This title felt quite a bit like a novel written just for me.

My thanks to the publisher for the complimentary copy of this title via NetGalley. All opinions are my own.

Publication Date: December 1, 2020
Publisher: Bethany House
ISBN: 9780764234224

Book Review: The Thief of Blackfriars Lane by Michelle Griep

We’re well into the third day of the first month of a brand new spanking year that we as a family brought in much like we do every other strike of midnight – sleepy, contemplating bed for the adults, and wide awake, gaming, for the teens. You’d think for someone who spent more time than usual encamped at home this year that my reading goals would have been a breeze to meet, but I miscalculated and by the last of 2020 had not met my benchmark at all. Oh well! A new year… a new book… some new reading goals!

The Thief of Blackfriars Lane by Michelle Griep was the perfect official inaugural read for this booklover. While I technically finished another title prior, that title straddled the line between years and is accounted for somewhere in a reader’s no-man’s land. This smashing work of fiction, however, was published January 1st and seemed the exactly right title to start my new book year fresh. I finished it in the wee hours of the morning, being fully ensconced in this sweet, mysterious, and fast paced romp, aided in part by a miscalculated (but enjoyable) coffee at 9 p.m. last night. As I put my Kindle to sleep around 3 a.m., and contemplated sleep myself, I remembered again how much I truly enjoy Griep as an author of historical Christian fiction. Why do I not read her work more often?

I was swept back in time and settled in for a delightfully vivacious adventure. The author crafts a beautiful word picture that will immerse you in the action, location, and emotion on every page. The romance lends itself to sweetness and naivete, while the need to meet a deadline lends a sense of urgency and need to engage. Through this clever and compelling novel with elements of faith and trust, I was transported through the smelliest, darkest parts of London where danger and deception lurk to the glittering ballrooms of the wealthy (where danger and deception lurk) to the noble halls of the historic metropolitan police. A 5-star read to start the year off right. What a delight!

Publication Date: January 1, 2020
Publisher: Barbour Fiction

I was provided with a complimentary digital copy of this title via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are my own.

Blog Tour Book Review: Wrong Alibi by Christina Dodd

I’ve been reading Christina Dodd for years. Her books are sassy, well paced, with elements of humour, danger, and intrigue. When Harlequin sent me the list of titles available for the Mystery Thriller Fall Reads Blog Tour, I was excited to see Wrong Alibi on the list and eagerly selected it as a title to read and review.

From the Publisher:

Perfect for fans of Lisa Jewell, New York Times bestselling author Christina Dodd delivers an all-new thriller, featuring a bold and brash female protagonist.

WRONG JOB
Eighteen-year-old Evelyn Jones lands a job in small-town Alaska, working for a man in his isolated mountain home. But her bright hopes for the future are shattered when Donald White disappears, leaving her to face charges of theft, embezzlement—and a brutal double murder. Her protestations of innocence count for nothing. Convicted, she faces life in prison…until fate sends her on the run.

WRONG NAME
Evie’s escape leaves her scarred and in hiding, isolated from her family, working under an alias at a wilderness camp. Bent on justice, intent on recovering her life, she searches for the killer who slaughters without remorse.

WRONG ALIBI
At last, the day comes. Donald White has returned. Evie emerges from hiding; the fugitive becomes the hunter. But in her mind, she hears the whisper of other forces at work. Now Evelyn must untangle the threads of evidence before she’s once again found with blood on her hands: the blood of her own family.

My Thoughts:

This novel contains all the twists, turns, drama, and danger you’d expect in a gripping piece of contemporary suspense, but I do find it was missing the sass and humour I have come to expect, which, yes, I can admit would probably have been out of place in a book with a dark side. I found myself frustrated throughout, screaming “No!” or “That’s not fair!” or “Why would you do that?” silently to myself. Needless to say I was engaged with the drama and mystery – wanting to know the backstory and see where we were headed. Beautifully descriptive settings land you in the middle of Alaska, hiding in the wilds with those who find the vast remote landscape the perfect place to become someone new or hide their true identities. As with most of Harlequin’s novels, I would recommend for adult readers due to content.

