The Thief of Blackfriar’s Lane by Michelle Griep

About the book:

There’s Often a Fine Line Between a Criminal and a Saint
 
Constable Jackson Forge intends to make the world safer, or at least the streets of Victorian London. But that’s Kit Turner’s domain, a swindler who runs a crew that acquires money the old-fashioned way—conning the rich to give to the poor. When a local cab driver goes missing, Jackson is tasked with finding the man, and the only way to do that is by enlisting Kit’s help. If Jackson doesn’t find the cabby, he’ll be fired. If Kit doesn’t help Jackson, he’ll arrest her for thievery. Yet neither of them realize those are the least of their problems.


My review:

With her latest, The Thief of Blackfriar’s Lane, Michelle Griep has shown me once again why she’s one of my favorite historical fiction authors. She always manages to create a story that is easy to get lost in.

Griep’s descriptions of Victorian London, and some of the intricacies of life in the City during that time, made London almost a character unto itself, which was wonderful. But I really did enjoy her characters, and I was quickly swept up in Kit’s plight and Jackson’s determination, cheering them on through all the mishaps, mystery, mayhem, and magnetism.

Filled with twists, giggles, and a dash of romance, The Thief of Blackfriar’s Lane is a great read. It’s a historical fiction I highly recommend. 4.5 out of 5 stars! 🙂

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Many thanks to Barbour Publishing and NetGalley for the digital copy of this novel for review purposes. I was not required to give a positive review. All opinions are my very own! 🙂

My Contrary Mary by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, & Jodi Meadows

About the book:

Welcome to Renaissance France, a place of poison and plots, of beauties and beasts, of mice and . . . queens?⠀

Mary is the queen of Scotland and the jewel of the French court. Except when she’s a mouse. Yes, reader, Mary is an Eðian (shapeshifter) in a kingdom where Verities rule. It’s a secret that could cost her a head—or a tail.⠀

Luckily, Mary has a confidant in her betrothed, Francis. But after the king meets a suspicious end, things at the gilded court take a treacherous turn. Thrust onto the throne, Mary and Francis are forced to navigate a viper’s nest of conspiracies, traps, and treason. And if Mary’s secret is revealed, heads are bound to roll.


My review:

What a fun read! I so enjoyed reading the Lady Janies series, where we first learned of the alternate history of the Verities and the Eðians. So, when I saw that the authors were beginning a series set in the same alternate historical world with Marys on center stage, I couldn’t wait.

And the authors made the tragic story of Mary, Queen of Scots, so much more fun than what really happened to her. (Although they did seem to rely on the TV show Reign for a good deal of their inspiration — so they already had quite a bit of alternate history to start with!) If only that was how it actually had turned out for Mary and Francis. *Sigh*

My favorite part of the story would definitely have to be Ari’s visions. She’s the daughter of the famed seer, Nostradamus, but doesn’t quite live up to his reputation. I outright laughed at what she “saw.” (I promise not to spoil them — they are great!) I also love the snarky asides from the narrators and all the allusions threaded throughout the narrative.

Overall, I would give My Contrary Mary a solid 4 out of 5 stars for a fun read that makes me want to get lost in this alternate historical world again. 🙂 My Contrary Mary releases in June, so put it on your Goodreads shelf!

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Many thanks to Harper Audio/HarperTeen and NetGalley for the audio ARC of this novel for review purposes. I was not required to give a positive review. All opinions are my very own! 🙂

Treacherous Legacy by Kathi Oram Peterson

About the book:

Anna Braverman comes from a long line of intelligence agents, but her late father insisted she follow a different path and become an accountant. When an urgent summons arrives from her only living relative, Uncle Ezra, Anna drops everything to meet him in a café on the outskirts of Reykjavík, Iceland. Uncle Ezra sweeps her into a decades-old mystery as he explains that her great-grandfather, a famous Jewish artist, was accused of being a Nazi sympathizer. He wants Anna to help him disprove the lie and expose the truth. But they can trust no one. Any skepticism Anna may have harbored disappears when her uncle is shot. Barely alive, he utters one final word: “Run.”

