A MONSTER LIKE ME by Pamela Sparkman

Heart of Darkness series #2

HELLO STRANGER by Lisa Kleypas

The Ravenels series #4


Companion to the Full Tilt series


Heartbreaker Bay series #7

UNWRITTEN by Jen Frederick

Woodlands series #5

Cross My Heart by L.H. Cosway

Hearts series #5.75

MOONSHADOW by Thea Harrison

Moonshadow series #1

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Review: Wilde Child by Eloisa James

Eloisa James returns to the Wildes of Lindow Castle series with the next Wilde child who runs and joins a theatre troupe—and the duke who tries to save her reputation.

Series: The Wildes of Lindlow Castle #6
Publication date: March 30, 2021
Published by: Avon
Genre: historical romance

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He wants a prim and proper duchess, not the Wildest of the Wildes!

Already notorious for the golden hair that proves her mother’s infidelity, Lady Joan can’t seem to avoid scandals, but her latest escapade may finally ruin her: she’s determined to perform the title role of a prince—in breeches, naturally.

She has the perfect model for an aristocratic male in mind: Thaddeus Erskine Shaw, Viscount Greywick, a man who scorned the very idea of marrying her.

Not that Joan would want such a dubious honor, of course.

For years, Thaddeus has avoided the one Wilde who shakes his composure, but he’s horrified when he grasps the danger Joan’s putting herself in. Staring into her defiant eyes, he makes the grim vow that he’ll keep her safe.

He strikes a bargain: after one performance, the lady must return to her father’s castle and marry one of three gentlemen whom he deems acceptable.

Not including him, of course.
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Praise for Wilde Child:

"James displays her signature humor...[in] a story as wild as the heroine's family name and one that will reward romance fans who want a funny book about an unusual heroine."

-- "Kirkus Reviews"


New York Times bestselling author Eloisa James writes historical romances for HarperCollins Publishers. Her novels have been published to great acclaim. A reviewer from USA Today wrote of Eloisa's very first book that she "found herself devouring the book like a dieter with a Hershey bar"; later People Magazine raved that "romance writing does not get much better than this." Her novels have repeatedly received starred reviews from Publishers' Weekly and Library Journal and regularly appear on the best-seller lists.

After graduating from Harvard University, Eloisa got an M.Phil. from Oxford University, a Ph.D. from Yale and eventually became a Shakespeare professor, publishing an academic book with Oxford University Press. Currently she is an associate professor and head of the Creative Writing program at Fordham University in New York City. Her "double life" is a source of fascination to the media and her readers. In her professorial guise, she's written a New York Times op-ed defending romance, as well as articles published everywhere from women's magazines such as More to writers' journals such as the Romance Writers' Report.

Eloisa...on her double life: 

When I'm not writing novels, I'm a Shakespeare professor. It's rather like having two lives. The other day I bought a delicious pink suit to tape a television segment on romance; I'll never wear that suit to teach in, nor even to give a paper at the Shakespeare Association of America conference. It's like being Superman, with power suits for both lives. Yet the literature professor in me certainly plays into my romances. The Taming of the Duke (April 2006) has obvious Shakespearean resonances, as do many of my novels. I often weave early modern poetry into my work; the same novel might contain bits of Catullus, Shakespeare and anonymous bawdy ballads from the 16th century.

When I rip off my power suit, whether it's academic or romantic, underneath is the rather tired, chocolate-stained sweatshirt of a mom. Just as I use Shakespeare in my romances, I almost always employ my experiences as a mother. When I wrote about a miscarriage in Midnight Pleasures, I used my own fears of premature birth; when the little girl in Fool For Love threw up and threw up, I described my own daughter, who had that unsavory habit for well over her first year of life.

So I'm a writer, a professor, a mother - and a wife. My husband Alessandro is Italian, born in Florence. We spend the lazy summer months with his mother and sister in Italy. It always strikes me as a huge irony that as a romance writer I find myself married to a knight, a cavaliere, as you say in Italian.

One more thing...I'm a friend. I have girlfriends who are writers and girlfriends who are Shakespeare professors. And I have girlfriends who are romance readers. In fact, we have something of a community going on my website. Please stop by and join the conversation on my readers' pages.

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Wilde Child (The Wildes of Lindow Castle, #7)Wilde Child by Eloisa James
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

This had a little bit of a slow start for me and some warming up to the stuffy hero, but Eloisa James brought the charm and fun once again in the latest Wilde installment. This series has been absolutely delightful to read! The Wildes will take up residence in your heart and you'll never want them to leave. Each member, from the Duke and Duchess, to the littlest Wilde hold a unique quality to set them apart and make them special. This installment stars Lady Joan as the heroine and I've been very much looking forward to her story.

Lady Joan has always intrigued me because she is something of a black sheep due to her mother's scandalous infidelity. While the Duke of Lindow raised her and considers her his daughter in every sense that matters, her appearance makes it clear that she was conceived out of the marriage bed. Rather than hide away in shame at her obvious illegitimacy, she boldly lives her life to the fullest with a total lack of embarrassment. In fact, she sees her circumstances as an excuse to dispose of the strictures of being a lady. If she's to constantly be reminded that she isn't one, she's going to enjoy the freedom of the low expectations of others. No highborn lord would have her, so marriage has never really been a focus or concern. She flits through balls and dazzles any man of her choosing with her beauty for the fun of it. She audaciously kisses lords in full view of everyone in order to force a proposal of marriage-so she can refuse him. In other words, she's a rule breaker with no concern for her reputation. It was almost unheard of for a gentlewoman of that time to live free of worry about their reputation, and she recognizes it for the gift that it is.