This title hit shelves today and is available through all the major booksellers and I’m sure through your favourite local bookstore!

WRONG ALIBI
Author: Christina Dodd 
ISBN: 9781335080820
Publication Date: December 29, 2020
Publisher: HQN Books


Book Review: The Paris Dressmaker by Kristy Cambron

It’s been sometime since my last post – life and all that. As I was going through my bookshelves (actual bookshelves) I wondered how anyone has time to read all the books – because again, life and all that. In my ongoing purge and organization, I actually made the decision to donate (4) 8″x8″ books that I’ve accumulated through my lifetime reflecting various reading patterns that I just don’t enjoy anymore. (Apologies, Percy Bysshe Shelley & Lord Byron…) I also found some treasures in the mix, and a few titles that gave me sentimental pause but remain in a pile of undetermined fate.

I am happy to say that even though my library has grown smaller, I have climbed out of my reading slump. I’ve read a few great titles that I’ve truly enjoyed. Unfortunately, I’ve fallen even more massively behind in my reviews. Today I’m choosing to tell you about a recent favourite that hasn’t even hit bookshelves yet – sharing early in the hopes that my thoughts on it remain fresh and my review accurate to my time of reading. If I can’t post a review, I try to take notes about my feelings and the things that strike me about a book, but, in my opinion, fresh thoughts are always conveyed better in a situation like this.

Without further ado, I’d like you to turn your attention to The Paris Dressmaker by Kristy Cambron, publishing Februrary 16, 2021. Not only does it have a beautiful cover, it is a beautifully written story about Paris in WWII and the courage of a select few members of La Resistance. I had concern that it would be just another tale written like many others on the market today – nothing wrong with it, but nothing to make it different… but I was pleasantly surprised that it read different, with exquisite description and detail, gripping narrative, and a basis on true events (I quite enjoyed the author’s notes at the end regarding her research.) It’s a beautifully crafted story told with layers of care at a pace that will keep you engaged, beginning to end.

My only criticisms or points of note are to mention that the novel is more than one timeline and it helps to pay attention to the where and when at the beginning of each chapter to keep one’s threads from tangling. I didn’t find it confusing, but did have to go back once or twice to clarify my point in the timeline. Secondly, with a steady pace throughout the whole novel, the ending felt not rushed, or unexpected, but perhaps slightly lackluster even though all the loose threads were tidied up. I just wanted something a little “more.” I don’t know why I feel that way, but I do. Overall, I’m adding this to my recommendations of must-reads for 2021. It does contain elements of faith which shouldn’t be surprising coming from a Thomas Nelson publication.

From the Publisher:

Based on true accounts of how Parisiennes resisted the Nazi occupation in World War II—from fashion houses to the city streets—comes a story of two courageous women who risked everything to fight an evil they couldn’t abide.

Paris, 1939. Maison Chanel has closed, thrusting haute couture dressmaker Lila de Laurent out of the world of high fashion as Nazi soldiers invade the streets and the City of Lights slips into darkness. Lila’s life is now a series of rations, brutal restrictions, and carefully controlled propaganda while Paris is cut off from the rest of the world. Yet in hidden corners of the city, the faithful pledge to resist. Lila is drawn to La Resistance and is soon using her skills as a dressmaker to infiltrate the Nazi elite. She takes their measurements and designs masterpieces, all while collecting secrets in the glamorous Hôtel Ritz—the heart of the Nazis’ Parisian headquartersBut when dashing René Touliard suddenly reenters her world, Lila finds her heart tangled between determination to help save his Jewish family and bolstering the fight for liberation.