Though he met Ezra only briefly, journalist Kristofer Tómasson knows the information the old man passed on to his niece is likely the reason he was murdered. Now his niece’s life is also in peril. Despite the danger, Kristofer approaches Anna with an offer to help in exchange for an exclusive story. United by a common goal, as well as an undeniable spark of attraction, Anna and Kristofer race to uncover the mysteries of the past—that is, if they survive.


My review:

This was an enjoyable novel to read. There was a great mix of history, suspense, action, and romance, which kept me intrigued and made me want to turn the pages, to know what really happened to Anna’s family.

And I loved the author’s descriptions of the various settings — from Reykjavik to Copenhagen to a boat being tossed by the stormy seas, the author’s words brought the scenes so vividly to life in my mind.

There were a few bits in the story that I thought stretched the believability just a tad too far, and therefore threw me out of the story world and back into reality. But overall, I enjoyed the read and would recommend it. I’d give it 3.5 out of 5 stars for that reason.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Many thanks to Covenant Communications and NetGalley for the digital copy of this novel for review purposes. I was not required to give a positive review. All opinions are my very own! 🙂

Traitor Cover Reveal!

I got to read Laurie Lucking’s first novel in the Tales of the Mystics series, Common, when it first arrived on the scene. I so enjoyed it (especially the nuns — they’re fabulous!) and have been waiting and waiting for the second installment. Well, I’m so excited to share in the announcement that we won’t have to wait much longer, because book 2, Traitor, will be released on April 27th!!

Today is cover reveal day, but first, here’s a bit about Traitor.

Princess Penelope has finally found a way to redeem her past mistakes—if only it didn’t require betraying her new fiancé.
 
Princess Penelope has been the object of gossip and ridicule ever since she returned home in disgrace following her failed engagement to the Crown Prince of Imperia. When her father offers a new start in a country far across the sea, she has no choice but to accept.
 
Even if it means another betrothal, this time to a total stranger.
 
Penelope arrives in Delunia determined to avoid bringing further shame upon her family. But her devoted, caring fiancé makes it harder to guard her heart than she anticipated, and rumors of dark magic haunt her with memories she’d rather keep buried far beneath her pristine exterior.
 
When a poverty-stricken village outside the palace gates looks to her as their hope for a brighter future, Penelope embraces the opportunity to make amends for her transgressions. But in order to help, she must manipulate her new fiancé, putting her reputation on the line once more. And her heart.
 
Can Penelope rise above the failures of her past, or will she forever be branded a traitor?

And now for the cover…

Beautiful, no?? I can’t wait to get my own copy!

And if you haven’t read Common, you have time to get caught up on the adventure so far. Want to know more about it? Check out my review of Common by clicking on the cover below.

Till then, happy reading! 🙂

The Initial Insult by Mindy McGinnis

About the book:

Welcome to Amontillado, Ohio, where your last name is worth more than money, and secrets can be kept… for a price.

Tress Montor knows that her family used to mean something—until she didn’t have a family anymore. When her parents disappeared seven years ago while driving her best friend home, Tress lost everything. She might still be a Montor, but the entire town shuns her now that she lives with her drunken, one-eyed grandfather at what locals refer to as the “White Trash Zoo,” – a wild animal attraction featuring a zebra, a chimpanzee, and a panther, among other things.

Felicity Turnado has it all – looks, money, and a secret that she’s kept hidden. She knows that one misstep could send her tumbling from the top of the social ladder, and she’s worked hard to make everyone forget that she was with the Montors the night they disappeared. Felicity has buried what she knows so deeply that she can’t even remember what it is… only that she can’t look at Tress without having a panic attack.

But she’ll have to.