Viscount Greywick (Thaddeus) is a longtime friend of the Wildes. He went to Eton with Jeremy Wilde, his mother is friends with the Duke and Duchess, and he even courted two of the Wilde sisters. He and his mother are more or less treated as one of the family after spending so much time with one another. At first, I wasn't sure that I would care for him. He seemed too uptight for my taste, and very particular about propriety that verged on pompous. His disapproval of Joan seemed excessive-though I must acknowledge that she is Wilde-ly inappropriate at the best of times. (Sorry, pun intended) You can't really blame him for reproaching her attitude, though I wondered how he would be imagined into a romantic figure. I shouldn't have doubted Ms. James, because I came to love him and love him even more coupled with Joan. They were total opposites but once they spent a little time getting to know one another found that they had more things in common than they realized.

She was infuriating, wildly intelligent, better read 
than anyone he knew—at least in the genre of plays. 
Headstrong. Stubborn. Reckless to the point of idiocy.

Thaddeus softened fairly quickly after being exposed to Joan's bright, carefree company. She showed him a side of himself that he never expected to see. He let down his defenses and he found himself being dazzled by their intimate picnics. Rather than seeing the false front she put on for the world, her soft side was exposed as well. She seemed younger, more vulnerable than she let on and he was honored that she was allowing him a peek into her true self. My favorite scenes in the book were the picnic scenes. They spent idyllic time lazing around, feasting on delicious food, and speaking from their hearts. They were moments of joy and laughter-which had been almost non-existent in Thaddeus' strict life.

Although he was raised in privilege, he never knew the love of his father and that hurt him deeply. He always strove to be the best and strongest at everything in the hopes of gaining his father's attention but it was never to be. His appearance of being perfect with the perfect life was artificial. Those who knew anything about his family, knew that his father scandalously chose his mistress over his wife and son. And now, Thaddeus faced the very real threat of his father shocking and embarrassing his mother publicly if he didn't give him what he wanted. One thing that this conflict showed was Thaddeus' devotion to his mother. His only concern was protecting her from public scorn. Although he remained disappointed at his father's antics, he long ago gave up any hope for himself that he would ever grow to care about him.

The main roadblock between this couple was Joan's "tarnished reputation." Due to his father's behavior, he knew that he needed to find a woman who was suitable to be a Duchess. Someone who might repair the damage to his family name. Joan in all of her headstrong glory was totally out of the question. Wasn't she? The longer he spent around her, the less convinced he became. She may be better at playing a hilarious version of Hamlet than needlework or the pianoforte, but she was the first person who frequently made him laugh. They both bore the brunt of a parent's reckless and selfish behavior, but she flourished, while he retreated within himself. They helped each other grow individually, so even though they seemed to rush headfirst into love, it wasn't entirely unbelievable. They had a long established acquaintance already-they just needed to dig a little deeper under the surface to see what was there all along.

    Looking at Thaddeus’s hard jaw and flinty eyes, 
Joan had the distinct feeling that she had 
misunderstood the man. 
He wasn’t cold, but rather explosive. 
Not uncaring, but caring too much.

I enjoyed Joan and Thaddeus very much! They were overwhelmingly sweet and hilarious to watch fall in love. The banter was on point (as always), and I had a smile on my face all the way through. Sometimes I get frustrated when the main characters' families intrude heavily on the plot as it may take away from the romantic relationship development. I will never complain about that with a Wilde book. I cherish all the time I have with each and every one, and this was no exception. If you haven't started this series yet, I highly recommend you introduce yourself to this very loving and entertaining family.



Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Blog Tour with Excerpt: The Path to Sunshine Cove by RaeAnne Thayne

With the emotional pull of Debbie Macomber, Barbara Delinsky and Susan Wiggs, RaeAnne Thayne brings readers an uplifting, brand new story told with her trademark charm and heart.

Series: Cape Sanctuary #2
Publication Date: March 23, 2021 
Genre: contemporary romance
Publisher: Harlequin

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She knows what’s best for everyone but herself…

With a past like hers, Jessica Clayton feels safer in a life spent on the road. She’s made a career out of helping others downsize—because she’s learned the hard way that the less “stuff,” the better, a policy she applies equally to her relationships. But a new client is taking Jess back to Cape Sanctuary, a town she once called home…and that her little sister, Rachel, still does. The years apart haven’t made a dent in the guilt Jess still carries after a handgun took the lives of both their parents and changed everything between them.

While Jess couldn’t wait to put the miles between her and Cape Sanctuary, Rachel put down roots, content for the world—and her sister—to think she has a picture-perfect life. But with the demands of her youngest child’s disability, Rachel’s marriage has begun to fray at the seams. She needs her sister now more than ever, yet she’s learned from painful experience that Jessica doesn’t do family, and she shouldn’t count on her now.

Against her judgment, Jess finds herself becoming attached—to her sister and her family, even to her client’s interfering son, Nate—and it’s time to put everything on the line. Does she continue running from her painful past, or stay put and make room for the love and joy that come along with it?