Paris, 1943. Sandrine Paquet’s job is to catalog the priceless works of art bound for the Führer’s Berlin, masterpieces stolen from prominent Jewish families. But behind closed doors, she secretly forages for information from the underground resistance. Beneath her compliant façade lies a woman bent on uncovering the fate of her missing husband . . . but at what cost? As Hitler’s regime crumbles, Sandrine is drawn in deeper when she uncrates an exquisite blush Chanel gown concealing a cryptic message that may reveal the fate of a dressmaker who vanished from within the fashion elite.

Told across the span of the Nazi occupation, The Paris Dressmaker highlights the brave women who used everything in their power to resist darkness and restore light to their world.

Early Praise:

“Stunning. With as much skill and care as the title’s namesake possesses, The Paris Dressmaker weaves together the stories of two heroines who boldly defy the darkness that descends on the City of Light.” —Jocelyn Green, Christy Award-winning author of Shadows of the White City

“A thoroughly satisfying blend of memorable characters, evocative writing, and wartime drama that seamlessly transport you to the City of Light at its most desperate hour.” —Susan Meissner, bestselling author of The Nature of Fragile Things

“With real life historical details woven in with her fictional tale, the story popped off the page. Readers will be thinking of this book long after they’ve read the last word.” —Rachel Hauck, New York Times bestselling author

My final thoughts on this one are to say I highly recommend this title. It was exquisite and enjoyable. I mentioned in Instagram that it contained all my favourite things in a book (even though I’m not even sure what those “things” are) – it hit all the right notes for me. I’ll be pre-ordering a copy for a permanent place on my bookshelves.

“I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.”

Book Review: Autumn Skies by Denise Hunter

The third and final novel in the Bluebell Inn series, Autumn Skies is an absolutely wonderful conclusion to a beautifully written contemporary family saga. Three siblings renovate and run the Bluebell Inn to commemorate their parents, each novel devoting itself to one love story at a time. My review of the first title, Lake Season, can be found here.

Continuing the family story while tying up the loose ends as the Bennetts look to the future, we encounter Grace’s romance in this last installment. Engaging and heartwarming, Denise Hunter knows her audience and creates dynamic characters that you love. There is an innocence or winsomeness to Hunter’s writing that is appealing, and yet her characters and storylines have a depth to them – scars and doubts and obstacles that all must be dealt with for any healthy relationships to occur – especially as truths are exposed that make heartache a very real possibility. Set in a picturesque small town that you’ll want to visit, this is another winner for Ms. Hunter, I’m sure.

Released October 20th, you should be able to find this title at your favourite local bookseller or through the usual online distributors. If not – request it and the other titles in the series and find a quiet spot to get lost in their charm!

My thanks to the publisher for the complimentary copy of this title via NetGalley.
Opinions expressed are entirely my own.

Publication Date: October 20, 2020
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
ISBN: 9780785222804



Blog Tour & Book Review: The Forgotten Sister by Nicola Cornick

I have had some disappointing reads lately that have just been “blah” and left me in a bit of a reading slump. I haven’t been quick to pick up any new NetGalley titles because I’ve been leery of feeling disappointed and not quite knowing how to weave my thoughts into constructive criticism – which is the whole premise of the program. When a reminder popped up that I was to post as part of the Harlequin 2020 Fall Reads Historical Fiction blog tour for Nicola Cornick’s newest title, The Forgotten Sister, I realised I had procrastinated long enough and it was time to jump into something new. It took me a day to read and it was easy-going – no drudgery involved. What a relief!

FROM THE PUBLISHER:

In the tradition of the spellbinding historical novels of Philippa Gregory and Kate Morton comes a stunning story based on a real-life Tudor mystery, of a curse that echoes through the centuries and shapes two women’s destinies…

1560: Amy Robsart is trapped in a loveless marriage to Robert Dudley, a member of the court of Queen Elizabeth I. Surrounded by enemies and with nowhere left to turn, Amy hatches a desperate scheme to escape—one with devastating consequences that will echo through the centuries…

Present Day: When Lizzie Kingdom is forced to withdraw from the public eye in a blaze of scandal, it seems her life is over. But she’s about to encounter a young man, Johnny Robsart, whose fate will interlace with hers in the most unexpected of ways. For Johnny is certain that Lizzie is linked to a terrible secret dating back to Tudor times. If Lizzie is brave enough to go in search of the truth, then what she discovers will change the course of their lives forever.