Tress has a plan. A Halloween costume party at an abandoned house provides the ideal situation for Tress to pry the truth from Felicity – brick by brick – as she slowly seals her former best friend into a coal chute. With a drunken party above them, and a loose panther on the prowl, Tress will have her answers – or settle for revenge.

***************************************************

My review:

I snagged a review copy of this audiobook for two reasons: 1) I’ve always been a Poe fan and wanted to check out a retelling of one of my favorite Poe pieces (“The Cask of Amontillado”) and 2) While I haven’t read Mindy McGinnis before, I have heard that I should check her work out.

And I found myself with mixed feelings. I did like her spin on the story, resetting the tale in high school with mean girls and peer pressure abounding. And I liked how McGinnis built up her characters’ motivations, giving relatively clear reasons for why they behaved so badly.

My problem really came because I guess I’m an old-fashioned kind of girl, and the crudeness of the characters’ behavior just didn’t appeal to me. The foul language and the drug use and everything else kind of wore on me. I know that teenagers are not angels, but I probably wouldn’t recommend this book to any of my friends, let alone to their kids, simply because I prefer kids to be kids for longer than this type of story would allow them to be. I feel like encouraging kids to read books where the characters behave so poorly only perpetuates the problems we see in society. Okay, I’ll step off my soapbox.

So, to sum up: plot=okay; character motivations=understandable; character behavior=fairly deplorable. For that, I have to give this book three out of five stars. The writing wasn’t bad, but it’s not what I would consider -age-appropriate.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Thanks to HarperTeen/Harper Audio and NetGalley for the audio ARC of this novel for review purposes. I was not required to give a positive review. All opinions are my very own! 🙂

The Lady in Residence by Allison Pittman

About the book:

Can a Legacy of Sadness be Broken at the Menger Hotel?

Young widow Hedda Krause checks into the Menger Hotel in 1915 with a trunk full of dresses, a case full of jewels, and enough cash to pay for a two-month stay, which she hopes will be long enough to meet, charm, and attach herself to a new, rich husband. Her plans are derailed when a ghostly apparition lures her into a long, dark hallway, and Hedda returns to her room to find her precious jewelry has been stolen. She falls immediately under a cloud of suspicion with her haunting tale, but true ghost enthusiasts bring her expensive pieces of jewelry in an attempt to lure the ghost to appear again.

In 2017, Dini Blackstone is a fifth-generation magician, who performs at private parties, but she also gives ghost walk tours, narrating the more tragic historical events of San Antonio with familial affection. Above all, her favorite is the tale of Hedda Krause who, in Dini’s estimation, succeeded in perpetrating the world’s longest con, dying old and wealthy from her ghost story. But then Dini meets Quin Carmichael, great-great-grandson of the detective who originally investigated Hedda’s case, who’s come to the Alamo City with a box full of clues that might lead to Hedda’s exoneration. Can Dini see another side of the story that is worthy of God’s grace?

Visit historic American landmarks through the Doors to the Past series. History and today collide in stories full of mystery, intrigue, faith, and romance.


My review:

Can you beat snuggling up with a good historical mystery on a snowy day? Not if you’re reading Allison Pittman’s latest, The Lady in Residence. This dual-timeline story, told through the eyes of a vivacious magician and readings from her favorite ghost story, is both haunting and sweet, a combination that makes for a wonderful read.

I was pleasantly surprised with how quickly I was drawn into the story, falling under Dini’s magic and reading over Quin’s shoulder, wondering along with them what strange truth lay behind Hedda’s “spectral accuser.” Pittman brought the history to beautiful life, while keeping the present filled with just enough romantic tension that you wanted to know how it could possibly all work out for the characters in the end. And I especially loved that I didn’t have it all figured out until the characters did — that’s my favorite kind of mystery to read.

I would definitely recommend you grab a copy of The Lady in Residence by Allison Pittman, part of the Doors to the Past series of historical mysteries based on real American history. If future stories in this series are this good, I can’t wait to read them! It’s easy to give this story 4 (maybe even 4.5) out of 5 stars!