Chapter One 

     If not for all of the emotional baggage cluttering up her Airstream, this wouldn’t be a bad place to park for a few days. 
     As Jess Clayton drove through the quiet streets of Cape Sanctuary on a beautiful May afternoon, she couldn’t help being charmed anew by the Northern California beach town vibes. 
     She had been here before, of course. Several times. Her sister lived just down that street there, in a large two-story cottage with gables, a bay window and a lush flower garden. Rachel loved it here. Every time Jess came to town, she was reminded why. What was not to love? Cape Sanctuary was a town defined by whimsical houses, overflowing gardens, wind chimes and Japanese fishing balls. 
     And, of course, the gorgeous coastline, marked by redwoods, rock formations, cliffs.
     She drove past Juniper Way, her sister’s street, but didn’t turn down. Not yet. She would see Rachel, Cody and the kids soon, after she was settled.
     They were the whole reason she was here, after all. She didn’t see her nieces and nephew enough, only on the rare holidays and birthdays that she could arrange a visit. When a prospective client reached out from the same town as Rachel and her family, Jess saw it as a golden opportunity to spend more time with the kids. 
     And her sister, of course.
     She sighed as she made her way to her destination, Sunshine Cove, still a mile away, according to her navigation system.
    Rachel was the reason for all that baggage she was towing along. Jess loved her younger sister dearly but their relationship was like a messy tangle of electric wires, some of them live and still sparking. 
     She would be in Cape Sanctuary for two weeks on this job. Maybe she would finally have the chance to sort things out with Rachel and achieve some kind of peace. 
     The road rose, climbing through a stand of redwoods and coastal pine, with houses tucked in here and there before the view to the ocean opened up again
     . In five hundred feet, your destination is on the right: 2135 Seaview Road. 
     She couldn’t argue with Siri on this one. That was a spectacular view. The Pacific glistened in the afternoon sunlight, with only a few feathery clouds above the horizon line. She turned at the orca-shaped mailbox Eleanor Whitaker had told her to seek. Through more coastal pine, she could see the house. She recognized it from the pictures her client had sent. One level, made of stone and cedar, the house looked as if it had grown out of the landscape fully formed. 
     She knew the house was more than five thousand square feet, built at the turn of the century by a wealthy ranching and logging family in the area. It featured seven bedrooms and eight bathrooms, all of which she would come to know well over the next two weeks. 
     From the picture Eleanor had sent, Jess knew Whitaker House was beautiful. Elegant. Comfortable. Warm.
      The kind of place where Jess had once dreamed of living, free of shouting, chaos, pain.
      She could see, tucked into the trees overlooking the ocean, a smaller house on the property that was almost a miniature of the big house, with the same cedar and stone exterior as well as windows that gleamed in the afternoon sun. 
     A big dark blue pickup truck was parked there but she couldn’t see anyone around. 
     Jess pulled her own rig over to the side of the driveway in case anyone needed to come in and out, then scouted around for a place she could unhitch.

     From their phone call earlier that morning as she was driving, she knew Eleanor wouldn’t be here, that she had taken her teenage granddaughter into a nearby town to an orthodontist appointment and then to catch a movie they had both been wanting to see. 
     Make yourself at home and set up anywhere that works, Eleanor had said. 
     As she cased the property, she instantly found the spot a hundred yards from the house that would give her a perfect view of the water, almost as if it had been created exactly for her twenty-four-foot 1993 Airstream, affectionately nicknamed Vera by Jess’s business partner. 
     This job was meant to be. She had already bonded with Eleanor Whitaker over their weeks of email and phone correspondence. This view sealed the deal. 
     When she was done working each day, she could go to sleep to the restful sound of the ocean. She climbed back in her pickup and backed the trailer with the ease of long practice. Some people struggled with trailering but Jess didn’t. The seven years she had spent as a driver in the military still served her well. 
     When the Airstream was in a good spot, she hopped out and was reaching in the back of the pickup for the chocks when an angry male voice drifted across the manicured lawn to her. 
     “Hey. This is private property. You can’t park that here!” 
     She instinctively wrapped her hand around the chock. Angry male voices always brought out the warrior princess in her. She could blame both her childhood and those years in the army when she had to go toe to toe with people twice her weight and a foot taller. 
     The chock was heavy and could do real damage in the right hands. 
     “I have permission to be here,” she said, her voice cool but polite.
     He frowned. “Permission? That’s impossible.” 
     “I assure you, it’s not.” 
     “This is my mother’s property. She would have told me if she had given somebody permission to camp here.”
      Ah. This must be Nathaniel Whitaker, Eleanor’s son. Her client had mentioned that he lived in another house on the property and would probably be in and out as Jess went about her work.
      Hadn’t Eleanor told him Jess was coming? 
     She relaxed her grip on the chock but didn’t release it. “You must be Nathaniel. Eleanor has told me about you.” 
     Her words didn’t have an impact on his expression. If anything, his glower intensified, his frown now edged with confusion that she knew his name. 
     Despite his sour expression, she couldn’t help noticing he was an extraordinarily good-looking man. Eleanor hadn’t mentioned that her son had dark hair, stormy blue eyes, a square jawline. Or that his green T-shirt with a logo over the right breast pocket that read Whitaker Construction clung to his muscles. 
     Jess found it extremely inconvenient that Nathaniel Whitaker happened to hit every single one of her personal yum buttons.
      “Who are you?” he demanded. “And how do you know my mother?”
      Ah. This was tricky. Eleanor was her client. She must have had her own reasons for not telling her son Jess was showing up. Jess felt compelled to honor those reasons. Until she could talk to the woman, Jess didn’t feel right about giving more information to Nate than his own mother had
     . “My name is Jess Clayton. Your mother knows I planned to arrive today. I have her permission to set up anywhere. I thought this would work well.”
      Beautifully, actually. The more time she looked around, the better she liked it. A twisting path down to the ocean started just a few yards away, leading down to what looked like a protected cove. 
     “Set up for what? Why are you here?”