MY THOUGHTS:

This was a well-crafted easy-to-read novel. During the opening scenes, I had some doubts about compatibility, but kept reading and was pleasantly entertained. I shouldn’t have doubted, as I’ve read and enjoyed Cornick’s work before. I pondered the relevance of the title at times but that too resolved itself to my satisfaction. This is a fanciful work of fiction with some extrasensory elements. I don’t typically travel to the Tudor period in my historical reading, so was unfamiliar with some of the key characters. The author’s note at the end made it even more interesting to me!

I was able to read the book throughout one day (without neglecting my family!) I was entertained, my curiosity was piqued, and the plot caught me by surprise. Overall I would recommend The Forgotten Sister as it held (without taking away from the merits of Cornick herself as an author) a Susanna Kearsley-esque appeal. Released today, you should be able to pick up a copy from your favourite local bookseller or any of the usual online retailers

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

USA Today bestselling author Nicola Cornick has written over thirty historical romances for Harlequin and HQN Books. She has been nominated twice for a RWA RITA Award and twice for the UK RNA Award. She works as a historian and guide in a seventeenth century house. In 2006 she was awarded a Masters degree with distinction from Ruskin College, Oxford, where she wrote her dissertation on heroes.

THE FORGOTTEN SISTER 
Author: Nicola Cornick 
ISBN: 9781525809958
Publication Date: November 10, 2020
Publisher: Graydon House Books 

Book Review: What They Meant for Evil

It has been more than a year since I first read Rebecca Deng’s beautiful autobiography, What They Meant for Evil. My Facebook post from October 2019 reflects my eagerness to share this title with the world. “I was given an advanced copy of this book, but didn’t get around to reading it until Saturday night. Once I started, I could not put it down. It is a remarkable account of a “Lost Girl” from Sudan and all she survived before (and after) being accepted as a refugee. Her faith was unshakeable and her story an inspiration. As one of my kids complained their turkey was cold, I shared a little bit of Rebecca’s story to remind them of how truly blessed we are. I will be ordering a copy for myself so if you want to borrow it, let me know!”

Unfortunately, my advanced order from Amazon was cancelled and I’ve not yet looked into a new source. Officially released September 8, 2020, I strongly recommend this title for anyone who would like to expand their worldview as it provides a remarkable firsthand account of a historical atrocity that we only heard about on the news.

From the Publisher:

One of the first unaccompanied refugee children to enter the United States in 2000, after South Sudan’s second civil war took the lives of most of her family, Rebecca’s story begins in the late 1980s when, at the age of four, her village was attacked and she had to escape. What They Meant for Evil is the account of that unimaginable journey. With the candor and purity of a child, Rebecca recalls how she endured fleeing from gunfire, suffering through hunger and strength-sapping illnesses, dodging life-threatening predators-lions, snakes, crocodiles, and soldiers alike-that dogged her footsteps, and grappling with a war that stole her childhood.

Her story is a lyrical, captivating portrait of a child hurled into wartime, and how through divine intervention, she came to America and found a new life full of joy, hope, and redemption.


Deng’s writing is descriptive and beautiful, painting a brightly woven tapestry of heartbreak, sorrow, hope, and healing. I don’t know how anyone could read it without being moved by her story – her strength, her brokenness, her light, her voice. Candid and captivating, she doesn’t shy away from the darkness encountered in her journey, but leads you carefully by the hand as you take every step with her. Rebecca Deng is a beacon of purpose and peace as she shares her incredible history without bitterness.