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Many thanks to Barbour Publishing for the copy of this novel for review purposes. I was not required to give a positive review. All opinions are my very own! 🙂

Namesake by Adrienne Young

About the book:

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.


My review:

I was ridiculously excited to get a chance to read Namesake, the second half of Adrienne Young’s Fable duology (especially since she left her readers hanging at the end of Fable!), and I’m so, so glad that it met all my expectations! 😀

It is amazingly easy to get caught up and swept away in Young’s writing. I’ve never sailed (let alone on a pirate-like ship), but reading this story made me feel as if I was there (without getting wet or seasick — yay!). And her evocative writing made me almost feel my chest pinch along with her characters as they dredged the depths for gems. Absolutely wonderful!

I’d probably have to give this a PG-13 rating, mostly for some violence and treachery and a bit of not-exactly-chaste romance. But I’d definitely give it five out of five stars for a book I would read again (and maybe even again…)!

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Many thanks to St. Martin’s Press/Wednesday Books and NetGalley for the digital ARC of this novel for review purposes. I was not required to give a positive review. All opinions are my very own! 🙂

Pride and Premeditation by Tirzah Price

About the book:

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a young woman who desires a law career must be in want of a case. So when seventeen-year-old Lizzie Bennet hears about a scandalous society murder, she sees an opportunity to prove herself as a solicitor by solving the case and ensuring justice is served.

Except the man accused of the crime already has a lawyer on his side: Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy, the stern young heir to the prestigious Pemberley Associates law firm. Lizzie is determined to solve the murder before Darcy can so that she can show the world that a woman can be just as good as a man. (The fact that Darcy is an infuriating snob doesn’t help.) But there’s still a killer on the loose, and as the case gets more complicated, Lizzie and Darcy may have to start working together to avoid becoming the next victims themselves.

*****************************************************

My review:

As a bit of a Jane Austen fan (okay, maybe more than a bit…), I am picky about my Austenalia. I’ve read some really bad spin-offs or rewrites and am easily disappointed by writers who try to emulate Austen. However, I thoroughly enjoyed this reimagining of the classic Pride and Prejudice. Tirzah Price did a marvelous job of blending the heart of the original story with her own twists, bringing Lizzie and Darcy back to life, and making me dislike Mr. Collins even more!

I loved the fresh setting of a Regency era law firm (even though, as the author admits in her note, liberalities were taken with the historicity — but it is fiction, after all). And she didn’t change the characters so much that I didn’t recognize them, as some writers have a tendency to do. Overall, one of my favorite retellings of Pride and Prejudice ever.

Also, this was my first time listening to a NetGalley voice galley (audiobook ARC), and I’m so glad I started with Pride and Premeditation. Even though it wasn’t the final product, the story was so engaging that I enjoyed even this synthetically voiced audiobook. I’m definitely excited to hear the final production!

Pride and Premeditation is set to release on April 6th, so pre-order your copy now. I highly recommend it and give it a solid 4.5 out of 5 stars. 🙂

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Many thanks to HarperTeen/Harper Audio and NetGalley for the audio ARC of this story. I was not required to give a positive review. All opinions are my very own! 🙂

The Last Tiara by M.J. Rose

About the book:

From New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestseller M.J. Rose comes a provocative and moving story of a young female architect in post-World War II Manhattan, who stumbles upon a hidden treasure and begins a journey to discovering her mother’s life during the fall of the Romanovs.

Sophia Moon had always been reticent about her life in Russia and when she dies, suspiciously, on a wintry New York evening, Isobelle despairs that her mother’s secrets have died with her. But while renovating the apartment they shared, Isobelle discovers something among her mother’s effects—a stunning silver tiara, stripped of its jewels.

Isobelle’s research into the tiara’s provenance draws her closer to her mother’s past—including the story of what became of her father back in Russia, a man she has never known. The facts elude her until she meets a young jeweler, who wants to help her but is conflicted by his loyalty to the Midas Society, a covert international organization whose mission is to return lost and stolen antiques, jewels, and artwork to their original owners.