     “You really should ask your mother,” she said. It would be so much better if he could hear the explanation from Eleanor.
      “I just tried to call her when I saw you pulling in. She’s not answering.” 
     “Probably in the middle of the movie. She told me she and Sophie were going to a matinee after the orthodontist.”
      If she thought this further knowledge about his family would set Nate’s mind at ease, she was sadly mistaken. His gaze narrowed further. “How the hell do you know my daughter had an orthodontist appointment?”
      “Your mom happened to mention it.”
      “Funny, the things my mother told you. I talk to her several times a day, every day, and she hasn’t said a word to me about a strange woman setting up a trailer in the side yard. Tell me again what you’re doing here?”
      She wanted to be finishing her trailer setup so she could unhitch and go into town for groceries. She would rather not be engaged in a confrontation with a strange man, no matter how hot, who didn’t need to know every detail of his mother’s life. 
     Why hadn’t Eleanor told him already? It’s not as if the woman could keep their efforts a secret for long.
      Still, it was not up to Jess to spill the dirt. 
     “I’m afraid that’s between me and your mother. You really need to get the answer to that question from her.”
       “Sorry, ma’am, but that’s not good enough. Right now, you’re trespassing. If you don’t move this out of here, I’m calling the police. The chief happens to be a good friend of mine.” 
     “Yes, I know.” Done with this discussion, Jess reached down to wedge the chock behind the passenger-side wheel. “You play poker with him every other Friday night. Your mother told me.” 
     “What else did she tell you?” He had moved beyond suspicion to outright hostility. She probably shouldn’t have said anything about the poker. She certainly wouldn’t want someone she didn’t know poking into her business. If he hadn’t been so blasted good-looking, she might have been able to handle this whole thing better. 
     She forced a smile, trying to take a different tack. “I assure you, Eleanor knows I’m coming, as I said. She told me to settle in and make myself comfortable until she gets home. You can try calling her again.”
      Or you can accept that maybe I’m telling the truth and give me a break here. I’ve been driving for hours. I’m tired and hungry and I would really like to make a sandwich, which I can’t do with you standing there like a bouncer at a nightclub in a bad part of town. 
     “I’ve tried multiple times. She’s not answering. You’re probably right, her phone is probably on silent.”
      “Look, when Eleanor and Sophie come back from the movie, she can tell you what’s going on. Until then, I would really like to finish setting up here.” 
     “No matter what I say?”
      She didn’t want to challenge him but she was starving. 
     “This is your mother’s house and she invited me here,” she said simply. “It will be easy enough to prove that once Eleanor returns. If I’m lying for some unknown reason and just happened to make an extraordinarily lucky guess about your mom and a daughter named Sophie who had an orthodontist appointment today, you and the entire Cape Sanctuary police force can boot me out.”
      He didn’t look at all appeased, his features still suspicious. She couldn’t really blame him. He was only trying to protect those he loved. She would probably do the same in his shoes.
      “Would you like a sandwich?” she said, trying another tack. “I make a mean PB and J.” 

     For the first time, she saw a glimmer of surprise on his expression, as if he couldn’t quite believe she had the audacity to ask. “No, I wouldn’t like a sandwich.” 
     “Suit yourself. I’ve had a long day already and I’m ready for some food. And I need to see how Vera survived the drive.” 
     As she might have expected, his frown deepened. “Who is Vera?” 
     She patted the skin on the Airstream. “It was, um, a pleasure to meet you, Nathaniel.”
     “Nate,” he muttered. “Nobody but my mother calls me Nathaniel.” 
     “Nate, then.” 
     She nodded and without waiting for him to argue, she slipped into the trailer and closed the door firmly behind her.
      The curtains were still closed from the drive and she didn’t want to open them yet to the afternoon sunlight. Not when Nate Whitaker might still be lurking outside.
      Instead, she sank onto the sofa that doubled as her office, dining room and guest space, astonished and dismayed to find her hands were shaking.
      What was that about? She had a familiar itchiness between her shoulder blades and could feel a little crash as her adrenaline subsided. 
     Nate Whitaker wasn’t a threat to her. Yes, he might be angry right now but he wouldn’t hurt her. She already felt like his mother was an old and dear friend. Eleanor surely couldn’t have a son who was prone to random violence.
     Instinct told her he wouldn’t physically hurt her, yet Jess still had the strangest feeling that Nate posed some kind of danger to her. 
     Ah well. She likely wouldn’t have much to do with the man. She was here to help Eleanor, not to fraternize with the woman’s gorgeous offspring. 
     She only had to make sure she didn’t lose sight of her twin objectives here in Cape Sanctuary—spending time with her sister’s family and helping her client—and she would be fine. 

Excerpted from The Path to Sunshine Cove by RaeAnne Thayne Copyright © RaeAnne Thayne. Published by HQN Books.

About the Author

New York Times bestselling author RaeAnne Thayne finds inspiration in the beautiful northern Utah mountains where she lives with her family. Her books have won numerous honors, including six RITA Award nominations from Romance Writers of America and Career Achievement and Romance Pioneer awards from RT Book Reviews. She loves to hear from readers and can be reached through her website at www.raeannethayne.com.

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Review: The Ladies of the Secret Circus

From the author of A Witch in Time comes a magical story set in Jazz Age Paris and modern-day America of family secrets and lost love set against the backdrop of an extraordinary circus.

Series: standalone
Publication date: March 23, 2021
Published by: Redhook
Genre: fantasy, magical realism

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Paris, 1925: To enter the Secret Circus is to enter a world of wonder-a world where women tame magnificent beasts, carousels take you back in time, and trapeze artists float across the sky. But each daring feat has a cost. Bound to her family's strange and magical circus, it's the only world Cecile Cabot knows-until she meets a charismatic young painter and embarks on a passionate love affair that could cost her everything.