My thanks to the publisher for the complimentary copy of this title via NetGalley. I will be purchasing when I can locate a supplier in Canada. If you have any leads, please tip me off in the comments.

Harlequin 2020 Fall Reads Blog Tour – Women’s Fiction & Romance – Rescue You by Elysia Whisler

There’s something about reading in fall – maybe it’s the opportunity to get really cozy with a warm blanket and a hot drink while immersing yourself in an even cozier read. If you follow the publishing industry at all, you’ll know there’s some highly anticipated books hitting the market this time of year. One of those titles, Elysia Whisler’s Rescue You, is being released next week (October 27, to be exact.) My thanks to the team at Harlequin Trade Publishing for providing an advanced readers copy for review as part of the 2020 Fall Reads Blog Tour featuring Women’s Fiction & Romance.

FROM THE PUBLISHER:

She needs a fresh start. He’s got scars that haven’t healed. With the help of some rescue dogs, they’ll discover that everyone deserves a chance at happiness.

After a year of heartbreak and loss, the only thing keeping Constance afloat is the dog rescue she works at with her sister, Sunny. Desperate for a change, Constance impulsively joins a new gym, even though it seems impossibly hard, and despite the gym’s prickly owner.

Rhett Santos keeps his gym as a refuge for his former-military brothers and to sweat out his own issues. He’s ready to let the funny redhead join, but unprepared for the way she wiggles past his hard-won defenses.

When their dog rescue is threatened, the sisters fight to protect it. And they need all the help
they can get. As Rhett and Constance slowly open up to each other, they’ll find that no one is
past rescuing; what they need is the right person—or dog—to save them.

MY THOUGHTS:

This title was really immersive, as in, I’m more of a cuddle on the couch type of person than a let’s get sweaty and run 5 miles before we bench-press our bodyweight type of person, but I found myself wanting to hit the nearest CrossFit facility after stopping at the local animal shelter to adopt a puppy. The author brought her environment to life in an engaging and appealing way.

The characters were smashing* in a kick-butt, no nonsense regard. Constance was sweet and sassy, strong and protective – a down-to-earth woman with a very low tolerance for bull from anyone. Rhett is damaged but kind and also, ridiculously fit. I particularly appreciated some of Constance’s realizations regarding her own self-image, workouts, etc. She needed some healing and I think she found that. Beyond that, the story has layers – the primary heartwarming love story, the sisters’ relationship, a dog rescue, and a secondary romance. All the layers mesh together to create this easy-to-read, give-you-all-the-feels, about-what-you’d-expect contemporary romantic women’s fiction. It wasn’t anything spectacularly “out there”, but was warm, stirring, engaging – exactly what you want for a fall weekend read. (*I didn’t know what word to use here… use your imagination.)

Reader discretion advised for occasional language and not-graphic adult scenes (that you can definitely skip over if you choose.) While I enjoyed the novel, I wouldn’t be comfortable lending it to a 12 year old.

Watch for this title to hit all your favourite retailers next Tuesday! Available from the usual spots online for preorder or ask your local bookseller to bring it in.

RESCUE YOU
Author: Elysia Whisler
ISBN: 9780778310082
Publication Date: October 27, 2020
Publisher: MIRA Books

Book Review: Take The Lead by Shelley Shepard Gray

Readers familiar with Shelley Shepard Gray may know she’s a top notch writer when it comes to inspirational contemporary fiction set among the Amish.  I will admit that while no doubt well-written, those novels appeal to a very niche market and just aren’t for me.  When I was first introduced to the Bridgeport Social Club series, I quickly realised that I was guilty of pigeonholeing the author without cause.  Her contemporary women’s fiction is enjoyable reading.  If you’re familiar with Bridgeport, some of the characters and landmarks in The Dance With Me series will seem recognizable. 

I read the first title, Shall We Dance, in fall of 2019 and gave it a warm review.  Last month, I eagerly read an advanced readers copy of the second title in the series, Take The Lead, and was not disappointed in the least.  It continued along familiar lines with charming characters and a heartwarming celebration of family. While part of a series, it could easily be read as a stand alone title.

