Tuesday, October 31, 2023

BOOK REVIEW: Lost Lover by Mary Lancaster

The Crime and Passion series of Regency Romance mysteries is probably my favorite Mary Lancaster series so I was excited to see a new addition. Lost Lover is book four in the series. (Start with book one - Mysterious Lover.) It was fun to see Dr. Dragan Tizsa and Lady Grizelda solving murders again.

Elizabeth Barker is a fallen woman. The daughter of a wealthy banker, she ran off with Joshua Jarmon when she was just seventeen and quickly found herself in an abusive relationship with a crime lord. She managed to escape, but has been looking over her shoulder ever since. When Joshua turns up dead in her bedchamber, she runs to the nearby Dr. Tizsa for help.

Lord James Andover is newly released from Newgate Prison where he spent the last three years, convicted of a crime he didn’t commit. The real thief/murderer is Joshua Jarmon. James has been following the widow, hoping to find a way to prove who did commit the crimes. Instead, he finds Jarmon has been murdered.

Although they have little reason to trust one another, Elizabeth and James team up (with Dragan and Grizelda) to uncover a crime ring and solve a number of murders, before the murderer finds them.

This continues to be an engaging series and I hope there will be a book five!

Thursday, October 26, 2023

BOOK REVIEW: The Caretaker by Ron Rash

 I received this book for free from Netgalley. That did not influence this review.

Ron Rash is a brilliant writer, but his books leave me drained. I remember being a bit shell-shocked after finishing Serena, but that couldn’t deter me from reading his new novel, The Caretaker.

Set in Blowing Rock, North Carolina, during the Korean War, the caretaker at the center of the novel is Blackburn, a young man disfigured by polio, who was given the position of caretaker at the local cemetery. He performs his work with diligence and grace. And he cares for more than just the cemetery.

Blackburn’s only friend is Jacob Hampton, the son of the well-to-do owners of the town store. Jacob is one of the few people able to look past Blackburn’s physical appearance. When Jacob is drafted, he leaves his pregnant wife, Naomi, in Blackburn’s care. This is necessary because Jacob’s parents disowned him when he married Naomi. She came from a poor farming family, was poorly educated, and they married far too young. Jacob’s parents had picked out a more respectable young woman for him and were furious when he and Naomi eloped.

When an ugly incident in town drives Naomi out of Blowing Rock, back to her father’s farm, Blackburn isn’t able to keep as close a watch on her.

Things go even farther downhill when Jacob is injured in Korea. Jacob’s parents decide to turn his injury to their advantage in order to drive the young couple apart – forever.

This novel is gorgeously written and gripping. Once again, I turned pages with a knot in my stomach, appalled at the self-centered evil of some people and the cowardly self-preservation of others. At times, even the good guys were so weak that I wanted to scream. Right and wrong became almost irrelevant. Yet through it all, Blackburn’s strength and steady moral compass held fast. Until his temptation comes. What is right and what is wrong? I don’t even know anymore. I have to trust that the caretaker knows.

Highly recommended.

Tuesday, October 24, 2023

BOOK REVIEW: Miss Morton and the English House Party Murder by Catherine Lloyd

I loved Catherine Lloyd’s previous cozy historical mysteries (Kurland St. Mary Mysteries – beginning with Death Comes to the Village), so I was delighted to see she has a new series (Miss Morton Mysteries). 

The first novel, introducing Mis Caroline Morton, is Miss Morton and the English House Party Murder.

After the death and disgrace of her father, the Earl of Morton, Caroline and her younger sister were taken in by her Aunt Eleanor, a woman known for her charitable taking in of orphans and training them for housework. Knowing she will always be a poor relation and treated as a drudge, Caroline takes matters into her own hands. She leaves her aunt’s household for a paid position as a lady’s companion to the wealthy Mrs. Frogerton. Mrs. Frogerton is a plain, outspoken woman who has always known her own mind and treats Caroline well.

Caroline is invited to a house party at her aunt’s house being held to celebrate her young cousin’s birthday. Her cousin Mabel is a sweet-natured girl who always befriended the downtrodden orphans in her mother’s care. For her birthday, she insists on inviting many of her old friends. Caroline is not eager to return to the house, but when her aunt also invites Mrs. Frogerton and her daughter Dorothy Frogerton, Caroline resigns herself to attending.

The party is worse than she feared. Not only does a terrible rainstorm trap the mismatched guests at the house, but the butler disappears the day everyone arrives. He reappears rattled, injured, and very close-mouthed about what happened. And then the murders start.

To Caroline’s fury, her aunt and uncle refuse to admit there is anything wrong in the house. They insist the deaths were natural. Caroline’s only ally is her feisty employer and the young doctor who’d been called to the house to see to the butler. He is repeatedly rude to Caroline, but at least he, too, knows that the deaths were murders. She wants to trust him. But he is one of the chief suspects.