Virginia, 2005: Lara Barnes is on top of the world-until her fiancé disappears on their wedding day. Desperate, her search for answers unexpectedly leads to her great-grandmother's journals and sweeps her into the story of a dark circus and a generational curse that has been claiming payment from the women in her family for generations.
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Praise for The Ladies of the Secret Circus:

“Ambitious and teeming with magic, Sayers creates a fascinating mix of art, The Belle Époque, and more than a little murder.” ―Erika Swyler, author of The Book of Speculation

"A spellbinding historical fantasy....Fans of Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus will love this page-turning story of dark magic, star-crossed love, and familial sacrifice."Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"At times decadent and macabre, The Ladies of the Secret Circus is a mesmerizing tale of love, treachery, and depraved magic percolating through four generations of Cabot women."―Luanne G. Smith, author of The Vine Witch

"Encompassing as many genres as a circus carousel has animals to ride, this is ultimately a story about love. Highly recommended for lovers of timeslip fiction, readers who enjoy their genres very bent indeed, and those who have dreamed of running away to the circus."Library Journal (starred review)

"The Ladies of the Secret Circus is a dazzling tale, laced with sinister magic, blood and beauty, love and loss. This is a book that will haunt you long after the last page is turned."―Alyssa Palombo, author of The Spellbook of Katrina Van Tassel

"Romance, mystery, and a family curse — The Ladies of the Secret Circus has it all.” ―Popsugar

“Spellbinding. The Ladies Of The Secret Circus is a dazzling, high-wire feat of storytelling." ―Catherine Taylor, author of Beyond the Moon


Constance Sayers' debut novel, A Witch in Time, is available now from Orbit (Hachette Book Group). 

A finalist for Alternating Current’s 2016 Luminaire Award for Best Prose, her short stories have appeared in Souvenir and Amazing Graces: Yet Another Collection of Fiction by Washington Area Women as well as The Coil. Her short fiction has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net.

She lives in Maryland and is the co-founder of the Thoughtful Dog literary magazine.

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The Ladies of the Secret CircusThe Ladies of the Secret Circus by Constance Sayers
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

    How do you really prove magic? 
And in the end, do you really want to?

There's something about a circus that's truly magical. The wonder and awe that it inspires makes it feel otherworldly. What if it truly was magic? Not a dazzling, exquisite kind, but one that is merely beautiful on the surface. Inside, it's a rotting, macabre thing that is filled with despair and lost souls. The blurb for this book fascinated me, so I knew I had to read it to discover all of the secrets that were inside. There's an ominous feeling hanging over you as you read which makes you almost not want to know them. Lara Barnes has no idea what secrets her family has been hiding for generations, but on the day of her wedding, she gets her first tragic clue.

After her fiancé disappears, Lara is determined to get to the bottom of what happened. She fluctuates between anger and sadness, not knowing if she was abandoned or if some horrible accident has befallen Todd. You really sympathize with her as you experience her loss and confusion. When she starts to see bizarre coincidences about the circumstances surrounding Todd's disappearance and others in Kerrigan Falls, things start to get even stranger. Not only have there been other missing people in the past, they are the only suspected crimes or tragedies to have occurred. The people in town have enjoyed an almost utopia like atmosphere where the only bad things to have happened are the mysterious cold cases that have almost been forgotten.

As the book wears on, it seems that rather than getting answers, the questions only build. Lara's mother Audrey seems to know things but won't divulge anything of importance to her. She goes out of her way to keep her in the dark, and many times her fear reveals that Lara is facing something she could never conceive of. Ben Archer, the chief of police seems to be the one person in town who wants to unravel the mystery as much as she does and a personal relationship grows between them over time. Although he hasn't had to put his investigative skills to work in their strange little town, he's sharp as a tack and it doesn't take him long to start to connect some of the dots.

The story has two timelines-one in Lara's 2005, and the other in her great, great grandmother Cecile's time in the 1920s. Cecile's flashbacks are told through her first person experiences in her journal. We don't get to see that perspective until a solid chunk into the book, but her story is the key to everything. Lara must know the full extent of her family history before she can understand what is happening in the present. The journal entries are exciting to read and more than a little fantastical. However, right from the start you understand that Cecile's doomed life is not a pleasant one.

The past and present are tied by a trio of paintings done by Émile Giroux. The paintings titled, The Ladies of the Secret Circus are the stuff of legends. They're told to depict Cecile, her twin sister Esmé, and a third secret circus performer. If they exist, they would be the only concrete evidence of the dark manifestation that was the subject of curiosity throughout the ages.

This is a difficult review to write, because so much of the plot is shrouded in mystery that I don't want to reveal too much. Part of the draw of this book is following along on this mindboggling riddle. I give the author serious props for her ability to create such an unpredictable, disturbing tale. I think that the best thing about her books is knowing that she will keep you guessing and feeling nervous for her characters. When you don't care at all, that's where you have a serious problem. I can definitely say that there is no chance of that happening here.

My one complaint about this story was Lara. Her one major character flaw was how impulsive she was which led to some very bad decisions. It's okay for a character to be flawed, in fact, it makes them more interesting most of the time. Especially if there is growth in overcoming that by the end. Lara did a couple of things that REALLY had me pulling my hair out and questioning her sanity. As well, her feelings of admiration for the secret circus were so puzzling to me. I mean, in a way it made sense because of who she was, but on the other hand, I couldn't fathom her draw to a place that was essentially a prison of torture. Logically you would think that anyone would be repelled. I guess I just couldn't relate or connect to who she was and I suppose that's okay. I don't necessarily have to as long as she makes sense. It was the choice she made at the end that I was left feeling very conflicted about. I didn't hate it, but I honestly didn't know what to think.

If you want a book filled with mystery and danger that won't be quite like anything else you've ever read, this one is for you. It's unsettling and grim, but oozing suspense from every chapter. A Witch in Time had some similar themes, though don't make the mistake of thinking this is too similar to Ms. Sayers' first novel. They both manage to be unique in their own right, so if you loved her first book, there's a very good chance you will love this one as well.



Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Review: Namesake by Adrienne Young

Filled with action, emotion, and lyrical writing, New York Times bestselling author Adrienne Young returns with Namesake, the final book in the captivating Fable duology.

Series: Fable #2
Publication date: March 16, 2021
Published by: Wednesday Books
Genre: YA fantasy

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Trader. Fighter. Survivor.

With the Marigold ship free of her father, Fable and its crew were set to start over. That freedom is short-lived when she becomes a pawn in a notorious thug’s scheme. In order to get to her intended destination she must help him to secure a partnership with Holland, a powerful gem trader who is more than she seems.