Growing up in foster care, Officer Traci Lucky had a rough start to life, but things are looking up now that she’s found a place in Bridgeport with two sisters she never knew she had. One night while on the job Traci finds Gwen, a pregnant teen caught up in a dangerous world of drugs, and takes her straight to the hospital. There Traci encounters the oh-so-charming Dr. Matt Rossi, who surprises Traci with his compassion—and his movie-star good looks.

A busy ob-gyn with a huge, meddling Italian family, Matt Rossi hasn’t had much time for love in his life. All that changes when he meets the beautiful Officer Lucky. He’s intrigued by her strength and the kind heart she tries to hide beneath her tough exterior.

When Matt confides that he needs to learn to waltz for his brother’s wedding, Traci reveals that her sister happens to be a ballroom dance teacher. Next thing they know, Matt and Traci are juggling busy careers, helping young Gwen with her pregnancy and personal safety, and learning to waltz together. But when Gwen’s escalating problems threaten to put all of them in danger, they wonder if they’ll ever find time for a little romance too.

The characters are flawed but charismatic and, as a girl with absolutely no rhythm, I enjoy the beauty of how dance is portrayed. The chemistry is spot on as is the drama. The novel presents a complex balance of romance, peril, and emotion with an engaging, easy-to-read appeal. I look forward to the final book to see how the sisters continue on their path to happily ever after.

My thanks to the publisher for the complimentary copy via NetGalley.  Opinions expressed in this post are entirely my own.

Publication Date: September 8, 2020 Publisher: Blackstone Publishing ISBN: 9781982658557

Book Review: Acceptable Risk by Lynette Eason

Way, way back when the summer sun kissed our skin, the trees were green, and I wasn’t working (the beginning of August, to be exact), Revell released the second title in the Danger Never Sleeps Series by Lynette Eason. I read the first title, Collateral Damage, even earlier in the year and found it gripping – unfortunately, I don’t think I ever got around to a review.

When the newest title, Acceptable Risk, became available on NetGalley, I knew I needed to get my hands on a copy! Without giving away too much of the storyline, the series is lauded as {clean} romantic suspense. Each title is packed with intrigue, twists, turns, conspiracies, and cover ups that just keep coming – these are non-stop fast-paced works of fiction. Beyond that though, the character-work is superb. Flawed, courageous characters lead the charge for justice and truth and along the way, find some romance.

Sarah Denning is a military journalist with the Army in the Middle East when her convoy is attacked and she’s taken hostage. When former Army Ranger Gavin Black is asked by his old unit commander–Sarah’s imposing father–to plan an extremely risky rescue, he reluctantly agrees and successfully executes it.

Back in the US, Sarah is livid when she’s discharged on a false psychiatric evaluation and vows to return to the Army. Until she learns of her brother’s suicide. Unable to believe her brother would do such a thing, she puts her plans on hold and enlists Gavin to help her discover the truth. What they uncover may be the biggest story of Sarah’s career – if she can survive long enough to write it.

I’m not a big fan of military themed novels on the whole, for no other reason than it just isn’t my thing – but Eason creates such a fantastic fictional world with each page that you can’t help but be drawn into the drama and the mystery as it unfolds. The layers and risks of each step in the journey are balanced with easy to read dialogue, well-crafted backdrops, and heart-pounding action. The lead characters are complex and each have a rich history that entangles in a strong, gritty, emotional read dealing with difficult, but real, issues such as PTSD, suicide, family tragedy, and reconciliation. I can’t wait to dive into the next title in the series to see where the author takes us next. My recommendation is to get your hands on your own copy of each for yourself!

My thanks to the publisher for a complimentary ARC of this title via NetGalley. Opinions are my own.

Published By: Revell (Baker Publishing Group)
Publication Date: August 4, 2020
ISBN: 9780800729356