Told in alternating points of view, the stories of the two young women unfurl as each struggles to find their way during two separate wars. In 1915, young Sofiya Petrovitch, favorite of the royal household and best friend of Grand Duchess Olga Nikolaevna, tends to wounded soldiers in a makeshift hospital within the grounds of the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg and finds the love of her life. In 1948 New York, Isobelle Moon works to break through the rampant sexism of the age as one of very few women working in a male-dominated profession and discovers far more about love and family than she ever hoped for.

In M.J. Rose’s deftly constructed narrative, the secrets of Sofiya’s early life are revealed incrementally, even as Isobelle herself works to solve the mystery of the historic Romanov tiara (which is based on an actual Romanov artifact that is, to this day, still missing)—and how it is that her mother came to possess it.

**********************************************************

My review:

I was first entranced by the cover of this book and decided that I had to know more about it. Then the backmatter absolutely hooked me, and I couldn’t wait to read it!

Rose did a fabulous job of weaving history and fiction to bring both her characters and the real historical figures to life. Usually when a story is told of the Grand Duchesses of the Romanov family, it centers around Anastasia. She is never actually mentioned in this book, which was kind of refreshing. I enjoyed learning a bit about the eldest of the Grand Duchesses, Olga and Tatiana, and their work as nurses during WWI, even though that was only a small bit of the breadth of the story.

It was easy to see how much research the author put into this story, incorporating everything from troikas and Fabergé to Agatha Christie and Gregory Peck to Bolsheviks and Oak Ridge, Tennessee. To be able to take all these seemingly disparate bits and meld them into one cohesive and interesting tale is impressive, and I really did enjoy both the grand scope and the intricate details.

I do have to admit that it took me a while to really get into the story. It begins with Isobelle’s voice, and for some reason, I found it difficult to connect with at first. I picked the book up and put it down five or six times in that first chapter, reading other books in between, before I finally found myself getting sucked into the story. Once I did get lost in the narrative, however, it was fascinating. Now, I need to check out M.J. Rose’s other work!

I would definitely recommend you grab this book when it comes out in February 2021. And if you find yourself, like me, not quite sure of the story at first, don’t give up. It is seriously worth the read. An easy 4 out of 5 stars.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Many thanks to Blue Box Press and NetGalley for the digital ARC of this book for review purposes. I was not required to give a positive review. All opinions are my very own! 🙂

Sorrowfish by Anne C. Miles

About the book:

TWO WORLDS. ONE FATE.
A bard. A wizard…and a college student from Kentucky.

Sara is having crazy dreams. Gryphon and dragon crazy. The scary part is waking up, safe in her apartment, with scratches and splinters. Is she losing it because of stress? One more unfinished sculpture will fully tank her grades. Goodbye bachelor’s degree, hello failure. Her twin sister is in a coma. And on top of everything else, her best friend Peter wants a date.

It’s enough to make anyone sleepwalk.

Choosing to defy the Conclave, Bard-in-training Trystan risks capture and mind control to find a magical lute through a shadow network. Luthier-wizard Dane meets a sinister stranger and barely escapes with his life. Together, they must end an ancient curse, guided by a fae they only know as Sara.

*********************************************************

My review:

Sorrowfish was quite an interesting read. The author managed to create intertwining story lines, in both the “real” world and the fantastical, that were well-crafted, well-balanced, and thoroughly engaging.

It took me a while to fully understand the complexities of her religious system, but once I really got into it, I truly enjoyed the story. I did feel like the characters in the fantasy world were almost more real than those in the “real” world, but I found myself getting wrapped up in their various plights and wanting things to work out for the characters — one of the signs of a good read!

I would certainly recommend this book for any fantasy fan and easily give it 4 out of 5 stars. It is a great story to get lost in for a bit! 🙂

Rating: 4 out of 5.