As Fable descends deeper into a world of betrayal and deception she learns that her mother was keeping secrets, and those secrets are now putting the people Fable cares about in danger. If Fable is going to save them then she must risk everything, including the boy she loves and the home she has finally found. 

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New York Times and Indie bestselling author of SKY IN THE DEEP, THE GIRL THE SEA GAVE BACK, FABLE & NAMESAKE from Wednesday Books. 

Adrienne Young is a born and bred Texan turned California girl. She is a foodie with a deep love of history and travel and a shameless addiction to coffee. When she’s not writing, you can find her on her yoga mat, scouring antique fairs for old books, sipping wine over long dinners, or disappearing into her favorite art museums. She lives with her documentary filmmaker husband and their four little wildlings beneath the West Coast sun.

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Namesake (Fable, #2)Namesake by Adrienne Young
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Fable was one of my few five star reads last year, so to say that I was excited to read the conclusion to this duology is an understatement. Book one left off on quite an intense cliffhanger with lots of unanswered questions. I wanted to know more about Isolde, Fable's mother. I was itching for some more in depth history on Holland, the most feared female trader who controls the gem trade. Then there's Fable and her father Saint. Their relationship had been rocky, to say the least. Could they ever bridge the distance between them? There was something that touched me so deeply about the complex love that they shared, so I was rooting for their relationship to flourish here in the conclusion. Last (and also least), is the romance between West and Fable. All of these things were addressed, and to top everything off we get a savage, pirate adventure with lots of backstabbing and intrigue.

Onboard the Luna, Fable's ability to survive is once again being put to the test. She thought that she had it bad when she was left on Jeval by her father with nothing but her wits to keep her alive. Now she must outsmart her father's greatest enemy on his territory. Perhaps the worst part about the ordeal is the discovery that she may have been betrayed once again by one of the few people in the world she considered family. I love how Adrienne Young throws you right into the action from page one. One of my favorite things from the previous book was the heroine's ability to free dive as she dredged for gems. Very early on, we get to see her put her gem sage skills to work once again. Zola demands that she lead a team of dredgers to collect a massive haul. In exchange she will earn her freedom. In theory.

Fable is just one piece on a chess board being played in an ultimate game of winner takes all. There are hidden agendas and deceit being plotted left and right. I can honestly say that I was taken by surprise several times after thinking I had everybody's motivations pegged. It's so refreshing to read a book that isn't too heavy handed with foreshadowing. Predictable books can never rise above average, and thankfully that wasn't the case here. While I did pick out some pieces of the plot, the author did a great job leaving enough ambiguity to keep me questioning what would happen next.

I believed Holland would play a big role in this book, but I didn't realize how dangerous of an opponent she would end up being. She rivaled (if not exceeded) Saint's manipulations, but there was a coldness to her that you don't see in him. As tough as he is, you get peeks at his soft underbelly. He leads a vicious life, but when it comes to his wife and daughter, you discover where his heart lies. Fable is thrown into Holland's orbit totally unprepared for what was in store for her, but she faces this new challenge like she has all the others. With bold, unshakable courage. Though I do believe that all the courage in the world wouldn't have saved her unless she had such powerful people secretly in her corner playing the long game. Despite often feeling alone and abandoned, she's far from it. It just takes her a little while to figure that out.

    Whether I liked it or not, there were pieces of me 
that had been carved by those years on Jeval. 
It had changed me. In a way, it had made me.

The romance between West and Fable left a little to be desired for me. It didn't bother me that much because with fantasy, that isn't my top priority. However, West often rubbed me the wrong way with his secrecy and controlling manner with everyone. He has a serious hero complex, which shouldn't be a bad thing, but in his case, tries to make monumental decisions for other people and solve things all on his own rather than communicating. There was a lack of respect shown towards his friends as well as Fable. It didn't anger me because his heart was in the right place, but at the same time it got a little tiresome because he wasn't treating those he loved as if they were capable of fighting their own battles. I also wasn't really feeling emotional about his relationship with Fable, and I think that could have improved had there been more honest conversations between them.

The best part of the duology was Fable and Saint. They're often morally gray which makes them all the more intriguing to read about. Once again, they made me a little teary-eyed and I'm not mad about it.

    In my entire life, Saint had never told me that he loved me. 
He'd fed me, clothed me, and given me a home, 
but there were limits to how much of him belonged to me. 
Still, even in those years on Jeval, there was some cord 
that tied me to my father. 
That made me feel like he was mine.

I loved being taken on another grand adventure. Searching for rare gems deep in the ocean's depths, hatching impossible schemes, and feeling the salt water on my sun-baked skin. I highly recommend this YA fantasy duo if you're looking for something high on originality and action.



Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Spotlight: The Heiress Hunt by Joanna Shupe

High society reprobate.
An unconventional heiress.
Childhood friends.

Series: The Fifth Avenue Rebels #1
Publication date: March 9, 2021
Published by: Avon
Genre: historical romance

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Is it too late...

Knickerbocker scoundrel Harrison Archer returns to New York to discover that his deceased father has bankrupted his estranged family. To save them from ruin, he’s forced to quickly find and marry an heiress. For a matchmaker, Harrison turns to the one woman he wishes he could marry: his childhood friend and true love, Maddie, who once broke his heart and is now engaged to a duke.

  For true love? 

When her best friend Harrison left for Paris without a word, Maddie Webster took refuge in her infatuation with tennis. Now Harrison is back and needs her help in finding a bride. Begrudgingly, Maddie arranges a house party in Newport with a guest list of eligible heiresses. But watching Harrison flirt with potential brides is more than she can bear.

 When Harrison and Maddie reunite, the passion between them ignites. But with their marriages to others looming, time is running out. Is their fate inescapable . . .or can love set them free?