The mystery grows deeper and deeper as Caroline learns that things were never what they appeared in the house. With her own position precarious, she has to decide whether to keep investigating or to turn a blind eye and let things take their course

This is an intriguing start to this new series. I’m eager to see what Caroline and Mrs. Frogerton get up to next!

Tuesday, October 17, 2023

BOOK REVIEW: You're My Home by Debbie Burns

Stepping outside my usual reading comfort zone – always a rewarding experience -- I picked up a contemporary romance. 

You’re My Home by Debbie Burns is the latest book in the A Rescue Me Novel series, love stories which include pet adoptions in the plot.

Riley Leighton fled her hometown after a devastating discovery about her parents and a humiliating senior prom. She has spent the last ten years hiding from her past, a past that includes Levi Duncan, her high school boyfriend, a man with whom she is still in love. Her mother’s cancer diagnosis brings her home. There, good things begin to happen for her, starting with a temporary marketing job at the animal shelter where she volunteered as a teen. This reignites her passion for caring for animals.

Levi has spent the last decade trying to forget Riley. Working as a commercial diver gave him focus, but an injury means he can’t dive anymore. When he learns from a friend that Riley is back, he, too, heads for home.

As the two spend time with each other, especially  working with abandoned animals, they remember why they fell in love in the first place.

This is a quick read and a heartwarming story. If you like second chance romances and have ever wondered about that guy from high school, give this one a look!

Wednesday, October 11, 2023



I posted this on instagram and facebook but forgot to post it here!

Sunday, October 8, 2023

BOOK REVIEW: The Literary Undoing of Victoria Swann by Virginia Pye

 I received this book for free from Netgalley. That did not influence this review.

The Literary Undoing of Victoria Swann by Virginia Pye is the story of a woman author’s triumph in Gilded Age Boston.

Victoria Meeks is an enormously successful Romance-Adventure author, writing under the pen-name Victoria Swann and living a hidden and unhappy life as Mrs. Byrne. She’s at a crossroads. Her marriage is a diaster. She has grown bored with writing romance and wants to create something serious. And her publisher has just been bought out and is soon to go under. She desperately needs a change.

While any one of her many, many readers would imagine Victoria’s life to be a series of exciting adventures taking place all over the world, in truth Victoria has never traveled anywhere. She loves writing but hates being forced to churn out very similar novels one after another, along with a series of shorter penny-dreadfuls, and writing (or at least putting her name on) an advice column for troubled young women. She’s worn down. While it’s true she has made a fair amount of money, her publisher has made a huge fortune off of her, something Victoria is only beginning to understand. When she tries to tell her editor that she wants to stop writing her popular series and try something grittier and true-to-life, he tells her no. She cannot. She has to write what sells.

But Victoria knows her own mind. In the face of numerous challenges, she reinvents herself.

The novel is both a critique and a defense of romance literature. But it is a very definite critique of the way men have looked down on women’s literature while reaping the profits of women writers and a female readership. This is an enjoyable peek into the world of the late 1800s in Boston. Victoria’s difficulties seemed a little too easily resolved at times, but she is a feisty heroine and easy to root for.

Monday, October 2, 2023

BOOK REVIEW: Chenneville by Paulette Jiles

I received this book for free from Netgalley. That did not influence this review.

If you loved News of the World by Paulette Jiles, you’ll love her new book, Chenneville. Set in the Southwest in the immediate aftermath of the American Civil War, the novel follows the determined path of John Chenneville, a Union veteran bent on revenge.

Amnesia stories are tricky things, best avoided, unless undertaken with a hand as deft as Jiles’. The story opens with Chenneville awakening from a coma to find himself in a field hospital following a head injury. The war has ended, but his nightmare is just beginning.

Regaining his strength and his memory little by little, Chenneville is finally discharged to home. But home is not the same. His father has passed; his mother is traumatized and mute; the family tobacco fields and orchards are in ruins. Worst of all, he receives the news that his beloved little sister was murdered, along with her husband and one-year-old baby. The authorities refuse to do anything about it. Chenneville must take justice into his own hands. He has nothing to go on but a name, Dodd.

Chenneville has little to tie himself to his past life and no hope for the future. So the thought of murdering a man and suffering the consequences means little to him. But as he progresses in his odyssey, he recovers more and more of himself. He’s a good man in an impossible situation. He leaves a string of good deeds in his wake and allows himself to dream of better things. But only to dream. He can’t give up his hunt for Dodd. (To make things worse, he discovers Dodd is a serial killer.)

The rich detail of Chenneville’s trek will carry the reader alongside him. You’ll find yourself hoping for justice and redemption. And Jiles knows how to deliver both.