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Praise for The Heiress Hunt:

"Nothing makes me happier than a new book from Joanna Shupe!" - NY Times Bestselling Author Sarah MacLean

"Their sexual chemistry and dynamic banter...convey an alluring blend of love and playfulness." - Publishers Weekly

"Shupe launches her new Fifth Avenue Rebels series with great panache, once again showcasing her flair for creating compelling characters, a vividly realized setting that expertly incorporates fascinating period details, and the kind of electric sexual chemistry that can only lead to red-hot love scenes." - Booklist

"Flawless...my favorite of all Ms. Shupe's books!" - Andreai, Goodreads

"A fantastic start to a thrilling new series!" - Candice, Goodreads

"There are so many swoon worthy moments in this book! What a great start to a new series." - Sara, Goodreads

"Hot, fun, fast-paced with a medium burn that leads up to the BEST first time sex/sexual debut I've ever read!" - Kaitlynns, Goodreads


USA Today bestselling author JOANNA SHUPE has always loved history, ever since she saw her first Schoolhouse Rock cartoon. Since 2015, her books have appeared on numerous yearly “best of” lists, including Publishers Weekly, The Washington Post, Kirkus Reviews, Kobo, and BookPage.

She currently lives in New Jersey with her two spirited daughters and dashing husband.

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Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Review: The Rose Code by Kate Quinn

The New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of The Huntress and The Alice Network returns with another heart-stopping World War II story of three female code breakers at Bletchley Park and the spy they must root out after the war is over.

Series: Standalone
Publication date: March 9, 2021
Published by: William Morrow
Genre: historical fiction

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1940. As England prepares to fight the Nazis, three very different women answer the call to mysterious country estate Bletchley Park, where the best minds in Britain train to break German military codes. Vivacious debutante Osla is the girl who has everything—beauty, wealth, and the dashing Prince Philip of Greece sending her roses—but she burns to prove herself as more than a society girl, and puts her fluent German to use as a translator of decoded enemy secrets. Imperious self-made Mab, product of east-end London poverty, works the legendary codebreaking machines as she conceals old wounds and looks for a socially advantageous husband. Both Osla and Mab are quick to see the potential in local village spinster Beth, whose shyness conceals a brilliant facility with puzzles, and soon Beth spreads her wings as one of the Park’s few female cryptanalysts. But war, loss, and the impossible pressure of secrecy will tear the three apart.

1947. As the royal wedding of Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip whips post-war Britain into a fever, three friends-turned-enemies are reunited by a mysterious encrypted letter--the key to which lies buried in the long-ago betrayal that destroyed their friendship and left one of them confined to an asylum. A mysterious traitor has emerged from the shadows of their Bletchley Park past, and now Osla, Mab, and Beth must resurrect their old alliance and crack one last code together. But each petal they remove from the rose code brings danger--and their true enemy--closer...

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Praise for The Rose Code:

“The hidden history of Bletchley Park has been waiting for a master storyteller like Kate Quinn to bring it to life. The Rose Code effortlessly evokes the frantic, nervy, exuberant world of the Enigma codebreakers through the eyes of three extraordinary women who work in tireless secrecy to defeat the Nazis. Quinn’s meticulous research and impeccable characterization shine through this gripping and beautifully executed novel.” -- Beatriz Williams, New York Times bestselling author of Her Last Flight

Readers: Prepare to be swept away by The Rose Code. A richly deserved tribute to the WWII codebreakers of Bletchley Park, Kate Quinn’s latest novel is a tour de force. Exhaustive research, vibrant characters, and pulse-pounding suspense combine in a riveting tale destined to be a book-club favorite. I absolutely loved it." -- Kristina McMorris, New York Times bestselling author of Sold on a Monday  

“The Rose Code is a firecracker of a novel! By illuminating the top-secret work done by codebreakers at England’s Bletchley’s Park, Kate Quinn has created a fresh take on World War II and created three unforgettable heroines who use their intelligence, grit, and tenacity to help save the world from Nazis. Clear out your calendar, because once you start reading this one, you won’t put it down.” -- Elise Hooper, author of Fast Girls

“Quinn (The Huntress) returns to WWII in this immersive saga. [Her] page-turning narrative is enhanced by her richly drawn characters and by the fascinating code-breaking techniques, which come alive via Quinn’s extensive historical detail. This does not disappoint.” -- Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“An intricate play of love, loss, betrayal and redemption, Kate Quinn’s novel is every bit as complex and fascinating as the codes being broken at Bletchley Park… Impossibly gripping from start to finish, The Rose Code is a cracking good read!” -- Celia Rees, author of Miss Graham’s Cold War Cookbook  

“A knockout of a story, written by the reigning queen of historical fiction. Quinn’s trio of heroines practically leap off the page in this stunning novel, which melds spy-hunting with love stories that will stir your soul. A book for the ages.” --  Fiona Davis, New York Times bestselling author of The Lions of Fifth Avenue   

"The Rose Code is everything you love about an unputdownable novel and more. In her signature fashion, Kate Quinn expertly and vividly breaks wide open the secret world of Bletchley Park’s remarkable codebreakers. An unforgettable war story to be sure, but also a tale of friendship, fortitude, and forgiveness. Utterly satisfying." -- Susan Meissner, bestselling author of The Nature of Fragile Things

“Kate Quinn does it again! This rollicking tale of espionage and female solidarity is a tour de force that will make you laugh and cry at the same time. For the quirky, complicated and unforgettable women of Bletchley Park, beneath the lipstick and lace lurks a gritty life of danger and daring. From frantic efforts to decode Nazi messages to the consequences of treason and secret-keeping in the post-war jubilation, there's never a dull moment. The Rose Code is pure genius and Quinn's best... so far.”
-- Stephanie Dray, New York Times Bestselling author of The Women of Chateau Lafayette


Kate Quinn is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of historical fiction. A native of southern California, she attended Boston University where she earned a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Classical Voice. She has written four novels in the Empress of Rome Saga, and two books in the Italian Renaissance, before turning to the 20th century with “The Alice Network”, “The Huntress,” and “The Rose Code.” All have been translated into multiple languages. Kate and her husband now live in San Diego with three rescue dogs.

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The Rose CodeThe Rose Code by Kate Quinn
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

I'm a big fan of Kate Quinn's historical novels, and once again she did not disappoint. I knew a little about this book's subject matter from watching The Imitation Game, a movie about Alan Turing who was one of the famous cryptanalysts at Bletchley Park. I was very interested to read Quinn's spin on the secret code breaking operation. Not only does she always pay exquisite attention to historical detail, but she likes to highlight female heroes in history whom time has forgotten. As typical with other books by this author that I've read, there is a dual timeline, and as the end draws closer, the two timelines converge in a nail biting conclusion. This type of structure really draws my attention in and holds it firmly from beginning to end, even with a lengthy book like this one. I was never once bored, and I never had to push myself to read, waiting for the story to hook me.

There are three main protagonists in the book, and the first is Mabel ("Queen" Mab). Mab is a ball buster from Shoreditch who isn't willing to suffer in poverty like her mother has her entire life. She wants more for herself so she sets out to make it happen. She consumes everything a well-bred, educated woman would have read, she studies and mimics the upper class accent, and busts her butt saving and scrimping to pay for a secretarial course. Mab has had to overcome an incredible amount of adversity just trying to better herself, but she faces it like a warrior. It also hardens her, made her cynical and a shade bitter about the world, but you can't help but admire her strength of will. I could almost picture her as a wolf baring her teeth when someone tries to tell her that something can't be done.

    A good husband might have been the fastest way 
up the ladder toward safety and prosperity, 
but it wasn’t the only way. 
Better to live an old maid with a shiny desk 
and a salary in the bank, 
proudly achieved through the sweat of her own efforts, 
than end up disappointed and old before her time 
thanks to long factory hours and too much childbirth.

Next there was Osla-socialite who rubbed shoulders with the highest echelon of society and from the outside appeared to have a luxurious life most only dreamed of. Secretly, she's shuffled between family members and never feels at home anywhere. Her mother is just a figure in her life rather than a loving parent. She feels lonely all of the time, and set adrift in a purposeless life. When people only view you as a vapid, airhead debutante, it can really damage your self-worth. Yes, she has many financial advantages that others don't, and she doesn't take that for granted, but she wants to feel useful and be seen as worthy. When the war starts, she could have hidden away in Canada, safe with relatives as others made horrific sacrifices for the sake of freedom. She chooses to step into the fire and do her part, even working on plane assembly that she abhors before finding her way to Blechley Park.

    It was the dawn of 1940, 
and she had danced in the New Year 
in a boiler suit and satin sandals with a prince. 
She wondered what else the year would bring.

The last of the three women was Beth. She was painfully shy, and I mean that literally. It was painful for her to converse with others, and painful for the reader to experience it. It was like watching an abused animal reach its paw out over and over and see it get kicked for its efforts. Her mother was toxic. Beth suffered both verbal and emotional abuse from her which was used as a form of manipulation. In order to keep her daughter waiting on her as an unpaid servant, she made her believe that she was stupid. That she was no good to anybody, and she kept her there at home out of the goodness of her heart. But beyond that, Beth is different. Despite what her mother made her believe, she is a highly intelligent woman whose mind sometimes got lost in patterns. She lived inside her own head and it contributed to her inability to comfortably interact in a social environment.

    Are not there little chapters in everybody’s life, 
Beth had read in Vanity Fair only that morning, 
that seem to be nothing, 
and yet affect all the rest of history? 
Too soon to tell . . . 
but perhaps this was, in fact, going to be one of them.

These three very different women are brought together during war, but in normal circumstances probably never would have crossed paths. If they had, I doubt they would have given them a second glance because of preconceived judgements on their character. What they discovered after boarding together at Beth's mother's house, was that they all shared a love of books. They all felt unwanted and alone in the world. And they were all much more than anyone gave them credit for. Although they had love/hate feelings about their exhausting contributions to the code breaking operation at BP, they felt an overwhelming sense of pride that they were doing something significant to end the war. What they were doing was invaluable-something that very few could claim to be able to do. Beth especially almost felt afraid for the war to end, because it meant that she would no longer have a job that gave her purpose. It was the first time in her life when she felt confident that she was doing what she was born to do.

Through the novel, all three women go through a huge amount of character growth. They experience tragedy, loss, triumph, and betrayal. At times, it brings out their ugly side. Lashing out at one another and placing blame where none was deserved. Or being so caught up in their own duty that they failed to prioritize keeping the others from harm. There was a lack of communication between them that caused misunderstandings and life-altering, irreversible damage. At one point, Beth's love interest tells in the same breath that he loves her but sometimes doesn't like her very much. I think I felt the same. If I had one criticism it was that when the three women reunite years later in order to trap the spy who betrayed them, they didn't adequately heal their destroyed friendship. It was all very rushed and not handled with the time it deserved.

The flashbacks tell the reader early on that there will be a traitor among those at BP, someone that was once considered a friend. However, somewhere along the way there are betrayals between the three girls as well. The "present time" 1947 sections are very short but difficult to read. Your dread builds as you get into the second half of the book, waiting for the bombs to go off on their friendship and lives. That's what tells me that the author has done her job making me care about these characters. Even though I got angry at their imperfections, I also hurt for them, and saw the vulnerable human side that is needed to care about them.

In the end, the biggest thing these three very different women shared was finding a family in each other. It was something none of them had before the war, and the thing that they most prized. I believe that made all the heartache worth it.